WashPo Article re: Civil War

‘They are preparing for war’: An expert on civil wars discusses where political extremists are taking this country

Barbara F. Walter, 57, is a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego and the author of “How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them,” which was released in January. She lives in San Diego with her husband.


Having studied civil wars all over the world, and the conditions that give rise to them, you argue in your book, somewhat chillingly, that the United States is coming dangerously close to those conditions. Can you explain that?
So we actually know a lot about civil wars — how they start, how long they last, why they’re so hard to resolve, how you end them. And we know a lot because since 1946, there have been over 200 major armed conflicts. And for the last 30 years, people have been collecting a lot of data, analyzing the data, looking at patterns. I’ve been one of those people.
We went from thinking, even as late as the 1980s, that every one of these was unique. And the way people studied it is they would be a Somalia expert, a Yugoslavia expert, a Tajikistan expert. And everybody thought their case was unique and that you could draw no parallels. Then methods and computers got better, and people like me came and could collect data and analyze it. And what we saw is that there are lots of patterns at the macro level.
In 1994, the U.S. government put together this Political Instability Task Force. They were interested in trying to predict what countries around the world were going to become unstable, potentially fall apart, experience political violence and civil war.

Was that out of the State Department?
That was done through the CIA. And the task force was a mix of academics, experts on conflict, and data analysts. And basically what they wanted was: In all of your research, tell us what you think seems to be important. What should we be considering when we’re thinking about the lead-up to civil wars?
Originally the model included over 30 different factors, like poverty, income inequality, how diverse religiously or ethnically a country was. But only two factors came out again and again as highly predictive. And it wasn’t what people were expecting, even on the task force. We were surprised. The first was this variable called anocracy. There’s this nonprofit based in Virginia called the Center for Systemic Peace. And every year it measures all sorts of things related to the quality of the governments around the world. How autocratic or how democratic a country is. And it has this scale that goes from negative 10 to positive 10. Negative 10 is the most authoritarian, so think about North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain. Positive 10 are the most democratic. This, of course, is where you want to be. This would be Denmark, Switzerland, Canada. The U.S. was a positive 10 for many, many years. It’s no longer a positive 10. And then it has this middle zone between positive 5 and negative 5, which was you had features of both. If you’re a positive 5, you have more democratic features, but definitely have a few authoritarian elements. And, of course, if you’re negative 5, you have more authoritarian features and a few democratic elements. The U.S. was briefly downgraded to a 5 and is now an 8.
And what scholars found was that this anocracy variable was really predictive of a risk for civil war. That full democracies almost never have civil wars. Full autocracies rarely have civil wars. All of the instability and violence is happening in this middle zone. And there’s all sorts of theories why this middle zone is unstable, but one of the big ones is that these governments tend to be weaker. They’re transitioning to either actually becoming more democratic, and so some of the authoritarian features are loosening up. The military is giving up control. And so it’s easier to organize a challenge. Or, these are democracies that are backsliding, and there’s a sense that these governments are not that legitimate, people are unhappy with these governments. There’s infighting. There’s jockeying for power. And so they’re weak in their own ways. Anyway, that turned out to be highly predictive.

And then the second factor was whether populations in these partial democracies began to organize politically, not around ideology — so, not based on whether you’re a communist or not a communist, or you’re a liberal or a conservative — but where the parties themselves were based almost exclusively around identity: ethnic, religious or racial identity. The quintessential example of this is what happened in the former Yugoslavia.


So for you, personally, what was the moment the ideas began to connect, and you thought: Wait a minute, I see these patterns in my country right now?


