Trump’s Racist Words and Actions Fan Flames of Mass Shootings
It sounds like a bad Quentin Tarantino movie: “Massacre in El Paso.” That’s what newspaper headlines screamed and cable news network “up next” billboards trumpeted between commercials. It was a televised weekend of shock, horror and devastating sadness. It was a deadly massacre, no doubt about it, and Mexicans and those of Mexican descent were indisputably the targets of a white supremacist shooter who followed in the goose-stepping footsteps of previous Nazi-like morons who were determined to kill and terrorize those who do not look like something out of a “Leave it to Beaver” fantasy middle-America tableaux. Another tormenta of gun violence in America.
But what makes this different from other mass shootings is the irrefutable connection between the racist rhetoric of the President of the United States and the guy who pulled the trigger at that El Paso Wal Mart. Twenty-two dead, two-dozen wounded. Beto O’Rourke, who represented El Paso in the House of Representatives for years, expressed it with clarity the day after the shooting. He called out Trump for his long list of racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant remarks. It started on the day Trump declared he was running for president, calling Mexicans “rapists and criminals.” He has continued for the last couple of years with frequent shrill and histrionic claims about Mexican “invasions.” These are the kinds of expressions that ooze out of White Nationalist and white supremacist websites. And there are lots of hate-consumed, susceptible adherents. They form the pool of germs that can mutate into a fascist regime, under the right Petri dish political climate.
Senator Cory Booker was clear about Trump’s nurturing and encouragement of racist behavior by his public statements and his Twitter ravings and their consequences. The day after the El Paso massacre Booker said: “It’s time to connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country.” Some of Trump’s own xenophobic phrases were found in the jumbled, barely coherent screed that the El Paso shooter posted on a right-wing wacko website before he opened fire at the Wal Mart. (He’d driven for ten hours from the Dallas area to El Paso, just so he could target Mexicans and Mexican Americans – and “invading immigrants,” according to the cops investigating the crime.)
We can’t let Trump off the hook. Lots of prominent public figures spent days connecting the dots between Trump’s unfounded nefarious claims about Latinos and others perceived as “the other” and mass shootings. His attacks are absurd to any reasonable person. But there are lots of folks out there who are light years from being “reasonable.”
El Paso is just the latest example of the connection between Trump’s hate speech and inevitable violence. Kamala Harris said, “He has emboldened White Nationalists with his words and actions.” (But not one prominent Republican voiced an opinion. “Deafening silence,” Joe Biden called it, and he was right.)
Many publicly recalled an incident that happened in July at one of Trump’s creepy carnival-like rallies. Trump was railing about an “invasion of immigrants” and said to the crowd, essentially, “How do we stop them?” Someone in the front row offered a solution: “Shoot them.” How did Trump react? He laughed and made a sick joke about it. How much more evidence do we need? The guy is not fit to be dogcatcher, let alone President.
The pity is that there’s a long history in Texas of responding to the “problems” caused by Mexicans by actually shooting them. Texas and Mexicans have a long history of violence, just like Mississippi and African Americans. The most dramatic and gruesome example of that is a violent, racist incident in Twentieth Century Texas known as the Porvenir Massacre. It took place on January 28, 1918. (Ironically, “porvenir” means “future.”) There was no future for the 15 Mexican men and boys who were slaughtered by the nefarious Texas Rangers and their accomplices in the tiny town of Porvenir, Texas. This was a time when, in the view of some, there was an “invasion of Mexicans” into Texas because of the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution. (Let’s not lose sight of the fact that just a couple of generations before this happened, Texas was still a part of northern Mexico.)
During that fateful week, there were reports of a theft of some kind. Mexicans were blamed and on January 28 a troop of Texas Rangers led by Captain J.M. Fox rounded up the 15 Mexican men and boys. (It’s as if the shout of “shoot them” reverberated in his head.) At any rate, that’s what he ordered his Rangers to do. They “executed” all of them. Some would say the Rangers murdered them. No judge. No jury. Being Mexican was enough to make them guilty of something. Witnesses told the story and many years later forensic archaeologists confirmed the site of the massacre.
