A couple days ago I saw a Tweet reiterating the U.S. Census Bureau's conclusion that by 2045 groups once thought of us as minorities--Asians, Latinos and African Americans would make up the majority of the U.S. population. This trend has been a long time coming.
In fact, by 2020, it will be true for all Americans 18 and under. It is a direct result of the embrace of diverse populations that has made the country so strong, our culture so rich and our workforce so well suite to an era of global competition.
Honestly, I thought it was just an anodyne data point, well-known to most, but worth reiterating. I commented that our diversity was our strength. Foolishly, perhaps, I thought that was a pretty uncontroversial statement--evident on its face.
Almost immediately the hate started to come. Somewhere in some alt-right Reddit discussion, someone had flagged the discussion, recasting this long-time coming demographic trend as "white genocide" and framing me as a Jewish (globalist) promoting that genocide.
The Tweets addressed to me once again underscore that Twitter does not police its site or have any standards. As they poured in, they contained anti-semitism of the worst sort, threats, personal attacks, promises of violence, grotesque stereotypical images of Jews.
They were as vile as they were relentless. Some I reported but it was too time consuming. So I blocked scores and scores of them. And as soon as I was done, scores more appeared. Perhaps some were bots. Many were not. Many were just the venom of the ignorant and hateful.
I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to these things. Although I probably only faced 20 or 30 such instances in my life prior to 2016, since that year, I have been attacked this way thousands of times.
It is impossible not to conclude that something happened that year that made such attacks more acceptable. It is not just the advent of social media that lets cowards reach out and harass their targets anonymously. That existed before.
It is not just the "permission" offered these groups as Trump and his ethno-nationalist movement rose to power. It is more than that. Trump, Bannon, Miller, their Russian bot armies of supporters, and others did more than give permission...they actively encouraged the hate.
They did by using code words, they did with the embrace of those code words and their themes by Breitbart and Fox and other media that have focused on division, stoking fears and promoting hate. They did it in Charlottesville and through their immigration policies.
They did it when Trump viciously attacked Mexicans, singled out African-Americans with his transparent race-baiting, proposed and implemented policies targeting Muslims, embraced the code himself with the use of terms like "globalists"...and got away with it. Grew stronger.
These vermin have gained institutional support of a sort they have not had since Nazi Germany. I use that reference cautiously. 33 members of my family were lost in the Holocaust. My father and his parents barely escaped. It is not an analogy to be invoked lightly.
He showed us the yellow star he had to wear as a boy. He seldom discussed it but periodically he would write us notes describing the fate of my relatives killed in the camps. But I saw the effect its echoes had on him...
That one time,when I was a kid, when some local idiots drew a swastika on our driveway I could see how shaken he was. He was a strong guy. An artillery officer from World War II. Did not fear much. But I think he always saw the possibility that this kind of hate would re-emerge.
And of course, he was right to fear it. We see it now across Europe--in Russia, in Poland, in Hungry, and with the rise of ethno-nationalists across the EU. It is fostered by the Russians as they seek to divide our societies. But they are abetted by the alt-right everywhere.
Perhaps the most hateful of these are just a tiny fraction. But what we have seen is large segments of the population have embraced them because they help advance their political aims (see Brexit, see Trump, see the Russians). And even larger segments remain silent.
So empowered, enabled by technologies that amplify their message and make their hate easier to disseminate they are, to borrow a phrase with a long history, poisoning the wellsprings of our democracy. And distressingly, as our president becomes more desperate...
he seems more inclined or likely to embrace them, to play up divisions and play to fears of coming changes, to tap into their insecurities, and to abuse his power to empower and institutionalize their ideas. Race-hatred and prejudice are not new in America. Not by a long shot.
But what we are seeing is them in a new, more potent, more toxic form. They have long been supported by individuals in power in this country. We institutionalized racism with slavery, through segregation, through voter suppression, and in a thousand other ways.
And now we are doing it a new way...and at the center of it...the catalyst of it...the leader of the new movement is Donald Trump. He is abetted by all those around him who have used his power to gain some for themselves. By John Kelly--who was an architect of the refugee ban.
By Miller and Bannon, of course, but by every member of the cabinet and staff who tolerates this, who does not call it out, who plays to the subtle divisions, who uses the hate to fuel their own ambition. There was no excuse to remain part of this post-Charlottesville.
There was no worthy rationalization for that. There is no reasonable justification to remain part of it now. In fact, the only healthy and humane response is to seek the removal of Trump, the end of this era and the restoration of the values of decency and tolerance...
...that have long been the American ideal. Our diversity is our strength. Our openness has been our great advantage. While we have struggled with hatred in the past we have always in the end, not only condemned it but actively fought it and sought to bring it to an end.
That is the challenge we face again in this system whose genius remains its ability to constantly perfect itself. But it begins by recognizing that what we are seeing is not just greed or incompetence or stupidity or corruption at the top. We are seeing something...
...much more pernicious and dangerous. Stopping Trump and those who have allied themselves to him and whom he has embraced is not about simple politics. It is about the salvation of the idea of America.
You can follow @djrothkopf.
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