As baby boomers, our parents used to worry about the Cold War, and what kind of a world they’d leave us if everything went south. Today, we worry about something different: what kind of a country are we leaving our kids, and grandkids: a country steeped in hate, and fear, and violence? In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs writes about how close we’re coming, and ultimately, what to do about it.
President Trump’s apologists say that it’s unfair to lay the massacre in El Paso on him. That Trump is not responsible for the savagery of white nationalists. But despite his carefully choreographed comments right after the shooting, his re-election campaign plan has been traumatically clear: embrace the message of the white nationalists, and stoke hate, fear, and divisiveness in America, just as he did in 2016. Remember, it worked.
He began that first campaign with a dark description of Mexicans who sneak across the border: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” So today, when he repeats similar rhetoric, ask yourself, what’s the difference between him, and those white nationalists who commit the crimes?
And ask yourself, when a member of his flock of followers at a Florida re-election rally shouts that the Border Patrol should “shoot” migrants at the border, and the president’s response is to smile, then crack a sick joke, what’s the difference between them?
When the president of the United States retweets provocative and fallacious prose, for example recently calling Democrats “the true enemies of America,” from the same wicked website on which the El Paso butcher posted his own abhorrent manifesto, really, what’s the difference between him and the original author?
When he warns, at rally after rally and in tweet after tweet, of an immigrant “invasion” of our nation, sometimes substituting “infestation”— amplifying the already disproportionate paranoia some faux patriots have of anyone without white skin— what’s the difference between our president and the predator in El Paso, who wrote in his detestable document that the massacre would be a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas?”
What’s the difference? Very little. Except this: one takes responsibility for the massacre. The other blames everything and everybody else.
After three years of hateful, racist, ultra-nationalist rhetoric, Trump disingenuously declares, “In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.” Which is the pot calling the kettle black. He also intoned from the teleprompter, “Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.” He would know.
Trump laid the blame for El Paso on “the perils of the internet and social media,” as if he hasn’t exploited both to stir up hate and anger against his detractors. And, on “racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” as if those haven’t been at the heart of his platform since long before he even ran for president. And, on “gruesome and grisly video games,” about which the American Psychological Association has said, “Scant evidence has emerged that makes any causal or correlational connection.” And, the news media: “News coverage has got to start being fair, balanced and unbiased, or these terrible problems will only get worse,” as if the message and the messenger are the same. And finally, reading straight from the talking points of the NRA, the culprit is mental illness, which seems so true… yet two years ago, he cancelled an Obama-era policy to make it harder for the mentally ill to buy guns.
That’s what’s so empty about the president’s strategy to shift the blame away from the gun rights extremists who won’t contemplate even levelheaded limitations on access to weapons: “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”
Well, here’s what the NRA, this president, and his acolytes who enable the nation’s most menacing cabal of lobbyists conveniently fail to acknowledge: if the blame does lie with the internet and social media, or with racism and bigotry and white supremacy, or with video games or the news media or mental illness, wouldn’t we all be safer— and maybe, mightn’t about two dozen innocent souls in El Paso be alive today— if sadistic citizens tormented by these malignant maladies found that guns were harder to get?
But they don’t. And even now, instead of some straightforward pledge to do something sensible to keep guns out of the hands of society’s sickest, the president’s first move in the aftermath of the latest bloodbaths is to make mass murders and hate crimes a capital offense. I’m all for it myself, but it is a fairly empty gesture. Most mass killers will not be dissuaded; they don’t come out alive anyway. And his next move is to tie the catastrophic crisis of mass murders with another issue, “perhaps marrying (background checks) with desperately need immigration reform.” That’s a threat: no reform, no background checks. In other words, nothing new that might prevent the next mass shooting.
A better strategy would be for Trump to put a lid on his own heat. Which means not just condemning hateful and racist rhetoric, but admitting that maybe he himself has gone at least a little too far with his own words, both spoken and tweeted. But that is expecting too much. Donald Trump is a narcissist and narcissists don’t do that. Narcissists show no shame for their own callous carelessness. A narcissist, by definition, takes no responsibility for anything bad.
The president’s most all-embracing statement after the shootings was, “These sinister ideologies must be defeated.” We can all agree on that. And with FBI statistics showing that since Trump took office, there have been eight mass murderers who embraced sinister white nationalist ideologies, the best way to defeat them is to defeat Donald Trump.
That would make a difference.