Picture a teacher in front of his class, pointing at a girl who was running for student council, and saying, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”
Then picture that teacher making fun of a disabled student by mimicking their spastic arm movements and speech impediment. Imagine that teacher telling the class that a black student had a low IQ. What if that teacher told the students that if one of them punched another student that he’d stand up for them?
And what if, on the playground, some students bullied the girl, made fun of the disabled student, or punched the black boy after telling him he was dumb? Shouldn’t the teacher bear some responsibility for those actions? Does anyone believe that teacher should be able to keep his job?
Yet President Donald Trump has said and done all these things, and still has supporters. When he told a huge crowd that if they hit one of the protesters he’d pay their legal bills, they cheered.
He demonizes Central American people who are fleeing violence and starvation, Mexican immigrants who are happy to take any job they’re offered and people from Muslim countries who want to come here to work. He antagonizes our allies by calling their leaders weak while praising and flattering dictators who ban free speech in their countries and murder anyone who opposes them.
His supporters include the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, conspiracy theorists, and white nationalist groups that encourage hatred of immigrants, Jews, blacks and anyone who’s not a white American.
Sure enough, since his election, incidents of violence against minorities have increased substantially. Why?
Counter-terrorism expert Ehud Sprinzak explained that verbal violence is “the use of extreme language against an individual or a group that either implies a direct threat that physical force will be used against them, or is seen as an indirect call for others to use it.” He said it’s often a “substitute for real violence, and that the verbalization of hate has the potential to incite people who are incapable of distinguishing between real and verbal violence to engage in actual violence.”
According to that, much of what Donald Trump says can be described as verbal violence. It’s not a coincidence that, two weeks ago, 11 Jewish worshipers were killed in the worst incidents of anti-Semitic violence the country has ever experienced. And a Trump supporter sent pipe-bombs to more than 11 prominent Democratic critics of the president. One of those Democrats is George Soros, a Jew, whom Trump has falsely accused of funding the caravan of refugees from Central America.
The gunman who murdered those innocent Jewish people in their synagogue was angry because their group allegedly helped fund the Central American caravan of refugees. He dubbed the refugees “invaders,” the same word used by the president. Anyone who can’t see that the current culture of hate isn’t encouraged by Trump is purposely ignoring overwhelming evidence.
Last week, Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time attorney, said Trump often made extremely racist comments. It’s not a coincidence that, since Trump’s election, membership in hate groups has increased. According to an Aug. 23, 2017, article in The Independent, it started after the Charlottesville white supremacist rally. It quotes Chris Baker, an imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I haven’t seen the Klan grow at the pace it’s growing now. I mean, it’s even hard to keep track of the numbers you’ve got ’cause there’s so many coming in.”
Encouraged by the president’s words, white nationalist groups have felt more empowered to spread their hatred through violence. It’s no longer an exaggeration to say that these times mirror the atmosphere when the Nazis became dominant in Germany. They succeeded only because so many Germans kept silent and didn’t resist.
But here, even many prominent Republicans are warning us of the dangers of Trump’s thinly veiled calls for violence. Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote Oct. 27 in the Washington Post that “the number of anti-Semitic incidents was nearly 60 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, the largest single-year increase on record.” She went on to list numerous examples of other hate crimes against minorities committed since 2016.
Also last week, Trump implied it would be OK for the military to shoot refugees if they throw rocks, saying there’s no difference between rocks and rifles. A day later, on Nov. 2, Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, contradicted him during a CNN interview, saying the military would not react like that.
Americans, including their elected officials, must stand up against a president who regularly incites hatred and violence. The time for silence is over.