The United States is in a state of distress and turmoil. The country experienced two more mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH within 24 hours of one another. The mass shooting in El Paso resulted in the deaths of 22 people and an additional 9 deaths in Dayton, among many more who’ve been injured. There have been 255 mass shootings in the United States in 2019. Mass shootings, in frequency and scope, are a uniquely American problem. As the number of radical hate groups rise, so have the mass shootings. The El Paso murderer was specifically targeting “hispanics.”
These mass shootings have been happening long before Donald Trump became president, yet it’s now a grim reality that the President of the United States is culpable for at least some of them –provoking far-right extremists to commit mass murder based on his own rhetoric. He’s had a long, documented history of racism and discrimination. Trump’s rhetoric has been steeped in fear mongering, racism, and xenophobia since he announced his candidacy for president at Trump Tower in the summer of 2015. He generalized an entire group of people as “criminals” and “rapists,” then adding as if it was an afterthought, that he assumes “some” are good people.
Since becoming president, his malice-filled tone hasn’t changed; in fact, it’s become more extreme. We’ve consistently witnessed the actions of a president who can rightfully be characterized as a white supremacist. One of his first actions as president was a Muslim ban by executive order. The courts were quick to dissolve the executive order, but the presidential tone had been set.
There was the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, NC, which resulted in the death of a young woman peacefully protesting against the anti-Semitic and racist ideologies being flaunted. Trump responded by saying there were “fine people on both sides” of the protest. There were white supremacists and then people protesting against them, yet he considered the white supremacists to be “fine people.” The white supremacists were thrilled with his response, while the rest of the country watched in shock.
As the 2018 midterm elections were approaching, Trump used his racist rhetoric and fear mongering to help Republican congressional candidates, as well as a ploy to get funds for his border wall. He started using the word “invasion” to describe the migrants attempting to enter the United States from the southern border. He manufactured a crisis by relentlessly spewing the word “invasion.” The word “invasion” was used with a militaristic spin, which therefore implied that the country was under attack. They spoke of caravans of tens of thousands of migrants coming to the border, with right-wing media personalities supplementing Trump’s propaganda by reporting these were violent, military-age men. Trump declared a national emergency and sent thousands of soldiers to the border to thwart off the so-called invasion. After the midterm elections were over, most of the troops were recalled. There was never an attempted invasion. It was propaganda used to instill fear in the public with the intent of influencing the midterm elections.
The real crisis at the border started coming to light in the past few months. The Trump administration has intentionally been bottlenecking the asylum process at the border, which ensured to minimize the number of migrants being considered for asylum. This administration started an inhumane policy of separating children from their parents at the border. This was not being used as a child-protection measure, it was being used as a deterrent.
Then came reports of a humanitarian crisis: human beings were being treated worse than animals. Children were forced to sleep on concrete floors with aluminum blankets. These children were packed into caged-off areas that were originally designed to hold adults. And they were designed to hold a fraction of the number of people they were packing in. When the media and members of Congress started looking into the crisis, Trump became combative, saying it was fake news. He also lied and said it wasn’t him but President Obama who started separating families.
Then there’s the wave of racist rhetoric coming from Trump’s mouth and Twitter account. He attacked four congresswomen of color. He told them to go back to their own countries. These are four American citizens, duly-elected to Congress. Three of them were born in America and one became a naturalized citizen decades ago. This kind of rhetoric, “go back to…” goes back to the Jim Crow south. When schools were being integrated, it was common for the racist white protestors to yell out “go back to Africa,” which like Trump’s racist remarks, doesn’t make logical sense since they were born in America. During a rally held shortly after the tweets, Trump targeted his attack on one of the four congresswomen, Ilhan Omar (D-MN). In response to the attack, the MAGA crowd disturbingly began chanting “Send her back!” repeatedly. Trump stood there with a smile on his face, basking in the hatred. Trump’s actions caused such an outrage that the House, for the first time in over 100 years, voted to formally condemn the president.
Just before the massacre, Trump started targeting the chair of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings (D-MD). He used racially-inflammatory language calling Cummings’ district a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human would want to live.” Based on logical reasoning, Trump is calling the people living in Cummings’ district subhuman. Since “no human would want to live there,” the people living there aren’t fully human. This is clearly a racist attack on not only a respected and distinguished member of Congress, but on an entire community. This further exemplifies his white supremacist ideology, as well as demonstrates the argument made in a previous article that Trump is not president for all Americans, he’s president for his supporters. Trump’s attack against Cummings came after Mueller’s testimony before two House committees. He didn’t choose to attack the white chairmen of the other committees investigating him, he targeted the black chairmen.
