Republicans plead for civility

Sanders

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant, an incident that became a flashpoint in the culture war.

For three years, Donald Trump has dominated America’s cultural conversation. In that time, he has accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug dealers over the border, mocked a disabled reporter’s handicap, encouraged his crowds to physically assault protesters, and labeled journalists the “enemy of the people.” As President, he has done all he can to shred America’s life-saving social safety net, banned Muslims from entering America, and held migrant children hostage in cages. Now, Trump and his enablers are asking for one thing: civility.

The calls for peace come after a series of incidents involving Trump Administration officials in public spaces. Amid the political fallout from Trump’s family separation policy, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, because of her collaboration with an “inhumane and unethical” administration. Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s family separation policy, was heckled as a fascist while dining at a Mexican restaurant. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kiersten Nielsen, who lied repeatedly about the family separation policy, has been met with protests in public and at her own home. Politico even ran a feature on young Trump Administration staffers who can’t find dates because of their work.

Conservatives argue that these incidents demonstrate the left’s intolerance of political disagreement. Worse than that, they accuse the left of openly endorsing violence against the right. The most popular target of conservative angst is Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who recently encouraged protests against Trump Administration officials who are out in public, saying, “You get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called on Waters to apologize, saying, “When we, in this democracy, are suggesting that because we disagree with people on political views, on policy views, on philosophical views, that we should resort to violence and harassment and intimidation that’s dangerous for our society, dangerous for our democracy, and she should apologize and there’s just no place for that in our public discourse.” Waters never called for violence or physical assault.

Ryan and the far right willfully ignore the reality of modern America. The Republican Party is not a normal political party with principled disagreements. It is a fascist machine with no regard for human rights or the truth. They are in the business of hurting people – especially nonwhite, non-Christian, non-citizen, LGBTQ people. Calling for civility in response to such an adversary is like holding a boxing match where one fighter has to talk the other out of hitting him.

counter protest

A right-wing protest sprung up outside the Red Hen, driven by neo-Confederates, KKK members, and Christian fundamentalists.

To take only the most recent outrage, the Trump Administration enacted a policy deliberately designed to destroy Central American families seeking asylum in the United States. Those who support and enforce that policy have more than a simple difference of opinion with those who oppose it. One side denies the fundamental humanity and existence rights of the other. Such people deserve no expectation of a peaceful meal, and especially are not entitled to the services of those they oppress.

Since the rise of Trump, the work of German historian Hannah Arendt has enjoyed renewed relevance. Arendt argued that the lies of the Nazis were not actually meant to convince anyone of a falsehood; they were meant to convey an intention. Fact-checking Nazi propaganda was mostly ineffective, because its purpose was never to win a fair argument. Its purpose was to incite supporters, but more importantly, it was to numb ordinary Germans into indifference at the atrocities going on around them.

Trump repeatedly calls out the press as “fake news,” echoing the popular Nazi phrase, lügenpresse.” It doesn’t matter that the media, for all its myriad faults, tells the truth far more often than Trump. His relentless attacks are intended to rile his base and muddy the waters so that enough Americans won’t know who to believe. By mainstreaming that hostility to the press, Trump also allows the more fringe, white supremacist elements of his base to go even further.

Earlier this week, The Observer reported that Milo Yiannopoulos, a far-right columnist and rabid Trump supporter, sent text messages to reporters reading, “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.” Yiannopoulos then posted a screenshot of his texts to his Instagram with the caption, “Where is the lie?” On Thursday, a gunman strolled into the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, and killed at least five people. The shooting appears to be unrelated, but it’s sickening to know that Yiannopoulos got his wish.

Examples abound of conservatives inciting and committing violence. During campaign rallies, Trump regularly called for violence against protesters. Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte actually bodyslammed a reporter in 2017, an act of violence that was celebrated ecstatically by far-right propaganda outlet Breitbart. Last year in Charlottesville, during a white supremacist demonstration, an alt-right Trump supporter drove his car through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing activist Heather Heyer; Trump argued there were “very fine people” on both sides. Street-level acts of violence and bigotry are being emboldened by Trump all over the country.

Far-right violence and incitement goes way beyond the left’s incivility. After her calls for public protests against White House officials, Trump rather ominously warned Congresswoman Waters, “Be careful what you wish for.” Waters has since had to cancel an event because, she claims, “Individuals threatened to shoot, lynch, or cause me serious bodily harm.” Outside the Red Hen restaurant, which politely asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave, a small contingent of dedicated Trump supporters have handed out KKK business cards, waved a Confederate flag, and held a sign reading, “LGBT – Let God Burn Them.”

Americans should always strive to maintain civility amongst our friends, coworkers, and neighbors, regardless of politics. But the far right isn’t interested in a reasoned debate on Trump’s brutal, dehumanizing, violent policies. Anyone who supports Trump with full knowledge of his actions and policies is a moral derelict, at the least. And anyone who actually works for Trump is willfully bringing America toward a fascist collapse. The appropriate response to Trump’s enablers isn’t violence, but it isn’t civility, either.

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Trump Administration dehumanizes victims to justify border atrocities

child prison

After being separated from their parents at the border, the children of migrants are held in chain-link pens at military bases and prisons around the southern border.

