Has a New Civil War Been Declared?

trump

The man everyone loves to hate.

Warning: This essay discusses issues of Donald Trump, racism, physical assault, and other forms of violence, hate crimes, and whether or not people are ultimately responsible for their own actions. If you think reading about all that might be upsetting to you, please find something else with which to occupy your time. By the way, I’m sure I’m not going to win any friends by writing and publishing this essay. Thanks.

A few days ago, I wrote a fictionalized version of an incident where 25-year-old Chloe Wright allegedly used her car to deliberately attack a man, nearly hitting him and significantly damaging his car, all because he had a “Trump” bumper sticker on his vehicle and, in a verbal altercation, admitted to voting for Donald Trump.

I fact checked the heck out of the story, and that was the only motivation I could discover as to why she would risk seriously injuring or even killing another human being. He didn’t threaten her, he didn’t cuss at her, call her names, or do anything to her other than having a bumper sticker on his car and telling the woman who he voted for.

He’s fine, and I’m sure his insurance will cover the damages to his vehicle, but Ms. Wright, if convicted of all the felony charges against her, is facing several years in prison, and even once paroled, will forever have a criminal record as a convicted felon.

I wonder if she thinks it was worth it?

This isn’t an isolated case, but I could spend days and days chronicling similar incidents, although (hopefully) none of them were equally as potentially lethal.

Authors Declan Finn and Richard Paolinelli have recently blogged regarding an incident at GenCon in Indianapolis where YouTube vlogger Jeremy Hambly was physically assaulted, apparently because of some of his commentary regarding cosplayer Christine Sprankle.

I don’t know what Jeremy said or did, but it must have been something to have a total stranger, once finding out Jeremy’s identity, try to give him a beatdown, especially in a public place.

And then there was this past weekend’s physical confrontation in Portland, Oregon, between what I perceive to be leftists counterprotestors who showed up at a rightist protest. I don’t know who started it, but they both proceeded to mix it up, in spite of local law enforcement’s attempts to keep them apart and to convince both parties to leave the vicinity.

The First Amendment says in part:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (emph. mine)

Seems this assembly was anything but peaceable.

What the heck is going on out there?

I’m over sixty years old and have lived through some pretty difficult periods of political and social unrest, but I don’t remember it ever being this bad. What’s happening to make people go crazy?

People keep telling me there’s only one answer. It’s all Donald Trump’s fault because he’s a racist.

It’s slightly more complicated than that, but just slightly. The real reason is Donald Trump is a racist, and his outrageous tweets and other public statements have given closeted (and non-closeted) racists tacit permission to be openly racist. Everyone who voted for Donald Trump (and against the sainted Hilary Clinton – yes, that was sarcasm) is a racist and a Nazi, thus it is okay to declare open season on Trump racists and Nazis.

I guess that explains what Chloe Wright did, what Jeremy Hambly’s alleged assailant did, and what the leftist counterprotestors in Portland did (although it occurs to me that if the latter had just stayed home, there would have been no violence since generally “it takes two to tango”).

I’ve written before about Toxic Fear driving people who, under different circumstances, are probably nice, kind, decent human beings to become magnificent rage monsters (que the transformation scene from the old television series “The Incredible Hulk“).

bixby hulk out

Scene from the television show “The Incredible Hulk.”

Speaking of people being accused of being Nazis when they don’t fit the definition, why equate people with whom you disagree with some of history’s most notorious mass murderers?

So let’s cut to the chase. Is Donald Trump a racist and, if so, is he responsible for inflaming “racial, ethnic and religious tensions across the United States,” according to The Guardian article Five months of Trump: Muslims’ fears were high but neighbors stood by them?

According to another The Guardian story Trump’s election led to ‘barrage of hate’, report finds:

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has counted 867 hate incidents in the 10 days after the US election, a report released Tuesday found, a phenomenon it partly blamed on the rhetoric of Donald Trump.

The advocacy group collected reports of incidents from media outlets and its own #ReportHate page. SPLC said it was not able to confirm all reports but believed the number of actual incidents was far higher, as according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics most hate crimes go unreported.

Richard Cohen, SPLC’s president, blamed the recent surge in hate crimes on Trump and his divisive language throughout the campaign.

The Wikipedia page Racial views of Donald Trump has 208 individual citations, and I’m not going to read through each and every one. Yet according to a poll referenced in a CNN story published last month Half the country thinks Donald Trump is a racist. HALF.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Donald Trump is a white sheet wearing, lawn cross burning, N-word dropping racist of breathtaking proportions. Further, let’s believe that Trump’s loud mouthed, vulgar, and flamboyant comments on twitter and elsewhere are directly responsible for the increase of hate crimes since Trump took office, as suggested by this Scientific American article and numerous other sources.

