My daughter called me, frantic, this afternoon. Someone had left a message on the landline answering machine, directed at my wife. He named her and promised to rape her, murder her, and do the same to her husband and to “any children you’ve got.” “You’re a fuckin’ pussy,” he said. “You’re a fuckin’ bitch,” he said. “I’m gonna come all the way over to [our address] and put an axe in your head. Know what I mean?” In he next call, he said “Pussy, pussy, pussy, pussy!” And he laughed. He named a number of our family: parents, in-laws, step-parents. He said he lived in Ohio. He named our address and said he might pay us a visit.
From his comments, we put together the likely story. He’d seen my wife in some anti-Trump protest photo with her pink pussy hat. Then he’d googled her, got to one of those sites that aggregate public records, and made his call. His words were slurred, his rendering of our street address haltingly pronounced, as if read off a screen. He said he’d slice us if he saw us.
We called LAPD and a tech-savvy nephew. They said what you might expect: if he hid his phone number (of course he did) and we didn’t recognize his voice (of course we didn’t), there isn’t much they could do besides take a report.
This isn’t the first time, exactly. My daughter got death threats on a social network she used back in middle school. The school administration, as helpless as the police, figured it was another student, one who wanted to inflict as much pain as she could inflict anonymously. My daughter has a web site of her own now, which continues to attract occasional abuse, including threats of rape, violence, and death. The technical term for such terrorism is “spam.”
A couple of days ago in this blog, I mentioned that the Southern Poverty Law Center tallies hate crimes. It’s an approximate number, based on incidents reported and an estimate of those that go unreported. I’ll be calling them tomorrow morning, so that our little brush with intimidation can join the rest of the statistics.
Although undoubtedly motivated by hate (my wife, like me, is anti-Trump) and undoubtedly a crime (as is every verbal threat of murder), this species of hate crime is now so endemic in the United States as to seem, to some of the people I’ve talked to, almost normal, like getting your identity stolen or your car jacked. Y’know: shit happens.
Growing up in the 60s, another era of intense political conflict, I remember no one who received such threats. Yet, though he’s given cover to a nation of terror-mongers, this started well before Donald Trump.
The United States has long been a rough neighborhood for some of our neighbors. Now it’s a rough neighborhood for all of us. In too many communities, we have abandoned self-control and self-respect.
Maybe Game of Thrones has it right. Winter is coming.