Michael Signer was the idealistic citizen-mayor of Charlottesville, hoping to use values such as civility and prudent governance to help guide his community through local issues such as what to do about controversial Confederate statues. Instead, he found himself in the eye of a “perfect firestorm,” as his community came under siege in a coordinated campaign by the alt-Right. Cry Havoc is a compelling narrative of events on-the-ground in Charlottesville 2017, set in a larger context of what it means for a country struggling to find its way through the sturm und drang of the Trump era. Signer provides invaluable insight into how a democratic society under fire can respond to challenges such as:
Reconciling free speech and the right of assembly with the need for public safety, in a time of rising extremism.The intensification of extremes on the right and the left, consuming values of pragmatism and compromise and even facts themselves.The widespread disaffection with institutions and a democracy that seems to be faltering and turning on itself.The failure to deliver positive measures to address a legacy of systemic racism through our political language, our built environments, and our public policies.An Internet and social media unleashing our darkest demons and organized hatred that we are ill-equipped to disrupt.
Signer’s “you are there” account will have readers asking “Well, what would I have done?” if confronted face-to-face with forces intent on intimidation and the destruction of democratic norms and institutions. This book provides insight and inspiration for how we can individually and collectively rise to the challenge.