On a March 18, 2020, a reporter asked “Do you think using the term ‘Chinese virus’ puts Asian Americans at risk, that people might target them?” and Donald Trump answered: “Not at all. I think they probably would agree with it, 100 per cent.”
Based on his answer, I suspect the ex-president didn’t understand the question. He subsequently spent a great deal of time labeling SARS COVID-19 as the “China Virus” or the “Kung flu.” And each time he used the term at his ongoing and never-ending rallies, the crowd went wild.
He is still at it. In a recent press release in which he claims to be the only one responsible for the vaccine, he still uses the term “China Virus.” In interviews this past week he defended the assertion. Is this all part of his playbook?
I have said this before but it seems the entire Republican Party, as lead by the Donald, is using the movie The American President as a script for dealing with the United States. Or perhaps in writing the movie Aaron Sorkin just got to the truth of the Republicans.
In the movie, President Shepherd (Michael Douglas) blasts his opponent Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss) saying: “We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.”
Substitute the Donald in for Rumson and it is a pretty accurate picture of the past four years. Climate change? It’s a left-wing hoax, yells the Donald. Racism? The protesters are to blame, says the Donald. Faltering economy? It is all China’s fault, proclaims the Donald.
The list of issues ducked, dodged, and dismissed is long. And his constant heckling of anyone trying to do the right thing – such as prevent the loss of lives by simple public health measures like wearing a mask – gave permission to his followers to do the same.
Calling COVID-19, the “China Virus” has led to an increase in hate crimes and harassment of Chinese citizens in the United States and even in Canada. It is churning up our underlying xenophobia.
Which brings us to Soon Chung Park (74), Suncha Kim (69), Yong Ae Yue (63), Paul Andre Michels (54), Hyun Jung Grant (51), Xiaojie Tan (49), and Delaina Ashley Yaun (33), who were all killed in a mass shooting involving three establishments in Atlanta. Elicias R. Hernandez-Ortiz was seriously injured in the rampage. The perpetrator, Robert Aaron Long (21), was arrested by police on his way to Florida where he intended to continue shooting.
However, you want to frame it (Police Captain Jay Baker said: “He was kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”), the crime is a tragedy and definitely targeted Asian women. Six of the eight dead.
This is the most visible and public attack on Asian-Americans in the last year but it is by no means the only attack. The number of reported incidences of harassment and assault in the United States has ballooned to over 4,000 reported since the COVID-19 pandemic began. On a per capita basis, things are worse in Canada.
Would these hate crimes have occurred without the pandemic? Not likely. Does the rambling blame culture of the Republicans fuel hate crimes? Yes. After all, if you keep telling people who’s to blame, they will eventually take what they perceive as “justice” into their own hands.
This is true on all sides of the racial divides. For example, the Black Lives Matter protests would never have occurred without systemic racism. When our justice systems failed to address the issue, people did so more directly.
And it is not just an American issue. Persecution exists in every country around the world. Whether it is the Rohingya in Myanmar, the Weigers in China, the Rwandan genocide, or the treatment of First Nations people across Canada, there is always fear of the “other.”
Xenophobia runs deep in our character. It is with our better angels we must fight the temptation to blame others for all our ills simply because “they” are different from “us.” I have said this before but I will say it again – a person is a person is a person regardless of colour, race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation, age, or political affiliations. Everyone deserves respect.
And the last thing any political leader – be it the mayor of a small town or the President of the United States – should do is to make people afraid and tell them who’s to blame for it.