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STEINBERG: Trump mocks the pain of Chicago families

President Donald Trump retweeted an alt-right post about Chicago crime. | AP Photo

“Meanwhile,” Trump enthusiast Jack Posobiec tweeted and the president retweeted, “39 shootings in Chicago this weekend, 9 deaths. No national media outrage. Why is that?”

Ooo, ooo, me me! I’ll take that one.

But first, let’s put the question into context. It isn’t just any question asked at any time. But this question, asked as our nation is spattered by a sudden geyser of racial hate — or, rather, being reminded of the hate always seething just under the surface. A tiki-torch-bearing mudflow of Nazis and Klansmen and other assorted mutants in Charlottesville, Virginia, vomited out of the earth and into our faces Friday night. On Saturday, they were met by counter-protesters, patriots and regular citizens who reject the never-true vision of America as a white, Protestant enclave.

One of those haters, allegedly, drove his car into the peaceful counter-protest, killing a woman. And our president, who will leap onto Twitter to denounce a teenager who asks a pointed question, blamed “many sides” then mumbled vaguely for days about the source of this attack on our values, perhaps because he knows how popular he is among haters, perhaps because several of his closest advisers seeped out of the same subterranean cesspool.

Trump’s failure outraged the country. Because we are not used to such bald cowardice, such indulgence of the fetid undercurrent of American life. Not from the president. It’s news.

OPINION

Chicago, on the other hand, is a big city where shootings happen every day. We are not the most dangerous city in America. We are not the homicide capital. Chicago has a pervasive gang problem and its murder rate is five times that of New York City’s. So it struggles with violence, but those problems, while news, do not have the fresh horror of a president winking at Nazis.

Does that answer your question? Or would you also like to know why Chicago dances upon Trump’s lips and fingers so frequently? I can field that one, too.

The Trumps of the world try to shrug off their own lapses by pointing with a cry of “But Timmy did it!” at others they perceive as worse. Say something outrageous about women? Look at the Saudis! They don’t even let women drive. A peaceful protester killed in a car attack like the terror attacks in France? What about all those deaths in Chicago!

It’s a self-serving distraction.

Chicago has become a code word — the C-word — that Trump and his ilk invoke when they want to try to duck consequences. Even his most fervent supporters, ready to accept any fantasy, would have trouble saying with a straight face, “Donald Trump cares about crime in Chicago. He grieves over the loss of these black and brown lives.”

His cynical use of Chicago, his invocation of the real deaths of mostly young people, mostly African-Americans and Hispanics, his smug manipulation of our crime problem to his own momentary convenience, is frankly disgusting.

Trump claims he’ll “send in the Feds” then dispatches a few federal agents who do little. He imagines a mythical police officer offering to solve the problem in a few days if given a free hand. The focus was on whether such an officer exists, when amazement should have been over this: even were he real, even if he said it, how could anyone be naive enough to believe him?

I’ll answer that. Because the notion that pervasive problems are easily solved is the key to Trump’s appeal, the drug these people are all high on. Elect this fraud and the coal industry will return. Get rid of these foreigners, these minorities, and we’ll reclaim our Eden.

The solution to Chicago’s violence is clear but not easy: it involves jobs and schools and families and repairing a broken system that fails residents at every turn starting before birth. For the president of the United States to pretend otherwise, for him to draw attention to Chicago’s violence in the insincere, fleeting way he does is a cruel mockery of real pain. Then again, cruel mockery is suddenly back in fashion and at the highest levels.