Former President Barack Obama tweeted a statement Monday responding to the shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas over the weekend.
“No other nation on Earth comes close to experiencing the frequency of mass shootings that we see in the United States. No other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do,” wrote Obama. “We are not helpless here. And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.”
Obama cited the same refrain after every mass shooting — that curtailing the ease of obtaining firearms won’t prevent all murder and therefore it isn’t an avenue worth pursuit. The terrible, stalled cycle of America’s response to these tragedies was brought to attention by Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg in the Detroit debates last week, and that sentiment is captured in mournful satire by comedy site The Onion, which regularly uses the same headline after every mass shooting: ‘’No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”
— The Onion (@TheOnion) August 4, 2019
Obama’s eloquent and direct response to the El Paso and Dayton massacres stands in contrast to current President Donald Trump, who did condemn racism and bigotry and call for change but somewhat missed the mark by misidentifying one of the cities — he claimed it was Toledo, Ohio and not Dayton that was stage to one of the attacks. This managed to outperform Obama’s vice president and current 2020 hopeful Joe Biden who flubbed both locations.
Without ever naming the current President, Obama seemed to invoke the rhetoric of Trump in his statement arguing that the politics of hate are part of the backstory of these tragedies.
“There are indications the El Paso shooting follows a dangerous trend: troubled individuals who embrace racist ideologies and see themselves obligated to act violently to preserve white supremacy,” wrote Obama. “We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.”
The dangerous trend Obama mentioned goes back years and isn’t uniquely American. Increasingly, right-wing violence makes up nearly all of domestic terrorism in the United States and high-profile global incidents like the attack on a mosque in New Zealand show the issue is a global one. Fascism is on the rise globally and xenophobia is a core part of it’s popularity.
It is against this backdrop that incidents of extreme, racist violence take place frequently in America, but also around the world. And this backdrop was acknowledge by Obama’s message.
“Such language isn’t new, it’s been at the root of most human tragedy throughout history, here in America and around the world,” continued Obama. “It is at the root of slavery and Jim Crow, the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. It has no place in our politics and our public life. And it’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.”
(Featured image: Department of Defense/Public Domain)
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.