I guess this was an impromptu comment but it wasn’t a flippant one. Sen. Bill Nelson really thinks the U.S. is on a path that led to genocide in Rwanda. From CNN:
Nelson, a Democrat who is facing a stiff re-election challenge from Florida’s current Republican governor, Rick Scott, made the comment Sunday while stumping at the Covenant Missionary Baptist Church in Florida City, Florida. Nelson was accompanied at the event by Democratic California Sen. Kamala Harris.
Nelson described his wife’s relationship with Rwanda’s current first lady, Jeannette Kagame, and said tribalism is sweeping through US politics to a dangerous degree. He called the story of the Rwandan genocide “instructive” to Americans.
“When a place gets so tribal that the two tribes won’t have anything to do with each other … that jealousy turns into hate,” Nelson said. “And we saw what happened to the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda, it turned into a genocide. A million-people hacked to death within a few months. And we have got to watch what’s happening here.”
The number of deaths usually cited is 800,000 but that happened in just three months. The genocide was followed by an ongoing battle between Hutus who fled to Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The BBC reports the follow-on conflicts are responsible for another 5 million deaths.
I don’t want to be unfair to Sen. Nelson but this seems like a pretty vast overstatement. I guess you could argue that Nelson isn’t saying we’re there yet only that we need to keep an eye on things, but the nature of the comparison makes it hard to play down. The Rwanda genocide had 800,000 victims from a population of just about 7 million people. The comparable death toll in the U.S. would be something like 34 million people.
And because I think the comparison is so extreme, I also think it’s fear-mongering. I mean, isn’t this what the media has been saying about the caravan for the past week? It’s not a threat and Trump should stop talking up the danger of bad hombres, etc. I actually agree it’s better to talk about the caravan (which is a serious issue) without invoking the threat of Middle Eastern terrorists (something Trump eventually admitted wasn’t true). But isn’t Sen. Nelson doing something similar in telling a mostly black church that we need to worry about Rwandan genocide? You can say someone is wrong without comparing them to Hitler. You can say tribalism is a problem in the U.S. without alluding to a massive, bloody genocide.
But Sen. Nelson isn’t the only person in a violent frame of mind. Last night, actor James Cromwell suggested a violent revolution may be necessary if next month’s election doesn’t go well for Democrats:
“This is nascent fascism. We always had a turnkey, totalitarian state — all we needed was an excuse, and all the institutions were in place to turn this into pure fascism,” Cromwell told Variety on Sunday night. “If we don’t stop [President Trump] now, then we will have a revolution for real. Then there will be blood in the streets.”
Cromwell later echoed his statement during his acceptance speech for one of the six Carney Awards given out that night.
“We’re living in very curious times, and something is coming up which is desperately important to this country and to this planet, and that is an election, in which hopefully in some measure we are going to take back our democracy,” Cromwell said. “We will have a government that represents us and not the donor class. We will cut through the corruption, [and] we won’t have to do what comes next, which is either a non-violent revolution or a violent one, because this has got to end.”
As bad as things seem in the wake of the two terror attacks we’ve had in the past week, we’re still a long, long way from violent revolution or genocide. People who say otherwise ought to be the first to tone down the rhetoric. Here’s the clip of Bill Nelson.