U.S. President Donald Trump is unleashing the powers of destruction with his Twitter tirades and populist rhetoric. The fruits of the rage are manifesting themselves.
Once again, the nation comes together for candlelight vigils, united in shock, pain and grief as it has been after countless other killing sprees and massacres in schools, universities and churches. This time, however, it is a little different, because this time it struck the Jewish community, which justifiably felt itself to be very safe in the U.S. Bearing witness to that is the statement of 15-year-old Sophia Levin from Pittsburgh for whom anti-Semitism until now was a thing of the past – or happened in other parts of the world, as she went on record saying. This certainty has been nevertheless shattered after the Sabbath massacre in the Tree of Life Synagogue, the most serious attack on Jews in the history of the U.S.
The nation hoped for healing words from the president, for words of solace and assurance and, in fact, Donald Trump reacted with visible dismay to the assassination in the synagogue, to the “the vile hate-filled poison of anti-Semitism,” as he put it. He spoke as the grandfather of three grandchildren being raised in the Jewish faith – the children of his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. That the assault happened during a naming ceremony touched his heart.
It wouldn’t be Trump, however, if he paused for a lengthy period of time like his predecessors in similar cases. He contemplated a short break from campaigning, but then decided to resume his tour to stir up his supporters a week before the congressional elections – people like Cesar Sayoc, the fanatical Trump aficionado and builder of letter bombs with whom Trump suddenly wants nothing to do. The president let himself get carried away by his fans, by the chants – and he encouraged them with his diatribes against his opponents and the media, the so-called enemy of the people.
To be sure, he professes to appeal to the unity of U.S. citizens, but in fact, evokes the exact opposite – division of the country that has already gone so far that troubled columnists are warning of conditions similar to civil war. There is no talk of curbing his rhetoric as Trump said, much less any word of self-criticism. Instead, he indulges in recriminations against the media, in demands for expediting the carrying out of death sentences, in polemics against the refugee caravan in Mexico, and in a harangue for gun laws favored by the gun lobby NRA.
The controversy over more restrictive gun laws that, flaring up once again, will fizzle out again – as it did after the pre-Christmas massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 or after the Valentines’ Day shooting at the high school in Parkland, Florida. On the Democratic side, too, there are enough friends of guns to maintain the status quo.
The blame for the polarization in the country may not lie with Trump alone. It existed under Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, but it has reached a new quality and dimension under the 45th president. When the Ku Klux Klan, among others, marched with anti-Semitic slogans last year in Charlottesville, the president only renounced them halfheartedly. Even high-ranking staff members in the White House were appalled. Trump himself terms his appeasement speech as the greatest mistake of his presidency to date.
It was the seed for the furor. All at once, right-wing nationalists, racists, conspiracy theorists, right-wing extremists to Neo-Nazis, all of whom elect Republicans while holding their noses, felt encouraged and validated in their resentments and delusional ideas. Trump recognizes hardly any taboo and unleashes rage, hate and the powers of destruction in his Twitter tirades and his attitude of being the people’s tribune.
The fruits of the rage manifest themselves in the rise of anti-Semitism and letter bombs. Without any evidence, Trump had no sooner cast suspicion on Jewish investor George Soros – like in Hungary or Italy – of being the sponsor of the immigrant march in Mexico – than a letter bomb was delivered to Soros. Who can deny that there is a connection to that?