Reaping What You Sow

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By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News

“If I learned anything from 25 years in the F.B.I., including a stint as head of counterintelligence, it was to trust my gut when I see a threat unfolding,” Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant F.B.I. director for counterintelligence, wrote in a piece published in the New York Times July 31 – four days before the shooting in El Paso.

“Now, instinct and experience tell me we’re headed for trouble in the form of white hate violence stoked by a racially divisive president. I hope I’m wrong.” He wasn’t.

Figliuzzi also pointed out that since last October the Federal Bureau of Investigation had made 90 domestic terrorism arrests. We don’t hear about these cases because the FBI gets to those potential terrorists before they can act. There were roughly as many domestic terrorism arrests in that period as there were foreign threat arrests. Of the FBI’s 850 pending domestic terror investigations, about 40 percent involve racially motivated extremism, Figliuzzi says.

Many of President Donald Trump’s ardent supporters say it is unfair to affix any of the blame for the shooting in El Paso onto him. It was the act of a deranged white supremacist, they say. This is only partially true. They ignore a long trail of the president’s words and actions if they think the blame ends with this shooter.

Remember Trump’s words at his rally in Panama City, Florida, May 8?

“This is an invasion!”  Trump said of immigrants at the U.S. border. “When you see these caravans starting out with 20,000 people. That is an invasion. I was badly criticized for using the word ‘invasion.’ It is an invasion. But how do you stop these people?”

“Shoot them!” a person in the crowd yells.

“You can’t…” the president starts to say, then stops and smiles as the words register. He shakes his head with a smirk on his face and the crowd laughs. “That is only in the Panhandle that you can get away with that statement.” He then stands back from the microphone as people cheer, whistle, laugh and clap. “Only in the Panhandle.” He basks in the crowd’s jubilation over shooting immigrants.

In the months running up to his election and in the two-and-half-years since Trump has repeatedly used race and religion to divide and polarize Americans. He has called Hispanic immigrants rapists, murders, breeders, animals, disease carriers, and their coming to America an infestation. What do you do with infestations? His dehumanizing language makes those who would consider violence against them a justified action because they are a threat and less than human.

At a July rally in Grenville, NC, he listened to chants of “send her back” directed at Minnesota freshman Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar. Omar is a naturalized U.S. citizen who came here with her family as a child and a vocal critic of Trump. He also attacked three American-born Democratic members of congress U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) who is black, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) who is Hispanic, and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) a Muslim. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” he tweeted.

He has recently attacked black U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings saying his home district in Baltimore is “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” He expressed sarcastic remorse when he heard Cummings’ home was burglarized last week, saying it was “too bad.”

During a march of neo-Nazi’s and white supremacists who in Charlottesville, VA, in August 2017, there were violent clashes between them and those who opposed their message. In the aftermath of the violence, Trump said he was sure there “were very fine people” marching with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists. His words empowered the leaders of the hate groups.

He has praised assaults on reporters and called them the “enemy of the people.” He encourages violence at rallies. “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell ... I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise,” he said Feb. 1, 2016.

Such bravado, to the screaming cheers of his crowds, seen on television and on the internet, reaches into the troubled minds of those who are at the unstable edge where they can be incited to action.

Monday morning he read a prepared piece to reporters on the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. “In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said without emotion. He also warned of “the perils of the internet and social media.”

Staff-drafted political pieces meant to calm the blow back from his comments at rallies over the past years mean little coming from someone you know doesn’t feel it in his heart. It’s the politically calculated thing to do for now. He will tone down his inflammatory remarks at his rallies for a while, but these shootings will soon fade from his memory and he will again incite his crowds with racist comments. He craves the adulation that they bring him from his adoring supporters. It’s a drug for him.

Trump didn’t endorse any gun control measures that Democrats have been seeking such as universal background checks for gun and ammunition buyers, banning the sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, and barring those with mental health issues from having guns in his speech. While he spoke of the nation’s responsibilities, he never used the word “I.” He distanced himself from responsibility by talking in the third person.

Prior to going to the El Paso WalMart the shooter posted a 2,300-word manifesto online saying “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” His words echoed Trump’s. The El Paso shooter is reported to have told investigators he wanted to “shoot as many Mexicans as he could.”  Though he said he wasn’t a Democrat or Republican in his manifesto, he later said Texas would go democratic because more Hispanics were invading America.

 “Presidents play a role in this country of not just consoling, but of setting a tone,” presidential historian John Meacham said on the MSNBC’s Morning Joe program Monday. “And for the last two and a half years (Trump’s role) is unacceptable.” It’s far more than unacceptable, it threatens the safety of every American.

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