This president has his priorities. When a department store chain dumped his daughter’s products, he swiftly tweeted about the unfairness of it all. But when a legal immigrant from India was shot dead by a bigot last Wednesday, he said nothing. Six days later, he has still said nothing.
Sunayana Dumala, the widow of the slain IT engineer, said on Friday, “He wanted to do so much for this country.” She said that America was “the country he loved.” But now, “I have a question in my mind. Do we belong?”
Nope. The Lord of Trumplandia, by dint of his silence, has made that crystal clear.
You’ve probably heard what happened. Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani — natives of India, working in America on H1B visas — stopped at their favorite Olathe, Kansas, hangout for a whiskey drink at day’s end. They were engineers, employed by a GPS manufacturer. They were regulars at this hangout; the bartenders called them “the Jameson boys.” But a stranger that night, a customer named Adam Purinton, saw them as something more sinister.
According to police and eyewitnesses, Purinton singled them out and started to bait them: Did they have visas? Were they in the country illegally? Kuchibhotla and Madasni tried to ignore him. But he got so abusive, with his questions and his racial slurs, that patrons complained. He was asked to leave. He left. Then he returned — with a gun.
According to police and eyewitnesses, Purinton said “Get out of my country” and shot both men.
Kuchibhotla later died of his wounds. Madasani has survived. Ian Grillot, a customer who tried to intervene, was also shot several times. Purinton fled the scene and drove to an Applebee’s restaurant in Missouri, where he told a bartender that he had killed “two Iranians.” (Indians, Iranians … whatever.) The bartender called 911 and relayed the information to police. That ended Purinton’s brief life on the lam. He made his first appearance in court yesterday, on murder charges.
So. Imagine if the situation were reversed. If a dark-skinned immigrant (Indian, Iranian … whatever) had walked into a Kansas bar and shot three white people, yelling “God is good,” how long would it take for Trump to thumb a four-alarm tweet about radical Islamic terrorism?
In the Kansas case, however, the alleged shooter was white and his targets were immigrants. Trump is apparently fine with that kind of hate. Just as he was fine with the incident in Quebec City, where a white nationalist — a known follower of Trump — shot and killed six Muslim worshippers at a mosque. Trump hasn’t said a word about that, either.
His message is obvious: Some attacks — the kind that fit his narrative — are more important than others. Some victims — the kind that don’t fit his narrative — are less important than others.
Yesterday, a Kansas newspaper editorialized:
“Not a word has been spoken, tweeted, or prepped for Trump’s teleprompter … During such moments of crisis, people look to the president for strength and guidance. They need to hear their moral outrage articulated, the condemnation of a possible hate crime and the affirmation that the U.S. values everyone’s contributions, whether you’re an immigrant or native-born. For Trump, this was a crucial opportunity to condemn such hateful acts and to forcefully declare that this is not who we are.”
But this is who he is.
Last October, speaking to an Indian-American group in New Jersey, Trump promised: “If I’m elected president, the Indian and Hindu community will have a true friend in the White House, that I can guarantee you.” Turns out, that was just another con. A “true friend” would’ve at least coughed up a few words of condolence. So it’s no surprise that Indian-Americans and visa-holding Indians are looking at what happened to Kuchibholta and Madasani, and they’re wondering: If a legal, hard-working, home-owning immigrant from an allied nation can’t feel safe in America, who can?
That’s why Alok Madasani’s father said the other day, “I appeal to all the parents of India not to send their children to the United States in the present circumstances.” How quickly this country’s reputation has sunk, thanks to the occupying force in Washington. Supriya Kelkar, an Indian-American Michigan-based screenwriter and children’s book author, said it best yesterday, addressing Trump in an open letter: “You are not making America great again. You are destroying its moral fabric … Your silence says it all, and it’s disgusting.”
If there’s any upside to this sick saga, it’s Ian Grillot. He’s the white guy who tried to save the Indian engineers from the shooter’s fusillade, and got shot twice in the process. In his words, “Barely missed my carotid artery, I guess. Fractured one of my vertebrae.” He says he doesn’t consider himself a hero: “I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being. It’s not about where he was from or his ethnicity. We’re all humans. I just felt I did what was naturally the right thing to do.”
We’re all humans … The right thing to do … If Trump has any interest in repairing the moral fabric that he’s relentlessly rending, he might learn something from the guy who took two bullets for the kind of America we love.