The recent events that occurred during protests at the University of Virginia are highly regrettable. No one has the right to hurt others for what they believe, and I’d like to express my heartfelt grief for the victims of this horrifying violence and their families.
I was not at the protest. I do not have any definitive knowledge of what it was about. What I have heard about the protest from my sources, however, is that it began as protest by people who are conservative in the basic sense of the word, resistant to change, many of them feeling that cultural change is being foisted upon them progressively without their involvement in the consensus. Their protest was then met with a counter-protest with some of its participants arriving with sticks and bats who proceeded to menace and provoke members of the original protest. Individual altercations then ensued and spread, with people on both sides being beaten in angry mob fashion, violence which culminated in a crazy guy indiscriminately mowing down a crowd of counter-protesters with his car, only a few of which were armed.
The media reports I’ve read regarding the event don’t appear to agree with this view. They do not mention that members of the counter-protest were armed or provocative. Politicians have described the original protest as representing hate that no one should tolerate, and have demanded civil rights and hate crimes prosecutions for the driver of the vehicle that plowed into the crowd.
My take on the situation is that in a free society that is based on a central tenant of freedom of conscience, there are all sorts of diverse ideas and emotions that come with them; some ideas that many find agreeable, and other ideas not so much. In any such society, the ideas behind any hate and the hate itself must be tolerated, otherwise there is no longer freedom of conscience and society would be no longer free.
The neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and skinheads, as the member of the original protest have been dubbed, are entitled to their ideas and the feelings they have on account of them as much as anyone else is entitled to disagree with and dislike or hate them for their convictions. The lack of mention by the media and the politicians of the counter-protestors having arrived at the scene armed, menacing and provocative, presumably also motivated by hate, is a harmful injustice seeped in hypocrisy. It is entirely legal to hate for any reason, but it is not acceptable on any terms to cause physical harm to an individual or group for what they believe.
Any sort of political violence by anyone is what should be strongly condemned and dealt with with the full force of the law even when that violence is applied to people with generally disagreeable views. Any civil rights investigation and hate-crime prosecution needs to also encompass those who arrived at the scene of the protest with sticks, bats, or any other sort of weapon, and subsequently used it to menace or to commit battery. If this event calls for insisting on apologies and denunciation of violence from members of the alt-right, it also highlights that those on the left have plenty of soul searching, denunciations and apologizing for their radical elements of their own to do.