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Who Is America?

Summary:
One of former President Barack Obama’s verbal tics was to declare that the baser instincts lurking in the darker corners of American life did not represent “who we are.” But four years of Donald Trump's presidency, which is ending with an unprecedented spree of federal executions, suggest that millions of Americans disagree. NEW YORK – Why would a US president in the last weeks of his administration want to start executing federal prisoners at a furious pace, even as he pardons four American mercenaries who murdered 14 Iraqi civilians in cold blood? The federal government has killed ten men already this year – more judicial killings than in all of America’s states combined. Three more executions remain to come before Donald

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One of former President Barack Obama’s verbal tics was to declare that the baser instincts lurking in the darker corners of American life did not represent “who we are.” But four years of Donald Trump's presidency, which is ending with an unprecedented spree of federal executions, suggest that millions of Americans disagree.

NEW YORK – Why would a US president in the last weeks of his administration want to start executing federal prisoners at a furious pace, even as he pardons four American mercenaries who murdered 14 Iraqi civilians in cold blood? The federal government has killed ten men already this year – more judicial killings than in all of America’s states combined. Three more executions remain to come before Donald Trump leaves office next month – one for a murder committed when the condemned man was barely 18 years old, and one the first woman put to death by the federal government in 70 years.

The Trump administration’s killing spree goes against all recent norms and trends, which have reduced executions to almost none. And the frenetic activity on death row is going on even as the lame duck administration is doing very little else, aside from angrily contesting the election results. It is President-elect Joe Biden who is trying to talk sensibly about the COVID-19 crisis in America, not Donald Trump.

Ian Buruma
Editor of The New York Review of Books, author of Theater of Cruelty, Year Zero: A History of 1945, and Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War

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