Tragedy struck Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, when a gunman opened fire on three bar patrons, killing one, injuring two.
Adam Purinton shot and killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla, and injured Alok Madasani, engineers from India employed by Garmin, the Kansas-based hi-tech electronics firm. According to witness accounts, Purinton opened fire shouting, “Get out of my country!” He later told a bartender 70 miles away that he had shot “two Iranians.”
According to The New York Times, the FBI has classified the shootings as a hate crime. But hate by whom? Given Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants, refugees and foreign workers and his racist rants during the presidential campaign, it could be argued that hatred is contagious. Certainly these messages have emboldened fringe elements within the white supremacist movement to commit heinous acts of violence against ethnic and religious minority groups.
Since Trump’s inauguration, hate crimes have soared. Bomb threats received by more than 100 Jewish community centers, the shooting of a 39-year-old Sikh in Kent, Washington, by a white gunman and arson at a Mosque in Tampa, Florida, are examples that have rocked the nation.
Faith-based organizations strongly criticized Trump’s silence on this crime. The “Leader of the Free World” finally broke his silence during his first speech to Congress, saying: “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
But Trump’s condemnation did little to heal a nation scarred by the violence.
From the outset of his presidential campaign, Trump focused on the plight of white working-and middle-class Americans whose economic well-being had diminished as a result of global “free trade.”
Trump promised to build a $20 billion wall on the US-Mexico border. He issued a controversial executive order, disguised as a measure to prevent terrorism, in order to ban Muslims from entering the US. He also singled Asian workers for “taking” American workers’ jobs.
Surrounded by a cabal of right-wing ideologues, including Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, Trump has been promoting ethnocentric and nationalist policies that demonize Middle Eastern, Asian and Latino populations.
Sebastian Gorka, a Trump lieutenant who serves as deputy assistant, is reported to have ties to right-wing and anti-Semitic movements in Hungary. Eli Clifton reports that “Gorka … was photographed at an inaugural ball wearing a medal from the Hungarian Order of Heroes, Vitezi Rend, a group listed by the State Department as taking direction from Germany’s Nazi government during World War II.”
During an NPR interview, Gorka refused to answer when asked whether Trump believes that Islam is a religion.
When Fox news host Sean Hannity asked Gorka’s opinion on the European refugee crisis, he responded by saying that theUnited States is fundamentally a “Judeo-Christian nation.” Hannity pressed him on whether the United States should accept refugees from Syria and other war-ravaged Middle Eastern countries. Gorka replied:
We help people when we can help them. But that is not a contract for national suicide. That doesn’t mean, as Hillary Clinton said in her private speech to the bankers, ‘We don’t need any borders, pull down the borders, the whole Western Hemisphere is one big happy party!’ It doesn’t mean that you quintuple the number of refugees.
Ethnocentric and ultranationalist ideology is common among members of Trump’s acolytes who see Islam as a movement whose goal is to destroy Western civilization.
In an interview with the ABC News program “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos asked Stephen Miller about theadministration’s next steps after the Ninth Court temporarily stayed Trump’s executive order. Miller replied:
There is no constitutional right for a citizen in a foreign country, who has no status in America, to demand entry into our country. Such a right cannot exist. Such a right will never exist.”
Trump’s controversial chief strategist, Steve Bannon, too, has spewed Islamophobic views. During a Breitbart radio program, Bannon ridiculed former president George W. Bush for having said that Islam is a religion of peace. Bannon envisions a post-Cold War New World Order in which a war is waged between a Jihadist Islamic Fascist movement and Judeo-Christian civilization.
Trump’s Muslim ban has an eerie resemblance to Nazi Germany’s deportation policies toward Jews, Romani, Muslims, Slavs and other “non-Aryan” races. Hitler praised the US Immigration Act of 1924, which restricted the immigration of Eastern Europeans and Jews, and prohibited the immigration of Arabs and Asians. He proposed that Germany adopt policies that preserve its Aryan racial purity.
Hitler divided Germany’s population into three groups: citizens, subjects and aliens. Individuals born in Germany were not automatically guaranteed citizenship because a subject’s race and nationality were determinative. Hitler also distinguished between “subjects” and “aliens.” He viewed the latter to be citizen of another country.
In similar fashion, and in spite of international condemnation, the Trump administration is pursuing a modern-day version of this goal. More than a month after the release of the first executive order on immigration, Trump signed a slightly revised version of it.
The new order removes Iraqis from the original seven-country list of banned entrants to the US approved by the US State Department, and legal permanent residents with green cards are also exempt from the ban.
Trump is not only blocking Muslims; he’s also striking back at critics.
The most recent case involves Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who criticized Trump for questioning his late son’s patriotism. Although Khan has been a US citizen for more than 30 years, he was forced to cancel a recent speaking engagement in Toronto after learning his traveling privileges were under review.
All these pieces of the puzzle paint a picture of an administration hell-bent on its own version of “ethnic cleansing lite.” Some believe that Trump’s true goal is to drive off, if not kill off, those who do not resemble those who are this president’s base voter. His policies do not call for outright extermination, just wholesale exclusion. In some circumstances, however, the distinction is barely a difference.