Words and consequences: A look at the Omar and Trump feud

US Democratic Party Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnessota, left, and US President Donald Trump. (Reuters photos)
Updated 16 April 2019
0

Words and consequences: A look at the Omar and Trump feud

  • Omar accuses Trump of encouraging violence and fomenting extremism
  • Trump says national security is at issue and Omar is “ungrateful”

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump isn’t backing down from his tweets about Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.
In fact, he spoke at an event in Omar’s home state of Minnesota on Monday amid a ferocious fight over her comments about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Omar, a Somali-American, says it’s more than a rhetorical squabble, and that lives, including hers, are at stake. Trump says national security is at issue and Omar is “ungrateful.”
A look at the latest rhetorical battle between the pair that’s more broadly about race and whether leaders and their words should be blamed for violence.
___
The aftershocks
Omar says she’s faced increased death threats since Trump spread around a video that purports to show her being dismissive of the 2001 terrorist attacks. “This is endangering lives,” she said, accusing Trump of fomenting extremism. “It has to stop.”
Her statement late Sunday followed an announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she has taken steps to ensure the safety of the Minnesota Democrat. Pelosi also urged Trump to take down the video.
The video soon disappeared as a pinned tweet at the top of Trump’s Twitter feed, but it was not deleted.
Trump further escalated his rhetoric Monday morning, tweeting that, “Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful US HATE statements Omar has made.”

Later Monday, Trump announced he was heading to “the Great State of Minnesota!” Omar responded by retweeting that post with the comment, “The Great State of Minnesota, where we don’t only welcome immigrants, we send them to Washington.”
Minnesota has the largest concentration of Somalis in the nation, and most of those are in the Minneapolis area.
On Monday at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Pelosi said: “I don’t think any president of the United States should use the tragedy of 9/11 as a political tool. I think that is wrong, I think it’s beneath the dignity of the office.”

A coalition of community organizations gather n support of Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar outside the Nuss Truck and Equipment in Burnsville, Minnesota where US President Donald Trump spoke on April 15, 2019. (AFP)

___
What Omar said
Omar told a Los Angeles gathering of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on March 23 that many Muslims saw their civil liberties eroded after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it,” she said in the speech, according to video posted online. “CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
CAIR was founded in 1994, according to its website, but its membership skyrocketed after the attacks.
___
How Trump reacted
The president on Friday retweeted a video that pulled “some people did something” from Omar’s speech and included news footage of the hijacked planes hitting the Twin Towers. Trump also tweeted, “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!“
The president elevated criticism largely from Omar’s political opponents and conservatives who say Omar’s phrasing offered a flippant description of the assailants and the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Neither Trump’s tweet nor the video included Omar’s full quote or the context of her comments.
In Minnesota, Trump kept his remarks at a trucking company in Burnsville mostly focused on the 2017 GOP-passed tax cut.

Trump supporters gather outside the Nuss Truck and Equipment in Burnsville, Minnesota where US President Donald Trump spoke on April 15, 2019. (AFP)


___
Who echoed Trump
Other prominent GOP voices joined Trump in criticizing Omar.
“First Member of Congress to ever describe terrorists who killed thousands of Americans on 9/11 as ‘some people who did something,’” tweeted Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas. The retired Navy SEAL lost his right eye in 2012 in an explosion in Afghanistan.
“Here’s your something,” the New York Post blared on a cover beneath a photograph of the flaming towers.
Fox News Channel host Brian Kilmeade said on a “Fox & Friends” segment on Omar, “You have to wonder if she’s an American first.”
___
Life and death...
Omar has been the target of threats in the past. She tweeted back at Kilmeade and Crenshaw: “This is dangerous incitement, given the death threats I face.”
“My love and commitment to our country and that of my colleagues should never be in question. We are ALL Americans!“
An upstate New York man was charged recently with making death threats against her.
___
Safety
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said in a conference call Monday they are concerned for Omar’s safety, especially as Trump campaigned in Minnesota. Chairwoman Karen Bass said whipping up “outrage” over Omar “further puts her life in danger.”
Added House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson: “Members of Congress should be free to give their opinions on subjects without fear of threat of bodily harm.”
“I’m concerned about it and the notion that, if your thinking is different from the president’s, you become a target.”
___
Associated Press Errin Haines Whack contributed to this report.


