Trump cannot help El Paso heal; his words ensured that
Opinion: Trump's use of 'invasion' to describe Mexican-American immigrants and his tweet telling 4 congressional members to 'go back' to their countries of origin created an atmosphere of hate.
“We are in a very dark time,” said Peter Simi only a few weeks ago to the Washington, D.C., newspaper The Hill.
The associate professor of sociology at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., told a reporter that American political speech had grown so overripe with extremism, especially from the mouth of Donald Trump, that it could easily take root in the hot houses of the radical fringe.
“This is the president of the United States — arguably the most powerful person in the world,” Simi said. “And so it is hard to overestimate how dangerous it really is. … Most people who hear those words, even if they agree, are not going to act in a violent fashion. But it only takes one person who has some vulnerability, some susceptibility [to violence] and tragic events could occur.”
We may never know 'why' of shooting
We may never know what flipped the switch in the mind of a 21-year-old man from Dallas who drove to the border city of El Paso, Texas, entered a Walmart with an AK-47 and began gunning down people with brown skin – mostly American Latinos and Mexican nationals.
By the time he surrendered, he had mortally wounded 20 people and injured another 26. A manifesto believed to be his was posted on the internet shortly before the rampage and expressed hatred for immigrants.
“This attack,” wrote the author, “is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The author blamed the shooting victims, saying, “They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”
If all of that sounds familiar, it could be because Trump has used the word “invasion” to describe Mexican-American immigrants and only recently told four Democratic members of Congress to “go back” to their countries of origin and return when they’ve repaired things there. Or because he joked about shooting migrants at the border during a campaign rally in Florida.
Mass killing is now common in America
Only hours after El Paso, another gunman, for reasons yet unknown, entered a nightclub district in Dayton, Ohio, and killed nine people and injured 26.
Mass shootings have become so common in America (already 251 this year, reports USA TODAY), that one of the El Paso hospitals that took in wounded had only recently staged a “dry run” for such a shooting incident. Also, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley found herself fielding calls from cities all across the country that had endured similar gun rampages.
Our hearts ache for the people of El Paso and Dayton. In Texas, a border state with a large Latino population, we can only imagine the fear felt there about not only America’s gun culture, but the country's current and too often ugly fixation on Latin American immigration.
El Paso was an old settlement that predates the United States. Many of its Mexican-American families can trace their bloodlines to a time when the border crossed them – when the Euro-Americans, the white Texans were essentially the outsiders who arrived at their door.
To see our fellow Americans targeted for death because they are more darkly complected is not only disturbing but a terrible violation of American values. The rest of us have an obligation to reassure our Latin American brothers and sisters that they belong here.
More importantly, they require the promise of all Americans that we will do all in our power to root out and destroy white-nationalist extremism in all its guises.
We can begin by demanding that the president of the United States bridle his nasty rhetoric.
Trump should be in El Paso. He can't go
The men who did the shooting are ultimately responsible for the deaths and injuries in El Paso and Dayton, but Trump and his supporters should see how his framing of immigrants has damaged the White House.
A president of the United States should be jetting to El Paso to reassure the people there that the entire American family stands with them and that all Americans of every race and ethnicity enjoy the rights and privileges of U.S. citizens.
Trump can’t go to El Paso. Not without a fierce backlash.
He has surrendered the moral authority to heal the nation in this moment when it is hemorrhaging.
Some 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump to be president. They were by and large white Americans who wanted a chief executive who would advance their causes.
Many of them were responding to the tribalism they saw around them in the form of political correctness. But by electing a man who embodied those same impulses for division and took them further on behalf of the majority population, they created a White House that now can't function in time of national need.
The president of the United States should be in El Paso. He is not.
How can a man elected to throw punches for white America help salve the wounds of brown-skinned America?
America is better than this.
And so it revealed itself in a long line in El Paso on Saturday. Hundreds of people, brown, black and white, stood single file in the 100-degree heat to donate blood for the shooting victims.
They were ordinary people doing what the president and Air Force One could not.
They showed up.