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It's Our Turn: Will we let hatred divide us?

The Civil War was a sad, dark time for all Americans. It was a time when we fought against each other and tested the resolve of the country to stay one group of united states. The war cost us the lives of 620,000 Americans. However, in the end, our resolve was strengthened and we remained one country.

Contrary to what many people now believe, the Civil War wasn't really fought over the issue of slavery; it was all about state's rights — the right of the states to govern themselves and make their own laws. Slavery certainly was responsible for touching off the issue, but what made so many Confederate soldiers leave their homes and families and willingly fight and die, was their belief that as Americans they had a right to govern themselves.

So, despite their shortcomings, the Confederate soldiers were really fighting for the same ideas that America was founded on. What was really in question was to what degree the federal government could go to limit their rights.

Until recently, a statue of one of these brave Confederate soldiers stood in Durham, North Carolina. However, on Monday night a group of protesters pulled it down and then proceeded to spit on it, kick it, and generally carry on like a bunch of little children. The video showing this vandalism was one of the most sickening things I have ever seen in my whole life. The disrespect for this soldier and all the Americans he represented was absolutely revolting.

So now, a little more than 150 years after the Civil War, we are fighting against each other again. We saw it in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, last Saturday, when white supremacists clashed with counter protesters in the streets, which resulted in one person being killed and several injured. But this fight wasn't over racism, as it might appear, but over whether the racists had a right to express themselves.

America was founded on the freedom to hold different views and express them appropriately and lawfully.

Although I certainly don't agree with their racist views, I do believe in their right to express their views lawfully. And I strongly disapprove of a group that would try to stop them from expressing those views. Counter protesters apparently went there looking for a fight and they got one. And because it It takes two sides to fight, both are to blame for the resulting tragedy.

This fight has been escalating for years, as we talk more and more about tolerance, and yet become more and more intolerant of anyone who doesn't agree with us. As the ridiculously stupid term "hate" is slowly being expanded to include almost everyone, we are in danger of criminalizing the very rights that this country was founded on.

When I look at Charlottesville, I see a lot of hate. But is there really that much difference between the white supremacists' hate and the hatred directed at them by the counter protesters? And what about the blatant hate so many people have for President Donald Trump?

The term "politically correct" gets overused almost to the point of meaninglessness. Yet no other term adequately expresses the battle we seem to be fighting in America: Either you are politically correct (whatever that currently is) or you are a reprehensible, disgusting bigot. There is no middle ground and no room for discussion.

It's a serious mistake to keep thinking that our country is immune to division. The stark differences of opinion we hold could easily break us into two or more separate countries, as it almost did once. If we want to remain one country of united states, we need to value the rights and freedoms this country was founded on — even if it means we have to put up with some disturbing ideas sometimes. And we need to develop some real tolerance: Not the kind that's focused on doing whatever you want, but the kind that actually respects people with differing opinions. That's the only way we can preserve this country and all that it used to stand for.

"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.