Forget ‘manmade’: Berkeley bans gender-specific words

Updated 3 min 3 sec ago
0

Forget ‘manmade’: Berkeley bans gender-specific words

  • Nothing will be manmade in the liberal city but ‘human-made’
  • Berkeley’s effort to be more inclusive is drawing both praise and scorn

BERKELEY, California: There will be no manholes in Berkeley, California. City workers will drop into “maintenance holes” instead.
Nothing will be manmade in the liberal city but “human-made.” And students at the University of California, Berkeley, will join “collegiate Greek system residences” rather than fraternities and sororities.
Berkeley leaders voted unanimously this week to replace about 40 gender-specific words in the city code with gender-neutral terms — an effort to be more inclusive that’s drawing both praise and scorn.
That means “manpower” will become “human effort” or “workforce,” while masculine and feminine pronouns like “she,” “her,” “he” and “him” will be replaced by “they” and “them,” according to the measure approved Tuesday by the City Council.
The San Francisco Bay Area city is known for its long history of progressive politics and “first of” ordinances. Berkeley was among the first cities to adopt curbside recycling in the 1970s and more recently, became the first in the US to tax sugary drinks and ban natural gas in new homes.
Berkeley also was the birthplace of the nation’s free-speech movement in the 1960s and where protests from both left- and right-wing extremist groups devolved into violence during a flashpoint in the country’s political divisions soon after President Donald Trump’s election.
Rigel Robinson, who graduated from UC Berkeley last year and at 23 is the youngest member of the City Council, said it was time to change a municipal code that makes it sound like “men are the only ones that exist in entire industries or that men are the only ones on city government.”
“As society and our cultures become more aware about issues of gender identity and gender expression, it’s important that our laws reflect that,” said Robinson, who co-authored the measure. “Women and non-binary people are just as deserving of accurate representation.”
When the changes take effect in the fall, all city forms will be updated and lists with the old words and their replacements will be posted at public libraries and the council chambers. The changes will cost taxpayers $600, Robinson said.
Removing gendered terms has been slowly happening for decades in the United States as colleges, companies and organizations implement gender-neutral alternatives.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, changed a Sacramento political tradition by adopting the unofficial title “first partner” instead of “first lady,” saying it’s more inclusive. The change reflected Siebel Newsom’s experience as an actress and filmmaker focused on gender politics and inequality.
But formalizing the shift in the sweeping way that Berkeley is doing is “remarkable and sends a message,” Rutgers University linguistics professor Kristen Syrett said.
“Anytime you’re talking about something where gender is not the issue but you use a gendered term, that immediately sends a message of exclusion, even if it’s a dialogue that has nothing to do with gender,” said Syrett, who recently spearheaded an update to the guidelines on inclusive language for the Linguistic Society of America.
For Hel Baker, a Berkeley home caregiver, the shift is a small step in the right direction.
“Anything that dismantles inherent bias is a good thing, socially, in the grand scheme of things,” the 27-year-old said.
“I don’t, by any means, think this is the great championing for gender equality, but you gotta start somewhere,” Hel added.
Lauren Singh, 18, who grew up in Berkeley, approved of the move, saying, “Everyone deserves to be represented and feel included in the community.”
Not everyone agreed with the new ordinance. Laramie Crocker, a Berkeley carpenter, said the changes just made him laugh.
“If you try to change the laws every time someone has a new opinion about something, it doesn’t make sense. It’s just a bad habit to get into,” Crocker said.
Crocker, 54, said he would like city officials to focus on more pressing issues, like homelessness.
“Let’s keep it simple, get back to work,” he said. “Let’s figure out how to get homeless people housed and fed. He, she, they, it — they’re wasting my time.”