A few years back, my wife Janet and I had the pleasure of enjoying a week in Charlottesville, Virginia. The small city at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains is only a stone’s throw from Monticello, Jefferson’s estate and Highland, James Monroe’s home. In fact, the area is known as the birthplace of presidents since so many came from the region.
With the University of Virginia just off the downtown and with its very active restaurant and cultural scene contained within the rolling Virginia countryside, I considered Charlottesville one of the nicer places I have visited.
It would have been one of the last places I would have expected to become the flashpoint for the ethical and cultural wars that are bubbling to the surface throughout our nation. These flare-ups ignited by extremists on the far right and far left need to be extinguished before they consume the millions of Americans who prefer to fight their battles at the ballot box.
For this to occur, leaders of our nation, states and local governments need to change their tune. There really are not two sides during disruptions. There is only one side, the side that supports keeping the peace.
In Virginia last week, the governor and the local Charlottesville authorities failed at the primary responsibility of government, which is to protect the people.
Some will say I am using hindsight. I would argue that any rational public official would not have ordered his law enforcement personnel to stand down when confronted with the great potential for disruption and even violence that was posed by these protesters who took to the streets.
Taking action earlier, which was in my view clearly warranted, may even have prevented the lunatic who drove into the crowd from finding a target.
The president for his part sounded more like a media commentator than a leader of our nation. For that, I am disappointed in him.
You cannot lead by catching up with your comments later in the week. Leadership is a consistent message. The president needs to start leading. Extremist groups, whether they be on the left or right, need to feel very unwelcome everywhere.
All Americans speak of our nation in terms of the future – in terms of the lives of their children. What type of future can America look forward, what type of future will there be for our children, if we allow our nation to be dictated by its extremes?
I once again turn to the ballot box for help. All American citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote. Each year, fewer and fewer take advantage. Even fewer examine the views of candidates for local offices. The impact these local officials can have on you day-to-day life is significant, often greater than that of the governor or mayor.
On September 12, voters in Brooklyn will have an opportunity to vote in their party primaries. If you are eligible, please take the time to vote.
One of these extremists I am cautioning against might be on the verge of becoming your elected representative. You have it within your power to prevent such an outcome by voting.