A woman bows her head at a vigil for victims of the El Paso shooting.
A woman bows her head at a vigil for victims of the El Paso shooting. MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES

The reason why it's so difficult for the mainstream media to identify and address violent white supremacists as terrorists is because they are, at bottom, patriotic. If there is a motive for the mass shooting that left 20 people dead in El Paso, Texas on August 3, it will have to be patriotism. Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old white man accused of the shooting, loved his country. He even wrote a manifesto. The suspect was not like an Arab terrorist, nor was he like The Squad. The claim that is repeated by many on the right is that these types hate America. They are clearly not patriotic.

And so how do you denounce (with real feeling) a killer who is not associated with The Squad or the dead ISIS boy that the Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher posed with for a selfie ("got him with my hunting knife")? It is understood that the suspect of the El Paso massacre wanted to stop the invasion of brown people, of the others, of those who were born to hate this country. What exactly did he do wrong? This understanding of the situation has even put the FBI in a difficulty.

Washington Post:

Dave Gomez, a former FBI supervisor who oversaw terrorism cases, said he thinks FBI officials are wary of pursuing white nationalists aggressively because of the fierce political debates surrounding the issue.

“I believe Christopher A. Wray is an honorable man, but I think in many ways the FBI is hamstrung in trying to investigate the white supremacist movement like the old FBI would,” Gomez said. “There’s some reluctance among agents to bring forth an investigation that targets what the president perceives as his base. It’s a no-win situation for the FBI agent or supervisor.”

The right, however, does not entirely depend on patriotism to maintain or grow its base. Under George W. Bush, the GOP pushed Ownership Society in the hope that more black Americans and Latinos would be tied to life-lasting mortgages. Bush (who is not a racist, by the way), saw rainbow homeownership as the future of his party. Aging white homeowners would be replaced by new homeowners of color. Property has the power to make anyone of any race more conservative. This was the thinking. And it would have worked, if the Wall Street bankers were not so greedy and transformed the project into a housing bubble that exploded in 2008. With the death of rainbow homeownership, the party reverted to a one-race-based patriotism that has no future and, at present, can only be reheated with greater and greater intensity.

And so, here we are.

The right has no other project or plan to expand its base in a US that's heading to the future that the state of California represents (minority-majority). The GOP is not caught in the self-made trap that makes the substantial denouncement of white male terrorists tantamount to attacking the feeling that barely keeps its present leader in power. And how long can this patriotism last? Unlike Ownership Society, which refers to property (an object, a something, a lawn, a fence, a bird feeder), patriotism refers to nothing in the real world. It is instead what it has always been since it was invented in the 1870s during Britain's involvement in the Russo-Turkish war: The hallucination of a shared identity.

In the world that is, the suspect in fact shared a class identity with many of the victims of the shooting: surviving on wages, underpaid, buying cheap goods on credit, and so on. But he instead identified with someone who owns golf courses, resorts, and hotels around the world. He saw himself as not who he actually is, but as one of his oppressors, who are most likely white and male. This is the potency of patriotism. But the prime danger to this feeling's own existence is its obvious emptiness. The bad news for those who are identified as haters of their country is that this obliteration can only be avoided by intensifying the patriotic feeling.