Fighting for decency in the Age of Donald Trump

Hate crimes have spiked in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory.

Racist vandals spray-painted the dugout of a baseball field in upstate New York with a swastika and the words, “Make America white again.”

White power chants and racist events are popping up on university campuses.

At Southern Illinois University, white students posed in blackface in front of a Confederate flag and posted the pictures on social media. In the wake of the recent murder of a Saudi Arabian UW-Stout student, another student — who is black and Muslim — wrote to the chancellor, “I am terrified of what this country has become.”

A woman in South Philly found her car spray-painted with the words “Trump Rules” and “Black Bitch.”

In Queens, New York, immigrants found official-looking papers peppered with racist epithets under their apartment doors telling them to leave because they have no place in Donald Trump’s America.

The Ku Klux Klan is planning a victory parade in North Carolina on Dec. 3. Trump’s spokeswoman disavowed the group, but march they will.

President Donald Trump

The pundits who gave Trump the stature to win by ignoring his policies, mitigating his bizarre behavior and treating him like a legitimate presidential candidate are now on camera speculating what a Donald Trump presidency will look like. We already know.

And it’s not as if Trump played coy about his beliefs. Read his tweets or review videos of his rallies and you’ll see, in high definition, everything you need to know about life in America under President Trump.

The river of bile spewed by Trump and his followers on the campaign trail opened a Pandora’s box of racism, misogyny, xenophobia and nearly every other form of hatred imaginable — from sea to polluted sea. For those of us who never imagined such toxicity was bottled up behind the friendly smiles of people we deal with in everyday life, the revelation has been soul-crushing.

If his campaign meant anything, Trump’s presidency will cost us a lot:

• The chance to address climate change.

• Accelerating income inequality.

• Ramped-up terrorism and the increased probability of war.

• Renewal of the same reckless financial practices that caused the Great Recession.

• Unheard-of levels of poisonous air and water.

• The mass sell-off of natural resources.

• Millions of uninsured citizens and giant leaps in the cost of pharmaceuticals and health care.

• The loss of hard-won rights for women, LGBT people and the press.

• The highest levels of intimidation and violence experienced in decades by African Americans, Muslims, Hispanics, Jews and members of other minority groups.

But the greatest cost to society is already clear: the erosion of the common decency that allows our pluralistic society to function. The social pressures that discouraged bigots, misogynists and liars from acting out in public began to evaporate when the highest political office in the free world was won by a crude, arrogant, insulting, blatantly dishonest and emotionally broken throwback who brags about sexually abusing women, ripping off workers and scamming the system over which he will preside.

Treating women like inferior sexual objects will return to acceptability in many quarters. Slurs and epithets that carry centuries of hurt will become part of everyday parlance, sparking divisiveness and violence that will make the riots of recent years seem like picnics by comparison. Rogue police officers, bigoted landlords and employers, and other closeted segregationists in positions of authority will inch the nation backward to Jim Crow or worse.

Social chaos will reign.Donald Trump cartoon

What to do

We celebrate the peaceful protests against Trump’s election that are swelling across the nation, and we hope they will continue with the sense of urgency and purpose that propelled the civil rights marches of the ’60s and the street activism against AIDS in the ’80s and ’90s. In New York, one protester held aloft a sign that puts this election in perspective. It said: “Your vote was a hate crime.”

In the wake of that crime, all decent citizens must stand up for U.S. values by volunteering for and contributing to organizations fighting the onslaught of legislative transgressions that Trump’s presidency will bring. There is no time to sit on the sidelines and ponder.

Join the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are speaking out with their wallets. Donations to such progressive groups as the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, the NAACP and the ACLU (whose annual fundraising dinner in Milwaukee is Nov. 19) have mushroomed. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism, said his group is seeing a “fiftyfold increase in donations.”

Maybe you sat silent during the election out of fear of offending friends, co-workers and relatives who backed Trump. Let that fear go. You’ve got to go all in during times like these.

Try to enlist Trump voters in your efforts to fight Trumpism on an issue-by-issue basis. Polls (if they are to be believed) showed the majority of people agreed with Hillary Clinton’s policies. Do everything you can to fight for them.

Speak out — with civility — when you hear offensive language and ideas expressed in your presence. Don’t yell. Counter misinformation with truth. Question irrational beliefs until it becomes obvious how absurd they are — without having to actually state how absurd they are.

And don’t allow hateful language and jokes to go unchallenged. Let people know you’re offended and pray the haters are still civilized enough to keep their views quiet when they know those views will diminish them in the eyes of many others.

Enough others, in fact, that Hillary Clinton defeated Trump at the polls, despite the unparalleled, unrelenting attacks against her by the FBI, the Russians, right-wing hackers and a media more interested in ratings than reality.

Only about 30 percent of registered voters chose Trump. Certainly there are enough of us to contain his damage.