When the majority of city councilors in Charlottesville, Virginia, voted to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from the newly renamed Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park), they were not “trying to erase history,” as Gov. LePage stated last week – they were making history.

People elected to take action in the interests of their community made a decision General Lee himself would likely have approved – to remove a symbol that keeps open the painful and shameful wounds of slavery. The elected officials of Charlottesville have every right to decide what public art they want displayed to reflect the values of the day, and LePage is a hypocrite to lecture other states or municipalities about how they want to govern. Wasn’t it him last week saying that out-of-state union bosses were unfairly interfering with his contract negotiations? Hasn’t he been complaining every year since his election that Washington elites and liberals “from away” unfairly try to influence Maine politics about bears, guns and national monuments? Didn’t LePage himself order the removal of a labor mural when he was first elected?

More to the point, why do white nationalist thugs using the outcome of a democratic process in Charlottesville about the public display of art as an excuse to “rally” have a friend in Maine’s governor? He says he’s opposed to the Ku Klux Klan because of past wrongs committed against French Canadians, but his rhetoric equating skinhead racists with those protesting against them suggests otherwise. What LePage is really mad about is being called upon by others to denounce hate. He’s put out by an electorate demanding moral leadership. He and Trump don’t like being told what to do.

There’s no “two sides” to neo-Nazis. Angry white men unwilling to take personal responsibility for their plight in a global society is the antithesis of traditional conservatism. Marching with torches spewing hate in “protest” of the loss of skin color-related privilege that they never deserved is not a worthy cause. Their anger is like LePage’s and Trump’s anger: Petulant. Pathetic. Perilous.

A public process erected the statue of Lee in 1924 – almost 60 years after his surrender to the Union Army at the Battle of Appomattox Court House in 1865 – despite his opposition to such monuments. Ninety or so years later, a public process led to the monument’s being removed. The outrage and crocodile tears of LePage and Trump are a strain of the same sick nostalgia that the white nationalists who converged on Charlottesville are afflicted with and should be treated aggressively. The fever pitch of their lamentations is deadly. Voting to take down a controversial monument is not equivalent to the Islamic State plundering ancient ruins.

While the rest of the world watched – aghast – the army of white supremacists march along the leafy streets of Virginia in a torchlight parade promoting fascism, Paul LePage was busy tinkering in his garage in Boothbay and puttering around his yard. The weekend clash between Nazi sympathizers and anti-fascists raised existential questions about America’s moral footing in the world for a lot of people, including many Republicans, but Maine’s governor had more pressing questions on his mind, like who left a mattress in his driveway, or so he told WGAN on Thursday morning.

LePage was out of the loop when hate groups known euphemistically as “white nationalists” descended on Charlottesville and killed an innocent woman in a barbaric act of domestic terrorism because he doesn’t believe in news. Newspapers are “pencil terrorists,” he says. When he did learn of the crisis, the LePage-the-Trump-Sycophant responded as expected, using the same ignorant analytical crutch of false equivalence the president did. “Both sides” in Charlottesville were at fault, LePage and Trump claim, to elevate their own moral and macho standing.

“I think what they are standing for is equally as bad, they are trying to erase history,” LePage said in comments on the radio talk show. “How can future generations learn if we are going to erase history? That’s disgusting.”

Disgusting? The “they” LePage refers to are the elected officials of Charlottesville who decided in a democratic process to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee. “They” angered a poor mob of woebegone online skinhead losers from outside Virginia. Boo hoo.

There is no basis to suggest that the leaders of Charlottesville who voted to take down the monument wanted to “erase history,” but there is evidence Robert E. Lee did. Lee not only opposed monuments glorifying the Civil War, but also went as far as to decline an invitation by military men to attend a ceremony memorializing soldiers who fought at Gettysburg, writing, “I think it wiser … not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”

Instead of heeding Lee’s message, Confederate diehards erected big statues of him after he died.

LePage’s obliviousness to what happened in Virginia, why and by whom, because of his own pressing domestic challenge of what-to-do-with-a-mattress didn’t prevent him from offering a tough-guy hypothetical response had he been in charge.

“All guns ahead, boys. Take them out,” the governor claims he would have commanded had a similar rally taken place in Maine, “them” being presumably “both sides” because of LePage’s inability to distinguish those who support fascism from those who oppose it.

The hallmark of a mathematical equation is that both sides have equal value. 7+3=10 and 2+3=4+1 are examples of “both sides” being equal. The sum of the expressions on both sides of the equal sign equate with the other.

Another property of an equation is that you can add or subtract the same value to both sides and it stays balanced. Violence is bad and should be denounced, but the mere presence of a history of some violence on the anti-fascist side doesn’t equate with murder committed in Charlottesville by fascists on the other. If we accept violence is bad and therefore subtract it from “both sides,” we’re left with two ideologies that are not morally equivalent.

Neo-Nazis and those opposed to neo-Nazis are not the same thing. Fascists and anti-fascists are not both responsible for racial violence. The “both sides are equally bad” rationalization by LePage and Trump is false.

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and former state senator. She can be contacted at:

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Twitter: dillesquire