O say, can you see the latest example of leftist fascism?

Even before Donald Trump took office January, one prominent local civil-rights leader told me he was worried about the influence of white supremacy in the White House because presidential adviser Steve Bannon had been an executive with the conservative website Breitbart.

When I asked why, he couldn’t say. He’d never actually read Breitbart.

ESPN’s Jemele Hill was equally shy on proof this week when she tweeted that Trump “is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/other white supremacists,” but fortunately author and journalist was not when she took to the Internet to suggest that a Miami Police warning against looting during Hurricane Irma was racist because “The (prison) state exists to protect private property and is inseparable from white supremacy.”

Hill did not explain whether it would be acceptable for non-whites to protect their homes and businesses or why she apparently believes opportunistic thievery is committed only by minorities, but her ability to connect the dots between property rights and white supremacy at least explains the left’s hostility to Trump, whose pledge to protect America’s borders propelled him to victory over a candidate Hill no doubt considered superior in every way. Now that Trump seems to be backtracking on that pledge, perhaps his critics will reconsider his alleged status as bigot-in-chief.

Or perhaps not, since rational thought seems to have no place in the left’s growing onslaught against free speech and civil debate.

With numerous minority professional athletes sitting or raising their fists during the National Anthem to protest the racist society that had made them rich, it was only matter of time before the man who wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner” would be targeted, too. The inevitable happened this week in Baltimore, where “racist anthem” was spray-painted on the monument to Francis Scott Key, who wrote the poem during the War of 1812 while watching the British bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry.

In one sense, the sentiment may at least display a level of historical knowledge that goes beyond broad stripes and bright stars. Both Key’s life and his famous poem do indeed challenge modern sensibilities — even if you do have to scour the obscure third stanza to see why.

“No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave, and the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Key wrote in words that have little meaning today. But as Morgan State University Professor Jason Johnson has written, Key was referring to runaway slaves who were fighting for the British in exchange for their freedom. “In other words,” Johnson concluded, “Key was saying that the blood of all the former slaves and hirelings on the battlefield will wash away the pollution of he British invaders.”

Key’s personal attitudes were complex. An aristocratic attorney, he owned slaves but opposed slave trafficking. He may have helped spark a race riot in 1835 by aggressively prosecuting a black man accused of trying to kill his mistress, but he also faced down the lynch mob that wanted to hang his client and donated his legal services to blacks fighting for their freedom.

Sorting out such complexities requires study, historical context and reflection. It’s so much easier and self-satisfying to grab a can of spray paint.

Which could be why about $600,000 was spent on security this week when conservative Ben Shapiro spoke at the “birthplace of the free-speech movement,” the University of California-Berkeley. To prevent violence, police erected concrete barriers which, as Shapiro wryly noted, “means Berkeley has achieved building a wall before Donald Trump did.”

No word yet on whether that makes school officials white supremacists, too.

At Ball State University, meanwhile, ’60s radical chic personality Angela Davis is scheduled to speak on “institutional racism in the penal and criminal justice system” next week. Perhaps she’ll mention looting, who knows? I doubt many BSU students will threaten to riot, though. When I was in Muncie, most of us preferred partying, booze and even studying to mindless, destructive politics.

The sensible ones still do.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.

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