Annals of the President Trump Regime IX
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer from Hyderabad, and all of 32 years old, was shot dead in a bar in the city of Olathe, Kansas, on Wednesday night. He and his friend, Alok Madasani, were nursing a Jameson whiskey at Austins Bar and Grill when a Navy veteran, Adam Purinton, 51, fired on the two men. Madasani survived the attack; so did Ian Grillot, 24, another patron who confronted the gunman after mistakenly thinking that he may have run out of ammunition.
A surge in hate crimes has been reported from across the country, and not only since Trump gained the White House; there is ample empirical data to suggest that hate crimes began to increase once Trump had clinched the Republican nomination for the Presidency. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that on one single day, November 9, immediately after the election had been decided, 202 hate crimes were reported from across the country; in the ten days following the election, 867 such crimes of “harassment and intimidation” were reported. “Many of the incidents involved harassers invoking Trump’s name, the Center’s report states unequivocally, “making it clear that the outbreak of hate was primarily due to his success in the election.” In recent days, dozens of Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated. The racists have evidently been feeling greatly emboldened since Trump promised to ‘Make America Great Again’ and take the country back—though back from whom, and back to what, are almost never specified.
The history of the US is drenched in hate crimes, but the murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla will in time to come surely be seen as forming an extraordinarily distinct chapter in this troubled history. The killer, the New York Times has reported, was “tossing ethnic slurs at the two men and suggesting they did not belong in the United States” (Saturday, February 25: “Drinks at a Bar, Ethnic Insults, Then Gunshots). There are few hates crimes which are not accompanied by ‘ethnic slurs’; and doubtless the most common form of opprobrium that immigrants have continued to face is to be told, especially if they dare to be at all critical of the US, to return to where they came from. Thus far, then, the killer, Adam Purinton, seems to have said nothing spectacularly vile. However, it is Mr. Madasani’s testimony which furnishes the more pertinent clue to the unusual characteristics of this killing. Mr. Madasani recalled, “He [Purinton] asked us what visa we are currently on and whether we are staying here illegally.”
The fact that both Mr. Kuchibhotla and Mr. Madasani had been living in the United States for many years, and had received their graduate degrees from American universities before becoming gainfully employed, is beside the point. The shooting would have been no more justified had the victims been illegal, Muslims, refugees, or from working-class backgrounds. The killer did not bother very much with their answers, since he pulled out a revolver and then shot one of them dead—but not before he yelled at them to “get out of my country”. Ever heard of a killing where a victim was asked what kind of visa he had before bullets were pumped into his body? One is accustomed to hear of killings over botched drug deals, a sex triangle, or a disputed inheritance, but what kind of hate crime is it where the victim is interrogated over his visa status?
The White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, forcefully rejected on Friday any suggestion that the murder of Mr. Kuchibhotla and attempted murder of Mr. Madasani could even remotely be linked to the ferociously anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been emanating from the Trump administration. Spicer is not known for his command over the English language: naturally gifted in being incoherent, he nevertheless made himself quite clear, “I mean, obviously, any loss of life is tragic, but I’m not going to get into, like, that kind of – to suggest that there’s any correlation, I think, is a bit absurd. So I’m not going to go any further than that.” But why should such a “correlation” be “absurd”? If Trump’s followers, acolytes, and foot soldiers are sold on the idea that immigrants have stolen ‘their’ country, taken ‘their’ jobs, and made America unsafe, why is it at all unreasonable that the present administration, which has done everything within its power to incite hatred against immigrants, Mexicans, refugees, Muslims, Syrians, and various other classes of foreigners, should be forced to acknowledge it has opened the flood-gates of racial and religious hatred?
Mr. Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, who is employed by another IT company in the same area, said that her husband’s killing had forced her to confront the question: “Do we belong here?” She has gone on record as saying that she awaits an answer from the US government about what “they’re going to do to stop this [kind of] hate crime.” The entire country awaits such an answer.