Following the riots last week between super-testosteronized (my own term, in order to avoid profanity) bullies and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Va., the media quickly used the term "white nationalists." The term may fit the left-wing agenda to denigrate any person with white skin who is proud of the United States, our Constitution and our traditional role as leader of the free world. However, it is an insult to associate patriotic Americans who are proud of our country with racist brutes.
The superficial occasion for the white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville was to protest a decision by the city council to remove a statue of one of Virginia's most cherished heroes, Gen. Robert E. Lee. The controversial decision is currently tied up in courts as multiple groups sought legal channels after the council refused to consider their inputs.
However, the real reason for the protest has deeper roots. The Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other misguided thugs responded to a call by their new guru, Richard Spencer, who organized the protest. Spencer emerged recently through fringe internet sites as a rock star among white supremacists. He is the president of National Policy Institute who has ecured a permit to lead another protest (White Lives Matter) on the campus of Texas A&M university next month. Spencer used the controversial decision by the city council not as an occasion to protest removing a statue of a man respected by historical scholars in both the North and South but as an opportunity to gain national notoriety for himself and his hate-filled organization.
In the other Charlottesville corner is Spencer's nemesis, Councilman and Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy. Bellamy moved from South Carolina to Virginia in 2009 to teach computer science in Alblemarle County Public Schools. He soon ran for an opening on the city council after establishing himself as a political activist within the black community. Bellamy was a leader in the decision to remove the Lee statue.
Spencer saw an opportunity for retribution. Through his extensive national blog network, he released many of Bellamy's lurid social media posts. In April 2017 the Cavalier Daily, student newspaper of the University of Virginia, published the posts and commented they were "homophobic, sexist, and anti-white." The students were spot on. Bellamy's words are unfit to quote.
Soon after the posts were re-published throughout social media, the Alblemarle School Board placed Bellamy on administrative leave. He has since resigned his teaching position but remains on the city council. This week, taking advantage of a new political opportunity, he was quoted extensively in national media as a spokesperson for the Charlottesville community.
What's lost in all this? The truth.
Just as Spencer used the occasion to advance a harmful and divisive cause, left-wing individuals and groups like Bellamy, the Democratic Party and national media are guilty of the same. Consider an Associated Press article published in this newspaper earlier this week, "How Robert E. Lee went from hero to racist icon." The article has enough half-truths, quotes taken out of context and unabashed lies to make it a shameful piece in the opinion section of any respectable newspaper, let alone a news story in a paper many of us hold in high regard.
Our news staff should reference Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Southall Freeman's definitive biography, "Lee" (1934). While subsequent historical scholarship legitimately questions Lee's strategy on the battlefield or his failure to personally intervene with the incompetent Confederate legislature, Lee's impeccable character was never maligned by any — except those advancing a divisive political agenda.
We should realize that self-righteous, deceitful and divisive groups are dangerous, including both the Spencer and Bellamy camps. Both are liars. Neither are patriots.
Roger Smith, a local author, is a frequent contributor to the Times Free Press.