Editorial: President Trump does not see Chicago

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Protesters on Jan. 21 marched to Trump International Hotel and Tower, along the Chicago River. | Nader Issa/For the Sun-Times

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Donald Trump does not see Chicago.

He sees only dangerous people shooting up the town. He sees only “a disaster.” He sees “carnage.”

And he let’s the whole world know it.

President Trump is hurting Chicago, sucker-punching a great American city when it is down, doing damage to its reputation around the world. But he is doing nothing to help Chicago come to grips with its very real problem of gun violence.

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We wish Trump would stop talking Chicago down, but he won’t. He lacks the character. We wish he would stop tweeting vague threats to send in federal troops and, instead, offer Chicago resources that might do some good, but we don’t expect he will. He lacks the insight.

Donald Trump does not see Chicago.

He sees only Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s hometown. He sees a city that did not vote for him, and he thinks that was not very nice.

If we know anything about Donald Trump, it is that he looks at everybody and everything through a single lens: What have you done for me or against me? He personalizes everything in the way of a child.

Chicago was not for him, so he will not be for Chicago.

Trump made it clear in his inaugural speech that his primary allegiance will be to those who voted for him. He said it again, even more clearly, when he embarked on a thank-you tour that deliberately bypassed every state that voted for Clinton.

Trump does not see Chicago.

He doesn’t see the working people of every color and religion in every neighborhood. He doesn’t hear the music in the parks or in the rhythms of everyday life. He doesn’t see the old Jewish man from Skokie sitting on the Red Line next to the young woman from Iran who is wearing a hijab. He doesn’t hear the crazy mix of accents and languages in Millennium Park on a Sunday afternoon when the weather is warm.

Trump, who clings to a grudge like money, sees only a Chicago that has done him wrong. Our mayor worked for Obama and the Clintons. A local architecture critic mocked his insistence on putting his name on a building in 20-foot letters. Our young people forced him to cancel a rally by coming out in droves to protest. Our City Council pulled down his precious “Trump Plaza” street sign.

The minute Trump was elected president, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had the audacity to hand him a letter asking that he spare from deportation undocumented immigrants who came here as children. How rude of the mayor! And we have no doubt Trump has heard the latest news — he does keep up that way — that another prominent Chicagoan, Cubs President Theo Epstein, has accused him of “grandstanding.”

Beyond the perceived personal slights, Trump looks at Chicago and sees the grim view of humanity fed to him by his closest adviser, Steve Bannon. Our new president has been schooled to see Chicago as a microcosm of a country falling apart. Not native-born enough. Not Christian enough. Not white enough.

To those with a darkly nationalistic mind-set, Chicago is a social experiment gone bad. While Obama believed our nation’s strength is in its diversity, Bannon and his star student are convinced our nation’s weakness is in its diversity. And to that fearful formulation, they attach every prejudice.

Two weeks ago, when Rep. John Lewis of Georgia questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency — a comment we thought ill-advised — Trump shot back with a tweet soaked in racial stereotypes. “John Lewis,” he snipped, “should spend more time on fixing his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested).”

But this was not true. Lewis represents a district that has its share of crime and poverty, to be sure, but which also includes some of the wealthiest and most desirable communities in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

How did Trump get that so wrong? We can’t say for sure, but the relevant stereotype goes like this: Lewis is black, so his district must be black. And if his district is black, it must be horribly poor and full of crime.

Trump is an authoritarian who indulges in dehumanizing stereotypes, a bad combination. About refugees from Yemen. About immigrants from Mexico. And, most certainly, about Chicago.

Hearing about Chicago’s gun violence while watching Fox News, the president’s gut response was to tweet “send in the feds.” To his thinking, this was nothing more than a policing problem. Bad people — “bad hombres” —on the city’s south and west sides needed a good smack-down.

Trump does not see Chicago.

He does not see a city whose problems, like those in every big city, go beyond the need for more cops and prosecutors, though we’ll take both. Chicago would welcome a more aggressive effort by the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. attorney’s office.

But where is the federal commitment to after-school and summer programs for kids to give them hope and purpose? Where is the inner-city jobs program? Where is the help to get drug addicts straight?

Above all, where is the will in the White House and on Capitol Hill to pass legislation that would slow the flow of illegal guns that is killing our children?

Trump is blind to Chicago. If only he could see.

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