- - Monday, August 21, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The angry and occasionally violent left has drawn the battle lines and demands that America choose a side. On one side, in the view from the left, are the liberals who call themselves “progressives,” pious bearers of righteousness, devoid of bad motives and without original sin. On the other side is everyone else, deplorables, yahoos, bigots, racists and other bad people whose unpardonable sin is that they voted for Donald Trump. “Deplorables” have no rights, and the mob is entitled to impose “justice.”

Skirmishes in the culture war have erupted and subsided for years, but the pace quickened with the convulsion of violence in Charlottesville over whether a statue of Robert E. Lee should be hauled down from its pedestal. It was an easy victory for the left, whose warriors overwhelmed a gathering of white nationalists, Ku Kluxers and neo-Nazis.

The violent death of a young woman beneath the wheels of a neo-Nazi’s car framed the moral superiority of the left-wing protesters on every TV screen. Every tweet from President Trump calling for cooler heads on both sides was spun as evidence that in his heart of hearts he’s a racist, too.

Silencing the president set the stage for muffling the message of Saturday’s Free Speech Rally on Boston Commons. It drew a handful of First Amendment supporters, including senior citizens, including women in the red, white and blue, but nary a jackbooted skinhead. The disappointment of the television reporters and talking airheads was visible on a hundred faces. The gathering of First Amendment fans was swallowed by an angry sea of about 40,000 counterprotesters who washed through the streets of Boston like a wave behind a banner demanding, “Which side are you on?”

It’s sad when free speech, once regarded by everyone as the bedrock of democracy, has become a “side” that could trigger the outrage of thousands of counterprotesters. White supremacy is un-American, and so is opposition to free speech.

Blindly following a cause without the benefit of reason leads the righteous to dark places. In Missouri, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democratic state senator, crossed the line between free speech and hate speech last week when, in blaming the violence in Charlottesville on the president, she tweeted her solution: “Trump should be assassinated.” She later explained that her message was written in a fit of anger, and refused to apologize. Grudgingly, she finally “apologized” under pressure from U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a Democrat, who demanded her resignation from the state legislature.

Belief is a powerful force, and for believers on the left, Hillary Clinton was meant to follow Barack Obama as president and usher in a new nation unfettered by past association with symbols of its flawed past. Dead white Founding Fathers and their flawed ideals on yellowing parchment would be banished and replaced with modern verities. Donald Trump’s improbable victory would be stuffed down the memory hole.

Pulling down Confederate statues (and Monday a statue of Christopher Columbus was added to the verboten) and crushing free speech are but a means to an end: setting the nation on a course of groupthink to the new America with a past erased. By countering every word and deed issued from the Trump White House, and knocking off each Trump associate one by one until impeachment claims the president himself, marchers are determined to redeem their misbegotten dream. Once free speech as we have known it is gone, so, too, will be the right to dream.

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