[Donald] Trump is a dangerous clown, and we must continue to strongly oppose him and his hateful crowds. But it is important to understand that his idea of "banning all Muslims", scandalous as it is (intentionally scandalous, because he is of course doing it for media attention), is far less scandalous than the American disregard for non-American Muslim lives over the past dozen years. And that wasn't Trump.
Trump didn't murder thousands of innocent people with drones in Pakistan and Yemen. Trump didn't kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people with bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump didn't torture people at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, or the numerous black sites across the planet. Trump's weapons aren't incinerating Yemen now, and didn't blow up Gaza last year.
No American president in the past 14 years has openly championed Islamophobia, but none has refrained from doing to Muslims overseas what would be unthinkable to do here to Americans of any religion. This deadly speech we are hearing towards the Muslim members of our family is nothing new: it is a continuation in words of what has been real on the ground for a long time.
Our legitimate dismay at Islamophobic statements must be situated inside this recent history, a history in which a far wider swathe of the country than Trump's base is implicated.
(This post first appeared on Teju Cole's Facebook page.)