I have two questions.

First, are the people actually committing the hate crimes responsible for their actions, and thus, should be arrested, tried, and if convicted, put in prison or otherwise receive consequences to the fullest extent of the law?

I imagine most people have a ready-made answer to that one.

Second, and highly significant, are people such as Chloe Wright and the man who allegedly assaulted Jeremy Hambly equally responsible for their actions, and thus should they be arrested, tried, and if convicted, put in prison or otherwise receive consequences to the fullest extent of the law?

On first blush, the answer should be something like “do the crime, do the time,” however, I suspect that because Trump is guilty of all his accusers say he is (or so states numerous sources), then anyone acting in a manner “resisting” Trump are justified in doing so, even by committing acts of violence, assault, intent to do serious bodily harm, and possibly even intent to commit murder because Trump, and thus Trump supporters, are such dangerous breeds of cats.

Does that mean they aren’t responsible for their actions and should not receive any consequences whatsoever?

Does that mean anyone who leans toward the right side of the political and social aisle should automatically be made targets for social ostracization (such as being banned from certain SF/F Conventions as some have claimed), targets for “punch a Nazi in the face,” and targets for automotive hit and run?

Gee, that’s a tough one (no, it’s not really, but let’s run with the ball a little further).

I’ve read about this thing called Trump Derangement Syndrome, which sometimes means the mere mention of Trump’s name to sufferers (it’s not an actual mental disorder to the best of my knowledge) become highly agitated, verbally hostile, and even physically violent (and in one case, it only took a bumper sticker to trigger a near fatal response).

Frankly, regardless of whatever President Trump may be guilty of, saying you or anyone else has had their free will arrested, and are therefore not responsible for your actions by reason of Trump, isn’t just disturbing, it’s terrifying.

People aren’t stereotypes, so that means that not all social and political conservatives are cut from the same cloth. Not all of them voted for Trump (most of them probably didn’t vote for Clinton either, but there were several other candidates on the ballot, and you can even NOT cast a vote for President and have the rest of your ballot selections be considered valid). In other words, just because someone says “I’m conservative,” you don’t really know everything there is to know about that person, and assumptions don’t count.

I feel pretty safe as a conservative living in Southwestern Idaho, even though I live near Boise which, being the capital city and the biggest city in the state, has more diversity than most non-Idahoans would suspect. We’ve had an immigration center here for longer than I’ve lived in the area, so really, there are a lot of people from other countries who call Idaho their home. We also have a thriving Basque community, so it’s not the all-white racist Nazi enclave some folks might imagine.

Also, relative to rural Idaho, I’d probably be considered a moderate in most of my views, however I’d hate to think of how I’d be considered in Seattle, Portland, or the San Francisco Bay Area.

If I lived in any of those places, and if my social and political views became known, I might not feel very safe. I might even live in fear of being punched in the face or run over by a car. Hopefully, I’m exaggerating, but then again, we have direct examples of conservatives being assaulted in just those ways (Okay, Hambly may not have been attacked for his political views, but to the degree he was attacked at all, when at that moment, he wasn’t doing anything, I’m still worried).

What to do?

My first thought was to shout from the rooftops, “Would you all please calm the [BLEEP] down,” but that never works with agitated and potentially irrational people.

Frankly, I’m at a loss.

I told a friend earlier that I don’t think this is going away after Trump leaves office. I think those who fear and hate Trump have become accustomed to fear and hate, and if all conservatives are bad, that means if you’re a liberal, no matter who or what else you are, you’re always good.

I was sorely disappointed with Barack Obama, who as our nation’s first African-American President, was ideally placed to work to unite people across racial lines. Instead, he did the opposite, and they actually got worse (see item #5 in the list).

Yes, Obama built the pyre, stacked the wood, and may even have poured the gasoline on it, but Trump took a match, lit it on fire, and then dumped a whole lot more gas into the flames.

I still don’t think that gives anyone, I don’t care who you are, the right to try to beat someone up or run other people over with a car.

We need to find a better way of relating to each other, because if this outrageous behavior of the public continues post-Trump, in a few years, we might not have much of an America left, at least not as a single nation. Are we already waging a new Civil War?

For more on this but with a religious bent, read Is Jeff Sessions Trying to Establish an American State Religion?.

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40 thoughts on “Has a New Civil War Been Declared?

  1. I don’t think we’ve reached the level of civil war just yet. I think I might liken it instead to bar-room brawling. It’s an irrational exercise in mob psychology and marshalling of frustrations. It does seem to fit a pattern, though, descibed in the literature that advocates deliberate subversion of a formerly stable society in order to effect change, particularly in socialist quasi-totalitarian directions.

