Forgive me if I’m less than persuaded by President Trump’s crocodile tears shed Monday morning during prepared remarks at the White House in response to the two mass shootings over the weekend.
I’m skeptical because he’s said and done so many things that run directly contrary to the sentiments he expressed in his wooden reading from a 10-minute teleprompter speech obviously written by someone else. His remarks landed with a sinister thud due to the fact that he has used his bully pulpit (the most powerful platform on Earth) to sow division, discord and hatred against minority groups, including Hispanic people, the same group that the alleged killer targeted in Saturday’s attack at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
That killer’s manifesto, released online just prior to his killing spree, echoed many of Trump’s oft-repeated talking points about a “Hispanic invasion” of the U.S. Parts of it sounded like they could have been lifted from a typical Trump speech at a campaign rally.
In his remarks, Trump decried the “monsters” responsible for killing at least 31 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, during a historically deadly 24-hour period; called for unity and “bipartisanship” in tackling this intractable crisis; urged Americans to condemn “racism, bigotry and white supremacy”; and listed several actions the nation must take to prevent future mass shootings.
Most of his proposals came from the NRA’s playbook of tinkering around the edges, while doing nothing to curtail the firearms marketing and technology that allows easy access to weaponry that can kill dozens of people in half the time it takes to unload a dishwasher.
Trump’s confirmation that his administration has “asked the FBI to identify all further resources they need to investigate and disrupt hate crimes and domestic terrorism” ignored the fact that until those remarks, he had assiduously avoided acknowledging the threat posted by white supremacy or domestic terrorism. Moreover, his administration has done precious little up to this point to counter this increasing threat.
As with his strange reluctance to provide leadership in confronting Russia’s attacks on American democracy and elections, Trump has been AWOL when it comes to leadership against domestic terrorism. Quite the contrary, in repeated statements and actions he’s provided aid and comfort to the enemy, in both the cases of white supremacy and Russia. While there’s no evidence that he directly inspired the El Paso mass shooter (and no evidence to say he didn’t), Trump’s normalization of bigotry and racism certainly did nothing to discourage the killer.
It’s difficult to square Trump’s many statements and tweets disparaging Latinos, Muslims and African Americans with the following statements from his remarks on Monday:
“The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul.”
I could recite some of the many instances where Trump has stoked fears and hatred against Hispanic immigrants and contempt for minority groups in America, including African Americans. He’s been doing this as a calculated campaign tactic, and his scripted call for unity on Monday was no less a calculation toward his re-election.
But most of us have heard his fear-mongering statements – citing an “invasion” from the south, the “rat- and crime-infested” cities represented by black lawmakers, calls for people of color who serve in Congress to go back where they came from, declaring there’s “fine people on both sides” after Charlottesville, etc., etc. We’ve heard all of this so many times that Trump’s racism and sympathy for white nationalists should not be in any doubt. They certainly consider him as a sympathetic friend.
Especially troubling about Trump’s past calls to fear and loathing on our Southern border is the reality in El Paso and other border cities, where people of different ethnic backgrounds live and work side by side, share extended families with one another, and consider their city as one community, not two or three.
My late mother was raised in El Paso, and returned to live there toward the end of her life. During several visits in the early 2000s, I grew to respect and admire that city for its sense of multi-cultural cooperation and community.
I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking than seeing this murderous hate-filled young man, obviously feeling support for his racism from the highest office in the land, driving 10 hours to El Paso, armed with high-capacity weaponry that wouldn’t be legal in any other First World country, and slaughtering innocent people purely based on their color.
President Trump needs to back up his words Monday condemning the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton with action.
Do I think he’ll do it? Not in a million years.