The soundtrack to opening night of the Republican National Convention was Queen and cheesy covers of the Turtles and the Rolling Stones, but convention organizers might as well have played a dirge. The program was stacked with three bleak hours of speeches from military members, law-enforcement officers, and elected officials, interlaced with a parade of people whose loved ones had been killed at the hands of undocumented immigrants and Islamic extremists. The clear message was that the safety of Americans (read white people) is directly threatened by the free movement of immigrants (namely Latinos), Muslims, and black people who assert their humanity.
The official theme of the evening was “Make America Safe Again,” but it could just as well have been, “Beware the Brown and Black People in Your Midst, They Are Coming to Kill You, and Don’t Forget, All Lives Matter.”
The RNC offered a peek into a worldview defined by strict, and false, binaries. “Radical Islamic terrorists” versus the selfless, cutthroat American killers who took them on in Benghazi. Mark Geist and John Teigen, members of the Benghazi security team, regaled the arena with a blow-by-blow account of their involvement in defending the embassy in 2012. “We heard State Department Security scream over the radio, ‘If you don’t get here now, we are all going to DIE!’ They were under siege. Stand-down orders be damned. We went,” Teigen said at the start of the lengthy recounting. The delegates in Quicken Loans Arena sat in silent rapture listening to the pair’s account, which stretched over at least 25 minutes. Theirs was only one of three segments of the evening devoted exclusively to Benghazi.
Later, Texas Representative Michael McCaul told the crowd about the looming security threats that now materialize with seeming regularity. “We are in the cross hairs,” he said. “Our own city streets have become the battleground.” McCaul listed cities where killers who were alleged to have connections with Muslim extremist groups had gone on killing rampages: Fort Hood, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, and Orlando.
“Let’s cut through the suffocating political correctness,” McCaul said, “The enemy is radical Islam.” McCaul conveniently left off naming places like Charleston, Newtown, Aurora, and Tucson, where white men perpetrated deadly mass shootings. Such incidents presumably don’t comport with his strict dichotomy.
Jamiel Shaw, Mary Ann Mendoza, and Sabine Durden spoke to the crowd’s deepest fears of undocumented immigrants. The group, billed as “immigration-reform advocates,” walked to the stage together. All three lost their sons in separate incidents that involved undocumented immigrants. Mendoza’s son Brandon Mendoza was killed by a drunk driver in Arizona. German immigrant Durden’s son Dominic Durden was killed by undocumented immigrant driving a pickup truck, “from Guatemala,” she took care to point out. “I call them illegal aliens,” Durden emphasized. Shaw’s son Jamiel Shaw, Jr. was 17 when Pedro Espinoza, then a 19-year-old and a member of the 18th Street Gang, mistook Shaw for a rival gang member and shot him dead. He’s since been sentenced to death for the murder.