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      • No, Marleen, if there is any tendency that characterizes Trump, it is pursuit of his individual interests. He does not deprive others of trying to do similarly, unless they violate the laws that he is sworn to uphold. That is virtually opposite of totalitarianism.

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  2. Sigh. Who ever said someone should ram a.car? Except the criminal himself or herself? Oh, and people rationalizing for the racists in Charlottesville and against counterprotesters.

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  3. In case you didn’t read the article I linked to and you can only worry that people who aren’t Nazis might be called Nazis, here is one additional pertinent piece for the incurious and curious alike:

    … the Portland events have taken on outsized significance after a Patriot Prayer sympathizer was charged with fatally stabbing two men who came to the defense of two young black women — one in a hijab — whom the attacker was accused of harassing on a light-rail train in May 2017.

    A coalition of community organizations and a group representing more than 50 tribes warned of the potential for even greater violence than previous rallies if participants carry guns. It called on officials to denounce what it called “the racist and sexist violence of Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys” and protect the city.

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    • We talked about this story back then. It’s not new information. The protective men who died didn’t “deserve it” (except in the sense of being loving martyrs who may be rewarded).

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    • I think I would suggest, rather than lambasting a group, that the individuals who perpetrate crimes should be prosecuted and punished, and that their criminal actions should be published in the media to shame them. Their opinions are lawful, even if entirely wrong, but unlawful behavior is what must be discouraged. Counter-opinions are likewise lawful. Let arguments fly freely, and enforce the rules of public civil behavior and discourse. It shouldn’t be so hard to demonstrate which arguments are foolish, erroneous, misanthropic, or otherwise fallacious; and which are commendable.

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  4. I think whoever acts in a destructive manner, regardless of whether from the right or the left, should be held accountable for their actions and be prosecuted and punished as prescribed by law.

    That said, Trump has used his bully pulpit to stir up trouble and to bring out the absolute worst in people on both the left and the right. I fear that his destructive rhetoric about the press, calling them the enemy of the people, along with the awful, despicable things he says about specific reporters and journalist, will ultimately lead to violence against one or more members of the Fourth Estate. I hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, it will be directly due to the words and actions of Trump and HE should be held accountable. But no doubt Teflon Don will be protected by the spineless congressional Republicans and he’ll probably point the finger at Obama or Hillary or Mueller and his “17 angry Democrats,” or the “deep state,” or anywhere but himself. He may not have started the fire, but he’s vigorously fanning the flames.

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    • Destructive rhetoric, Fandango? It seems to me that there has been no shortage of that since long before Trump’s election. Trump himself has pulled no punches, rhetorically speaking, and his iconoclasm has broken more than one of the idols of prior presumptions. Will that allow goodness to assert itself? Certainly the battle has been joined, and discussion has ensued. The result, however, remains to be seen.

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    • Trump is temporary, but I fear the polarization of the U.S. may be longer lasting, which has me deeply concerned. I agree that anyone who commits a crime is responsible for their own actions regardless of who tweets what.

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      • Of course the polarization is longer lasting. It preceded Trump’s campaign and election, even if it wasn’t as visibly expressed. It is now “out of the closet”, perhaps due to Trump’s unfiltered outspokenness, perhaps due to the resentment of his success or his defiance of certain expectations. And it will, no doubt, continue after Trump’s administration has ended in 2 or 6 years. But then, as now, what will be needed is rational evaluation of policy consequences as compared with foundational American liberties and not ad-hominum insult.

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  5. Of course, it’s “fine” for people who fancy themselves against totalitarianism and communism to defend a guy who uses Stalinist talk: calling the press the “enemy” of the state or people.

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    • Calling individual press organizations or individuals “enemies” of this or that is not the same as totalitarian suppression of a free press. Nor is insistence on press responsibility for the truthfulness of its statements to be deemed so.

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    • And yes there was polarization before the usual campaign season and Trump’s election; he was already out there stirring the pot.

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      • I think you’re neglecting the polarization that existed throughout the Obama presidency, and the polarization that made such a controversy of the vote counting to validate the first GWB election, and other examples even before that. But perhaps we’re looking as different aspects of polarization or what we account as such.

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  6. I don’t know why you like to make extreme statements, James. Even when there are rational responses and rational conversations, your response is to start a new topic (same topic) and vent all over again. Poor poor me/white people/men/comservatives/whatever. And then PL gets to rationalize and ignore any headway along with you. And clarifications count for nothing. Kinda seems intentional.

