In a time of immeasurable tragedy, when America and the rest of the world desperately need consolation, Barack Obama’s voice has shone through the darkness in a tweet that illuminates the power of love over hate and the strength of unity over division.
After the events of the past weekend, the nation is justifiably gripped with sadness and fear. During the largest white nationalist rally in a decade, a driver of a van brutally ripped through a crowd of counter-protestors killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Two state police troopers were also killed in the conflict when their helicopter crashed on the outskirts of Charlottesville.
The protest was ignited as a result of the planned removal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s statue. The violence and hateful rhetoric and actions of the protesters were widely condemned in many corners of America. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe stated that the demonstrators must “leave America because they are not American”.
But by far, it was President Obama’s graceful yet poignant message that touched the injured hearts of the nation.
The message, which came in a series of three tweets, has garnered a total of over 1 million retweets and 2.5 million likes within the period of 24 hours. In the post, Obama writes, “‘No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…”
He continues, “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…”
And finally: “…For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Since his departure from the White House in early 2017, Barack Obama has stayed more or less out of the spotlight.
After ending his term, he took an extended holiday but announced his intention to continue with humanitarian work as a civilian.
Before the events of Charlottetown, Virginia, the former President’s last tweet came a month before in which he offered his sympathy and support for Senator John McCain in his battle with cancer.
This most recent tweet is a quote borrowed from the former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, who passed away in 2013 after a prolonged respiratory infection.
Obama’s sentiment resonated with many people on Twitter and his post has now become the third-most liked tweet in the social network’s history.
Many people praised the former president for his eloquence and candour in the face of brutal inhumanity. Twitter user @LucieSMat writes, “Thanks for your leadership, Mr. Obama. You’re teaching us how to respond in the middle of a crisis, with calm, compassion and strength.”
In a time where the world desperately needs not only a voice of hope but also of reason, Obama provided just that. Twitter user @drood8 writes, “Thank you for your grace, intellect, and willingness to represent all who believe in the potential of this nation and the world”.
His tweet comes in the wake of what many believe to be a delayed and inadequate response by the current president, Donald Trump who has been criticized for failing to directly address white nationalists in his speech.
Instead, Trump’s response was to condemn hatred and bigotry “on many sides”, which many believe to have the effect of drawing a false equivalence between the white nationalists and neo-nazi demonstrators and those opposing their divisive and hateful rhetoric.
Trump stated, “We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides…On many sides. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”
Following this statement, Trump sent out a series of tweets expressing his condolences to the victims of the attack in Charlottesville, the officers who died, as well as the family of the deceased Heather Heyer.
20-year-old James Alex Fields has been arrested in relation to the attack in Charlottesville and, if he is found guilty, will face charges of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, as well as one count of hit and run.