I hope everyone is having a wonderful and festive holiday season. As we take the time to celebrate our community’s bounty with our family and friends, I’m troubled by the spate of incidents across the country that show a contempt and wanton disregard for the spirit of empathy for our fellow human beings. A dark undercurrent in American society is rearing its ugly head. In this hotly contested political season, overt bigotry and attacks on marginalized groups seem to be growing.
Last month, a majority vote in the House of Representatives to ban Syrian refugees from seeking safety in the United States was a particular low point in today’s America. What was especially disappointing about that vote was that 47 Democrats joined the House Republican majority in passing a ban. Turning away people in desperate need is not a value the Democratic Party stands for. Fear of “the Other” is certainly not what our party stands for. It’s unlikely the bill will pass the Senate, but fortunately, President Obama has vowed to veto it if it does.
Yet another low point continues to come in the form of Donald Trump’s ongoing campaign to try to win the GOP nomination for the Presidency by mocking and denigrating just about every group on the planet except for his fellow white, wealthy, straight, able-bodied and male peers. His bigoted barbs – from suggesting protesters should be met with physical violence to calling Mexican immigrants ―rapists‖ to suggesting that mosques be surveilled and that the names of Syrian refugees be put in a database – sound like they come from a different era. However, what’s more frightening is how the mainstream media has for too long given him and other right- wing extremists the benefit of neutrality. When political debates become a matter of “both sides do it,” blatant lies are called “controversy,” and extremism is mainstreamed, our society becomes debased and lives are endangered.
Where is all this going? Just last month, five Black Lives Matter protesters were shot and injured at a vigil for a young black man who was killed by police in Chicago. Three people were killed at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. And in Irving, Texas, open carry fetishists were reportedly intimidating Muslim worshippers at a mosque. Are we about to see a new level of political violence in America against people who don’t fit the mold of “straight, white, rich and Christian?” Are too many of us going to sit back and look the other way until it’s too late?