The warnings were stunning. Just six weeks before Nikolas Cruz killed 14 students and three teachers at his former high school in Parkland, Florida, a woman acquainted with him told the FBI tip line “I know he’s going to explode” and expressed her fear that he might go to a school and begin “shooting the place up.” Six weeks earlier, a family friend had called 911 and expressed fears about Cruz’s gun collection. (He managed to accumulate at least 10 rifles, including the AR-15 he took to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.) “I need someone here because I’m afraid he comes back and he has a lot of weapons,” said that friend. And late last year, even Cruz himself called 911 in an obvious bid — at least in retrospect — for attention and help. (“The thing is I lost my mother a couple of weeks ago, so like I am dealing with a bunch of things right now…”)
As we know, none of these incidents, nor reports about Cruz to the local police, including a warning that he might “shoot up” a neighborhood school and that he could be a “school shooter in the making,” resulted in the kind of action that might have stopped his future school rampage. But in Donald Trump’s America, let me put my money on one thing: if his first name had been Ahmed, not Nikolas — if he hadn’t, that is, been a white male fitting the profile of a future school shooter but of Arabic background or had a name that had an Islamic ring to it — the FBI and the local police would have been on his doorstep in no time flat.
From the moment Donald Trump rode that Trump Tower escalator into the presidential race in June 2015 and promptly attacked Mexican immigrants as rapists, drug-runners, and criminals, he’s conducted a domestic shock-and-awe campaign all the way to the Oval Office and beyond when it comes to immigrants, refugees, and Muslims of more or less any sort. (Ban them!) On such subjects, the relentlessness of the president and his key aides and officials, including White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has nurtured fears of the foreign, the alien, the non-white, and the un-American in this country in a major way. (Note that Nikolas Cruz, too, evidently denigrated Muslims and reportedly mowed a 40-foot swastika into a community field.) All in all, it’s been an impressive, all-fronts campaign against those tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free and, as veteran foreign correspondent Arnold Isaacs shows today in his first TomDispatch piece, it extends even to the statistics the administration likes to offer on immigration and terrorism.