My dad is from Germany. He was born in 1932 and lived through the war there, and he emigrated here in 1958. He had been a Republican his whole life, you know; we had the Reagan calendar in the kitchen every year.
And starting in early 2016, I would go home to visit, and my dad — he doesn’t agitate easily, but he was so agitated. All he wanted to do was talk about Trump and what he was seeing happening. He was really nervous. It was almost visceral — like, he was reliving the past. Every time I’d go home, he was just, like, “Please tell me Trump’s not going to win.” And I would tell him, “Dad, Trump is not going to win.” And he’s just, like, “I don’t believe you; I saw this once before. And I’m seeing it again, and the Republicans, they’re just falling in lockstep behind him.” He was so nervous.
I remember saying: “Dad, what’s really different about America today from Germany in the 1930s is that our democracy is really strong. Our institutions are strong. So, even if you had a Trump come into power, the institutions would hold strong.” Of course, then Trump won. We would have these conversations where my dad would draw all these parallels. The brownshirts and the attacks on the media and the attacks on education and on books. And he’s just, like, I’m seeing it. I’m seeing it all again here. And that’s really what shook me out of my complacency, that here was this man who is very well educated and astute, and he was shaking with fear. And I was like, Am I being naive to think that we’re different?

That’s when I started to follow the data. And then, watching what happened to the Republican Party really was the bigger surprise — that, wow, they’re doubling down on this almost white supremacist strategy. That’s a losing strategy in a democracy. So why would they do that? Okay, it’s worked for them since the ’60s and ’70s, but you can’t turn back demographics. And then I was like, Oh my gosh. The only way this is a winning strategy is if you begin to weaken the institutions; this is the pattern we see in other countries. And, as an American citizen I’m like, These two factors are emerging here, and people don’t know.
So I gave a talk at UCSD about this — and it was a complete bomb. Not only did it fall flat, but people were hostile. You know, How dare you say this? This is not going to happen. This is fearmongering. I remember leaving just really despondent, thinking: Wow, I was so naive to think that, if it’s true, and if it’s based on hard evidence, people will be receptive to it. You know, how do you get the message across if people don’t want to hear it? If they’re not ready for it.


I didn’t do a great job framing it initially, that when people think about civil war, they think about the first civil war. And in their mind, that’s what a second one would look like. And, of course, that’s not the case at all. So part of it was just helping people conceptualize what a 21st-century civil war against a really powerful government might look like.
After January 6th of last year, people were asking me, “Aren’t you horrified?” “Isn’t this terrible?” “What do you think?” And, first of all, I wasn’t surprised, right? People who study this, we’ve been seeing these groups have been around now for over 10 years. They’ve been growing. I know that they’re training. They’ve been in the shadows, but we know about them. I wasn’t surprised.

The biggest emotion was just relief, actually. It was just, Oh my gosh, this is a gift. Because it’s bringing it out into the public eye in the most obvious way. And the result has to be that we can’t deny or ignore that we have a problem. Because it’s right there before us. And what has been surprising, actually, is how hard the Republican Party has worked to continue to deny it and to create this smokescreen — and in many respects, how effective that’s been, at least among their supporters. Wow: Even the most public act of insurrection, probably a treasonous act that 10, 20 years ago would have just cut to the heart of every American, there are still real attempts to deny it. But it was a gift because it brought this cancer that those of us who have been studying it, have been watching it growing, it brought it out into the open.


Does it make you at all nervous when you think about the percentage of people who were at, say, January 6th who have some military or law enforcement connection?
Yes. The CIA also has a manual on insurgency. You can Google it and find it online. Most of it is not redacted. And it’s absolutely fascinating to read. It’s not a big manual. And it was written, I’m sure, to help the U.S. government identify very, very early stages of insurgency. So if something’s happening in the Philippines, or something’s happening in Indonesia. You know, what are signs that we should be looking out for?


And the manual talks about three stages. And the first stage is pre-insurgency. And that’s when you start to have groups beginning to mobilize around a particular grievance. And it’s oftentimes just a handful of individuals who are just deeply unhappy about something. And they begin to articulate those grievances. And they begin to try to grow their membership.

