September 22, 2019
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Holy Toledo, Americans have officially lost our collective minds

Evan Vucci | AP
Evan Vucci | AP

We’ve lost our minds when we continue to allow the same arguments from the gun lobby to paralyze any semblance of meaningful action on this country’s unique and persistent experience with mass shootings. We’ve lost our minds when we increasingly turn back the clock to excuse and normalize white supremacy.

And we’ve lost our minds when, less than 48 hours after two horrifying acts of hatred claimed at least 31 lives, we get distracted by a verbal slip-up.

In his Monday remarks about this weekend’s shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Donald Trump made a mistake. Toward the end of his remarks, he wished heavenly blessings for “the memory of those who perished in Toledo.”

The city of Toledo, as a chorus of media outlets, politicians and social media users were quick to point out — in some cases, almost gleefully — is neither El Paso nor Dayton. It’s unclear why the president said Toledo instead of the two actual communities that suffered agonizing tragedy, especially when he correctly identified the cities earlier in the speech. But in comparison to the enormity of other current events and issues requiring our collective attention and brainpower, does the mistake really even matter?

People sometimes say the wrong thing — prominent politicians, of course, included. Just a day earlier, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden initially and incorrectly referenced the two shootings as taking place in Michigan and Houston before correcting himself.

And let’s be honest, in comparison to the many objectionable things of substance that Trump has said about immigrants, his political opponents and many others, this geographic mixup shouldn’t even be a blip on the radar.

While some observers were needlessly wondering about possible reasons for the president saying “Toledo,” the real importance of his remarks were diminished by the type of mistake that most people make daily.

The real focus of the president’s remarks Monday, rather than his Toledo slip of the tongue, should have been an evaluation of the measures he’s proposing to address mass gun violence in America — along with assessment of how his condemnation of the events after the fact squares with his often inflammatory rhetoric.

It’s likewise important to consider what he didn’t discuss. Despite tweeting about gun background checks over the weekend, Trump made no mention of strengthening or expanding our existing background checks system in his list of needed actions following these two most recent shootings.

It’s also remarkable — though it shouldn’t be — that this president explicitly condemned “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” in this moment. We’re choosing, for now, to see this as a potentially hopeful sign from a leader who has done more to fan the growing flames of hate in this country than extinguish them.

Trump’s Toledo mistake was hardly scandalous, and outside the cities of Dayton and El Paso, doesn’t warrant a moment of outrage. He said plenty of things of substance in his speech — and avoided talking about others — that deserve much more of our attention.

 



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