Vultures

The fact that the White House has initiated a policy of separating immigrant children from their families does not shock me.  Trump’s personal animus against people of color is not only well documented, but also deep-rooted.  After all, Trump cemented his friendship with Roy Cohn when Cohn defended Donald in a suit alleging that the Trump refused to rent to black tenants.  Trump railed against the Central Park Five—one Latino and four African American kids accused of raping, bludgeoning, and leaving for dead a young woman jogging in the park—and called for their execution in full-page ads in four papers. Even after they were exonerated conclusively of the crime, Trump still insisted that they were guilty.  And who could ever forget Trump’s pronouncement during the announcement of his candidacy that Mexicans coming to America, with very few possible exceptions, were drug lords, criminals, and rapists?  And don’t forget how he felt about all those “shithole countries” in Africa (except for Nambia, of course, whose health system, and, presumably, covfefe fields, are second to none).  No, Donald is a dyed in the wool racist who makes Archie Bunker look like George McGovern.

Naturally, Trump is not the first racist to occupy the White House, nor, sadly, is he likely to be the last.  However, previous presidents (at least those since the 1960’s) had the sense to realize that their racism was an embarrassment and not an asset.  Before Donald slithered onto the stage, openly bigoted politicians and officials generally did not have a long and fruitful public career.  Remember how we rolled on the floor laughing until our ribs hurt when David Duke, former grand poohbah of the KKK, ran for Senate?  And even if the pols were too stupid to hide their racism, they had advisors and handlers who hushed them and explained what they “really meant” to the media.  Not so with The Donald.  Trump famously marches along to the beat of his own whack-a-doodle drummer.  But even if he were amenable to persuasion, who in his coterie of advisors would actually say, “Stop, Donald! Don’t do such a stupid, immoral, and just plain evil thing”?

Certainly not Confederate flag-hugging Attorney General J. Beauregard Sessions.  Nor scion of a liberal Jewish family Stephen Miller, whose penchant for anti-Semitic insults is so bizarre that I wouldn’t blink an eye if I found out that he had started a college group called “Jews for Hitler.”  And certainly not the so-called adult in the room, General John Kelly, who only last month asserted it was not cruel to rip families apart.  I kind of had my hopes on Ivanka stepping forward, but all I’ve heard from her are crickets—presumably she’s too busy baking files into cakes for Jared’s future use, just in case.

So, no, I’m not at all surprised that the Trump regime has engendered and enforced a “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration that depends upon ripping nursing babies out of their mothers’ arms to act as a deterrent.  It is entirely within Trump’s “moral” compass to embrace a policy that is neither legally required nor morally just.  And given his well-documented obstinacy and absolute refusal to apologize for absolutely anything, I bet he’ll just dig his heels in more fiercely in the face of opposition from Congressional Democrats (and a few Republicans), his own wife, Former First Lady Laura Bush, religious leaders, or even, believe it or not, Franklin Graham.

Donald is a lost cause.  He doesn’t have a decent bone in his body.  A snarling, embittered bag of hatred, greed, and hypocrisy, of course he likes the idea of grinding the most vulnerable people into the dust.  How else would this totally inadequate human being feel powerful?

But the people I do wonder about are the ones who enable this policy. The ICE officer who tells a mother that she’s taking her daughter “for a bath” as a ruse to separate them (how’s that for Holocaust imagery?).  The shelter employee who obeys an order not to comfort a screaming toddlerThe contractor who rakes in government money to run these holding pens. The bus driver whose passengers are young, terrified, and on their way to their hell. The company that sells the tents to construct kiddie concentration camps.  The Senate Majority Leader who refuses to hold his party’s leader to account. The DOJ attorney who drafted this policy.  The judges who deny legal representation to an immigrant child.  Any serious Holocaust historian will tell you that complicity in the infrastructure of an atrocity runs deep.  The Facebook reader who passively scrolls past an article about a two-year-old screaming for her mommy. If you participate at any level in this abomination, then you are complicit—no matter how queasy, regretful, or sorry you feel. At the very best, you are no better than Michael Palin’s “good Roman Soldier,” Nisus Wettus, in The Life of Brian—the one who mournfully guides the Romans’ victims to the proper place of execution.  “Crucifixion?  Good. Out the door.  Line on the left.  One cross each.”

I used to teach a poem by Chinua Achebe called “Vultures.”  In this great little poem, Achebe ponders the nature of human evil.  How could the commandant of Belsen concentration camp stop off at a candy store on his way home, “with fumes of/human roast clinging/rebelliously to his hairy/ nostrils,” and buy a chocolate “for his tender offspring”? How can love co-exist in a monster’s heart?  The answer, I think, is that there is no such thing as a monster—that all monstrous people have a spark of love in their core.  But the flip side is also true—that good people have a spark of evil in their core (“in the very germ/of that kindred love is/lodged the perpetuity/ of evil”).  Good people can do evil things as surely as evil people can do good things—and that is what makes evil perpetual.

Look folks, this issue is not about immigration policy. It isn’t even about the wall.  It’s about whether good people will allow an outrage to continue.  Take a stand.  Be counted.  Don’t fall for what-aboutism or apathy. Even if you can’t quit your job at ICE, at least call your representative.  Be a witness for what you see.  Join Sleeping Giants and contact the companies whose goods and services transform Steven Miller’s  anti-immigrant fever dream into a reality.  And for the love of all that is good and worthwhile, never, for even a single instant, think that what is going on is normal, acceptable, or justified.  Act as if your soul depended on it.

©2018 D.R. Miller

 

 

 

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One Response to “Vultures”

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