The fire next time

I have apologize to James Baldwin for using the title of his famous book for a mere blog post but when I look around me at what is happening in the US right now, that title keeps coming to my mind because it so accurately captures the deep sense of foreboding I feel at the way things are going. We are entering a very dark period indeed.

The circle of people who are being demonized by prominent politicians and other public figures keeps growing. Facts do not seem to matter anymore. Black people are portrayed as leeches who live off the labor of god-fearing white taxpayers and in return just cause trouble and crime. Mexicans and other Hispanic groups are lumped together with undocumented immigrants and presented as a major demographic threat to the country by threatening the dominance of white culture even though the net flow of Mexicans into the US is either zero or even negative. All Muslims are treated as if they were potential terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. Refugees are suspected of being ISIS infiltrators who seek to create terrorist sleeper cells. Planned Parenthood is portrayed as a sinister baby-killing industry that callously traffics in organs for profit. Donald Trump’s rhetoric that the Chinese are cheating the US in trade deals and are a prime cause of its decline will undoubtedly be picked up by the other candidates in the race to the bottom and Asians will be added to the list of groups to be hated. And for the neo-Nazis who now feel so emboldened and their ideology even validated by prominent people, Jews have always been favorite targets.

The people who indulge in this reckless rhetoric, and that includes pretty much the entire Republican party presidential candidates and other leaders, seem to be not recognizing that they are playing with fire or just don’t care as long as it brings them some short term again. Maybe because I experienced first hand in Sri Lanka what happens when wild rhetoric is used loosely to inflame passions against identifiable groups of people, I am more sensitive to the potential danger. What I see now in the US is analogous to people spreading gasoline all over the place. All it will take is for one careless match to set off a roaring flame. In Sri Lanka, it required large mobs to do damage since people did not have access to guns, but in the US, those matches are readily available in the form of guns that can be obtained easily and in large numbers.

As a result, in the US, a single heavily-armed person can do serious damage. When people are fired up to see enemies everywhere and that the nation is being threatened from all around, all it takes is for someone to take this paranoid fearmongering seriously and to envisage themselves as some kind of hero and decide to take action to protect what they see as their nation and their way of life from usurpers. And we see that happening right now as these vigilantes attack black demonstrators, bomb mosques and black churches, attack Planned Parenthood clinics, and generally intimidate people who have been demonized.

Unfortunately, we are now in the stage of the election season where it less important to appeal to a large mass of people. It is more beneficial to get the enthusiastic support of a small slice of the population and those conditions are just right for divisive, inflammatory rhetoric.

I don’t see things getting better any time soon which is why we must take Baldwin’s warning, although it was written fifty years ago, seriously.


  1. raven says

    I saw the hate of fundie xians a decade and a half ago. That is why I’m an ex-xian. Fundie xianity is based on pure hate.
    No Hate = No Fundie Xianity.

    The hates of fundies are legion. Women, gays, scientists, nonwhites, nonxians, children, Democrats, education, science, the Enlightenment, other xians, the poor, the “moochers”, etc.. When they get bored with all that, they hate each other and then they hate themselves.

    I fall into many of those categories and I know how what they want to do to me. Kill me. as they say so themselves and often.

  2. raven says

    We know the name of the Colorado Springs PP killer but the authorities claim they don’t yet know the motive. Which is stretching the truth a bit.

    It’s quite clear the fundie xians, the GOP, and the GOP presidential candidates have all created a miasma of fear and hate directed towards Planned Parenthood. I’m sure Mr. Dear didn’t randomly pick Planned Parenthood to attack.

    I’ve seen how the xian terrorists work. They usually pick someone marginal and wind him up. Point him in the right direction and hope he kills a few people. Paul Hill, Eric Rudolph, Scott Roeder and the rest weren’t insane but they were pretty weird and living on the margins of our society. It’s all very…xian.

  3. raven says

    This is BTW, the fifth attack on Planned Parenthood facilities in the last few months. There were arson attacks in Pullman, Washington, California, Illinois, and Louisiana.

    Now one in Colorado Springs. The War on Xmas is a myth. But the fundie xians are having a War at Xmas time and Planned Parenthood is the target. “All I want for Xmas is a dead MD and a torched family planning clinic.”

  4. mnb0 says

    @1: “I know how what they want to do to me.”
    As those hate monging christians (mostly, but not only Americans) also try to do the same in Suriname, a nice multireligious and multicultural country that already has enough problems of its own I prefer to know as well.

  5. StevoR says

    It metaphorically seems darkest before the dawn and I think and hope this is the Extinction scream of the Teapartier Plutonian, no make that Sednan far rightwing , their last desperate extreme throw of the dice.

    I’m still pretty sure Hillary Clinton will be POTUS probably in a landslide and the direction of US politics will shift quickly leftwards .. but I could be mistaken and really hope I’m not. Because if so . FFFFFFFuuuuuuuu

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