Two weeks ago I warned of how the Dump Trump hysteria could easily turn violent. In How Trumphobia Could Lead to Widespread Civil Disobedience – Or Worse, I postulated that the anti-Trump movement has become so widespread and politically correct that it was already leading to civil disobedience that would ultimately manifest itself in violence. Now it appears the first shots have been fired in the war against Trump.
This is another one of those situations where I really hoped to be wrong. But the trend has been too obvious. Since November 9, the day after the 2016 election, the mainstream media has been saturated with anti-Trump hysteria. What’s both ironic and unfair is that the attacks were launched before Trump was even in the White House, and had a chance to prove his detractors’ suspicions. Whether it’s the news media, entertainers or talk show hosts, all have been doing their level best to fuel the war against Trump.
But last week the Dump Trump movement did become violent, as an apparently disgruntled man with a declared political agenda, set his sights on a charitable baseball game and quite literally went hunting for Republicans.
Given the anti-Trump media hysteria, should we have expected a different outcome? Now our best hope is that this madness doesn’t multiply and turn into something that could get much worse than any of us assume. Let’s project that possibility, and use it as a strong argument in favor of dialing back the tension. Though it may seem that this man acted alone, the truth is that he was egged on by legions of famous faces who have declared at least a verbal war against Trump.
Taking Up Arms for “the Cause”
If you’re a Democrat, or Democratic sympathizer, you’re probably dismissing the shooter as a simple nut job, the kind who perpetrate random acts of violence for who knows why. I think we all know that there’s something more going on here.
Not surprisingly, the shooter, James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, had a strong Left wing orientation, or at least a pronounced anti-Republican position. He’s been described as having ”expressed fervent opposition to the Republican Party and called for higher taxes on the rich, in statements on social media and letters to a local newspaper”. He also reportedly volunteered for the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders.
Hodgkinson is also reported to have had a now defunct Facebook page that expressed serious disdain for Donald Trump. The page apparently posted “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.,” back in March, and linked to a petition calling for Trump’s impeachment “and or legal removal.”
At a minimum, there’s no question about this man’s political allegiance.
In hindsight, it’s not hard to identify Hodgkinson as an anti-Trump fanatic. It’s also not a stretch to speculate that this guy probably didn’t believe that he could get to Trump, so he started his own proxy war by going after a group of Republicans. Perhaps he even had delusions of grandeur, believing that his act of slaughter would be hailed as an act of courage against a despicable leader, that would unleash a wave of violent but noble resistance.
It may even be possible that Hodgkinson saw himself as a martyr in the war against Trump, but considered it to be a price he was willing to pay. Though we normally think of martyrdom in connection with religion, it’s at least as common when it comes to politics.
Hodgkinson is a By Product of the War on Trump
Of late, we’ve had “comedian” Kathy Griffin making a video in which she holds up the mask of Donald Trump’s bloody severed head. Implication: decapitation.
Then there’s the ongoing saga of the Public Theater presentation of Julius Caesar in New York City played by a Donald Trump lookalike. We all know what happened to Julius Caesar – assassination by a group of Roman senators. Implication: political assassination.
Of course, the news media spin on the story focuses mostly on the fact that the play has been plagued by right-wing protesters, mostly ignoring the obvious implication. To their credit, both Delta and Bank of America have withdrawn their sponsorship of the play, and perhaps the theater itself. We actually need more of that kind of reaction. After all, you can’t claim to be against violence when you’re supporting its advocacy financially.
Again, the anti-Trump crowd will refuse to make the connection. But we all know that right now there are thousands of people walking the streets, teetering on the edge of sanity. If they get too many definitive signals from the popular culture, it can push them over the edge into doing exactly what Hodgkinson did.
We have a parallel example in the recent case of Michelle Carter, the Massachusetts teenager who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Her guilt was supported by text messages sent to her then boyfriend, urging him to go through with his planned suicide. No, Carter didn’t kill her boyfriend. But she did encourage him to take his own life.
The bloody head of a Donald Trump look-a-like? Donald Trump as the intended-to-be-assassinated Julius Caesar? The media will of course give themselves a pass, claiming the mantle of free speech. But as citizens, shouldn’t we connect the dots?
If we don’t, we risk getting more of the same.
What if the Right Starts Shooting Back?
This is where the situation can devolve into something infinitely uglier. One of the inherent problems with violence is that it’s usually met by violence from the opposite side. Worse, the initial act of violence is matched with an even grander display.
At some point, another would-be anti-Trump martyr, or group of martyrs, may carry out another act of violence. That will be bad enough. But if Trump supporters decide to respond in kind, a conflict can develop that can escalate.
