Toxic brews of hatred

Nicholas Kristof points out the undeniable: Trump is moving the national culture – or mood or discourse or limit on what’s acceptable. There are a lot of things you can call it, but whatever it is, Trump is having an effect on it, and not in a good way.

This community of Forest Grove, near the farm where I grew up in western Oregon, has historically been a charming, friendly and welcoming community. But in the middle of a physics class at the high school one day this spring, a group of white students suddenly began jeering at their Latino classmates and chanting: “Build a wall! Build a wall!”

The same white students had earlier chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Soon afterward, a student hung a homemade banner in the school reading, “Build a Wall,” prompting Latinos at area schools to stage a walkout.

That’s a story, not a study. We don’t really know what Forest Grove was like before this spring, we don’t know how those students were talking and behaving before that day in physics class, we don’t really know that all was Eden until Trump burst on the scene. But the Trump-wall theme does belong to Trump.

Trump only mildly distanced himself when an adviser suggested that Clinton should be executed by firing squad for treason, and his rallies have become toxic brews of hatred with shouts like “Hang the bitch!” The Times made a video of Trump fans at his rallies directing crude slurs not just at Hillary Clinton, but also at blacks, Latinos, Muslims and gay people.

We need not be apocalyptic about it. This is not Kristallnacht. But Trump’s harsh rhetoric tears away the veneer of civility and betrays our national motto of “e pluribus unum.” He has unleashed a beast and fed its hunger, and long after this campaign is over we will be struggling to corral it again.

Kristallnacht isn’t the right comparison, because that was November 1938, when Hitler had been in power for more than five years. The right comparison would be to something before 1933. Of course it’s not Kristallnacht, but it damn well is an openly racist and misogynist campaign, and we should be “apocalyptic” about it.

Here in the Forest Grove area, west of Portland, students of Mexican heritage at four high schools — most of them born in the United States — described to me how some local whites take cues from Trump.

“They say, ‘We’re going to deport your ass,’” said Melina McGlothen, 17, whose mother is Mexican. “I don’t want to say I hate them, but I hate their stupidity.”

Ana Sally Gonzalez, 17, said a school club had put up posters criticizing racism, and they were then marred by graffiti such as “Go back where you came from” and “Trump 2016.”

Trump is like the Twitter misogynists in that way. He models venomous racism and misogyny, and millions of others follow his lead. His poison is going to stay around long after the election, whether he loses or not.

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