What a way to lead

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Mar 22, 2019

I'm writing this nearly a week before you will read it. I can't imagine what the people of Christchurch, New Zealand – and the whole country, in fact – must be feeling today, after a man attacked two mosques while worshipers were at prayer, killing at least 49, and injuring dozens more. Before the slaughter, a manifesto written by the attacker was posted online, in which a man who was later arrested for murder identified himself as a 28-year-old Australian.

In addition, the gunman wore a helmet camera, filmed part of the attack and livestreamed it on social media. He was hailed as a hero, according to news reports, on far-right websites.

According to the news stories I’ve read and listened to, the manifesto was filled with anti-Muslim and white supremacist statements and named as the writer’s heroes others who had carried out mass killings. He reportedly said he had chosen New Zealand, where such carnage has been virtually unknown, because of its reputation as one of the world’s safest countries.

When our National Public Radio interviewed a reporter from Auckland, New Zealand, about the massacre, she did well, I thought, at retaining her professional composure, but the emotion was there in her voice—the disbelief, the dismay -- as she related what an unthinkable thing it was for violence on this scale to happen in her homeland.

I felt for her, who has not become inured through repetition to mass violence as a common occurrence, almost a way of life. It was clear, this horrifying event -- the lives lost, the hatred that motivated the killing -- was truly unthinkable to her.

I also felt a little bit responsible, on behalf of the United States. I couldn't help wondering whether the well publicized acts of terror against Muslims, Jews and nonwhites in this country, as well as the increase in recent years in anti-immigrant fervor, might not have spread, like a disease, and infected others across the globe who are already inclined to feel aggrieved. Such ugly attitudes have been given both license and a public platform by the highest officials of our government, so why wouldn't people in other places, people who feel that they've gotten a raw deal in life or who fear losing their precarious economic perch to those they see as "other," take comfort and inspiration from that?

I know that this kind of violence has happened in many places around the globe, and many countries have their own homegrown hate groups and spokesmen for bigotry, both at the grassroots and among their political classes.

But no country as prominent as the U.S. has elected one of them to be its head of state.

Instead of exporting democracy, as our country used to aspire to do, are we now sending abroad our most invidious ideologies?

What a way to be a world leader.

Comments (7)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Apr 01, 2019 18:24

Ron, I agree with you. But would call our President a Sociopath, sadly. I hope with the next election the electorate will get it right!


Posted by: Kevin Riley | Mar 23, 2019 19:12

"So sad that the hate of one man has consumed so many."


Kinda like the hatred of president Obama be millions on the right.

Posted by: Kenneth E Wolf | Mar 23, 2019 10:44


Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Mar 23, 2019 09:09

Indeed, Kenneth, hatred is the only motivating factor in trump's supporters just as threats and intimidation are trump's only language of inspiration.


"Last night, I read the Christchurch shooter's 30+ page manifesto. He cited Trump and anti-Muslim right-wing extremist Candace Owens. He said he hoped this would cause American liberals to abolish the 2nd Amendment, and cause a "civil war in the U.S. There is no doubt that radicalized individuals around the world are looking to Trump for inspiration. So we watch as the Republicans protect this man, and we will remember."



“I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of Bikers for Trump,” Trump told Breitbart in the interview, which he later tweeted. “I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad."

It’s impossible to ignore how Trump’s continued rhetoric of violence and fear of other ethnicities has inspired his supporters to carry out attacks. Pro-Trump extremists sought to slaughter Somali Muslim immigrants in Kansas before authorities managed to intervene. The men chose their targets after Trump called refugees “the greatest Trojan horse of all time,” according to court testimony.

The case is one of more than a dozen where apparent Trump supporters attacked or plotted to attack Muslims. Acts of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have surged during Trump’s presidency, with more than 150 instances of Trump-related taunts and attacks, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

But it’s not just hate speech the president gloms onto when encouraging violence. During the 2016 presidential election cycle, Trump continuously called for his supporters to commit violence against protestors.

“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you?” Trump said at a 2016 rally in Iowa. “Seriously, OK. Just knock the hell — I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise."

As the GOP fails to respond to Trumps’ threats, the violence continues. Last October, pipe bombs were mailed to the political enemies of Trump and to the New York offices of CNN, which Trump has consistently deemed the “enemy of the people.” The Florida suspect in that case drove a van plastered with images of the president, and had told coworkers he “wanted to go back to the Hitler days.”

Just days after authorities caught the pipe bomb suspect, another wave of terror hit when a man went into a Pittsburgh synagogue and killed 11 people. Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers later met with the president to remind him that “hate speech leads to hateful actions.”

Posted by: Kenneth E Wolf | Mar 23, 2019 08:19

So sad that the hate of one man has consumed so many.

Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Mar 23, 2019 07:17

"It doesn’t take a person with an advanced degree in psychology to see Trump’s narcissism and lack of empathy, his vindictiveness and pathological lying, his impulsivity and callousness, his inability to be guided by norms, or his shamelessness and dehumanization of those who do not abide his wishes. His condition is getting worse, not better—and there are now fewer people in the administration able to contain the president and act as a check on his worst impulses.

This constellation of characteristics would be worrisome in a banker or a high-school teacher, in an aircraft machinist or a warehouse manager, in a gas-station attendant or a truck driver. To have them define the personality of an American president is downright alarming.

Whether the worst scenarios come to pass or not is right now unknowable. But what we do know is that the president is a person who seems to draw energy and purpose from maliciousness and transgressive acts, from creating enmity among people of different races, religions, and backgrounds, and from attacking the weak, the honorable, and even the dead.

Donald Trump is not well, and as long as he is president, our nation is not safe."

Peter Wehner is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Mar 22, 2019 17:50

It has gone beyond disgusting as people get the master deceiver to autograph their Bibles.

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