The “new normal” becomes yet more virulent. On Saturday, 27 October, 2018, a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and opened fire, killing 11 of the congregants. Four police officers were also wounded when they responded to the incident before the assailant was taken into custody. Investigation into his background yielded results which were predictable to the point of being almost intuitively obvious. He was extremely anti-Semite, and while superficially a Trump supporter, also castigated the president for not being sufficiently pro-white-America.
On the following Sunday morning, Matthew Dowd, former strategist for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign and ABC News political consultant, observed on ABC This Week that the last three terrorist attacks within the US, including both the mail-bomb attacks on Democrats and the synagogue shooting, were the product of white supremacists. This bold statement was reinforced by a tweet sent out by Dowd a few days earlier:
The media has an obligation not to “both sides” this moment of fomenting violence and hate. The President of the US is pushing exactly the wrong message to Americans, and white nationalist terrorism is at an all-time high.
Meantime, we see Donald Trump making soft-spoken and likely largely scripted responses, decrying the violence, while speciously suggesting that armed guards at the synagogue would have provided ample protection against such incursions. More talk from a chief executive who, I seriously suspect, will do little to nothing other than talk about it. Why? Because Trump can’t afford to alienate his base, and a substantial portion of his base are the white supremacists who have drawn succor and support from him practically from the day he was inaugurated. Is Trump directly responsible for these events? The honest answer must be, “no.” What he HAS done is make the ground more fertile for such events. The fact remains that with his “America First” attitude, which amounts to dog-whistle for White Christian America First, a great number of white males who perceive, either correctly or not, that their influence is diminishing, are becoming more emboldened to act out against those who allegedly are causing that loss. Civility takes yet another in a series of hits, and the likelihood of yet more incidents of domestic terrorism becomes that much greater.
The real danger is that such attitudes and actions won’t end with the eviction of Trump from the White House. Regardless of how he exits, he will leave behind a great number of radicalized white nationalists behind who, encouraged by his rhetoric, will take their lack of public political representation as evidence of their suppression and persecution, providing yet more impetus to lash out. The only possible means that might be deployed to defuse them and their anger might be the kind of Socratic interchange which Peter Boghossian suggested to open believers’ minds to the fallacies of their beliefs, though that would be as slow a process with the white radicals as it is with the theists.
And the seasons, they go round and round,
And the painted ponies go up and down...
-- Joni Mitchell, "The Circle Game"
And we keep going in circles, solving very nearly nothing. Take guns and ammo and mix them with angry white men in a culture which has begun to devalue them, and the situation has gotten a LOT worse, people … and I don’t mind telling you, it scares me.