William S. Becker is an expert in energy and climate science issues. He has been struck recently by the loose talk about a “civil war,” inspired by Trump’s cult followers.

There was a time when Americans had values. It seems those values have disappeared, and many things that used to be unacceptable, even unthinkable, became common.

When did it become acceptable to lie? Or to spread fake conspiracies? Or to govern with fear rather than ideas? When did it become okay to deny and reject what the majority of Americans decide? Is it now socially acceptable to send death threats to people with whom we disagree? Is it responsible for a sitting United States congresswoman to make outrageously false statements like “Democrats want Republicans dead, and they have already started the killings,” as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) recently did. However, all the automatic weapons and body armor that are now de rigueur under the GOP tent indicate the shoe is likely on the other foot.

When did we decide a president, current or former, is above the law — actually, above many laws in the case of Donald Trump — and law enforcement agents should be targeted for investigating? Where does free speech stop, and domestic terrorism begin? Don’t vile threats against individual Americans and their families cross the line?

When did it become acceptable for militants to lock, load and try to incite civil war in America? The New York Times, quoting data from media-tracking services, reports that mentions of civil war are no longer confined to radical groups. The threats have become common on social media. They jumped 3,000 percent in the hours after the FBI confiscated documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Largo home.

With no apparent regret about the 2021 insurrection, Trump predicts that if he’s indicted, “you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was more explicit, predicting “riots in the street.” These high-level provocateurs hide behind the First Amendment, but social media traffic shows that militant groups and individuals have received the actual message. Others get the message, too. As the New York Times notes, a survey in August found that 54 percent of “strong Republicans” believe a civil war of some kind is at least somewhat likely in the next decade.