SPLC Chairman: Social norms unravel as hatred mounts in Trump’s America

Ben Jacobs from The Guardian wanted his answer to the Congressional Budget Office Report showing the devastation that would be caused by the bill passing the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Gianforte did not answer the question. Instead, he grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and tackled him to the ground. Then he started hitting the reporter, shouting, “I’m sick of you guys. … Get the hell out of here!

Gianforte was accused of assault. The next day, voters in Montana elected him to Congress.

Welcome to Donald Trump’s America.

This is an America where the the social norms that hold our society together – the unwritten rules of common decency and civilized behavior that have been built over generations – are being torn apart before our eyes.

Trump’s racist and xenophobic campaign, coupled with his attacks on so-called political correctness, not only energized the white supremacist movement, but gave people a license to act on one’s worst instincts – their anger, their prejudices, their resentments.

It gets ugly outside. And the ugliness shouldn’t be going away anytime soon.

The president has “unearthed up demons,” said U.S. Representative Mark Sanford, a Republican from South Carolina, Recount the Washington Post. “I spoke to several people at home about it. They say, ‘Well, look, if the president can say anything, why can’t I say anything?’ He gave them a license.

The gloves are removed.

But it’s not just rude talk we’re talking about. Sometimes hate speech is a prelude to violence.

On Memorial Day weekend, two men on a commuter train in Portland were stabbed to death and another injured as they stood up to a man who was harassing two women, one wearing a hijab, with what the police described as “Hate speech.” In Washington, two native american men were intentionally knocked down by a white man shouting racial slurs. One died and the other was hospitalized.

We first detected what we called the “Trump Effect” over a year ago when our Teaching Tolerance project surveyed 2,000 educators in its network. A large majority of teachers said Trump’s campaign rhetoric was inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom and causing a sharp increase in bullying of minority children. “I think Trump’s rude and brash behavior teaches my students that they can act like this,” one teacher wrote.

A second survey of 10,000 teachers in November reinforced the findings. Next, we documented nearly 900 bias-related incidents across the country in the first 10 days after the election. Many authors have referenced Trump or his campaign slogans.

This happened after we all witnessed repeated examples of violence at Trump campaign ralliessometimes encouraged by the candidate.

Today, some right-wing politicians and activists openly embrace the rhetoric of violence – and in some cases violence itself – as a political tactic.

In a recent past scramble for a legislative debate in Texas, a Republican state representative threatened to shoot a fellow Latino Democrat after getting angry at the Latino protesters in the gallery.

After the Gianforte incident, Dave Daubenmire, Christian right-wing radio host applauded the assault and praised Gianforte and Trump for their assault. “The only thing that will save Western civilization is a more aggressive, more violent Christianity,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Portland, the local GOP chairman suggested using far-right anti-government militias — armed paramilitary groups steeped in paranoia and often racism — to protect Republican politicians during their public appearances.

We are entering uncharted territory here: Trump’s America, where divided we will surely fall.

The social norms we observe allow us to build a society that aspires to fairness, equality and a common good that makes the world a better place for all of us. These standards are expressed in the great religions of the world and they are taught to generations of children in our schools, in our homes and in other institutions.

Once they are put aside, I guess it will be a serious challenge to get them back.

About Marjorie C. Hudson

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