This country is in the grips of hysteria and mob mentality the likes of which I have never seen.
Political "discourse" has always been filled with overblown rhetoric. In 2012, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was accused of wanting "to push Granny off a cliff." Republicans have routinely been accused of wanting poor people and black children to starve. It was inflammatory, but it was hyperbole, and (nearly) everyone knew it was hyperbole.
Now, however, these kinds of statements are being widely asserted as facts, justifying violence and deprivation of rights.
This week, Markos Moulitsas (of "Daily Kos" fame) tweeted, "The NRA and American conservatives/Nazis are one and the same." Someone on my Facebook feed wrote, "Beating up Nazis isn't alt-left; it's being a f—-ing American."
So all conservatives are Nazis, and should be beaten up?
It's bad enough when the targets of these hyperventilated accusations are people running for political office. But we've crossed a perilous line when friends and family turn on each other.
This week, someone I've known 30 years and never had a single disagreement with accused me on Facebook of not speaking out to "denounce" Nazis and white supremacists after Charlottesville. He said, "Your silence or lack of direct comment makes me worried about where you stand on the issue."
I was stunned and furious. Let's see: I had been traveling and away from my family for the previous eight days, and had come home to two kids starting school, an injured dog, a cat with diarrhea (three — count 'em — three rooms with carpet that needed cleaning), and God-only-knows how much laundry to do. But gosh, let me get right onto Facebook and virtue-signal a position (which should be OBVIOUS) on current events, at the risk of being labeled a racist or Nazi sympathizer if I don't.
In the end, I just blocked him. I don't need mob hostility in my life.
But it's not the mobs we should fear; it's the puppet masters behind them.
There are those working behind the scenes to whip up these frenzies and exploit them. Terrified, angry people are easily turned into weapons. When that happens, no one is safe, no relationship is sacred, and no institution is secure.
This isn't about white supremacists or Confederate monuments. Once the current targets are removed or destroyed, the definitions will expand, the targets will change. It will be time to desecrate graves and remove memorials to other historical figures — including slaveholding founders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
More seriously, the integrity of our political processes is at risk.
The real beef with President Trump isn't "collusion" with Russia or tolerance of racists; those are just pretexts to get the rabble roused. Trump wasn't supposed to win. The failure of Americans last November to do as they were told does not sit well in some circles, and must be corrected.
If the puppet masters are successful in taking out a duly elected president, they will be empowered to go further. Vice President Pence will be targeted (Maxine Waters has already admitted it) as well as other Republicans. Conservatives will be next (they're all Nazis, remember), as will Christians, pro-life Americans and anyone else who refuses to swallow the prevailing orthodoxy.
People are clamoring for some stability and sense. What should unite us is a renewed commitment to the founders' greatest gift: the Constitution. The principles articulated therein (and in the Declaration of Independence) provide far more protection than politicians or personalities, and we abandon them at our peril.
The Constitution protects freedom of speech, even when the speakers hold nasty ideas with which most of us disagree.
It protects peaceful assembly and protests.
It protects the exercise of religious belief.
It protects the right of law-abiding citizens to be armed. (Frankly, both the violent protests and the asinine comments emanating from all sides make the need for the Second Amendment clearer than ever. I won't take my chances with a government comprised of people who call me a Nazi.)
It protects our right to privacy, and to own property without fear of government seizure.
It ensures that those who are accused of crimes — yes, even "hate crimes" — receive legal representation and a fair trial.
I believe all human beings are created equal, and I will defend their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of their happiness. I will defend our system of government, the right to participate in it, the enforcement of properly enacted laws and the use of lawful procedures to change them.
I will not defend violence. I will not defend deprivations of constitutional rights or shredding the Constitution in a bogus and contrived effort to remediate the outrage du jour.
So for those wondering what "side" I stand on, there's your answer.
To find out more about Laura Hollis and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.