OPINION: America, one nation under controversy
By Stephanie Sawaked
If you are slightly out of touch with reality or the social issues going on in our country, it may come as a surprise to you that over the last few years our country has experienced what some would call an epidemic.
No, I’m not talking about the opioid crisis or the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. It is a nationwide controversy regarding race, religion, freedom of speech and most importantly, terrorism.
When we think of terrorism, we popularly associate it with historic attacks carried out by members of international terrorist organizations, such as ISIS. However, Oxford Dictionaries defines terrorism simply as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”
Truth is, terrorism knows no boundaries or borders. Domestic terrorism is no exception to the rule and is rapidly spreading through our nation.
A protest began on the campus of the University of Virginia Aug. 11. Members of white nationalist groups, white supremacist groups, and the Klu Klux Klan gathered to practice their First Amendment right and express disdain for the removal of the statue of Civil War confederate, General Robert E. Lee.
Things quickly began to escalate when counter-protestors such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter members arrived in opposition.
One person was reported dead the next morning and many small fights broke out, involving pepper spray and debris being thrown. Members of the Alt-Right groups began chanting popular Nazi phrases like “blood and soil.”
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and ordered protestors to disperse from the area.
A “Unite the Right” rally, expecting up to 6,000 protestors, was planned for Aug. 12 in Emancipation Park by demonstrators who arrived carrying tiki torches, body armor, and discriminatory propaganda, such as Nazi flags.
Rising tensions between opposing groups led to 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr. plowing into a crowd of counter protestors. Not only did he drive through them, he put his car in reverse to run through them again. The toll was one dead, 19 injured. Fields is being held without bond.
Initial lack of media coverage and what appeared to be an insincere apology from President Trump has resulted in major backlash for both parties.
It seems the media gave no forewarning to the rest of the country about the decision to remove the statue or the reaction to it, as if they hadn’t known the protests were planned – given the demonstrators need a permit and go through law enforcement. Meaning, enough authoritative figures knew the events planned to be able to inform the public of what was to ensue.
Only when violence erupted and casualties occurred, including two police officers in a helicopter crash, did the media shift their attention to the chaos.
The situation may have been avoided like the incident at Berkeley College in California when a planned speech by outspoken conservative, Ann Coulter, was cancelled due to the amount of controversy it would provoke.
In similar fashion of lacking focus, President Trump has yet to call these white supremacists just what they are – terrorists. To make matters more interesting, his statement raised many questions regarding his awareness to the severity to, and his lack of sympathy for the situation.
In his statement, he describes the events as an, “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” To which he received criticism from members of both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Once the dust begins to settle and the media moves on to the next headline, who is to blame for the tragic events happening here at home? Could it be the alt-right movement for pushing their agenda, or should the government take the blame for allowing it to escalate so quickly? Or could it be the strong opposition and resistance movement of the left?
The media plays a hand for not covering the events before it reached this magnitude and it is not until domestic terrorism gets to its peak that officials begin to get involved.
These are the issues causing such a rift between generations of all walks of life, causing our nation to become plagued with controversy.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Carolinian, the University of South Carolina Upstate, or any affiliated institutions.
Stephanie Sawaked is a writer for The Carolinian. Email Stephanie with questions and comments.