“When the wolves of hate are loosed on one people, then no one is safe.”
–Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill, recognizing the broader truth behind the bombing of the Jewish Temple in Atlanta in 1958.
President Donald Trump’s speeches during the final weeks of the 2018 midterm elections established an irrefutable fact: Trump and his Republican followers are overtly committed to a racist, xenophobic, misogynist, nativist, ethno-nationalist agenda, and will use lies, fearmongering, race-baiting, and demagoguery to advance that agenda.
Trump unleashed a torrent of falsehoods to demonize his political opponents and portray them as desiring crime, squalor and poverty. He used outright vicious racist rhetoric to depict the migrant caravan moving through Central America, describing it as an army of diseased, criminal thugs who would invade the United States and unleash gangs and crimes on the public. He doubled down on the distortion by propagated the baseless conspiracy theory that Democrats—especially mega-donor George Soros—were funding the caravan.
Trump and his Republicans now talk about Hispanic migrants the way Hitler talked about the Jews and the way rabid Southern segregationists talked about blacks. Trump’s incendiary rhetoric of fear-mongering and race-baiting was clearly designed to divide Americans, not unite them.
Republicans ardently embraced this toxic brew, hoping this escalation of Trump’s demagoguery would carry them to victory in the elections—as his previous version had done in 2016. And true to form, Georgia’s Republicans like Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, Representatives Barry Loudermilk and Karen Handel, and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp were in the forefront of Trump’s ardent embracers.
These Trumpist lapdogs showed they were quite comfortable with whipping up racist animosity and stoking white grievances. They swoon over every aspect of his racist, misogynist, nativist, xenophobic agenda and have made it their own.
Alas, in a stunning upset, Ms. Handel lost her bid for re-election in the traditionally Red district to Democrat Lucy McBath. We believe Handel paid a price for being a Trump lackey, and view her defeat as a harbinger of better days in Georgia.
But in the meantime, we have at least four more years of Trump’s misrule, and the real possibility he will be re-elected. We live in an era of (presumed) political polarization and its attendant heated rhetoric. A goodly number of Americans seem unable to distinguish between allegations devoid of evidence and fact-based statements based on empirical evidence.
IndieDems has filled this blog with posts based on the empirical standard. Donald Trump has made our task easier by providing us with tons of his own verbatim words that provide the facts about what a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, nativist, uninformed, bully he is, in twitter after twitter and speech after speech. In a separate blog, we provide a compendium of recent analyses that reveal in detail the Trumpists’ warped racist, xenophobic, fearmongering agenda.
Republicans Unleash the Wolves of Hate
We devote the rest of this post to a look at the similarities between what Republicans are doing now and the racist agendas and violence of the South’s—and Georgia’s—segregationist past. The bombings, murders, and beatings that were a staple of Jim Crow Georgia did not take place in a vacuum. They were not the random acts of a few extremists. The violence was the natural outgrowth of a culture that considered it normal to preach the gospel of “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Declaring a group of people to be inferior and unfit to interact as equals with other citizens paves the way for them to become the target of violent acts.
But voices much more eloquent than ours have made the case much better than we can. What better voice to start with than that of Ralph McGill, the anti-segregationist editor of the Atlanta Constitution during the darkest days of segregation. And what better person to remind us of McGill’s words than Melissa Fay Greene, the author of the book “The Temple Bombing,” about the 1958 bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation in Atlanta. She wrote an article for the Washington Post after the bombing of the Temple in Pittsburg:
The wolves of hate are loose. No one is safe.
By Melissa Fay Greene
Sixty years and three weeks ago, the Temple in Atlanta was bombed by anti-Semitic white supremacists who perceived the Jews as “masterminding” the civil rights movement — not unlike accused killer Robert Bowers accepting the widely broadcast theory that Jews conceived and bankrolled the migrant caravan.
The day after the Temple bombing, Ralph McGill, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, published an editorial attacking Southern elected officials who conjured up scapegoats and stirred up the mobs for their own political gains.