The second stage is called the incipient conflict stage. And that’s when these groups begin to build a military arm. Usually a militia. And they’d start to obtain weapons, and they’d start to get training. And they’ll start to recruit from the ex-military or military and from law enforcement. Or they’ll actually — if there’s a volunteer army, they’ll have members of theirs join the military in order to get not just the training, but also to gather intelligence.
And, again, when the CIA put together this manual, it’s about what they have observed in their experience in the field in other countries. And as you’re reading this, it’s just shocking the parallels. And the second stage, you start to have a few isolated attacks. And in the manual, it says, really the danger in this stage is that governments and citizens aren’t aware that this is happening. And so when an attack occurs, it’s usually just dismissed as an isolated incident, and people are not connecting the dots yet. And because they’re not connecting the dots, the movement is allowed to grow until you have open insurgency, when you start to have a series of consistent attacks, and it becomes impossible to ignore.


And so, again, this is part of the process you see across the board, where the organizers of insurgencies understand that they need to gain experienced soldiers relatively quickly. And one way to do that is to recruit. Here in the United States, because we had a series of long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria, and now that we’ve withdrawn from them, we’ve had more than 20 years of returning soldiers with experience. And so this creates a ready-made subset of the population that you can recruit from.
What do you say to people who charge that this is all overblown, that civil war could never happen here in the United States — or that you’re being inflammatory and making things worse by putting corrosive ideas out there?

Oh, there’s so many things to say. One thing is that groups — we’ll call them violence entrepreneurs, the violent extremists who want to tear everything down and want to institute their own radical vision of society — they benefit from the element of surprise, right? They want people to be confused when violence starts happening. They want people to not understand what’s going on, to think that nobody’s in charge. Because then they can send their goons into the streets and convince people that they’re the ones in charge. Which is why when I would talk to people who lived through the start of the violence in Sarajevo or Baghdad or Kyiv, they all say that they were surprised. And they were surprised in part because they didn’t know what the warning signs were.


But also because people had a vested interest in distracting them or denying it so that when an attack happened, or when you had paramilitary troops sleeping in the hills outside of Sarajevo, they would make up stories. You know, “We’re just doing training missions.” Or “We’re just here to protect you. There’s nothing going on here. Don’t worry about this.”


I wish it were the case that by not talking about it we could prevent anything from happening. But the reality is, if we don’t talk about it, [violent extremists] are going to continue to organize, and they’re going to continue to train. There are definitely lots of groups on the far right who want war. They are preparing for war. And not talking about it does not make us safer.


What we’re heading toward is an insurgency, which is a form of a civil war. That is the 21st-century version of a civil war, especially in countries with powerful governments and powerful militaries, which is what the United States is. And it makes sense. An insurgency tends to be much more decentralized, often fought by multiple groups. Sometimes they’re actually competing with each other. Sometimes they coordinate their behavior. They use unconventional tactics. They target infrastructure. They target civilians. They use domestic terror and guerrilla warfare. Hit-and-run raids and bombs. We’ve already seen this in other countries with powerful militaries, right? The IRA took on the British government. Hamas has taken on the Israeli government. These are two of the most powerful militaries in the world. And they fought for decades. And in the case of Hamas I think we could see a third intifada. And they pursue a similar strategy.

Here it’s called leaderless resistance. And that method of how to defeat a powerful government like the United States is outlined in what people are calling the bible of the far right: “The Turner Diaries,” which is this fictitious account of a civil war against the U.S. government. It lays out how you do this. And one of the things it says is, Do not engage the U.S. military. You know, avoid it at all costs. Go directly to targets around the country that are difficult to defend and disperse yourselves so it’s hard for the government to identify you and infiltrate you and eliminate you entirely.
So, like with the [Charles Dickens’s] ghost of Christmas future, are these the things that will be or just that may be?


