California Forum

Amid hate and division, take stand for equal justice and opportunities for all

A demonstrator holds a sign during a rally to protest Donald Trump as the Republican presidential candidate attends a private fundraising event in San Antonio in June.
A demonstrator holds a sign during a rally to protest Donald Trump as the Republican presidential candidate attends a private fundraising event in San Antonio in June. The Associated Press

Do you have 3½ minutes to spare?

If so, use them to watch and listen to the video The New York Times posted a few weeks ago capturing the images and voices at Donald Trump rallies.

But do it out of earshot and eyesight of your young children. It is vulgar, racist and misogynistic. It’s 210 seconds of hate. And that is just a slice of reality, a slice of the division that exists in our country today.

All you have to do is turn or your TV or radio, or log into the internet, or read the comments in your daily newspaper to hear the voices of those who stir and stoke the extremes.

As a son of Mississippi and a journalist for decades, I have long witnessed the fabric of a community, a state, our nation ripped asunder over issues such as race, war, choice, pitting relatives against relatives, Americans against Americans.

As a child I went to the funeral of a young African American man who built and sold the beautiful and graceful kites we flew. A white man for no reason whatsoever knifed him to death. His killer, guilty as charged, received a six-month jail sentence, sending an incredibly ghastly message that black lives didn’t matter.

Those of us of a certain age witnessed the demonstrations and the riots that grew out of the Vietnam protests. We witnessed the civil rights movement and saw the dogs turned loose against marchers in Selma, Ala. We learned of three young freedom riders murdered and left dead in a ditch on the side of a Philadelphia, Miss., road.

We saw fires blazing in the inner cities, days of rage at the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention, and grieved the assassinations of President John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Sen. Robert Kennedy and Medgar Evers. In recent years, we separated over the Iraq war.

And here we are again, a badly divided nation. Over-the-top angry shouts of derision and physical clashes have become daily happenings in the current presidential contest, egged on by Trump himself.

He has called on his supporters to punch his detractors. He has asked the Russians to commit cyberwar against Hillary Clinton and hinted that maybe the “Second Amendment people” can do something if she is elected.

And I am sad to say that much of the national news media has not done enough to frame the discussions better and wider and consistently so that more people can grasp and understand the real underlying issues in this campaign. They have created their master narratives, and they are going to stick with them.

But somehow we have to find a way to not allow the actions of this hour in our history to wipe out the gains that have been made. Too many have suffered unforgettable pains in those struggles.

Together we must accurately measure the failures of our society and its imperfections and discover the way to heal the wounds that divide us, to achieve a society in which the backgrounds of all people will be recognized and respected, every human experience valued, every voice heard.

I remember my father telling me when I was a youngster that when we go for that final test we will not be judged on what we have accomplished, but rather on how we have discharged the common charities of life.

We will be judged on what we did to improve a society in which hatred was tolerated as long as it didn’t enter our own lives.

We will be judged on whether our actions were on the side of those who were starving for the bread of hope and were denied.

There can be no softening of our commitment to equal justice and opportunities for all, not as long as the line of those with hard hearts continues to grow.

There can be no softening if we hope to erase those 3½ minutes of hate.

Gregory Favre is the former executive editor of The Sacramento Bee and retired vice president of news for the McClatchy Co. Contact him at gregory@calmatters.org.

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