Trump's fascist response to home terror
Before the grieving relatives could bury the 14 innocent civilians mowed down by two Muslim terrorists in San Bernardino, California, on December 2, the narcissistic megalomaniac Donald Trump hogged the limelight by proposing banning all Muslims from America.
The San Bernardino massacre was disturbing for two reasons: Syed Rizwan Farooq was American-born, and Tashfeen Malik entered the US on a fiancée visa. Both are of Pakistani origin. The FBI says that both were radicalised before ISIS came into existence. Marital bliss for the couple meant murdering Americans.
Americans understand why the Jihadists they are fighting in the Middle East would want to harm them. They cannot understand why a native-born American, enjoying the freedom and prosperity that comes with being an American, would murder fellow Americans. If he disagreed with a US policy, he was free to try and change it. What would not change American policy is random killing of innocent civilians.
America welcomed Tashfeen Malik to its shores to live with her husband and raise a family. But, the FBI says, she came to America to kill. Her hatred for America exceeded her love for her child, whom she abandoned before embarking on a suicide mission. She repaid America's hospitality with mindless massacre of Americans. What "Islam" did she practice?
Trump interrupted such rational discourse by hijacking the conversation towards hate, the jet fuel that propels the misguided missile that is Trump. In a speech on December 7, Trump proposed a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," which violates the US Constitution. The ban would include Muslim citizens and returning Muslim American servicemen who number over 6,000.
On December 9, MSNBC interviewed Bangladeshi-American US army veteran, Shahriar Chowdhury. A practicing Muslim, he said, "We are as American as anyone else." Chowdhury showed a photograph of his brothers, three of whom are in the US armed forces, and one is at the New York Police Department. Neither Trump nor any of his children ever enlisted in the US armed forces. Who are the real patriots, Mr. Trump?
All Republican presidential candidates distanced themselves from Trump's proposal. But, no one repudiated him. They cannot. After all, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush want only Christian, not Muslim, Syrian refugees to be welcomed into the US. Governor Chris Christie would not even allow "orphans under the age of 5" to enter. And a Muslim president is unacceptable to Ben Carson.
Trump cited President Roosevelt's internment of Japanese Americans during WWII as a precedent. America has apologised for that. America monitored German, Italian and Japanese citizens living in the US during WWII because America was at war with those countries. America is not at war with Muslim countries. Trump wants to declare war against Islam. Like the entertainer he is, Trump injects his venom with a salesman's soothing voice.
As is his wont, Trump doubled down and reminded everyone that after he had said that most illegal Mexican immigrants are rapists, drug dealers and criminals, he was severely criticised. But, after their "outrage" dissipated, other candidates took up strident anti-immigrant positions close to Trump's.
While Republican presidential candidates treaded gingerly, conservative Republicans not running for office took Trump to task. Even before Trump's "ban all Muslims" rant, Max Boot, a conservative fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who now advises Senator Marco Rubio, tweeted: "Trump is a fascist. And that's not a term I use loosely or often. But he's earned it." Gov. Jeb Bush's national security advisor John Noonan added: "Forced federal registration of US citizens, based on religious identity, is fascism. Period. Nothing else to call it."
Breaking protocol, British PM David Cameron, and the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, denounced Trump's comments. Jews know a thing or two about fascism and being singled out. Jewish organisations including the Anti-Defamation League condemned Trump. Legislators in the Israeli Knesset forced Netanyahu to cancel Trump's scheduled visit to Israel this month. London Mayor Boris Johnson retorted to Trump's assertion that the British Police are afraid to enter some Muslim enclaves in London by saying that he too would be afraid to go to certain sections of New York City for the fear of seeing Trump!
These denunciations are not hurting Trump's campaign. Four days after his proposal, a poll found that 42 percent of the Republicans agree with Trump that Muslims should be banned from America (36 percent disagree.). Only 11 percent of the Democrats agree; 75 percent disagree. Overall, 57 percent of Americans disagree with Trump, while 25 percent agree. Clearly, Trump's Islamophobia resonates with the Republicans. That is scary!
History has shown that fascists like Hitler, Mussolini and Franco came to power democratically. They were xenophobic fear mongers. They dehumanise a minority as the root cause of the majority's suffering (German Jews in Hitler's case). They are "strong" leaders who talk tough. Once in power, they throw the constitution away and become dictators. Like the National Front in France and the UK, Trump embodies white identity politics.
Trump hatches conspiracy theories and uses dog whistles to communicate with his supporters. Trump is the father of the "birther movement," and in 2011 claimed that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and therefore his presidency is illegal. Even after President Obama humiliatingly showed his birth certificate, Trump remained unconvinced.
These days Trump makes dark suggestions about Obama to frighten his supporters: "Folks, there is something going on (with Obama) that we don't know." The innuendo: Obama is hatching some anti-American plots!
Like a boxer who knows only how to go forward until he is knocked out, Trump will never back down. Alarmed GOP bosses are considering a brokered convention to deny Trump the nomination. They realise that Trump's campaign will either destroy Trump, or the Republican Party.
Donald Trump and the terrorist couple in San Bernardino have much in common. The Bonnie and Clyde couple did not care about the backlash Muslim American community would suffer because of their heinous crime. Donald Trump does not care that his demagoguery may permanently damage the American brand, and that his irresponsible skullduggery may be putting Americans at risk at home and abroad.
The writer is a Rhodes Scholar.