I can’t say when it’s going to happen. I think it’s really important for people to understand that countries that have these two factors, who get put on this watch list, have a little bit less than a 4 percent annual risk of civil war. That seems really small, but it’s not. It means that, every year that those two factors continue, the risk increases.
The analogy is smoking. If I started smoking today, my risk of dying of lung cancer or some smoking-related disease is very small. If I continue to smoke for the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years, my risk eventually of dying of something related to smoking is going to be very high if I don’t change my behavior. And so I think that’s one of the actually optimistic things: We know the warning signs. And we know that if we strengthen our democracy, and if the Republican Party decides it’s no longer going to be an ethnic faction that’s trying to exclude everybody else, then our risk of civil war will disappear. We know that. And we have time to do it. But you have to know those warning signs in order to feel an impetus to change them.
This interview has been edited and condensed.

KK Ottesen is a regular contributor to the magazine.

Democracy Dies in Darkness

America… are you okay?

In 1997 I made my first trip to the US. Upon going through Immigration, a largish and somewhat surly black female border control officer told me:

“You can not stay here on this visa. You have to go home, you know that right?”

Being a relatively young solo traveller, I didn’t yet know that border control is the one place you just smile and nod no matter what. Instead I responded with a rather jet-lagged and kinda lippy:

“Why the hell would I want to say here? I’m Australian.”

One very filthy look, and one super aggressively stamped passport, later – I was processed and allowed to enter the country.

In March this year, Trump touted there would be an estimated 60,000 US deaths from Covid-19 by August, however this number has been exceeded in APRIL already. The new projection Trump is embracing shows 74,000 deaths by August now… but the way things are going, they will hit that (and then some) before mid-May, not months from now in August. 😢

At this time, in the middle of this pandemic* I’ve never been so glad to be Australian and my heart is just breaking for our American friends.

* even with our stupid and hypocritical PM insisting that schools should reopen without sufficient evidence that there are no long term detrimental health impacts for children exposed to coronavirus.

Trump is only a symptom

About ten years ago, I was managing a seminar for one of the best trainers in the world. There’s an exercise called Secrets. The room is darkened and then everybody in the room, including most of the staff, has to put their hands over their eyes, or put their heads down on their desk.

Then the trainer goes through a list of questions.

“If you have ever … raise your hand.”

Because I was the course manager, I had to keep my eyes open to make sure the room stayed safe. So I was able to see how many hands went up for each question.

Most of the questions were gentle, even harmless, but all of the questions were designed to be cathartic. But a number of the questions cut right down to the bone.

There are things people carry around inside, a lot of hurt and guilt and shame and fear, but there’s no safe place to unload those feelings, so the exercise allows some relief. The participants get to keep their secrets safe, but they get to acknowledge that they are holding these things that keep gnawing at them — they get to own that part of their identity.

This particular time, however, when the trainer asked questions about abuse, about rape, about violence — nearly every woman in the room raised her hand.

Now this was not a unique group of women. These were adult women of all ages, from early twenties to late sixties. Some were students, others were working women. Some were married, others were single or divorced. Some were highly skilled professionals. Some were strong family women.

“Have you ever been raped?” “Have you ever been molested?” “Have you ever been the target of physical or emotional abuse?” “Have you ever been made to feel ashamed of your identity?” “Have you ever held yourself back…?”

And worse.

Observing this for the first time, I felt tears running down my cheeks because of the level of pain in the room. All those pale hands, silent in the dark. A testimony of unspoken hurt. I felt my chest tightening and my heart pounding — I felt myself getting angry, as angry as I felt when my son finally confessed to me how he had suffered at the hands of an abusive foster-parent. I wanted to find the perp and hurt back.

But no — all I could do was remain a silent witness. Stunned and horrified.

Later … much later, when the trainer and I went out to dinner, I had to ask. “Is this normal? All these women?” He said, “Sometimes it’s worse.”

