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“).
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?.