So who do you hate? Who do you consider to be “lesser,” unworthy to be included in that tribe we call Americans?
Whoever it is, isn’t it comforting to know that “political correctness” no longer restrains you from letting everyone know, from “telling it like it is”? It was so silly to disapprove of name-calling, race-baiting, and other forthright communications…
That’s the ugly genie that Donald Trump’s repulsive campaign has let out of the lamp, and I am very doubtful that even his (hopefully significant) loss will allow us to put it back in.
It’s bad enough that the so-called “alt-right”–the NeoNazis, the white supremacists, the Klansmen–have come out from under their rocks to enthusiastically endorse a vile and semi-sentient candidate who channels their fevered hatreds. What is worse–far worse–is that Trump has normalized a dramatically coarsened discourse and made expressions of raw bigotry acceptable in venues where they were previously muted.
A recent post at Washington Monthly by a Jewish commentator is just one example. He writes,
I often get rough messages from people who disagree with me in the thrust and parry of presidential politics and the politics of health reform. It wasn’t always pleasant. It comes with the territory.
None of this prepared me for 2016.
I and many others who write for fairly broad audiences are being deluged with antisemitic messages from Trump supporters. They come mostly on Twitter, but on private emails and blogs, too. Many alt-right messages bracket our names like so: (((haroldpollack))), to indicate that we are Jewish….
Many include four-letter words and colorful vocabulary that is quite familiar to me from my experience working on public health interventions for high-risk adolescents and adults. I block everyone who sends me these messages. For all I know, there are hundreds more.
Pollack shared one long, rambling diatribe, and it was, as he labeled it, hateful and sick. He says he usually doesn’t share such messages–why give them more air–but he does make an observation worth considering:
In a strange way, I’m almost–almost–glad that these anti-Semitic messages are out there. They remind many of us on the receiving end of a few basic realities that hang over our contested, pluralist democracy. They should remind us of what many others are facing, who have so very much more to lose if our nation jumps off the political cliff this November.
I would quibble with only one point: it isn’t only “many others” who stand to lose if this wave of tribal venom and ignorance persists. We all stand to lose something very precious: the ideal and promise of America.
Granted, we’ve never lived up to that promise, but most of us, at least, have tried. And over the years, we have improved. We’ve become fairer, more inclusive, less intolerant. More adult. We’ve recognized that we’re all in this together (whatever “this” is), and thousands–millions–of us have worked hard to bend that arc of history toward justice.
Those efforts are what made America great. Not saber-rattling or bluster or domination of some by others.
It’s those efforts, those ideals, that Trump and his sneering enablers are attacking when they call Mexicans rapists, call blacks thugs, call women fat slobs. That’s the America–our America– that they want to erase.