Ever since that moment, I have had to look at women differently — with the knowledge that I am living among a population that is very much carrying a burden of oppression — not unlike the Jews in Nazi Germany, not unlike the slaves in the pre-civil war south. Not unlike so many populations here in this country and around the world.

White male privilege allows white males to exist in a bubble of ignorance and illusion. I have to generalize here, but I’m pretty sure that most men have no idea and even less understanding of just how steeply the landscape has been tilted — just how much (through our unconsciousness) we are deliberately punishing half the human race.

This week, what has been most appalling to me about Donald Trump’s despicable confession of being a sexual predator … is not the various defenses of those who are trapped in his sinking lifeboat with him. No — what’s appalling to me is how few men are able to understand that what Trump spoke about was the “normal” that women experience every day. What is appalling to me is how few men are enraged.

I have been simmering, smoldering, and finally boiling with anger the more I consider his words. I can’t get them out of my head. I can’t escape them. Despite my pacifist leanings, I still want to punch that vile bastard in the face with a jackhammer. Words are insufficient.

And if I’m feeling that way, I cannot imagine how the women who have heard those words are feeling. This isn’t a once-in-a-while occurrence. This is … just another Tuesday.

Sidebar: There’s a story about the filming of Django Unchained — that Leonardo DiCaprio was having trouble with all the racist language he had to speak. He wanted to apologize for it. But Samuel L. Jackson (allegedly) said, “Hey, Motherfucker. This is just another Tuesday for us.”

Well, I’m tired of Tuesday — and the rest of the week as well.

I grew up in a time when anti-semitism was freely expressed. I grew up in a time and lived in an environment where anti-gay sentiments were freely expressed. And eventually, that sensitized me to a lot of other prejudices — anti-black and anti-Muslim and anti-Native American, and so on.

But it wasn’t until that moment in that training room that I realized what a pernicious vile crime against women we have allowed in our culture.

Women alone will not be the solution here. It is up to men, good men, strong men, compassionate men, to draw a line in the sand and redefine what it means to be a man — and that can no longer include the reduction of women from their rightful place as leaders and partners in our society.

Trump is only a symptom. The real disease still festers in the rest of us.

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(via David Gerrold on FB)

Every woman.

Thanks to the US presidential election, there has been a lot of discussion lately about sexual assault, attitudes towards women and how men conduct themselves when they are in the private company of other men.  It’s really quite hard to ignore at the moment as the media is in the grips of what must be the very exemplar of a true media frenzy. For most women, the topic of sexual assault and sexual harassment hits us somewhere deep and personal that we’d rather not think about.  It brings ugly memories to the surface and dredges up life experiences that we’d prefer to leave quietly filed away in The Past™.  Many of us have these long suppressed and often ignored, but never forgotten, unpleasant memories of how we have subjected to the abysmally inequitable status quo that continues to exist in our society.  To varying degrees, most women I know have had a lifetime of unsolicited sexual attention.  All women live with the awareness of possible sexual harassment and assault every day – it is the background noise of our lives.  It hurts us, it scars us, it sure as hell scares us, and it follows us around our entire lives. And more often than not, it starts really young. So goddamn young.

I was 5 or 6 years old and at primary school, when a man we called ‘Window Willy’, lived in a house adjacent to our playground. He gained this nickname from his habit of flashing his penis at us little girls during our lunch breaks. Despite repeatedly reporting it to teachers the message always came back to just stay away from that area of the playground.

I was about 8 years old when one day, I was up at the Carina Terminus shops waiting for my mother in the haberdasher.  A man who was seated outside the shop had been staring at me through the window, and I thought nothing of it.  While my mum was busy with her purchase, he shifted the leg of his c.1970s very short shorts, and displayed his penis and scrotum to me – a little girl.  I told my mum and the lady in the shop… they just told me not to look at him.

I was an athletic, short, blonde, tanned and already busty 12 or 13 year old, when I came out of the surf at Stradbroke Island one holiday with my hair slicked back wet to my head, and a ‘friend’ of the family said I looked like Bo Derek.  My Dad gave me a towel and told me to cover up.

