McCarthy on Charlottesville and hate groups: 'We are better than that'

Kevin McCarthy 16 Aug 2017 (3).jpg
Rep. Kevin McCarthy speaks to Eyewitness News on Aug. 16, 2017, in Bakersfield, Calif., about not having tolerance for hate groups and the debate over removing Confederate statues. (KBAK/KBFX photo) 

The past has a habit of lingering in the present.

Robert E Lee died 147 years ago, the KKK rose in the South nearly 100 years ago, the Nazis rose to power in Germany 84 years ago, and on Saturday a woman was killed during a counter-protest to white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

All of these events are in the past and they are shaping the present. Virtually everyone is thinking about them, talking about them, or acting because of them.

Lee, Nazis, the KKK, and the dead protester Heather Heyer are now all intertwined in history and the present.

A statue of Lee was to be torn down, but a group of protesters stood to defend it. A counter-protest emerged. A young man drove a car through that counter protest. Heyer was killed.

This chain of events has sparked debate across the country.

What should be done with statues honoring confederate soldiers? Are Nazis and the KKK gaining ground in America? Is the past truly in the past?

These are all questions at the center of this debate, and while some answers are complicated, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Eyewitness News one answer is easy.

"I do not believe the Nazi party has the right to be around," said the congressman from Bakersfield. "I do not believe anyone should be judged on their religion or skin. This is America, We are better than that."

The congressman went on to say it is the duty of Americans to make sure these groups do not rise again.

Meanwhile, President Trump is asking a different question in this nationwide debate: Lee today, who tomorrow?

The question goes deeper than it seems.

Historical figures viewed by today's standards rather than through the lens of time tend to fall short of their legacy.

For example Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote the immortal words "all men are created equal," owned hundreds of slaves.

The question also brings to light the fact that destroying reminders of the past doesn't destroy the past.

Tearing down a statue of Lee doesn't undo anything he did.

McCarthy agrees with that sentiment to a point and believes reminders of the past, no matter how ugly that past may be, do have a place in today's society.

"You want to make sure that never gets repeated," said McCarthy. "So you don't want to destroy that so that you don't know of that. You want to keep it in history. You want to teach the next generation, so it doesn't repeat."

However, McCarthy doesn't believe there can be just one policy by which to measure these historical pieces. He said it needs to be up to each state and city.

Where these reminders of a checkered past exist does matter, according to McCarthy, and finding the right place for them is essential.