By far the biggest story in national headlines this week was the Trump Administration’s policy of splitting up families crossing the southern border without authorization. Following a zero-tolerance policy enacted in April by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, detained parents have been sent to one facility and their children have been sent to another. Photos and videos of those children – confused, crying, and locked in cages – drew intense domestic and international condemnation. United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said, “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.” Continue reading

Trump’s dictator flirtations reflect his Big Business past

Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un

Trump met with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, one of the worst human rights violators on earth today, and came away feeling very charmed.

On June 12, President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un made history in the first-ever summit between an American and North Korean head of state. The two met in Singapore to discuss the North Korean nuclear weapons program and, according to President Trump’s account, got along splendidly.

Reactions to the meeting were mixed, but even many of Trump’s harshest critics acknowledged an air of cautious optimism following the summit. Getting along with another country, even one as brutal and oppressive as North Korea, is undeniably preferable to a global nuclear war. Yet there’s a big line between reaching a détente with North Korea and propping their dictatorial cult state up as a model for the world. Trump crossed that line repeatedly in statements he made after the meeting. Continue reading

Donald Trump and the right-wing presumption of innocence

trump and friends

Right-wing media is universally friendly to Trump, taking his innocence for granted and echoing his conspiracy theories about the investigation into his shady world.

President Donald Trump has escalated his attacks on the special counsel investigating his campaign’s alleged ties to Russian election interference. Last week Trump unleashed a torrent of tweets in an attempt to undermine the investigation’s credibility. Even as a deluge of shady new information about Trump associates pours in daily, from his personal attorney to his own children and son-in-law, conservative talking heads have dug in their heels behind the president more defiantly than ever. Continue reading

Reminder: Torture is not our only crime

haspel

Gina Haspel, who oversaw a CIA black site in Thailand, is poised to become the agency’s new director.

The Senate is prepared to confirm Gina Haspel, a longtime CIA official, to replace Mike Pompeo as the agency’s director. During her confirmation hearings, Haspel’s role in overseeing CIA torture programs – or “enhanced interrogation” – was a focal point. Haspel made headlines when she refused to answer Senator Kamala Harris’s question of whether “the previous interrogation techniques were immoral.” Her record on torture led Republican Senator John McCain, famously a torture survivor himself, to announce his opposition to her appointment. Continue reading

Right-wing snowflakes outraged over Michelle Wolf’s anti-elitist standup routine

Wolf

Comedian Michelle Wolf performs at the White House Correspondents Dinner, mere feet away from the targets of some of her most brutal jokes.

Comedian Michelle Wolf delivered a risqué performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner last Saturday and became a hot topic overnight. The annual dinner, which is typically a stuffy affair, brings together Democratic and Republican politicians and media personalities for a night of awkward, elitist camaraderie. Wolf’s performance, laced with explicit references to President Trump’s scandals and sexual history, earned the ire of the far-right – a rich irony, given that group’s crusade against political correctness. Continue reading

Trump embraces neoconservative foreign policy

TrumpBolton

New National Security Advisor John Bolton, a neoconservative war hawk, looks on at President Donald Trump.

In the revolving door that is President Donald Trump’s Apprentice­-style White House, two major shake-ups in 2018 are especially concerning. Mike Pompeo, formerly the Director of the CIA, has replaced Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush, has replaced General H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor. Both men are super-hawks, torture defenders, and Islamophobes. Their move into the White House portends disaster, particularly in the Middle East. Continue reading

The Second Amendment, the NRA, and the quest to militarize American life

loesch-town-hall

Parkland shooting survivor-turned-activist Emma Gonzalez (left) grills NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch on gun control.

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is one of the most hotly debated pieces of text in history. For devotees, it guarantees the most important freedom ever enshrined in a government document. For critics, it is a dangerous relic of colonial history with little relevance to modern life. Continue reading

Three easy gun control solutions

parkland protest

One of many gun control rallies takes place in Parkland, Florida. The protests have inspired numerous sympathetic demonstrations across the nation.

In the wake of a Valentine’s Day slaughter at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead, lawmakers, pundits and the American people are debating solutions to gun violence more fervently than they have in years. For perhaps the first time, the NRA is facing real consequences over its drive to militarize every facet of American life, with several major companies severing ties with the powerful lobbying group. But despite the courageous protests of youth across the country, real political action still feels far away.

Continue reading

Childhood’s End: The young have become the moral voice of America

student walkout

Students of Hellgate High School in Missoula, Montana stage a walk-out. One sign reads, “Protect kids not guns.” Dozens of similar protests have erupted across the country in the past week.

For the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Valentine’s Day will forever memorialize the massacre of 17 of their classmates and teachers at the hands of a disgruntled man with a legally acquired AR-15. While shootings of varying severity are now depressingly common at American schools, this incident stood out from others. This is partly because of its high body count, but it’s been unique in another, more important way: it birthed some courageous student activists.

No longer content for their bodies to be the “price of freedom,” nor to accept the now-familiar deadly cycle of school shooting followed by thoughts and prayers followed by NRA hysteria followed by political inaction followed by school shooting, children are aware that it’s their lives at risk and they are doing something about it. Continue reading