Recently, I was at home and my wife drove up and called me out to her car.
“Get in,” she said.
I heard the fear in her voice and sheer anger in her face. She looked upset so I jumped in. Then as we drove she said, “Rick, I just saw something horrible. There was this white woman yelling at this other woman walking down the street.” I asked why. My wife, who is white herself, replied, “I don’t know, maybe the other woman walking crossed the street to slowly and the woman in the car honked at her.”
I asked “Why” again. My wife said she screamed at the other woman, “You don’t belong here. Go back to your own country. You have no right to be here.”
Now I fully understood what had happened. My blonde and very white wife was seeing hatred. She was seeing hatred up close and personal in her own neighborhood. Hate had come to our city. My wife had no idea she could witness that in Encino, California.
I realized she was seeing what years of Trump had brought to this new America. We have a leader who has empowered racists. We have seen white nationalists with Tiki torches chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” Driving cars into crowds protesting hate. Yet still Trump said, “There were good people on both sides.” Trump, a man who has disparaged war heroes, insulted women, the handicapped and taunted like a schoolyard bully anyone who defends the Constitution and rule of law. Trump had empowered that white woman in the car.
I remembered as a child when America was at war with itself. It was during the 1960s. My earliest memory as a child was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Then soon followed by Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
My wife was now witnessing a world that I thought was on the garbage heap of history. An America that had forgotten the words that were written on our own Statue of Liberty: “Give us your weak and tired masses longing to be free.” America has always had hatred, prejudice. We have only been at peace for 17 years in our nation’s history. But we touted ourselves as the leaders in life, liberty, freedom. We were the “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” We were not scared of immigrants. We welcomed them because we needed them. In that moment, I knew America was losing her moral soul. Hatred had been like a sleeping monster that we hid in our basement. But now that monster had been awakened with a mantra of “America first.” The monster had been awakened by the screams of people at Trump rallies. Who yelled and chanted, “Lock her up.” Or “send them back.” A mob that believes if you don’t love Trump blindly, then you must not love America.
To which I reply that Trump is not America. Now our America is divided by those that will follow a tiki torch or those who will follow the torch held by Lady Liberty.
Recently, a Trump crowed chanted “Send them back” to four Congresswomen, three of which were born here. This is not or should not be the new normal. To yell go back to where you came from is an old racist argument with an odd logic that white people were here first.
Even though history refutes that idea. But things like history and science and facts our dismissed as “Fake news.” But it’s only fake when it criticizes their glorious leader. Now I was filled with my own rage. As we got closer, I saw the white woman in a car slowly following this dark brown and black-haired woman. The woman walking was scared and walking away from this woman. The woman driving slowly behind her was stalking her with her car. I was amazed by how emboldened this woman in the car was. I went up to the woman walking and asked here in Spanish if she needed help. She answered in English. She didn’t even speak Spanish. In fact she was not a Latina. I surmised she might be Armenian by her accent.
Ironically, Armenians had endured one of the worse genocides in history. And now to come to this country to seek refuge and to receive this hatred only made me more angry. The white woman in the car cursed and quickly drove a way as another couple pulled over to help. They said they had seen the whole thing and were worried about the women being yelled at. They pleaded with the woman to get into one of our cars to drive her home. The woman was afraid. The Good Samaritans next to me told me they were Jewish and called it a hate crime. In the middle of the street there were two Jews, a Mexican American and a blonde white woman all banding together on that street to help this stranger. We were saying no to hate.
The woman was in tears ashamed of being yelled at and ashamed of the hatred spewed at her. She was embarrassed and shaken to her core. I thought Why? Why now? And Why? In Encino of all places. This was our city and she was our fellow neighbor. How could this white woman in a car filled with hate and privilege could believe she had the right to tell anyone to leave this country and go back to where they came from? This country does not belong to her it belongs to us. This is the definition of white privilege. Go back to where you came from? Did this ignorant woman not understand that we all came from some where else. I just shook my head and asked, “Why?” I knew the answer before I even asked because this is Trump’s New America.
An American P.S.
Before I could finish this, more examples appeared. El Paso experienced gun violence just days after the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting. This week’s shooting in Texas at a Wall Mart killed 22 people and scores more wounded.
Then after that, Dayton, Ohio. A white male shooter wearing black body armor and carrying extra magazines killed nine people early this Sunday on this day of worship. It was the second U.S. mass shooting in less than 24 hours.The third in less than a week.
A person who want to reason with hate will look for a reason. But there is no logical reason. So you look to find a common thread. Let’s look at the facts. All the shooters were white. They all shared right-wing nationalist ideals . All were armed with a Second Amendment, NRA-shielded automatic weapons. Or at least guns with multiple rounds . The white terrorist in Texas agreed with Trump. Perhaps this angry young man had heard words like “invasion, “infestation,” and “rapists.”
Words and ideas spread by their commander and nationalistic chief. Those words inspired him to drive hours to El Paso. Why El Paso? There is only one answer. Where else do you find Mexicans?
No wall could have saved us from these white terrorists. They are in our country, they are among us and are harder to spot then the other terrorists we fear. We won’t be able to spot them in crowd because they look like you and me. Because Trump is encouraging this. Because in this distraction and chaos, Trump thrives. Trump is a emperor who understands the theory of “Blood and Circus.” If you need distractions, you need “Circus” to confuse the people.
Trump is distracting us from the real crime he and his enablers are committing—murdering our democracy.
Rick Najera is a nationally acclaimed speaker, an award-winning writer-performer with credits in film, television, theater and on Broadway. He tweets from @ricknajera.