With each racist assault — on a judge, an athlete, a country, a member of Congress, or a city — and with each kind word for “very fine people on both sides,” our president allows the stew to boil and radiate more dangerously.
You can feel the effect: in the F.B.I.’s burgeoning caseload of hate crimes and white supremacist investigations, and in a stadium full of Americans who, even knowing they are on television, chant in unison, “Send her back.” That burst of negative energy was met, not by efforts to control it, but by 13 seconds of presidential silence, the same silence that his fellow Republicans have adopted.
Our president thinks he is doing something clever. He lifts the control rods for a calculated and deeply cynical purpose: to harness the political energy unleashed. It will heat his re-election bid, he likely thinks. But unconstrained, it will damage the nation, in all directions. Only fools believe they can ride the gamma rays of hate.
According to a “manifesto” widely attributed to him, the Texas terrorist who killed at least 20 people in El Paso on Saturday wasn’t directly motivated by Donald Trump. But he is a horrific example of what can happen when the control rods are lifted.
Every American president, knowing what lies deep within our country, bears a unique responsibility to say loudly and consistently that white supremacy is illegitimate, that encouraging a politics of racial resentment can spawn violence, and that violence aimed at people by virtue of their skin color is terrorism.
Mr. President, because of what you have done, you owe us more than condolences sent via Twitter. You must stop trying to unleash and exploit the radioactive energy of racism.
You hold the biggest control rod of all. You must push it back into place, for all our sakes. The vast majority of Americans believe the core ideals of our founding documents and we expect our culture to reflect those ideals. Show us you believe in them, too.
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