Ever since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States on November 8, 2016, my wife has been asking me if it’s time to leave the county. My answer has always been the same. “No sweetheart,” I’d say, “This is not the time to leave. This is the time to fight for what’s right. This is the time to stand up for and protect those who won’t have it as easy as us-African-Americans, legal and undocumented immigrants, Muslims, the LGBTQ community.”
I gave the same exact response every time my wife asked. Until today.
Today my wife challenged me once again with the question she has floated so many times before, and I thought deeply for a moment before responding, “You know what, honey? I believe it’s time we started coming up with an exit plan.”
What’s changed, you ask? Well, all sorts of things since Trump was sworn in as president on January 20th of this year, none of them good.
For one thing, the population of this country has become increasingly divided, to the point where the idea of a second civil war isn’t entirely out of the question. Read the comments on any post from Breitbart News, the new conservative heir to Fox News, and you will find wildly seething anger and resentment. The Trump supporters there genuinely despise liberals and everything they stand for. The vicious, hateful comments are filled with increasing calls to violence and constant reminders that the right-wingers possess the majority of the guns and the willingness to use them. Conversely, the responses to articles from any of the left-leaning news sites are filled with snark and sarcasm about the intelligence (of lack thereof) displayed by those from the other end of the political spectrum.
Increasingly, we live in two totally different countries, with two completely different accepted realities.
The other thing is the increasing demonization of the press and the abandonment of what were previously cherished democratic norms. Our president is fond of labeling both print and television news media “fake news” and has famously referred to them as “the enemies of America”. Other talking heads have taken up that chant, to the point that it is widely believed by those on the right that previously revered sources such as CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post are lying to us and are not to be trusted. In fact, this thinking goes, the only sources that are to be believed are President Trump himself and those that unquestioningly parrot his talking points.
The turning point, I believe, came this week with what might very well turn out to be one of the pivotal moments in American history. On the eve of the special election to fill Montana’s open congressional seat, Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the British newspaper, the Gaurdian, had the audacity to ask Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, his feelings on the new health care bill, designed to replace Obamacare, that had just passed in the House of Representatives and was now being considered in the Senate. Gianforte’s unbelievable response was to charge Jacobs, smashing him to the ground and breaking his glasses. As awful as this was, the worst part was the aftermath that followed. Commentators on the right bent over backwards to excuse Gianforte’s behavior, claiming that the reporter somehow deserved to be assaulted for doing his job or that Jacobs was less than manly because he refrained from assaulting Gianforte in return. Rarely was there an acknowledgment that the candidate had committed a crime and in so doing had badly crossed a line that has protected press in this country for generations. Then, thousands of dollars in online contributions began to pour into the Gianforte campaign. It became obvious that many viewed his criminal aggression as a positive rather than a drawback. The following day, Gianforte won the election against his Democratic opponent, sending the message loud and clear that once unthinkable behavior was now to be rewarded. The very next day, while signing a gun bill, the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, joked about starting to have reporters shot. Let me say that again so it sinks in. Two days after a reporter was beaten up without consequences, the Governor of Texas made light of the idea of having them murdered.
I feel that this could be only the beginning. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but as I said earlier, I am worried that this is a moment in our history that we will look back on with increasing horror and regret.
We may be turning the corner towards on uglier, less forgiving country, where the idea of violence towards upstanding members of our society who are merely going about their day to day jobs is no longer unthinkable. We’ve witnessed these same small, irrevocable steps towards totalitarianism in other many other countries and I’m afraid to say, I think we’re watching it here.
I am a decent, patriotic American who has always loved his country. There are millions more like me who want nothing more than to see the best for these United States. I hate to say it, but I believe all of us who care about the rule of law; who care about freedom and compassion for our fellow woman and man, need to start preparing our escape.