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The GOP's Gambit
The biggest threat to America might be itself
The epidemic of mass shootings sweeping this nation has us inundated with images, commentary, and expert assessments as one tragedy after another plays out before our eyes. Add to this the pundits and scripted responses from local and national officials promising “crackdowns” and “change,” and your sentiments might have you shifting between indifference, from overexposure, to infuriated when you eventually arrive at the realization that we ourselves are a big part of the problem.
As I write this, there have been more than 233 mass shootings this year, equating to approximately one every 15 hours. And to sit with the number of hours between mass shootings is to reflect on something Thomas Paine wrote at the time when this nation came to be. He said, “a government which cannot preserve the peace, is no government at all…” Something to think about when we see politicians choosing their self-preservation in power over the collective will of their constituency.
They feed us scripted talking points meant to pacify our anger and frustration at the fact that nothing is being done to address the societal rift in this nation that has pitted us against one another to the death. They lament that there isn't enough political cohesion in all of Washington to address the current threats to our democracy, all the while failing to state the obvious: that our two- party system is divided into two ideological sects of existing for the sole demise of the other.
January 6th Riot: Kings 5.com
And while it's easy to blame the politicians, we are ultimately the ones who permit the existence of an electoral system where lobbyists and corporate interests have more influence than We the People.
With only a cursory glance at the issue of mass shootings it's easy to think, ‘if only there were less assault rifles and handguns we wouldn't be living in a country where the number one cause of death for children is shootings.’ But said sentiment ignores the complexity of the issue, in that, While mass shootings would certainly be hindered by safeguards such as universal background checks and red flag laws, said hindrances wouldn’t disinfect the minds of the domestic terrorists being indoctrinated in the very communities where we live.
The premise being that the biggest threat to America might just be itself: In that, the very liberties and freedoms we cherish and hold up to the world as proof positive of “American exceptionalism,” are being weaponized against us as we struggle to find a moderate path where speech and guns aren’t used as self-defeating weapons of mass destruction.
Ted Cruz speaking about “American Exceptionalism: Houston Chronicile.com
In any nation, through the various ideological and existential struggles that humanity has faced and overcome, there have always been fringe subsets of disgruntled individuals harboring animus about racial superiority, unsubstantiated xenophobic fears, and the belief that no government can be trusted to act in the best interests of the people it governs. From the beginning, this nation has been divided by racial lines of animosity, and both Blacks and Native Americans have suffered immensely at the hands of White Europeans hellbent on subjugating them to their socioeconomic agenda of more for me and less for you approach to building fiefdoms and economic empires.
Yet, despite this nation’s blood stained, tumultuous history this nation has made huge strides towards levelling the societal playing field for every gender (or sexual orientation), race, and ethnicity. By no means is it perfect. There is most certainly more work to be done, but as the COVID pandemic sent us into our respective societal bunkers for quarantine — where many lost employment and other opportunities — many delved into the online world of dissidence for companionship. And because this nation has failed to deliver on such basic promises like universal healthcare (to include mental healthcare), it's easy to see how easy it would be for certain individuals to fall into a belief that democracy and the American dream have failed.
Add to this the targeted, comforting propaganda on platforms like Discord, where certain societal challenges are blamed on “lazy Blacks,” “rapist Mexicans,” and the list of racial epithets goes on. People fall into these comfortable narratives, and once they open their minds to one it becomes easier to peddle the next — racial superiority, xenophobia, homophobia — in general, teaching themselves to see anything or anyone that isn't them as the inherent problem ruining this country.
Then there is the quagmire of dissidence sown by a slew of morally bankrupted, elected leaders who have seized on the political opportunity of breaking down the bridges of commonality that have taken generations to construct between the various races in socioeconomic classes, and we begin to better understand how we arrived at the point in our societal evolution where mass violence becomes our lived reality.
Marjorie Taylor Green
Granted, not all mass shootings are tainted with a political or racial agenda. The lives lost to an 18-year-old shooter in Uvalde, Texas, speaks more to our collective unwillingness to confront and reach out to individuals on the precipice of a mental and moral break then it does to anything else.
Either we are blind or simply clueless to what the red flags of a mind on the brink of collapse looks like; or, it may just be that, we find ourselves unwilling to involve the authorities — especially for minority families who have valid reasons to not trust in the discretion of law enforcement to respond in a reasonable manner — when dealing with a loved one in a crisis.
Either way, whether the motive behind a mass shooting is political, ideological, racial, xenophobic, homophobic, or otherwise the action of a domestic terrorist, having ready access to assault rifles, high capacity magazines, or the new reality of ghost guns only aggravates an already tenuous situation.
