The former mayor of Charlottesville delivers a vivid, first-person chronicle of the terror and mayhem of the events of August 2017.
The former mayor of Charlottesville delivers a vivid, first-person chronicle of the terror and mayhem of the August 2017 "Unite the Right" event, and shows how issues of extremism are affecting not just one city but the nation itself.
The deadly invasion of Charlottesville, Virginia, by white nationalist militias in August 2017 is a microcosm of the challenges facing American democracy. No one is better placed to tell the story of what really happened, and to draw out its larger significance, than Michael Signer, then Charlottesville's mayor.
Signer, a lawyer, historian, political theorist, and public servant, sets the events on the ground--the lead-up to August's "Unite the Right" rally, the days of the weekend itself, the aftermath-into the larger context of a country struggling to find its way through the sturm und drang of the Trump era.
He confronts some of the most pressing questions of our moment. How do we:
Reconcile free speech with the need for public order?
Maintain the values of pragmatism, compromise, even simple civility, in a time of intensification of extremes on the right and the left?
Address systemic racism through our public spaces and memorials?
Do something about the widespread disaffection with institutions and a democracy that seems to be faltering and turning on itself?
The siege of Charlottesville shows how easily our communities can be taken hostage by forces intent on destroying democratic norms and institutions. But Signer concludes with a stirring call for optimism, pointing out, with evidence drawn from Charlottesville and work it has spurred since, that even this tragedy contains an opportunity to bolster democracy from within and defend our very ability to govern.
Michael Signer served as Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, from 2016 to 2018. He has been profiled by CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian and has been interviewed by Meet the Press, Face the Nation, the Rachel Maddow Show, and NPR’s Morning Edition. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from U.C., Berkeley, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow; a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law; and a B.A. in politics, magna cum laude, from Princeton University. He is also the author of two books, Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies and Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Fathers. He lives in Charlottesville with his wife and twin boys.