Think About It: Malignant mobs

I have never thought that disorderly mobs were a good idea whether riots, protests or demonstrations of civil disobedience. Organized disorderly mobs are even worse.

I say this knowing that protests were, in part, what brought an end to the Vietnam War. I say this knowing that the inner-city riots of the late sixties were what brought us government funding for programs to integrate black people into our society as educated persons well able to contribute and achieve success.

Protests or demonstrations — the latter being a term we don’t use as much anymore — have been occurring on a near weekly basis since the election of Donald J. Trump as our president.

At first, it seemed like solace complete with candlelight vigils for those who needed solace following the election. Then, they turned to issues such as the travel ban.

Not all were anti-anything Trump does; some, although not as many, were in support of President Trump and/or his policies. The President really likes these. He’s always inspired by great shows of public support and occasionally arranges his own demonstrations through reviving the spirit of the campaign.

I understand that he needs the roar of the crowd, but his demonstrations are too mean-spirited for my taste. What’s the point of criticizing the former President at the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree or encouraging his supporters at his own rallies to cheer the insults he directs toward anyone he thinks has or does disagree with him?

The President isn’t all doom and gloom. He speaks positively at his rallies about what he considers his accomplishments and his promises of more to come. Still, even at his most positive about himself, he insists on contrasting his successes with the failings of others, rather than letting them stand on their own.

As a result, his rallies become rallies of aggrandizement of him and ridicule of others to be enjoyed by all. It’s an environment that thrives on demeaning, humiliating and, in some cases, threatening another person or group. To question or not enjoy, puts one outside the “in” group and subject to the condemnation of what then becomes the unified voice of what could be described as a malignant mob.

An emboldened, malignant mob

At least it would be under my definition of a malignant mob, which is — a gathering of people identified and propelled by an identity built on a contagious and expanding righteous sense of anger and outrage fueled by the joy of group strength in intimidating a situation or others.

That sounds harsh even to me who defined and wrote it.

My brain hurts and my heart is heavy trying to explain even if I can’t understand how people who go to church on Sunday or Saturday and take their children to school on Monday could possibly live through these rallies feeling the joy in someone else’s humiliation and fear.

I, like many I suppose, thought candidate Trump would be rejected for his attitudes of supreme superiority and tactics of division. He wasn’t rejected; he was honored and elected President of our country.

President Trump’s beat and beatings goes on. The recent organized malignant mob protest that occurred in Charlottesville, Va., was a sign of escalating organized uncivil disobedience. The protest was against the rights of people of Jewish faith and black people to live and work side by side with them, self-proclaimed white supremacists and Neo-Nazi groups.

The long snake-like line of torch-carrying individuals was stunning. The line approached a gathering in a black church in which people met to talk about and plan for the next day’s protest by this same group.

Adding to scene was the fact that many, appearing to be mostly men, were shouting slogans of separation and carrying guns which was reminiscent of old film footage of lynch mobs in the first part of the 20th century.

How could that be anything but intimidating? This show of might and determination was said to be an expression of their rights under the First Amendment — freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in an open carry state.

Who can be surprised that tensions were high and others were prepared to fight and defend. One alleged neo-Nazi man was so taken by his beliefs and despair that he climbed into his car and rammed into pedestrians, killing one and injuring others.

In contrast to the snake line, a candlelight vigil was held in which a large group, appearing to be mostly women, silently gathered to honor the young woman whose untimely and unnecessary death was inspired by a man who hated too much.

Republicans must chose

President Trump’s response mystified many, me among them. Given his history of rallying people with calls for “punch him” or “throw the prisoner in the (van or car),” perhaps, we shouldn’t be. He seemed to strongly urge us to ignore the guns, the long line of torches, the demeaning hateful words, the intimidation and asked us to see the whole thing as an unprovoked skirmish as if both sides had agreed to fight it out.

His failure to communicate is being met with welcome resistance by those who know it is far more than Southern culture and heritage at stake, unless you wish certain citizens to take away the rights of other citizens.

Certain CEOs and business leaders were quick to distance themselves from the President and his ignorance. The Democratic opposition party was equally quick to respond but, as usual, demonstrated relative impotence in establishing an effective voice.

Eyes began turning to the President’s party, Republicans who, despite selected censure of Trump’s criticism of their own and certain incidents of outright discrimination, have supported him fully. What will they do, this party that holds power in both houses and the Presidency. Will they continue their silence in the face of hateful rhetoric from the President?

By the time this column is published, we will know. So far, less than a handful of currently elected federal Republican office holders have expressed disapproval. Some say it’s for fear of a “Twitter storm” of tweets intended to disgrace them before their constituents.

Republican reluctance to speak out loud on behalf of American values expressed in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and speeches by most presidents of the 20th and 21st centuries is said to be related to fear of a certain group. They fear the Trump voter who cheers public humiliation at the President’s rallies.

A cold-eyed, heavy-hearted look tells me that Republicans fear malignant mob behavior more than trust in the good sense of the ordinary American voter. Some say this is a battle for the soul of America, and for some, a battle for their own.

Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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