Charlottesville wasn’t about the statue.
Self-proclaimed “white nationalists” have been using the Robert E. Lee monument as the pretext for a series of rallies to win attention and build their ranks. And the organizers are eager to bring in white supremacists, the Klan, neo-Nazis and their ilk.
The vast majority of the counter-protesters turned out to oppose the Nazis, the Klan and anyone happy to march with them. Also in the ranks were some “antifa” types — people nominally of the left who like to dress up as ninjas and get violent with anyone they see as “fascists.”
White nationalists and the “alt-right” are a minuscule part of the electorate — though their profiles have been elevated by the Web and social media and by media forces eager to make them the face of the Trump vote.
Since this was the third rally within weeks, “each side” (meaning most of the “nationalists” and a fringe of the counter-protest) arrived armed, armored and ready to rumble.
Charlottesville authorities made the huge mistake of not keeping the protesters and counter-protesters widely separated. Regardless of who made the first move, the whole situation was a powder keg set amid open flames.
The villain who drove his car into a crowd took the whole thing up to the level of terrorism, but it was plenty toxic before then.
Precious little in all this says anything about the debate among sane Americans, who are perfectly able to resolve the minor question of whether any monument should go by normal democratic means, without a host of out-of-towners coming in to hold torchlit marches and (when out-of-towners on the other side cooperate) fight in the streets.