With Fresh Eyes ...

A Xenophobic Connection

Prior to driving 600 miles across Texas to, as he said, “shoot as many Mexicans as possible,” the El Paso killer posted a manifesto online spouting White Nationalist terrorism. 

A sampling: “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

A chilling parallel is found in the words of the president. A Trump tweet from October 29, 2018: “Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you.” And tweeting on June 24, 2018: “We cannot allow all of these people to invade our country.”

At a campaign rally in Florida on May 8 of this year, Trump spoke of the migrants seeking refuge at our southern border. “How do you stop these people?” A person in the crowd shouted, “Shoot them.” After a short pause, Trump joined in the laughter and replied, “Only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff.” The crowd cheered; the president smiled.

Announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015, Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems.

They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

March 1, 2016: “I’ve had these guys that I’m on the stage with go - you don’t really mean Mexico is going to pay for the wall? As sure as you’re standing there, 100 percent, Mexico’s going to pay, 100 percent.”

June 3, 2016: Trump attacks U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel (born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents), who is presiding over a Trump University lawsuit: “I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage … this judge is giving us unfair rulings. Now I say why. Well, I’m building a wall, OK? And it’s a wall between Mexico, not another country.” July 10, 2014: Trump said, “When will the U.S. stop sending money to our enemies, i.e. Mexico and others?”

His divisive rhetoric contributed to the combustion which ignited in El Paso on August 3, at the cost of twenty-two lives lost in a hail of hate-fueled bullets. This rhetoric has been the license sparking a rise in hate crimes. It has shaken loose a backlash from those fearing diminishing power and status. It has created an “us vs. them” fissure which exacerbates suspicion and anxiety. It has left an exhausted citizenry shaken. Such rhetoric is, at its core, the abdication of moral decency and responsibility.

In contrast is the example set by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School of Parkland, Florida in the aftermath of the mass shooting on Valentine’s Day 2018. In less than two months after seventeen of their classmates and teachers were gunned down, they organized “March For Our Lives,” drawing hundreds of thousands of people to Washington D.C. and other cities across the globe demanding action on gun violence. They continue their advocacy work today. Bruce Springsteen, paying homage to these students during his recent Broadway show, said they have reminded America what we stand for, what we are capable of. He referenced Martin Luther King Jr’s declaration that
“the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The Parkland students have shown us the strength and perseverance necessary for that arc to bend toward a more just and secure nation. In the new book Parkland by Dave Cullen, the author states that these young students have proven just that: “to their cause - to save every kid of every color from the ravages of gun violence – history will bend.” Perhaps now, in contemplating the blood spilled in Dayton and El Paso, that time will come.

Contact Rich at richmskgn@gmail.com


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