“It is not possible to preach lawlessness and restrict it,” he wrote. “You do not preach and encourage hatred for the Negro and hope to restrict it to that field. It is an old, old story. It is one repeated over and over again in history.”
“When the wolves of hate are loosed on one people, then no one is safe.”
When hate speech, firing up the airwaves and popping at the rallies, suddenly tears apart — with homemade bombs or assault rifles — the everyday lives of ordinary people, the results are not cinematic or larger-than-life. The results are exactly life-size. (Ms. Greene next noted some of the “ordinary” people murdered in the Pittsburg.)
But McGill’s words were not heeded. In fact, the hate and violence-filled days of the Civil Rights struggle led by Martin Luther King lay ahead. Five years after the Temple bombing, a bomb went off in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, a hub of civil rights activism, killing three 14 year-old black female children and one 11 year-old.
McGill’s colleague, Eugene Patterson, then the Executive Editor of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, wrote a column eloquently repeating McGill’s theme. His classic commentary exposed without mercy the complicity of all pro-segregation white Southerners in this horrific crime.
‘A Flower for the Graves’
By Eugene Patterson – September 16, 1963
A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham. In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her.
Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in his hand.
It is too late to blame the sick criminals who handled the dynamite. The FBI and the police can deal with that kind. The charge against them is simple. They killed four children.
Only we can trace the truth, Southerner – you and I. We broke those children’s bodies.
We watched the stage set without staying it. We listened to the prologue unbestirred. We saw the curtain opening with disinterest. We have heard the play.
We – who go on electing politicians who heat the kettles of hate.
We – who raise no hand to silence the mean and little men who have their nigger jokes.
We – who stand aside in imagined rectitude and let the mad dogs that run in every society slide their leashes from our hand, and spring.
We – the heirs of a proud South, who protest its worth and demand it recognition – we are the ones who have ducked the difficult, skirted the uncomfortable, caviled at the challenge, resented the necessary, rationalized the unacceptable, and created the day surely when these children would die.
This is no time to load our anguish onto the murderous scapegoat who set the cap in dynamite of our own manufacture.
He didn’t know any better.
Somewhere in the dim and fevered recess of an evil mind he feels right now that he has been a hero. He is only guilty of murder. He thinks he has pleased us.
We of the white South who know better are the ones who must take a harsher judgment.
We, who know better, created a climate for child-killing by those who don’t.
We hold that shoe in our hand, Southerner. Let us see it straight, and look at the blood on it. Let us compare it with the unworthy speeches of Southern public men who have traduced the Negro; match it with the spectacle of shrilling children whose parents and teachers turned them free to spit epithets at small huddles of Negro school children for a week before this Sunday in Birmingham; hold up the shoe and look beyond it to the state house in Montgomery where the official attitudes of Alabama have been spoken in heat and anger.
Let us not lay the blame on some brutal fool who didn’t know any better.We know better. We created the day. We bear the judgment. May God have mercy on the poor South that has so been led. May what has happened hasten the day when the good South, which does live and has great being, will rise to this challenge of racial understanding and common humanity, and in the full power of its unasserted courage, assert itself.
The Sunday school play at Birmingham is ended. With a weeping Negro mother, we stand in the bitter smoke and hold a shoe. If our South is ever to be what we wish it to be, we will plant a flower of nobler resolve for the South now upon these four small graves that we dug.
The relevance of McGill and Patterson’s words to current events is too self-evident to require elaboration. But to comprehend the depth of their meaning, re-read Paterson’s column and in place of the words “nigger” or “Negro,” substitute “migrant” or “immigrant.”
And for “politicians,” substitute “Republicans.” Better yet, substitute “Georgia Republicans.”
Then read just about any of Trump’s 2018 campaign speeches.
(Read More: See our previous post elaborating on the similarity between Southern segregationists and modern-day Republicans, “Today’s Republicans & 1960s Segregationists: Peas in a Pod)