So a suspect in the mailed pipe bombs has been arrested, and given a designation on social media, “The MAGAbomber.” Given both how the suspect adorned his van and the chosen targets, this seems like an apt description. Donald Trump’s rhetoric is like gasoline for angry people who feel themselves cornered, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.
It is true that hateful people are always around, and they don’t need any excuses for doing hateful things because it’s in their nature to be hateful. This will no doubt be the defense people make with regards to this suspect’s apparent support of the President’s agenda. And while it is true that hateful people don’t need any excuses to be hateful or violent, they often still need permission. People want to be heroes in their own stories, and even those who are far removed down the path of hatred and racism will often have a small regulator in their soul which prevents them from crossing the point of no return. They’ll hit but not kill, they’ll damage property but not destroy, they’ll hate but find ways to appear polite about it 1. But when society shifts toward a permissive attitude regarding hatred, that regulator 2 begins to malfunction. The point of no return is no longer seen as a line to avoid but a challenge to overcome. When the president of the United States continues to deflect blame on to “the media” for the anger his own rhetoric enflames, and when popular conservative outlets paint the picture that Democrats are actively working to destroy the United States, permission for violence is being given.
This is wrong, and shame on anyone who would try to normalize it.
We are watching the activation of reactionary hatred and violence, and it won’t end well. Not only does it hurt the fabric of society on its own, there are also too many angry progressives around who are eager to play by the same scorched earth rulebook. Giving implicit permission for those who are prone to violence, just to win an election, is not a political strategy that leads to a healthy future.
And this activation of reactionary hatred hit close to home for me last week, when a surf-by racist decided to comment on a post which appeared on ABCNJ’s Facebook page. Why did this racist decide to post? Because tomorrow ABCNJ is voting on our next Senior Regional Pastor and Executive Minister. She happens to be Latinx, and this didn’t sit well with this person. I don’t have the full quote, because we deleted the post and I neglected to save it, but I do have the snippet which appeared in an email.
Jesus hates all ni****s and white f****s. Jesus will…
Could this person have done this surf-by racism even if the rhetoric of Donald Trump wasn’t encouraging his supporters to see Latinx people as a threat? Sure, but because he’d been given permission by a powerful social figure he could drop that surf by hatred bomb and feel “heroic.” It’s sick, and so is our country.