AR-15 Assault Rifle with Stats: Graphic News.com
According to recent polls, the majority of Americans support common sense legislation such as universal background checks and red flag laws to help address the epidemic of gun violence, but politicians in Washington remain timid given the political checkbook and influences of conservative organizations like NRA, the Koch Foundation, or CPAC.
Many Republican congressional leaders have openly admitted that a vote for any legislation aimed at restricting the purchasing or ownership of firearms is essentially suicide to their political careers. And the uncomfortable truth is that we are to blame for this, since we have permitted our democracy to be held at gunpoint by the very freedoms we hold up to the world as proof of our “American exceptionalism.”
Some Americans are of the belief that the Republican Party has become the party of sycophancy for a brand of conservatism known as Trumpism, that is desperately trying to block or prevent the inevitable tide of change sweeping this nation. When mass shootings are seen as a viable alternative to civil debate and ceding to the majority will of the electorate, then the proverbial door to tyranny has essentially been kicked off its hinges as we wait for the next morally bankrupted individual to be elected into the Oval Office.
In my attempt to better understand the mindset of someone who mass-murders Blacks, Latinos, Asians or any other racial or ethnic group, I began to look behind terms like “White Genocide,” or the “Great Replacement Theory” (GRT), for more clarity on the nature of their grievances.
What I found is that on one side of the spectrum is the individual who expresses discontent for the state of affairs in this nation and believes that a return to traditional and more conservative values is the way forward. On the other side, is the individual who has long since dismissed any notions of discourse and debate as futile and decides to dress in body armor and load their AR-15s.
Full Body Armor armed w/an AR-15: Gotactical.us
In my attempt to better comprehend Replacement Theory I spoke to two friends who are both White and intellectual. One is from the Pacific Northwest and the other from the South, and you would be wrong in your guess as to which of the two is conservative or liberal. I went to them for more clarity on the legitimacy of this claim. They explained that some Whites believe there is a concerted effort to replace the White electorate with minorities and immigrants.
William, the liberal Democrat who happens to be from the South, and John, the conservative Republican, differed night and day in their responses to my questions.
I began with John, a Republican, a Trumper, and a Christian. I asked for his views on the lived phenomena and reality of mass shootings in America, but we immediately ran into a challenge when his answer was to deny the legitimacy of the evidence.
He said, “there are tons of Blacks killing Blacks, Asians killing Asians, and Hispanics killing Hispanics and the media only talks about the Whites that kill other minorities. These are outliers and not representative of the whole.”
As John spoke his voice rose and I began to understand just how difficult it is to carry on a rational conversation or debate with someone whose identity is an ideology. Months prior we had clashed over a conversation in which I mentioned the now ideological makeup of the Supreme Court, to which he responded that “conservative justices would never contemplate overturning a precedent as long and well-established as Roe v. Wade.
“Conservative Justices aren’t persuaded by emotions or the shifting winds of public opinion, they only follow the law as it is written,” he said.
Following that we spoke about the apparent ease with which Ukrainian refugees can enter the US, as compared to Central Americans who are forced to stand in seemingly endless cues in Mexico. I made the comment that one is White and the other isn’t, and because of that Republicans appear to be less threatened by their need for refuge.
Central Americans in lines in Mexico trying to qualify for Asylum: Al Jazeera
He said, “Central Americans and Mexicans aren't fleeing bombs and tanks, they are simply incapable of managing their own governments and that doesn't qualify them for refugee status.”
For obvious reasons our conversation, if ever it was that, died right where it was because I felt that to go any further would be to say things that would be irreconcilable to our friendship, a realization that I shared with Will, my Southern, liberal friend.
Will said, “just give him a pass. He's your friend.”
And almost immediately as the words left Will’s mouth I realized that my unwillingness to enter into an argument with my friend was precisely why we have collectively arrived at the reality of a mass shooting every 15 hours in this country. Most of us are probably guilty of giving people passes every day, often by passively choosing to discredit or ignore the occasional comment or indicator of someone who has detached themselves from the facts and evidence of our shared and lived reality.
Are we not all guilty of having given a pass to the family member or friend when they say something so detached from reality that we momentarily question their sanity? I've done it with both family and friends, which perhaps makes us more to blame for our current societal challenges than anyone is openly willing to admit.
In my quest to better understand the basic premise of Replacement Theory I learned that a growing number of White Protestants actually believe that there is a concerted effort amongst Dems to turn immigrants into voters and essentially erase or supplant the White culture and value structure.
Is there a concerted effort? Or, is “replacement” nothing more than the inevitable outcome from the lowered birth rates amongst White Americans?
I immediately sought out the most recent census numbers and found that (a) America is becoming more diverse; and, (b) the White population is both aging and producing less children compared to its minority counterparts. Currently, less than half of US children under the age of 15 are non-Hispanic Whites. In 2018, the most common age for White Americans was 58, according to the Pew Research Center. On the other hand, the most common age for minorities is 27. The numbers themselves are strong indicators of what the breakdown will look like between minorities and Whites in this country in a relatively short period of time. And for the majority of my adult life I have listened to men and women of all races, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds say that diversity is a big part of what makes America so great. Are we now to believe that this is a lie?
If race, ethnicity, and culture are so crucial to one's identity and pursuit of happiness, to the point where the stratagem for maintaining the status quo is essentially border walls, prisons, and mass violence then the war has already been lost because none are sustainable or conducive to a democratic republic. It stands to reason that a rational being would acknowledge that his efforts in attempting to stop the incoming tide of change are futile. But there is another problem in that a lot of times the animosity felt by many minorities towards Whites is misplaced.
Enmity that overlooks the major contributions of White Americans to our collective gain is likewise problematic. We need to recognize that aside from slavery, ludicrous State Department policies like “Shock Doctrine” and a penchant for penology and capital punishment, Whites have contributed heavily to sports, music, art, science, technology, medicine and space exploration. Whites are not unique in their contributions, but their contributions shouldn't be lessened or discounted. Because we wouldn't be where we are as a nation without them — both the good and the bad — and most certainly won't get to where we need to be without them.
Giving our friends and family an automatic pass when their voiced beliefs turn radical, racist, or borderline terrorist may actually serve as validation for the kinds of questionable thoughts they are expressing. Granted, if we're dealing with a 90 year old grandmother who has very limited interaction with the outside world, perhaps a pass is reasonable. But when the individuals in our inner circles voice their obvious detachment from reality we need to challenge them. For example:
Do you really believe that Blacks and other minorities haven't contributed immensely to our cultural tapestry? And if that's what you believe, then let's assume that you could close the borders to any non-White immigrants and simultaneously either silence Blacks or deport Mexicans and Central Americans so as to entirely control the vote in this nation. Even if you could accomplish this herculean feat, how would you prevent interracial and interethnic relationships, marriages, or the offspring to come from them? Are you prepared to commit actual genocide? And if you are, do you really think that a nation born from immigration and a global population of diversity would stand by and do nothing while you murder interracial babies or outlaw interracial marriages?
It is understandable for the current White majority in America to feel apprehensive and potentially pessimistic about the proximity of the inevitable change sweeping this nation. But encouraging long since debunked ideas about racial superiority, or the nostalgia for times gone, when the outcome is violence of any sort is likewise self-defeating.
Take, for example, common sense proposals for gun control legislation that Republicans refuse to entertain. The propagandistic message of the GOP is that Dems want to systematically take away everyone's guns.
The question they aren't willing to ask, is at what point should we be concerned when our “freedoms” — whether it be free speech or the right to bear arms — become weaponized against the very populace that our laws are meant to protect?
Because as it stands right now, our freedoms permit teenagers in military-esque camouflage, draped in body armor with a bodycam to enter into a public venue and shoot thirteen people (eleven of those Black) and kill ten. And the only thing coherent that Republicans can say is some gibberish about mental health, the need to arm school administrators and teachers, and the desire to turn schools into defacto prisons with more fences, less doors (i.e., fire exits), more armed guards and surveillance cameras.
And to hear Trump speak about something he knows very little about is like listening to a pumpkin pontificate on his racial superiority to the squash. And for the dying breed of moderate Republicans who have remained silent, shame on them for the pass they’ve given to Trump and all his enablers for far too long.
Trump looking very orange in skin color giving political speech: PennLive
As my friend Will put it, “Trump is the worst thing to happen to this country since 9/11. In the last eighty-one years this nation has suffered Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and Trump.
“He's a bully. But also more than a bully because Trump takes advantage of impressionable people for political and economic gain. That's much worse than just being a bully.”
As I read through the “manifesto” of racial animus allegedly written by the gunman arraigned on charges of first-degree murder and domestic terrorism for the Buffalo shooting, I couldn't help but recognize that Trump and his band of Republican enablers have blood on their hands for the shift from fringe, far- right politics to mainstream Republican Party politics.
