Another mass shooting, this time in Christchurch New Zealand, left at least fifty people dead and many dozens wounded, proving yet again that white nationalism spreads hate and leads to the vilest of acts. Let’s call it what it is — terrorism. For some reason, when Muslim extremists attack a Western target, it is immediately condemned as an act of terrorism. But when a white man attacks two mosques and kills fifty Muslims, it is considered an isolated act of a mad man. While no one can be held accountable for these acts other than those that perpetrate these heinous crimes, let’s not fool ourselves that this is solely the random act of a nut job. He reportedly chose New Zealand precisely because it is arguably the safest country on earth. His attacks on two mosques where he ruthlessly gunned down children, women and men were not random. They were intended to send a message and to instill terror.
Western intelligence agencies work together world-wide to follow and thwart such acts by ISIS and al-Qaeda and other Muslim extremist groups. And well they should. But there is to date, no similar intelligence effort to follow and thwart acts by white nationalists. Make no mistake about it, the far right extremists work together via the dark web and other social media avenues to spread their ideology and to share ideas about how to carry out violence. As explained in a Washington Post article this weekend, white supremacists who are motivated by a right-wing political ideology committed more acts of violence in recent years than any other type of domestic extremist. It is time to recognize that these are not one time random events but rather that these extremists are connected in that they are motivated by and share the same websites, political views and understanding of world events. They feed off of each other. It is a movement, both here in the United States and increasingly in other Western nations around the world. They are connected in ways we may not truly understand. There was a reason this evil person left a 74 page manifesto and live streamed his attack on Facebook. He wanted to share with those like him and in a way, to brag about his ability to carry out with action what others only talk about.
Be aware of the language. Words matter and have meaning. Many experts start with the French writer Renaud Camus and his book “The Great Replacement” which is often referenced by the far right. Indeed, this shooter named his manifesto in homage to this book. In his book, Mr. Camus argues that whites in Europe are being replaced by immigrants from non-white countries and most of them are Muslims. He calls it “demographic colonization” and talks about a “counter revolt” to drive them away. Mr. Camus now has a second book along the same lines called “You Will Not Replace Us!” Remember that in 2017 the white supremacists in Charlottesville marched to the chant “Jews will not replace us!” Other words like “invasion” and depictions of non-white immigrants as criminals, and disease carriers and generally despicable non-human beings fills the pages of the writings and postings of these far right nationalists. They come from “shit hole” countries. They want to take away jobs. Sound familiar?
According to the ADL (formerly the Anti-Defamation League) in the United States from 2008 to 2017 there were 387 domestic extremist murders. Of those, they report that 71 percent of them were committed by right-wing extremists. 26 percent were by Islamic extremists and three percent were by left-wing extremists. Please don’t give me the “both sides” argument. It is time to be realistic about this danger to our citizens.
One might ask where the real “national emergency” is taking place. It may be that the real threat comes from those trying to “Make America White Again.”
We need to move beyond thinking of these incidents as isolated. They are not. Until our leadership realizes that this is a real and present danger these events will continue. When asked if he thought the rise of white nationalists around the world was a growing threat, Mr. Trump said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing.” To think as the president does about white nationalism is to either condone it, or it is the moral equivalent of having our collective heads in the sand. From Saturday morning to Sunday night, Mr. Trump put out 50 Tweets or retweets about everything from formulating the idea that the government should investigate Saturday Night Live for colluding with the Russians (?!) to attacking Senator John McCain. (Still.) Not one concerned the massacre in New Zealand.
Wake up USA.
We are losing our heart and our soul as a nation. I hope that we can recover.
With the Trump Administration policy of “zero tolerance” we are experiencing the full depth of depravity that his leadership instills. And make no mistake about it, it is a policy, not a law.
Repeat after me: There is no law that requires separating children from their parents at the border.
There are so many lies surrounding the implementation of this policy and the explanations for its continuance that is hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the rationale for it.
Mr. Trump and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security state that it is simply the enforcement of the law. (All together now: There is no law!). However, the Attorney General and high ranking presidential advisers say that the policy is an attempt to deter further immigrants from coming to the border either illegally or for the purpose of claiming asylum – of which the Attorney General changed the criteria for what we will accept under that claim.
Other presidential advisers, including the president himself, basically argued that it was a political gambit to get the Congress to pass legislation to fund his “big beautiful border wall.” You know, the one he promised that Mexico would pay for.
Taking the second argument first, it is totally despicable and un-American to use children, including babies and toddlers, as political bargaining chips. The mere sight of these internment camps should be enough for Americans — regardless of one’s views on immigration — to say “not in my America!”
The argument that it is a deterrent is short-sighted and won’t work. Here is the fallacy in their reasoning. People that are fleeing unspeakable crimes, persecution and fear will risk whatever lies at the end of a very long road because it cannot be any worse than what they are experiencing and there is a chance that it could be better. Desperate people do desperate things. Think Sophie’s Choice (either the book or the movie with Meryl Streep.)
