By JOSIAH TAKANG (@jtakang22_7)
Photo credit goes to independent.co.uk.
When I started writing for Youngspeak, it was well into the national washout known as the 2016 election season. As the cable media seemingly fell over itself to fawningly cover the walking pub brawl that goes by the name of Donald Trump, I made a personal pledge I wouldn't add to the media melee of coverage by writing about him on this platform. However, the Trump Train (wreck) has finally reached the station, and I must relent.
On June 13, from a podium at the Institute of Politics at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump delivered a speech -- as it were, filled with codswallop -- sharply aimed at the 3.3 million Muslims currently residing in the United States. The speech was, predictably, more of the Donald we’ve all come to know and patently dislike: demagoguery, fearmongering, outright lies and the like.
We all know Donald Trump is not the biggest fan of American Muslims, to say the very least. However, I don’t imagine this knowledge prepared most Americans for a reasonable disposition of the torrid tidal wave of the open, vitriolic bigotry put forth by the Donald himself.
The speech played fast and loose with the facts -- to say the least -- and inflammatory rhetoric was strewn throughout the smoldering dumpster fire of a delivery.
(I should preface this with the fact that this isn't the first time he has sought to capitalize politically on a terror attack):
Trump first attacked the Democratic presidential nominee on how he says she would handle a similar terror attack under her hypothetical presidency, claiming, “Even her former secret service agent, who has seen her under pressure and in times of stress, has stated that she lacks the temperament and integrity to be president.”
He also insinuated -- read: accused -- that American Muslims were all but complicit in acts of domestic terrorism for failing to report attacks in advanc. He asserted, without evidence, that they had warnings of shootings like the one in Orlando.
“They have to work with us. They have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad,” Trump said. “They know it. And they have to do it, and they have to do it forthwith.”
He blithely continued, asserting -- without evidence, mind you -- that Muslim Americans are intentionally hiding terrorists from American law enforcement.
“They know what’s going on. They know that he (the Orlando shooter) was bad,” Trump said. “They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death and destruction.”
In a show of attempted jingoism and misguided “reverence” for the victims, Trump refused to speak the name of Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the Orlando attacks during his speech. He then swerved from his prepared remarks to momentarily lie about the birthplace of the Orlando shooter in an apparent effort to fortify his prior calls for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Ad-libbing a line not found in his prepared remarks, he said Mateen was born "an Afghan, of Afghan parents, who immigrated to the United States.". He helpfully neglected to mention the perpetrator of the Orlando massacre was actually born in New York to parents from Afghanistan. Of course, mentioning so would’ve undermined Trump’s xenophobic campaign.
“The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here,” Trump said.
It’s a statement that emphatically underlines the Trumpian tenet that, inherently, all Muslims are a threat to American national security. He fails to draw the all-important distinction between ordinary, America-loving Muslims and those who adhere to radical Islamist -- not Islamic -- philosophies and commit acts of terror accordingly.
Photo credit goes to telegraph.co.uk.
It should be noted that it’s a bit rich of Trump to say so when the only reason Donald Trump is in America is because we allowed his family to come here, as well. Additionally, Trump blatantly misrepresented beleaguered Syrian refugees.
“We have to stop the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the United States,” he said. “We don't know who they are, they have no documentation and we don't know what they're planning.”
It seems a bit odd he would choose the words “tremendous flow”; most people wouldn’t consider a grand total of just 2,805 refugees admitted to the United States “tremendous,” but maybe that’s just me. That number represents fewer than one-third of the 10,000 Syrians President Obama said the United States would accept this fiscal year.
Trump’s statement reads as an ominous warning -- a threat, even -- to the millions of Muslim-Americans who would wish nothing more but to live the American dream like any other ethnicity or religious group. Even more than that, Trump effectively has othered Muslim-Americans.
In this context, the word “other” serves as not only a noun but a verb. By placing one's self -- in this case, Trump and his supporters -- at the center, the “other” always constitutes the outside, the person or persons who are “different”; the “other” becomes an enemy to be mercilessly excluded from the ranks of the in-group, or the majority.
As a noun, therefore, the “other” is a person or group of people who are different from oneself. As a verb, “other” means to distinguish, label, categorize, name, identify, place and exclude those who do not fit a societal norm. Here, the Trumpian “norm” is a broadly Judeo(barely)-Christian, mostly white, American populace -- a standard, by and large, in which most Muslim-Americans don’t conform.
Trump can claim he “loves the Muslims” all he wants, but surely, it’s no coincidence Trump has the full support of the far-right and controversial British National Party, who repeatedly has called and continues to call for the complete end of Muslim immigration to Britain.
“There should be absolutely no further immigration from any Muslim countries, as it presents one of the most deadly threats yet to the survival of our nation,” Trump said.
Only someone in the mold of Cornelius Fudge could ignore the glaring resemblance of that repulsive piece of xenophobic BNP ideology to the multiple statements Trump has made calling for a total ban on Muslim immigration.
Under a hypothetical Trump administration, the federal government would keep Muslims from American borders, screening solely on the basis of religious belief -- an obtuse and impossible undertaking, to say the least. It would monitor mosques and consider any gathering of Muslim-Americans “suspicious.”
Furthermore, it would enact punitive measures against Muslims who didn’t cooperate with his administration’s investigative activities. With this address, Trump has given one of the most flagrantly xenophobic speeches in modern American political history.
Additionally, with his calls to heavily moderate and surveil American Muslims, he’s echoing shades of the kind of bombast that leads inevitably to social regression and scapegoating. See: American and Canadian-Japanese internment during the Second World War.
Finally, I’ll point out that Trump -- while invoking the word “Clinton” 26 unique times in his speech -- mentioned the word “victims” a whopping five times. If this doesn’t scream “callous political opportunism” as opposed to “tactful, sympathetic national leader,” then I don’t know what does.
His June 13 speech makes no bones about the fact that the Trump campaign represents a valid threat to the values that form the underpinnings of democracy in the United States. To “make America great again,” President Trump would stamp all over American pluralism and religious tolerance in favor of a nation governed by nativist, Buzz Windrip-style nationalism where not even the reverence of the most powerful public office on earth puts one above “suspicion.”
The same Trump -- no stranger to pushing conspiracy theories -- who accused Barack Obama of forging his birth certificate and being a “secret Muslim,” now claims that the president of the United States is an ISIL sympathizer, a particularly churlish bit of nonsense.
Trump’s viscerally ugly response to the Orlando attack serves as objectively terrifying looking glass, one that shows us how he might govern if elected. We, as a nation, mustn’t become a collective Alice and fall through that glass -- even in the face of this, the true opening salvo on Donald J. Trump’s -- rather one-sided -- war on American Muslims.