From a slew of bomb threats directed at Democratic leaders to a devastating, anti-Semitic mass shooting in Pittsburgh, last week’s events indicate how these are dangerous times we’re living in.
Violence sparked by bigotry and paranoia have claimed the lives of vulnerable Americans, as cultural and political leaders who dissent and criticize the president and Republican Party are targeted. In the face of these harrowing realities, equivocation from politicians and media about those responsible for in these events places the American people in abject danger.
It’s a dangerous time for unchecked false equivalencies.
Whenever a man is accused of sexual assault, it seems that the real issue of sexual violence is given the same weight as the conservative outcry about “due process.” This reflects a deeper issue. We simply can’t allow rape apologists and — as we saw in the confirmation of alleged sexual abuser Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court — Republican politicians who prioritize their political agenda over survivors’ lives. Their power allows them to have equal influence with women and survivors in controlling narratives around sexual violence in the media.
In a similar vein, we can’t allow politicians who ignore scientific facts and attempt to strip transgender people of equal access to platforms, credibility and moral authority.
Donald Trump has incited, condoned and glorified violence. In the aftermath of a journalist’s violent murder in Saudi Arabia, Trump praised a GOP congressman convicted of body-slamming a journalist on camera. He has repeatedly offered to pay legal fees for supporters who physically attack anti-Trump protesters, and, at a 2016 campaign rally, bemoaned the good old days when there was more violence.
Presently, the president has relied on anti-Semitic dog whistling, referencing “globalist” plots and promoting conspiracy theories that prominent Jewish Democratic donors like George Soros (one recipient of a suspicious package last week) are funding a caravan of Central American migrants that, he claims, is coming to hurt and threaten white Americans.
The perpetrator of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting referenced this conspiracy theory on social media as his motivation for the attack.
The majority party’s stubborn, financially motivated refusal to pass popular common sense gun control is inseparable from the constant violence in America. When Trump and other right-wing leaders claim churches and schools should either arm themselves or expect to be attacked, they’re simply saying that they would rather convert schools and places of worship into security-packed zones than decline NRA donations.
Direct incitements or praise for violence from the most powerful person in the country are by no means as “evil” as calling on Americans to question and confront elected officials they see in public about their voting records, as Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters did over the summer.
Many of the elected officials who have been publicly protested haven’t held town halls in months or years, failing to create civil spaces for listening to constituents; coincidentally, many of these officials have actively contributed to humanitarian crises, or dehumanized and erased survivors en masse. They deserve to be questioned about this.
In many ways, our country is indeed at a crossroads, as politicians of all party affiliations have suggested. We face a crisis of national identity, but that is not a crisis of manners: It is a crisis of mass violence targeting marginalized people; of leaders using their power to enable and equivocate in the face of violence to uphold political hegemony.
Within the Democratic Party, there are certainly shortcomings in serving marginalized people; but Democratic leaders lack the numbers and ability to fully counteract bigoted Republican policies. Nor have Democratic leaders in recent history shrugged off violence, as the Republican president so frequently does. It is true that there are always two or more sides to a story, but not all are deserving of equal weight.
Kylie Cheung is a junior majoring in political science. She is also the blogs editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “You Do Uterus,” runs every other Wednesday.