You are playing a very dangerous game.
On November 12, a U-M crime alert was sent out that described the harassment of a hijab-wearing woman the day before by an unknown man on State Street in downtown Ann Arbor. The young woman told police that the man had threatened to light her on fire unless she removed her hijab. This, as well as other, less extreme examples of so-called bias—e.g., when a group of children chanted “Build the wall!” at lunchtime in a middle school in Royal Oak—have supposedly been legitimized both by Trump’s campaign and his subsequent electoral success.
Based on the media’s favorable coverage of these events, it is clear that an integral part of the strategy of the anti-Trump Left will be to relentlessly spotlight each and every one of these awful-when-true incidents to make an inductive, cumulative case that Trump’s presidency is de facto illegitimate and thus ineligible for renewal in 2020, because it will have coarsened America, making her more intolerant toward minorities. Emotionally and psychologically, this is likely to be persuasive; conservatives have, with great success, employed a similar tactic over the last eight years, highlighting numerous instances of liberal intolerance in academia.
Meanwhile, universities across the country have, with overheated rhetoric, unjustly tarred their no doubt closeted Trump-supporting students as being somehow beyond the pale. And hysterical vigils have been held to mourn America’s supposed death, along with massive, violent, days-long protests—notably those raging in Portland.
The purpose here is not to neutralize the Left’s long-term anti-Trump strategy by introducing various other putatively countervailing instances of ugliness directed at Trump supporters, as though two wrongs somehow make a right. Instead, the point is larger, more critical, and applies to all people, across all times and places, so long as they live within a stable and free society, or are striving to create one: Political violence—expressed aggression which is either motivated by politics or done for political ends—is always unacceptable.
These displays of nastiness, intimidation, and outright violence—from both the pro- and anti-Trump camps—are deplorable and rightly condemned, and I do condemn them—first and foremost because they are examples of politically-motivated violence, a grave threat to free societies.
A necessary, though not sufficient, component of such societies is that they do not tolerate politically-motivated violence. Which is why this 45-second video of a man’s being beaten on the road is so disturbing: because it showcases an act of physical violence perpetrated upon an individual for no other reason than because he voted “incorrectly,” at least according to the appalling behavior of his assailants and the taunts of some of the onlookers.
This is wrong. Societies that permit political violence—whether it is dispensed by the State or by private citizens—have taken a first, dangerous step away from freedom and toward despotism (of whatever sort). The genius of the American project is that the 300 million-plus of us, even though we disagree intensely about politics, will default to working together to identify and solve our society’s problems with words, not fists. But this practice of privileging reasoned, civil argument over barbaric violence is by no means the default for human civilization, and, if it is to be sustained, requires us all to commit to the hard work of understanding our neighbor, a habit which seems to have eluded our nation for quite some time.
Therefore, if we do not all join together and in one voice condemn such heinous acts, then we should not be surprised when entropy wins out, human nature asserts itself once more, and both our country and its civil society devolve and dissolve into anarchy, becoming unrecognizable from those originally bequeathed to us by our forebears—our fragile birthright as Americans, though one preserved only with great vigilance and effort.
Anti-Trump protesters: Cut the violence. You are engaged in precisely the sorts of activities you vociferously claimed Trump’s victory would bring about. Pro-Trump people: Cut the violence, and be gracious in victory. Do not undermine President-elect Trump before he has even been officially sworn in; that does not help anyone.
In short, whatever you protest: Cut the violence. You only ever undermine precisely what it is you claim to be seeking to preserve or advance and, in the process, irresponsibly endanger us all.