A “Twilight Zone” moment with Rod Rosenstein

Dear President Trump,

This is a variation on my thought experiment exercises…. Let’s say an envoy of aliens from another planet (as in real aliens) plopped down somewhere in the US. On their way here they did some good homework and learned to read and speak several of our languages, including English. They also knew from their studies that medical doctors help people who aren’t feeling well and since one of them was feeling poorly they visited a doctor’s office even though they were also aware they were supposed to have something called insurance. The receptionist wasn’t sure what to make of them since they weren’t humanoid, but one was clearly hurting so he told them to have a seat and the doctor would be with them in a few minutes. With an uncertain amount of wait-time on their hands they each picked up one of the many magazines on the tables around the room, including the August 19, 2019 edition of Time magazine.

There was probably a better way to set this up than the silly premise involving aliens visiting a doctor’s office, but what I want to highlight about this particular edition of Time is how nuts the Rod Rosenstein piece in the section on domestic terrorism is and how confusing it would be to someone coming to the issue cold.

The section opens with a long article entitled “What does a terrorist look like?”, which details how the vast majority of the federal government’s terrorist threat detection and prevention resources are focused on potential foreign (Islamic jihadist) attackers and next to none are devoted to potential US-based white-supremacist attackers. The article makes clear that not only is the overall death toll since 2003 associated with each type of attacker just about even, but that the threat from domestic white supremacist terrorists has been growing differentially in recent years. Of course it’s possible that had there been fewer resources devoted to deterring attacks by Islamic radicals there would have been far more of them (oddly the article doesn’t make this point). Thus, the issue is not re-allocation of some finite pot of prevention resources, but rather the need for the GOP, including you, to develop the political will to recognize the internal threat from white supremacists and to commit commensurate resources to addressing it.

The next is an opinion piece by Bill Clinton wherein he encourages Congress to reinstate the ban on assault weapons – now. He clearly calls out the gun lobby and the politicians who are beholden to it. If the interplanetary alien who snagged the Time magazine is a speed reader and was able to get through these articles before being called in to see the doctor, they would likely be doing ok as far as getting the lay of the land on mass shootings here. If they still had a while to wait and went on to read Jon Meacham’s opinion piece on the power of a President’s words, they might start to get a sense of your role in all this. Meacham recalls some crucial times in our history when other presidents felt called to encourage Americans to put aside hate, to look for commonalities between us, to take care of one another rather than let divisions fester. He talks about how Presidents set the tone and can use their position to call on our better angels, so to speak and he points out how you have instead used the bully pulpit to do the opposite. You really ought to read this one – it’s beautifully written and Meacham so compellingly draws out the tragedy of your presidency that alien or no, one can’t help but get it and be deeply saddened.

There’s one more piece before Rod Rosenstein makes his appearance and this one is by Julissa Arce, who was born in Mexico, moved to the US as a child, spent 10 years here undocumented, and became a US citizen at 24 in 2014. She writes of how she believed that once she became a citizen her fears about being detained, deported, and generally unsafe because of her documentation status would all evaporate and how that illusion was dashed by you and your hateful rhetoric and actions. She powerfully describes the various ways you’ve made it clear that those with brown skin are not welcome here. It’s a chilling piece.

If the aliens were tenacious they would now finally get to Rosenstein’s article, which has the grand title “How to stop white-supremacist terrorism.” I’ll admit I was skeptical when I saw who the author was, but I decided to keep an open mind (and pretend I was an alien who didn’t have a clue who he is) to see if he had anything worthwhile to say. Well, long story short – no, he didn’t have anything worthwhile to say. He basically hauled out the little tiny handful of on-point sound bites you’ve spit out through gritted teeth over the past 2+ years and made it seem like you are part of the solution rather than a major, major part of the problem. If our aliens read all the other articles and then got to this one they would be very, very confused in a “one of these things is not like the rest” sort of way and if they only read this one opinion piece they would return to their home planet with a completely erroneous sense of our current reality and your role in it.

Maybe the Time editors were fulfilling some mandate that they present a “balanced” set of perspectives. Perhaps. But truly it looks likely that they knew that Rosenstein’s piece would be like a very unpleasant trip to the twilight zone and that it’s presence would only strengthen the other pieces and amplify their urgent messages. Hopefully most of us human readers of Time had long waits at our doctor’s offices so we could take in the whole of it.

May we be safe from duplicitous leaders who get stooges to lie for them.
May we be happy to call out those lying stooges.
May we be clear that you do not care one tiny bit about our health and well-being.
May we not give up on peace. Or kindness.

Tracy Simpson

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