We don’t know who mailed explosive devices to leading Democrats and the news media.
But we do know that the mail bombs come at a time when we have a president who is anti-democratic, dishonest, demagogic and dangerous to our democracy. While great leaders have summoned our better angels, President Donald Trump uses anger and fear to divide one American from another.
We also know that when violence threatens important leaders in the opposition party and the news media — something Trump has recklessly encouraged — we patriots, we lovers of democracy, must not stand for it. Nor will Americans be terrorized into submission, because that is not who we are.
On Wednesday, the Secret Service said “potential explosive devices” were mailed to the homes of Barack and Michelle Obama, and Hillary and Bill Clinton. The devices were similar to a bomb sent earlier in the week to the home of businessman, liberal philanthropist and Democratic donor George Soros.
An explosive device was delivered to the CNN newsroom in New York. Another, addressed to former Attorney General Eric Holder, was delivered instead to Florida U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, via a bogus return address.
Similar suspicious packages elsewhere, included one addressed to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, were being examined Wednesday.
Here’s something else we know: Republicans all the way up to Trump have been encouraging their followers to think of their political opposition as an ugly, sinister force worthy of punishment, not just a loss at the polls in a battle of ideas.
Political ads aired in California, New Jersey, Ohio and Virginia have portrayed Democratic candidates as terrorist sympathizers. In Arkansas, a Republican super PAC suggested Democrats would be “lynching black folk again” if they won at the polls. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, joked at a campaign rally that his opponent, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, could join Hillary Clinton in a prison cell. An Arizona Republican said her Democratic opponent is guilty of treason.
A Florida Republican stated as fact — with no evidence — that Soros is funding the caravan of migrants working its way through Mexico.
Also dismaying is the number of people who, without evidence, were quick to log on to social media and demonize the victims by asserting the Democrats had mailed the bombs to themselves.
History tells us violence directed at the political opposition and the news media can lead to despotic rule and a society’s destruction. We go further down that road at our peril.
Stoking hatred and fear started at the top. Trump himself has repeatedly demonized the news media — particularly CNN — as the enemy of the people and encouraged his crowds to shout of Hillary Clinton, and more recently of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, “Lock her up.”
It is the the broad reach of ordinary Americans who have to end it. We are fortunate to have inherited a government with robust democratic traditions.
It’s up to all of us — community by community — to stand up for our proud heritage and call out those who would undermine it. Patriotic Americans pledge allegiance to one, indivisible nation.
We are betting on the patriots.
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