“Someone else’s babies”
Here’s what the crisis at the Mexican border where wailing children have been ripped from their parents’ arms and caged indefinitely was not about — and what it really is about.
The crisis, even after President Trump relented somewhat on his “zero tolerance” policy under pressure from every decent person, was never about the lying mainstream media … the liberal left … Bill Clinton or Barack Obama’s policies … the Flores consent decree … Nancy Pelosi … Chuck Schumer … Bill Maher … Rachel Maddow … Hollywood phonies … or the other diversions and tu quoque whataboutery Trump’s defenders desperately trotted out until he caved on them.
It was never about the Democrats “who don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!” as President Trump tweeted.
It was never about Mexicans … criminals and rapists pouring over the border … taking our jobs, living for free and taking siestas under sombreros on the welfare dole paid for with our hard-earned taxpayer dollars … flooding our free education system and boosting costs for ESOL classes and culturally sensitive school lunches featuring frijoles with carne asada … while they refuse to assimilate and speak English, making us strangers in our own land. Nor was it ever about immigrants from other regions replacing Sam & Ella’s diner and Exxon station (slogan: “Eat here, get gas!”) with a foreign Laotian Hmong eatery named Lo Yymhmie Foods (a real place in Sheboygan, Wisconsin).
It was never about “saving Western civilization” as the hardliners say … like, “If America changes to the point that it is no longer a Christian nation and no longer protects itself from aliens who come and go, then it won’t be America anymore” … or “culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” These are real quotes.
It’s not about “the law’s the law” … like “they need to go back and get in line and do it right” … “if they don’t want their kids taken away, then don’t come here illegally.” Also real quotes. Even though crossing the border without the right papers is potentially just a misdemeanor like public intoxication or reckless driving. Stuff we’ve all done, never got caught, and tend to let slide.
Like when Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, a fervent Trump supporter who opposes sanctuary cities and once declared that illegal immigrants are “sucking us dry,” was arrested and charged for DUI and received 16 speeding tickets between 1999 and 2014.
In a heavily GOP/Trump district, ranked by the Cook voting index as the most Republican district in Florida and the 15th most in country, Gaetz handily won reelection in 2016 and is like to win again this year. Even after — or maybe because — Gaetz invited “an alt-right troll who’s been banned from Twitter and accused of Holocaust denying and white nationalism,” as Politico reported, as his guest for the first Trump State of the Union Address.
Apparently “the law’s the law” is more forgiving when it involves a white Republican congressman in a 76% white Republican district, with just 6.3% Hispanic population.
Seeking asylum, by the way, is perfectly legal.
But it’s not about the Republican party, which even longstanding Republicans believe has completely lost its moral bearings, standing and any shred of right to preach about values — family, cultural, Christian or American — because it’s too cowed and cowardly to stand up to Trump’s almost daily assaults on decency, the kind our parents’ GOP represented and blamed “the liberals” for undermining.
It’s not even about Trump.
No, it’s about something bigger and more troubling than the president’s cruel, despicable political ploy to use wailing babies as pawns to build a ridiculous wall.
(Wailing baby pawns, I assume, are not in “The Art of the Deal”.)
This is really about an ornery, mean-spirited, defiant, resentful, stubborn strain running through our country and culture that found its voice and power in Trump.
Distressed that Trump is abusing children? Look to the base.
Everything Trump does is for his base, however base their demands. “Promises made, promises kept” his rally banners declare. No matter how wrong, shocking, heinous or damaging to the country and the presidency.
They call themselves patriots … real Americans … and God-fearing Christians who love Jesus, family, community, the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance and the Constitution. And then declare that fellow Americans who carry out their Constitutional right to challenge all of that and hold the president’s proverbial feet to the fire are enemies of the state.
They call themselves independent thinkers and sneer at “sheeple” — but swallow every lie and cite every “fact” as gospel that Trump blurts from the seat of his pants and his acolytes echo.
They thrill at the destruction of government with no clue about how our government works, and then when the wreckage hurts them, as it will them first, they’ll wonder what happened and blame the government.
They follow and trust only their own special Trump amen-chorus media because it tells them exactly what they already believe and want to hear. While their media (ok, it’s Fox) makes billions of dollars by confirming bias and fueling anger over hot-button issues like immigration while also attacking competing media that challenges their viewers’ views.
They love the Second Amendment but scoff at the explicit reason the Founders established the First as the first: In a functioning democracy, citizens need to hold official power, starting with the president, accountable, like they did when a Democrat was president and Hillary was almost. And while they despise the mainstream media, they got all the evidence they needed about the horrible hateful Hillary from … that’s right, the mainstream media.
They take advantage of speech freedom to flood the online comments sections with nasty, brutish, bigoted, xenophobic, misogynist and homophobic posts IN ALL CAPS, speaking their minds and standing their ground with the epic courage of anonymity. They ignore basic spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, logic and reason to call “elites” and others who disagree with them stupid.
And — sorry — they seem oddly obsessed about people who are not white.
Take the 6th congressional district of Wisconsin, a region along Lake Michigan north of Milwaukee and south of Green Bay, a Trump stronghold represented by GOP Congressman Glenn Grothman.
Grothman is a notorious hardliner on immigration, representing the strong feelings of his constituents, even though his district is 92 percent white, 98 percent US-born, and has few if any Mexican “illegals” or other immigration-related issues.
What Grothman’s biggest city, Sheboygan, does have is an unusual number of Hmong, Asian people of Laos that the local Lutheran churches and other refugee agencies began settling in Wisconsin in the late 1970s. During the Vietnam War, the Hmong fought alongside U.S. forces in Southeast Asia and were seeking asylum from persecution after the war.
The last U.S. census counted 4,100 Hmong in Sheboygan, about eight percent of the city’s 50,000 people. The original anger and fear that the Hmong were terrible people taking over the community and bringing their foul and un-American ways was exactly what the region’s immigrants from Germany, Poland, Sweden and Italy faced when they flooded the upper Midwest in the early 20th century.
Today the Hmong are as much a part of Sheboygan as any second- or third-generation white European.
Just like my mother, who arrived in Toledo, Ohio, at age 12 from war-torn Europe with her parents and three siblings, sponsored by Catholic Charities.
It couldn’t have been easy for a girl with a German accent and Polish name after Nazi Germany killed so many Americans in the war and “Polack” jokes were fair game. Decades later she’s definitely part of Toledo and America, and was proud to earn her citizenship later in life.
Congressman Grothman’s constituents — most personally unaffected by the Hmong or any immigrants — don’t seem as charitable as the Catholic Church was to my mother’s family. At least not from what he says.
“We’d rather shut down the government rather than go down the path of ruining America,” Grothman declared earlier this year. In a district that went for Trump over Clinton by 17 points, he’s expected to easily win reelection this fall.
So that’s it: Angry people who are afraid of immigrants “ruining America” are letting their beloved president abuse someone else’s babies.
Pastor Gary Schults of the Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Wausaw, Wisconsin, northwest of Grothman’s district, and among the first in the area to sponsor a Hmong refugee family, has a different view of immigrants.
“For us, there’s not a conflict,” he told Atlantic. “But you’re going to have people who, when it’s any kind of race other than their own, are not accepting. They were raised with a set of values that aren’t to me what Christ would have us do, which is: We’re supposed to love everybody.”
I’m not much of a Christian. But I do believe that meanness, however justified, hurts everyone, including the mean.
And yes, thank you, I will reflect on whether I’m being mean to those I think are being mean.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer