Whenever there is a mass shooting, far too many people (cough, Republicans) ignore the proliferation of weapons of war on American streets that slaughter innocents and shred communities in a matter of seconds. Instead, they amble over to their bookshelf, pull out the Book of Talking Points, and mutter on and on about other things they think drove someone to commit mass murder. They mewl about violent video games or the mental health of the murderer. Not to diminish the absolute necessity to take mental health seriously or to address it, but the way Republicans and the National Rifle Association talk about it is as predictable as it is tiresome.
But here’s the question I keep asking myself: Can’t someone just be plain evil? Can’t someone hear the words from those they admire and act on the implicit or explicit messages delivered?
I’m asking these questions because the mental health rationale is selectively employed. Let me highlight just one example: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall anyone wondering aloud about the mental state of the husband-and-wife killers of 14 people at a San Bernardino, Calif., holiday party in 2015. Both were Muslim and killed by law enforcement. In fact, five days later, then-candidate Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
But Republicans from President Trump on down the line are talking about mental health (and, yes, violent video games) in the wake of the mass murder of 22 people (as of this writing) at a Walmart in El Paso on Saturday. As The Post reported, authorities believe Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old white male alleged shooter, posted a 2,300-word manifesto rooted in the ideology of white supremacy and white nationalism moments before he unleashed hell. Crusius found common cause with the murderer of 51 Muslims in New Zealand.
And he found common cause with Trump. “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” the suspected killer wrote. Brandon Friedman, a former Obama administration official and co-founder of the McPherson Square Group, took to Twitter to do an old-fashioned sentence diagram of the alleged killer’s manifesto and the anti-immigrant rhetoric from Trump and his media and congressional enablers.
The New York Times reports: “Since January, Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign has posted more than 2,000 ads on Facebook that include the word ‘invasion’ — part of a barrage of advertising focused on immigration, a dominant theme of his re-election messaging.” And Trump regularly employed the word “invasion” in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections.
That the alleged killer said he held his bigoted beliefs before Trump became president is of little comfort. For racists, white supremacists and white nationalists, having your views bullhorned from the bully pulpit of the Oval Office is a stamp of approval.
Evil is what festers in weak souls who find power in deeply rooted conspiracy theories about their own superiority and the inferiority of others. Evil perpetuates itself on message boards and chat rooms. And evil comes alive in four-page manifestos that parrot well-worn hateful arguments that are then posted online before the person poisoned by them acts out. Dylann Roof posted his five-page tirade hours before he martyred nine African Americans at Mother Emanuel church in 2015 in Charleston, S.C., in the hopes of starting a race war.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said it exactly right on Twitter. “White supremacy is not a mental illness,” she wrote. “We need to call it what it is: Domestic terrorism.” And we need to also call it evil.
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