The onset of the Trump administration has coincided with an increasing level of hate crimes and an emboldened white nationalist movement that has created a domestic terrorism crisis in the US.
After the Columbine massacre, much of the US political and media class identified cultural triggers as the motives of the teenage killers to try and make sense of the killings. They concluded that a bunch of heavy metal bands and violent movies allegedly enjoyed by the murderers were partially responsible for inspiring the atrocity.
They weren’t interested in the question of rampant school bullying, which was the only motivation cited by the killers. Nor were they engaged in the issue of gun control, as the incalculably powerful gun lobby makes sure they never are.
I woke up to the news of not one but two bloody massacres in American cities, one in the Texan border city of El Paso and the other in Dayton, Ohio. So far, the combined death toll is 29 people, with tens more injured, including children.
The motivations for the carnage in Dayton is as yet unknown, but the motive of the shooter in El Paso is far less ambiguous.
Approximately nineteen minutes before the first 911 call came in, an overtly racist, crude anti-immigrant ‘manifesto’ appeared online on the alt-right-infested ‘8chan’ website.
At the time of its posting, its alleged author, namely 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, was going aisle-to-aisle in a Walmart just eight miles from the Mexican border hunting and shooting anyone he came across – man, woman and child. After he was apprehended, 20 people lay dead, while two dozen more were injured.
As reported by the New York Times, the 2300-word document titled ‘The Inconvenient Truth’, warns of a ‘Hispanic invasion of Texas’, while detailing plans to divide the US into separate racial territories, with the author claiming that white people were being replaced by ‘foreigners’.
Most chillingly, the manifesto states ‘if we can get rid of enough people … our way of life can be more sustainable.’
One can’t help but remember that it was only a couple of weeks before this that a baying crowd of ‘great patriots’ were heard chanting ‘send her back’ to US congresswoman Ilhan Omar at a rally held by President Donald Trump.
Omar arrived in the US as a child refugee from Somalia, and, during the rally, Trump incited the crowd against her by linking her to ‘Al Qaeda’ on account of her Islamic faith.
Earlier that week, Trump had told a group of minority Democratic opposition congresswomen to ‘go back where they came from’. The fact that all of the four congresswomen were non-white means, in the collective consciousness of Trump and his racist base, that America can never truly be their home.
One hardly needs to deploy psychoanalysis or go through Crusius’ music and film collection to understand the conditions that compelled someone like him to act upon his beliefs. Trump would never directly incite murder, but when Trump, as the president with unprecedented reach, consistently links immigrants and people of colour to violence and criminality, he creates an atmosphere of violent and hateful hysteria.
For Trump, the primary motivation is to rally, shore up and further radicalise his already racist base – inciting and expanding their fears of the immigrant and non-white other. Trump wants to divide the US along racial lines, all the better to conquer it.
Some people will react to this by becoming more active in the entire Trump endeavour, thus building consent for his racist policies, or campaigning for him as he seeks re-election next year.
For others, they will take his words about Mexicans being ‘rapists’ and ‘killers’, or his general will to link immigrants—whether it’s Ilhan Omar or Muslims in general—to ‘Al Qaeda’ and terrorism, and they will feel that they must act.
If these immigrants do ‘hate America’, as Trump stated, then does that logic dictate that it is up to ‘patriots’ like Patrick Crusius to act? Trump’s mantra to ‘Make America Great Again’ is explicitly intertwined with the idea that immigrants and non-whites are responsible for its apparent state of inferiority.
The Muslim ban, unlike a general hardening of immigration or asylum policy, set out the logic that Muslims should stay away from the US because they’re dangerous and antithetical to the white Anglo-Saxon Christian America that Trump presents as ‘the nation’.
In the ‘manifesto’ thought to be written by Crusius, praise is bestowed upon Brenton Tarrant, the openly fascist Islamophobic murderer who murdered 51 Muslim worshippers in a mosque in Christchurch. Tarrant also praised Trump as symbolising ‘renewed white identity’, while espousing a similar motivation that non-white Muslims were replacing white people in allegedly 'white countries' at the behest of global elites.
Crusius states in the manifesto that his actions of mass murder are deliberately designed to eliminate as many ‘Hispanics’ as possible, to stop the Democrats from winning the election.
These people aren’t misinterpreting Trump’s message, but are instead merely taking it to its extreme conclusion. This is the president who spouted antisemitic conspiracies claiming prominent Jewish businessman George Soros was behind the Central American migrant caravans coming through Mexico to the US border. A president who claims those who oppose his agenda ‘hate America’.
It’s of little wonder then than during Trump’s first term, hate crimes have increased against Muslims, Mexicans (including in El Paso) and Jews – we’ve seen politically-motivated terrorism aimed at synagogues, mosques and now at Mexicans.
When Donald Trump visited El Paso in February of this year, it was to hold one of his hate rallies in support for a wall to keep out the ‘rapist’ and ‘killer’ Mexicans – the ‘Hispanic invasion’, if you like.
Patrick Crusius was ‘sending them back’, ‘keeping them out’ and doing his bit to ‘Make America Great Again’. No, of course, he wasn’t acting on direct orders from Trump, but he was undoubtedly working with vicious efficiency towards the message of his leader.
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