‘Agi­tate, agi­tate, agi­tate’

We must push back against a ‘Trump na­tion’

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - E.R. Shipp E.R. Shipp, a Pulitzer Prize win­ner for com­men­tary, is the jour­nal­ist in res­i­dence at Mor­gan State Univer­sity’s School of Global Jour­nal­ism and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Her col­umn runs ev­ery other Wednesday. Email: er.shipp@aol.com.

Since it be­came more or less of­fi­cial that Don­ald Trumpis the pres­i­den­t­elect, I have heard one per­son af­ter an­other, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, call for “unity,” and I have ob­served oth­er­wise cau­tiously skep­ti­cal folks like House Speaker Paul Ryan fall into line as the worst sort of syco­phants.

But I am with the peo­ple protest­ing from coast to coast. There can be no “unity” un­til we re­ally knowwhataPres­i­dent Trump stands for. There is no way that pa­tri­ots who pledge “lib­erty and jus­tice for all” can si­mul­ta­ne­ously pledge fealty to an agenda that ac­tu­al­izes the racist, xeno­pho­bic, misog­y­nist, ho­mo­pho­bic and anti-in­tel­lec­tual rhetoric that pro­pelled Can­di­date Trump this far. His early moves dis­may. Over the week­end Mr. Trump named Stephen Ban­non chief White House strate­gist — de­spite all that is known of Mr. Ban­non’s white na­tion­al­ist lean­ings and his voice-of-a-move­ment sta­tus as in­cu­ba­tor and dis­sem­i­na­tor of “alt-right” views through Bre­it­bart News, an op­er­a­tion he di­rected be­fore be­com­ing Mr. Trump’s cam­paign strate­gist in its fi­nal months. Do-noth­ing Repub­li­can law­mak­ers nowadd “know noth­ing” to their at­tributes as they claim ig­no­rance about Mr. Ban­non and his public record. TheAnti-Defama­tion League, for one, de­scribes the alt-right as “a loose-knit group of white na­tion­al­ists and un­abashed anti-Semites and racists.” Think about it: Mr. Ban­non is one of Mr. Trump’s first ex­ec­u­tive choices.

Mr. Trump’s trig­ger-happy pen­chant to tweet be­fore he thinks and to glide be­tween his yin and his yang was on view in re­sponse to “Not My Pres­i­dent!” ral­lies spring­ing up across the coun­try. At 9:19 p.m.: “Just had a very open and suc­cess­ful pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Now pro­fes­sional pro­test­ers, in­cited by the me­dia, are protest­ing. Very un­fair!” Just hours later, at 6:14 a.m. last Friday, the Dark Knight of Trump Tower gave way to the Don­ald Trump, left, and his chief strate­gist, alt-right leader Steve Ban­non, right, tour a Civil War site. fu­ture res­i­dent of 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue, tweet­ing: “Love the fact that the small groups of pro­test­ers last night have pas­sion for our great coun­try. We will all come to­gether and be proud!”

Pres­i­dent Obama, who has pledged a smooth tran­si­tion, re­mains trou­bled by the loom­ing Trump pres­i­dency. Fol­low­ing a gra­cious meet­ing at the White House — ap­par­ently the first time the two men had ac­tu­ally met — the pres­i­dent’s press sec­re­tary, Josh Earnest, made that clear. “The pres­i­dent’s views haven’t changed,” Mr. Earnest told jour­nal­ists. “He stands by what he said on the cam­paign trail.”

This is what Pres­i­dent Obama had said just the day be­fore the elec­tion while stump­ing for Hil­lary Clin­ton: Mr. Trump is “tem­per­a­men­tally un­fit to be com­man­der in chief.” He is “un­qual­i­fied to be Amer­ica’s chief ex­ec­u­tive.” Af­ter not­ing that aides had taken away Mr. Trump’s Twit­ter ac­count, Mr. Obama added: “Now, if your clos­est ad­vis­ers don’t trust you to tweet, then how can we trust him with the nu­clear codes?”

In an in­ter­view with Les­ley Stahl on “60 Min­utes” this week, Mr. Trump in­sisted that he was shocked and sad­dened to learn from her that his sup­port­ers are step­ping up hate speech and even phys­i­cal at­tacks against peo­ple they see as “other.” Quite un­con­vinc­ingly, he said: “I hate to hear that, I mean I hate to hear that.” Turn­ing to the cam­era he said to those sup­port­ers, “Stop it.” But they won’t stop un­til he stops send­ing sig­nals — through those with whom he sur­rounds him­self, those whose ad­vice and coun­sel he val­ues — that hate is so OK that the Ku Klux Klan and other bot­tom-feed­ing white na­tion­al­ists are brazenly tout­ing their new­found main­stream sta­tus as mem­bers of “Trump na­tion.”

The nomen­cla­ture of “Trump na­tion” is rear­ing its ugly head across the coun­try in hun­dreds of acts of hate speech and van­dal­ism, in­clud­ing in Mary­land where “whites only” and swastikas and the N-word have cropped up on walls of schools and a church and on an in­ter­state ramp. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian Frosh has de­nounced what he as­sesses as “a prob­lem all over the place” and vowed to work with law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to pun­ish the of­fend­ers.

Some say this is pol­i­tics: You win some, you lose some and you move on. I take is­sue. This post-elec­tion feel­ing that is an odd mix­ture of grief, anger and aban­don­ment stems from some­thing more pro­found than los­ing a com­pe­ti­tion.

Some say that this is in God’s hands. I say that as we “wan­der in the wilder­ness of un­cer­tainty” — as my pas­tor in New York, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts, de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion Sun­day — we still have a part to play in shap­ing the fu­ture.

Rather than ap­pease­ment, we must for now fol­low the ad­vice of Fred­er­ick Dou­glass: agi­tate, agi­tate, agi­tate.


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