Point of View Columns

When a Dog Whistle Becomes a Fire Alarm

If you are an avid follower of college football then you probably know the name Tommy Tuberville because he was a very successful college football coach at Auburn University in Alabama. If you follow the political circuit these days you probably know Tuberville as a Republican senator from Alabama who is a first-class member of the MAGA tribe. And if you really pay attention to these things, then you will remember that it was Tuberville who spoke at the rally prior to the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol and called for “trial by combat”.

You can be excused for not following all of the ranting and raving in which this man engages. But sometimes even the demagogues warrant attention. Take, for example, the extraordinary speech that Tuberville, a sitting U.S. Senator, gave in Las Vegas this past weekend.

He not only referred to reparations for Black Americans as “bullshit”, he also claimed that any reparations dollars would be going to criminals. And not finished wallowing in this rhetorical mud, he went on to claim that “they” (presumably Democrats and Black Americans in particular) were coming to take away from his virtually all white audience whatever wealth they might have.

The noxious nature of this speech drew some criticism – very little from Republicans and not so much from Democrats either. And the problem with that reaction is that Tommy Tuberville is not going to crawl under a rock where he belongs, he will continue to race bait and continue to light the fires of racial hatred and bigotry that have never been truly extinguished in the entire history of this nation.

Everyone who considers themselves a person of good will should be more than concerned, we should be terrified that senior political leaders are free to spew such hatred, because there is no reason that like some vile virus, this hatred won’t spread in unimaginable ways.

I am reminded of the words of Martin Niemoller which should be a message for all of us who have yet to confront the dawning of a new American nightmare:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me.

Maya Angelou once said that when someone tells you who they are, believe them. The denizens of MAGA nation have told us who they are. We fail to believe them at our own peril.