Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How Not to Treat People

Watching the end of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom while eating breakfast this morning, I found there was a strangely bitter edge to it. Watching all these children being reunited with their parents by this symbol of American heroism rang a little hollow when I knew the news has been filled lately with children at the Texas border being separated from their parents and put in cages. How did we get to this point so far from what is apparently our soul?

I always feel it's important to see the other side of an argument. I consider it a vital point in making any change to a society that does not involve killing people in the opposition. If you're going to live with people, sooner or later you have to negotiate with people who disagree with you, and no-one's going to listen to you if they don't think you understand their point of view. This is an idea that seems to be appreciated less and less in public discourse to our great detriment. So I looked for arguments in support of Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy. It's not easy since Republicans, even the likes of Ted Cruz, are publicly condemning the effects of the policy. Of course, the hypocrisy of Republicans regarding Trump, the distance between what they say about him and what they're actually willing to do about him, has been consistently enormous.

Conservative news and opinion sites are expressing condemnation of the separation of children from parents. At the Spectator, a columnist named Freddy Gray is making the argument that Trump is "vice-signalling", deliberately cashing in on the fatigue that people feel from the constant outrage in media about ultimately trivial things and thinly veiled manipulations of sympathy. I think there's some truth to this and maybe if there hadn't been so much crying wolf lately reaction to this crisis might have been stronger and more appropriate. But that still didn't get me what I was looking for, the articulated justification of this policy.

It was only at Breitbart that I found an article expressing support for the policy. Writer John Nolte spends a of time reiterating a single idea he states clearly enough in one of his bullet points: "Trump Is Only Enforcing the Law." Like when Trump complains about the Justice Department, this guy who'd ran on his strength as a leader and a negotiator bizarrely can only find support in his position under the idea that he's some helpless instrument of the system. In light of the visible horror of this particular issue, "only enforcing the law" sounds a lot like "just following orders."

Nolte implies this is all necessary to catch the drug traffickers and rapists coming over the border but even he doesn't attempt to suggest there are statistics indicating most or even a significant portion of the border crossers have such intent.

Certainly none of the undocumented immigrants I've known fit the picture of criminality Nolte paints. Considering the expense and difficulty involved in entering the country in what Nolte or Trump would consider the proper way, it's only natural that most of the people who cross the border illegally would be simply desperate, not people with real criminal motives.

But this obviously inhumane and cruel policy continues to be implemented without any real justification. If there's a machine to be decried, surely that's it. Because the only reason people seem to be doing it is because they feel they're supposed to. I'd say this kind of mindless devotion to policy could only have horrific consequences except those consequences already seem to be manifested.

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