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Batavick: Fear, resentment at heart of hate movements

On Sunday, a 17-year-old girl wearing the traditional abaya was beaten and killed by a man as she and friends left an IHOP in Virginia. Earlier they had attended 2 a.m. Ramadan services at a nearby mosque.

On June 10, there were "March Against Sharia" rallies across the country organized by ACT for America, a collection of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-government militia. What they have in common is a bad case of Islamophobia.

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In May, two men were killed in Portland, Oregon, when they tried to defend two women against hate speech spouted by a white supremacist. It took nearly three days and over 20 tweets before President Trump found the decency to condemn the deaths. I didn't find that surprising. After all, the perp was a member of his constituency.

I know that's a harsh judgment, and I am not saying all Republicans are white supremacists, only that if you share their sympathies, then this country has just the right party for you. That was signaled from the beginning by the hateful language used by Trump against Mexicans and Muslims. If you found it "refreshing" and "honest," then he had you at "hello."

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The arrival of Trump on the political stage was a signal to legions of haters that they could now express their vile thoughts in public. In the 34 days following the election, there were 1,094 bias incidents, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The greatest number came on the day after the election, and more than a third of the incidents either referenced Trump, his "Make America Great Again" slogan, or his salacious comment about grabbing women.

Not only that, but new and dangerous groups, like Identity Evropa, The Right Stuff, and American Vanguard, crawled out of the woodwork. The Daily Stormer, a website that calls Trump "Our Glorious Leader," started 31 new "clubs." Last July, it was the most visited hate site on the Internet. That should send chills down the spine of any patriotic American who supports traditional American values. Visit the site at your own risk, as it is rampant with racist, anti-Semitic, and neo-Nazi symbols and tropes.

The only good news on this fetid landscape is that the number of KKK chapters fell 32 percent last year, from 190 groups in 2015 to 130 in 2016. That followed a rapid expansion from 72 in 2014. The number of anti-government patriot groups also declined by 38 percent, dropping from 998 in 2015 to 623 in 2016. The SPLC attribute this to Trump's strong support for gun rights and interest in transferring control of federal lands to the states. However, not having a black man thought to be a secret, foreign-born Muslim as president also cooled the ardor of both Klan members and anti-government patriots.

Fear and resentment are at the heart of all hate movements. Carroll County has come a long way since the 1970s when the local KKK was bold enough to hold rallies, but among some residents, there is still a lingering distrust of those who look, speak and think differently. After all, our commissioners unanimously passed a measure in 2013 making English the county's official language.

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Compounding this distrust is the angst of daily life that has become a lot more difficult for working- and middle-class whites. Our globalized economy and the seemingly free-flow of immigrants has had a huge impact on jobs and wages. Many traditional positions for low-income whites have disappeared, and nationally, the proportion of foreign-born residents has increased from 4.7 percent in 1970 to 13.7 percent in 2015. For some, this has created what SPLC calls "a crisis of white identity." When I was a kid, America was roughly 90 percent white. By 2015, it was only 62 percent white, and the Census Bureau predicts that by 2043 the white population will be under 50 percent.

Trump exploited fears and resentments about minorities to get elected. He was also buoyed by conservative Republicans of the South and West who closed their eyes to the importance of character and family values and by disenchanted voters who had had enough of the Democratic Party's bi-coastal elitism, diversity and multiculturalism. But with Trump's presidency, we are paying a terrible price in the revival of hatreds — hatreds that are both tribal and unrelenting. Most times we are able to keep the lid tight on this witch's brew, but we are learning it doesn't take much to see it bubble over the top.

Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears Fridays. Email him at fjbatavick@gmail.com.

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