The Washington Post's "center right" columnist and blogger Jennifer Rubin isn't one of my favorites, but a piece she did the other day following the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh needs to be lauded for its common sense and call to action.
Although she often has supported conservative causes in the past, Rubin has become increasingly critical of Donald Trump's recklessness in demonizing his opponents and tolerating bigotry.
In a recent column she bluntly accused Trump of being responsible for the synagogue killings.
That tragedy that took the lives of 11 people while they were attending religious services was for her a last straw. She lashed out at those who contend that Trump has no responsibility for the horrific murders. In doing so, she wrote, they "feign or are actually guilty of severe moral and historical cluelessness."
She said that no one she knows thinks Trump is legally responsible for the deaths or that he instructed anyone to commit violent acts.
"Nevertheless, those denying any Trump responsibility surely know that is not the point," she continued.
"If no politician's words, written or spoken, have any effect on anyone, how does one explain hundreds of years of successful propaganda? Politicians, aside from engaging the military or civilian law enforcement, have few tools other than their microphone," she added. "And certainly, those trying to skate by with a cramped definition of 'responsibility' know this.
"We elect presidents in large part because they have the bully pulpit and can rally a country, put an issue front and center, change minds and set the contours for acceptable debate," Rubin continued. "Few would argue that race-baiting leaders in the Jim Crow South had 'no responsibility' for racial violence against African-Americans. When politicians demonize outsiders (or insinuate their own countrymen are really outsiders), remove social inhibitions against expressing bigotry and dehumanize enemies, the hate mongers can hardly be surprised if some faction of the population takes them seriously."
"The last people arguing words don't matter should be self-described conservatives," Rubin wrote. "They've spent decades declaring that politicians' words influence culture, family structure, crime and just about everything else. It's bizarre to argue that they have no influence on the most impressionable and least stable people among us."
Her main point is that the time has come for Americans to stand up and name names before it's too late.
Why, for instance, hasn't Congress stood up to the vile Iowa Rep. Steve King, who spews anti-immigrant venom and appears with Austrian neo-Nazis? Why does House Speaker Paul Ryan fail morally in the face of insane conspiracies and hateful speech, constantly claiming that he "hasn't seen" the tweets reporters are asking about?
Rubin calls on everyone from the mainstream media to Fox News to all-news cable channels to stop falling for Trump's lies about the so-called caravan traveling from Honduras through Mexico. That caravan is not a threat to Americans, let alone an immediate threat that requires the deployment of thousands of troops to keep them from "storming" into America.
The columnist insists that we all have a tendency to talk about "hate" and bigotry" as if "such sentiments were inanimate objects."
They aren't. There is no "it." "It" is real people — people who say, write and do hateful things.
"Let's end the lazy thinking and the moral denseness. Lots of people have behaved in ways that degrade our culture and give oxygen and inspiration to dangerous people," she concluded. "We should call them out — by name — and implore them to do better."
Just this week there was another report that while the synagogue killings and the pipe bombs sent to Trump critics made headlines, dozens of other incidents around the country didn't make national news.
Rubin, like many in America today, doesn't believe that a democracy like ours can survive if its people are so divided that they resort to hopeless incivility, creating enough hatred that some people are driven to violence and even murder.
But, as she implies, if we don't start calling people out, that's exactly the direction we're taking.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. email@example.com, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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