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Sunday, August 04, 2019

Call It What It Is: White Nationalist Domestic Terrorism

Remember how President Barack Obama was incessantly berated for refusing to utter the phrase, “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” For virtually his entire two terms, right wing radio, cable TV propagandists and conservative newspapers as well as Republican politicians jumped on the bandwagon that Obama must be a secret Muslim if he can’t spit out those words.

In fact, then candidate Donald Trump in 2016 told Fox and Friends, “People cannot—they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the ways he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable.”

Later, the horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, an establishment primarily frequented by gay people whereby 49 innocent souls were slaughtered, led Trump to reference the incident in his speech accepting the nomination for President.

“Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBT community. As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”

The identity politics reporter Eugene Scott for The Fix pointed out in an op-ed in the Washington Post, “Cynics noted that it was [shooter Omar] Mateen’s loyalty to the Islamist terrorist group [ISIL] that led the then-nominee to address the mass murder more than his concern for the safety of gay Americans.”

The distinction is not lost on many in our country and around the world. An ISIL sympathizer murders people and is labeled a foreign terrorist.  However, in a span of 6 days, three mass shootings have occurred and very few on the GOP side of the aisle including Trump—largely the same ones who relentlessly accused Obama of not using the phrase “radical Islamist terrorists”—have called out these murders as domestic terrorism.

As people debate the reasons why Trump is not condemning white nationalist domestic terrorism with the same vehemence as he slams African-American lawmakers, majority black cities and Hispanic immigrants, it is well documented  that since Trump took office there has been a significant rise of hate crimes in the U.S. and hate bias incidents and in particular, where Trump has held rallies.

Moreover, mass shootings or other attempts to terrorize communities that are rooted in white nationalism are becoming too routine now. They have been met with no response from Senate Republicans and so far, no action has been taken on a House-passed bi-partisan sensible gun bill though they offer a plethora of thoughts and prayers and well-deserved praise for first responders.

Republicans who are aligned with Trump (just about all of them) see these incidents as mental health-related outbursts.  But not all of these perpetrators are linked with mental health problems. To kill anyone other than self-defense, to me, is a mental health problem.  Some are self-professed white nationals, virulently opposed to persons of color and yes, supporters of Trump.

It is obvious the reason Trump has yet to demonstrate any leadership on this growing problem or acknowledge that white nationalism is becoming an epidemic is that these individuals constitute a portion of his passionate and loyal base. You know how the president values loyalty; he is loath to throw them under the bus.  He is all about his base and the 2020 election.

While Trump should not be accused of directly inciting the violence we are witnessing with all-too-common frequency in the form of mass shootings, his divisive and incendiary racist rhetoric in the form of tweets, comments at press gaggles and speeches at campaign rallies, he has wittingly created an atmosphere whereby some of his ardent supporters have picked up signals and have acted upon it.

“He empowers hateful and potentially violent individuals with his divisive rhetoric and his unwillingness to unequivocally denounce white supremacy,” writes Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant F.B.I. director for counterintelligence and a national security analyst for NBC News, in an op-ed  in the New York Times.

“Mr. Trump may be understandably worried about the course of congressional inquiries, but his aggressive and race-baiting responses have been beyond the pale. He has chosen a re-election strategy based on appealing to the kinds of hatred, fear and ignorance that can lead to violence.”

In Trump’s recent racist tweets and his combustible campaign rally in North Carolina where the unimpeded “send her back” chants reverberated among the foaming-at-the-mouth Trump cultists, white nationalists or those close sympathizers of the cause have applauded him even if they were not in the arena itself.   ADL, a leading anti-hate organization, documents  the validation by these folks resulting from Trump’s communications.

For his part, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney disputes Trump’s role in the violence. On the August 4 edition of Meet the Press, he argued that the blame lies squarely on the “sick” people who “pulled the trigger.”

“I get the fact that some people don’t approve of the verbiage the president uses, I get that,” Mulvaney said. “But even if they did … people are going to hear what they want to hear.”

As we navigate through another tragic carnage-filled crime scene, we desperately continue to seek answers. The loved ones of the innocent victims are faced with these horrific losses and no amount of thoughts and no amount of prayers will mitigate their grief.

Gun restrictions will not stop many of these incidents though background checks are the right way to go for starters. And still, I cannot fathom why semi-automatic assault weapons and high capacity magazines should be obtained so readily. 

But we also need to hear from our leaders to confirm that much of the recent atrocities have been committed by white nationalist bigots.  Dialing back the divisive rhetoric would be a good first step.

Calling these crimes white nationalist domestic terrorism is what is needed, and efforts by law enforcement should be undertaken with the same zeal as they attempt to check foreign terrorism. 

Note that foreign terrorism is a federal crime. Domestic terrorism is not.

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