Robert E. Lee’s statue stands on 2nd Street NE in Charlottesville. I live two blocks away—in the same small redbrick Cape Cod where we have lived since 1999. For the last 18 years, this house and the rest of our idyllic downtown have been my retreat—the place to which I have escaped, after one world event or another.
This weekend my retreat became the frontline in America’s culture war. And yesterday’s event was different than any I’ve ever experienced.
Over the past two decades, as a government official or policy analyst, I’ve attended at least a dozen major protests—that is, protests that were so large or significant as to garner national or international media attention. At some, I was a White House official, including two G-7 summits and two climate change negotiations. At others, I was an observer—including the infamous riot-filled 1999 Seattle WTO meeting, several anti-globalization protests, and two major Greek-crisis protests.
I’ve seen the power of protest, and also the chaos that it can unleash. I’ve seen protests move public opinion. I’ve also had my eyes burned out by tear-gas more times than I’d like to count, and watched abuses by protesters and police alike.
Yesterday’s protest was different in two senses. First, the introduction of firearms into peaceful protests. Second, that hatred was the centerpiece of the protest. That toxic brew spilled over. Continue Reading…