Indian-American novelist Jhumpa Lahiri and actor Kal Penn are among the 17-member United States President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which resigned as a whole on Friday, joining the chorus against President Donald Trump’s response to the violence in the city of Charlottesville. They called for Trump’s resignation if he did not understand that supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values.
Melania Trump, as the first lady, acts as the Committee’s honorary chair.
The letter, addressed to Trump, said that ignoring his “hateful rhetoric” would have made them complicit in his actions and words. “We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions,” it said.
The letter was signed by 16 people, including Lahiri, actors Penn and John Lloyd Young and artist Chuck Close. “Elevating any group that threatens and discriminates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, orientation, background, or identity is un-American,” they wrote in the letter. Trump’s words and actions have pushed everyone further away from the freedoms they are guaranteed in the First Amendment, they added. The last member, director George C Wolfe, resigned a few hours later.
Readers on the internet were quick to note that the first letters of the letter’s six paragraphs spelled out the word “RESIST”, a rallying cry used against Trump by his many dissidents.
On Wednesday, Trump disbanded two business advisory councils after many corporate chief executive officers quit over his handling of the clashes. The heads of 3M, Campbell Soup, Johnson & Johnson, United Technologies, Merck, Under Armour and Intel quit over the last week.
On August 13, a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent and led to a woman’s death. A car had rammed into a number of people protesting peacefully against the demonstration. Trump blamed anti-racism activists and white supremacists equally for the violence, and said that there were “many sides” to the incident, and that he was not putting anyone on a moral plane.