Smoke Before Fire

When he first threw his baseball cap into the presidential race I figured that no one would take the Trumpet seriously and that, like a bad odor, he would eventually fade away. But such is not the case. By now one would think the American people would have become aware that the man is a mere wind-egg who is more concerned about staying in the limelight than winning a presidential race. But, not only is he still around making absurd and hateful claims, his popularity seems to be on the rise. And that’s what worries me.

I am aware that experts claim the Trumpet’s racist comments about Muslims have actually fueled the fires in the Middle East and increased the numbers of people who hate and distrust this country. And I was somewhat aware that he was having the same sort of effect in this country, increasing fear and hatred of those who follow the religion of Islam, no matter what sorts of people they happen to be. What bothers him, and increasing numbers of his countrymen apparently, is not the religion that the Muslims follow (I daresay neither he nor his followers have ever turned a single page the Quran). What bothers the Trumpet and others of his ilk is the skin color of those who may or may not follow the religion of Islam who are, ipso facto, terrorists. The point was driven home to me recently when a friend handed me a copy of an open letter to the Minneapolis Star Tribune written by Deepinder Mayell, an American citizen who was born  in New York, attended Boston University where he played J.V. football, and now lives and works in Minneapolis. Thinking he might at some future date bring his family, the man decided to attend a Vikings game recently where he was confronted by an angry bully who

“pushed aside other people and pointed his finger in my face, demanding to know if I were a refugee. He needed to make sure I wasn’t a refugee, he said. There was anger in his face and vehemence in his accusation.”

Of considerable interest in this awful confrontation is the fact that this confrontation was met with silence. No one stepped forth to confront the man and accuse him of racism or simply to tell him to sit down and shut up. Now, granted this was a football crowd, but if we can make the somewhat safe inference that he is not all that different from others around us, we can surely conclude that this man gained the courage to confront a stranger at a football game because he was confident that those around him agreed with him. Such is the climate of present-day America. Whatever he might have meant by using the word “refugee,” it is clear that he was talking about another human being whose skin color and, presumably, religious affiliation, is different from his own. This is what is deeply disturbing about this incident and about the fear and hatred that one of the major players in this presidential race is now inciting in the population at large, not only in the United States but elsewhere as well.

In any event, Mr. Mayell, who is an attorney and director of the Advocates for Human Rights’ Refugee and Immigrant Program in Minneapolis, sought a security guard and confronted the bigot who had, by his own admission, scared him. He was able to get an apology “uttered in an adolescent way” that indicated the man felt “entitled to hurl hatred.” He was hoping to have the man ejected from the stadium, but that didn’t happen. So he returned to his seat and watched the game with one eye on the bully who had confronted him and frightened that the situation might repeat itself, or worse. He reflected on his experience in his open letter to the newspaper:

“I am deeply troubled by what happened to me. Hate speech is a warning to us all. It is like smoke . . . [which may] become an unstoppable fire, the type of fire that has consumed people around the world and [driven them] to commit horrible crimes.”

Indeed so. We all need to reflect on the words of this man and the fact that we are all, at one time or another, descended from “refugees” many of whom fled their countries out of fear of religious or political persecution. Somehow the smoke needs to be smothered before it becomes the fire that will surely consume us all.

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15 thoughts on “Smoke Before Fire

  1. Thank you, Hugh, for sharing the story about the Vikings crowd. That kind of silence is reminiscent of so many awful incidents of racial violence in our past, where bystanders did nothing while the incident unfolded. Even worse, it happened in Minnesota, where we like to think we’re more enlightened and willing to speak out on civil rights. With Trump, you may have read this story from the New Yorker this summer which showed the level of support he has among American white supremacists. In a sense, his candidacy has further “radicalized” those who were already extreme. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/08/31/the-fearful-and-the-frustrated

  2. Hugh, I am reminded of a “What would you do?” episode, where a cashier (actor) refused service to a non-WASP American (another actor) to see what people would do to intervene. The significant majority did step in, but the most amazing intervention occurred when a former Iraqi veteran stepped in. He admonished the cashier and said he fought for an America that allowed freedom of religion. What the cashier was doing went against every thing he fought for.

    We need more of this veteran’s behavior to stand up against bigotry. We need not out shout anyone, but should say with conviction that such bigotry is not right. I would hope that others would chime in as well.

    Thanks for sharing this story. Keith

    • It takes courage to stand up to a bully. But in an atmosphere where the bully thinks he’s in the company of like minds it becomes even more difficult! Thanks for the comment, BTG.

  3. An overwhelming majority of Trump supporters are uneducated, disenfranchised lower class whites, who are wildly flailing about to find someone to blame for their lot in life.

    Trump is feeding on the very worst of ourselves, our fears, anxieties and desperation. But the important point is that like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, they have to be continuously more outrageous today than yesterday. And we’ve seen where 20 years of limbaugh’s behavior has landed him, at the bottom of every market including New York, his fist city.

    Trump lives for the stage lights and the adulation. We’re just witnessing the final flailings for the Political Apprentice.

  4. Note: The following article seems relevant:
    In the days since Donald Trump proposed banning Muslims from the US in a December 7 speech, there has been a wave of anti-Muslim attacks across the US, with some being prosecuted under hate crime laws. Because all of these incidents took place just in the past week, none of the alleged perpetrators mentioned here have been convicted. And while not all of the victims mentioned are Muslims, they were undoubtedly targeted due to the perpetrator’s false perception that the victim was Muslim.

    2015 has been the deadliest year on record for American Muslims, with 63 recorded attacks on mosques. The previous high was 2010, with 53 attacks targeting Islamic worship centers. 17 of those attacks took place in November. That’s also three times as many Mosque attacks when compared to last year. In 2014, Muslims were the target of 154 hate crimes. The number for 2015 hasn’t yet been tallied, although this year’s hate crime number is expected to surpass the 2014 total.

    The man is really dangerous, not just a fool.

  5. oh hugh, i loved your opening lines and was so happy to be online to appreciate the words! then i read more, and my oh my, what a story, that brought tears to my eyes. my heart almost explodes as i fight with emotions at what poor ambassadors for our country that some people make….

    i will read this again when back on the property and offline. thanks for this.

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