Last week, the country watched as radical white supremacists clashed with radical ‘ANTIFA’ groups at a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. The political and media response provides a perfect example of the dangers of moral relativism and how it has infected political discourse.
For example, when former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted that President Trump should call out the ‘domestic terrorism’ at the rally, including a driver who purposefully drove his car into protesters, conservative Twitter criticized Holder for not labeling the 2009 Fort Hood shooting ‘terrorism.’ As a reminder, the Obama administration initially labeled it workplace violence.
Similarly, liberal Twitter pounced on President Trump for alleged hypocrisy over his tweets. Trump, who has made a point of criticizing politicians for not labeling radical Islamic terrorism as such, was criticized for not labeling the white nationalist rage fest as terrorism, instead broadly condemning hatred and bigotry.
Unfortunately, neither conservatives nor liberals appear to believe in objective moral standards when there can be a political point made. It is wrong for Black Lives Matter to target cops, and it is wrong for white supremacists to target Black Lives Matter. Burning crosses, shooting cops, killing the preborn, and carrying out terrorist attacks on military bases are all wrong. However, we seem to have lost the ability to use objective moral standards in judging events. It is no longer, ‘it is wrong for the President to lie to the American people’ as much as it is ‘Nixon/Bush/Obama/Carter lied, but Democrats/Republicans didn’t say anything.’
The disgusting displays of racism and radicalism from groups such as the Klan and ANTIFA show the need to return to objective morality. Actions are not immoral or moral based on what ‘the other side does.’ Morality is not a balancing scale, where racists get to commit one crime for every crime anarchists commit. Morality is an objective set of standards.
It was interesting, then, to see the response to Trump’s original tweet on the issue. The President first tweeted:
We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
In a press conference shortly thereafter, Trump said:
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides…It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.
The statement could not have been clearer: the rally, with Nazi flags and Hitler salutes, was offensive to American values. Likewise, the violence from white supremacists and ANTIFA was offensive to American values.
Yet, President Trump was criticized for not specifically condemning the white supremacists. But why? He condemned their violence and the violence of ANTIFA.
In a world where we believe in objective moral standards, his statements make sense. ALL violence is wrong. ALL hatred is wrong.
If Charlottesville has taught us anything, it is that we need a return to objective morality.
Photo credit: Bob Mical via Flickr