Steve Bannon, CEO of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, is pictured backstage after a campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. Oct. 29, 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegr's)
We're nearly a week in and Trump's America has already turned into a dystopian nightmare. When I predicted that as a potential outcome in my night-of analysis, the next morning I thought maybe I was being melodramatic.
Nope, apparently not.
Spiraling hate crimes committed as a twisted celebration of Donald Trump's ascension to the world's most powerful political role -- a number USA Today reported over the weekend was already worse than what happened after 9-11 -- culminated in the installation of white nationalistanti-Semite Steve Bannon in the White House.
The former CEO of Breitbart News, the alt-right's primary media outlet and now presumably Trump's personal Pravda, was named chief strategist and senior counselor to the president.
Five days of spiraling hate crimes...culminated in the installation of white nationalist anti-Semite Steve Bannon in the White House
As the Southern Poverty Law Center warned: "This is unacceptable. Bannon is the mastermind behind a resurgent white nationalism online through his Breitbart empire and now, it seems, he intends to bring that project into the most powerful office on the planet."
It wasn't just civil rights organizations sounding the alarm, either. These tweets came from John Weaver, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich's top adviser.
So let's take a step back from all the pleas to give him and his supporters a chance because maybe they didn't mean it, maybe he just said it to be elected and maybe they voted because of economic anxiety.
In short: those maybes don't matter.
Let's tackle the first one, that Trump doesn't mean it.
You know who else the press thought was saying hateful rhetoric to get elected? Hitler. Yes, that Hitler. The New York Times reported in 1922 that:
"Several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler's anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes."
You can't scapegoat vulnerable communities for 16 months and then walk away.
Besides, if we were to believe that Trump was using it as a bait-and-switch then he should have switched by now. Instead, he ignored the graffiti swastikas replacing the "T" in his last name spray-painted on windows during Kristallnacht, the day after his election. He ignored the news reports and social media posts of hate crimes targeting blacks and gays and Muslims and women.
I kept hearing that these hate crimes aren't his fault because he doesn't even believe it. Well, if you yell fire in a crowded theatre and chaos ensues, you're not absolved of responsibility just because you never believed there was a fire.
That just makes it worse.
You can't scapegoat vulnerable communities for 16 months and then pretend it was our imagination. Nearly a week of this ensued before he addressed it, when pressed, on 60 Minutes, saying "stop it."
But before we congratulate him on meeting the lowest of expectations, keep in mind he only did this after feigning ignorance about hundreds of hate crimes and then minimizing them.
Donald Trump: I am very surprised to hear that-- I hate to hear that, I mean I hate to hear that--
Lesley Stahl: But you do hear it?
Donald Trump: I don't hear it -- I saw, I saw one or two instances...
Lesley Stahl: On social media?
Donald Trump: But I think it's a very small amount. Again, I think it's--
Lesley Stahl: Do you want to say anything to those people?
Donald Trump: I would say don't do it, that's terrible, 'cause I'm gonna bring this country together.
Lesley Stahl: They're harassing Latinos, Muslims--
Donald Trump: I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, "Stop it." If it -- if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it."
Now about those Trump voters who we are being told to understand more about their motivations, well, the folks who keep saying this are mostly white. It's easy, because they're not the targets. The election is over, they say, just come together.
Well here's the thing: racist-adjacent is still racist.
Doesn't matter why you support Trump. I'm sure some people voted for Hitler because they liked his tax policy. I've no doubt that some Mussolini voters were motivated by locomotive punctuality.
Racist-adjacent is still racist.
But if you support a bigot who campaigns on bigotry, it doesn't matter what your personal motivation was. The consequences for targeted communities is the same.
This is not Romney, or McCain, or even Bush. The KKK is staging victory parades and its former Grand Wizard David Duke is gloating on Twitter.
As John Oliver said on his first Last Week Tonight episode since the election: "This is not normal. It is fucked up."
In the wake of the election, there have been many calls to better understand the white working class voter and placing blame on "political correctness" for what Van Jones dubbed on election night "a whitelash."
In other words, that the real problem was that we weren't paying enough attention to straight white people and shouldn't have been calling for diversity, equality and respect.
But arguing that if you just didn't challenge straight white male supremacy then they wouldn't have elected a straight white male supremacist is no different than blaming a rape victim for what she wore, or a gay-bashing victim for kissing his boyfriend, or a Jew for wearing a Star of David necklace.
For those who smugly think this is an American problem, well, it's already here.
The lesson is not that we shouldn't have agitated for equality. The lesson is not that we shouldn't have challenged police brutality. The lesson is not that we shouldn't have defended our Muslim brothers and sisters. The lesson is not that we shouldn't have demanded that women, especially women of colour, have the right to fair wages and not be pussy-grabbed.
We should have done all those things, and we should keep doing all those things.
And for those who smugly think this is an American problem, well, it's already here. Canadians, including myself, have already been subjected to alt-right attacks online, hate crimes have been rising, 68 per cent of Canadians want minorities to "fit in" more and Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch is selling herself as Canada's Donald Trump.
Stop normalizing what is going on here before the crisis grows even greater.
Oh, and an Ipsos-Reid poll released one week ago found that 76 per cent of Canadians would consider voting for a "Canadian candidate with Trump-like policies."
Economic anxiety is always the foundation of ethnic scapegoating -- remember that the Great Depression was what fuelled the Nazi rise to power -- so how about we stop normalizing hate before this crisis grows even greater and spreads even further?
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