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OpinionEditorial

Nationalism is fueling domestic terrorism  

From left, Samuel Lerma, Arzetta Hodges and Desiree

From left, Samuel Lerma, Arzetta Hodges and Desiree Quintanar attend a vigil for victims of the deadly shooting that occurred earlier in the day at a shopping center on Saturday in El Paso, Texas. Credit: AP / John Locher

There is a sickness in this country.

The law of averages does not require that dozens of people be killed in multiple mass shootings in different American cities.

But here we are after eight dismal days: from Gilroy, California, to El Paso, Texas, to Dayton, Ohio, Americans have experienced daily life as if it were a war zone, instead of a festival, a Walmart, and a regular Saturday night out.

A common thread from coast to coast was the guns used to commit mass murder: semi-automatic weapons of war to which some Americans are wedded in a way unnatural in the rest of the world. There are too many of them. They should be subjected to far greater regulation. This is not a new problem, yet there has been a reprehensible failure to sufficiently act on the federal level, a reality that has not budged no matter what vulnerable population has been killed.

But there is a change afoot, one noted by the FBI: a rise in the threat from domestic terrorism, which includes the sickness of white nationalism. The danger goes beyond terminology: More Americans have died of domestic terrorism than international terrorism in recent years.

This sickness seems to have driven the suspected shooter in El Paso, the site of the largest of these gut-wrenching recent events. An online screed apparently posted by the suspect minutes before the attack expresses concern about a “Hispanic invasion” and all the usual inane garbage about whites being replaced and the supposed danger of immigrants.

This from the man who allegedly took a gun to a shopping center. He was taken into custody by authorities. El Paso, a community where Americans and immigrants of all stripes live within sight of the Mexican border, was left to bury the bodies.

It is left to Americans to identify where this disaffection, this hate, comes from. The screed cited the killer from New Zealand, who himself cited the American mass killer who fulfilled his racist views by murdering black worshippers in a South Carolina church in 2015. This history of fear of racial and ethnic and religious others is long, whether the site is a synagogue, mosque or church.

But the hate is now being given credence by President Donald Trump himself with his talk of infestations and invasions and keeping out people who look different.

Look no further than the May rally in Florida where Trump during a typical anti-immigrant rant asked rhetorically, “How do you stop these people?” When someone in the crowd shouted, “Shoot them!,” what did the president do? Did he frown and shut down that kind of vile behavior?

No, he made a joke. "Only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement,” he said. The audience laughed.

Elsewhere in America, there were and are disaffected individuals who feel similarly to the audience member and may feel vindicated by the president. When Trump dishonestly describes many in a group as rapists and murderers and more, this tragic result should not be surprising.

The president denounced the El Paso act as “cowardice,” but that is not enough. This kind of sickness demands a wholesale revision of his behavior and outlook, and it demands soul searching by every American. There is much work to be done to understand and dispel this sickness and the way our political climate has contributed to it. The work starts now. -- The editorial board

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