Pundits like Tucker Carlson on Fox News likewise have blood on their hands for popularizing the fringe and making it mainstream with dangerous rhetoric about asylum seekers representing an “invasion,” or minorities as “replacers.”
The Buffalo shooter expressed his belief in an elaborate, esoteric conspiracy to supplant and replace Whites through immigration. He also had nothing but racist memes to say about Black Americans. And why this is important is because somebody — a family member; a friend; a coworker; or even a neighbor — had to have in some way witnessed him espousing white supremacist beliefs, and many probably gave him a pass.
There is no doubt that in the pre-Trump era of Republican politics there were certainly individuals who secretly harbored thoughts and beliefs not so different from the Buffalo shooter. But what Trump did was to make it acceptable and even popular to voice those opinions into the mainstream of political dialogue. He essentially stumbled upon a brilliant — albeit shortsighted — gambit of making those on the fringe of far-right politics feel justified and even comfortable in their belief that their challenges or failures in life are because of Blacks and immigrants.
Like opening with the Queen's gambit in chess, it can only be an effective ploy if the opponent isn’t prepared with the appropriate countermove. And like in chess, Trump’s gambit was successful precisely because America had never come across a politician with such a low moral rating and absolute disregard for his fellow Americans. If Nixon was the standard for a corrupt politician in the pre-Trump world, today he wouldn't even qualify as one of Trump’s lackeys.
The gambit of Trump and the GOP was to make the Dylann Roofs of the country feel justified by normalizing their sentiments on racism and xenophobia. Throughout this presidency the only consistency in his inconsistency was to make those on the fringe feel mainstream. A difficult predicament for moderate Republicans who either had to shift right to meet the crazies or find themselves blackballed from the party.
Obviously, some took stock of their own moral compasses and parameters while others saw the short-sighted brilliance of Trumps gambit and decided to jump on his coattails for the ride to power. And while most probably foresaw the inevitable fallout from such a wayward gambit, I would like to think that they never foresaw the recent tragedies in Buffalo, Tulsa or Uvalde. All of which brings us to the question of what needs to be done from where we are standing right now, knowing what we know, to address the challenge before us.
Buffalo Shooting: 6ABC.com
The Buffalo shooter actually searched for and sought out the largest Black population relative to where he lived. Which makes every targeted minority now think twice before going to any locale seen as potentially ethnic. But at the same time we can't live our lives peering around corners in fear of the next white-supremacist to crawl out of his mom's basement looking for revenge.
There is no easy cure or remedy for cowardice, and American society is not the most forgiving place in the world when it comes to facing socioeconomic failure or dealing with mental health issues. That being said, enablers in this nation that use their platforms and fame to encourage the growing normalization of racism and political violence need to be confronted by the very individuals in their circles of influence. Which will often mean that we need Whites who believe as we believe, that diversity and multiculturalism are assets to be cherished, not feared.
Trump said a lot of outlandish and destructive things throughout his brief presidency, but when I read the Buffalo shooter’s manifesto I couldn't help but think that he was paraphrasing Trump:
Blacks are the most privileged race in the US and many western countries.
But yet they say they are the most oppressed. What other race is given
trillions of dollars of White taxpayer money to succeed, but yet fails and
asks for more? What other race actively destroys our communities like
Obviously these are deranged comments detached from reality, but when the leader of the free world refers to white-supremacists as “very fine people,” the message received by every basement dweller with mental health issues and racial animus, shackling them to their socioeconomic failures, is that they are in the right when they aren't. And legislation in itself is not going to fix the problem we've created for ourselves.
The problem began with failed leadership and an understanding of this is where the solution begins. We cannot reinvent the past or rewrite our history, we simply have to accept that some very horrible incidents have taken place in this nation, as it relates to real genocide, against Native Americans, Blacks, Asians, and Latinos. None of us are immune to the heinous crimes committed with impunity against throughout history.
White people acting on racial animus is nothing new. What is new are the mainstream enablers now willing to discredit what we all know to be the case: this problem is not going to go away on its own.
Studies show that in the vast majority of mass shootings the shooters actually made their intentions known to someone. Maybe not through an actual manifesto or public post on the platform Discord, but after the fact there is almost always someone acknowledging that there were suspicious signs or blatant red flags.
There are many reasons why people don't speak up. Some don't want to betray our friend’s confidence, they don't want to be labelled as a “rat,” or otherwise provoke what can be seen as unnecessary conflict. I've been in this position personally any number of times.
My best friend killed a man, and likely would've killed at least two others and myself due to mental health problems that were never treated, the overwhelming financial stress from a pregnancy and a series of poor life choices that had placed him in an untenable position.
