The racist dog-whistle in Trump’s Puerto Rico tweets

The better angels of Donald Trump’s character have names like Belphegor and Vapula and Malphus; only a soul beset by demons could lash out against the desperate pleas of a blameless victim. Yet after San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz warned that the federal response to the disaster she lives is deadly in its lazy pace, Trump’s answer was that she was “nasty.”

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So much for grace. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst of Trump’s response. He also lumped her together with “others in Puerto Rico” — you know, people like her; them — and added, “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”

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If you can’t see the racist code in that loathsome outburst, you’re hopeless.

So we are not all, as Americans, a we or an us; we — at least those of us with names that sound like Carmen Yulin Cruz — are a they or a them. And what do they want? They want everything to be done for them. That could only be so were we to believe that an instinct for dependency is somehow hard-wired into their culture and their essential nature. That’s what Trump wants us to believe about them — the same type of yarn spun on the pages of The Crusader or Mein Kampf.

But here’s the genius of a dog whistle like this: those who engage in this coded racism will call others bigots for pointing it out. “Well if you thought Trump was talking about Hispanics,” the bigot will say, “then you must think that Hispanics want everything done for them.” It’s a diabolical two-step.

Donald Trump is a malignant narcissist, which means that he is incapable of empathy and utterly indifferent to human suffering. He must also be at the center of all things, and so as he slams against our consciousness as relentlessly as any frankenstorm, he leaves a trail of destruction that can be seen — metaphysically, of course — from the remotest reaches of the Milky Way.

It was impossible that, with Donald Trump in charge, a natural disaster befalling an island populated mostly by Hispanic people would wind up being about anything other than Donald Trump. And it was impossible that it would involve any but the basest of human impulses — the impulses that animate the kind of emotional violence of vulgarism that could divide a nation over, of all things, for god’s sake, a weather event.

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