Whirlwinds rise on the horizon, brutal storms it isn’t possible to ignore. A page-wide headline in the Sunday New York Times announces, “Pleading for Peace in Chicago Amid Fear That a Bloody Summer Awaits.”
“It’s almost like everyone’s saying a hurricane is coming,” says Father Pfleger. A west-side pastor tells the Times, “People think that to get justice, they have to take the law into their own hands.”
If you live in Chicago you know how bad it is, though it’s been possible—and remains barely possible, if you put your mind to it, and depending on where you live—to tell yourself it’s all taking place in other parts of Chicago and where you live it’s fine. Now you’re telling that to your out-of-town friends too, because the mayhem in our city is a national story.
And that’s not the only whirlwind. A page-one headline in the same edition of the Times reports, “Rise of Trump Tracks Debate Over Fascism.” The article, by Peter Baker, parses the similarities and distinctions between the rise of Donald Trump and the rise of Mussolini and Hitler, and cites a recent essay by Robert Kagan in the Washington Post, “This Is How Fascism Comes to America.” However, the most compelling evidence that Kagan was on to something isn’t in Baker’s article—it’s an essay in the op-ed section of the Times by Jonathan Weisman about what happened when he tweeted Kagan’s essay.
“The anti-Semitic hate, much of it from self-identified Donald J. Trump supporters,” poured in, Weisman reports. “Trump God Emperor sent me the Nazi iconography of the shiftless, hooknosed Jew. I was served an image of the gates of Auschwitz, the famous words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ replaced without irony with ‘Machen Amerika Great.’ Holocaust taunts, like a path of dollar bills leading into an oven, were followed by Holocaust denial. The Jew as leftist puppet master from @DonaldTrumpLA was joined by the Jew as conservative fifth columnist, orchestrating war for Israel. That one came from someone who tagged himself a proud future member of the Trump Deportation Squad.”
Weisman describes himself as “largely disconnected from Jewish life and faith over the years, and like many American Jews I have been lulled into complacency.”
Haven’t we all? If it has been possible to share a city with the violent and terrifying streets of Chicago and not think much about them, it has been even easier to share a country with a boiling mob-in-waiting and not think about it at all.
Chicago’s a frightening place. So is America. So is the world. Signs of fear are everywhere. The piece in the Sunday Times that might have bothered me most was the column by Nicholas Kristof in which he talked about the reception of an earlier column, the one where he “argued that universities risk becoming liberal echo chambers and hostile environments for conservatives, and especially for evangelical Christians.”
“Almost every liberal agreed that I was dead wrong,” wrote Kristof. “You don’t diversify with idiots,” he was told by one reader who was then applauded by more than a thousand others. “Here you are,” said another reader, “scolding and shaming progressives for not mindlessly accepting patriarchy, misogyny, complementarianism, and hateful, hateful bigotry against the LGBTQ community into the academy.”
For hateful, hateful bigotry, see Weisman’s essay. For self-imposed categorical ignorance, see Republicans who support Trump because “nothing could be worse than Hillary” and “progressives” who don’t want to be exposed to anyone but themselves.
That’s living life as if this were wartime. But take a long look at the horizon and maybe it is.