This, again. Not in Pakistan or Nigeria or Russia but here in the United States, which prides itself – or used to – on its openness to the world, its tolerance, its generosity.
That was always laced with irony, of course, given the dire facts of slavery, usurpation and genocide of the native populations, Jim Crow laws, waves of anti-immigrant hostility, but it was at least an ideal. Now? We seem to be all about the eye-bulging rage and hatred of everything not already dominant and prosperous.
So this, again: Saturday morning a man armed with an assault rifle and at least three hand guns went into a Pittsburgh synagogue shouting about the need to kill all the Jews, and proceeded to do his bit by killing eleven and wounding six. Benjamin Wallace-Wells at The New Yorker tells us more about the shooter:
Robert Bowers, who opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue, in Pittsburgh, this morning, killing at least eleven people, was not evasive about his intent. He reportedly made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting, and just beforehand posted on Gab, a right-wing social network, about hias, a Jewish nonprofit that supports refugees. “hias likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” he wrote. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.” Earlier, he had suggested that he supported far-right nationalism but believed that President Trump was captive to a Jewish conspiracy. “Trump is a globalist, not a nationalist,” Bowers wrote. “There is no #maga as long as there is a kike infestation.”
Donald Trump told reporters on his way to give a political speech to the Future Farmers of America that the synagogue should have had armed guards. When he gave the speech itself he was downright perky.
During the speech, Trump, unprompted, discussed how his hair was ruined earlier in the day when he had to stand outside in the rain by Air Force One answering questions about the shooting.
“By the way, somebody just said your hair looks different today,” Trump said in Indianapolis.
“I was standing under the wing of Air Force One doing a news conference earlier this morning, a very unfortunate news conference, and the wind was blowing and the rain and I was soaking wet and that’s what I ended up with today,” he added.
Trump, whose hair has long been the subject of much mocking and questioning, continued: “And I said but at least you know it’s mine.”
As the crowd laughed, Trump said that he mentioned the possibility that he should “cancel this “arrangement because I have a bad hair day.”
“The bad news,” he added, was, “somebody said, ‘actually it looks better than it usually does.’”
But seriously, folks, what about my hair, huh?
He shouldn’t be perky for the obvious, normal-human reasons: he’s supposed to act like a compassionate, concerned chief executive, even if he doesn’t actually feel it. But he also shouldn’t be perky for reasons specific to him: because of what he’s done to foster and normalize a climate of rage and hatred in the US. He didn’t tell anyone to send pipe bombs through the mail or shoot up a synagogue, but he showers insults and contempt on people he dislikes whenever the mood takes him, which is often. He expresses open loathing of immigrants, leftists, Democrats, journalists, people of color, women … the list is long.
Julia Ioffe in the Washington Post says it’s about setting a tone:
Culpability is a tricky thing, and politicians, especially of the demagogic variety, know this very well. Unless they go as far as organized, documented, state-implemented slaughter, they don’t give specific directions. They don’t have to. They simply set the tone. In the end, someone else does the dirty work, and they never have to lift a finger — let alone stain it with blood. I saw it while reporting on Russia, where, after unexpected pro-democracy protests and the annexation of Crimea, Putin created an environment so vicious, so toxic (he called his critics “national traitors” and “a fifth column”) that, when assassins killed opposition leader Boris Nemtsov at the foot of the Kremlin walls in 2015, it was easy for people to blame the divisive political rhetoric as if it were a spontaneous weather pattern, rather than Putin himself for creating it.
Trump’s Twitter lieutenant Dan Scavino did his best to make Trump sound sad and pious on Saturday …
But six hours later Trump was tweeting excitedly about a baseball game, and a few hours after that he was back to the insult-showers:
After the racist massacre at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, Barack Obama spoke at the funeral for the pastor and state Senator Clementa Pinckney. Does anyone even want Donald Trump to be anywhere near the mourning for these hate-based murders?