I was 13 when I had recently joined the Army Cadets and a Cadet Under Officer came over to me while we were at attention on the parade ground and fiddled with the lanyard attached to my breast pocket, saying it wasn’t sitting right.  Seemed innocent enough but then I caught the satisfied and smug look on his face as he walked away because he had touched up my boobs in front of everyone.

I was a little over 14 when I went to the movies in the city with a large group of (mostly male) friends one Anzac Day. The boy I was sitting with thought it was appropriate to pull out his dick and put my hand on it in the dark. I screamed, everyone laughed, I switched seats.

I was barely 15 when a 21 year old man, an officer of the same Cadet Unit decided to single me out. I was flattered at the attentions of this older guy, so it never occurred to me to object when he woke me up in my tent at 1am, and encouraged me to go for a walk with him.  He took me to his panel van and convinced me to ‘come talk with me’.  After a while he kissed me and that was okay, but when he started to grope under my shirt and and tried to pull down my pants, I had to fight tooth and nail to get out of there without pissing him off and causing more aggression… or god help me, violence.

I was nearly 16 when another CO – this time a 23 year old man – took me and two other 16 year old friends to the Gold Coast for a ‘night off’, while we were supposed to be on bivouac.  He bought two bottles of vodka and got us all drunk. I vaguely remember doing cartwheels and round-offs over a campfire that night.  I absolutely, 100%, clearly remember waking up in the early hours of the morning in his car with his hands inside in my pants and him saying, ‘Let’s finish what we started.’ Those words have simultaneously haunted and comforted me.  If things needed ‘finishing’, then maybe my fuzzy drunken memory lapse wasn’t covering up something even worse…

I was 17 when I was waitressing at the local Leagues Club, helping out some friends with their catering business, when a drunk footballer stood up and waved his dick at me to the amusement of his friends.  I ran and hid in the kitchen, shaking my head in disbelief and discouraging my black belt boyfriend from going out there and smashing his face in. One of the older women who was also waiting tables with me offered to take over that table.  He didn’t flash at her.

I was maybe all of 19 when a colleague who I had been reasonably friendly with, cornered me in the copy room late one Friday at work. He pushed me up against a photocopier and pressed his erection into my thigh saying that he thought I was really sexy and he couldn’t help himself.  Knowing that more than 80% of the office had left for the weekend already, I talked fast,telling him I had a boyfriend and asking him what his wife would think. I never scrambled so fast to get the fuck out of a place in my life.

When I was about 20 we used to hang out down at Fisherman’s Wharf for lazy afternoons of live music and cheap drinks.  After one of these nights, we ended back at my boyfriend’s best mate’s place.  My boyfriend passed out drunk in a spare room, leaving me in a strange house with a guy I had met only once before.  This guy. This ‘best friend’, decided this was a good opportunity to pin me down on the carpet, stick his tongue down my throat and have sex with me.  I was too drunk to say no. I was too drunk to say yes. I was too drunk to fend him off…

Thus began my life of never drinking to the point where I might lose control. Of my wits. Of the situation. Of myself.

I was 23 the FIRST time I felt the penis of a complete stranger digging into me when riding a packed train in London.  I’ve lost count of occasions when I have been on trains, buses, or in a tight packed crowd at a concert, and someone has pushed their erection into me, or an anonymous hand opportunistically groped at my breasts, or grabbed on my arse. What do you do?  What do you do?  Sometimes you don’t even know who did it.

I was 35 when a man in Pakistan at a tailor’s shop, slid his hand up my thigh.  I stepped away, only for him to sidle over to me and do it again. Culturally this was seriously creepy – I know how little men value women in countries like this. I was over 40 when a skeezy little Chinese guy in Shanghai pretended to sneeze – face first right into my chest. Fucker.

