Last month, Mercutio Southall Jr., a black activist, was attacked at a Donald Trump rally by white Trump supporters, who beat him and hurled racist epithets at him. And last night, at another Trump rally, it happened again: After protesters interrupted the event with calls for gun control and displayed a poster reading "NO HATE. YOU'RE FIRED.", security moved in to remove them, while Trump supporters surrounded them. When one of the protesters fell to the floor in the crush of shouting Trump supporters, they closed in on him.
"Light the motherfucker on fire!" one Trump supporter yelled.That will be reported, though not nearly as widely or seriously as it should be. This part of story will not get as much attention, although it is just as chilling:
Physical altercations between protesters, security, and the occasional tough-guy supporter have been a running theme in Trump's combative campaign this year — but Monday night was different. Reporters who regularly cover Trump said they had never seen anything like the fevered, frenzied mood that gripped the ballroom in Las Vegas.
...One after another, protesters were forcibly dragged from the ballroom — limbs flailing, torsos twisting in resistance — while wild-eyed Trump supporters spewed abuse and calls to violence.
"Kick his ass!" yelled one.
"Shoot him!" shouted another.
When a white activist proclaimed "Black lives matter!" as she was being carted out of the building, a male Trump supporter leaned toward her and snapped, "White lives matter."
According to NBC News, someone at the Trump rally even yelled a German Nazi-era salute — "Sieg heil!" — while a protester was being removed from the event.
Trump, meanwhile, gleefully narrated the madness from his podium like a tabloid talk show host presiding over an on-camera brawl between guests — egging on the confrontation, whipping the audience into a frenzy, and basking in his fans' celebratory chants.
"Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!"
"This is what we should have been doing to the other side for the last seven years!" Trump exclaimed during one of the scuffles with protesters.
But while Trump and his hardcore supporters seemed to be enjoying themselves, not everyone was thrilled by the night's unexpected turn toward mayhem. ...Among those most put off by the display, though, were the recreational spectators who had stopped by simply to see Trump's famous performance in person.The best show in town. The fucking privilege to be able to imagine that Trump's campaign is nothing more than a "spectacle" for your consumption—a terrific bit of entertainment to take in with your son, like a revival of Hair, perhaps.
"I just came for the spectacle," said Stephan Reilly, a left-leaning Las Vegas resident whose college-aged son had tagged along for kicks. "This is the best show in town!"
But by the end of the night, neither of them were smiling much.
"I'm very alarmed," Reilly said.
Trump is a white supremacist, misogynist, eliminationist, authoritarian dirtbag, who has made abundantly clear his extremist views and his willingness to endanger marginalized people. Scapegoating vulnerable people is the centerpiece of his campaign to "Make America Great Again."
If you have heard Trump say anything at all, you have heard at least some of this vile rhetoric. It is only by pretending that words have no consequences, that language cannot cause or incite harm, that a person could regard Trump as "the best show in town."
Privilege gives us bad instincts, by design. In every way, privilege erodes our ability to connect to other people, including and especially by subverting our empathy. It is unexamined privilege which has profoundly eroded one's empathy that allows someone to hear Trump say heinous things about Muslims, or immigrants, or women, and find those things to be outrageously hilarious, rather than feeling the chill that runs down the spines of the people at whom Trump's hate speech is directed.
It is unexamined privilege which has profoundly eroded one's empathy that allows someone to imagine that Trump couldn't really mean it, to believe that the people at Trump's rallies who aren't there because they find him "entertaining" aren't seething with the hatred Trump's words represent, to deny that this shit isn't happening in a vacuum but in a culture in which lots and lots of people have violent resentments against the very people Trump is targeting as scapegoats for why America isn't great anymore.
It is privilege that has insulated men who go to Trump rallies because it's "the best show in town" from the reality that this country is full of people who will "alarm" them with their overboiling vitriol, given half a chance.
The Good Americans are coasting through life on privilege so thick that they can actually fucking believe that Donald Trump isn't dangerous.
And presented with the irrefutable evidence that he is, what will they do with their "alarm"? Whatever lingering disquiet they feel will not turn them to action. Instead, they will seek out the next "spectacle" with which to entertain themselves, another show where the popcorn doesn't leave quite so bitter a taste in their mouths.
Trump is harmful. His inflammatory rhetoric is dangerous. His supporters are terrifying. But the Good Americans whose only responses to all of the above is either to laugh or to turn their backs when they can't find it funny anymore are dangerous, too.
Their indifference is dangerous.
They vaguely hope that Trump and his vicious supporters won't cross a line, as if they haven't already, without an understanding or a concern that the lines are drawn by the rest of us, and then they are held by the rest of us.
If all of us who are alarmed won't stand on that line, resolutely and with vocalized contempt, then there is no line.
We are the line.
But the Good Americans aren't interested in lines. They prefer parades.
They prefer the easy luxury of their unexamined privilege. They demand to be entertained.
[Related Reading: Quote of the Day; Trump the Terrible.]