Marco Levytsky, National Affairs Editor.
Last week the United States witnessed a rash of violence, carnage, political terrorism and acts of just plain hatred of which three particular incidents, all committed within 72 hours, stand out.
Wednesday, October 24 two African Americans were shot dead at a Kroger grocery store and parking lot in Jefferstown Kentucky as they were about to enter the First Baptist Church, located in that suburb of Louisville. Police arrested suspect Gregory A. Bush, 51, whose Facebook page indicates he has a history of posting racially charged opinions and who had first tried to enter the church itself. Bush reportedly had a history of mental illness and said “whites don’t kill whites” just after leaving the store.
Friday, October 26 Police arrested Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, after 14 potential explosive devices were mailed to prominent Democrats and critics of U.S. President Donald Trump.
So who were the targets? How did they get the packages?
- Billionaire George Soros: His package was found in the mailbox at his home in Bedford, New York;
- Former First Lady, Secretary of State and Trump’s opponent in the 2016 Presidential Election Hillary Clinton: Hers was sent to her home in Westchester County, New York;
- Former President Barack Obama: His was addressed to his residence in Washington;
- Former CIA Director John Brennan: His was sent to CNN’s offices in New York City;
- Florida’s Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: The suspicious package was discovered at her office and addressed to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder;
- California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters: One package was intercepted at a congressional mail sorting facility outside Washington and the other was found at a postal facility in south central Los Angeles;
- Former Vice President Joe Biden: Two packages were intercepted at Delaware postal facilities;
- Actor Robert De Niro: One was sent to his offices in New York;
- New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker: A package was discovered in Florida;
- Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: A package addressed to him was recovered at a Manhattan postal facility;
- Senator Kamala Harris: A suspicious package was sent to his office in Sacramento, California;
- Billionaire Tom Steyer: A package was addressed to him, but intercepted at a mail facility in Burlingame, California.
When police checked Sayoc’s white Dodge van, they found it plastered with stickers supporting President Trump and depicting some of Trump’s critics with targets over their images. Other stickers blared “Dishonest Media” and “CNN sucks.” On Twitter, Sayoc ranted about Soros, Obama, Hillary Clinton and other opponents of Trump.
Then, on Saturday, October 27, a gunman walked into the Tree of Life Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire, killing 11 people and wounding six others.
The suspect, Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old resident of Baldwin, Pennsylvania, has stated he was “disappointed” with Trump as he was supposedly being controlled and surrounded by too many Jews. In particular, Bowers felt Trump was not doing enough to stop the migrant Caravan of desperate Central Americans working their way up to the U.S. border with Mexico, and, in particular, blamed the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and its National Refugee Shabbat, in which Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue was participating, for supporting the members of these caravans and offering aid.
In varying degrees, these actions can be directly attributed to the inflammatory rhetoric of President Donald Trump. In the case of the bombings, it is clearly evident that Sayoc was influenced by Trump’s rhetoric and picked his targets from Trump’s own virtual hit list. But this also applies to the other incidents because what Trump has done through his wedge politics of inciting latent prejudices and encouraging bigotry is emboldened all the crazies out there to commit crimes they may not have considered in a more tolerant political environment. As CNN’s Chris Cuomo put it following the arrest of Sayoc: “Our president cannot escape special scrutiny; he is at the head of the hate parade and way too often.”
Typically, Trump would not cancel any of his boisterous campaign rallies out of deference to the victims and, after making the most perfunctory platitudes to the need for unity at these rallies, proceeded to launch his trademark vitriolic tirades against the media.
What Trump hates about the media, is that they continue to responsibly exercise their constitutional right to defend the public interest by exposing his blatant lies, his appeals to people’s basest instincts and his continued attempts to subvert U.S. democracy.
Trump’s politics are the politics of division, of scapegoating, of distorting the truth, of exploiting prejudice and hatred for political gain. A classic example is his vow to stop the migrant caravan at the U.S. border with military force (5,200 additional troops will be sent to reinforce the 2,092 National Guards already there), painting the desperate poverty-stricken people who are joining it in droves as “invaders”. Another of his solutions to this crisis is to cut off aid to the countries they come from – a solution that will only add to the unbearable living conditions that prompted them to start this perilous trek in the first place.
Trump has polarized U.S. society and has lowered the level of political discussion to a depth unprecedented in the history of the United States. He is unique in that respect, but that most certainly is a uniqueness of shame – not pride. We cannot vote in the November 6 mid-term elections. Only Americans can. But the results will not only impact the United States, they will reverberate around the world. We can only hope and pray that the voters of the United States resolutely choose to embrace the politics of unity and reconciliation over the politics of divisiveness and fear.