Modern book burners on the Left lose moral high ground

March 12, 2016 10:29 AM MST

Opposing views must be destroyed

photo by M. Scott Mahaskey, Politico via Twitter

As images spread across social media of the clash in Chicago leading to the cancellation of a Donald Trump campaign event we are witnessing the diminution of reasonable discourse in American politics. While each side assigns blame to the other what is abundantly clear is this: those protesting Trump like those cheering Trump represent two ugly sides to the same coin.

While White working class Americans rage at the loss of living standards and the vanishing of good jobs; Black Americans rage at the slaughter of their people by the police and tattered civil rights protections. In a sense both groups are right and share common cause. What divides them is the tendency to place groups in partisan ghettos creating a form of tribalism that assures no progress as we fight each other while those at the top continue to prosper.

The Trump phenomenon like the Black Lives Matter moment are burning the candle of our civil discourse at both ends creating the appearance of a fire of passion and activism while effectively burning out any chance of change for the better. Bayard Rustin, the chief strategist of the civil rights movement spoke of this problem in his seminal essay From Protest to Politics in 1965. At what point do we focus our energy and passion on organizing for change rather than on organizing simultaneous Klan rallies and Civil Rights Movement Reenactments?

So what does this have to do with book burning?

While those on the Left are spreading the image of the elderly Trump supporter raising her arm in a Nazi salute gesture, those on the Right see the image of the young protester ripping apart a campaign sign.

The destruction of campaign material like the burning of books seeks only one aim: to silence dissent. Sure it is a cheap gesture and one that has no meaning and will not change hearts and minds. But what it represents is an authoritarian need to say not that we disagree or need to find common ground but that in fact your voice must not be heard. When groups like Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street begin as narcissistic meet-ups with no agenda other than rage and attention they need the wisdom of a Bayard Rustin to transform their protest into real political action and change.

When you can speak to your neighbor or fellow worker who holds views you find ignorant and abhorrent and understand where he is coming from even though you disagree then you have placed a grain of sand in the sand pile of progress. Ripping up his property is putting up a wall while building a pedestal of self-importance. What progress has been made in real programmatic change to create a more civil society is lost in the discourse. It is not just the sign that is torn apart; in fact we are tearing any chance of building a sustainable movement asunder.

News highlights

Originally published at on March 12, 2016.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.