Opinion

Renée Graham

On hate crimes, presidential silence is complicity

UNIVERSITY CITY, MO - FEBRUARY 22: Volunteers from a local monument company help to reset vandalized headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery on February 22, 2017 in University City, Missouri. Since the beginning of the year, there has been a nationwide spike in incidents including bomb threats at Jewish community centers and reports of anti-semitic graffiti. (Photo: Michael Thomas/ Getty Images)

Michael Thomas/Getty Images

Volunteers from a local monument company help to reset vandalized headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery on Feb. 22 in University City, Missouri.

Rest assured, everybody: President Trump is “deeply disappointed” over the escalating nationwide reports of anti-Semitic bomb threats.

“Deeply disappointed” is an appropriate reaction when the local coffee shop runs out of your favorite cranberry muffins. It is not, however, a remotely adequate response to what has become an alarming flood of terroristic threats against Jewish community centers and schools and the desecration of two Jewish cemeteries in recent weeks. On Monday, nearly 30 JCCs and schools in 17 states received calls about possible bombs, followed by the evacuations of those buildings of children, teachers, and staff, the unnecessary taxing of police departments, and the arrivals of rattled parents hoping that these calls, like dozens before, would also turn out to be cruel hoaxes. Some centers have been evacuated multiple times.

Advertisement

Did I mention that Trump, according to perpetually exasperated White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, is also “concerned” and “continues to condemn these and other forms of anti-Semitic and hateful acts”?

What is happening across this country deserves more from the president than boilerplate mumblings about concern and disappointment. Then again, Trump spent more than a year denigrating immigrants, Muslims, and anyone who was deemed unwelcome in his throwback version of America. Hence, Trump has shown no inclination toward what David Posner, director of strategic performance at the JCC Association of North America, has called on his government to do: speak out “forcefully against the scourge of anti-Semitism impacting communities across the country.”

Get Arguable with Jeff Jacoby in your inbox:
From the Globe's must-read columnist, an extra offering each week of opinion and ideas.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s journal Intelligence Report, the Trump phenomenon has “electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country.” This was not a white man’s country when the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, nor when America was built on the backs of a stolen people. It is a noxious fiction that for centuries has fomented bigotry, gutted this nation’s soul, and is sustained by misinformation, mayhem, and murder.

That’s why Adam Purinton yelled, “Get out of my country,” when he allegedly shot two men, killing one of them, in a Kansas bar last weekend. They were India-born engineers, but Purinton, according to published reports, believed they were “Middle Eastern.” Whoever could have given him the idea that Middle Eastern people did not belong in this country?

Had Purinton yelled “Allahu Akbar” when he shot those two men, or pledged his allegiance to ISIS when he shot and wounded another man who risked his life to try and subdue him, Trump would have exploited this senseless tragedy to bolster his ugly anti-Muslim immigration ban. Yet his administration’s response has been virtually nonexistent, except to call it “tragic” and declare as “absurd” any allegation linking Trump’s anti-Islam rhetoric to this lethal attack.

Advertisement

Here’s what is absurd. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America’s “top cop,” is asleep on his beat as kids are being terrorized by daily bomb threats. Trump can’t even be bothered with the easy optics of visiting a JCC to allay the fears of children, parents, teachers, and staff, and reassure them that the government will not rest until those responsible for this terror campaign are brought to justice. He hasn’t even offered condolences to the widow of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was murdered in Kansas. Even this simple act of human decency is beyond him when it does not serve his political ends.

As bomb threats mount, and lives are threatened and lost, Trump’s virtual silence gives tacit permission to bigots with an appetite for destruction. Keeping white nationalist Steve Bannon as his closest adviser ensures that he will never acknowledge the spiraling costs of his reckless words and vicious policies. America is smoldering with hate, yet even while holding a handful of spent matches, Trump still falsely behaves as if he didn’t ignite the latest incarnation of this nation’s unquenchable fire.

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.
Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.