My latest newspaper column:
I hate it when any people, but especially “liberals,” disrupt speakers by trying to shout them down. I hate it as much as hearing the nominee of a formerly respectable party call on audiences to rough them up, or saying he’d like to punch them in the face. I hate it because it allows followers of that particular proto-fascist to pretend that the disrupters are representative of liberalism. I think students rejecting speakers with whom they disagree are entirely missing the point of education. Back in the day, when Robert McNamara received an honorary degree at my college graduation, some of my classmates stood and turned their backs, which was so shocking that it made the national news. Today, shouty students enable people to dismiss them as wanting “free stuff,” rather than considering their call to redirect money lost from free-stuff tax breaks to where it would do some good: public education, roads, jobs, child care.
I dislike speech disrupters as much as seeing Bill O’Reilly screaming at dissenters on his show and cutting off their mikes; as much as videos of ill-informed men inside a Target store, screaming about bathrooms, or of those same types intimidating citizens by parading around priapically with assault weapons. I wish protesters would do so silently, and not block roads to Lynden.* Because, among other things, their interruptions beget people pretending that’s what liberalism is, providing pretext for ignoring the fact that House Republicans just voted to cut school lunches for 3.5 million hungry children. Because whereas college kids shouting at speeches is NOT mainstream liberalism, cutting food for hungry children (while legislating to create more of them), is EXACTLY the mainstream of today’s Republican Party. Trump’s party. Formerly known as the party of Lincoln.
Donald Trump, who promises a free-stuff wall, ending health coverage for millions, indiscriminately bombing the Middle East, and trade wars with China; whose plan for eliminating the national debt includes the astoundingly reckless, intellectually disqualifying, and catastrophically ignorant idea of defaulting on our loans! Donald Trump, whose oeuvre includes childish insults, wild conspiracy theories, and incessant rodomontade; who, after an attack in Pakistan, tweeted, vaingloriously, “Only I can solve.” (Do his followers actually believe that?) Donald Trump, who lies that we’re the highest taxed country in the world; who, like the rest of his party, thinks climate change is a hoax and that the best use of our money is military spending, because another aircraft carrier will keep bombs out of our malls, and who needs schools?
Donald Trump, whose peddling of fear has reached Mukilteo**; who thinks demonizing Muslim-Americans is a better plan than considering them fellow Americans whose help is essential in fighting radicalism; Donald Trump, who’d keep all Muslims out of the US “until we find out what’s going on.”
So a few people heckling speakers provide a rationale for electing an uninformed demagogue, without a care for the consequences. He says what’s on his mind, Trumpists gush, in tones confirming they’re okay with his misogyny, his scapegoating, his serial fabrications, his thin-skinned narcissism and vulgarity. He’ll bring jobs back, they accept, without questioning how, forgetting his claim that American workers are overpaid, and ignoring the employment and pocketbook implications of the trade wars he’d begin.
Other than in his own perfection, who can know what Donald Trump believes? Minimum wage: yes or no? Lower taxes: yes or no? Contradicting himself within the same sentence, he’s consistent only in playing to the basest instincts of his crowds, for whom, evidently, that’s enough. They excuse his behavior, convinced he’ll lead the way to undefined “greatness.” Absent any depth of policy, a vote for Trump is a statement that what you really want is to get even; to stick it to those unruly kids and anyone else who doesn’t think or look or believe like you. As long as the poor, the disenfranchised, the Muslims, the gays, those lazy immigrants get what’s coming to them, who cares about climate change, health care, schools, or the environment?
It’s by exploiting the willing blindness of exactly that sort of vengeful, aggrieved, credulous nihilism that despots have grabbed power throughout history. Donald Trump knows this. Do his embittered believers?________________________________________________
* Lynden is where Trump just spoke, a very red part of Western Washington, about 75 miles north of my home.
**Mukilteo is pretty much where I live. Recently a (temporarily) anonymous postcard was sent to residents warning about plans to build a mosque. Just yesterday we learned that the proposed site has been defaced with anti-Muslim graffiti.