Hard to believe it, but standing in downtown Charlottesville Saturday, I was reminded of Shakespeare.

“The fool thinks of himself as a wise man while a wise man knows he is but a fool,” Shakespeare said, and Saturday afternoon, I alternately thought of myself as both while I walked through a city that had just suffered through a deadly riot.

The young woman behind the table spoke plainly.

“Well, we’re a safe space, and we really don’t want the press inside, but you can go inside if you want to though we really don’t want you to. Does that make sense?”

“No,” I replied. “It doesn’t.”

“It doesn’t make sense to me either,” she said sheepishly.

The “Safe Space” in question was outside a Charlottesville church set up for “people who are actively involved in promoting unity, diversity, safety, peace, justice and reconciliation,” according to a sign taped to a traffic cone outside.

There was a decontamination tent set up for those who’d been doused with pepper spray or worse – and before entering the church, you had to go through a metal detector while volunteers asked you if you were carrying guns, knives or pepper spray.

“We’ve had a few people leave their knives and pepper spray out here,” the volunteer told me. “What about you?”

“I’m a reporter,” I said evenly. “I’m carrying a pen and a notepad.”

They let me in so I could go to the bathroom. Inside, I saw people resting in pews, but there wasn’t much else to see among the mostly very young crowd and I left after making use of the facilities. On the way out, I stopped and asked one of the older volunteers two questions that nagged at me since I read the sign.

First, what if someone from the alt-right showed up seeking shelter from the storm or had been doused with pepper spray – would the volunteers assist them – in the interest of promoting peace and unity? I got a dour look and no answer from the volunteer with a cleric’s collar. Maybe he didn’t hear me. And maybe he didn’t hear me when I asked what would happen at their “safe space,” if someone didn’t want to be disarmed? All he did was frown.

It was Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, just two hours after two groups of protesters – one from the “Unite the Right” movement and a group of counter protesters – riotously clashed on the streets of the college town ostensibly because the “Unite the Right” movement showed up to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park in the city’s downtown area. According to The New York Times, the violence in Charlottesville was initiated by white supremacists brandishing anti-Semitic placards, Confederate battle flags, torches and a few Trump campaign signs.

The counter-protesters consisted of a wide variety of mostly young adults. They came from Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Brooklyn, Washington D.C. and St. Louis. Saturday, after the riots, they hung out at the north end of town.

Meanwhile several blocks away, the “Unite the Right” folks had dispersed but still milled about the downtown area. Some of them professed to be from East Tennessee, Ohio, rural Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. While the counter-protesters represented a wide range of Americans there was no denying the vanilla cookie-cutter aspect of the alt-right crowd.

The two sides clashed in fist fights and assorted mayhem including pepper spray battles, used bats and cosplay shields in a display resembling something from the Lord of the Flies – before a 20-year-old from Ohio got into his car and apparently used it to kill a young woman who was among the counter-protesters. By the afternoon, the city had settled into an uneasy calm. The Virginia State Police – after being mobilized in a state of emergency by Governor Terry McAuliffe – had successfully broken up the riot and the streets were deserted.

In a couple of places, street musicians were playing, while other alt-right supporters yelled and screamed about the “Antifa” having started the fight. “Why don’t you go to the church and tell them that?” I asked one screaming young man. “Bro, that’s their safe space.” He said calmly, with a straight face.

One young man, Benji Buckles from East Tennesse, described himself as a leader in the “Alt Right Libertarian Movement,” and said he was against collectivism, the Frankfurt school, subjectivism and, while he believed in science, he was not going to take a stand on global climate change. He said “white people are oppressed by the government, too,” and was in favor of a border wall and limiting immigration “as much as humanly possible.” But he also said he was for human rights.

“Most of the people who came here today on both sides were not the troublemakers. It was just a few of them on both sides who wanted violence. And the mainstream media doesn’t talk to us. They see the one guy stripping off his shirt and yelling around a Nazi flag and they interview him,” he said. “That’s not us.”

I reminded him that a naked chest is one thing, running people down with their car while David Duke tells the president he’s only in office because of “God-fearing white folk” like Duke is entirely another.

Buckles said he was unaware of Duke’s tweet: “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists,” Duke wrote on Twitter shortly after the president spoke to the violence in Charlottesville.

Buckles, a 24-year-old unmarried father of two, works for a security company, took time off and paid his own way to attend the “Unite the Right” rally. He is a former high school football player and until five years ago, a practicing communist until he said he took the “red pill.”

“Now I see things clearly. The government oppresses all people,” he said. Still, he couldn’t see himself linking up with certain members of the populace even if he believed “We the people,” to be the case. “White people have to stand up for their rights too,” he said. “That’s just self-advocacy.”

