There is a theory gaining ground in some intellectual circles and within the soft and hard sciences alike. It posits that former president Donald Trump was somehow able to scramble the DNA of certain susceptible individuals, rendering these previously rational Americans utterly devoid of reason. There is a veritable trove of cultural artifacts to prove as much over the five years since Trump’s famous escalator descent birthed him into the annals of American history like an outer borough Venus. Trump was a veritable litmus test for unhinged extremism cloaked in the guise of elite professionalism.
But when we consider some of the mind-bendingly fanatical things asserted by people on TV news shows and in the pages of our legacy media about Trump – and, by association, about white people of a particular political bent – it does give rise to wonder.
Back in 2018, a forensic psychiatrist named Bandy X. Lee gained notoriety by asserting that then-President Trump was a more successful iteration of Adolph Hitler. She wrote:
“Donald Trump is not an Adolf Hitler. At least Hitler improved the daily life of his followers, had discipline, and required more of himself to gain the respect of his followers. Even with the same pathology, there are varying degrees of competence.”
Even though Trump-Hitler comparisons were ubiquitous at the time, Lee later deleted the tweet. But she also claimed that liberal legal legend Alan Dershowitz was “psychotic” for his efforts to defend the president against claims he should be removed via the 25th amendment, which he termed unconstitutional and an attempted coup. Dershowitz believed Lee violated the ethics code for rendering a public diagnosis of him and the president – an assertion she says got her fired from her job at Yale University. She is now suing the institution for wrongful termination.
Hillary Clinton can probably claim credit for such radicalism and the unfettered freedom bequeathed to resisters across the land to say absolutely anything about the Deplorables and their Goblin King. She midwifed this American moment on that fateful night years ago that may have been the pivot point in her candidacy away from an assured victory on election day. It turns out insulting half of America by calling them “irredeemable” was a less than practical strategy for gaining their votes. But her rhetoric was the speech that launched a thousand op-eds and on-air diatribes against Trump and his voters.
And now Yale University has sustained another black eye by hosting a visiting lecturer named Dr. Aruna Khilanani. During a speech at the School of Medicine, she said she has fantasies about “unloading a revolver into the head of any white person” and vented about how “white people make my blood boil.” Her race-obsessions also made it onto the online platform of former writer for The New York Times, Bari Weiss, where she surmised that “white people are out of their minds and have been for a long time.”
Dr. Carol Swain opined that Khilanani’s fantasies should warrant her being reported to the state board of health. The backlash inspired the expected perfunctory backpedal from Yale, which issued a statement calling the overtly racist remarks “antithetical to the values of the school.”
But of course, the damage was already done. The high profile of both the university and the visiting lecturer legitimizes such rhetoric and emboldens others to engage in it – in the same way Clinton’s scorched earth disparagements of Trump voters encouraged the American left to take their grievances against those of dissenting opinion to 11.
The story flared up for a moment in the pell-mell news cycle and will likely be forgotten. Such violent rhetoric, tut-tutted but not roundly condemned, inches us closer to an America seemingly doomed to repeat some of history’s darkest moments of racism and discrimination. Blithely accepting these kinds of disgraces as a sign of the times merely encourages them.
One can only imagine the tsunami of coverage a story like this would’ve gotten had the lecturer been white and had said such things about another ethnic group.
Is that glaring disparity in how we respond to violence against different ethnic groups – rhetorical or otherwise – a recipe for the national unity Joe Biden said he wants?
Read more from author Pennel Bird.