Trump talked about peace, harmony and all sides coming together but did not once mention the two words that if ever applied to sending suspected mail bomb packages to leading Democrats. The words are “domestic terrorism.” Trump didn’t use those words and he was called on the carpet by a few for not using them. However, this is not just a case of Trump being Trump. It’s not a case of Trump turning a blind eye to himself for creating the climate of hate that gives free license to the legions of kooks, cranks, and crazies to kill, maim, and make threats of killing and maiming. It’s not even a case of Trump never ever turning the mirror on himself for the leading part he’s played in whipping up hate hysteria and mania against his Democrat opponents, the ones who got the suspect packages.
It’s much deeper than that. Take the plague of mass killings in schools, shopping centers, and other public places, by mostly unhinged young white males. Trump branded the killer in one of them in Florida as “mentally disturbed,” “bad and erratic behavior,” and with what’s hardly the revelation of the ages “a big problem.” He did not call him a domestic terrorist, nor the act. His refusal had nothing to do with a politician, in this case Trump, trying to calm the jitters of a nation over the mass carnage. It was simply a deeply embedded conditioned response of refusing to recognize that terrorism in America can come with a face other than that of a Muslim.
The Charlottesville, Virginia rampage, in August 2017, is the gold standard when it comes to the dogged refusal to call out domestic terrorism American style. The rampage should have sounded loud the alarm bell that white nationalist and white supremacist groups have touched the delusional and loose wires in the heads of a more than a few impressionable, distraught, alienated, young white males. They have easy access to the big killer guns, and stocks of ammo. They are not routinely profiled by police. So, they can take pictures with guns, parade with guns publicly, and blast away at rifle ranges or at training sites. They have no fear of exposure or arrest.
Despite that, studies have found that the overwhelming majority of those labeled domestic terrorists on network TV news shows were Muslim.
The issue of who gets called a domestic terrorist following a violent outburst exploded into national debate following the massacre at the Charleston AME Church in June 2015. Then President Obama branded the massacre an act of terror. He was pretty much a lone voice on that score. Nearly all major media outlets, GOP leaders that commented on it, and the FBI, refused to brand the shooter, Dylann Roof, a terrorist or call his act an act of domestic terrorism.
This is far from an arcane quibble over terms and definitions, or even over the race and gender of the shooters. It strikes to the heart of how many Americans have been reflexively conditioned to see thuggery and terrorism. They see it through the narrow, warped prism of who commits the acts, rather than the horrific acts and their consequences.
There’s simply no political incentive to call mass killers, or now mail bomb suspects, “domestic terrorists.” This crashes hard against the official narrative that made-in- America terrorists and terrorism constitute minimal or no real threat to life and property here.
That’s only part of the blind eye toward homegrown terrorism. The long often bloody history of America is littered with groups that have imposed a kind of white frontier vigilantism on Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and other pariah groups. For much of this history, they have committed violence with impunity, and with a wink and nod from officials, judges, and police agencies. They in effect rewrote the definition of what terrorism is, and, isn’t.
The rise of white nationalist groups and the hideous reports of their penetration into the armed forces and some police departments, has made it even harder to finger them as the same major threats to national security and the public to rail against them as major threats to the nation’s peace.
It was only a short step from someone blazing away with impunity in a school at innocent school kids to sending a suspected mail bomb package to the nation’s leading political leaders. It’s even a shorter step when that happens for Trump and others to make simplistic, hollow and disingenuous pleas for “harmony.” As if that would mean anything to someone who’s unwired enough to send a mail bomb in the first place.
The suspected mail bomb threat is just another form of see no evil, hear no evil about domestic terrorists. This absolute refusal to call this latest act of domestic terrorism anything but that invites more of the potential carnage that Trump claims to be shocked by.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Make a Democratic Blue Wave More than Talk (Amazon) He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.