The recent stabbings in Portland, Oregon, of three men who tried to intervene in an anti-Muslim attack left Hillary Clinton “just sickened,” she told a crowd of booksellers Thursday evening in New York City.
In a conversation at BookExpo 2017 with author Cheryl Strayed, the former presidential candidate condemned the stabbings, which left two of the men dead and one wounded after they confronted a passenger who spewed racist and Islamophobic epithets at two girls on a train.
“I’m deeply troubled by that,” Clinton said, “and that’s not the only incident that we’ve seen where all of a sudden it appears that there are attitudes and feelings that are bursting through the veneer of civilization.”
Though she declined to use President Donald Trump’s name, Clinton argued that the rhetoric of the 2016 campaign deepened national divides and stoked resentments.
“What I saw in this election was a deliberate effort to blow the top off ... to basically say, whatever feeling you have, whatever resentment, however angry you might be, get out there and express it. It’s OK to take it out on other people, verbally or physically, as we saw during the campaign,” she said. “That is incredibly dangerous. That is unleashing a level of vitriol and defensiveness, hatred, that I don’t think we should tolerate.”
Clinton, who was at BookExpo to promote an upcoming memoir, drew several chilling comparisons from her experiences as secretary of state, as a senator and as first lady to make her point. “I will tell you, it doesn’t take much to rip off the politeness and the accommodation that really keeps diverse peoples working and living together. You saw it in Bosnia .... You saw it in Rwanda. I’ve seen it in many other places, where political leaders, for their own purposes, their own power, greed, ideology, religion, whatever it might be, really light those flames.”
In response to reported outbreaks of hate speech and violence, as well as deepening partisan divides, Clinton urged Americans to vote and get involved.
“I am hopeful, but I really think hope needs to be linked to a strategy for dealing with what we are facing,” she told the audience. “Some of it is very personal acts. [Kindness] is a much-overlooked attribute these days. Showing kindness, showing support for one another.”