Growing up, my parents and grandparents belonged to a Republican Party where science, knowledge, an effort to treat others decently and with respect, and a level of decorum were the norm. Indeed, it was expected. While not members of country clubs, in retrospect, their economic position made them the equivalent of the so-called "country club" Republicans. One simply did not associate with a certain kid of people: uncouth, uneducated, and hateful people. Now, such people make up the GOP base. My parents and grandparents have all passed away, but they would be horrified to see today's GOP lead by a lying carnival barker fixated on bringing out the worse elements of society and making them mainstream. While the GOP continues to be the party of Christian values, its policies and, now, legitimizing of open hatred of others makes it the antithesis of such values. Nowhere is this ugly reality more visible than at a Trump rally. Whether they like it or not, when my Republican "friends" continue to refuse to flee the GOP, they tell the world that they are part of this ugliness. A column in the New York Times looks at the GOP celebration of hate and reminds us of America's horrific history of racially motivated hatred. Here are excerpts:
The chanting was disturbing and the anger was frightening, but what I noticed most about the president’s rally in Greenville, N.C., on Wednesday night was the pleasure of the crowd.
His voters and supporters were having fun. The “Send her back” chant directed at Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was hateful but also exuberant, an expression of racist contempt and a celebration of shared values.
This dynamic wasn’t unique to the event. It’s been a part of Trump’s rallies since 2015. Both he and his crowds work from a template. He rants and spins hate-filled tirades; they revel in the transgressive atmosphere.
To watch raucous crowds of (mostly) white Americans unite in frenzied hatred of a black woman — to watch them cast her as a cancer on the body politic and a threat to a racialized social order — is to see the worst of our past play out in modern form.
[W]atching the interplay between leader and crowd, my mind immediately went to the mass spectacles of the lynching era. There’s simply no way to understand the energy of the event — its hatred and its pleasures — without looking to our history of communal racial violence and the ways in which Americans have used racial others, whether native-born or new arrivals, as scapegoats for their lost power, low status or nonexistent prosperity. And in that period, one event stands out: an 1893 lynching in Paris, Tex., where Henry Smith, a mentally disabled black teenager, was burned alive.
The 17-year-old Smith, “generally considered a harmless, weak-minded fellow,” according to Ida B. Wells-Barnett in “The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynchings in the United States,” had been accused of the rape and murder of 3-year-old Myrtle Vance, the daughter of the local sheriff. The white community of Paris believed the murder was retaliation for an earlier arrest by the sheriff, and the accusation of rape was added, in Wells-Barnett’s words, “to inflame the public mind so that nothing less than immediate and violent death would satisfy the populace.”
On the day of the lynching, an estimated 10,000 people crowded along Paris’s main street to witness the killing. Smith was bound to a float and paraded across town in a theatrical performance meant to emphasize his guilt. The audience jeered and chanted, cursed and gave the rebel yell. . . . Around noon, Smith was tortured, doused with kerosene and lit ablaze, immolated for the crowd’s enjoyment.
Smith was accused of something greater than a mere crime. He was accused of violating a sacred moral order — of defiling the white home and white society. “In the minds of many white southerners,” the historian Amy Louise Wood writes in “Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890—1940,” “black men came to personify the moral corruption that they believed to be the root cause of social disorder.” Lynching, then, “acted as more than a form of political terror that restored white dominance against the threat of black equality.” It also became a “divinely sanctioned retribution for black ‘sin’ that threatened not only white authority but white purity and virtue.”
Later, in his 1935 book, “Black Reconstruction in America,” Du Bois would expand on this idea, rooting white racism in a collective bargain of sorts. “It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage,” he wrote, outlining the ways in which this “public and psychological” wage strengthened ordinary white Americans’ attachment to a system that ultimately exploited them too:
They were admitted freely with all classes of white people to public functions, public parks, and the best schools. The police were drawn from their ranks, and the courts, dependent upon their votes, treated them with such leniency as to encourage lawlessness. Their vote selected public officials, and while this had small effect upon the economic situation, it had great effect upon their personal treatment and the deference shown them. . . .
When this wage was threatened — by black social mobility and economic success, by black political action, by interracial contact that challenged the boundaries of caste — the response was violence. Not just as punishment but, as the lynching of Henry Smith demonstrates, as a communal defense of the existing social order.
We shouldn’t conflate the past with the present, but we should also be aware of ideas and experiences that persist through time. A political rally centered on the denunciation of a prominent black person demands reference to our history of communal, celebratory racism. It’s critical for placing the event in context, and it can help us understand the dynamic between [Trump]
the presidentand his base.
“He gets us. He’s not a politician, and he’s got a backbone,” a woman who attended a recent “Women for Trump” kickoff event in Pennsylvania told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He’s not afraid to say what he thinks. And what he says is what the rest of us are thinking.”
America is exceptional alright, but not in a good way. Trump is unleashing the worse elements from the past. As for those who attend Trump's rallies, my late southern belle grandmother - who was far ahead of her time on matters of race - would have a term for them: white trash. Is this what my Republican "friends" want to be associated with?