Sometimes I wonder why so many people in this tumultuous day and age can’t draw simple connections between words and acts.
Then I remember, oh yeah, in the current political sphere, ideas and reason are subordinate to what political team you identify with.
Please take off your team uniform long enough to consider the following points:
Point 1. The president of the United States, in his tweets, public comments and rally speeches, is constantly on the attack, vilifying his political enemies, demonizing immigrants and ethnic groups, attacking the news media. In his previous statements regarding white nationalists (“fine people on both sides” at Charlottesville) and more recent remarks explicitly celebrating fist-clenched nationalism, he has created space in the public arena for racist and anti-Semitic extremists.
Point 2. Since the week of Oct. 21, the United States has experienced three separate situations where an apparently unhinged white male animated by far-right, anti-immigrant and/or white nationalist rhetoric and messaging took action to hurt or kill perceived enemies.
• The most recent incident occurred last Saturday in Pittsburgh, when a 47-year-old man shouting anti-Semitic slurs allegedly shot and killed 11 people worshipping at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The man was a frequent contributor to a social-media platform (Gab) that welcomes virulently racist and anti-Semitic content, and where Trump’s inflammatory talking points on immigration (e.g., the caravan is an approaching “invasion” by criminals and terrorists) are commonly voiced and repeated.
• Earlier last week, a fervent Trump supporter allegedly mailed or dropped off 14 pipe-bombs to people whom Trump considers enemies, including two former presidents (Obama and Clinton), the former first lady, several members of Congress, Hilary Clinton, and two former intelligence officials who have criticized Trump on CNN and elsewhere (in care of CNN), among others.
• Finally, a white gunman shot and killed two older black people at a Kroger in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, last Wednesday. Federal authorities are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime, since witnesses said they overheard the suspect making racist remarks during the shooting.
Point 3. President Trump is not directly responsible for any of these acts of murder and violence.
Point 4. Not being able to get into these alleged murderers and would-be assassins heads, I can’t say for sure whether our president helped inspire these acts through words or example. But it’s certainly possible, and no one can seriously argue that inflammatory rhetoric and angry attacks are more likely to discourage hate and division than encourage those things.
Point 5. While Trump has given lip service to unity after each mass killing or violent incident, he has quickly returned to his default – attack and deflect. Seemingly within hours of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack, Trump declared again that the news media are “the true enemy of the American people” while demonizing the mostly innocent people walking in the caravan through Mexico.
Point 6. Trump has angrily rejected the idea that his words at rallies and in tweets could have inspired any violent act.
Point 7. One of the U.S. president’s most important roles is leadership. Not of a political party, not of a base group of supporters, but of the entire country, blue, red and in between.
Point 8. A president whose idea of leadership is to constantly divide, to appeal to the most tribal, xenophobic and racist instincts of his followers, to demonize and ridicule the media and political enemies, is an absolute failure at a leader. All the worse when these attacks closely follow his Teleprompted appeals to unity.
Of course, I could say a lot worse than that – I could make historical comparisons between Trump’s current tactics and those of bloody-minded, racist demagogues and dictators now and in the past. Alas, in this column, I have a modest goal – to disarm supporters of Trump long enough that they at least admit what seems patently obvious – that Donald Trump is a truly awful leader.
Before disagreeing, please remember you removed your Trump team colors at the start of this column. With logic momentarily operable, you should be able to admit that inflammatory, negative, divisive rhetoric from a president at a time when the country is more divided than since the Civil War does not help unify or heal. Can we get that much?