Don’t Use Tragedy to Win Political Points
On Saturday, The Forward published a piece by CJ Werleman titled, “The El Paso Killer Loved Trump. Do You? Then You’re Responsible, Too.” The article contended that President Trump’s rhetoric was directly — let me say that again, directly — responsible for the horrific white supremacist terror attack that took place in El Paso on Saturday that resulted in 22 innocent lives being cut short in an act of pure evil.
Werleman did not stop at blaming Trump, however, as he also targeted his supporters. Werleman claims if you support President Trump, then you too are responsible for a shooting that any decent person would unequivocally and vociferously condemn.
There are two main claims that are made by Werleman that need to be addressed. First, President Trump is directly responsible for the El Paso shooting. And second, that to support President Trump is to not only support everything he has ever said but be responsible for the shooting as well.
First, Werleman makes the argument that Donald Trump is directly responsible for the shooting in El Paso. This claim is simply false. To make the case that because an evil person supported a certain public figure, and therefore that public figure is responsible for the actions of that evil person is a case that is motivated by a unique inclination to target President Trump. How do I know this? I know this because there had been no such reaction when comparable situations arose on the other side of the aisle.
On the same day as the El Paso shooting, a Democrat-loving terrorist shot up a bar in Dayton, Ohio where he murdered 9 people. Just because the shooter in Dayton supported gun control, Elizabeth Warren, and proudly proclaimed, “F— John McCain” after his death, does not mean that the Democrats are responsible for the shooting.
Or, an even more obvious example would be when, a few years ago, a Bernie Sanders supporter shot up a Republican Congressional Baseball game where Steve Scalise, a member of the Republican House leadership, nearly died due to his injuries. In that situation, the proper reaction was not to blame Bernie Sanders because he has said things that demonize Republicans, of course, and the same standard should be applied when a right-wing terrorist commits an evil act as well.
The second claim Werleman makes is that to support President Trump is to not only support everything he has ever said, but to be responsible for the shooting as well. Werleman writes, “If you still support Trump after all this, then you have demonstrated you’re totally down with his brand of racist, sexist, xenophobic hatred.”
While I would not consider myself any sort of staunch Trump supporter, I can assure you that very few people who “love Trump”, agree with everything he has ever said. Our duty as Americans is to call out bigotry and racism wherever we see it, so I want to make it crystal clear that I, in no way, condone the bigoted things our President has said—and I am sure others who support President Trump would agree.
Werleman tried to irresponsibly and disingenuously smear tens of millions of Americans as “irredeemable ‘deplorable[s]’” for the grave sin of supporting Donald Trump. To underscore his point, he cites this study, claiming it shows the true motives of those evil Americans who support Trump. The only issue with the study is that it only studies former Democrats in certain counties of Iowa. Is that really sufficient evidence to come to the conclusion that a vast number of Trump supporters are racist and sexist bigots? I don’t think so.
The truth is that President Trump is not responsible for this attack, Democrats are not responsible for the Congressional baseball shooting, and all Trump supporters are not nefarious racists. We should all be on the same side when it comes to national tragedies such as this, but the instant jump by so many to clock the other side on the head with accusations is highly disappointing and not a productive way to make a better country.
National tragedies are a time where we should all be coming together, not spreading further apart. And the truth is that until we begin to understand this, we should not be surprised when the same thing continues to happen over and over until we finally do something.