Thistlethwaite: Condemn domestic terrorism
The failure of Donald Trump to condemn white supremacist terror groups, and, in fact, appearing to encourage them, poses a clear and present danger to this country.
Trump has failed to send unequivocal messages of support to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other officials who have been recently targeted by a domestic terrorist group. Thirteen men have just been arrested in a plot to kidnap her, as well as target law enforcement.
Gov. Whitmer has said that the Trump administration knew of threats against her and did nothing to reduce their attacks on her. In fact, she has been attacked again by Trump’s twitter account since the plot was revealed.
This is consistent with the kind of enabling messages Trump sends to domestic terrorists. Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, challenged Trump in their recent debate to condemn white supremacy and his far-right supporters. Instead, Trump used words that some in these terrorist groups embraced as a call to arms.
“Proud Boys — stand back and stand by,” Trump said. This language enables dangerous domestic terrorism and far-right extremists took it as such.
You will note I have consistently used “domestic terrorist” as a descriptor for those arrested in the horrific plot against Gov. Whitmer and law enforcement. I think it fits the other violence by right-wing extremist groups. These groups are not militias, as they like to style themselves. They would like to wrap themselves in the Constitution, but they fit the profile of terrorists and should be called that, prosecuted and jailed for that.
A good group to follow to track these groups and their profiles is the Southern Poverty Law Center. Their report “Terror from the Right” contains a “detailed listing of major terrorist plots and racist rampages that have emerged from the American radical right in the years since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.”
These groups are indeed very racist and have infiltrated and disrupted protests against police killings of unarmed African Americans. Some in local communities where these protests have taken place suspect these right-wing extremist groups may be fostering violence.
The men in these domestic terrorist groups are also horrifically misogynist. One of the suspects in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took to the relative privacy of a Facebook group to make clear his hatred. He called Whitmer a “tyrant bitch.”
It is no surprise to me that it is a woman governor who has been targeted. I have researched some of these white supremacist groups online and visited their websites for a book I wrote. I would not quote for you the kind of disgusting vitriol some in these groups post against women, as well as about African Americans.
This plot against Gov. Whitmer and other targets is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the danger these white supremacist domestic terror groups pose and their increasing boldness.
There are many sources for the energy being poured into domestic terrorism right now from the anti-mask movement, the social disruption and anxiety posed by the pandemic and the protests of long-standing racial injustices.
But one that must be named is the “wink, wink, nod, nod” enabling by Trump and his administration. These domestic terrorists interpret that as a green light.
Trump and his administration must immediately and without equivocation condemn domestic terrorism and repudiate white supremacy. The danger to our democracy from this kind of domestic terrorism is extremely high.
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is President Emerita and Professor Emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary. She and her husband now make their home in the Vail Valley.
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