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The United States of Free Speech, Violence and Hypocrisy

By       Message Sam Husseini       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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This article was first published on Sam Husseini's website .

Many have focused on President Donald Trump's statements on Charlottesville condemning the "violence" from "both sides." Which is understandable, since the killing of Heather Heyer and overwhelming violence came from white supremacists. But virtually no one has scrutinized the first half of his remarks: Trump criticizing the "violence" of others.

How is it that Trump is designated to be in a position of judging the perpetrators of violence? The U.S. government is regularly bombing a number of countries. Just last week, Trump threatened North Korea with nuclear destruction in unusually blunt language -- "fire and fury" -- rather than the typical Obama administration's veiled nuclear attack code lingo "all options are on the table."

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On Monday, the same day Trump read a scripted condemnation of white supremacist violence, Airwars.org reported that in Syria: "Marwa, Mariam and Ahmad Mazen died with their mother and 19 other civilians in a likely Coalition strike at Raqqa."

You'd be hard pressed to find a "news" story about them. That's the concern with the effects of "violence" when it emanates from the U.S. government.

But the threats and use of violence are not new, nor is the hypocrisy. As President Bill Clinton was ordering the ongoing bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, he took time out of his schedule to address the shooting at Columbine High School: "We must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons."

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Such outbreaks of domestic political violence are used not as openings for introspection about longstanding violence in U.S. society, but for rallying cries to uphold alleged virtues of the nation. The recent attacks are "repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans," Trump claims.

That's because we live "under law and under the Constitution " responding to hate with love, division with unity, and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice. No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God."

The words Trump uttered seemed to echo Saint Augustine. Charles Avila in "Ownership: Early Christian Teaching," outlines Augustine's beliefs: "The Creator, who alone is Absolute Owner, did not make us human beings so many 'islands,' without any relation to each other, but one human family, 'made from one mud' and sustained 'on one earth.' We enjoy the same natural conditions: 'born under one law, living by one light, breathing one air and dying one death.'"

Thus, what seemingly originated as a universal theological admonition -- to attack the notion of private property no less -- has been perverted into a narrow nationalist one with universalist trappings. It simultaneously seems to condemn violence while actually facilitating it.

Nor is this new, either. During the presidency of Bill Clinton, he ordered up an "Initiative on Race." It's largely forgotten because its primary goal wasn't actually improving relations between different ethnic groups. Its goal was noted in its title: "One America in the 21st Century." Not "Finally Overcoming Racism." Not "Toward an America of Equality."

National cohesion is the driving concern here. How can we make these differing ethnicities get along well enough to ensure that this stays one nation is a question elites must ask themselves. See my piece at the time: "'One America' -- To what Ends?"

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There's a tightrope being walked here. There's a functionality to the "debate" between "both sides." The system requires a great deal of tension to keep people in their partisan boxes. The main thing that each political faction has going for it is the hatred toward the other.

But there's the threat that it could reach a threshold that tears at national unity, which is why you get Terry McAuliffe and other political figures making Trump-like brazen contradictory statements, pleading for unity one minute and denouncing white supremacists as being repugnant to American values the next, wholly unworthy of engagement.

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Sam Husseini is communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy and founder of votepact.org -- which urges left-right cooperation. Follow him on twitter: @samhusseini.

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