For years he had been telling me in confidence that he was going to take someone hostage or rob a drug dealer or some other violent scheme, and in every instance I dismissed his claims as nothing more than bravado. In other words, I never took him serious and instead of lifting him up or trying to get him help, I just did whatever everyone else did, I dismissed his comments as the ranting of a child.
Eloy Montano mugshot
The consequence of not taking him serious was that he eventually snapped and aimed to prove me and others wrong, and like I said, a life was lost. Fortunately his intentions failed and others did not die that fateful day. But there was another victim that day — me. He made me his victim by blaming me for his deeds, and had I confronted him years prior perhaps two would've been saved.
The fact that my once friend has never had to pay for his crimes exposes a fundamental problem with the justice system. The fact that someone like him can openly purchase high capacity semi- automatic assault rifles is a problem that affects us all.
The point to be made is simple: we can no longer continue to ignore that our way of life, from our constitutional liberties to our penchant for guns and our divisiveness in politics and society has created an incubator for systemic, mass violence. At this very moment there are other troubled souls and minds that are looking at the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings and thinking, “Yeah, I'll do that! That'll solve the problem!”
But it doesn't, and it won't.
Unfortunately, the only people they might listen to are the very enablers they've listened to all this time, which has brought them to where they are now. I don't expect someone like Trump to admit fault or actually condemn the actions of those that helped bring him into power, but we should expect everyday people to open their eyes and recognize a shyster for what he is — as my friend Will said, “the worst thing to happen to this country since 9/11.”
We also need to be more willing to speak up and confront friends and family when their thinking starts to dwell in the dark alleys of conspiracy theories and racial animus. I was an enabler and coward for not having confronted my friend long before the tragedy that unravelled in our lives in 2004, and the regret I have lived with for all these years has convinced me of my folly.
When the people in our circles of influence shows signs of strain or latent trauma, it's up to us to speak up. My friend John is a Trumper. The choice before me is to willingly confront him with the truth — knowing perfectly well that it may lead to terminating our friendship— or, I give him a pass and become his enabler.
For people who want to believe in antiquated notions of racial superiority, or believe that immigrants are to blame for their
Socioeconomic predicament we need to challenge those beliefs at every given opportunity. Because by remaining silent we permit more and more of their internal dialogue to be filled with the hate-filled rhetoric of bullies and opportunists who care for nothing beyond their own self-interest.
Yes, it is somewhat natural to feel that the democratic process in this country is unresponsive to any of our needs or expectations. Ideological lines have been drawn between everything from crime, mass incarceration, climate change, immigration, education, policing, healthcare, and energy and land policies. It's a struggle to even identify what we agree on as a democratic republic of free people. So let's agree on this: the land of opportunity is a diverse one and we will not tolerate those who try to break us down instead of lift us up.
I believe that this is a message that resonates given the recent poll findings reported on NPR, that most gun owners in this country are in support of common sense legislation like universal background checks and red flag laws. What we need to overcome is the propaganda from the fringes of conservatism who claim that Democrats aim to control the government and seize their weapons.
In this a legitimate concern?
For the sake of argument let us assume that elected representatives were to actually be representative of the actual population, the outcome of this would obviously be a more liberal democracy. And from this, let's assume that laws were passed to outlaw things like assault rifles and handguns. If conservatives were to see this as a move against them and decided to disavow the legislative decisions of an elected government that represents the majority, then what they want their guns for is to stake an uprising against the cultural and political values of the majority.
With that in mind, if democracy eventually fails in this country the outcome of having to fight against this government with handguns and assault rifles would be nothing more than a trifle for a government with drones, tanks, chemical weapons, and a penchant for violence. For any fringe group of extremists on either side of the political aisle who think they can win power through brute force, they are greatly underestimating the power and reach of this nation’s military.
It is time for all of us to begin thinking inclusively as a nation, not as a subset within a nation. Yes, many of us are part of minorities that have been persecuted for generations by egregious policies, blatant racism, xenophobia and the list goes on. But the reality before us is that our decisiveness is breaking this country down the middle. The olive branch must be extended and received by each and every one of us. Because the victims at the ends of these mass shootings are not only the people and families and communities being destroyed, it is the very framework of our democracy and our notions of freedom that are being sacrificed.
I for one believe that we are better than this. I believe that we will look back on this time and feel proud that we weren't defeated by naysayers who care nothing for what this nation stands for. I believe that if we are part of the problem, then we are most definitely crucial to the solution, and that the solution is inclusivity and the open realization that we cannot get there alone.