We are now moving past “mere” voter suppression and voter intimidation. We have arrived at voter assassination.
It was almost exactly 80 years ago that the Nazis made their first serious move against their own citizens, who happened to be Jewish. It was Nov. 9 and Nov. 10, 1938.
The Sturmabteilung, that is, the paramilitary Brownshirts, sort of like the Proud Boys plus Robert Bowers plus Cesar Sayoc — ideological killers of Jews and other targets — pulled off the 1938 Kristallnacht, the attack on synagogues and Jewish businesses. They were far more prolific than Trump’s crew, destroying some 267 synagogues located in Sudetenland, Austria and Germany. Estimates of murders of Jews were 91 at the time, but that figure rose later, after more investigation.
Trump’s invectives — identity attacks, slurs against his critics and tolerance and even encouragement for physical violence against his opponents — are one big permission slip to his more rabid supporters, including Cesar Sayoc, the suspect in the recent bombs sent to prominent Democrats, Trump critics and mainstream media outlets, most obviously, and Robert Bowers, the suspected gunman in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue attack, in all likelihood.
Sayoc’s van is plastered with pro-Trump posters and stickers, which is a more or less normal position of favor for a politician, but it’s his other signage, his hate posters for Hillary Clinton and Michael Moore and others — all with crosshairs over their faces — that really set him apart. The rage is palpable, visible and, sure enough, he acted on it, allegedly sending pipe bombs to the Clintons, Obamas, George Soros and others.
Meanwhile, Trump equivocates, as usual, hinting with no respect for the truth that it’s all the fault of the media and of Democrats. After the synagogue shooting, Trump was even more outrageous — directly and insanely blaming reporters for the attack. That darn media keeps quoting him, reporting on his tweets and playing actual recordings of the things he says. How biased! How uncivil! His handlers try to keep him on script and attempt to cage him into sounding momentarily presidential, but it’s buck-naked obvious when he is reading someone else’s words — mostly because they are multisyllabic and sensible to a degree. When he’s off script again, he’s wildly spouting hate and nonsense, back to his affinity for Alex Jones’ Infowars-style derangement.
Yes, deranged. That is uncivil, but accurate. Who besides a seriously sick individual would claim that schoolchildren were not shot at Sandy Hook, and that the pipe bombs addressed to Trump opponents are fake?
The only case for criticizing “the media,” if we are interested in facts, is to take much of what is coming out of Fox News with a block of salt. They routinely hint at the sort of disinformation that Trump more actively promulgates. While they are far more sophisticated than Alex Jones, the thrust is pretty similar and, since they reach so many viewers, actually much more dangerous to women, to Jewish people, to elected officials who prefer a social safety net, to Muslims, to patrons of nonviolent resistance, to Mexicans, Hondurans and Guatemalans in flight from horrific violence, and to so many others.
For many years, many of us have been warning about the deadly potential for political violence when we have more than one gun for every American and political rhetoric in social media is unrestrained hatred and violent ideation. Now we see it.
Your vote for anyone who can help slow, stop and reverse this decline in decency and erosion of democracy was never more important than right now.
Tom H. Hastings co-coordinates the conflict resolution undergraduate degree programs at Portland State University and directs PeaceVoice, a program of the Oregon Peace Institute (http://orpeace.us/). Hastings is the author of several books, including A New Era of Nonviolence (2014); Conflict Transformation (2011); The Lessons of Nonviolence (2006); Power (2005), Nonviolent Response to Terrorism (2004); Meek Ain’t Weak: Nonviolent Power and People of Color (2002); and Ecology of war and peace: Counting costs of conflict (2000).