I am at the apartment on vacation this week. There have been many nice things I could talk about, including a visit to the Alabama Department of Archives. To get the plug out of the way, a display on Alabama’s involvement in World War I goes on through the end of school, and the permanent displays are so much more improved. If you haven’t been a while, you really should go down and have a look at the museum.
But in the museum, they do have a section on the civil rights area, and acknowledge George Wallace’s part in that. Wallace pretty much played the populist in his efforts, stoking racial tensions in order for political gain. Late in life, he saw what his actions led to, and he was apologetic and regretful, knowing the image he chained to the state and the hurt and death he caused.
It has been a tough week or so for the nation, as we go into elections. It is not popular for me to talk about such things, I know. You should support the president. I don’t agree with you. I get it. But it has been tough.
We have had a couple of racist, right-wing madmen who thought they took action. One sent bombs to CNN and liberal associated people, including major political leaders past and present. If anyone thinks the FBI is a fumbling, bumbling organization, they pretty much proved in a week they are quite capable of tracking you down, especially when you were inept at making bombs.
Then we have had perhaps the worst attack on a Jewish community in the history of the nation, where people close to 100 and community leaders were gunned down literally in the neighborhood that Fred Rodgers lived in. It was the old, old story: Blame the Jews. They are the cause of our troubles. Wipe them out. Again, thankfully, the authorities got their man.
With that attack came news in the aftermath, for analysis, that attacks on Jewish people, after having declined for a while, is back on the rise. And, sadly, it is easy to see how that is happening, as right-wing extremism is on the rise in America and Europe, blaming every minority group in sight for our problems.
In fact, with a week or more left in the elections, the president, knowing immigration helped put him in office, has made great use of the march of people up Central America to our border. He has painted them as terrorists, gang members and everything in the world to stir up fear. He is sending more troops to the border than have been sent at times to our war zones. All reports indicate that they are poor, exasperated people looking for jobs and trying to escape violence and political problems. You will have some bad apples in every bunch, and, frankly, I am sure they can’t come in and will be rejected if they try to come in. But painting this as a war-like invasion and saying they are what they are not is not helping.
In fact, Trump has gone all out in stoking fears and making political points with the base, even calling himself a nationalist. He, in fact, has now even taken on the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
He wants to ban the practice of allowing immigrant children born in this country from automatically being citizens, and he wants to do it with an executive order he would sign. However, it is squarely in the Constitution and he can’t do it with the immediate stroke of a pen, skipping Congress and state legislatures.
And then there is the one that comes most personal to me. The news media.
He has ever increasingly stepped up attacks on the media, with the cries of fake news, and it’s all our fault, and so on. There are now thousands of instances where he lies, with fake facts, both contemporary and historical, coming out of his mouth like a raging river. (He said no other country allows immigrant children from becoming citizens. The actual figure is like 30, and I’ve seen the nations listed by USA Today.) He keeps the media busy fact-checking him, but he claims our reports are all lies, and some people believe him.
His attitude, emotional tone and the fact he stirs up crowds screaming about news organizations at his rallies has led to what I and others feared. We have had shootings at a newspaper in Virginia. We have had three suspicious packages recently sent to CNN. That is only the beginning.
The Associated Press told of other incidents in a story this week. CNN’s Jim Acosta said he has been the target of chants and epithets, and one man looked at him and made a motion like he was slitting a throat. At a pro-immigration rally in Pennsylvania, an agitated man in a vehicle stepped on his accelerator, stopping short of hitting a TV cameraman and then giving a satisfied look. Another cameraman in North Carolina struck up a conversation in a bar; when the other person discovered their occupation, they said, “You report fake news,” and walked away. A Los Angeles TV news camerawoman was so tired of the hostility from the public she announced in a blog she was quitting the business altogether. News associations are creating workshops and passing self-defense tips to journalists. I myself have been called a liberal even though I voted last time for Marco Rubio and recall arguing with friends for Gerald Ford in school before I could vote. (One student who argued with me in favor of Jimmy Carter later apologized and said I was right after all.)
Trump is as much a populist politician as Wallace. He decries the “Failing New York Times” but reads it religiously and seems to like interacting with reporters. I think it is very possible he is putting on a populist act, as Wallace sometimes did, for personal motives of political success. He has all but made this mid-term about himself and has gone all-out, even giving interviews to others outside of Fox News. He has stirred up racial tensions and hostilities toward the media all so he can succeed using his go-to issue, immigration. He doesn’t care how he lies and bullies to get his way. Even the Constitution is no longer sacred to him.
Frankly, one day I think people will see him for what he is. More people may have to die senselessly before then, more people mistreated and more government services and traditions abused. Many of you do not see my point, and I do not see your point, as the shouting has overtaken us that everyone is acting irrationally. (Democrats and liberals yelling at Republicans in restaurants is not helpful, by the way.)
We have all begun to lose our mind, and I fear the worst no matter who wins, that we may have fighting in the street if we do not have proper, rational discussion, starting with the one person in Washington who can set the tone for the nation. However, Donald Trump is not the Healer in Chief. He has proven that in saying the Jewish congregation should have had more security practically in his first comments after the shooting.
Hopefully, Donald Trump will realize sooner than George Wallace did that words do matter. I fear he will not, and the nation will be torn apart in a racial divide the likes we have not seen since the Civil War.
What the state archives and the Smithsonian will display about that one day I fear, as the results may be too gruesome for us to know.