Civil Discourse Was One More Victim of the Shootings
Not since President Kennedy flew to Texas on Nov. 21, 1963, has there been such vile hatred expressed on American soil for a president until Donald Trump announced that he would visit El Paso last week.
Kennedy was welcomed to Texas by flyers that said he was “Wanted for Treason.” The faux warrant included several charges that have also been levied against President Trump — betraying the Constitution, going easy on Russia, being caught in “fantastic LIES to the American people.”
One day later, of course, John Kennedy would be dead by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas. Fortunately, nothing comparable happened when Trump arrived in Texas to visit victims and first responders days after a murderous rampage left 22 people dead.
That good fortune, however, does not excuse the hateful rhetoric of public officials and private citizens who spread the social media equivalent of that prophetic “wanted” poster in anticipation of the president’s visits to El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, reeling from its own mass shooting.
Beto O’Rourke said on Twitter: “This president, who helped create the hatred that made Saturday's tragedy possible, should not come to El Paso. We do not need more division. We need to heal. He has no place here." In a TV interview, O’Rourke said, "This president, his open racism, is also an invitation to violence. … He's not tolerating racism, he's promoting racism. He's not tolerating violence, he's inciting racism and violence in this country."
El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar said of the president, “From my perspective, he is not welcome here. He should not come here while we are in mourning. I would encourage the president's staff members to have him do a little self-reflection. I would encourage them to show him his own words and his actions at the rallies. … [T]he president has made my [Mexican immigrant] community and my people the enemy. He has told the country that we are people to be feared, people to be hated."
Nor was it just Texas where the president of the United States was considered persona non grata. Rep. Tim Ryan and Sen. Sherrod Brown both told Trump he was not welcome in Ohio, where nine people had been killed in the separate shooting spree. Although he eventually relented, Brown first said he would not meet with Trump:
“I will not be there with him. I don’t have any interest because of what he’s done on this, total unwillingness to address the issue of guns, his racist rhetoric. I don’t know what he’s going to say and do there. I mean, I welcome him to the state in some sense, but not about this.”
In comparison to the rhetoric of presidential candidates O’Rourke and Ryan (as well as Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and others), Sen. Brown sounded absolutely welcoming — and yes, he did grudgingly accompany the president he called a “racist” on his visit to a Dayton hospital. (Does that make Brown a racist enabler? Enquiring minds want to know.)
If you are seriously concerned about the future of our country, you have to be worried about what last week exposed about the state of the union. Not because there were two more mass murders, and another one the week before. Those are not the product of political rhetoric, but of a sick society, which I have written about elsewhere.
The immediate question we face is whether or not the underlying sickness that creates alienation, isolation and murderous rage in individuals has now infected the body politic. Is there any difference between the outwardly directed anger of these mass murderers (who blame “the other” for all their own perceived misfortunes) and the politicians who are laying the blame at each other’s feet? Aren’t they both looking for scapegoats to avoid their own responsibility?
If politicians are willing to use the most extreme labels against their opponents, such as calling President Trump a racist or a white supremacist, then we have reached the point where majority rule is in danger of becoming serial civil war. You cannot negotiate with a racist, you can only crush him. Nor can those who are falsely so labeled simply put the insult behind them and work happily toward compromise. Instead, power will be obtained for the sole purpose of settling scores, and if you are out of power, you will say or do anything to get it back — literally anything.
Consider the protest held outside the home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the evening of Aug. 5. The “emergency protest,” as the anti-gun demonstrators described it, was held while McConnell, 77, reportedly was home recovering from a broken shoulder.
Video of the incident, which Louisville police called a peaceful protest, is shocking. McConnell is treated as a criminal by the mob and obviously would have been correct in fearing for his life or that of his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” a person says at one point. “The bitch home — we keep seeing the lights go on and off,” another says. “This ho really thought he was going to get ready to be at home after he hurt his little punk ass shoulder. Bitch, don’t nobody give a f--k! F--k your thoughts and prayers, Mitch. F--k you, f--k your wife, f--k everything you stand for.”
In one clip — originally streamed on Facebook Live — a man says, “Hopefully there’s somebody out there with some voodoo dolls of these bitches,” to which an unidentified woman replies: “Just stab the motherf--ker in the heart, please.”
If this behavior is not illegal, it should be. And if Democrats don’t condemn this behavior while at the same time they are blaming President Trump for his “dangerous” rhetoric, then they are the worst kind of hypocrites. When Rep. Joaquin Castro posts a list of people who donated to the president’s re-election campaign and says that they are “fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders,’” he needs to recognize that he has put those donors in the crosshairs of public calumny at a time when expressing your political opinion can be a death sentence.
In a timely reminder of exactly how low we have sunk, the new film “The Hunt” — scheduled for release Sept. 27 — re-imagines the classic story “The Most Dangerous Game” as a political fantasy where white liberal elites get to hunt and kill right-wing “Deplorables” for their demented amusement. DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall told Fox News that the movie is “harmful to a culture that surely needs messages of unity and understanding” during the current political climate.
But clearly some people haven’t gotten the message. After the weekend of violence in Dayton and El Paso, President Trump addressed the nation from the White House with a message of reconciliation and condemnation of all hate groups including those that espouse white supremacy and racism. For one brief shining moment, the New York Times joined in that reconciliation effort by printing a front-page headline that accurately characterized the president’s speech: “Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism.”
Sadly, hotter heads prevailed, and the headline was deep-sixed in subsequent editions after left-wing staff members, politicians and serial tweet-mongers excoriated the Times for its rare foray into fair coverage of a conservative politician. According to the Times, the initial headline “did not contextualize Mr. Trump’s message,” which you would be correct to presume means they accidentally made President Trump look good by reporting the facts accurately.
Maybe the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and the rest of the Fake News Media should just cut to the chase. In the spirit of the Cold Civil War that has befallen us, maybe they should just label all stories about President Trump the same way as that infamous flier put out in Dallas before the JFK assassination — “Wanted for Treason.”
Isn’t that really what they mean?