By Vernon A. Williams
Folks are having a difficult time remembering quite when the level of intolerance, hatred and bigotry has been higher in America. Even those who survived turbulent civil rights confrontations of the 50s and 60s insist that the animosity in the nation is palpable.
Conversing with my oldest brother Willie Williams, who lives in Moss Point, Mississippi, I posed the question, “Is it the worst it has been in America since the 50s?” Without pause, my brother – who is an astute scholar, activist and avid reader – responded that things have not been this intense and pervasive since slavery.
My first reaction was to dismiss the response as hyperbole designed to ramp up the conversation for the sake of argument. Willie proceeded with a tempered and well-conceived discourse that flawlessly drew parallels that affirm his grim assessment.
In the past week alone, racism and bigotry has reared its ugly head in deadly ways. Unable to successfully gain entrance into a Black church, a white man walked into a Kentucky Kroger and shot dead an unsuspecting Black man who was shopping, then exited, but not before slaying a Black woman in the parking lot.
Unexploded pipe bombs targeted residences or offices of a dozen staunch opponents of the current administrator by a white male photographed at Trump rallies and driving a van covered with support for the incumbent.
Last week, 11 Jewish Americans were shot and killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue by a ruthless gunman – a brutal climax to a 57 percent rise in incidents of anti-Semantic hatred and contempt in America since 45 took office; the sharpest rise in 40 years.
Only days before the most important midterm election of all time, let us reflect. 45 talked about baseball and having a bad hair day immediately following the massacre of Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Then he complained about news coverage of the shooting distracting from Republicans who were enjoying media momentum.
Then he expressed abject dismay over the fact that these killings commanded attention from the issue he would much rather focus on – the so-called “invasion” of a “caravan” of immigrants. Days earlier, he offered no expression of compassion to two former presidents, various patriots and media targeted by domestic terrorism.
Never mind the disastrous past two years, we don’t need to go back more than a few days to sum up all we need to know about the tone of hatred and intolerance nurtured by this administration and all the incumbents who enable it. This is a national DISGRACE. Those who don’t vote, don’t bother to pull the lever on Tuesday, November 6, empower those who pull the triggers. Period.
The USA has about 5,000 troops in Iran and Iraq to combat ISIS. Now, 45 wants to deploy 5,200 of our fighting men and women to the U.S.-Mexico border to deny refuge to about 4,000 weary men, women and children – who experts say won’t even make it to the border for another month or two, if at all. And 45 is planning apprehension and placement in massive tent camps for those who make it across. Meanwhile, there is no solution yet for the children separated from families, still in cages in 10 or 12 cities around the country.
As if he had not done enough to alienate and divide citizens as we approach Election Day, Agent Orange decided to add one more dose of discord and announced that it is his goal to sign an executive order that will eliminate birthright citizenship for babies born in the country – even if their parents were not citizens or here illegally. Never mind that the ridiculous edict violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution he swore to uphold on inauguration day.
That law was changed to clarify the path for children of African Americans following the abolition of slavery. It has since benefitted every group of immigrants to this nation, including the Trump Family.
No one knows the outcome of Tuesday’s election, even the most optimistic polls could be completely off base – as we found in the shocking outcome of 2016. What we do know is that the outcome – in either direction – will be monumental.
If 45 somehow manages to maintain the status quo with Republican control of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court – in the words of the downhome adage so familiar, “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Agent Orange will interpret it as a mandate for hate and the few subtleties of the first two years will dissolve into unbridled rancor and vitriol.
It’s hard to imagine this administration being any meaner or less compassionate, but a solid win for the GOP next week will assure their resolve to die trying.
If Democrats are able to at least capture the House, and a few governorships, it will signal a level of rejection for the politics of segmentation of people by class, color, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and political persuasion. It will be a sign that while much work remains, those on opposite extremes of the conversation can at least join together at the table in a sincere thrust for reconciliation and reasonable harmony.
When I write next week’s column, we will all know the outcome. Only two things will matter. First, that you did all you could do in being aware, active and responsible in voting your conscience. And the second is that you know that whatever happens, God is still in control; and that there will ultimately be victory in Jesus’ name.
Keep the faith.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.