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On Saturday, August 12, 2017, I boarded a Boeing 787 – the Dreamliner – bound for the USA. When I arrived, my phone flashed the horrible headlines: a young woman, known by her friends as a passionate advocate for the disenfranchised, had died at the hands of another. This was no dream. Neither was it an accident.
The killer was a young man, only 20 years old, who’d grown to adulthood filled with hate. He could not abide the message of inclusiveness espoused by the small group who’d gathered to protest the tone and intentions of a rally led by white-supremacist neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Nineteen others were critically injured when the assailant intentionally steered his car into the peaceful group on the sidelines of a raucous crowd that held lit torches and screeched racial epithets in a scene all-too-reminiscent of 1930s Hitler Germany.
The mob assembled to protest the removal of a Confederate statue, but their repetitive chanting of "Heil Trump" and "blood and soil," the Anglicization of the Nazi rallying cry, betrayed that it was about so much more. Many present openly carried semi-automatic weapons. They were loud, aggressive, and threatening. Local residents scattered in fear of their angry rhetoric and hateful wrath. Yet Heather Heyer and her friends held fast, spreading their message of love and hope when, in a split second, bodies went flying.
Heather was among those flung furthest.
A lot is coming to light about Heather: she was against any type of discrimination, always had been. She was an everyday hero moved to tears by inequality of any kind. She moved all around her by her example.
She did not deserve to die. But more than that, her life and positive moral outlook deserved to be celebrated by all. It is a hard truth that Mr. Trump failed her. Indeed, it is the opinion of this writer than the actions and rhetoric of Trump are directly responsible for Heather’s untimely and unnecessary death. He should be brought to justice for hate crimes.
Heather was an activist in the pure sense of the word. She didn’t just believe in being good, she believed in doing good. She made it a point to get out into the community and take action to improve lives. On the evening of 12 August 2017, she took to the streets and stood up to hate and bigotry. But hate and bigotry took her down in an act of violence so senseless it defies credulity that Mr. Trump would condone it. The lapse in judgment, leadership, and tact made by the president to equate the ideologies of peace with that of hate does not honor the memory of Heather Heyer.
Heather stood against people who hate, people who advocate stomping out whole cultures, color groups, and creeds. May her sacrifice not be in vain. May we all stand up to hate and intolerance, even if – especially if – it comes from the White House and others in positions of power. May we heed the words of Heather’s incredibly brave mother, who urges us to channel our anger in the face of injustice into righteous indignation.
Heather Heyer is today’s Time Traveler Tours #HistoryHero, nominated without reservation by the entire TTT Team. We believe the symbols of the US’s slaving past must come down. A history of institutionalized hatred and inequality can only keep a country divided. Representations of such a past build the metaphorical walls around hearts and minds that cause hatred and lead to acts of senseless violence that tear down innocent lives. Call these symbols out for what they are: vestiges of an unjust past. Bring them down. Then put them in a museum. For we must #NeverForget.
Who's your #HistoryHero?
Tell us in the comments below and we'll let you know when we feature him or her on this blog.