The Pittsburgh nightmare speaks volumes, another tragedy with more painful teaching moments. Like mail bombings, the hate crime of mass murder driven by rightwing messaging exposes disunion at its worse. What’s a greater shocker than when partisan hate triggers rage on innocents. Of late, rattling in my brain is an ‘07 Upton Sinclair-inspired movie title, “There will be blood.” Would that repudiation and reform don’t need the worst horrors.
As with climate justice, only grievous, visible impacts (inevitably late in the game) will rouse a critical mass to say, “Enough desolation and mass murders; our humanity demands we act to preserve civilization.” And that begins with declarations of unwelcome against the scandalous mine field that is this White House – defining “leadership” as continual shocks to the system – new outrages more offensive than last week’s whoppers.
In this context, I salute the thousands of Pittsburgh protestors who defy Trump, declaring him, his sycophants and family persona non grata. When political representation fails the majority, why not moral shunning? Such collective defiance, riding expected mid-term reversals, should soar from sea to shining sea. Consider the moral clarity when major metropolitan areas, cities and states, refuse complicity with a noxious hustler addicted to charades, circus stunts, and nasty conspiracies. If this ignoramus thinks an Executive Order can wipe out the citizen birthright commitment, what better answer to this Constitutional violation than House impeachment?
Imagine the growing downsides as a deviant president gets away with defying established law and core values. Unpunished lawlessness, even without Trumpian malice and contempt, is the cancer plaguing our body politic. Trump’s criminal cadre is only beginning to feel the whip of justice – and not yet the boss. Is betraying birthright citizenship so different than when candidate Trump proposed the unthinkable: that he’d refuse to honor the result of a“rigged” election unless he won? What greater blow to democracy is there than snubbing election outcomes? If openly shredding the Constitution is not a high crime or misdemeanor, what is?
Likewise, any willful demagogue who forever indicts the free press as “enemy of the people” – what, for daring to criticize or identify his lies? – exposes a corrosive blindness to the history of fascism. By demonizing the media, Trump degrades the spirit and letter of our Constitutional democracy. Even more so when his slavish party remain crass enablers. Strike two for high crimes and misdemeanors? Anyone who assaults judges for ethnicity – or legal decisions as illegitimate, thus won’t be enforced – undermines an independent judiciary. Freedom dies without institutional SUPPORT for a free press and an independent judiciary (compare Russia, China or Iran). Strike three and Trump should be out.
The double whammy of horror
Last week displayed the double whammy of this country not challenging vile GOP demagoguery evident in racist, anti-immigrant, dehumanizing campaign rhetoric on women, Democrats, refugees and critics. Pittsburgh protesters proclaiming Trump unwelcome should trigger a national endorsement for decency – and against mail bombs and mass killings. The blood flowing now testifies to presidential is complicity, from the start egging on unstable, violent actors in tone, coded language and empty bluster. If this synagogue had only hired armed guards, Trump lied, fewer would have died – thus blaming the victims and ignoring the three, seriously injured cops on scene. Only staggering blindness explains those who deny links between our loudest bully pulpit and crimes emerging from its own years of messaging. Voltaire: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”
For how long will the majority tolerate a president and cohorts spewing forth hate that smashes the foundations of a rational, compassionate state? The mid-term, we hope, is the start. When will the vilified media stop publicizing every insulting tweet, or coded bigotry, or truly countless lies upon lies upon lies? We don’t need a wall against immigrants: we need firmer walls against self-destruction by a rogue disrupter without empathy, dignity or understanding how poisonous words anticipate fatal bullets. Just as we isolate to protect populations from spreading diseases, we need to immunize safe places that still honor our diverse melting pot and reject divisive, fear-mongering bigotry.
And so this Divider-in-Chief actually brags about his “nationalism,” code word for white nationalists, even white supremacists and armed extremists. If this be “nationalism,” then our discourse has been hijacked and degraded. Either the sane, human rights-defending majority speaks by voting – offsetting the latest ’16 Electoral College disaster – or a biased, insular group of billionaires, millionaires, and zealots define what this era and country are about: “are you with demagoguery – or an enemy of the people?”
‘Silence is consent’
Whatever its legal impact, the nearly 60% who oppose Trump should broadcast this simple non-violent threshold: just like hate speech, hate politicians are not welcome in our backyards. If a politician repeatedly descends to the worst, community-destroying agenda — undermining tolerance, civil or voting rights, melting pot diversity, attacking a free press and independent judiciary,— the only moral answer: do not come here to spread the poison. If you show up, so will multitudes of noisy protesters. If this Congress won’t impeach, that doesn’t stop the majority from the moral impeachment called shunning.
We have sanctuary cities that protect the oppressed, we have nuclear-free cities, and we have state and local laws against discrimination, voting abuses and pollution, intellectual and environmental. Why not collective, unwavering declarations against calling the press the “enemy of the people”? Why not zero tolerance against those who traffic in intolerance? Anyone who undermines an independent judiciary shreds the idea and operation of justice.
The majority can’t impeach or convict a president of gross malfeasance, but we can take moral stances that reclaim an unending commitment to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness — not for the few but for the many. Is there any other bottom line to American citizenship? To echo Howard Zinn, “you can’t be neutral on a moving train.” Or Plato, “silence is consent.” Or Robert Reich, “Standing up to bullies is the hallmark of a civilized society.” Time for the civilized multitude of voters to make clear: enough racial bullying is enough.