New Orleans Past the hyperbole on all sides, we all have to finally look soberly at the new world we inhabit. There’s no sense anymore in talking about the America we were or want to be, when it is so clearly not the America that we are currently inhabiting. We’re living in a country where hate and rage has been unleashed and is now being unabashedly weaponized in order to polarize the population against each other, the devil take the hindmost. It’s not pretty. It’s deadly.
President Trump was in a recent rally. He said to his assembled fans that in the wake of all of killing and violence he had ignited by his rhetoric the might have to “tone it down,” and they shouted, “No!” In a strange way, that’s almost good news. Trump is at least being told by some of his enablers that perhaps there’s another way to form a political message without simply spewing hate. But, face it. He won’t change, so why expect it. For a brief moment he expressed sympathy and horror at the Squirrel Hill synagogue killings in Pittsburgh, and then went right back to blaming the media, Democrats, and everyone but himself.
As pipe bombs were flying towards mail slots used by some of the frequent targets of Trump vindictive, Trump wannabes were trying to claim these were “false flag” situations, meaning that their blood enemies, the Democrats, were in the process of trying to bomb themselves in order to move the electorate against Trump. Wow! It took the quick work of the much-maligned FBI to capture the DNA and fingerprint of a hardcore Trump booster in Florida living in his van with Trump and rightwing slogans plastered all over the panels. It took Attorney General Jeff Sessions, no friend of the people, to simply state that the bomber seemed to be a “partisan.” No, duh!
The anti-Semitic killings were of the same piece. Let’s recall how recently Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was seemingly defending Holocaust deniers and other anti-Semites and their ability to use Facebook to spread their hate and conspiracies. Now in the wake of the Pittsburgh murders, the social media giants are having to once again reveal how their platforms have been used to weaponize hate. Instagram, a Facebook subsidiary, seems rife with such postings, and, given the Brazilian election experience, god knows how WhatsApp has been used.
The example of the limits of free speech used to be that we had such guarantees in the United States, but that did not mean that anyone had the right to yell, “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. Not as many people go to see the movies anymore, but the same rules ought to apply for politicians and others who are screaming the equivalent of “Fire!” to their supporters. Yelling “fire,” doesn’t translate into “vote for me.” It translates into worse evils like pipe bombs and mass killings.
As the evangelicals and other religious have taught us, the “wages of sin are death.” This is the fire this time. People are yelling at the top of their lungs. It is evil. The deaths may be our own, our neighbors, our leaders, and others more innocent and purer.
Rhetoric has consequences. The consequences are deadly serious. How can this not be a lesson to everyone. We may have to teach this from the bottom to the top.
Thanks to KABF.