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Pipe bombs, shootings, and Donald Trump

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Where on earth is this hatred coming from?

On Monday, October 22, a pipe bomb was discovered at the home of Democratic donor George Soros. The next day, one was found at the home of Bill and Hillary Clinton. The next, at the Obamas' home…. By the time police arrested the man they think sent the packages to prominent Democrats, a total of 15 pipe bombs had been found.

On Thursday, a man tried to force his way into a black church in Lexington, Kentucky. Failing to break through the door, police say, he went to a Kroger's grocery store, where he shot and killed a black man and a black woman.

On Saturday, a man entered a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh and started firing, killing 11 people and injuring six more, including four police officers. He wanted all Jews to die, he told police afterward.

What has bred this horror? And then, for many of us, another question: Doesn't President Trump bear a lot of responsibility for unleashing it?

Donald Trump didn't invent violence. He wasn't president in 2012 when a gunman went on a rampage in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. His rhetoric didn't promote the slaughter of children in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. And it was a Bernie Sanders supporter, not a Trump supporter, who shot at Republicans in a Virginia ballfield last year.



Hatred and violence are human traits. In his Washington Post column on Tuesday, Michael Gerson quoted novelist CP Snow: "Civilization is hideously fragile. There’s not much between us and the horrors underneath. Just about a coat of varnish.”

Each of us is responsible for resisting the pull of our baser nature, certainly. But people in public positions have a special responsibility. They can play to the horrors underneath, or they can try to help us resist them. Donald Trump's rhetoric, as candidate and as president, has been full of the former.

"Science reveals Homo sapiens as creatures programmed to serve our family and tribe," Gerson wrote, "predisposed to dehumanize out-groups and prone to follow the crowd even when we know it is wrong. The knowledge that men and women can be led to commit, enable and ignore great evil should underlie any realistic approach to governing."

"Do political figures recognize the fragility of decency and humanity and guard them from fracture?" Gerson asked. "Or do they shatter them for their own purposes by demonizing some group or faith?"

And there is this from former commercial pilot "Sully" Sullenberger, also in the Post: "In every situation, but especially challenging ones, a leader sets the tone and must create an environment in which all can do their best. You get what you project. Whether it is calm and confidence — or fear, anger and hatred — people will respond in kind. "

President Trump continues to encourage hatred and egg on violence. And yet his apologists insist there is no connection to what unfolded last week.

"If no politician’s words, written or spoken, have any effect on anyone," responded Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, "how does one explain hundreds of years of successful propaganda?"

And I'll add: Did Winston Churchill's words have no effect during World War II? Did Franklin Roosevelt's words have no effect on Americans? Have Abraham Lincoln's words had no effect?

Donald Trump may not care about the impact of his words, but surely somebody in the Republican Party does. And the silence from the Republican Party's leadership right now is damning.

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