You Are Responsible, Mr. President

Does President Donald Trump know that his hateful speech and tweets endanger the lives of the people he taunts? Does he care?

Trump is both ignorant and without moral sense. So, he cares not a bit about the consequences of his words. The latest exhibit in Trump’s heedless and reckless use of language is his retweet of a video of Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, saying, “Some people did something,” followed by the always-horrifying video of the destruction of the Twin Towers in the 9/11 attacks. Omar’s words and 9/11 video played several times during the :43 video. 

Omar should have chosen her words more carefully. “Some people did something” suggests, when wrenched, as it was, from the context of her entire speech, that she is insensitive to the mayhem committed by the terrorists that awful day. But, she was not downplaying 9/11 nor was she apologizing for terrorism. In her over 20-minute address on Islamophobia, Omar made the point that because 19 people hijacked planes and carried out the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon all Muslims in the United States “were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” The terrorists of 9/11, she said, were a pretext for anti-Muslim bigotry, which existed before and after the attacks. “So to me,” she said, “I say, raise hell, make people uncomfortable. Because here’s the truth: For too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen, and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it.” And, Omar added, in Trump’s America, Islamophobia has worsened.

Not many Americans would exploit 9/11 for political gain, but the amoral Trump is willing to employ any tactic, any symbol, and any tragedy if he thinks it would benefit him. To Trump, it matters not one bit that, according to Omar, “direct threats on my life” have increased since his tweet.

40 Wall Street

And, it is always about Trump. Any doubts about Trump’s narcissism disappear in the response the then-real estate developer gave on the day the planes flew into the World Trade Center. In a phone interview with a New Jersey radio station on September 11, 2001, Trump responded to a question about a building he owned in the Financial District. “40 Wall Street,” Trump told the radio audience, “actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan, and it was actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest — and then, when they built the World Trade Center, it became known as the second tallest. And, now, it’s the tallest.”

Bully for you, Donald! Three thousand people die, and you care only that your building is now the tallest in lower Manhattan! And, you have the gall to accuse someone else of trivializing tragedy! Not only did Trump trivialize 9/11, but he has used it for political profit as evidenced by his claim that “thousands and thousands of [Muslims] were cheering as that building was coming down.” Trump says he saw Muslims cheering in New Jersey as he watched television that day, even though no one else corroborates that assertion and no videotape of such celebrations has ever been found. 

Representative Ilhan Omar

The hijab-wearing Omar is an easy target for the Muslim-bashing president. She is out-spoken and has found herself in political hot water before because of accusations of anti-Semitism. Trump raised that issue again Monday when he tweeted, “Before Nancy [Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi], who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made. She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!”

Omar and Pelosi, two women. Trump is comfortable attacking women, and in Omar’s case, she is a “two-fer,” a woman and a member of a minority (actually two minorities, black and Muslim). Trump has a history of character assassinations of minority women. Before Omar, he went after New York Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, dubbing her “a young bartender.” (Which she, unapologetically, was.) Trump called California Democratic Representative Maxine Waters “Low I.Q.,” and he referred to Florida Democratic Representative Frederica Wilson as “wacky.” And, he said Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams was “not qualified.” Abrams is a Yale-trained tax attorney, civic leader, and business owner. 

Attacking minority women is common behavior for Trump. Sexism and racism are each potent alone; combined, they are devastating, especially when aimed at Trump’s audience: Older white men fearful of a changing America in which women and minorities are asserting their political power. The emergence of new loci of power is the conservative nightmare, as evidenced by the attacks in right-wing media on Omar for her, at worst, ill-chosen words. Brian Kilmeade of “Fox & Friends,” de rigeur watching for the president, questioned Omar’s patriotism, “You have to wonder if she’s an American first.” GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel called Omar “anti-American.” The New York Post ran a front-page picture of the Twin Towers in flames, with “Here’s your something” in large font. 

“This is dangerous incitement, given the death threats I face,” Omar tweeted. “I hope leaders of both parties will join me in condemning it. My love and commitment to our country and that of my colleagues should never be in question. We are ALL Americans!” Omar also said, “This is endangering lives. It has to stop.” If it does not stop, and if the unthinkable were to happen, the onus would be on President Trump. He would be responsible. As president, with the bully pulpit, his words and tweets carry far more weight than those of anyone else. 

Not that he cares! His response would be predictable. He would claim his words had no importance or that he was joking. And, he would blithely carry on with taunts, hate speech, and insults. Some people never learn. But, the rest of us will not forget!

Posted April 16, 2019



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