Monday, March 14, 2016

...And Now it Gets Ugly

"If we can make it through this election without someone getting shot, it will be a miracle."

 I wrote the above on March 2. After the events of this past weekend, the odds have gotten a lot longer. I spent the past few days in North Myrtle Beach relaxing and enjoying some truly beautiful weather. After one particularly spectacular day of lounging on the beach, we settled in front of the television in our pajamas. Both FOX and CNN were wall to wall with the Chicago ugliness. There were several hundred protesters marching on the floor of a Trump rally holding signs and locking arms. Some wore sombreros, one had wrapped himself in a Mexican flag, one held a sign that said, We Are Not Rapists. There were Bernie Sanders supporters, people from Black Lives Matters. Most were young, most seemed from one ethnic minority group or another. A black man appeared on the podium tearing up a piece of paper, trying to avoid being whisked away by a pair of security people. Then suddenly a white man and a black man were shown nose to nose in a heated argument. Soon, they were throwing punches. Trump supporters then started coming down from the crowd into the stew of chanters on the  floor of the hall, mostly middle aged men holding their own signs, thrusting pointed fingers angrily at the equally angry protesters. Meanwhile, outside the arena, Chicago police were trying to maintain order among the thousand of so protesters in the street. Arrests were being made, angry people, tightly packed together swayed back and forth, being jostled this way and that by the confused efforts of police batons. Faces contorted by angry shouts filled my television screen. Breathless announcers did their best to make a bad situation worse by piling on unhinged reactions to the images on screen.

Soon, Donald Trump was on the phone informing us that he had cancelled the event because of his concern for everyone's safety. For the next fifteen minutes, he skillfully played the victim, once again live and in prime time, via television time that he didn't have to pay for. 

As I watched this unfold in front of me, this thought came to me...Donald Trump just won the Republican nomination.

An argument can be made that Trump had this coming. His rallies have featured several ugly incidents of protesters being roughed up, with his vocal encouragement. But, like my mother used to say, "It's all fun and games until somebody puts an eye out!" Some may say that it's poetic justice that a Trump rally would be cancelled because of a thousand immigrant protesters. Others might point out that it's the height of irony for Trump to present himself as having had his First Amendment rights violated...when it has been Donald Trump who has championed an opening up of libel laws that would make it easier for him to lock up people who write bad things about him! But, as I watched the events unfold, all I could see was how a majority of people in my country would see unruly mob trying to silence speech. Whatever the purpose of this protest was, if it was designed to rally people against Trump, it was a miserable failure. I would have felt exactly the same if a thousand Trump supporters had shown up at a Bernie Sanders of Hillary Clinton rally and forced its cancellation. My sympathies would have been squarely with Sanders and Clinton, not the screamers.

Now, a new chapter to the 2016 election story is opened, the part where we try to shout each other down, the part where protesters attempt to silence speech they would prefer not to hear. Each new event will feature louder and angrier denunciations. The blowback will be strong and equally angry. 
Somewhere, an unbalanced man or woman is contemplating martyrdom.