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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

What Trump’s achievement has inspired

See also: Make Costa Rica great again?

I am one of millions who froze in front of a screen on Tuesday night and Wednesday, watching a stream of information about the surprising triumph of Donald Trump (yes, surprising, even for those who predicted it). I spent hours and hours on Twitter reading all kinds of laments, news, explanations, jokes and forecasts, while I gradually saw that the magnate’s victory really means the victory of a new pride: the pride of contempt.

It’s  clear that racism, xenophobia, homophobia, religious discrimination and misogyny have never disappeared, but in recent decades, Western societies have managed to classify these behaviors as shameful, reproachable, worthy of censure or even crimes. Things were going well – or so we thought. We saw women reach positions of power and even an African-American – an African-American! – in the White House, provoking pride that went far beyond his blackness. Signs of the times, we used to say.

Until someone came along who was astute, or too honest, and no one saw it coming. I mean, really saw it coming, beyond that joke on The Simpsons. Trump, the disagreeable millionaire, embodied – as a political calculation or through conviction, it doesn’t matter which – the hates and fears of those whites who had been shamed, and gave them free reign to spit on the black man, call the Muslim a terrorist, call Mexicans narcos, or grab women by the genitals. New “rights,” let’s call them. It’s like saying, “Relax – don’t be ashamed. Feel proud to return to the society we had before, when we had celebration. Make America great again. Great the way I, Donald Trump, am great. Make me America’s representative, your representative, and act accordingly.”

And they did. Videos of hateful acts at Trump rallies abound, scenes incited by that blond-haired man who asked them to be proud of feelings that they had repressed or forgotten. Perhaps for many decades ever since slavery was abolished, or ever since various waves of Latino immigration, or ever since September 11, 2001. It is possible that when dawn broke on Wednesday, day 9 of month 11, we were experiencing one more consequence of that attack on Manhattan, made manifest in the uninhibited magnate who achieved the presidency by leading a populist white-pride movement.

Many of us fear what Trump may do in power, but we do not need to wait to be terrified by what he has already achieved in his campaign. We saw it already on Wednesday. A young Muslim woman posted on social networks that she had been walking down the aisle of a Walmart and a woman ripped off her hijab, saying, “That’s not allowed anymore. Put it around your neck, not on your head.” Photos of swastika graffiti or messages from a Minnesota high school reading “Fuck niggers,” next to the words #whiteAmerica and “Make America Great Again.”

Another episode: the Indiana woman who was crossing the street when a white man lowered the window of his truck and, out of nowhere, yelled at her, “Fuck you, nigger bitch. Trump is going to deport you back to Africa.” Then there was the woman in Michigan, one of the key states in Clinton’s defeat, who without knowing the result of the election stopped for gas and had to listen to a group of young people tell her to go back to Africa, that Trump doesn’t want her here and Trump is now in charge.

This, and much more, in the first 24 hours. A boy in Pennsylvania who, seeing a woman coming toward him in a dress, tried to grab her by her crotch, cheered on by his friends. A Muslim assaulted in Louisiana. A gay man reading a derogatory note left on his car in North Carolina. All this reported by the journalist Shaun King of the New York Daily News, under the heading “Day 1 of Trump.” Hate is unleashed, no doubt about it.

The problem, however, is even bigger than this, because we know what happens when fear and rage take over a person’s life or, even worse, a group of people. In the comments made about these cases denounced on Wednesday, we can already see violence coming, or responses with an equal dose of hate. A Latino in California: “A white woman told me, ‘No visa, no America,’ but she doesn’t know I’m a citizen.” Of course. We’ll see internal discrimination take place between groups: I’m a citizen and you’re not. Get out of OUR country and don’t complicate my life in MY country, because it’s complicated enough with this horrible man called Trump.

The concept of “the other” will begin to come to the fore among populations that are victims of discrimination. The others, the blacks; the others, the Arabs; the others, the non-citizens; the others, the non-residents; the others, the non-Cubans. There will also be groups who will think: the others are the whites, the rednecks, those who voted for Trump and put this great country to shame. I think, for example, about the diplomats and military officers who will have to stand at attention and salute this unthinkable Commander-in-Chief.

Violence, assault and hostility is now accepted from the level of the presidency down to schools, the subway, the street or a shop. It will no longer be the exclusive territory of the KKK, of an isolated sheriff, of a loud-mouthed pastor or a crude comedian. The citizenry is empowered. This is what has been wrought by Trump and by the circle that his campaign strategy built – clever, aware of this layer of hate and fear that always existed, as it has in most societies, each with their own particularities.

The problem could expand, because viruses travel quickly in this day and age. (If you don’t agree, just remember that crazy clown craze.) Growing violence among citizens and sectarian pride in the United States would not take long to “go viral” and stoke the smoldering flames of hate that every society is hiding, just under the surface.

Álvaro Murillo is an experienced journalist who specializes in political coverage and has written for La Nación, Semanario Universidad and El País. In “No Sugar, Please,” his twice-monthly column, he explores politics in its broadest terms, from the halls of government to community life. Connect with him on Twitter.

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