On Wednesday, 14 people were killed at a social services agency in San Bernardino, California. The gunman apparently was Muslim and was influenced by ISIS.
In light of this, and of the Paris bombings, the FBI reports a sharp upturn in threats on mosques and to Muslims in the U.S.
In Connecticut, police are investigating reports of multiple gunshots fired at a local mosque. Two Tampa Bay-area mosques in Florida received threatening phone messages. One of the calls threatened a firebombing.
In an Austin suburb, leaders of the Islamic Center of Pflugerville discovered feces and torn pages of the Qur’an.
The hatefulness and hateful responses extend beyond the tragedies in Paris and San Bernardino.
Two weeks ago, a gunman killed three at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. Later, in explaining his motive to the police, he said “no more baby parts” – a reference to videos that wrongly claimed that Planned Parenthood was selling body parts of fetuses.
It’s a lie that Carly Fiorinia continues to restate.
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A week before the shooting at Planned Parenthood, gunmen opened fire on Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis who were demanding action against two white Minneapolis police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark, 24, an unarmed black man, on Nov. 15.
Evidence shows the accused shooters were linked to white supremacist organizations operating online.
Hate crimes will never be eliminated entirely. A small number of angry, deranged people inevitably will vent their rage at groups they find threatening. Some will do so violently.
But such hatefulness is being encouraged by Republican politicians.
Perpetrators of hate crimes often take their cues from what they hear in the media. And the recent inclination of some politicians to use inflammatory rhetoric is contributing to a climate of hate and fear.
Some candidates are fomenting animus toward Muslims.
Huckabee says he’d “like for Barack Obama to resign if he’s not going to protect America and instead protect the image of Islam.”
Ben Carson says allowing Syrian refugees into the United States is analogous to exposing a neighborhood to a “rabid dog.” Last September Carson said he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
Trump has advocated registering all Muslims in the United States and putting American mosques under surveillance.
He’s also claimed that Muslim-Americans in New Jersey celebrated by the “thousands” when the World Trade Center was destroyed on September 11, 2001, although there’s no evidence to back that claim.
Indeed, much of Trump’s campaign is built on hatefulness. And Trump not only fails to condemn violence he provokes but finds excuses for it.
After a handful of white supporters recently punched and attempted to choke a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his campaign rallies, Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.”
Trump began his campaign last June by falsely alleging Mexican immigrants are “bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Weeks later in Boston, two brothers beat with a metal poll and urinated on a 58-year-old homeless Mexican national. They subsequently told the police “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.“
Instead of condemning that brutality, Trump excused it by saying “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”
I’m not suggesting any presidential candidate is directly to blame for hate crimes erupting across America.
But by virtue of their standing as presidential candidates, their words carry particular weight. They have a responsibility to calm people with the truth rather than stir them up with lies.
In suggesting that the staff of Planned Parenthood, Muslims, Black Lives Matter protesters, and Mexican immigrants are guilty of venal acts, these candidates are fanning the flames of hate.
This itself is despicable.
About the Author
ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock" and “The Work of Nations." His latest, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.
Books by Robert Reich
Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few -- by Robert B. Reich
America was once celebrated for and defined by its large and prosperous middle class. Now, this middle class is shrinking, a new oligarchy is rising, and the country faces its greatest wealth disparity in eighty years. Why is the economic system that made America strong suddenly failing us, and how can it be fixed?
Click here for more info or to order this book on Amazon.
Beyond Outrage: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it -- by Robert B. Reich
In this timely book, Robert B. Reich argues that nothing good happens in Washington unless citizens are energized and organized to make sure Washington acts in the public good. The first step is to see the big picture. Beyond Outrage connects the dots, showing why the increasing share of income and wealth going to the top has hobbled jobs and growth for everyone else, undermining our democracy; caused Americans to become increasingly cynical about public life; and turned many Americans against one another. He also explains why the proposals of the “regressive right” are dead wrong and provides a clear roadmap of what must be done instead. Here’s a plan for action for everyone who cares about the future of America.
Click here for more info or to order this book on Amazon.