Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was the victim of a kidnapping plot, which was intercepted by the FBI on October 8th (Flickr).
In the most recent (and possibly final) presidential debate, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace threw President Trump a softball question.
“Are you willing — tonight — to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and say that they need to stand down?”
Trump’s answers, “Sure . . . I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing . . . What do you want to call them? Give me a name. Who would you like me to condemn?”
Wallace responds, “The Proud Boys.”
Trump: “Proud boys, stand back and stand by.”
Stand back and stand by. The words that stoked the fire. Since then, some of the Proud Boys have stuck the phrase onto their logos and created white supremacist memes over the internet.
If you are not familiar with the Proud Boys, they are self-proclaimed “western chauvinists.” The Anti-Defamation League has described them as “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration.” Gavin Mcinnes, a founder of the Proud Boys, also wrote, “Maybe the reason I’m sexist is because women are dumb. No, I’m just kidding, ladies. But you do tend to not thrive in certain areas — like writing.”
Many of the Proud Boys are seen donning firearms, bats, and protective armor in their rallies. Recently, the Proud Boys have received media attention over their clashes with anti-facist groups in Portland and New York City.
Just a few days after the president’s remarks, the Proud Boys made their own appearance in my neighborhood. They were bussed in and walked through my town square, chanting “USA” and waving the notoriously co-opted “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. At the end of their march, they got back in their Proud Boy Express — a poster on the back read: “Make America Proud Again.”
And just this morning, a Proud Boys member pledged there would be a “civil war” if Trump was not elected, encouraging supporters to stock up on guns.
Of course, this was not the first time Trump had the opportunity to condemn hate. At Charlottesville, in which a white supremacist was responsible for the killing of a 32 year-old protester, Heather Heyer, Trump famously said that there were “very fine people” on both sides.
This past week, the president failed again. On Thursday, we learned that an anti-government, hyper-conservative militia group, the “Wolverine Watchmen” were planning to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.
In defiance of the strict protocols Whitmer had imposed to protect Michiganders from Covid-19, the militia group had been planning for months to intercept Whitmer at her vacation home and put her on “trial,” which may have led to her death.
In a press briefing after the charges were announced, Whitmer said, “Just last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups.”
She continued, saying that these groups “heard the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry — as a call to action.”
The president retaliated in his usual tweet storm, writing, “Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job. She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities . . . Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist.”
Per his usual tactics, the president blamed the victim on the left.
When we were attacked on September 11th, our nation instinctively unified to combat the terrorists who attacked our nation. Our nation is now under attack both from a deadly virus and extremist hate groups, yet our leaders are failing us on both fronts.
Why is it so different now? One may argue that in 2001, we had a president who, during a crisis, saw one America. Nineteen years later, we have a president who seeks to pit one American against another for his own political gain — in doing so, he turns a blind eye to domestic terror.
Our greatest enemy now is the one among us. Incited by our nation’s president, they position their hate symbols alongside our stars and stripes.