The rise of white supremacy together with right-wing nationalism as a movement in this country is an alarming development.

We have always had extremists around trying to cause trouble, but they have usually remained on the fringes of society. There appears to no longer be any attempt by such individuals and groups to remain sidelined or out of sight in any way. Indeed, the current election cycle has brought out candidates seeking office as members of a nationalist platform.

The Charlottesville mess that occurred last summer involved well-armed, well-organized “demonstrators” who, obviously, cared little for anything or anyone who happened to be in their way. I do not believe that most of those men and women who descended upon that quiet Virginia college town intended to commit murder. However, murder was committed in their name, and they are all responsible for the atmosphere of hate and violence in which that murder occurred.

Much of the social discord seems to center around American Civil War iconography. The Civil War was fought in the mid-19th century. We have no need to renew the contest in the 21st century. The war was fought over the issue of slavery. In the years since the war, there has been an effort to gentrify the Southern cause in order to make it sound more noble by redefining the central issue of the war to states’ rights. The states’ right for which the Confederate states fought was the right to hold slaves. There were no other significant issues involved. The issue of slavery was settled when Gen. Lee surrendered his Confederate Army to the U.S. Army’s Gen. Grant in April 1865.

I am sympathetic to the idea that Confederate iconography symbolizes the heritage of being willing to fight for one’s rights. In fact, I grew up a proud “son of the South.” However, that glowing heritage diminishes when one considers that the only right for which the Southern states went to war was the right to hold fellow humans in slavery.

Why do so many of us continue to pretend that the American Civil War was not settled in 1865? Why do so many of us continue to pretend that the descendants of former slaves hold inferior status in this nation of ours? Why do so many of us believe that we have a right to decide for citizens of another state what kind of statuary they can place in their public parks?

These are rhetorical questions. However, they are also pertinent questions. Political and religious leaders may be found to empower our beliefs at every point along the spectrum of extremes. Many leaders teach very cynical falsehoods. Others simply view the same reality in different ways. This is the world that we have made here in 21st-century America. It is an exciting world, but it is also a confusing world.

It is very hard to know who to trust and from whom to run. I usually rely on the old adage that if a thing sounds too good to be true, it usually is. I listen for speakers who tell me what they think I want to hear. I tend to think more highly of someone when I am being challenged by what that person tells me.

I also check in with the “Boss” a lot. I keep the communication line with God open so that I can ask God which move I should make or what I should say. Obviously, God sometimes lets me figure it out by myself. Those are the times that I learn the most, because those are the times that I make the most mistakes.

When you hear something you don’t want to listen to, listen more closely. It may be God talking to you.

May God bless us all.