This post originally appeared on fortheloveofwineandcoffee.com.
Haunting images of white supremacists with rage in their eyes, hate in their hearts and lit torches in their fists marching in Charlottesville flooded social media and news outlets over the weekend. This new generation of Nazis and racists gathered for the Unite the Right rally and exposed themselves to the world, no longer concealed by white hoods and online usernames.
As many stared at the images in incredulous horror, the unrest and violence intensified. Patriots took a stand for true American values and against hatred in counter protests in Charlottesville. More than 30 were injured. One hero, Heather Heyer, was brutally killed as she boldly stood against white supremacy.
The melee at Charlottesville showed us that there are actual people behind the usernames angrily typing racist comments in response to news articles. There are people gaining notoriety in their particular hate groups. There are people behind the growing numbers of white supremacists in our communities.
Behind every flame that illuminated the dark skies of Charlottesville is a person.
Surrounded by the fire of like-minded individuals who shared the same hatred and phobias, they saw they weren’t alone. They didn’t feel the need to conceal their faces. They removed their shirts to expose the swastikas tattoos on their chests. They proudly waved Confederate flags and symbols of white supremacy.
When we look directly into the eyes of these people who possess such hate, one alarming question is asked—who are they?
They are our neighbors. You may have politely smiled at them when passing on the sidewalk. They may take classes at the nearby university. They may determine whether or not you get a mortgage. They may be ahead of you in the carpool lane when you drop your kids off at school. They may share a pew with you Sunday morning.
They’re Americans. They live among us in our communities. They vote.
They may lurk in the eerie corners of the Internet you don’t dare go. They may cowardly hang recruitment posters after nightfall. When you’ve seen evidence of their existence, you may have brushed it off because the thought of a hate group so close to home sent shivers down your spine.
Now they’re looking all of us in the face. One point I actually agree with them on is that we need to see them. We’ve been turning a blind eye and dismissing the hatred in our country for far too long.
The president of the United States issued a ban on refugees in Muslim-majority countries in an effort, in his words, to prevent terrorism. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security concluded that the people affected by this ban posed absolutely no terror risk. But despite the ineffectiveness, Trump still touts national security to be the motivating factor behind the ban. We should ban them all just in case one terrorist sneaks through.
Despite President Trump routinely bragging about stock market gains as evidence of his administration’s effect on the economy, he also believes $70 billion is a bargain when it comes to protecting our national security with a border wall.
National security was the top issue for GOP voters during the 2016 election and they favored then candidate Trump. The idea of “America first” is now an official White House policy and commonly used tagline by the president, along with the now infamous “Make America Great Again.”
Red hats with the “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan can be easily spotted among the torch-wielding white supremacists in Charlottesville. Is the return of espoused hatred the greatness they had in mind?
When looking to combat terrorism, those who wish harm on us and American values, we don’t have to look far. We can put America first. The face of evil marched in Charlottesville and live among us in our communities. There are terrorists within our borders that now feel that America is now a safe haven for their repulsive code of bigotry.
Before Heather Heyer left her home to take a stand against white supremacy, she posted on social media — “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” It’s beyond time to pay attention. It’s time to be outraged.