Hate, Murder and Perversity: El Paso 2019, Mississippi 1964

Image Source: False-color satellite image of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez – Public Domain

Hate, Lacan observed, is—like love—a career without limit.[1]

The massacre on Saturday August 3 in an El Paso Walmart ended with the arrest of 21 year-old Patrick Crusius, a white supremacist from Dallas. Crusius was likely the source of what the media began to call a “manifesto” posted on the website 8chan, a site linked by the Guardian, the New York Times and Wikipedia to racist postings about mass murders, incitements to violence and—for good measure—child pornography. The manifesto is titled “The Inconvenient Truth.”

President Trump, known for sending his tweets in his bathrobe at four in the morning, waited uncharacteristically until Monday to tweet his thoughts on the massacres of El Paso and Dayton. Here I will speak only of El Paso since more is already known of its causes principally because of the manifesto. Possibly it was the manifesto that delayed Trump’s tweets. If he read it, he probably would have had to give himself extra time to read and digest a document which was at least four times the length of his daily one page, bullet-pointed intelligence briefing. He may have cribbed from the manifesto. In the tweet he blames the Mass Media: “Fake news has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has (sic) built up over many years. News coverage has got to start being fair, balanced and unbiased or these terrible problems will only get worse!” Benji Sarlin, a political reporter for NBC, was the first I think to point out the remarkable resemblance between Trump’s tweet and the words of the manifesto. Sarlin prefaced parallel excerpts from Trump’s tweet and the manifesto with the comment, “the president’s tweet today and the racist creed the shooter posted overlap to the point that they’re hard to distinguish with the names removed.”[2]

Four Democratic candidates for president, former mayor of El Paso Beto O’Rourke, Julián Castro, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris had responded Sunday with some of the angriest language about Trump’s responsibility for the El Paso massacre (nota bene, Nancy Pelosi).

In lieu of his boss Sunday, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, toured TV studios expressing righteous indignation—at the mass media. “I blame the people who pull the trigger,” Mulvaney told NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. “Goodness gracious, is someone really blaming the president?”

A former NRA hack Grant Stinchfield also blamed liberals and the mass media. Evil, Stinchfield observed, predated the invention of firearms. “Evil has existed since the beginning of time. To blame the president or any other conservative on the actions of a deranged lunatic is insane and flat-out disgusting. The problem with liberals today is they do not want to take responsibility for anything. They will blame everyone but the shooter.” Kris Kobach, former secretary of state in Kansas and according to the New York Times, “an immigration hard-liner who is close to Mr. Trump,” blamed Democrats. “They are trying to exploit this horrific tragedy to attack the president and push an open-borders agenda and push gun control.”

Goodness gracious, indeed.

It was while reading an article about the massacre in El Paso that I noticed a link in the sidebar to a video clip of Trump at a rally in Florida in May. He brings up the issue of immigrants and says:

I mean when you have fifteen thousand people marching up, and you have hundreds and hundreds of people, and you have two or three border security people that are brave and great, and don’t forget we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons, we can’t—other countries do!—we can’t! I would never do that. But how do you stop these people? (someone in the crowd shouts ‘shoot ‘em’) You can’t…(now having heard ‘shoot ‘em’ Trump breaks off and smiles. Then he resumes with a joke). That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff! (cheers, smiles and applause. Trump keeps smiling. He loves it) Only in the Panhandle![3]

As I watched the clip of a smiling Trump and his exultant followers an image flashed through my mind. It was a photo taken in Mississippi in December of 1964. It is a photo of Deputy Cecil Price and Sheriff Lawrence Rainey at their arraignment after the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi on June 21.[4] Price and Rainey are grinning, Rainey while stuffing a wad of Redman tobacco in his mouth. Behind them are all their white male cohorts, also laughing and smiling.

I thought of the photo because I had written of the murders previously in my biography of the blues musician Son House. Three young blues fans who found Son House, Nick Perls, Phil Spiro and Dick Waterman, all whites and all Jews—like Goodman and Schwerner—had gone to Mississippi to search for House in June of 1964. They had searched for House in the Delta but there they learned that he was in Rochester, New York. They called House from Memphis on June 21, the same day that Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were murdered. Their “rediscovery” was mentioned in the July 13 issue of Newsweek. The cover story of the same issue was the presumed murders of Chaney Goodman and Schwerner. The photo on the cover was of a deputy with a shotgun propped on his hip and a fat white man squinting into the heat. The caption is “Mississippi, Summer 1964.”

It was the humor and delight that Trump and his followers found in the idea of shooting immigrants and refugees that reminded me of the grinning rictuses of Cecil Price and Lawrence Rainey at their arraignment.

