Opinion | Free Speech, Intolerance, and Violence in the Age of Trump

President-elect Donald Trump walks to take his seat for the inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Friday, January 20, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

We first noticed it while Trump was still a presidential candidate. It continued into his presidency and seemed to have culminated with the events of Charlottesville, Virginia. While many may think I am referring to racism, I’m not. I’m referring to what may be a pillar of racism—intolerance. The most recent example may be the arrest of a female schoolteacher during what would have been an otherwise peaceful meeting of the Vermilion Parish, but for the fact that a woman dared to challenge the “white” mostly male establishment. But we’ll get back to this.

Deyshia Hargrave, Vermillion Parish

In Brampton, Ontario a public meeting also took place where a female heckler disrupted the meeting, walking to the front of the room to confront the male speaker, a Sikh. She continued to rant and interrupt the meeting for a little over four minutes as she physically and verbally chastised the speaker. He took control of the situation by speaking of an inclusive Canada where nobody is left behind leading the audience as they chanted, “We welcome you, we support you and we love you.” No violence. No arrest. No handcuffs. No joke. Welcome to Canada.

By way of contrast, let us return to Vermilion Parish where a woman at a school board meeting and is granted an opportunity to speak, during which time she is not unruly or disruptive in the least—not raising her voice or even making threats yet halfway through her questions she is forcibly escorted out by a Deputy Marshal. Seconds later screams emanate from the hallway where the woman is on her knees as the Deputy Marshal attempts, and eventually succeeds in cuffing her and removing her from the building.

The two approaches to conflict resolution are astoundingly different, and not necessarily because  it’s Canada. In the first real-life scenario, the speaker is Jameet Singh, now leader of the NDP, one of the many political parties in Canada.

Jagmeet Singh, Brampton Ontario

The second real-life scenario occurred recently in Louisiana involving Deyshia Hargrave who was arrested evidently for exercising her First Amendment Rights, and peacefully so.

Donald Trump has a history of violence. Not only does he condone it, but also incites it. This would be the ever-increasing notch that holds his 239-pound frame. As the world has witnessed, his is an approach that does not tolerate dissent, no matter the price or the cause. Below are select examples of his public statements made during his campaign rallies.

“If you see someone ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you seriously?” (Feb. 1, 2016)

“I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell ya.” (Feb. 22, 2016)

“Get ’em out of here.” (March 1, 2016)

“Try not to hurt him. If you do, I’ll defend you in court, don’t worry about it.”  (March 4, 2016)

“In the good old days, this doesn’t happen because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, they would not do it again so easily. We’ve become weak, we’ve become weak.” (March 9, 2016)

“Nobody wants to hurt each other anymore, right?” (March 11, 2016)

“Knock the crap out of him” (undated)

“Punch him in the face!” (undated)

Trump has made himself out to be the tough guy president, the old school uncle who never believed in “sparing the rod and spoiling the child.” As Press Secretary Sarah Sanders once boasted: “…the people of this country didn’t elect somebody to be weak. They elected somebody to be strong, and when he gets hit, he’s going to hit back.” Striking out at people because they are different or maintain an opposing worldview is not a sign of strength, although American’s tolerance for difference is. A tolerance that continues to erode.

Trump believes that Mexican are rapists, and has no moral quandaries perpetuating this falsehood, along with a long list of discriminatory and sexist remarks culminating in his latest debacle with his comments about immigrants and “shithole countries.”

Mr. Trump has admitted to speaking of women in the most demeaning and egregious of fashions while attempting to pass off his remarks as locker room talk. He is the first president in 30 years not to visit Canada during his initial year in office, presumably as he would’ve faced an overwhelming amount of dissent the moment he landed. Public opinion and decency are not his allies.

In its totally, Trump’s behaviour sends a message, not a dog whistle but rather a siren to White Supremacists and the very establishment he had once sworn to drain. Trump had campaigned on protecting the average American, and not just the ones with whom he agreed. His message is one of intolerance and animus, where there exists no room for decorum or even common courtesy. Trump’s tweets all appear to send the same message—dissent of any kind, from the press or from his fellow Republicans, will not be tolerated. Trump is the authoritarian dinosaur that has become mired in the very swamp he had promised to drain.

But Mr. Trump is not entirely to blame. Instead we can look at the extensive list of powerful white men who have abused their privilege, starting as early as Roman Polanski (in 1977 convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl, but instead fled to France while many in Hollywood continue to support in spite of his exile) to Kevin Spacey and most recently Dustin Hoffman. Included in the list is the odd celebrity who may not have faced allegations of any sexual nature, but who may have held an opposing view on the matter such as Matt Damon, who has now been publicly chastised for voicing his own opinion. No, the irony is not lost on me nor should it on you.

To be clear, these women have a right to speak out and should be heard, but as a society, we know that whenever the pendulum swings in one direction, it will always swing back. Already there is a growing backlash in American from men who want to swing that pendulum in the direction from which it came. They want to “hit back”. The whispers have started that male employers have decided that the best way to protect themselves is to simply not hire women. It will come as no surprise that most white men of privilege do not want to give up their power, and now look towards Trump to justify their discriminatory actions. Trump gives such men justification for their own intolerance. Vermilion Parish school board president, Anthony Fontana may be such a man.

If Trump cannot understand the Diversity Immigration Visa program as evidenced by his recent misconceptions, then surely he does not have the intelligence, emotional or otherwise, to appreciate that his words matter. Regardless of how the majority of Americans feel, Trump does hold the highest office in America. Right or wrong, President Donald J. Trump wields power, if not by words then by actions. Often both.

Deyshia Hargrave was eventually released without being charged.  I suspect because there were no reasonable charges to be laid, but for her being a strong woman and exercising his First Amendment Rights, neither of which, previous to Donald Trump was considered a crime in the United States.

One of the participants from the meeting was quoted as saying, “I have never seen a man removed from this room.” Of that fact, I am very confident.

 

 

k.g. Sambrano is a Canadian writer known for his works of literary fiction and poetry, and is an occasional freelance political writer.

Jagmeet Singh video of heckler 

Full video of Deyshia Hargrave

Video of Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric history

2 thoughts on “Opinion | Free Speech, Intolerance, and Violence in the Age of Trump

  1. Powerful, engaging, & truthful! It’s an on going struggle here in US to recognize women in any form of equality. It is refreshing to see the Women’s March usher in a strength in this matter. More & more women have been encouraged to run for office & ultimately be elected. Feel it’s the best solution in bringing about the reform necessary to promote the respect & recognition on women. Hopefully it disarms this machismo effect on some of these white male prieveledge offenders. ❤️👊🏽✊🏽Koodos!

    Like

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