Americans are horrified, sick and saddened by the deadly events over the weekend. They should also be outraged.
Two mass shootings in public places were carried out within hours of each other; 31 people have died and dozens were injured while simply shopping for back-to-school supplies or meeting friends for drinks. Lives not lost but stolen in violent acts perpetrated against ordinary people in everyday places, clearly with the intent of striking fear.
Make no mistake, these were acts of terrorism, regardless of whether the alleged shooters shared a common, twisted ideology. First, in El Paso, a young white man so soaked in racial hatred that he opened fire in a crowded Walmart, killing 22 and injuring dozens more people hundreds of miles from his home. Hours later, another young man shot and killed nine people, including his sister, in a Dayton, Ohio, entertainment district for reasons still unclear. The attacks came only days after three others died at the hands of a 19-year-old man armed with an assault rifle at the Gilroy garlic festival in California.
President Donald Trump’s address to the nation on Monday should have been an unequivocal call to action. His prepared statements were too little, too late.
“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” the president said. They are words that might have been welcome two years ago, after violence erupted at the Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville. Words he could have made part of his campaign announcement four years ago, rather than stereotyping all Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists.
The president’s words matter, as do those of all the lower-level politicians who parrot or excuse his repeated, vile and incendiary attempts to dehumanize immigrants and people of color. But the years’ worth of damage will require more than a brief televised statement. It demands a reformation — a wholesale repudiation of the divisiveness and scapegoating that has been the hallmark of Trump’s presidency.
Five of the 11 deadliest mass shootings since 1991 have been since 2016, according to a BBC analysis of FBI and police data. Since January, more people have been killed in mass shootings than there have been days so far in the year.
President Donald Trump and his apologists can deny, all they like, the connection between acts of public violence and the drumbeat of their foul rhetoric. They can downplay the impact our president’s smiling acceptance of supporters’ threatening taunts and jeers might have on a troubled or desperately furious young man. They can point fingers at video games or wring hands over mental health. But if they have any shred of decency, they will work to eradicate two clear commonalities in these gruesome acts of violence: the free flow of military-grade weapons, and the weaponization of rage.