In his election night speech, President-elect Donald Trump claimed, “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.”
Actions speak louder than words, however, and Trump’s appointment of Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon as White House strategist tells us that he is not planning to be a president for Muslims, Blacks, Jews, or Women.
Here are a few of headlines published by Bannon as CEO of Breitbart:
• Bill Kristol, Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew
• Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movements Human Shield
• The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ is Simple: Women Should Just Log Off
• Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy
• There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women In Tech, They Just Suck At Interviews
• Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?
• Hillary Clinton’s Muslim Brotherhood problem
• Political Correctness protects Muslim Rape Culture
• Constitution allows Muslim Immigration Ban
I think we can be forgiven for finding it difficult to take the President-elect’s pledge to be “president for all Americans” seriously.
Despite efforts to normalize Bannon, he has told us who he is and we should listen.
“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told journalist Sarah Posner when she interviewed him at the Republican National Convention in July.
The people to whom Bannon is giving a platform? People like Richard Spencer, who doesn’t bother with the dog whistle but goes straight for the Mein Kampf, encouraging his supporters to use Nazi-era terms for the press and Sieg Heil the President-elect.
Thus in the year 2016, after years of Holocaust education and being reminded to “Never Forget,” Americans were subjected to the headline on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper: “Alt-Right Founder asks if Jews are People.”
Following Trump’s victory, Jewish journalists, many of whom have been targeted online for the last year, have now reportedly been receiving threats and hate mail at their homes.
They are also being reported to a site called Audit the Media. It bears the image of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character created by artist Matt Furie, whose creation has been co-opted by White Supremacists. The news media should stop calling them by the disingenuous term “Alt Right” because, as former Neo-Nazi skinhead Christian Picciolini observed at the Anti-Defamation League’s Never is Now conference last Thursday, “That’s just a marketing strategy.” Picciolini now runs LifeAfterHate.org.
At the same conference, Furie discussed the #SavePepe campaign to reclaim his work from being used as hate speech.
As a Jewish journalist, I’ve been bombarded with anti-Semitic hate speech from Pepe-bearing Twitter accounts over the last 12 months. I wrote to Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei over a week ago, asking him to show leadership by speaking out on such issues. His response has been a resounding silence.
Sadly, Mr. Tesei isn’t alone — the first reflex for many appears to be to downplay these incidents.
Last week, East Windsor First Selectman Robert Maynard’s first reaction to a video of young people dressed up in KKK garb around a bonfire was to tell WFSB that it appeared to be “kids being kids.” According to WFSB, Maynard even denied there were any racial overtones.
“I don’t think it’s a racial incident. It’s a reaction to the recent election. They could have even been making fun of it, laughing at the whole situation. I don’t think there’s a racial issue here,” Maynard said.
Maynard eventually revised his statement, according to WFSB, but East Windsor Police Det. Matthew Carl appears to have understood the gravity of the video right away and told WFSB: “We denounce it, it’s disgusting, it’s deplorable. This is a symbol that has upset our residents, community and the country alike.”
According to several news reports about another incident last Friday at the football game between Wilton High and Danbury High, Wilton High students were chanting “build the wall” at Latino students from Danbury.
The incident drew a response from Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a Republican, who said the incident was a teachable moment for the Wilton students and called for an apology.
Those are just a few of many. We are seeing an increase of hate-related incidents here in Connecticut and across the country.
Many decent people voted for Trump because of other priorities. But as author John Scalzi wrote in a recent post titled, The Cinemax Theory of Racism, that doesn’t let them off the hook:
“I think you can very easily make the argument that a lot people who voted for Trump are not and would not actively be racist to another person in their day-to-day lives . . . But the fact remains that in voting for Trump, they voted for racism: It was right there in the package deal, front and center, and hard to miss. They voted for it anyway… You may argue that voting for racism as part of a larger package deal does not a racist make, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree… But voting for racism will make personal, day-to-day life harder for the targets of that racism…
It’s perfectly fine to point out to people who voted for racism, that indeed, this is what they voted for. And also that if owning up to the fact that they voted for racism is uncomfortable for them, they should take a moment to think about how bad it is for the targets of that racism, and how bad it has yet to get.”
If you voted for Trump, but you’re saying you aren’t a racist or an Islamophobe or an anti-Semite, now is the time to prove yourself. Don’t be silent. Don’t be a bystander. Be an upstander. Remind the world what America is supposed to be about. Don’t turn away and pretend this has nothing to do with you.
As Cynthia Ozick writes, “Indifference is not so much a gesture of looking away — of choosing to be passive — as it is an active disinclination to feel. Indifference shuts down the humane, and does it deliberately, with all the strength deliberateness demands. Indifference is as determined — and as forcefully muscular — as any blow.”
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU (and as such is an AAUP member), and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.
DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Since airing the graphic at the top of this op-ed containing a quote from Richard Spencer and the headline that accompanied it, CNN has reportedly apologized.