We Are Not Enemies

Here we are once again … the closer we get to November’s mid-term election, the greater the threats of violence across the nation.  When violence is incited, directly or indirectly, by people who have a larger-than-life voice, it is particularly harmful, as Dan Rather points out in his latest newsletter …

The Threat of Violence

“The rhetoric is the candidate”

By Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

4 October 2022

As many of you probably know, Donald Trump recently issued a threat of violence against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with a racist attack on his wife, Elaine Chao, who served in Trump’s Cabinet. Of McConnell, Trump said, “He has a DEATH WISH” (emphasis Trump’s), and he referred to Chao as “Coco Chow.” 

If you had expected Republican politicians to rally in disgust around some version of “this finally crosses a line,” you would be disappointed. But I imagine few of you expected anything of the sort. 

The spinelessness of Republican officials should not excuse the fact that Trump is once again wading into very dangerous waters, especially when you consider the fervor (and the arsenals) of many of his supporters. Although “wading” is not the most accurate verb for his behavior. Trump is not a mere passerby, and he is never tentative. He is an expert at roiling, stoking, and destroying the equilibriums of our democracy with his incendiary rhetoric. 

This latest episode had me thinking back a few years to another moment that eerily forbode the present. This was well before the violent insurrection of January 6, before Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” even before “very fine people on both sides.”

The date was August 9, 2016, and Trump was leading a campaign rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. He had the crowd in a frenzy with his usual attack lines against Hillary Clinton. And then he went somewhere so outrageous that it sent out shockwaves — which is notable considering that by this point, much of his daily bile had already been normalized. 

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” he said. The crowd booed. Trump, sensing a moment, then added, “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

The insinuation was clear, and it is worth remembering what it exposed at that moment, before Trump ascended to the presidency and everything else that followed. So I thought it might be of interest to reshare what I posted on Facebook in the hours after that statement. Sometimes it is important to look back and remember what was said at the time. 

No journalist trying to be objective and fair, no citizen who cares about the country and its future can ignore what Donald Trump said today. When he suggested that “The Second Amendment people” can stop Hillary Clinton, he crossed a line with dangerous potential. By any objective analysis, this is a new low and unprecedented in the history of American presidential politics. This is no longer about policy, civility, decency, or even temperament. This is a direct threat of violence against a political rival. It is not just against the norms of American politics, but it raises a serious question of whether it is against the law. If any other citizen had said this about a presidential candidate, would the Secret Service be investigating?

Candidate Trump will undoubtedly issue an explanation; some of his surrogates are already engaged in trying to gloss over it, but once the words are out there, they cannot be taken back. That is what inciting violence means.  

To anyone who still pretends this is a normal election of Republican against Democrat, history is watching. And I suspect its verdict will be harsh. Many have tried to do a side-shuffle and issue statements saying they strongly disagree with his rhetoric but still support the candidate. That is becoming woefully insufficient. The rhetoric is the candidate.

This cannot be treated as just another outrageous moment in the campaign. We will see whether major newscasts explain how grave and unprecedented this is and whether the headlines in tomorrow’s newspapers do it justice. We will soon know whether anyone who has publicly supported Trump explains how they can continue to do so.

We are a democratic republic governed by the rule of law. We are an honest, fair, and decent people. In trying to come to terms with today’s discouraging development, the best I can do is to summon our greatest political poet, Abraham Lincoln, for perspective:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Lincoln used these stirring words to end his First Inaugural Address. It was the eve of the Civil War, and sadly his call for sanity, cohesion, and peace was met with horrific violence that almost left our precious Union asunder. We cannot, must not let that happen again.

What the Trump presidency would become was apparent long before the election. All the instances like the one above that should have immediately disqualified him from that office were ultimately folded into permissiveness by far too many people. We should strive to always remember and never become inured to this. 

Before Trump, it was unfathomable that a presidential candidate would speak and act with even a fraction of his recklessness and divisive appeal to anger and violence. But now, sadly, we are long past having the ability to imagine this atrociousness. We can see the corrosive effects he and his enablers have wrought on this country.

Threats of violence must be condemned, in no small part because threats can become real. Just look at January 6.

20 thoughts on “We Are Not Enemies

  1. Jill, there are now a large number of people who have been sentenced or have gone to jail because they listened to Donald J. Trump. There are attorneys whose licenses have been suspended or have had to pay court costs for frivolous lawsuits because they listened to Donald J. Trump. There are people who did not get vaccines for the pandemic because they listened to Donald J. Trump (some did for other reasons) and sadly some have died.

