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MAGA’s Violent Threats are Having a Distorting Impact on American Life

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The constant threat of violence, especially from MAGA sources, is warping American politics, and it’s a trend that must be recognized. The ripple effects of this violence are far-reaching, impacting not only national politics but also local communities and individual lives. There’s a pervasive sense of fear and intimidation, with individuals and public figures facing threats that often go unnoticed by the wider public. This undercurrent of violence, largely spurred by the MAGA movement, is reshaping the landscape of American society.

A recent NPR interview with journalists Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman highlighted the extreme lengths to which individuals are willing to go to protect themselves from the threats of violence. In the wake of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis struggled to find lawyers to prosecute her case against Trump. Even a former Georgia governor turned her down, citing the potential risks to her safety. This poignant example underscores the chilling effect of the pervasive threat of violence in American political and legal spheres.

The threats are not limited to high-profile political figures. Local election workers, school board members, and individuals advocating for public health measures have all been subjected to intimidation and threats from right-wing activists. The surge in threats against members of Congress is particularly alarming, with Capitol Police opening over 8,000 threat assessments last year, a staggering eightfold increase since 2016. The intimidation tactics are systemic and pervasive, driving individuals from public office and stifling dissent.

The impact of these threats extends beyond the realm of politics, affecting individual families and communities. Many have faced terrifying encounters, from death threats to swatting attempts and doxxing. The constant sense of menace has left individuals and families living in fear, always looking over their shoulders and fearing for their safety. The fear of ideological violence is not confined to one end of the political spectrum, with left-wing attacks and threats also contributing to the alarming trend.

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However, the specific threats from the MAGA movement stand out due to their ubiquity and the acknowledgment of their use as a tactic to stifle dissent. These threats isolate and frighten dissenters, driving them into silence or submission. Indeed, the pervasive nature of the violence creates a chilling climate where individuals are forced to weigh the risks of speaking out against the potential harm to themselves and their families.

Despite the bleakness of the situation, there are moments of light that offer hope. A personal anecdote shared by the author provides a glimmer of hope, highlighting the willingness of some individuals to stand up against the threats and intimidation. A deputy’s response to a threat towards the author’s family showcased a commitment to upholding the values of free speech and protecting those under threat. These gestures of solidarity, along with the comfort and support offered to those facing threats, provide a pathway to perseverance in the face of fear and violence.

Ultimately, the recognition of the pervasive threat of violence from MAGA sources is a crucial step in addressing the warped landscape of American society. By shedding light on the impact of these threats and offering support to those affected, individuals and communities can work towards creating a climate of safety and free expression. It is only through collective action and unwavering support for those facing threats that the tide of fear and intimidation can be turned, allowing for the true flourishing of democracy and civil discourse in America.

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

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It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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