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When They See the Melee, Do They Hear the Message?

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 15/03/2016 Tavis Smiley
TRUMP © Bloomberg via Getty Images TRUMP

As I've watched the decay of our civilization and the devolution of our culture displayed at these Trump for president campaign rallies, I have pondered the words of Booker T. Washington, "Let no man pull you so low as to make you hate him."

Donald J. Trump is pulling a whole lot of folk into his cesspit of hate, and he must be held accountable -- not tomorrow when it's too late, but today, before somebody gets killed.

When he pulls you that low, you get drowned in depersonalization and disregard. Your humanity is hidden, and your message is muffled.

He's now pulled us so low that violence has become the storyline.

Love wins, but hate makes the headlines. Why does America seem to have a love affair with hate?

Let's just tell the truth, you can hawk hate, and Donald Trump is one of the best pitchmen in the nation. He can sell it. But he needs distribution.

The mainstream media has had an almost co-dependent relationship with Donald Trump. It's been practically quid pro quo. I've never seen a candidate spend so little and get so much in return. The data is clear. The network evening newscasts, for example, are still wildly overplaying Trump. This story of campaign rally violence is emotionally suffocating, but it's also ratings intoxicating. The media, to my mind, has been complicit in creating this "racial arsonist" who continues to taunt his opponents, and encourage his supporters to verbally and physically harm protesters.

But despite the campaign violence, Donald Trump doubles down, starts calling the protesters "thugs" and gets away with it. We will see if all this helps or hurts Trump this week on so-called "Super Tuesday 2." But his rhetoric is not just divisive and demeaning, it's antithetical to everything America needs in a president right now --- civility, honesty, integrity and a little humility.

But enough about Trump and the corporate media. Let's get back to the rest of us.

What does it say about us that we so easily allow him to pull us into this cesspool of incivility? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that, "Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; and toughness begets a greater toughness." This is not to say that Trump doesn't need to be challenged and called out, but how we go about doing that is another matter altogether.

I have never been a fan of disrupting anyone's presentation, of infringing on their free speech rights. I didn't like it when they threw shoes at President Bush, and I didn't like it when they interrupted President Obama during his State of the Union address - especially since that indignity was courtesy of a sitting member of Congress. And I don't like it when it happens to Secretary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.

Let me be clear, I abhor most of what comes out of Donald Trump's mouth; too many times he's crossed the thin line between off the cuff and off the wall remarks. And, yet, I would defend with rare exception his right to express himself. I don't recall Dr. King ever interrupting a speech by Bull Conner.

What I do recall King saying is that "our aim must never be to humiliate the white man," but rather to "act in the struggle in such a way that they will see the error of their approach and will come to respect us."

Now, let me be the first to acknowledge that in this presidential campaign, Donald Trump has shown almost no respect for anyone - women, Muslims, immigrants, the president, the Pope, opponents, protesters (I'm running out of space here, but you get the point).
That said, I just don't want fellow citizens to focus on the melee and miss the message. The message that civilization and hate are antithetical concepts. The message that democracy and oligarchy cannot coexist. The message that we have always been and always will be a nation of immigrants. The message that religious freedom in America is non-negotiable. The message that every child in this country has the right to be safe from violence, food secure, well educated, with a chance to flower and flourish perfecting their individual talent.

That's what I think the protesters were trying to say last week. I'm just not sure we heard it over all the fracas and fisticuffs.

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