Opinion: Accused Mail Bomb Suspect Arrested — Radicalized by Trump

Photo: Imon Karim/USA TODAY Network

Photo: Imon Karim/USA TODAY Network

Haley Hartner, News Editor

Cesar Sayoc, the man accused of sending pipe bombs to multiple major Democratic supporters and known opponents of Donald Trump, was arrested in South Florida last Friday.

Sayoc is accused of mailing at least 14 explosive devices to different Democratic leaders across the United States. The recipients of these devices include the Obamas, the Clintons, the CNN center in New York, Joe Biden, Maxine Waters, George Soros, Robert DeNiro and more. The FBI is still looking for any remaining devices, though it is known that his intended hit list has over a hundred more names.

None of these devices exploded, though the FBI says they were intended to.

These IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices, consisted of six inches of PVC pipe, a clock, a battery, and internal wiring. They were packaged in manilla folders, encased in a bubble wrap interior, and had computer-printed address labels with 6 Forever stamps on the front. All of the packages had a return address of “Debbie Wasserman Shultz,” referring to Florida’s US Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as her last name was misspelled on the packages.

Investigators were able to identify the sender as Sayoc after discovering his fingerprints on two of the manilla envelopes. He is facing up to 56 years in prison for the sending of these bombs and for threatening former presidents.

Though the recipients of these packages is telling enough about the perpetrators political views, the most shocking part of the discovery of his identity was how openly he expressed his extremist views and who he idolized before executing his plan.

With the arrest of Sayoc, the FBI also confiscated his white van which he is believed to have been living in. The windows of his van are decorated in pro-Trump propaganda, with stickers that have red “X’s” over major Democratic leaders and some that demonize mainstream media sources like CNN. The sides of the van also list some of the achievements President Trump has made since taking in office, in regards to economics and the creation of jobs, and ultimately suggests the use of violence against Trump’s opponents and terror groups such as ISIS–putting Democrats and terrorists into the same category.

Sayoc’s vehicle, alone, displays enough right wing extremism to silence a Trump rally.

His actions clearly reflect the incorporation of violence into politics, which has been publicly promoted by President Trump multiple times- for example when he praised a Montana congressman for assaulting a reporter, calling him “my guy.” This accepted use of violence as a means of promoting a political standpoint is nothing short of domestic terrorism, though Sayoc is not being tried on any counts of this.

The issue lies in the fact that this individual was radicalized, not by ISIS or any foreign group, but by our own president. This is inevitable due to hatred and violence being so heavily ingrained in Trump’s rhetoric that, though Trump was not directly involved in this crime, he is responsible for encouraging his followers to resort to these extreme measures. His preachings throughout his campaign and presidency makes his condolences and condemnation of Sayoc’s behavior a complete act of hypocrisy.

It is one thing to publicly challenge an opposing party’s ideals or actions, however it is another to portray the opposition as the “antagonist” of the American people.

While communities usually counter acts of violence or hatred with opportunities to bring citizens together, this event has done nothing but further the divide between the Left and Right. President Trump exploited Sayoc’s actions to shift the blame that lies on him onto the media, stating that mainstream media is a “very big part of the anger” in our political climate.

Soon after the CNN center in New York was evacuated after the discovery of one of Sayoc’s packages on the property, Trump released a statement saying “The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories. Have to do it. They’ve got to stop”- ultimately saying that the attack should initiate some self- reflection within the industry.

So, even while condemning the acts against these major Democratic leaders and saying that “no nation can succeed that tolerates violence,” Trump’s disapproval for violent behavior seems to be absent in conversations that hold the media as the victim.

The President’s followers will scapegoat whoever he deems as “the enemy of the people” for that time. With many right- wing Americans, such as Cesar Sayoc, working to preserve their conservative ideals as the next generation of voters appear more liberal, violence and other extreme acts such as the one that unfolded this week will become common in politics, especially when the President’s preachings coincide with these methods.