I am no believer. But if you want to look into the face of Hell, look at the faces of Cecil Price and Lawrence Rainey.

In America 2019 hatred and racism and xenophobia are at a boiling point that equals that of Mississippi 1964—if it does not surpass it. The body count in recent years certainly surpasses it.

The current crisis began after September 11, 2001. Any mention of the background to those attacks launched by al-Qaeda—which brilliant thinkers in the CIA helped create to counter the Russian invasion of Afghanistan—any such discussion was condemned as “justifying terrorism.” George W. Bush’s idiotic assertion that they attacked America because “they hated our democracy” was the final word accepted by millions of Americans wholly ignorant of the decades of blundering machinations of the US in the Middle East that preceded it, machinations that by the time of our invasion of Afghanistan had already led to the death of millions of innocent Afghans, Arabs and Iranians. The Afghan war which still goes on was followed by the invasion of Iraq based entirely on lies fed to that large number of still gullible and ignorant Americans whose racism makes them ineducable. Those two unnecessary and catastrophic wars have led to some thirty thousand documented Afghan civilian deaths, while for Iraq the estimates range from a half a million to a million civilian deaths. Afghan and Iraqi deaths are rarely mentioned compared to US losses who are said to have died “defending our freedom.” This does not even take into account the abominations of Abu Ghreib and Falluja, the creation of ISIS and the massive refugee crisis all spawned by our wars. That refugee crisis was reported by the mass media as though it were a natural disaster, an earthquake or a flood. The criminals who launched those wars now play golf and dabble in the arts when they aren’t “peppering” the faces of their drunken hunting buddies with buckshot.

Lies, lies, lies and more lies. Only a handful of journalists not from the region can be trusted. Robert Fisk, Alexander Cockburn and Ralph Nader notably. I have told my American students over the years—there is no need to say this to foreign students—that virtually everything piece of “news” in our mass media about the region is a lie. I say ask yourself cui bono? Who benefits if I believe this? Then you will know who made up the lie. Thank you, Mr. Trotsky. You learn the truth by comparing the lies.

I am a professor of Arabic. I’ve lived and worked in the Arab World, and I have many Arab friends there and here. Three of my closest friends are from Libya and Syria which are among Trump’s seven “banned countries.” They live here now in a precarious exile. Like many refugees on our southern border they are separated by our government from their families due to Trump’s travel ban. They cannot leave this country for fear they will not get back in. And in any case the US has destroyed their countries, and their families cannot come here. In 2019 the Border Patrol and ICE have replaced the sheriff departments of the South in 1964.

Most of the lies, the atrocities and murders preceded Trump’s entrance, stage right. Years before Trump but after 9/11, a Pakistani graduate student came to the university where I teach in order to get treatment for a heart condition at its medical school. He and his family were also seeking asylum here for political reasons. The student wanted to visit family in Albany. His immigration lawyer told him to take his papers and he should be fine. The Border Patrol took him off the bus in Syracuse and drove him to a detention center in Batavia. On the way one of the Border Patrol goons pulled up porn on his smart phone and stuck it in the studet’s face. It was a month before his lawyer could spring him from the Batavia detention center. This episode was mentioned sometime later in a story by the New York Times, but “All the news…” did not include the piquant detail of the porn.

What Trump has done with his rhetoric of “invasions” of Hispanics “marching towards our border, of “infestations of vermin” coming from “shithole countries” has given full rein to the murderous hate and racism that is endemic in America.

There is a line that one can trace from Mississippi 1964 to Florida and El Paso 2019. There is a line from the grinning faces of Cecil Price and Lawrence Rainey to the grinning faces beneath the MAGA hats, the people who revel in the words “shoot ‘em!” and “Send her back!” And to the buffoon who leads them on and wallows in the hate his malignant words bring forth. The perverse sexuality that is part of their hate cannot be missed. Trump is a pathological liar accused of rape by numerous credible women. Chaney the murdered black civil rights worker in Mississippi was also castrated. One wonders what Sade and Krafft-Ebbing would make of Trump and his yahoos.

As I write, twenty-two dead in El Paso.


1) https://twitter.com/BenjySarlin?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

2) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2019/may/09/trump-laughs-after-audience-member-suggests-shooting-migrants-video

3) https://famous-trials.com/mississippi-burningtrial/1962-images


Daniel Beaumont teaches Arabic language & literature and other courses at the University of Rochester. He is the author of Slave of Desire: Sex, Love & Death in the 1001 Nights and Preachin’ the Blues: The Life & Times of Son House. He can be contacted at: daniel.beaumont@rochester.edu