    If you recall the movie “The Caine Mutiny,” a drunken Jose Ferrer’s character flung his worst criticism at the character played by Fred McMurray. McMurray’s character acted in weasel-like fashion to instigate a mutiny and then backed away from being accountable when it actually happened. Donald J. Trump would be the one who has played and is playing the Fred McMurray role card in all of this.

    Violence must be condemned. We must call silent Republican leaders and insist they grow a backbone and say something. This past weekend, Donald J. Trump knowingly painted a target on Mitch McConnell and slurred McConnell’s wife who is Asian-American.

    We need these folks to channel their inner Michael Douglas in the movie “The American President” when an opponent lied and slurred his girlfriend. Douglas said to his opponent to stick with me as my girlfriend is way out of your league for criticizing. Trump’s fans talk about how strong and brave and leader-like he is – I just don’t see it. I see Fred McMurray in “The Caine Mutiny.’

    I have long said they happiest people in America are the folks who turned down invitations to work for Donald J. Trump. The second happiest are their spouses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said, my friend, and those are two excellent movie analogies! Yes, Trump is a coward who carries a shield at all times … a shield to hide behind when what he throws comes back toward him. And that is why I think it’s so very important that he be held accountable for his crimes against the people of this nation, for somebody needs to take his shield away and then let’s see just how “strong” and “tough” he is. Otherwise, the nation remains at risk as long as he can throw it out, but then hold up his shield to protect himself. How much longer will this be tolerated? As I said in a post a few weeks ago, violence is NEVER the answer, and yet Trump and his fans seem to favour it over civil discourse. I have to wonder why.


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  3. The biggest problem here, I think, is the fact all these threats are not definable as actual threats, legally speaking. Though we know they are threats, and Trump’s MAGAts know they are threats, I don’t believe the law can say definitively they are threats. And that is a huge problem.
    Trump is playing with words. Even if some NRA MAGAt nut were to gun down Moscow Mitch on 5th Ave NYC I doubt any court would find Trump liable, even if the assassin were to state unequivocally in court he believed Trump told him to do this, unless it was a direct verbal communication between the two of them — with willing witnesses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • To some extent, you are right. No, Trump did not precisely call for gun totin’ fools to take out Hillary Clinton, or for the Proud Boys to kill McConnell, but … in another sense, it IS incitement. I look at it this way … if I said the same thing to a few thousand people, what would happen to me? Uh huh … I’d be seeing the world through jail bars at least for a while. Teflon Don is a danger to every sane person in this nation and frankly, I would welcome somebody taking him off the face of the planet! (Let’s see if that brings the men in dark glasses to my door in the morning). I’m tired, frustrated, and sick of one sorry-assed person with no human values calling the shots.

      Liked by 1 person

    • He will attack any who do not like his boots and swear fealty. Values? Hah … he has none. Loyalty? Hah … it’s a one-way street with him. Henry VIII eh … perhaps that explains why Melania never speaks out against him!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. While I agree with Dan Rather and the many others that have pointed out Trump’s threats of violence against people, what infuriates me is that NO ONE is doing anything about it. Are we to accept that this all “free speech”???

    Or is this man’s power really so great in the “underworld” that anyone who crosses him better go into hiding?

    Liked by 3 people

    • You make an excellent point, Nan. He incites and invites violence at every turn, and yet nobody stops him. Why? Because the Department of Justice and the Courts are walking on eggshells trying not to rile the masses. It isn’t him, per se, that they fear, but his swath of gun-totin’ followers who honestly believe that he was sent by their god to lead them and will defend him, even if it means bringing the nation to the brink of all out domestic war. He, in and of himself, can do nothing, but he seems to have amassed a large following of nudniks who don’t mind killing for their idol. Sigh.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I understand this perspective. However, by allowing him to continue his anger-arousing statements, is that not reinforcing the nudniks desire to rise up and defend what THEY believe is “the truth”? Certainly I’m not promoting a domestic/civil war, but I find it difficult to believe that there isn’t something that can be done. IMO, if the cat were let out of the bag, I bet the government has several “powers” at its disposal that could quell any uprising before it had a chance to spread.

        I dunno, Jill. I think we’re sitting on a powder keg and it needs to be emptied … one way or another.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Oh yes, dear friend … we are most certainly sitting on a powder keg and I don’t think it will be emptied in time to prevent some massive responses to November 8th.

          Sure, there are options that could be exercised, but … that would turn us into a Nicaragua or Philippines. Not only that, but you and I both know Biden would be blamed and likely impeached if one of those ‘powers’ were to be exercised.


          Liked by 1 person

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