To the Editor:

When I heard the news of the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, shock doesn't begin to communicate what I felt reading the reports. Horror. Sadness. Disgust. Profound disappointment.

I join my voice with Republicans and Democrats and Independents who lament where our nation finds itself today.

Reading the published comments of President Donald Trump, I knew as a Christian, as a minister in the United Church of Christ, and as a counselor in Ridgefield, I had to respond unequivocally. To do less would be to shirk the responsibilities of my own sense of responsibility as a citizen and a human being.

President Trump wrote in a Twitter post on Saturday the following:

"We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST."

I recognize that this statement was a nod toward "inclusivity," as one report put it. But with all due respect to the Office of the President, I must disagree.

We are not Americans first. We're human beings first.

If we believe for one moment that privileging the voices of hatred is necessary to maintain balance in our society, we are kidding ourselves. And if we imagine that the chants of white supremacists, "Jews will not replace us," and "Take America back," and their complaints like "I'm tired of seeing white people pushed around" are simply the statements of people of goodwill disagreeing about policies, we are guilty of the worst kind of self-deception.

The U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech, does not put shackles upon our consciences. Not to take sides against hatred is not just to be on the wrong side of history (though it is that too); it is to reject our calling as a people of God, as Americans who treasure the freedoms for which our ancestors fought and died for, and as people who honor our deepest calling to love and treat with decency all of humankind.

We are human beings, first and last, by creation and calling.

Dr. Fred H. Turpin

Lakeview Drive, Aug. 14