I thought of a scene from “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” as I watched the Trump Political Rally in North Carolina last night.
In the film, Senator Padme Amadala and Bail Organa are watching as Emperor Palpatine engineers an effective coup within the Senate. It’s met with cheers.
And as she surveys the scene, she says, “So this is how liberty dies…with thunderous applause.”
I thought about that, as a frothing crowd of mostly White North Carolinians began a chant of “Send Her Back” during the rally.
I thought: “So this is how liberty dies…”
A sitting President of the United States allowed a frothing crowd of White people to suggest that a sitting member of CONGRESS —therefore a United States citizen— should be “sent back” to some other country.
He elicited this response through his own rhetoric and words. He called out BY NAME the Honorable Ilhan Omar. He spoke disparagingly about her. And then, he stood by and allowed the crowd to shout “Send Her Back.”
“So this is how liberty dies…”
Some of you reading will think I’m being dramatic.
But, I’m not.
In the history of disturbing moments at Donald Trump rallies, this has got to take the cake.
It’s one thing to roast your political opponents for their convictions. It’s another to suggest that a United States Citizen AND duly elected member of Congress, should be expelled from the country.
I know, I know…Trump today is saying he didn’t “like” the chant.
Excuse my language, but that’s bullshit.
He totally allowing and encouraging it. How can he *possibly* say he didn’t like the crowd saying it, when it’s EXACTLY what he said in those Tweets?!!
If you don’t understand that this is INTENTIONAL on his part, if you don’t see that he is appealing to the basest instincts of the crowd, then you are not paying attention.
Friends, it’s what I’ve beens saying for several years about Donald Trump…it’s “moral licensing.”
I will post links in the comments to remind us all of what “Moral Licensing” is. It’s encouraging the bad behavior of others…sending dog whistles to them (But this time, not even silently). It’s “good people” who do bad things and then insist they are not bad.
It’s *exactly* in the script of moral licensing to ENCOURAGE chants like “Send her back” and then *deny* that you have anything to do with it.
That’s what moral licensing IS.
Friends, Donald Trump is sowing deep divisions and dissension among Americans. He’s not just exploiting wedge issues; he’s pile-driving the sledgehammer, and watching in glee while others pick up theirs.
And remember the context.
This all comes in the same week that the ICE raids were scheduled to start all across the country. The cumulative and net effect of these vile policies and words is to create an environment where People of Color feel anxiety and fear about their own “status” in our country.
THAT’S. THE. POINT.
THIS is how liberty dies.
Early this week, on Facebook, I tried to elicit some responses from “Friends of Color” as to whether they had ever been asked to “go back to where you came from…”
Unfortunately, I didn’t phrase the question well, instead got a lot of responses from White people telling stories of their rejection in various regions of the country…
They were Texans, and told of how New Yorkers told them “Go home.”
They were New Yorkers, and told of how Texans told them the same…
I must admit, even I have done this. I can recall after a Texas-OU game, while leaving the stadium after a “win” I’ve gleefully shouted “Go Home!” to the Sooner fans…some of whom no doubt lived down the street from me.
I was younger then. I wasn’t thinking clearly.
The point not to miss, however, is this…
Regionalism among White people is nasty and petty; but at the end of the day the “Home” to which we are attempting to banish someone to is STILL a part of the United States of America. In the modern time, there are very few White people who experience anyone telling them to “Leave the country.”
Telling somebody to “go back to your country” is an entire magnitude of vileness greater than telling them to go back to Oklahoma.
And, dear God, to do it to a sitting member of Congress?!
“This is how liberty dies…”
My Christian faith teaches me to treat all human beings with dignity and respect. I am called —all of us who claim Christianity are called— to love and accept all people as being made in the image of God.
Further, we are grateful for the right to worship God as we wish, and are grateful that there is no religious or cultural “test” for public office.
The Honorable Ilhan Omar is, in fact, a living embodiment of everything our nation is called to be. To call for her removal, to stand by while a crowd chants for it to happen, violates the core values of America *and* of my Christian faith.
And I guarantee you, a great many of the folks in that room…chanting that slogan…probably consider themselves God-fearing Christians.
THAT’S what terrifies me. And if you are POC, or a person of another faith or no-faith, all I can tell you is that I am terrified right along with you.
Donald Trump is taking the lid off a vileness that will become a sickness in our land for years to come. All of us who care about building a multi-racial, multi-faith society will have YEARS of work to do, repairing and recovering from the damage.
In closing, all I can say is this…
If you disagree with this crowd, and this President…then…
Vote. Organize. Canvass. Give money.
Vote out any and all persons who equivocate on the language of this crowd.
They are unAmerican.
America and its institutions are officially in peril, in ways that I don’t feel I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’ve been slow to say that last sentence.
I am saying it tonight.
We must stay vigilant, and not allow fear to overcome us.
We must organize and VOTE like never before.
For if we do not, then this is how liberty dies.