Posts Tagged ‘hate groups’

You’ve Got Mail, Please Read It

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

By BOB GAYDOS

The mail. RJ Photography

The mail. RJ Photography

You can tell a lot about people by the contents of their mailboxes. In fact, if you pay attention, you can even learn a bit about yourself.

      For example, a recent day’s delivery to my box included ACLU Magazine, a letter from Planned Parenthood, one from the Southern Poverty Law Center and a note from Marlo Thomas for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital.

     Now, anyone who is familiar with my columns would hardly be surprised by this mix. Since my days of reading David Bernstein’s daily editorials in The Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, N.Y. (1965-1973), I’ve been a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. Before that I was just a kid out of college who liked JFK. Since then, I’m lefty and proud and public.

     And I guess that’s the point here. Public and proud. I’ve been writing and commenting on the news and life in general for more than 50 years, but it has never seemed more important to me to be clear and forceful and consistent in expressing my opinions, however repetitive some may find them. Especially about politics and the state of the nation today.

     One of the two major political parties has, for all intents and purposes, abandoned the principle of compromise in governing for the good of the country. The Republican Party, as a willing and aggressive tool of Donald Trump, is a clear and present danger to our democracy. The past eight years testify to that.

     That’s my opinion and the opinion of many others. But still, there are millions of Americans who are buying the snake oil and gold sneakers to keep the Trump lies alive.

      And so, when I get my mail these days, I notice a certain urgency and consistency to it. These are people who feel the same as I do and are doing all they can to preserve and protect what was established in Philadelphia 248 years ago. Our democracy is at stake. This is our reality.

       I try to spread their messages so that those who have not yet recognized the true threat of the MAGA Party might one day hear it and realize what it means to them, to their freedom.

     This may sound a bit high-minded and exaggerated to some. But, again, I go back to my mailbox.

     The SPLC tells me about the spread of hate groups and its efforts to fight the threat of violent white nationalism and racism that has “gone mainstream’’ and is spreading  through our politics, media and schools and the constant racist rhetoric of Trump and a segment of the Republican Party. 

    The ACLU tells me about its legal efforts to protect voting rights from efforts, again, by Republicans, to restrict them for certain groups of people rather than promote ideas and programs those people might approve of and vote accordingly.

    The ACLU also tells me about its efforts to protect pregnant workers and  abortion rights and free speech.

    And Planned Parenthood tells me about its ongoing and increased efforts to educate the public about the threats to abortion access and to advocate for policies that protect sexual and reproductive health care for all.

     Freedom. It’s all about freedom. Many of you probably have similar messages in your mailboxes. 

   Again, that’s the point. Read them. They are there for a reason and I noticed them on this particular day for a reason.

    Our much-celebrated way of life is under attack and too many people still don’t recognize it. I would much rather write about the great work of the St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital that also comes in my mail, but if the MAGAs prevail, that will surely suffer also. Bigotry and hatred become pervasive.

      So I pay attention to my mail. I read it and I write about it. Because I still can. Because defense of freedom is not junk mail.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Hate Groups Found a Home in the GOP

Saturday, July 9th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos  

Oath Keepers at the Capitol.

Oath Keepers at the Capitol.

   “They’re not here to hurt me.“

     The essence of Donald Trump. The not-so-secret weapon of the Republican Party.

      Hate is a powerful political motivator, especially when combined with fear and ignorance. It may also be the most dangerous threat to the American experiment in democracy.

      Trump uttered those confident words when aides and Secret Service agents informed him that some of the people marching to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, were armed. Trump wanted to join the march and watch the violent overthrow of a presidential election up close and personal. After all, he knew that these were his people and if weapons were going to be used they wouldn’t be used against him, but rather, against those certifying the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States and those protecting them.

      No sweat, Trump said, “I’m the effin’ president.”

      The Secret Service wasn’t buying it.

      The marchers Trump wanted to join were motivated by hate, a hate for non-whites, Jews, other non-Christians, gays and them damn socialist libtards, who think they’re so smart just because they got a college education.

    It’s a hate nurtured, inflamed and exploited by Trump in his campaign for the presidency, in his four years in office and in his desperate effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

       The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking hate groups in the United States since 1999. In its annual census, released in March, the Center identified 733 active hate groups in 2021. The Alabama-based civil rights group noted that the number of hate groups had fallen for the third straight year, after reaching a high of 1,020 in 2018, two years into the Trump presidency. The number of anti-government extremist groups had also fallen in 2021, from 566 to 488, the SPLC reported.

       At first glance, that sounds like good news, but there’s another, less positive, interpretation of the numbers. According to the SPLC, “Rather than demonstrating a decline in the power of the radical right, the numbers suggest that the extremist ideas that mobilize them now operate more openly in the political mainstream.”

      In fact, they are part of everyday discourse from Republican elected officials, including members of Congress, and on right wing media outlets, notably Fox, as well as numerous social media sites.

       Trump made it OK to spew this bigotry openly. No need to hide anymore. Put your sheets in mothballs. Republicans, traditionally trailing Democrats in numbers nationwide, welcomed the ill-tempered, ill-informed and angry white-is-right mob of haters into their club. Hey, more votes are more important than an actual governing program, right? Power is the goal.

       The haters had found a home, someplace where they could air their worst fears publicly and be taken seriously.

        Today, they have co-opted the Republican Party. The few party members with the moral principles and guts to speak the truth about Trump and his acolytes publicly are subject to daily threats. The assault on the Capitol and violent demonstrations elsewhere lend more weight to the threats.

     Trump, or an imitator, can call up an army of goons willing to violently defend his lies. They are in every state. 

     My area of strongly Democratic New York state is home to chapters of the Oath Keepers, who have a statewide presence, as do American Patriots Three Percent. Several other hate/anti-government groups are active here, according to the SPLC. Emboldened by the Trump Republican Party, they have emerged from the shadows.

     It makes fear the common denominator for all Americans, or at least it should. And that’s why the Jan. 6 hearings, the convictions of insurrection participants and further arrests of anyone who participated in the failed coup attempt are so important. Accountability is crucial for democracy to survive.

      Yet many Americans don’t seem to care, or feel it’s something they can do nothing about. That’s how we get a president like Trump. The obvious starting point is our schools. We need to rethink what we teach and how we teach it. A shamefully high percentage of Americans are clueless about history and lacking in the ability to sort fact from fiction.

       But this is a long-term project. More immediately, simply speaking out against hate and extremist behavior when it appears is something everyone can do and every religious group is theoretically supposed to practice. In addition, supporting political candidates who endorse laws to fight white supremacists, militias and spreaders of hate on social media is vital. Simply put, that means actually registering to vote and then voting for the Democrat because Republicans have lost any right to be trusted in this battle.

    Trump was right. The marchers with their weapons are not looking to hurt him. They are out to create an authoritarian government by destroying the democratic  institutions that protect our freedom. 

     Yes, hate has come out of the shadows.  Ignorance is its sustenance. Fear is its weapon. Apathy is its enabler. Only a stronger fear of losing our freedom can defeat it. The light of truth is crucial to the cause. 

      These are not merely the high-minded words of a retired editorial writer, people. I believe we are at a critical point in our nation’s history. It’s everyone’s fight. These hate groups must be exposed and held accountable. In truth, it’s probably what they fear the most.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.