I hold this truth to be self-evident: If the dead Austin bomber had turned out to be a Muslim, Trump would be interrupting his current presidential duties to rail anew about the urgent need to thwart dangerous foreigners with walls and travel bans.
But, alas, 23-year-old Michael Anthony Corditt “grew up as the quiet, socially awkward oldest child of a devout Christian family that held Bible study groups in their white clapboard house, where an American flag hangs from the front porch,” according to the New York Times.
Corditt had semi-articulate right-wing positions on gay marriage (homosexuality is akin to bestiality — basically, the Rick Santorum stance), on abortion (“If we are going to give women free abortions, why not give men free condoms, or the like?”) and on the death penalty (he liked it). In his teens he joined a group called Righteous Invasion of Truth, a Bible study program for home-schooled kids interested in God and gun training. One friend said, “I know faith was a serious thing for him.”
I am not trying to imply that Corditt’s conservative Christian outlook inspired him to randomly kill and maim. At this point, it appears he was just another seriously screwed up white American — like the Las Vegas shooter, the Parkland shooter, the Texas First Baptist Church shooter (how quickly we forget), the Planned Parenthood shooter, the Sandy Hook shooter, the Aurora movie theater shooter, Gabby Giffords’ shooter, many hundreds more, plus the math prodigy better known as the Unabomber.
But we all know that if Corditt’s surname had been Khan or Ahmed, if he’d been a fixture at the local mosque, and if he’d joined a Muslim equivalent of the Righteous Invasion of Truth, it’s a cinch bet that Trump would be currently indulging his white nativist id.
The bomber’s Muslim faith would’ve been deemed sufficient evidence of radical violent intent. Trump would be citing the bomber’s pedigree as proof that we need to protect real Americans from the immigrant Other. He would be ranting anew for his border wall billions, for the defunding of sanctuary cities, he’d be tweeting anew for the travel ban that’s tied up in the courts, he’d be repeating the lie he uttered in December (that illegal immigrants bring “tremendous amounts of crime”), and he’d be referencing his recent State of the Union speech, where he drew fake connections between immigrants and crime.
“Most tragically,” Trump said in that speech, foreigners in our midst “have caused the loss of many innocent lives.” We would never have known, listening to him, that immigrants on average commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens, and have a lower incarceration rate than native-born citizens. According to a massive study published in 2015 by the National Academy of Sciences, “Immigrants are less likely than the native-born to commit crimes, and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have much lower rates of crime and violence than comparable non-immigrant neighborhoods.”
The Austin bomber, denizen of a non-immigrant neighborhood, will not be cited by Trump as proof of the domestic enemy within. If he’d been Muslim, or recently arrived on these shores from a non-white homeland, Trump would be conflating him with MS-13. Trump would be calling him a terrorist. But since Corditt was a white, Christian American, reportedly raised in “a tight-knit Godly family,” he serves no convenient demagogic purpose.
Sorry, I digressed. You may recall that Trump brought mourners to his January SOTU — the parents of two daughters who’d been killed by MS-13 gang members — and that he addressed them directly: “I want you to know that 320 million hearts are right now breaking for you. We love you. Thank you. We cannot imagine the depth of that kind of sorrow, but we can make sure that other families never have to endure this pain.” Fine. Those folks deserved our sympathy.
But what are the odds that Trump, in January 2019, will invite the mourning families of the two Austin African-Americans (an aspiring bass player, and a kid) who were blown up by Corditt’s homemade bombs? What are the odds that he’ll orchestrate the breaking of “320 million hearts,” voicing love for those two black families — in order to publicize the ongoing threat of white American nihilists who deserve to be called terrorists because, by dint of their actions, they terrorize their communities?
Oh, please. We already know the answer.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at WHYY in Philadelphia and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.