Let’s not forget that the James Hodgkinson shooting rampage isn’t actually the first violent political clash of the Trump era. We’ve already witnessed open conflict, including the clash between Trump supporters and “counter protesters” in Berkeley, California, last April. That turned violent, and involved the use of an assortment of weapons that fell just short of guns. Fortunately, no one was killed in that exchange, but several were injured, and 21 were arrested.
It’s time to face the fact that the situation in America right now is extremely tense. You may not notice it (or want to notice it) if life is treating you well and you’re comfortable. But millions of your fellow citizens are struggling to survive every day. Many of them are angry, but don’t know what they’re specifically angry about.
In that environment, politics becomes a convenient divining rod. Our society has become extremely complex, making identification of problems painfully difficult, and solutions elusive. People respond by learning to live with nagging pain at deep levels. But we all know what happens with boiling kettles – sooner or later the lid blows off. We’re at risk of that right now.
But “It Can’t Happen Here”, Right?
Don’t discount this observation. Millions of people are addicted to narcotics, both illegal and prescription, as well as alcohol. And despite the proudly proclaimed low official unemployment rate, millions are no better than marginally employed. Many are also turning to petty crime in order to survive, or perhaps even to make a statement.
Meanwhile, the criminal justice system has become a revolving door through which millions have passed. And as many have called for society to get “tough on crime” we have succeeded in creating a permanent criminal class, in which millions of ex-cons are forever cast out of the mainstream system. No one’s figured out what to do about that, nor is it even discussed in public.
In short, our society has become a powder keg. A seemingly small event may be all it will take to cause a widespread release of pent-up anger that won’t bring us to a better place.
Some have even speculated that James Hodgkinson’s violent outburst represents the first shots fired in the second American civil war. That may sound like an exaggeration today – or at least we hope – but once shots are fired, there’s no telling where it will lead.
One of the most myopic beliefs here in America is that “it can’t happen here”. That’s whatever “it” is. Invasions, civil wars, pandemics, and economic and political collapse are sad events that are widely believed to only happen in faraway places, or are safely confined to the history books. But let’s not forget that the first World War was triggered by a single assassination, that quickly brought all of the world’s major nations into a conflict that killed tens of millions of people – and ultimately solved nothing.
“It can’t happen here” – you’re hallucinating if you believe that’s true. In the end, all that we know is much more fragile than we ever believe. All human systems are delicately balanced even in the best of times. But these aren’t the best of times.
We Have to Hope Things Settle Down – and We Should Purposefully Work in that Direction
This is an excellent time for everyone to calm down. But that especially applies to the many well-known public figures in the news media and entertainment. They’re indirectly advocating open rebellion against an administration that they personally find to be detestable. So be it. But there are consequences to the no-holes-barred tactics they’re using. The Virginia shooting should be a wake-up call. If it isn’t, then things could get a lot worse than a lone shooter.
The survival of this country doesn’t rise and fall with Donald Trump, any more than it did with Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama. But we tend to see it our presidents as divining rods for the state of the nation.
In doing that, we emotionalize politics. ”Our president” can do no wrong, but “their president” is the very nexus of evil in the world. When presented that succinctly, it’s easy to see the ridiculousness in that assumption. Yet when it comes to politics, we can’t see ourselves doing exactly that.
But here’s a newsflash: Donald Trump isn’t going to destroy America, any more than Bill Clinton or Barack Obama “saved” it. Both beliefs are equally absurd.
To any in the anti-Trump camp who may be reading this post, settle down and relax. If you trust the American system, then you can be confident that Trump will be voted out of office in 2020, but not before the 2018 election puts a Democratic majority in Congress. In the meantime, your side has this president completely hogtied. The reality is that he hasn’t done any of the evil things that you’re worried he will. He hasn’t been allowed to. But in the meantime, please encourage Democratic candidates to craft and declare specific solutions to our national problems. Being anti-Trump doesn’t make you a problem solver.
This is also a good time for us all to tune out the media and the entertainment community. The best way to express our disgust with the entire dark circus is to refuse to participate. Both entertainers and the news media rely on advertising revenue. That’s generated by the number of people who tune into their broadcasts. If we stop participating, were cutting off their allowance. That’s the strongest message that we can send. And we need to because these people are subliminally advocating violence.
Survey after survey shows that people increasingly distrust the media. And yet they continue to tune into it, and even to parrot the headlines and narratives that they learn from it. But here’s another newsflash: you don’t distrust the media if you continually follow it. The influence may be subtle, but it has an effect nonetheless.
Let’s hope that more people start to do just that. Maybe then, this whole living-on-the-edge-of-political-upheaval phase will finally settle down.
What are your thoughts on this shooting in Virginia? Do you agree with me that the news media and entertainment community have been feeding the anti-Trump fire? Where do you think this will all end?