President Donald Trump lit every one of those torches in Charlottesville.

Yes, the white supremacists have always been with us. A parade of racist bigots is no surprise to anyone familiar with our history, especially those who have been the target of hatred and violence for centuries.

But when the mob of white men marched in Charlottesville carrying flaming torches Friday night shouting “Heil Trump” as the curtain-raiser for a day of violent clashes with counter-protesters that left three people dead, they showed the world that America is once again playing with fire.

And Trump was the one with the match.

[I went to counterprotest neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. I witnessed carnage.]

The symbolism was not subtle. Torches, witch hunts, flaming crosses — they all stretch back to our country’s founding. All those white-power bros knew exactly the kind of fear they were trying to evoke, even if their tiki torches came from Home Depot’s end-of-the-season patio sale.

The Nazi and Confederate flags were equally chilling to the millions of Americans who lost relatives in the Holocaust, in the fight against Hitler or have vivid memories of relentless racial oppression, including lynchings, church bombings and assassinations at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan and other white power terrorists.

Now we’re live-streaming that very same hatred, while Trump looks the other way. It was 90 years ago that Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father, was arrested for failing to disperse at a KKK rally in Queens that sounded a lot like the scene at Charlottesville.

Except today, there are no hoods.

Donald Trump gave everyone permission to take those hoods off with his winks, nods and refusal to take a moral stand on racial hatred and intimidation during his campaign and during the first six months of his presidency. He’d already spent years questioning the birthplace and legitimacy of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black commander-in-chief. And the haters loved him for it.

On Saturday, the president stayed silent at his New Jersey golf club for hours, even as former KKK grand wizard David Duke declared Charlottesville a “turning point” for a movement that aims to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

[It’s time for Maine to confront its history of support for white supremacy]

First, he offered a vague tweet condemning hatred without any explicit reference to the hundreds of men, some wearing red Make America Great Again hats, who chanted “White lives matter,” “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”

It wasn’t until a 20-year-old from Ohio plowed his car into a crowd of peaceful counter-demonstrators, injuring 19 and killing one woman, that Trump addressed the terrorist attack on his own soil.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides,” he said.


Trump is so afraid of offending his Tiki Tribe that he didn’t even own his flaccid statement with “I.”

On Sunday morning, his daughter Ivanka Trump finally called out the cancer that is at the heart of this domestic terrorism.

“There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis,” she tweeted.

She, however, is not the commander-in-chief.

We are the ones who have to extinguish the blaze our president sparked. Democrat, Republican, independent, it doesn’t matter. Everyone must reject what’s been unleashed in this country. And that’s already happening.

Former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, the father of Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, tweeted: ‘White supremacy’ crap is worst kind of racism-it’s EVIL and perversion of God’s truth to ever think our Creator values some above others.”

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, agreed: “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

[Racial and ethnic hatred has no place in America. President Trump needs to say so.]

The torches in Charlottesville are a dangerous sideshow in America’s ongoing culture war.

We need to stop attributing the resurgence of racism to income inequality or job loss and stop tucking it into the great red versus blue, progressive versus conservativsm, urban versus rural struggle that is at the heart of debate in our society.

Yes, there are many sides in the culture war that the racists keep trying to hitch their flaming wagon to.

But this abomination that happened in Charlottesville over the weekend is not up for debate. It’s not a cultural take or a political platform. Racism, bigotry and terrorism in the name of white nationalism isn’t a “side.” It’s a poison.

And doing anything other than calling it what it is, defining it and snuffing it out is simply un-American.

Petula Dvorak is a columnist for The Washington Post.