Back in a city park next to the “safe space,” a young woman from Philadelphia who called herself “Genitalia” – because “That’s how men look at me, so I protest" – said the action in Charlottesville just reinforced her belief that the country needs a revolution.

“Do you vote?” This is the question I asked all of the protesters from the left and the right I saw Saturday. Overwhelmingly I heard a “No,” followed up by, “It won’t do any good any way.”

Genitalia remained convinced of the need for a revolution – but could supply no concrete proposal with what kind of government we should have in place after said revolution. I posited: “If you can’t get up off your couch to vote, then how can anyone be sure you’ll get up off your couch to take up arms against the government? Besides, isn’t voting easier? Shouldn’t you give it a try and maybe even run for office yourself before you decide to be involved in armed insurrection?”

Saturday night in the college town known to have a few decent Irish pubs, restaurants and a semi-decent music scene, nothing was open downtown. Shops that had been opened closed early while others never bothered to open at all.

They have First Amendment rights to speak – but they have no right to foment violence.

The riot in Charlottesville is noteworthy not just because of the violence (and for a failure to quickly denounce the hatred representing by Nazis) but because of the complex issues, lack of education and divisiveness in our country underscored by the actions here.

First: Nazis have to be denounced in the strictest terms. That type of hatred cannot go without condemnation. They have First Amendment rights to speak – but they have no right to foment violence. We must educate people as to the inherent risk of such hatred and the demeaning, undermining roll it plays in destroying the fabric of our Republic. Our president failed us by not strongly condemning it.

But, we shouldn’t blame the police or state government for his actions. At the end of the day there was far less violence than I witnessed in Ferguson and Baltimore during the recent riots in those locations. The entire mess in Charlottesville was cleaned up by sundown and due to a timely rain shower that night, all was quiet afterward. The police were in an impossible situation from the beginning. People poured in from all over the country, some toting guns and dressed in fatigues. It was a violent act and a violent play that led to violence. The White Supremacists in this country are well-versed in violence, know how to carry it out and manipulated the events in Charlottesville to make sure that message was clearly heard. To them, it was a victory. David Duke got to come out and spread his hatred while upstaging President Trump in a Twitter battle.

He failed to grasp the issue correctly and did a horrible job framing it because he failed to condemn the alt-right terrorism, but the truth is: this is not a battle of great ideas.

But there is another side, one the president tried to address when he spoke. He failed to grasp the issue correctly and did a horrible job framing it because he failed to condemn the alt-right terrorism, but the truth is: this is not a battle of great ideas. This isn’t the ‘60s, revisited. This violence comes from both sides and has no deep thoughts of injustice, or how to improve a system for everyone. It isn’t about equality. It is violence born from chaos and anarchy; barbarism brought about by platitudes found on the Internet, heard and acted on by the masses and manipulated by those whose hidden agenda most of the young participants couldn’t fathom and don’t understand.

You could hear it the young alt-right characters who spouted platitude after platitude in a circular argument that explained nothing. Jargon steeped in baloney and stirred with hatred, misogyny and racism is not the basis for change.

But it is no different on the left when those who don’t vote preach the system is broken and the only solution is revolution.

The Nazis and the White Supremacists have masked and sanitized their agenda. Those on the left who picked up pepper spray, bats, knives and shields and went after the supremacists played right into their hands. That’s because if you scratch the surface of most of the young participants on either side in Charlottesville, you will find many are the same in a couple of core areas. They are ignorant of history, civics and feel both entitled and oppressed. The riot in Charlottesville resembled a staged play with violent and deadly repercussions. If there was really a Civil War or a Revolution ongoing – would anyone respect a “safe space”? If the idea is unity and you are a church volunteer, how could you turn down someone suffering just because they don’t agree with you? During this country’s Civil War, doctors cared for soldiers on both sides of the battle.

People like Richard Spencer and David Duke love what happened in Charlottesville. It’s a victory for them and their vile agenda, and all they want is to drag the whole thing down. In chaos there is opportunity and in anarchy the vile can be King.

Pogo, as I’ve repeatedly said, has it right. We have met the enemy and he is us.

Or as Shakespeare said, there is no darkness but ignorance.

Saturday the president took a hit from his own party for not speaking out strongly against the violence in Charlottesville.

Sunday morning, the White House press office said, “The President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course, that includes white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing Americans together.”

For some that will not be enough. And for many it will be seen has coming too little and too late, particularly after our president has coddled and protected racists, demeaned women and the disabled, encouraged the Far Right he now weakly condemns and has spoken out of both sides of his mouth so often he sounds like a shrill dog whistle.

We are left with the question of how can a POTUS who has helped to create the great divide stitch the country back together again.

That above all is the saddest and scariest part of the whole mess.