I am so angry.
I'm angry that nearly 1 in 5 Americans still believe President Obama is not from our country. I'm angry that violent and deplorable people are throwing a fit about being called what they are. I'm angry that Donald Trump is breaking down our societal norms in a disgusting and methodical way. I'm angry that normalizing hate speech is a thing in 2016 and that my son is seeing this all over television.
Donald Trump may not be intentionally encouraging this hate, though more than a few clips from his rallies and a cursory perusal of his Twitter feed strongly suggest otherwise. In any case, he has given the people of the "alt-right" credence. He has brought this contemptible, disgusting "worldview" and its proponents out from the rock they've been existing under. Worse, he's given them license to speak out and be recognized by a society that generally works together to ensure their particular hate doesn't get a microphone.
"Alt-right" really means "white supremacist" or "white nationalist". The "alt-right" is populated by people who think Adolf Hitler was a visionary leader with great ideas. In my humble opinion, those kind of people--again, people who hold up Hitler as a role-model--have no place in our society. But I can hardly blame them for their opportunism. In fact, the man who went on a shooting spree in Houston just today was wearing Nazi symbols. It sure will be interesting to find out if he was actively engaged in the election. Why wouldn't they be drawn to a major political party nominee who is embraced by David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK?
Trump has not done anywhere near enough to distance himself from these people who have flocked to him like flies to you know what. He's embraced them and even made the editor of one of their mouthpiece outlets his campaign chairman. He and his son have used their despicable Twitter feeds as source material. He even played dumb trying to pretend he didn't know who David Duke was--when he clearly did. The Anti-Defamation League has called Trump out numerous times, and he is still yet to apologize for taking advantage of the "alt-right's" love for him.
The rampant anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry and filth these people traffic used to fly under most of our radars. In the cloistered world of social media, things can remain hidden. Trump's campaign has made these deplorables feel their bile has a place in the rest of society's discourse. If they did ever attack a reporter for being Jewish, it never bubbled up to the surface. Now, journalists who happen to be Jewish are arming themselves and filing police reports out of fear.
Now, I am (as Trump might say) a 'first amendment person' and believe that everyone should have the right to say what they want to say. As an enlisted weapons systems specialist in the U.S. Navy, I've gone to war to protect that right and extend it to others in the world. Having the right, however, doesn't entitle anyone (spewing toxic views or otherwise) to a megaphone from an aspiring commander-in-chief. Sadly, because Donald Trump is encouraging these folks, their voices are getting that amplifier; they are leaving the shadows and becoming accepted as potential voters for the Republican Party's nominee.
Trump's role can't be overlooked or forgiven, but the fact the rest of the GOP (starting with it's chairman) hasn't proactively rejected the alt-right should not be forgotten. Not only have they not rejected it, they are proactively courting its voters. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, after all this is the same organization that refused to refute the "Birthirism" conspiracy.
The result of this is clear and palpable. These hate groups are using organizing techniques, tactics, and tools that political professionals use in conventional elections. And here's the scary part: they use these tools because they know they work. In Pennsylvania, the KKK has begun canvassing voters distributing lollipops, rocks to throw through windows, and a note that they are watching and will help with "problems". Candy and weapons--as a father, that is a nightmare scenario.
We have to face the facts. The 2016 election has become a nightmare, and not for the fault of "both parties," as many part-time political analysts seem to always want to tell us. It is clear that it is one party enabling a dangerous demagogue. And those who would liken this election to Germany pre-Hitler aren't spouting hyperbole--in fact, they are credible journalists reporting the facts.
The philosopher John Stuart Mill reminded us that "Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." This is a time for good men and women to look on, recognize this toxicity for what it is and do something about it. Do not give credibility to hateful white supremacists. Go out, tell your friends why they should fight Trump. His idea of "Making American Great Again" means bringing back the hate we have fought for so long to rid our society of. Too many people suffered and sacrificed for that to happen.
Shawn J. VanDiver is a Navy veteran and Co-Director of the Truman National Security Project San Diego Chapter.