Google “Trump isn’t funny anymore” and you’ll come up with pages of news stories with variations on that title, some dating back all the way to last summer. It’s sinking in, slowly, and yet Donald Trump remains the Republican frontrunner. Every day I wake up to another dozen troubling articles and videos detailing Trump’s seemingly unstoppable march to power.
So let me just summarize some of the more terrifying recent highlights (lowlights?):
- Some Trump supporters have been doing and saying incredibly racist stuff. Some of the recent offenders include: supporters in Iowa using the “Trump chant” to threaten Latino teenagers; thousands at a rally raising their right hands to pledge allegiance to Trump in an incredible Hitler-esque show of support;” and crowd members at a Trump rally saying “Kill all muslims” and “I wish I had my piece on me, dude I want to shoot someone so bad,” according to a protester who was removed from a Trump rally after being called fat by the presidential nominee.
- Trump’s planned rally in Chicago on Friday night was cancelled after thousands of protesters turned up. This has led to everyone getting all up in arms about Trump’s First Amendment rights, but you don’t have the freedom to say fascist, hateful stuff.
- In a scary correlation, Trump support is not linked to low levels of education, as many seem to believe. Instead, recent research indicates that those who vote for Trump are likely to hold authoritarian beliefs: that is “a psychological profile of individual voters that is characterized by a desire for order and a fear of outsiders. People who score high in authoritarianism, when they feel threatened, look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear.”
So as this situation progresses in increasingly scary directions, I’ve decided to say something myself. And even as I’m writing, I’ve asked myself more than once: What good will my voice do? Given the plentiful media coverage, I’ve skipped blogging about this up until now, choosing instead to share existing articles on Twitter and Facebook. But isn’t that the psychology behind the bystander effect? Someone else will speak out, so I don’t have to.
And then this morning, I was watching Rachel Maddow’s report on the recent protests at Trump rallies, which clearly documents the escalation of Trump’s promotion of violence:
Whether you agree with Maddow’s politics or not, this video is chilling. Listen to Trump’s words:
“These people are ruining our country.”
“These are not good people.”
“These people are so bad for our country.”
“These people are hurting this country.”
These are not soundbites taken out of context. This is hateful, racist rhetoric, pure and simple. And as I watched the video, I got really, really scared.
And I was reminded, as I am far too often these days, of this text from a 1946 speech by Martin Niemöller, criticizing the failure of German intellectuals to speak out again the rise of Nazism:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Perhaps this sounds overly alarmist, and perhaps I am projecting too much onto the current rise of Trump-ism. I hope that’s the case. But listening to Trump, and watching his more radical supporters, I am not convinced. So whether you believe that Trump is our generation’s Hitler or not, I am asking – imploring – all of you to take seriously Niemöller’s critique of those who stayed silent because the crisis hadn’t quite reached a point that affected them directly. To quote Homeland Security (Ironic? Maybe.): “If you see something, say something.”
And let’s be clear: As my amazing friend Maggie reminds me, “they” have “come for” many groups in America (and in Canada, and in so many other places around the world) already. Trump’s rise to prominence is built upon a society where Black lives do not, on the whole, seem to matter, where immigrants (legal or otherwise) are the targets of racist laws and rhetoric, where being a person of colour (or a woman, or LGBTQ, or poor – privilege is always marked by intersectionality) is often considered a crime in itself. We should have said something long ago. But while we can’t change the past, we can ensure that Trump’s rise catalyzes us into action.
And that’s why I’m blogging about this: because now is the time to speak, before we are in a position to look back and repeat Niemöller’s words, to ask ourselves why we stayed silent in the midst of a growing horror.
And I’m asking you to do something, too.
- Vote: Exercise your political voice.
- Talk about it: Blog or tweet or Facebook or….whatever… about it. But talk about it.
- Educate yourself: Read and watch and read some more.
- Educate others, including youth: I’ve used this animation of Maurice Ogden’s poem, “The Hangman,” to talk about the Holocaust with my grade nine students. It fits here, too.
- Protest: In person, online, in any way you can.
But whatever you choose, do not stay silent.