What’s interesting about the whole ordeal at the US-Mexico border is not only how it came to be, but the messaging that got us to this point. If it wasn’t so terrifying, I’d be impressed. Most people polled in the country are opposed to the way these Central Americans are being treated at our border, but 55% of Republicans support the policy of family separation, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.
This is the result of months – rather, years – of divisive rhetoric. We all know that our president often says unsavory things about individuals and groups of people. We all know that he often makes up discriminatory details about them, and that he fans flames of paranoia and fear around situations where he should not. Most of us, but unfortunately, not all of us, know that his words are garbage.
Now, in light of the border crisis, the White House is calling for civility, which is baffling.
I remember speaking to a Trump-voting friend of mine about a year ago. He had his reasons for voting for Trump, but I brought up some of the things Trump had said as a presidential candidate about women, Mexicans, Muslims, homosexuals, the mentally challenged, etc., etc., etc. He brushed them off as inconsequential, calling him “insane” and asserting that insane people say insane things. I guess his point was that we couldn’t take anything Trump said seriously.
I remember thinking,
This is just the beginning, though…
Because words matter. Omg. WORDS. MATTER.
Words stem from sentiment. Words are the literal tools people use to express how they feel. Words have consequences, and people should be held accountable for their words.
When you have an administration that regularly argues semantics around words like, “wall” and “cage,” how much progress can we actually expect? It’s like when a guy cheats on his girlfriend, only to argue, “Eh…I didn’t technically sleep with her, so it doesn’t count.” It’s like when a word like “midget” is no longer politically correct, but “little person” is, even though they mean the exact same thing, given the context. It’s like when Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen says, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period,” even though that’s exactly what’s happening, whether there’s a technical policy in place or not.
Call it what you will – the effect is the same. The hurt is the same. The damage is the same.
For example, many Americans who support the separation of families and the criminalization of those seeking refuge regularly cite the fact that we don’t know who these people are. They could be rapists, drug dealers, and criminals. They could be members of the cartel trying to sneak into our country. They could be people who aren’t in immediate danger, but just don’t want to follow the rules and wait their turn to come here because they’re lazy, impatient, and/or uneducated.
All of these things are ideas the president and the administration have perpetuated with little to no evidence that any of this is actually happening. They’re hypotheticals. Someone could get killed or robbed by an illegal immigrant as easily as they could be killed or robbed by a third-generation American citizen.
Still, these refugees have already been dehumanized. There are too many of them to possibly have compassion for, especially when they’ve been called “animals” by Trump. Following that comment, Trump later stated that he was referring to the gang, MS-13, even though the context of his statement did not support that. Even then, that was an interesting way of spinning things. He almost made it seem as if we were the crazy ones for defending peoples’ rights to be treated as people, not as animals, because if we didn’t agree with him, somehow we were defending and supporting MS-13.
MS-13 is a problem, but it is not the biggest threat to this country, not by a long shot.
Either way, this type of speech sits with people. It either upsets them because they can see how dangerous it is and can be, or it festers within them, fueling xenophobic tendencies that may have already been there, but had been laying more or less dormant.
When the right can’t understand why the left gets so up in arms when the President of the United States refers to people and nations as animals, criminals, rapists, and sh*tholes…this is why. Comments like that stem from deep-seated and often irrational fears and beliefs, and they never lead anywhere good.
Another interesting point? Trump repeatedly blamed the Democrats for this ordeal, saying they needed to change “their law,” even though there is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican law, especially when the Republicans currently control all three branches of government.
When asked about the border situation, he said, “I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law.” He also said, “We have the worst immigration laws in the entire world. Nobody has such sad, such bad and actually, in many cases, such horrible and tough – you see about child separation, you see what’s going on there.” That’s not even a complete sentence, but…Trump.
He and his administration threw their arms up saying there was nothing they could do about the border situation since the law is the law, and we all know none of them ever break the law.
Furthermore, they were the ones who chose to implement this law to the extent it’s been implemented.
Many proponents of the practice argue that Obama and previous presidents did it, too, but never systematically and never so inhumanely. Also, the “zero-tolerance” policy came straight from the Trump administration, as Jeff Sessions announced it earlier this year.
What’s happening currently is not the Democrats’ or Obama’s fault.
But for fun, let’s say those two points were actually true. What does it change? If Obama had done it, would it have made it OK? No. If the Dems did write the law, would that make it OK that this is the one thing from the Obama era that Trump supported and kept?
No, no, no.
Anyway, within the same week that Trump said there was nothing he could do about the policy, he did something about the policy. He signed an executive order ending family separations.
Fast forward just a few days. The first lady, Melania Trump, wore a jacket saying, “I don’t really care. Do you?” to visit the child internment camps at the border. Her spokesperson said it was just a jacket and that she hoped the American people and media wouldn’t focus on her wardrobe.
But of course they did, because WORDS MATTER. The tone-deafness was astonishing. The lack of accountability was terrifying. The obvious and strategic attempt to distract the American public and media was shameless.
Then, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was denied service at a Virginia restaurant. She was embarrassed and she tweeted about it. In the middle of everything else that’s happening, she’s mad that someone doesn’t like her and was mean to her. (Btw, Sarah will now be receiving Secret Service protection…)
And we’re all supposed to care.
THEN, Senator Maxine Waters said that people should be demonstrating against lawmakers in public. Speaker of the House and Backstreet Boy Paul Ryan, who can’t seem to retire fast enough, came out condemning Waters’ statements because her comments were “dangerous,” even though he has yet to seriously condemn Trump for his dangerous comments against practically every minority group in this country or to demand an apology from him.
And we’re all supposed to care.
And then…the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote that Trump’s controversial “Muslim ban” was constitutional.
Oh yeah, and the Mueller probe.
And the sh*t show presses on. I’m exhausted and saddened by it all. I stopped watching the news for a few days – and that’s what I do for fun. I stopped talking to people about it because…why? I got hit on by a MAGA dude and actually didn’t know how to respond to him. When I’m rendered speechless, that’s a problem.
But I’m back. I’m writing. I’m talking. Because that’s what I do. This is my contribution, however big or small.
Because you can’t sit by and let people say whatever they want, unchallenged. You can’t let lies or logical fallacies or attempts to manipulate and deceive go unchecked.
Eminem summed up my point best, I think, in “Sing for the Moment” –
“I guess words are a mother****er. They can be great. Or they can degrade. Or even worse, they can teach hate.”
Thanks, Slim. Nuff said.