EDITORIAL: A lesson in the dangers of weaponized rhetoric

SHARE EDITORIAL: A lesson in the dangers of weaponized rhetoric

President Donald Trump speaks about the arrest in the mail bomb scare at the 2018 Young Black Leadership Summit in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The investigators tracking down the source of mail bombs sent last week have done their jobs.

Now it is time for the rest of us to do ours.

On Friday, Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, Florida, was charged in the nation’s mail-bomb scare, in which at least 13 explosive devices were sent to former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats, and to CNN.


But the arrest won’t erase President Donald Trump’s record of calling his perceived opponents evil and enemies of the people. It won’t erase the incendiary images of him presiding over choruses of “Lock her up” or the echoes of him saying “Second Amendment people” could “do” something to Hillary Clinton. It won’t delete his recent praise for Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte’s body-slamming of a reporter.

Nor is it likely to put a stop to his weaponized rhetoric in the future. Trump’s half-hearted calls for unity this this week rang hollow.

That’s where the rest of us come in. As Americans, we all — Trump supporters and opponents alike — must make clear we no longer will tolerate such behavior. From Trump or anyone else, anywhere on the political spectrum.


The danger of irresponsible hate speech could not have been made clearer than they were by the allegations laid down by authorities on Friday: An apparently avid MAGA hat-wearing Trump supporter who had attended Trump rallies allegedly sent the mail bombs.

We can’t know if he would have sent the mail bombs even without dog whistles from Trump. But we do know that’s what inflammatory speech does: It impels some people toward violent acts they might never otherwise have perpetrated. We’ve seen that in the past, when lies and angry rhetoric led individuals to kill abortion clinic workers or shoot up a pizzeria where an internet rumor claimed Democrats were running a pedophilia ring.

In Pittsburgh on Saturday, a gunman with a history of making online anti-Semitic comments burst into synagogue shouting anti-Semitic slurs and killed 11 people.

An investigation will tell us more about the gunman’s motives. But this clearly is a moment when America needs leaders who rise above the strife and anger and call upon us to join together. We need a president who believes in America, not political gain.

None of us should settle for anything less.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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