On August 12th, 2017, in Charlottesville, VA, members of a white nationalist movement came to protest the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee from public grounds. They were met by a counterprotest from the organization called “Antifa,” or “Anti-Fascists.” Both groups used persistent inflammatory tactics. The situation deteriorated.
As skirmishes between the two groups intensified, police were caught between opposing elements. Finally, in an effort to keep the peace, the rally was disbanded. Antifa claimed victory and took to the streets. At that time, a single vehicle approached at a high rate of speed and ran through the crowd, killing one and wounding eighteen. The driver of the vehicle, James Alex Fields, Jr., then reversed and fled the scene. He was apprehended by law enforcement a short distance away.
In the same time frame, a Virginia State Police helicopter operating in support of riot control and medevac for the rally crashed about seven miles south of the city. Two officers were killed.
There are many things to be said here. There are those who rightly condemn the racist, hateful group that procured the permit to protest today. The so-called “Unite the Right” rally openly advocated policies and philosophies that our forefathers stamped out by blood and fire two generations ago. We would certainly be right to condemn them – indeed, we have a moral obligation.
There are some, too, who rightly condemn the racist and hateful groups Black Lives Matter and Antifa, and the violence these organization have brought to our streets. The so-called champions of social justice have burned cities, disrupted commerce, and advocated for the slaughter of whites and cops, and inspired a wave of vicious hate crimes against Caucasians, all with the blessing of the mainstream media. We would certainly be right to condemn them – indeed, we have a moral obligation.
For me, however, who ought to be condemned first or most vigorously is irrelevant.
Hatred begets hatred. Violence begets violence.
I remember that the peacemakers shall be called the sons of God. I remember that greater love has no man then this, that he lays down his life for his friends. I remember that our God explicitly instructed us, time and time again, to make peace with our adversaries, and to live quietly as much as it depends on us – to love mercy, and seek reconciliation.
Today, I remember two officers who served their communities faithfully in pursuit of peace. Their names were Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Pilot Berke Bates. I didn’t know them personally, but I know who they were – the sort of person they were. They didn’t take to the streets to violently push their agendas. They didn’t lash out in hatred and rage against their perceived enemies. Their singular task today was to preserve life, and in pursuit of that end they lost their own.
I have spoken elsewhere of what makes some action moral. It is, in short, that which mitigates the effects of the Fall. Violent protest and violent counterprotest alike are contrary to this end; they are both violent, both hateful, and both do nothing to mitigate the Fall – they only exacerbate our sin and justify it under an umbrella of political smugness.
In these riots, there is only one group caught in between, and they alone embody the morality I’m speaking of. The first responders – EMS, Fire, and Police alike – are present here, in danger, risking their lives, for two groups of screaming children having at each other with insults, stones, clubs, firebombs and now, vehicles. They have no reason to be there except to mitigate Satan’s grasp on the world. They, and they alone, can claim the moral high ground.
So while many voices condemn one or the other, or both, I will only say this:
I give honor to my fallen brothers tonight. I pray comfort to their families. I will cherish your memory, and I will tell my children how you lived, and how you died. Rest easy. We’ll see you soon enough.