Trump Needs To Call Off His Goonish Supporters Who Seek To Harm Muslims And Jews
There is concrete statistical evidence from over the years that connects hate-speech to the empowerment of a segment of the country to then act out with violence. When conservatives used red-meat rhetoric against gay people the number of incidents of violence against gay people increased. Now that Trump has been allowed to use xenophobic and bigoted language of all types against those of the Islamic faith there has been an increase in attacks on mosques. This past week three people were shot, one of them dying, after an old bigot yelled at two brown skinned men to “get out of the country”. The shooter thought they were Iranians but in fact they were from India. But when it comes to those stirred by political hate ‘they’ all look alike.
The anti-Semitic foundation of Steve Bannon who is the chief strategist for Trump in the White House is well known. His disdain for Jews is on the record, He would not even allow the White House in its proclamation on Holocaust Remembrance Day to mention the Jews–you know the ones who were slaughtered in the millions during WWII.
As the scenes of Jewish cemeteries make the news with headstones smashed and tipped over in multiple states and the bomb threats to Jewish centers mounting daily there is no doubt as to what is happening. The haters in the land feel a license has been given to them from the Trump White House to act with bigotry in any manner they desire. This is the result of an elected leader who has no idea that words matter.
The pattern of playing to white neo-Nazi type nationalists in the campaign alerted thoughtful people to the harm that could befall the nation if that rhetoric were allowed to be used from the Oval Office. As an example, pretending Trump was not aware of who David Duke was or the cancer he wishes to spread over the nation was simply another lie that Trump used on a very gullible segment of the electorate.
I am troubled with many aspects to this whole situation. The pain in the eyes of a middle-aged man on the news who attempted to lift up the headstone on his parent’s grave ripped into me. The cold and calculated planning that is going into these acts of violence nationwide just is not happening all at once without a starting point. The spark of hate that was allowed to be ignited from a presidential candidate and then grow with intensity once elected is the genesis for what is now playing out in our land.
But if the scale of the attacks is roughly similar, the political reaction to them has been dramatically different. On February 15 and 16, reporters asked Trump about rising anti-Semitism in two successive press conferences. When Trump flubbed his answers, CNN reported that, “it was fast becoming politically damaging for Trump not to adopt a stern, public line against the [anti-Semitic] incidents.” Even after Trump specifically and forcefully condemned anti-Semitism on February 21, CNN declared that his words “can’t stop questions about his motives.” An NBC News report wondered whether it was “Too Little, Too Late?”
There’s been no similar pressure on Trump to condemn attacks on American Muslims. The press has certainly covered Trump’s attitudes—and those of his top advisors—toward Islam, particularly since he announced a ban on travel from seven majority-Muslim nations on January 27. But attacks on American mosques have received far less attention than the bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers. As far as I’m aware, no reporter has asked Trump about them at a press conference. And no major network would suggest that Trump’s failure “to adopt a stern, public line” against Islamophobia has been “politically damaging.”
What explains the difference? One answer is assimilation. With the exception of African Americans, American Muslims are a largely immigrant community. By contrast, most American Jews came a century ago. That helps explain why Jews are better represented at elite levels of the press and government, and in a better position to press their community’s concerns. Among the people who appear to have nudged Trump into a condemnation of anti-Semitism are his Jewish-convert daughter, who tweeted about the JCC attacks, and his Jewish son-in-law. If Trump had a Muslim son-in-law and a Muslim-convert daughter, they might have pushed him to publicly condemn attacks on mosques. (In fact, they might have challenged his slandering of Muslims throughout the campaign). But the scenario is hard to imagine because the social distance between American Muslims and elite, native-born, families like the Trumps remains so large.
Trump needs to make a special address to the nation calling for his goonish supporters, many who have neither the moral code or the intelligence to on their own not be aware that racism and bigotry are wrong, to end their hateful and illegal actions. Trump needs to stop using the words that stoke the simple-minded. Words matter in politics and world leaders must be aware of their role every time they make an utterance.