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Monday evening, Trump was interviewed by Minnesota news network KSTP about his Twitter video juxtaposing Omar’s comments with a graphic video of the 9/11 attacks. When asked if he had any second thoughts about this exploitative and incendiary tweet — with its concomitant increase in death threats against Omar —  he replied, “No, not at all”.

Having doubled down on his base-riling Islamaphobia, he added that, “She [Omar] is somebody that doesn’t really understand, I think, life, real life. What it’s all about.”  Is Trump right? Oh, please. Ilhan Omar has seen more in a life of 37 years than Trump has seen in nearly double that span.

As long as Omar has been alive, Trump has been jetting between his gilded, Moscow night-club decorated apartment and golf courses.

Meanwhile, Omar was born in Somalia. At eight, she fled the country in the face of war and spent the next four years in a Kenyan refugee camp. Arriving in America at 12, she became a citizen at 17. She graduated from college and was a policy fellow at the Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Active in politics, she worked on various local campaigns, was elected to the Minnesota House in 2016, and then to the US House in 2018.

It is safe to say that Omar knows far more about ‘real life’ than Trump.

But she is dark skinned, a woman, Muslim and wears a hijab — so she is from central casting for the role of implacable, foreign Jezebel. And into that role she was quickly cast by conservative fear-mongers, who know how easy it is to whip ignorant, fearful, ill-educated ‘real Americans’ into angry-Christian, white-nationalist, spit-flecked, rage machines.

Trump fueled that mindless fire with further bigotry. Commenting “She’s been very disrespectful to this country. She’s been very disrespectful, frankly, to Israel.” He’s basing this on Omar comments about AIPAC and Israel’s Netanyahu government. But it is not disrespecting either America or Israel to say that there are organizations in the US and Israel that promote the marginalization of Palestinians.

It isn’t just the constitutional right of every America to speak his/her mind — it is a civic duty of the citizen to speak up when he/she sees injustice. And the beauty of it is that you don’t have to be ‘right’. You are just adding your opinion to the market-place of ideas.

But what you cannot do is incite violence — which is what Trump does repeatedly.

And he’s not done. Traveling further down into his dark heart he offers this: “It’s unfortunate. She’s got a way about her that’s very, very bad for our country.” The smear by innuendo, the fact-free flaying —  vague and inchoate. It’s how the Salem witch hunts started.

 And, just in case the slower members of the congregation didn’t get it, he added that Omar was “extremely unpatriotic” and “extremely disrespectful”.

In conservative eyes, Omar’s biggest sin is her apparent dismissal of the 9/11 attacks with her remark “some people did something”. You can read the context and an analysis of that remark here: Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 9/11 Comments in Context. But in short, it was one phrase, from one sentence, in a speech pointing out the Muslim Americans suffer as a group from the actions of any Muslim anywhere.

She decries that Muslim Americans are forced to lead lives surrounded by suspicion and blame because of the propaganda of cynical politicians led by the President — who though pledged to support and uphold the Constitution, doesn’t think it extends to people who it is politically expedient for him to demonize. 

And not unexpectedly Trump adds hypocrisy to his slander. He has been a racist his whole life — including making remarks that have played to anti-Semitic stereotypes, like “I have black guys counting my money. … I hate it. The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.”  (A racial twofer). And telling the Republican Jewish conference “is there anyone in this room that doesn’t renegotiate deals?”

The good news is that despite having a President who does not have the talent, intelligence, aptitude, or stability to do the job — that despite his small-minded bigotry and lack of any personal greatness — America is still a great country because Ilhan Omar is free to be elected to represent her constituents. And they are free to reelect her if they like the job she’s doing or, if not, pick someone else in 2020. 

And nobody else’s opinion is worth a tinker’s dam. 

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