In a city where only 51 percent of its inhabitants speak English at home and where hundreds of languages and dialects from around the world are spoken, a city where the first religion is Catholic by far, practiced by more than 60 percent of its inhabitants, it is logical that its mayor strongly rejects the attempt to “politicize” the terrible incident that made the American metropolis bleed on Halloween.
By “politicizing,” we mean criminalizing those who come to America from faraway countries, which is the essence of the history of this great country and the primary source of its strength.
Criminalizing the new immigration, no longer European and white as it was during most of the 20th century, which nowadays comes from the global South. Criminalizing those immigrants who follow a religion that it is becoming synonymous with propensity to terrorism, if not terrorism, period.
Donald Trump seized on the opportunity offered by Sayfullo Saipov’s insane gesture to resume the worn-out centerpiece of his relationship with the angry white electorate — his base — by relaunching his xenophobic offensive, with his eye on the midterm elections.
And he found a good sounding board in the Republican Party, a party on the run and scared by the 2018 elections, devoid of ideas but now galvanized by the revival of the president’s move to re-engage the electoral block that elected him and that, with its votes, could make it possible for the Grand Old Party to keep its majority in the Senate and the House.
After Sept. 11, George W. Bush felt the urgency of calling the American people to calm and unity, and six days later he visited the mosque in Washington. There, he made an elevated speech showing high respect for Islam and warning against retaliation to Muslim and Arab Americans. What happened next was something else, and to some extent what happened on Wednesday was also linked to the madness of Bush’s Iraq War. But even a president like him saw the groundbreaking principle of America, the land of immigrants and melting pot of so many communities, a principle obviously imperiled by the attack on the Twin Towers.
In Trump’s America, his senior collaborator John Kelly, his chief of staff, recently stated that the Civil War could have been avoided if the two conflicting sides had sought a “compromise.” On what? On slavery practiced by the South?
It is understood that this ongoing pampering of the white extremist electorate is the only true goal of the Trump administration and the Republican majority. It creates a very real risk of triggering a second American Civil War.
That is why New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo, and New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who is also the Democratic leader in the Senate, felt the urgency of a united, immediate reply to the dangerous gamble of those who seek consensus by fueling conflicts among communities, thus splitting America into parts, with the express intention to create fear.
Democratic leaders must be made aware that they have firmly supported a political position that is not easy for them to hold, in a country intoxicated by the xenophobic propaganda of powerful media, like the messages broadcasted by Fox and websites like Breitbart. This is a divided country where, on the one hand, there is the cosmopolitan New York, commendable in its reaction, and on the other, an America that chose Trump as president and the worst Republican right as the congressional majority.
The hypothesis that this push to division is a momentary distraction from the scandal enveloping the White House is no consolation.
The conspiracy theorists could investigate the coincidence between the Manhattan incident and Russiagate, but even considering the possibility that Saipov’s gesture may have been inspired not by ISIS, but by somebody else, is completely unrelated to the siege that is closing around the White House.
The only connection between Trump and the Halloween massacre is a possible leap in Trump’s popularity, which is now at a historic low, made possible by his twisted xenophobic tweets. A better showing in the opinion polls would even allow him to support Steve Bannon’s recommendations, which — given his political weakness — he can’t do right now: fire his special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, or at least drastically cut the funds he requires to complete his investigation, therefore closing down Russiagate.