Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Why I fear America

I am not afraid of Putin. I am not afraid of the Taliban. I am not afraid of climate change. I am not afraid of the caravan. I am not even afraid of Donald Trump. All these things are causes of concern. But as fear? Trump has taught me to fear my fellow citizens, his supporters. I have said before in this blog that the real story of 2016 was not Trump but the people who voted for him. Those are the people who adore Trump. Those people do not just forgive his lies. The real danger is that they believe the lies. And the even greater danger is that they might well act on them. And Trump tells them that such action, the pipe bombs, the shootings, are just OK. That puts America in lose-lose position. If on this election day, political control stays with Trump, his warped alternate universe will become closer to the American reality. If on this election day, political control shifts toward Democrats, Trump’s rhetoric could trigger acts of violence by his supporters. And, despite all the evidence, few seem to take Trump’s incitement seriously. One exception is Jonathan Chait writing in the NY Magazine Intelligencer. Chait tells us what Trump told us: Trump Isn’t Inciting Violence by Mistake, But on Purpose. He Just Told Us.. Here’s part of the story.

A recently aired interview with Jim Vandehei of Axios perfectly illustrates the incomprehension that has greeted the president’s dark threats. Vandehei pleads with Trump to understand the dangers he might be unleashing.

“What scares the crap out of me is that, when you’re saying ‘enemy of the people, enemy of the people,’ … what happens if all of a sudden someone gets shot, somebody shoots one of these reporters?” Vandehei pleads. Trump replies, “It is my only form of fighting back.”

Watch the entire exchange, and take note of what Trump does not say here. The easiest answer Trump could give would be to deflect the concern as overblown. But at no point does he reassure the palpably frightened Vandehei that he is not inciting violence, and that his supporters understand that they should refrain from radical acts. Instead Trump lets the threat hang in the air, and justifies it as his only weapon against the slanders against him.

This intent was even more clearly visible last Friday, when Trump parried a reporter’s question about whether he was instigating violence. “You know what, you’re creating violence by your question. You are creating. You,” Trump insisted. “The fake news is creating violence … I’ll tell you what, if the media would write correctly and write accurately and write fairly, you’d have a lot less violence in the country.”

There is very little ambiguity about his point. Trump is warning the media that its critical coverage is provoking violence. His proposed remedy is not a cessation of violence but instead a cessation of critical coverage. Reporters seem to think that Trump will tone down by rhetoric if he can be made to understand that it is goading his supporters to violence.

It’s not that he doesn’t understand. Trump understands the connection between incitement and response perfectly well. It’s not even that he doesn’t care. Trump calculates that the threat of bombs and bullets will force reporters to bend the knee. This is what he means by “fighting back.”

… Trump is tantalizing his supporters with the prospect of bloodshed. Their side has been set upon, and yet despite all their strength, he imagines some form of excessive restraint has held them back from administering to their tormentors the beating they so clearly deserve. He is wafting into the air the scent of blood.

And that, my readers, is why my greatest fear is of America and what it is becoming.

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