I have never seen this country more dangerously divided and possibly at the brink of serious violence.
Set the Civil War aside. I wasn’t around then, so I can only speak of the decades since World War II when I lived through the darkness of McCarthyism, blacklisting and the cold war–then the political and cultural divide brought on by the Civil Rights era and the Vietnam War. These times are worse.
It’s difficult to say whether Trump is the cause or symptom of it all, but he’s right there worsening the division– “The Unwinding” that George Packer wrote of.
Looking back to pre-Trump 2014 we saw a bunch of Nevada ranchers take up arms against the government to “protect” Cliven Bundy in his illegal dispute over federal grazing lands. His sons began another armed standoff last year. The feds wisely “de-escalated” what could have been a bloody confrontation, though one man was shot reaching for a gun. The rest of the Bundys were jailed.
Another brief episode where some protestors took up arms against the feds occurred when three U.S. busloads of undocumented persons were being brought across the California border. This defused quickly, but it again showed some citizens so alienated they’re ready for war against the federal government.
Those seemed to be isolated incidents. Then came Greg Gianforte’s body-slamming a reporter on the eve of being elected Montana’s congressman to the applause of many Trumpians. Add to this consistent reports of increased anti-black, anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic incidents since the Trump era began with his unsubtle calls to violence at rallies. Recently nooses were discovered at the new African American Heritage Museum on the DC Mall.
Now we learn through a lengthy piece in Saturday’s New York Times that there are numerous well-organized, all-white, right-wing “fight clubs” loyal to Trump who purport to be ready to battle protestors against Trump or Trumpian supporters such as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos. Those groups under other circumstances would be called gangs–and in another era “brown shirts.” The Times bent over backwards to avoid calling them what they are.
Yes, there has been some violence generated by tiny left factions, many of whom like to call themselves “anarchists”–though one wonders whether these provocateurs ever read Bakunin or Emma Goldman. They have been a great help to Trump and if they get into any rumbles with the so-called alt-right gangs it will further redound to Trump’s benefit–just like comedian Kathy Griffin’s stupid stunt posing with a mock bloody Trump head.
It’s a cliché by now to note that the left-right divide in this country leaves little room for compromise or rational discourse. What concerns me at the moment is that we seem to be coming closer and closer to greater violence as these differences are exacerbated.
Donald Trump telling the rest of the world to go to hell by withdrawing from the Paris accords on climate change or suggesting we might not live up to all our responsibilities with NATO–all in the name of “America First”–deepens the divide and only makes things worse.