It’s not just that Trump is a nasty piece of work. It’s that he is outrageous in so many different ways. This latest move, trying to keep out people who have any connection with Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria is a race between stupidity and cruelty. The worst kind of uninformed profiling. Bad on so many levels.
Remember that line from Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”? That’s what you get when you elect as president somebody who doesn’t even read, much less learn from history. If he did, he’d also remember Manzanar and all the other camps we put Japanese-Americans in. Profiling and lumping innocents with bad guys on the basis of accidental similarities beyond their control. This is where viewing the world in black and white goes from a simple cognitive error to a dangerous and counterproductive one. As Michael Gerson wrote in The Washington Post yesterday, it's "the half-baked work of amateurs who know little about security, little about immigration law and nothing about compassion." Does anybody doubt that ISIS is cheering this move?
One should also remember that when we stopped pushing Jews running from Hitler back out to sea and started letting them in we began to get Nobel Prize winners, artists, and scientists of all kinds, including Albert Einstein. A new study out from Stanford shows there was a 31% increase in U.S. patents between 1920 and 1970 in fields where Jewish refugees excelled.
Hitler was making Germany great again. Building the autobahn, putting people back to work. Again, great stuff, on the surface. Until you come to see the method and the cost. Generating scapegoats lines up angry followers. Generating weapons puts people back to work. But then what do you do with the weapons once you’ve got them? (I'm not comparing turning your back on refugees to war-mongering; I'm drawing a parallel to policy that backfires.) In Trump’s case, his promise is to rebuild the infrastructure. But he’s got no way to pay for it if he simultaneously intends to keep kicking the wealth upwards and making the people at the bottom pay for it. They don’t see that coming, the people at the bottom. But just you wait.
And while we focus on the Holocaust when we think of Hitler – the evil he brought into the world – it's easy to overlook the folly of kicking so many German thinkers out of the country who then went to work for other countries. Stupid. Self-destructive. I’m sorry if this sounds like trivializing the horror of the concentration camps, but this part of the story, the loss, on the practical level of talent and wealth generation is not insignificant. It illustrates how giant egos who work in isolation, convinced “Only I can fix it!” can put some seriously stupid policy in place.
I remember conversations with grad students at Stanford who were grateful for all the foreign students in math and engineering, because they created a demand for classes that would not have been taught otherwise. You don’t have to justify taking in refugees running for their lives entirely out of the kindness of your heart. You can justify taking them in because they enrich your life. Apparently a piss ant like Donald Trump has trouble getting his mind around such a thought.
And don’t tell me that it was only because the Jewish refugees came from a highly educated German population that so much brain power was added to American life. All you have to do is look at the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” from all over the world who have made good in America over the years who would not have had a chance to show their stuff if they had spent their years in refugee camps instead. Or if they died before they could even get that far.
No Syrian has ever been charged with aiding terrorism. There have been terrorists among the 7.5 million refugees, yes. Two. And they both came as kids and grew up here. Would we seriously argue somebody else should be made responsible for those 7.5 million men, women and children? Or that they should stay in war zones and risk God knows what? American killed more people in six hours on any given day last year than refugees have killed ever. Ever!
Does he have enough rope yet to hang himself with? Or do we keep having to wait and hope the next outrage does it? Or will the next outrage only further condition us to think all this is normal?
The assistant attorney general refused to carry out his xenophobic order, calling it unconstitutional. So he fired her. And now we move on to confirming Sessions.
There isn't enough opposition to the man to take him down. People think he's nothing more than a blood blister and everything will get better all by itself in time.
While we wait and wonder, he dismantles safety regulations, denies climate change, takes more from the poor and gives it to the rich, tramples on human rights and rallies anti-Semites and homophobes and white supremacists behind him. He touts his business acumen, but even I know that a good business deal is one in which both participants benefit. His "America First" plan is an "I Win, You Lose" plan. The world should not want to spit when they say the words "United States of America."
I'm thinking positive. I think the resistance is building.
In the meantime, eat well. Sleep well. Stay warm.
Mozart will help.