Six decades ago, Sen. Joe McCarthy capitalized on public fear, preaching a message of hatred and panic. Finally, during one of the Army-McCarthy hearings in June of 1954, Joseph Welch, the chief counsel for the U.S. Army, stood up to him:
Until this moment, Senator (McCarthy), I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
This week, presidential candidate Donald Trump said, “What I’m doing is calling very simply for banning Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Month after month, Trump makes headlines by ridiculing people, by stereotyping entire religions, by attacking women and immigrants. He told a Jewish audience, “I’m a negotiator — like you folks.” Trump told a breast-feeding mother, “You’re disgusting.” He described Mexican immigrants as rapists.
Trump may be the worst offender, but other political candidates are increasingly appealing to bigotry and hateful stereotypes to gain support. People are afraid of terrorism and violence. When a major presidential candidate uses that hatred and bigotry to stoke those fears, it further divides the American people and may lead to more hate crimes.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune gave an account of one such recent attack, against a Somali woman at a suburban Applebee’s restaurant in late October. Asma Jama was eating there, with two of her cousins and four young nieces:
As Jama’s group conversed in Swahili, one of three languages she speaks, they began to hear muttering behind them from Burchard-Risch and her husband. The muttering soon turned into loud verbal jabs. “In America, we speak English,” the couple told Jama’s group. “Go home!”
According to police, Burchard-Risch swung her heavy glass beer mug “with a roundhouse punch-like motion” into Jama’s face.
The article reported that she “was left with 17 stitches, a persistent headache and scars that may be lifelong.”
Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric might boost his campaign with certain parts of the electorate, but it is building on bigotry and may well encourage similar hate crimes.
This is not a hypothetical concern. Back in August, the Boston Globe reported on two brothers who attacked a sleeping homeless man in Boston, urinating on him, punching him and battering him with a metal pole. The brothers, who walked away laughing, reportedly told police that it was ok to assault the man because he was Hispanic and that “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”
When told about the attacker’s comments, Trump said, “People who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”
My question for Donald Trump, after his hate-filled comments about women, about people with disabilities, about immigrants, about Muslims — about a huge percentage of the American people that he wants to govern:
Mr. Trump, Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
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