Making Worse People to Get Their Votes

The Washington Post has a piece today on the tensions in Grand Forks, North Dakota between white natives and the growing immigrant population, particularly refugees from Somalia who are Muslim.

On December 8th, someone filled a 40 ounce bottle of Bud Light with gasoline, lit it, and threw it through the window of a Somali establishment called Juba Coffee and Restaurant. This occurred only hours after Donald Trump called for a temporary ban on allowing Muslim refugees to enter the country.

“I blame it on Donald Trump, to be honest,” said Saida Aden, 24, a first-year engineering student. “And the media. Anyone just thinks they can say anything or do anything they want. It’s like the country needs a bogeyman, and it has become us.”

Whether Saida Aden is right or not, it certainly doesn’t help to have national politicians raising the fears and anxieties of people rather than doing their best to soothe them.

Some degree of apprehension is understandable in light of what happened in San Bernardino, where a seemingly assimilated Muslim man apparently plotted for years to carry out a mass casualty terrorist attack. But apprehension and caution are different from hatred and panic.

Some of the locals can sound silly when they complain about the Somalis.

[Grand Forks City Council member, Terry] Bjerke said he was upset that there were no statistics to show whether refugees had been responsible for an increase in robberies and burglaries. With so many refugee students learning English in school, he wondered whether native speakers were losing valuable time from their teachers. Most upsetting, he said, was that the Somalis were not adopting “American customs,” such as playing hockey or eating hot dogs.

Mr. Bjerke is running to unseat the Grand Forks mayor, so perhaps he has some cynical reasons to complain about Sub-Saharan immigrants’ not flocking to play a game on ice. He definitely sees some political gold in attacking his Somali neighbors.

The week after the public hearing on diversity, Bjerke invited a speaker named Usama Dakdok, an Egyptian Christian, to lecture about the city’s need to contain Islam’s influence. More than 450 attended, watching as Bjerke raised copies of the Constitution and the New Testament in the air and declared, “From my cold, dead hands!”

This behavior is not consistent with responsible leadership. It makes it more likely that another gasoline-filled forty will be thrown at a Somali business rather than less. And it’s human nature that when bad things happen to a community, that community will have the desire to strike back. If you want to drive a nice Somali kid into the hands of al-Shabab, a good way to do it is to throw a Molotov Cocktail through the window of his parents’ store.

It should be obvious that making people afraid, driving wedges between local communities, and encouraging people to take actions against an immigrant population are not ways to make Grand Forks safer.

But, when there is political power to be had, it’s like catnip to some people.

This is what Trumpism basically is, although it is not limited to him. He’s just leading the way. His competitors appear eager to follow.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.