Forget the Alamo. Mexican Americans will always remember El Paso.
The West Texas border city is now our Selma, our Kent State, our Columbine. It’s where something ghastly happened that revealed how savagely some people can treat their fellow human beings.
A lot of Mexican Americans — and our Latino brothers from other mothers — will tell you is this is the natural progression in Donald Trump’s unrelenting campaign to Make America White Again:
First, we’re hated. Then, we’re harassed. Finally, we’re hunted.
With all the loose talk about “bad hombres” and “shithole countries” and “breeding” and “go back,” my friends have warned me that that something like this was bound to happen. We haven’t reached bottom with all the “othering,” they said. Someone is going to get hurt.
They were right. In El Paso, nearly 50 people did get hurt. Twenty-four people were injured, and 22 others died.
At least eight of the dead are Mexican nationals who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to shop. And to think, many Americans are afraid to go to Mexico because they think it’s too violent.
When it comes to evil, the Mexicans have nothing on alleged mass murderer Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen — an overwhelmingly white suburb of Dallas.
Crusius was worried about a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Like “infestation,” “invasion” is one of those words that Trump uses to gin up his base.
The shooter was so committed to defending the homeland that he grabbed a high-powered rifle and drove 10-12 hours on a hot Texas summer day toward a city that is 80% Latino.
Why not? When a Republican president and the right-wing punditry treat a group of people like rodents or insects, we shouldn’t be totally surprised when someone tries to exterminate them.
In the unabashedly racist manifesto the shooter apparently left behind, Crusius decried “race mixing” and said the possibility that Hispanics might marry white people is yet “another reason to send them back.” Borrowing a GOP talking point, he warned that Democrats would take power by “pandering heavily to the Hispanic voting bloc.” Calling immigration “detrimental to the future of America,” he insisted “it makes no sense to keep on letting millions of illegal or legal immigrants flood into the United States, and to keep the tens of millions that are already here.”
Trump supporters are frantically trying to spin the El Paso tragedy away from the White House by pointing out that the shooter wrote that he didn’t want Trump to get blamed for the atrocity. Sometimes, criminals protect their accomplice.
While it’s true that, in his screed, Crusius noted that “many factions within the Republican Party are pro-corporation” and thus “pro-immigration,” he was also thankful that “some factions within the Republican Party don’t prioritize corporations over our future.” That second faction is all Trump-style populism.
A few hours after the massacre, when steam was still coming out of my ears, some were insisting race was irrelevant, and that this attack wasn’t about demographics at all.
If the deniers and the deflectors are right that this is just another generic act of violence that could have happened anywhere, then riddle me this:
Couldn’t Crusius have found a more convenient way to release his hatred?
I’ve made that drive — in the opposite direction, from El Paso to Dallas — and I hope to never do it again. It’s more than 650 miles, with long West Texas stretches of nothingness. It took me 12 hours with stops for food and gas.
Along the way, Crusius must have passed dozens of department stores. He could have shot up any one of them. But he was saving his bullets for El Paso. Why? Perhaps because when you’re hunting deer, you go where the deer are.
At a Walmart Supercenter in the Cielo Vista Mall — on the west side of El Paso, less than five miles from Ciudad Juarez and the U.S.-Mexico border — the hunter found plenty of deer.
The whole point of this ghoulish mission was — as Crusius allegedly wrote — to kill as many Mexicans as possible.
Look at the names of the dead. Benavides. Anchondo. Rodriguez. Hernandez. Garcia. Marquez. Campos. Sanchez. Mission accomplished.
Addressing the nation this week, Trump tried to change the subject away from racism and hate crimes to mental health and video games. Guns should be kept out of the wrong hands, he said.
True enough. But so should the presidency.