I’m writing this in my lovely little city of Charlottesville, Virginia, with this weekend bearing the ugly distinction of being the horrid one-year anniversary of what happened here last August when our city was taken over by monstrous neo Nazis and White Supremacists. I’ll be honest: I’m in good company here in Charlottesville in feeling sad and anxious and disillusioned that little has changed in the past year, but rather things seem to have only gotten worse in our country since that weekend.
It’s a lovely day in the shade on the tree-lined Downtown Mall, normally a time when people would be anticipating a relaxing weekend, maybe grabbing a drink, then dinner at one of the many outdoor dining establishments all along the pedestrian mall. On Fridays there’s always live music in the outdoor amphitheater, with food trucks and local craft beers, it’s always a fun time. Most weekends the mall is peppered with street musicians and entertainers as well. It’s a place where people gather and enjoy one another’s company, decompressing after the work week. Tonight, the mall will be mostly silent. In the infinite wisdom of the NRA-owned Virginia legislature, if you are armed to the teeth, you’ll be allowed to open-carry your weaponry, feel as manly as possible. Yet you won’t be allowed to bring your puppy out to the mall tonight. Go figure. The mall will be mostly silent, in stark contrast to our “normal”.
Usually Saturday morning means an early trip to the farmer’s market, always a lovely time chatting it up with farmers and friends and neighbors who make this a regular part of their weekend. Afterwards, my husband and I usually relax, drink coffee and read the paper outside a coffee shop on the mall. This week some kind local souls offered to relocate the cancelled market to a different location, in the hopes that the farmers will be able to salvage some of their vital income. Hard to say if we’ll be safe to drink coffee at our usual place, or if the monsters will have taken over yet again.
We’re meeting friends for dinner tomorrow night and normally would likely go to a restaurant downtown, but one in the group is worried that tomorrow will be as horrific as last year at this time, so I guess we’ll have to play that by ear. I very much want to come down here and support local businesses who are still smarting from the financial losses they incurred as a result of the Nazi invasion, though I certainly respect those legitimate apprehensions.
Last year, the Sunday of that nightmarish weekend was spent in mourning, gathering with friends and strangers on the mall, coming together with heavy hearts as we all tried to process the despicable events that happened in this wonderful little town.
Right now, as I work outside a coffee shop on the mall, I’m watching a procession of hundreds of state troopers as they’re led to various points of presumed interest by their guide. Today they’re all laughing and smiling. Last year at this time, both during the Hitler-esque torch march on UVA Grounds on the night of August 11, and everywhere downtown on August 12, they stood stock-still and stone-faced as innocent people were brutally beaten. My friend’s daughter was cold-cocked in the face by a 40-something vermin of a man who’d come prepared, wearing brass knuckles. When video of that assault surfaced, I was quite stunned that her neck hadn’t snapped, the thrust of his punch was so powerful. Of course we’re all left to wonder what sort of odious demon of a man would do that to a 25-year old woman. It defies my ability to imagine.
We’re all just hoping desperately that these haters, these instruments of evil, don’t return to Charlottesville for a command performance. Made worse still because many here have little faith that those in charge can or will stop it if they do return. So to be honest we are all on tenterhooks.
It’s hard to get the barbarism out of my mind’s eye, the images of those hundreds upon hundreds—if not more—hate-filled, armed-to-the-teeth monsters relishing so intently their animalistic, sub-human impulses. Although I’m afraid they merely taught us how all-too-human their anger, their rage, their hatred is. Even worse is how it’s being exploited by those in power simply in order to cling to power. Throughout history many wicked leaders have known how effective it was to harness the power of fear and anger, and that’s where we are today in this country, and it feels so hopeless. I take solace in realizing that following the brutality of the Middle Ages, came the far more civilized period of the Renaissance. So maybe there is hope for us all. Maybe soon everyone who has taken up the cause of hatred and anger and rage will realize how exhausting it is to live like that, to live ruled by unfounded fear of those you don’t know.
For now, I ask you all to take a moment to remember Heather Heyer, the young woman who was brutally murdered here last August by a maniacal neo Nazi who used his souped-up muscle car as a weapon to plow down innocent victims. Heather’s mother has been without her beloved only child for a full year now, and has to live with the silence of never hearing or seeing or hugging or kissing her daughter again. I hope you can take the time to hug your loved ones, and remember how good it feels to love, not hate.