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      • You supposedly want “conversation” but cut out of it over and over in order to emote again and again. While emotions aren’t bad, implying that others you are in conversation with hold the extreme views you seem to cull, from the lack of true interaction or hearing, is “useful” for something — but not constructive.

        It doesn’t matter, for instance, what I actually said in the comments to your fiction story — PL delights in responding to a reasonable person with accusation as if a reasonable person is a radical. Really, I overlooked some differences in order to agree with you. But whatever. No concession or effort to relate is enough.

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      • Accusation, Marleen? Where do you see me responding in such a manner to a reasonable person like yourself? I’m a little surprised, after all our exchanges during the past few years, that you seem not to have grasped that I respond to just what is said, as if the person means it and has said what they mean. I don’t generally infer anything about the person who said it, except that they might have adopted the thinking which logically accompanies it. If someone adduces a radical idea, I will respond to that radical idea, and possibly push it towards its logical conclusions to demonstrate how radical or problematic it can be. And if, perchance, I’ve failed to grasp what the respondent meant, or if they did not actually express what they meant to do, I expect that subsequent exchanges may reveal the misunderstanding. Does that not seem a reasonable policy?

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  7. Conservatives have been talking about Nazis and commies for a long, long time. I’m going to go ahead and ask a question, rather than go along with the random contradictory rules of whim. At what point was Nazi Germany ruined? When should people have cared? Who would it have been okay to put in camps?

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    • Well, Marleen, the problematic situations against which James has been inveighing recently have not changed for the better within the past few years during which James might have begun to mention them. If there has been any change, it has been still in the wrong direction, for the worse. Consequently it should not be surprising that he might continue doing so. Some hope is nonetheless in view in the challenges recently presented against prior prevailing views. Your characterization of James’ statements as extreme says more about your mis-balanced perceptions and your own values than it does about any objective evaluation of the rightness which he espouses and with which I tend to agree.

      While comparisons of the present-day USA with Nazi Germany are irrational and unjustified, we might nonetheless consider your question academically. Note, by the bye, that just as Obama failed to ruin the USA or convert it to socialistic totalitarianism — despite indications that he had set in motion processes to do just that — so also Trump will not ruin the USA or subvert its constitutional laws and rights — regardless of the rhetoric employed against him. Some have suggested that the watershed for the ruination of Nazi Germany was the promulgation of the Nuremburg laws of 1935. These represent the devaluation of individual persons in favor of broad categories, particularly racial ones, but also eugenically utilitarian ones; and the devaluation of law and any effort to interpret it rationally rather than politically, or to apply it uniformly. This could be deemed the key change that enabled Hitler to pursue the program and values he had outlined in “Mein Kampf” ten years earlier. Without it, there could have been no extensive system of work camps or extermination camps. Even the security detention camps that were opened in 1933 would have remained very limited if not for the 1935 legal changes. Clearly, Hitler had such a long-term program in mind for a long time. Even the American internment camps for Japanese-Americans (1942-1946) were not modeled on such views, though certainly they were tainted with racism. They were not, however, tainted with eugenic philosophy.

      The closest modern analog to Hitler’s program and vision, applicable to the USA, might be the so-called “Alinsky playbook”, Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” (1971), which was a favorite of Obama and other community organizers of a social-liberal bent. It includes such gems as: “Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.”, and, “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.” Note that irrationality is deemed essential to this ridicule. Consequently it is not surprising to see the emphasis of the left on irrational ad-hominum attack. Did Alinsky have a master program? I’m not sure, other than the fundamentally socialistic ideals he promulgated along with his plan for grassroots radicalization. But, since he is deceased and unable to guide any such program, it is his disciples who must be watched for programmatic plans to undermine traditional American liberties and responsibilities.

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      • So-called conservatives have become masters of projection (accusing others of what they themselves do). Congrats on that, PL. And Trump is a master of the types of tactics in view.

        My very point is that people have to (actually need to) be watchful of the undermining of American stewardship for responsibility and liberty among fellows and neighbors.

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  8. I don’t know when people of this planet will stop every kind of war be it civil or war. I often wonder how they are benefitted from this. Let’s spread peace and love around us and across the worldwide.

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    • Well, Marleen, that linked video article contains a variety of facts, opinions, interpretations, and assertions. Some may be challenged or debated, while others may be deemed valid. Which bits might you wish to highlight as a particular assertion in the present conversation?

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    • I think it would help to understand it’s not simply having a faith that annoys most people who are atheist (although that does happen). In fact, most atheists don’t bother me even with atheist (or skeptical and observant — which shouldn’t only be atheist) talk. (I appreciate it.) [Yes, I mean a different kind of observant… but both kinds can be fine.] Faith seems to me to be something different than what most religious people think or teach that it is.

      Liked by 1 person

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