Joseph Sabino Mistick: El Paso, Dayton shootings & reckless words
When English King Henry II wondered aloud, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” he knew that some of his followers would be eager to please him. Accounts of Henry’s words differ slightly, but the gist is always the same.
Henry was upset with Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, because Becket had put the church above the king. Henry would not expressly order the death of Becket, but he never had to say that straight out.
It is that way with powerful leaders. An offhand comment or a casual reference can put dark forces in motion, inspiring zealous followers who are eager to please their leader.
In 1170, four loyal knights, believing that they were acting on Henry’s unstated wishes, assassinated Becket at Canterbury. Henry had deniability, and the deed was done.
Donald Trump has been warned that some of his tweets are dangerous indirect racial wolf-whistles, and that the fear-mongering he traffics in could inspire weak-minded followers to act violently.
There were two mass shootings last weekend, one in Dayton, Ohio and one in El Paso, Texas, resulting in at least 31 deaths combined. And the murders in El Paso are being called a hate crime, since the killer singled out Hispanic-looking victims.
“This Anglo man came here to kill Hispanics,” according to El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles. “I’m outraged and you should be too. This entire nation should be outraged. In this day and age, with all the serious issues we face, we are still confronted with people who will kill another for the sole reason of the color of their skin.”
Investigators believe that the killer also posted an online manifesto in which he ranted about a “Hispanic invasion.”
Trump has been talking about a Hispanic invasion a lot lately, at campaign rallies and in his tweets, taking every opportunity to disparage and insult Hispanics. As The New York Times reported, the Trump campaign posted more than 2,000 Facebook ads since January that used the word “invasion” when referring to Hispanics at our southern border.
At a Florida campaign rally in May, Trump once again played to the crowd, bemoaning what he calls the “invasion” along our border with Mexico, and asking his loyal supporters, “How do you stop these people? You can’t!”
And when someone in the arena shouted, “Shoot them,” Trump laughed and smiled broadly, joking to the delight of his supporters, “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff.” The crowd loved it.
As one Hispanic student told the Times after the El Paso killings, “It feels like being hunted.” She said that here. In America.
Reckless words push us closer to chaos. Hate speech hardens disunity. Politicians on both sides who choose their careers over the good of the nation need to be rejected. We do not need thoughts and prayers. We need leadership.
When Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine appeared in Dayton after the slaughter, those who had gathered to mourn their fallen family and friends shouted at him, “Do something! Do something! Do something!”
That is what we need.
Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected].