Pro-Trump extremist Cesar Sayoc was arrested and charged last Friday (10/26) for mailing multiple pipe bombs. The apparent motive for the crime: politics.
Saturday (10/27), Robert Bowers was arrested for murdering 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg PA, he gunned them down yelling “All Jews must die!” during Sabbath. Among his more misguided beliefs were claims that “[Jews] were committing genocide on his people,” and that “illegals” should be called “invaders.”
Sunday (10/28), Gregory “Whites don’t shoot whites” Bush gunned down two people after trying to break into a predominantly African American church in a suburb of Louisville KY.
The three hate crimes in three days, inspired by racial and religious bigotry, are not isolated; the SPLC (tracking over 1600 extremist groups across the U.S. since 1971) has presented increasing incidence of hate crimes for four consecutive years.Curiously these acts of terrorism (violence inspired by political ideology) have almost immediately been whitewashed by some powerful people.
Covering up the political roots of this violence is a real problem. It is literal and metaphorical. When House Majority Leader—Kevin McCarthy—tweets “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to buy this election! Get out and vote Republican…” it is a clear reference to the tropes promoted by right-wing extremists. The so-called MAGA-Bomber sent a pipe bomb to George Soros, McCarthy is blaming Jews, and Trump has famously respondedto hate crimes with “some very fine people on both sides.” He loves to lie“paid for by Soros—or somebody else.”
When McCarthy deletes his anti-Semitic tweet, that simply is not good enough, more must be expected from the Representative who wants to take over for Paul Ryan. These campaigns of prejudicial stereotypes are a problem. When Republicans refuse to condemn Trump’s sinister lies they tacitly support all the bias bigotry he promotes.
The lies delivered by Trump and supported by the whole of the GOP are specifically mentioned as motivation for the attack on the Synagogue. The shooter claimed he wanted to stop Jews, because he believed they were responsible for orchestrating an invasion. This is the dishonesty Trump is pedaling in order to fire up his base. These hate crimes are political terrorism, and the problem will not be addressed until it is properly identified and placed in context.
It is time to make a more accurate comparison: The Republican Party Trump champions is a modern wave of the Ku Klux Klan. The first and the third waves of the KKK focused on limiting the political participation, rights, and social advancement of African-Americans. First during Reconstruction after the civil war and then again in response to the civil rights movement. The second, 1920’s, wave of the KKK focused on nationalism—which Trump has recently labeled himself—xenophobia over immigration, even now including Trump’s blatantly unconstitutional threat to stop the practice of babies born in the US being citizens even if their parents are not yet. These are a collection of fear-based policies of exclusion and supremacy.
Glossing over Trump’s lies, anti-Semitic tropes like McCarthy’s (and others present), or even the “Make America Great Again” slogan is as big a problem as the ability of homegrown terrorists to arm themselves. Whitewashing hate is what allows discussion on migrant caravans to ignore laws protecting asylum seekers while extremists sling violent rhetoric. MAGA is an echo of a time when redlining minority groups didn’t cost the Trump family any money. It remembers when a person could wear white robes and burn crosses at a Klan rally and go to work the next day. The truth stays the same: many of these racists are not violent, but it is time that we truly acknowledged that supporting the prejudice is more than tacit endorsement of the carnage.
The tactic is simple. Trump started by manufacturing a crisis. He called out the caravan—the threat to our borders—in an effort to get an easy victory. He already knew that only a small fraction of the thousands of women and children fleeing violence in Honduras were likely to make it to the U.S., but 5,200 troops sent to the border and illegally denying asylum are a great show of force. Short term he whips up the nationalist base, just like the 1920’s Klan, appeal to ideas of purity; long term he says that he kept everyone safe. The truth: there is no threat, is irrelevant.
It has always been clear that Trump only cares about himself. This is the reason he ignores even the most reasonable requests. In a city suffering from the shock of a hate crime, Trump wasn’t even willing to honor the requests that he wait to visit. Instead of providing security for a funeral, where fear of copycats exists, Pittsburgh is forced to use their resources to guard the President whose jingoism catalyzed the violence. Hate is not a problem solved by erasing history.
There are many strategies for combating prejudice. Know your roots and take pride in your heritage. Invite people from different backgrounds to join in on your traditions, and, when invited, join in on theirs. Celebrate holidays, traditions, and difference—embrace it—and do not let it be a source of division. Avoid stereotypes, and speak out against jokes and slurs that disparage other groups. Educate yourself; accurate information is a great defense against prejudice. This can include reading, watching documentaries, traveling, or taking trips to museums.
Remember that ignorance has been weaponized, the lies are not harmless, and that this is all serious. Today’s Republican Party forces us to acknowledge that all lies matter, we must take care of each other, and we must pressure our leaders to restore our true American values in equality and honesty. It is clear what happens when we fail at this task.
Wim Laven, syndicated by PeaceVoice, worked on reconstruction in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, is an instructor of Political Science and International Relations at Kennesaw State University, and on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association.