This is the same racist pattern as the attack on the four congresswomen of color. Part of his reasoning for the attack was that they’re socialists. Yet Bernie Sanders, the only member of Congress who’s a self-declared socialist and a major critic of Trump, was never told to go back to his country. In fact, he’s never told any white member of Congress to go back to their own country.
These are all just some of the examples of the racist, amoral, and hate-filled rhetoric Trump has been spewing out of his mouth and Twitter account for years now. As President of the United States, his perceived authority gives significant weight to his rhetoric. Amongst his supporters, he’s normalized hate speech. For example, just a few months ago during a campaign rally in Florida, he continuously used the word “invasion” when referring to immigrants. When he asked the crude MAGA crowd what he should do about it, someone yelled out “shoot them.” Trump smiled and joked, “only in the panhandle [can you get away with that].” Well, just last week, someone did “shoot them.”
The mass murderer in El Paso specifically targeted the city because he wanted to kill “hispanics.” We know this because he wrote it in his so-called manifesto. In the manifesto, the mass murderer used the word “invasion” numerous times to justify the massacre. The manifesto also featured some of the same talking points used by Trump and right-wing media personalities like Tucker Carlson.
There’s a serious problem in this country when you can’t readily tell the difference between a mass murdering white supremacist’s manifesto and the Twitter account of the President of the United States. Trump didn’t physically pull the trigger, but his racist, hateful, and divisive rhetoric undoubtedly made pulling the trigger easier for the El Paso mass murderer. Any reasonably-minded person can conclude that Trump is culpable in this mass murder. The proverbial blood is on his hands.
After the weekend of mass shootings, Trump addressed the country. He was in full Trump-teleprompter mode, coldly reading words off a screen with no emotion or sincerity. He did denounce white supremacy, but it was utterly unconvincing, which makes sense since he is a racist and a majority of Americans agree. He went on to blame “violent video games” and “mental illness” for the attack, which are lies. There’s no evidence that violent video games cause mass shootings. Moreover, statistically, people suffering from mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than to commit it.
When an Islamic terrorist commits a mass murder, the blame is quickly attributed to their extremist ideology of hate. However, when an American commits an act of domestic terrorism, excuses like “violent video games” and “mental health” are used. The only difference between foreign terrorists and domestic terrorists is their specific brand of extremist ideology. They’re two sides of the same sadistic coin. It’s time domestic terrorism is treated with the same attention and resolve as foreign terrorism. Americans are far more likely to be killed by a domestic terrorist than a foreign terrorist, so it’s an urgent matter of national security that laws are enacted to curtail the domestic threat.
On the Monday following the mass murders, Trump went to El Paso and Dayton to meet with and console the victims’ families. The mass shootings are a national tragedy. Trump himself ordered flags across the country to be flown at half mast. And yet, in a time of tragedy, he spent the day attacking political opponents and bragging about the reception he received on his visit. His administration produced a video, which was posted on social media, of Trump visiting the two cities. The video had the tone and production value of a campaign ad. It depicted people waving and smiling at Trump. To say the video was in poor taste would be a gross understatement.
The most disturbing moment of his one-day “consolation” tour was a photo taken in El Paso, which is the photo featured in this article. A 2-month old baby was a victim of the El Paso mass shooting. The baby is now orphaned after both parents were killed shielding the child. The baby broke a few fingers and was discharged from the hospital by the time Trump showed up. However, the baby was brought back to the hospital to see Trump. In the photo, you can see Trump grinning and giving a thumbs-up. Melania Trump has a chilling smile on her face as well. The wildly inappropriate and disturbing photo was posted on one of Melania’s social media accounts the same day. An orphaned child being used as a prop while Trump and his wife’s faces are gleeful is not only aloof but dark. The essence of his consolation tour is summed up in that photo.
This is one of the darkest and most volatile times this country has ever experienced on the domestic front. There’s been more mass shootings this year than there have been days in the year; we’re averaging more than one per day. The rise of white supremacy is directly correlated with the rise of Trump and the MAGA movement. This isn’t just about a president who engages in criminal conduct, it’s about a president who is himself a national security risk. It’s never been more apparent that having a president devoid of any sense of morality endangers not only American democracy and American values, but is literally endangering Americans. There is no moral relativism when it comes to supporting this president: if you support a racist then you’re part of the problem. The time for being on the sidelines has passed. It’s time to choose sides in this defining battle for the soul of America.