Friday, March 11th, 2016 will be remembered as the day that America's political landscape experienced a tectonic shift.
That was the day that Donald Trump's supporters and anti-Trump protesters collided in Chicago and finally acted on the inevitable: a full-out riot. The rally that the Trump campaign had planned was cancelled, due to "for the safety of all the tens of thousands of people that had gathered in and around the arena," although hardly anyone left the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion that day without some bruise or scar, or worse.
This, of course, is not the first time one of Mr. Trump's rallies took a violent turn; there have been at least a dozen incidents at his rallies, mostly involving women, journalists, and people of color. Those were all stepping stones to the mayhem that came to Chicago, and if it's is any indicator, then the time for peaceful political protest is over.
There are a couple big reasons for making a claim like that; first of all, take a look at how Donald Trump responded to the violence on Twitter:
This tweet indicates that Mr. Trump not only blames Senator Sanders for the violence unfolding at his rallies, he's making a threat towards him and anyone going to his rallies. He isn't exactly threatening violence himself, but his followers are known to escalate tensions even during peaceful protests, and they'll interpret this tweet as an invitation to start trouble.
Next, Mr. Trump isn't exactly quick to condone his supporter's actions. Remember back towards the beginning of his campaign, when two men beat up a homeless Latino man and told officers, "Donald Trump was right; all these illegals need to be deported"? He responded to that very legitimate crime, potentially acted out in his name, by calling the two assailants "passionate". Mr. Trump himself has also threatened violence against protestors with tomatoes. "I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell ya," he said. It's clear that Trump will not stand for any ill word spoken against him, and his followers won't either. It's funny, though; for someone who brags about how tough they are, Mr. Trump seems very thin-skinned when it comes to criticism against him.
That doesn't matter to his fans, though; to them, Donald J. Trump is the next John Wayne, a strong outsider whose soul mission it to take back his country from the invaders and villains that have soiled it. He is the loudest voice embodying their anger and fear of those who wish to harm us and take away our freedom. Those who stand with him will do anything to ensure the safety of their liberty.
This is incredibly dangerous thinking because it simply isn't true.
When a politician like Bernie Sanders or (now, at least) Hillary Clinton talks about a revolution, they're referring to a change in the way our politics works so that it will benefit all the people. Mr. Trump is ushering in a different kind of revolution; one that counts on and plays to the misguided fears of the poorly educated, pointing fingers at groups of people who are not the "average" American. Muslims, Mexicans and other minorities are being blamed for the county's problems because they're different, and that somehow makes them frightening. The majority of his supporters are being tricked and taught to hate other American citizens because of differences in religion, race and occupation.
Comparisons between Mr. Trump and Adolf Hitler are forgivable, especially with endorsements from white supremacist groups and the KKK (both of which he hasn't entirely condoned yet). Even more so when he gets a packed stadium full of his supporters to raise their right hands in a Nazi-esque salute, or when others yell at protestors to "go to f**king Auschwitz." But it isn't entirely right to place all the blame on Mr. Trump; of course he is the one who has endorsed this flaming rhetoric and wears it like a badge, but his flocks of voters are the ones carrying out assaults and spewing hatred across the country. At this point, even if Mr. Trump were to come out against all the violence and attacks, it's unlikely that even he will be able to stop it from continuing.
Donald Trump has answered the Democratic call for a political revolution with his own brigade; a brigade that ignores the lessons in history taught by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi that peace is the shortest path to justice and liberation. Their answer is to fight anyone that doesn't subscribe to their own worldview, and they aren't afraid to look bad doing it. John McGraw, the man who was eventually arrested after he got out of his seat and elbowed a protestor in the face as he was being escorted away, said, "We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American... the next time we see him, we might have to kill him." Mr. Trump responded by hinting that he might pay for the man's legal fees.
McGraw, and many others like him, lead the charge for the newest form of protest: violence and hatred. We should all be ashamed and very worried.