clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Anti-Semitic propaganda was mailed to me at my home. This is not normal.

On Monday, November 14, six days after Donald Trump's election as the next president of the United States, and on the day that Trump had selected Steve Bannon to be his strategic adviser, I came home to a letter addressed to me personally, at my home.

The envelope contained four pages' worth of anti-Semitic propaganda printed on three sheets of paper.

[Warning: Graphic content below]

This is the first time I have been personally targeted. I am Jewish, though this has never been part of my public identity. I don't write about Jewish issues. I don't pick fights. I am far from a television personality.

I also know I'm not alone in being targeted by elements of hate in this country.

I had to scroll through the racist acts documented in "Day 1 in Trump's America" several times, because I couldn't believe this was happening. I got shivers all over my body when I read David French's moving essay about how alt-right trolls photoshopped his adopted Ethiopian daughter's face into gas chambers "with a smiling Trump in a Nazi uniform preparing to press a button and kill her."

I know others have experienced things far more threatening and personal than a piece of hate mail sent from more than 2,000 miles away.

I also know this man who sent me the mail, Brian Clayton Charles, is a man with a criminal record and a long history of abnormal acts. I know other Jewish journalists have received similar mailings from this man.

But what's different today is that people like Brian Clayton Charles now have been given license to do this.

This man is not hiding. His return address is there for all the world to see. He will probably welcome this attention.

In Trump and Bannon's America, this is a man who now feels emboldened. This is a man who feels the law and authorities will now be on his side.

I take seriously what the president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, told the Los Angeles Times's Lisa Mascaro in September: "Before Trump, our identity ideas, national ideas, they had no place to go." The editor of the Daily Stormer website similarly told her: "Virtually every alt-right Nazi I know is volunteering for the Trump campaign."

For a long time, our society marginalized these hateful views by being clear that they were not normal. We all collectively understood that there were certain behaviors that were not okay, certain things that decent, civilized people in a modern society did not do to each other. Those norms are now being shattered.

When Trump ran for president, he gave these people a voice. He told them they had been stymied by "political correctness," and it was perfectly appropriate for them to say all the things they had been told not to say. He shattered norms. Bannon, the man who ran, built up its viewer base "by catering to the alt-right, a small but vocal fringe of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and Internet trolls," (I'm quoting here from National Review, not some lefty site). He is now the top adviser to the president of the United States. Please take a minute to let that sink in.

It doesn't take that many Brian Clayton Charleses to cause real havoc in this country.

This is on all of us now. We can't allow this to be normalized. This will take courage and constant vigilance.

In the past, I might have shrugged off something like this as a random incident. Now I can't, and I won't.

Regardless of our identity or our ethnicity, we are all Americans. We have been a prosperous society because we have agreed on shared norms of human decency and tolerance that have allowed a remarkable diversity of people to flourish and contribute, and live in relative harmony. If we lose these norms, a dark and violent path lies ahead.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.