American Carnage

Alan Zendell, August 4, 2019

What do Mississippi, California, Texas, and Ohio, the reddest state, the bluest state, and two red states that may be turning purple, have in common? Until this week most people would have said, “Not much.” Today they share deadly acts of hate-generated domestic terrorism. Forget technical legalistic definitions, there’s no other way to describe the murder of innocent people that occurred in those four states this week.

The El Paso perpetrator posted a manifesto on the hate-mongering online message board 8chan just before he climbed into his body armor and started shooting people in a crowded Walmart. He acknowledged his long-held fear and hate for Hispanics (El Paso is more than 80% Hispanic) but claimed it had nothing to do with Donald Trump.

The hell it doesn’t. The sociopath whose manifesto said he was expecting to be dead soon just before he began pulling the trigger in El Paso is precisely the sort of unbalanced individual who is most affected by Trump’s hate rhetoric. And the United States contains millions like him to varying degrees. In the minds of these crazies, Trump has made their hate and fear acceptable and reasonable, and he damn well knows it. He’s been told repeatedly by people qualified to know.

When our president utters his hollow sympathy for the victims, don’t believe a word of it. It’s just more of his lies and self-delusion. Because of his office and the pulpit it gives him, no reasonable person can deny that he is the chief enabler for every grudge-holding lunatic with access to weapons. How many more times do we have to live through this before it’s clear to everyone?

Law enforcement professionals will talk about swift justice for these domestic terrorists, but we’ve heard that before. Honestly, who cares? Most of them knew they were committing “suicide by cop.” How does executing the few that weren’t killed by police on the scene solve anything?

Before we restart the endless debate about gun control and the Second Amendment, let’s be clear. Trump loves those arguments because it lets him claim that Democrats want to repeal our right to own weapons, as he did for the millionth time in Cincinnati last week. Let’s also be clear that most gun owners are as sick and disgusted by the terrorist carnage as everyone else. Every gun owner I know is.

So what do we do? The El Paso shooter was the third mass murderer/terrorist to announce his intentions on 8chan, emulating similar psychopaths in New Zealand and at a California synagogue. After the El Paso shooting, one of the site’s founders said: “8chan is a Megaphone for Shooters. Shut the Site Down.” Sounds like a great idea to me. In the same way that the president’s hate-mongering enables these atrocities, sites like 8chan bolster and encourage the perpetrators, making them feel their cause is righteous.

Why wouldn’t law enforcement crack down on them? You’ll hear things like First Amendment rights and the need to monitor these crazies. But what good did monitoring the El Paso shooter’s ramblings do? And the courts have long established that incitements to violence and terror are not protected by the First Amendment. They’ve abdicated their right to have a public voice.

I’m no expert on criminally insane behavior or hate crimes. But Dayton, the scene of last night’s shooting in Ohio, is less than an hour’s drive from the site of Trump’s Cincinnati rally. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I’m not surprised than no one in the White House is eager to comment about these shootings and the possibility that the president bears some responsibility.

If you have trouble believing that living in a culture in which it’s acceptable for the president preach hate, bigotry, and xenophobia doesn’t affect the way our less stable citizens see the world, I give you North Korea, where generations of lies from their leaders have completely warped the minds of their people. There’s a sliding scale from persuasion to brainwashing, and Trump knows right where he fits on that spectrum.

I’ve said since the day he was elected that the most dangerous aspect of Trump’s presidency is the long-term effect of his constant hate-mongering and disregard for truth. For individuals who are already unstable and on the edge, believing that their president is encouraging them is all it takes to remove their last restraints.

As awful as these shootings are, the even more awful reality is having a president who can somehow turn a blind eye to the damage he does, and only we can change it. The election is only fifteen months away.

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