It will come as no surprise to people who know Don Sage, a town councilman in Schroon, that late last week he posted a photo of George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist, to his Facebook page, with an image of a scarlet-faced, fanged devil rising from flames in the background. The headline reads, "George Soros says Trump has almost destroyed the new world order." This was posted after Soros had received a pipe bomb in the mail from a man who is an avid supporter of Donald Trump and an avid hater of Trump's critics, like Soros.
The pipe-bomber lived in a van plastered with pro-Trump stickers and other stickers showing people, like Hillary Clinton, with targets over their faces, and others expressing hatred for news media like CNN that have aired segments critical of Trump. Some will call the bomber evil or say he is mentally disturbed, but people in our own communities — people like Don Sage — find common cause with him.
Sage is a prolific emailer, sending out missives filled with hate and anger.
Here is one I got from him recently: "I see you continue to spread your lies and fake news bull. What a bunch of garbage you put out. To bad they do not send you to Virginia with the rest of the lying fake news scum.
Don Sage, Nam Vet"
I don't know what he's talking about with the "send you to Virginia" comment.
I don't usually read Sage's emails, but I looked at a few today to write this blog post.
My point is this: People like the mail-bomber are not far removed from our own experience. They are here. In Sage's case, they are serving on the local Town Board.
Another citizen of Schroon Lake — Jim C. (I'm not using his full name, because I wasn't able to get in touch with him) — wrote a comment on Sage's Soros post, as follows: "I've said it before and I'll say it again ... Soros should have been HANGED with the rest of the NAZI War Criminals in 1946."
George Soros was 16 in 1946, and he was Jewish. He lived in Hungary and his family had to hide from the Nazis. The obscene nature of accusing a man persecuted by the Nazis of being one should be obvious to any decent human being.
On Saturday, a man who frequents hate websites and expressed a lot of rage online went into a synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 people, one of them 97 years old. The killer had posted about his anger toward a Jewish organization — HIAS — that helps refugees and his fear of the caravan of migrants now making its way north in Mexico. Trump has also expressed his anger about and fear of this caravan of migrants, mischaracterizing who they are and sowing fear about them.
Another person who writes emails to me often, which I also rarely read, has followed Trump's lead with the caravan. The subject line of an email from him on Saturday read as follows: "The invading caravan attacking America, attacking you, attacking your way of life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
The simplistic and foolish nature of these postings lead most of us, most of the time, to ignore them. Like the pipe-bomber's van, their exaggerated anger can strike us as clownish and elicit a shake of the head, perhaps even a laugh. The synagogue-shooter's web posts might make you snort in disgust, if you read them, and perhaps mutter something like "Unbelievable."
But the words follow feelings a lot of people have, and they are shared by and encouraged by our president. Sometimes, whipped up by the words they write and the words they read, these people take action.
We who tolerate the people who promote hate, who shrug and chuckle about them — who stand by while they get elected to public office — are to blame for the atmosphere they promote, and finally, for the crimes they commit.
Take a look at the photograph of Don Sage. He's a member of our community. He has been elected as a leader of the town of Schroon. He thinks George Soros is the devil.