Thankfully, it happens less and less these days… perhaps because I’m getting older and I am no longer as desirable as the younger version of me was. Perhaps because I no longer frequent pubs and taverns without the protection of a group of trusted friends.  Perhaps, because like many older women, I have carefully cultivated a general ‘fuck off’ vibe, that I arm myself with whenever I leave the house.

I am not in any way tormented or traumatised by my experiences. Have my behaviours evolved to ensure my personal safety and to avoid situations like this?  God, yes.  I don’t go out by myself at night, I am careful about my alcohol consumption (even among friends), I dress fairly modestly most of the time – primarily because I prefer people to talk to my face and not my tits, but also because I don’t want to offer encouragement. Mostly I don’t think about these things because is just the background noise of my life – this constantly and habitually minimising risk.  I don’t dwell on these experiences or in anyway, nor do I feel myself to be any sort of victim.  I’ve never sought justice or expected sympathy over any of this.  These are just things that happened to me.  Sometimes I think the fact that I am not traumatised from these incidents is an indicator of how normalised sexual harassment and sexual assault is in our lives and in our thinking. Other times my thought patterns are more: ‘Yeah, that happened. I can’t change it. I wasn’t seriously hurt. I’m still here. It could have been worse…’

Mostly I just don’t think about it at all… but at the moment, with the current media climate, I don’t know how NOT to think critically about my past experiences and how/if they have effected me. What I do know is that sexual assault of varying degrees is so completely pervasive in all our societies. It doesn’t matter what your background is –  it leaves no girl or woman untouched.  Hell, plenty of men I know have suffered sexual assault too.  I may not have suffered the torment and horror of a complete stranger raping me behind a dumpster – but every single woman I know has stories of unwanted sexual attention.  Every. Single. Woman.

And now, whenever that simply horrid, overblown buffoon of a billionaire, wannabe President, opens his mouth – all I hear and see are these men from my past.  These men who took liberties with my person because I am female. Fuck them and fuck him. If this self professed pig of a man wins the White House and sets a shining example for people all over the world – how do we even begin to try and fix this if it?  I can’t believe he is even being considered as remotely suitable.

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An Open Letter to Donald Trump

Finally, America starts to be waking up to itself, but is it too later?  Have they allowed this hate peddling, fear-monger the microphone for too long?

An Open Letter to Donald Trump:

Mr. Trump,

I try my hardest not to be political. I’ve refused to interview several of your fellow candidates. I didn’t want to risk any personal goodwill by appearing to take sides in a contentious election. I thought: ‘Maybe the timing is not right.’ But I realize now that there is no correct time to oppose violence and prejudice. The time is always now. Because along with millions of Americans, I’ve come to realize that opposing you is no longer a political decision. It is a moral one.

I’ve watched you retweet racist images. I’ve watched you retweet racist lies. I’ve watched you take 48 hours to disavow white supremacy. I’ve watched you joyfully encourage violence, and promise to ‘pay the legal fees’ of those who commit violence on your behalf. I’ve watched you advocate the use of torture and the murder of terrorists’ families. I’ve watched you gleefully tell stories of executing Muslims with bullets dipped in pig blood. I’ve watched you compare refugees to ‘snakes,’ and claim that ‘Islam hates us.’

I am a journalist, Mr. Trump. And over the last two years I have conducted extensive interviews with hundreds of Muslims, chosen at random, on the streets of Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. I’ve also interviewed hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi refugees across seven different countries. And I can confirm— the hateful one is you.

Those of us who have been paying attention will not allow you to rebrand yourself. You are not a ‘unifier.’ You are not ‘presidential.’ You are not a ‘victim’ of the very anger that you’ve joyfully enflamed for months. You are a man who has encouraged prejudice and violence in the pursuit of personal power. And though your words will no doubt change over the next few months, you will always remain who you are.

Sincerely,
Brandon Stanton

(Via Humans of New York on FB…)