The Corner


Thoughts on El Paso

A police officer secures the area with a police cordon after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, August 3, 2019. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

When Rabin was assassinated in 1995, a lot of people blamed a “climate of hatred,” fostered by Likud. This burned me. I thought it was a bald defamation.

Earlier in the year, after the Oklahoma City bombing, President Clinton made insinuations about conservative talk radio — that burned me, too.

Individuals are responsible for their actions. And yet . . .

No man is an island. We are all subject to influences, good and bad. People who fan hatred, and tell lies? They have a lot to answer for.

I know of a man — a professor at a prestigious university — who, after 9/11, had this opinion: There was nothing to be done, because all 19 of the perpetrators were dead. That was the end of the story.

Oh, no — far from it.

Oscar Hammerstein had a lyric, which I have frequent cause to quote: “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” No one comes out of the womb wanting to kill Jews, Hispanics, or anyone else. You’ve got to be carefully taught, and teachers play roles, for good or ill.

The attack in El Paso had the flavor of a pogrom — the massacre of people for their race, ethnicity, or religion. I feel sure that American law enforcement can beat this kind of thing. They do impressive things, when it comes to keeping the population safe. And most of their work is unsung, of course.

The more you look into these lone wolves, the more you see they’re not so lone — they are connected, particularly through the Internet. They are almost part of a movement, underground (until they commit atrocities, above).

As a rule, I’m not crazy about racial and ethnic politics — about the singling out of this group or that. I’m for E pluribus unum, and for the much-maligned melting pot. But, you know? Now would be a very good time for American leaders, starting with the president, to express solidarity with Hispanic Americans. A big part of leadership is saying the right thing at the right time.

If a racial or ethnic group is targeted — targeted for murder — you must throw your arms around that group, if you are a leader. It’s fundamental to the job.

These are just a few thoughts, for the consideration of readers. One more thought, having to do with politics, and with the Republican party in particular.

From 2011 to earlier this year, Susana Martinez was the governor of New Mexico. She is a conservative Republican, of the Paul Ryan stripe rather than the nationalist-populist one. I traveled to New Mexico twice, to report on her. Though she has made her career in New Mexico, she is from El Paso, where she grew up in a Mexican-American family. She is the type of Republican who, ideally, would be front and center right now. At least I think so. Martinez is tough, smart, and kind. I have seen, with my own eyes, how people respond to her.

My two cents has been spent.

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