First, some 200 gravestones were upended in a Jewish cemetery outside St. Louis last weekend. Then we learned that the suspect in Wednesday’s fatal shooting in Olathe had reportedly spewed racial slurs at two engineers born in India, yelling, “Get out of my country!” and later bragging to a bartender that he’d just killed two Middle Eastern men.
Unfortunately, this is part of a pattern. A spate of anti-Semitic incidents has occurred in recent weeks, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations reports an unprecedented increase in hate incidents involving Muslims and other minorities since the November election. The Southern Poverty Law Center weighed in on why the number of hate groups was up again last year, too, “as the radical right was energized by the candidacy of Donald Trump.”
In a visit Wednesday to Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Mo., Vice President Mike Pence rightly condemned “this vile act of vandalism and those that perpetrate it in the strongest possible terms.” President Trump himself belatedly noted that “anti-Semitism is horrible, and it’s going to stop and it has to stop.”
Since the president also spoke of the “work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,’’ perhaps he’ll start with his strategist Steve Bannon, who believes that we’re at war with Islam itself, and who has called George W. Bush “one of the dumbest presidents in the history of these United States” for insisting otherwise.
Amid deportations that the president has described as “military,’’ let’s not forget that Bannon has demonized even legal immigrants.
“Isn’t the beating heart of this problem right now,” he said on his radio show last year, “the real beating heart of what we’ve got to get sorted here, is not illegal immigration, as horrific as that is, and it’s horrific; don’t we have a problem we’ve looked the other way on, this legal immigration that’s kind of overwhelmed the country?”
What’s overwhelming much of the country is the contempt that Bannon, whose handiwork in this young administration includes the proposed travel ban from seven predominantly Muslim countries, seems to have for any newcomer to our immigrant nation.
There is also intolerance on the left — more than ever, in fact, with even minor policy differences ending friendships. But Bannon’s stated goal, the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” will deconstruct far more.
He has already unraveled whatever remained of the consensus that President Barack Obama was right when he said that we’re more alike than we are different and that we aren’t that far apart.
Bannon’s efforts to deconstruct the First Amendment may paradoxically end up strengthening the free press, just as efforts to delegitimize Trump only made his supporters dig in.
But sooner or later, the chaos-loving man many see as Trump’s Rasputin will deconstruct Trump’s presidency, too.
And because he’ll do so much damage along the way if unchecked, the single most salutary, self-protective move that the president who adopted “You’re fired!” as his motto could make would be to address his catchphrase to his top adviser.