How Trump turned the Las Vegas massacre into an America First moment — updated

Even though Stephen Miller looks like a ventriloquist’s dummy, it’s often clear that it’s Trump who is the dummy whose lips are getting animated by Miller — no more so than when the president robotically read from his script in an unlikely performance yesterday as America’s impromptu prayer leader:

In times such as these, I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness. The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light, and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.

Melania and I are praying for every American who has been hurt, wounded or lost the ones they love so dearly in this terrible, terrible attack.

We pray for the entire nation to find unity and peace. And we pray for the day when evil is banished, and the innocent are safe from hatred and from fear.

For some cable news anchors this might have sounded “pitch perfect” and yet that perception required overlooking not only the glaringly obvious fact that none of these were Trump’s own words, but most importantly that his speechwriter should choose to single out the American victims of Sunday’s violence.

Even though country music is a quintessentially white American cultural phenomenon, Las Vegas is an international tourist destination and believe it or not there are actually millions of non-American lovers of this musical genre.

It might turn out that every single one among the hundreds of victims and their thousands of relatives and friends are or were indeed all Americans, but that’s actually very unlikely.

So, at a moment that calls out for human sympathy, why declare we are “praying for every American”? The lives of the non-American victims are surely just as precious and just as deserving of prayer.

And yet, at a time when America could engage in some kind of moral reckoning through facing the culpability that extends through gun dealers, gun manufacturers, the NRA, the GOP, Congress, the president, and all those who value the Second Amendment more than the lives of those around them, what better way of ducking the issue than turning this into a nationalistic America First moment.

Update — CBC News reports: Four Canadians are among the 59 dead in Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.

On Tuesday it was confirmed that Calla Medig and Tara Roe Smith, 34, both from Alberta, died in the attack.

Medig, who was in her 20s, was from Jasper, Alta. Roe, 34, was from Okotoks, just south of Calgary. She had been reported missing since Sunday.

Jordan McIldoon, 23, of Maple Ridge, B.C., and Jessica Klymchuk, 34, of Valleyview, Alta., were also killed when a gunman opened fire on a large crowd near the end of the outdoor festival on the Vegas Strip. Their deaths were confirmed by their families on Monday. [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “How Trump turned the Las Vegas massacre into an America First moment — updated

  1. Robert

    Perhaps you could take this moment to invert the linguistic usage that American means citizen of the USA. It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. The USA is one country within two continents collectively called the Americas, North and South. All people born or residing from Canada to Chile are American. It is only through the advantages of wealth and cultural hegemony that the USA has been able to arrogate the the words America and American to itself. Leaving the rest of us to be thought of as… what exactly. Other?

    The presidential response to the Vegas massacre is only a recent and unfortunately topical instance of this usage, but of course it goes on and on, especially in the current political environment with the emphasis on all things American, by which term speakers mean persons and things pertaining to the USA and excluding and demeaning or degrading others. But, again, Canadians are Americans, as are Mexicans and Hondurans, Uruguayans, Argentines, etc. It is too much to wish that people in the USA remember that and adjust to a notion of a pan-American identity in which we all have equal voices and moral interest in outcomes, but we can wish it were so.

  2. Paul Woodward Post author

    If everyone on these continents actually thought of themselves as Americans and referred to each other as Americans, then usage would be in no need of reform. For better or worse, however, American has become synonymous with citizens of the United States. There is of course a certain irony in the fact that among U.S. citizens of the most chest-thumping nationalistic variety, they have such a strong allegiance to a Spanish name.

    When I lived in California as a non-native — neither native to that state or this country or these continents — I couldn’t help believe that the real Americans around me were those with recognizably pre-Columbian faces — the ones whose ancestral roots truly do extend into the ancient history of these lands.

    As for the recent arrivals, competing claims about which name legitimately belongs to whom, seems to be less of a linguistic problem than a difficulty in promoting human equality inside and outside the Americas.

    When we see each other as equals, our collective identities will be of far less consequence.

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