Meredith C. Carroll: On script or off, Trump stumbles through crises
October 3, 2017
"My warmest condolences."
So began President Donald Trump's contribution (via Twitter, naturally) as comforter-in-chief Monday morning as the nation awoke to news of a mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night that killed at least 59 people and sent more than 500 to the hospital. Trump ended the tweet with an exclamation mark — as one does, apparently, on occasions of mass murder.
As details of the massacre unfolded throughout the day, people in conversation at work and in school, on their lunch break and at the dinner table, and on TV and social media discussed little else besides the tragedy. Among the few other exchanges, though, emerged a groundswell of disgust at Trump's word choice, which many argued seemed more fitting for the loss of, say, a once-beloved but probably long-neglected gerbil, than actual human beings. Yet that, in turn, triggered others who claimed it was too soon and inappropriate to talk about or point fingers at anything in the abstract.
"Hours after a tragedy is NOT the time to remind us of hatred towards Trump," one person wrote on Facebook. "Its (sic) just not. A modicum of class would warrant some mourning and self-reflection first."
Another person agreed, writing: "Let's be clear, right now, the matter before us, this nation, even humanity, is not about words (imperfect as they may be), strong leaders or one's opinions thereof, a quite imperfect President, you or even me. … It has been my life experience that events such as these … call upon all our humanity, so that we may rise above and heal, together."
Trump stuck to his theoretical guns a few hours later during a televised, scripted address in which he mechanically invoked God six times and weapons no times. After being pressed on the issue of gun control, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders demurred, saying it's "premature" for a "political debate."
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And maybe, just maybe, Trump and his supporters and apologists are correct: It is too soon to politicize the tragedy in Las Vegas. But only because it's too late.
When nothing changed after 20 6- and 7-year-olds were executed at their elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, nearly five years ago — never mind the complete inaction following the 521 mass shootings that have occurred in just the past 473 days — it became crystal clear that life is worth fighting for, but evidently only before it's actually lived. The White House confirmed that point unequivocally Monday through a virtual round of "applause" for the House of Representatives via an executive order wherein strong support was offered for H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would continue "to secure critical pro-life protections."
The formal endorsement from the executive branch of the 20-week abortion ban intends to "help facilitate the culture of life to which our nation aspires." Needless to say, that culture of life allegedly allowed a civilian to amass more than 42 firearms, many of them legally, 17 of which were used to shoot at a crowd of 22,000 people at a country music festival.
Unfortunately, though, for the inventors of the "culture of life" narrative, those who've actually been born also are entitled to some security. So when Trump discusses (or doesn't) his official plans (or lack thereof) on how he'll protect those outside of the womb, those womb graduates are entitled to discuss Trump's emotional black hole, wherein any shred of decency he ever might have had has gone to die. (This includes, but is not limited to, telling Puerto Rico to "have a good time," despite how "they" threw "our budget a little out of whack," especially since the hurricane it suffers from "wasn't a real catastrophe like Katrina.")
All the words matter — including the ones spoken by those aghast at the few Trump casually typed about the victims in Las Vegas, and even the (many, many) ones Trump furiously tweeted about the kneeling NFL players peacefully protesting the needless and incessant shootings of unarmed black men.
It's precisely Trump's careless words spoken at all the wrong times that have us inching closer to World War III. His lewd insults and even ridiculous misspellings do nothing but further his trademark brand of bigotry, utter disregard for the dignity of his office and total disrespect for the people he was elected to serve.
His words matter because he holds a position that matters. His farcical way of conducting himself reverberates to the point where it's become antithetical to the Constitution he swore to protect. Coverage of his gaffes and slights are neither fake, misguided nor ill-timed. His attempts to delegitimize the press, which is protected by the very same piece of paper as the Second Amendment he'll no doubt leave untouched, further proves his contempt for the established checks and balances that exist precisely to keep megalomaniacs like him from becoming as deranged as the one with whom he's in a nuclear staring contest.
In the absence of good intentions and meaningful change, words carry an awful lot of weight — and when this president speaks them, they tend to be remarkably, and unfortunately, awful.
Follow Meredith Carroll on Twitter @MCCarroll. More at MeredithCarroll.com.