AMEND CORNER: Trump supporters should speak out against bigotry

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Well, my side didn’t do so well last week.

I’m a bit surprised, but not totally shocked by the way the election played out. I’m not terribly distressed by it either. I do, after all, live in Wyoming and lean to the left politically, so I’ve been on the losing side in many elections, including a couple that had my name on the ballot. The Constitution guarantees me the right to participate in choosing who will run the country; it doesn’t guarantee that I’ll like the people who win.

So, the outcome of the election hasn’t killed me, or even hurt my feelings, for that matter.

I do, though, have concerns about a couple of things that are happening right now.

I am troubled by the demonstrations happening around the country. The two most visible Democrats — President Obama and former Secretary of State Clinton — have asked their supporters to give President Trump a chance, and Trump and Obama reportedly got along well when they met to plan for a smooth transition. That’s as it should be in our republic. Some anti-Trump voters, though, have chosen to demonstrate their anger and/or disgust at his victory. Demonstrating is, of course, their right, and while I’m not one for marching around carrying a sign and shouting slogans, I have no problem with others doing it.

Unfortunately, some individuals have found it necessary to inject violence into their protest. I don’t like that, and I certainly don’t support it. The election is over, and marching around with signs isn’t going to change it. Adding thrown bottles and whacking people with signs won’t change the fact that we will have a president named Trump come January. Waving a sign is OK, cracking a guy’s skull with it is not.

However, Trump supporters can’t complain very much about the demonstrations. Trump did say that, if he lost, he might not accept the results, which, to me, was a signal that he might lead his followers into violent behavior. Maybe that wasn’t his intent, but I’m not sure what else he might do about not accepting the vote. They might well have heard his words as an invitation to violent action. At the risk of receiving some angry correspondence, I would point out that there are some anti-government types out there who like to talk about using their firearms against the government if they decide the government is misbehaving, and I am pretty sure most of those guys voted for Trump.

We Americans long ago decided to resolve our differences through politics, court rulings and other peaceful means rather than beating up on each other, organizing lynch mobs or fomenting rebellion, and I support that decision.

Which brings me to my other concern. The results of the election appear to have increased the incidence of actions aimed at citizens who are members of minorities. Around the nation, there have been reports of harassment, intimidation and even violence aimed at Hispanics (including those in the country legally), Muslims and other racial and ethnic minorities. Even before the election, teachers around the country were reporting an increase in threats and bullying against minority children.

One such teacher is my daughter, a reading teacher in an elementary school with a very diverse student body. On her Facebook page this week, she wrote, “I’ve had several conversations with students over the last week, all conversations that they initiated. All of them were from marginalized groups that have been talked about in political circles — immigrant, refugee, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Muslim, black girls. There is a genuine fear in them.”

If this is happening in Rochester, Minnesota, a rather sophisticated and prosperous city with a well-educated population that has welcomed refugees in the past, it is no doubt happening across the nation.

It is no secret that the Trump campaign attracted the support of a number of racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. He drew that support with his rhetoric, often aimed not just at Muslim terrorists, but at all Muslims, and not just at illegal Hispanic immigrants, but at all Hispanic immigrants.

That doesn’t mean all Trump supporters are bigots — he received support from some Hispanics, Muslims and African-Americans — but many white supremacists and racists believed he was sympathetic to them, and they may now believe they have license to drive such people out of America. Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon, who’s been accused of being a white supremacist, to an important post in his government may have bolstered that belief.

I know there are defenders of Trump who will argue that he isn’t a bigot or a racist, and some of them will probably contact me. But whether he is or isn’t a racist is not the question. Through his campaign rhetoric and his actions since, he has created the perception that he is — and in doing so, he has created an atmosphere in which white fourth-graders are emboldened to harass and bully their non-white, non-Christian classmates.

That is unacceptable, and the best way to stop it would be for Trump himself to speak out against it. He probably won’t do that, so the next best remedy would be for Trump supporters who are not bigots to speak out against bigotry. In Wyoming, I would suggest that effort should be led by our governor, our United States Senators and our brand new Wyomingite and U.S. representative.

I won’t hold my breath, though.

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