A grim memory flashed through my mind when I saw an early death count from the March 15 terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand: 49 was the same number killed in Orlando’s 2016 Pulse massacre. In this case, the victims were not partiers at a nightclub, but worshippers at prayer. Now as then, they were targets of hate.
“Hello, brother” were the last words of a man at the door to Al Noor mosque, spoken to the killer just before he opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle. In an instinctive act of decency bracketing the horror, a woman living nearby waved fleeing people into her home. If we are to be saved from our impulse toward barbarism, the welcoming of strangers must be our guidepost.
Asked about the growing threat of white nationalism, Trump denied it. Of course he did. This man who has variously excused, inspired, and incited hate violence always deflects responsibility. We are long past any reasonable doubt as to what he represents. The birther in chief and Islamophobe who fathered the Muslim travel ban continues to campaign on fear and hatred.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wore hijab on March 16 when she met with terror victims’ families. In contrast, Trump fanatic Jeanine Pirro was suspended by Fox News after questioning whether Rep. Ilhan Omar’s wearing hijab indicated adherence to Sharia law over the Constitution.
We must reject racial and religious intolerance, as we reject those who traffic in it. Diversity is our inescapable future and an essential foundation of any national progress.
A poisonous double standard lurks at the heart of our public discourse: the treatment of white perpetrators as individuals, and of minority perpetrators as representatives of their demographic group. This persists despite most terrorist acts in this country having been committed by white people. No one thinks to blame me for Dylann Roof’s 2015 murder of nine African Americans in Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church on account of our both being white. Those victims were at a Bible study class led by their pastor, state senator Clementa Pinckney. Like the man who greeted the shooter in Christchurch, they welcomed a stranger.
While public policy has a role to play against gun violence, such as with background checks and bans on semiautomatics, the deeper problem is our simultaneous acceptance and indignant denial of white supremacy. It is all too easy to deny the existence of something you take for granted. People who despise the Klan can still engage in redlining, racial profiling, or voter suppression.
Will Connolly, the teen who cracked an egg over Australian senator Fraser Anning’s head for his victim blaming after the mosque shootings, pledged to donate most of the GoFundMe money raised for his defense to help the victims. Trump, meanwhile, was busy calling asylum seekers “invaders” and defending Pirro.
On March 13, in a Breitbart interview, Trump casually threatened a coup: “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump—I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough—until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”
Perhaps Trump really believes that mobs of CPAs and landscape architects on their Harleys would storm government and newspaper offices on his behalf. Here and there, he may be right. But to expect military and police officers en masse to disregard their oaths? That is a fantasy. If his tenure as president is ended, whether by impeachment, 25th Amendment, or election, he will either go peacefully or be removed.
The beasts our presidential man-child has unleashed will ultimately devour him. Words come to mind from Georg Büchner’s play Danton’s Death: “He thinks he can keep the wild horses of revolution waiting outside the brothel like patient hacks. But they’ll be strong enough to drag him to the guillotine.”
In the event of an overstay by the current White House resident, as with “last night’s trick who won’t go home” (to quote an old friend), it will suffice for the Secret Service to lift him off the floor and deposit him unceremoniously outside the northwest gate.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2019 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.