Mass murder of Mexicans, then and now. Eerily, it turns out that investigators are looking into the possibility that the recent mass shooting at the Gilroy, California garlic festival might also be linked to a hatred of Mexicans and other Latinos. Fear is gripping lots of Latino communities. One kid asked his parents, “Are they gonna kill me next?”
That massacre in 1918 and the El Paso Wal Mart massacre were one hundred years apart, but the emotions they engendered were similar. Shock, horror, disbelief – and a dark sentiment of racial superiority. In our times the sentiment that drives these mass shootings serves to nurture a scary, stealthy trend toward modern fascism.
Let’s be clear, the skinheads, neo-Nazis and assorted wing nuts who read and swear by those apocalyptic “manifestos” by White Nationalist theorists don’t want a fascist state. They don’t want any state – or any infrastructural pillars of a state, no matter how repressive and how attuned to the idea of white supremacy it might be. Those guys just want chaos. They haven’t thought beyond that. But others have. And that’s why Trump and his billionaire buddies are so dangerous. They do think beyond the immediate. They’d like nothing better than a rigid society, backed by the military and immune from criticism by a shuttered press, crafted to serve the corporate rich and powerful. Does 1933 Germany ring a bell?
Authoritarianism doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a constant drumbeat of lies that are spun as truth and the ability to turn hatred into a powerful tool of manipulation. A big part of it starts with demonizing “the other.” And that’s what’s going on right now, folks.
Four days after the Wal Mart El Paso massacre Donald Trump visited the scene. He met with cops, hospital staff and some survivors. He said very little in public. But he tweeted nonstop that day, blaming everybody but himself. (A couple of days after the shooting, before he left Washington, he gave a robotical TelePrompTer speech blaming mental illness and video games for the shooting.) But he didn’t acknowledge the role his own language may have contributed to the shooting and to other acts of racial and cultural violence. No mention of gun law reform. He actually said: “It’s mental illness and hatred that pull the trigger, not the gun.” Yeah, right. If you think mental illness is the culprit, you’re right in a way. If you think that then you’re crazy. The NRA pulls the political strings, but that’s a subject for a different discussion.
As he left the White House Wednesday for his farcical pit stops inn Dayton (the scene of a separate mass shooting) and El Paso, Trump had the gall to claim that his comments and tweets actually served to unite the country not pull it apart. I am no psychiatrist, but it’s clear to me that this guy is – as the British say – “totally mental.”
When the El Paso rampage was over, 22 people were dead. Two dozen were wounded. Some were children. Some were Mexican Americans, some were méxicanos. Incidentally, my family lived in El Paso many years ago and I still have relatives there. For generations it’s been the main portal through which Mexican nationals pass on their way to new lives in the United States. Those not familiar with the socio-cultural milieu of El Paso might be surprised to know that today (despite the Twitter vitriol from Trump) the El Paso area is an example of a relatively fluid and permeable border. People come across to El Paso from Ciudad Juárez every day. They come to work in the U.S.A. and go back home at five o’clock. And they certainly cross the border effortlessly every weekend to shop at places such as Home Depot, Target and Wall Mart. For a white supremacist bent on murder of Mexicans that reality creates what the military morbidly call a “target-rich environment.”
El Paso is something like 80 per cent Mexican American. The United Mexican States is right next-door and méxicanos can be found in El Paso as often as you can find Persians in Beverly Hills.
But the carnage – to use a word that Trump used repeatedly in his bizarre inaugural address — in El Paso on that Saturday was real, unmistakable and indisputable. According to the cops and the FBI the guy who did this was determined to take out as many Mexicans as he could. Trump’s words and actions give support to hate-filled, mixed up young men who feel they are fulfilling some sort of bizarre white supremacy destiny by grabbing an assault rifle and mowing down people who don’t look like them. Connect the dots.
Copyright 2019 by Luis R. Torres. Luis Torres is a veteran journalist, author and professor. To contact Luis Torres write: Luis.firstname.lastname@example.org All photos used in this blog are in the public domain.