Old Diary

We haven’t come as far as we think

If there is a single chilling lesson to learn from the Trump presidency it’s that U.S. race relations have not progressed as far as people think.  D Trump has dozens of times in rallies and from the rostrum spoken demeaningly of multiples races and backgrounds.  His manipulative words have been received eagerly by certain segments of his audience — publicly.  With no fear of reprisal, or sanction.  His hate-mongering has gone largely unanswered by other Republicans — giving him freedom to continue his spread of racist hate.

In 1908 the Postmaster General of the United States banned the mailing of lynching postcards like the one below.


In this day and age we might think that an overreaction to an isolated instance, but the truth of the matter is that from the 1870’s on there it had become a popular thing to produce postcards as warnings, and as evidence of one’s position on the Negro situation; white supremacists were far more rampant than we’d like to remember — after all, we all ignore the truth for a little peace when it’s comfortable to do so.  But a look at Wikipedia or a trip to the library will fill in the ugly truth that racism has been a standard part of life in the U.S.; we just like to pretend it doesn’t exist when we’re in polite company.

Even the Nazis did not stoop to selling souvenirs of Auschwitz, but lynching scenes became a burgeoning subdepartment of the postcard industry. By 1908, the trade had grown so large, and the practice of sending postcards featuring the victims of mob murderers had become so repugnant, that the U.S. Postmaster General banned the cards from the mails.
Wikipedia (read the entire article for more on this subject)

The thing is, in 2019 we pretend that the darkness of the past no longer exists.  We have our media and our sports and our drugs of choice and the general population is quite content thinking that life is just fine as it is and there’s nothing worthy of getting really upset about.  And that kind of complacency is the fertile soil of facism, racism, and ethnic cleansing.

When I was young and I first came across the Old Testament accounts of God’s instructions to the Israelites about how to vanquish their enemies I was horror struck. The idea that men, women, and children should be slaughtered seemed absolutely barbarian.  And it is.  I won’t try to pretend those passages aren’t in scripture, but as an older person I now see something I never wanted to look at when I was young and a lot more idealistic than I am now.  Hatred is hard to eradicate.

If you look at the examples of ethnic cleansing that we have seen in just the past 50 years (you have libraries, go look it up) it’s easy to see that blood feuds last for centuries.  Person A kills person B, then person c retaliates and kills person D who is avenged by person E, who in turn is avenged by person F.  We have documented blood feuds have continued for centuries in countries, even in cities between rival families.  All arising out of hatred.

As a lifelong pacifist I find violence abhorrent; but I am also able to see that you don’t get rid of hatred by ignoring it.  And if you are going to eradicate it by education you have to be so thorough that any outbreak is harshly punished — which we have never seen on this planet.  We quite happily continue killing other humans for all manner of reasons and while we give lip service to justice, as a society we continue to kill, maim, and murder both legally and illegally.

I wish I could be more optimistic about race relations in this country but I have no idea on what basis that could be done.  All you have to do is look at the response Trump gets in his rallies to realize that the veneer of civilized behavior is very thin indeed, and that those who respond to his goading in public would be only too happy to go much further in private — where they could get away with doing what they feel in their black heart without reprisal.

It’s sad.  It’s not just the U.S..  The Turkish shelling of the Kurds is just another example — one people hating another and thinking nothing about killing them off en masse.

I won’t even make a big deal (even though it IS a big deal) that Trump has signed the death notices for thousands and thousands of people who thought they were our allies.  I can’t even begin to speak about how cowardly and horrible that act is.

We think we live in a civilized world.  But I have to tell you, if you are paying attention to what’s going on, you should be very, very concerned.  The people you live next to are not the people you think they are.  And when hate mongering goes unanswered in public then acts of violence and racism aren’t far behind.


11 thoughts on “We haven’t come as far as we think

  1. Living in Minnesota and hearing the comments the President said last week in Minneapolis about my immigrant neighbors was hard to take in. The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote a follow up article about the event and how that impacted the Somalian community. http://www.startribune.com/somali-minnesotans-wonder-about-their-welcome-after-trump-s-speech/562938382/ I understand from those who participated in the protests that of the 20,000 people in attendance, roughly half are Trump fans who follow him around the country. But that still left 10,000 people cheering Trump on when he denigrated the Somalian population in my state. It is painful to recognize that some of my neighbors are so filled with hate for people who don’t look like them.


    • Shirley, thanks for the comment. Racism has always been a problem in this country. The idea that “we” (as a people) arriving first from England and then elsewhere, had the right to take land from those who originally occupied it has never gone away. This “We are the people” idea is poison. But it flatters the mind and makes people feel better about themselves, so it lingers.

      And I just bet that if you looked hard enough you’d find that there are a LOT more people to whom white supremacy appeals than you would ever guess. I’ve been looking with different eyes since the hate mongering started with his campaign and there are a few institutions that actually encourage through their practices the discrimination against people of color.

      It’s not surprising that the two recent instances of police shooting blacks (specifically)in their own homes have been getting as much press as they have. Nationwide, our policy on law enforcement encourages the wrong people to enforce the laws. And our policy of guns first assures that there will be further attacks. There are ways of disarming a situation without violence but we don’t train our people to use them. And, of course, the prevalence of weapons in the hands of too many make cops frightened of every situation — if they say they aren’t they are lying. No one walks into an unknown situation without trepidation!

      Then again, the police are sworn to uphold every law. Whether the law is just or not. Even that ought to give us a moment’s pause. Without restraint all manner of laws can be passed that would work against all manner of people, and bingo…. a police state isn’t far behind. People are so blasé about the similarities between the U.S. today and Nazi Germany, but we are further along that pathway than we’d like to think.


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