As many of you know I experienced this first hand in the early 1980’s off the coast of Viet Nam. On several Navy deployments we rescued refugees at sea fleeing the oppressive communist regime of the time. Note this — we were not there for that mission. No US Navy ships were there for that mission. We were merely transiting from one mission to another and happened to be there — far off the coast in regular shipping lanes. Unimaginably rickety wooden boats of 40 or 50 feet loaded with about 50 people of all ages — babies to grandmothers — on board would head to sea hoping that a US Navy ship would see them (not a sure thing — small boat, big ocean), stop, and pick them up to take them to a refugee camp. If they missed the US Navy, perhaps some friendly merchant ship would pick them up (some did, but not all). If they weren’t lucky, they were lost at sea. Unknown numbers were never rescued. I should point out that there was no specific government policy to pick them up. It was our duty as mariners to help those in peril on the sea and our duty as human beings not to let them perish.
Those experiences over about three years have made a lasting impression on me ever since. I could not and can not imagine what it would take to put my entire family at risk of perishing at sea in the hope — the hope — that there might be something better for us. And if there wasn’t, well maybe we would still be better off perishing together than losing family members to evil forces.
That is why those people come to our borders. They won’t stop until the conditions in their home countries change.
Additionally may I add that on numerous occasions over the decades, I have read about a senior military officer, politician, public servant, fireman, successful business person, and others that were among those rescued during that period. I have no idea whether any of them were among those on the boats that we saved. I do know that if we had not exercised our obligations as human beings we would have never known about them because they would never have lived to be the proud and productive Americans that they are today.
Some of those in the child internment camps will have similar stories in a few decades. If we let them.
As I write this, the president just announced that later today he will “sign something” to alleviate the situation at the border regarding the removal of children from their parents. I hope it is meaningful. The damage is already done, however, to our standing as a moral leader in the world and in our communal sense of what it means to be an American.
Mr. Trump is using the most vile, scare mongering rhetoric imaginable to demonize these potential contributors to the USA. It is on purpose. When he tweets that they “pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13” he brings out the very worst in our nature. Pour? Infest? What? Sound familiar?
“From the rostrum of the Reichstag, I prophesied to Jewry that, in the event of war’s proving inevitable, the Jew would disappear from Europe. That race of criminals has on its conscience the two million dead of the First World War, and now already hundreds and thousands more. Let nobody tell me that all the same we can’t park them in the marshy parts of Russia! Who’s worrying about our troops? It’s not a bad idea, by the way, that public rumor attributes to us a plan to exterminate the Jews. Terror is a salutary thing.” — Adolf Hitler October, 1941
“You see what happens with MS-13, where your sons and daughters are attacked violently. Kids that never even heard of such a thing are being attacked violently, not with guns, but with knives because it’s much more painful. Inconceivable — here we are talking about business — inconceivable that we even have to talk about MS-13 and other gangs. They attack violently, the most painful way possible. And a bullet is too quick. And we’re allowing these people into our country? Not with me. We’re taking them out by the thousands. We’re taking them out by the thousands.” Donald J. Trump, 19 June 2018
There are so many more references from Mr. Trump where he demonized those of color. There is a reason that to date, the only pictures, still or video, from inside the child internment camps are from the US government. What do they show? Only teenage boys of color shuffling along and kept in cages (or as one DHS official claimed that they aren’t cages, they are just walls made of chain link that go from floor to ceiling). As Mr. Trump rails against “MS-13” — is the president really saying that every man woman and child seeking entry from the south is a gang member — the video subtly reinforces his vitriol.
The president is trying to create a vision of a nation at war. That we are under attack from the south and the refugees at our borders are enemy combatants. With that psychology, of course we “capture” them and put them in POW camps. It is an artificial war and a created crisis. Created for political purposes. The president is trying to create an issue that he thinks he and the GOP can win on in November 2018. Truth is trampled in the process.
Look it up. The numbers apprehended at the border have plummeted between 2000 and now. For example in March, 2000 about 220,000 people crossed the border. In March of this year, when the “crisis” resulted in the zero tolerance policy, about 40,000 were apprehended trying to cross illegally. Looking at yearly totals since 1960, apprehensions increased steadily until peaking in the late 1990’s at roughly 1.6 million people. Since then the trend has been downward, hovering around 300,000 to 400,000 during President Obama’s second term and about 300,000 last year. Hardly “unheard of” or “the most in history” or “unprecedented”. By the way, part of the reason was that there were dramatic new hires in Border Patrol officers begun under President George W. Bush and expanded further under President Obama. As a side note, one should be aware that the historic rate of crimes for illegal immigrants is half of that of natural born citizens and the rate for legal immigrants is about a quarter of that for natural born Americans.
The current condition is a cruel manufactured crisis for crass political purposes. We are a nation of immigrants. We are better than this. Or at least I thought so.
Despite Mr. Trump’s fake claims that the Democrats want “open borders” to get more criminals, drug dealers and future voters into the country, the vast majority of Americans understand that immigration must be controlled and that laws must be the rule of the land. That said, it is possible to have and execute immigration laws with compassion.
Let’s hope that when Mr. Trump “signs something” today, he solves this problem. Whatever that something is, however, we have already seen clearly what is in his heart. What is now happening on the border is evil. It does not represent the values of the United States of America that I know.
In truth, I do not believe that Mr. Trump really cares one way or the other about immigration and the welfare of children on the border. It just makes a good wedge issue to enhance his own power. We have seen that Mr. Trump will stop at nothing to exploit fear and to promote his personal gain. Wake up America! This is what the future holds if we do not begin to demand more from our elected officials. Now.