Frederick Hall: Eerily unAmerican
It’s spectacular … spectacular how un-American Trump’s values are. His bizarre obsession with a border wall shows how skewed his judgment is.
Let’s begin with his claim that immigrants — even those who enter legally — bring a wholesale culture of crime into our law-abiding nation. Studies by the National Academy of Sciences, PolitiFact, Public Policy Institute, American Immigration Council and others contradict his bigotry. PolitiFact, for example, cites FBI data comparing 2013 with 1990. Violent crime decreased 48 percent and property crime 41 percent while the number of immigrants swelled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.
Prof. Bianca Bersani, director of the University of Massachusetts’ Criminology and Criminal Justice Program says this: “The rhetoric of the ‘criminal immigrant’ does not align with the bulk of empirical research.”
In short: Trump lies. Blatantly. Doing so, he compounds the felony by whipping up fear of people who are — by the factual data — less deserving of fear than our natural-born neighbors. What an injustice that is!
It’s a happy accident that I used that language because it reminded me of a powerful experience. I sat through one of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s hearings in Boston. A giant map of the U.S. spread across one entire courtroom wall with the inscription “Justice is the guarantee of liberty.” Seated beneath that inspiring phrase, McCarthy’s inquisition team inflicted injustice after injustice on witnesses.
Armed with the zeal of one utterly believing his personal view of reality, McCarthy saw high crime everywhere. By stoking up enough public fear of those alleged crimes, he persuaded people to abandon shared American values and to give up our treasured freedoms so he could continue. That happened many years ago yet is eerily relevant today.
Even a small step back from today’s tumult gives enough perspective to recognize the same pattern in Trump’s actions. Indeed, it’s a time-honored practice. Would-be dictators focus fear on some group so the population will feel the need for protection … even at the expense of diminished freedom. The technique is irresistible to a tyrant. If successful, it’s a win-win placing him above the law while eliminating troublesome opposition.
Trump seeks to nullify opposition, among other ways, by painting them as against national security. Now he threatens to declare a national emergency letting him set aside legal process. Knowing that the national threat he trumpets is a Big Lie, we would do well to ask what he is really doing. The interpretation with the most dangerous implications on our future — therefore most important to thwart — is seeing the wall as a bullfighter’s cape for Trump. “Look, look! The southern border threatens our security.”
If we take the bait, what do we not look at? We ignore his pattern of actions weakening our capacity to resist threats from abroad. He:
Told NATO nations we might not come to their defense.
Similarly distanced us from SEATO.
Ridiculed the European Union.
Praised Putin, Erdogan and Kim Jong Un for their strong leadership.
Dismissed massive evidence that Russia meddled in his election.
Shielded Putin in Helsinki although Putin acknowledged ordering that interference.
Each step eroded our power to resist foreign aggression and made support from formerly staunch allies less certain. But don’t overlook the more insidious internal threat. Within our living memory, more people lost their freedoms and lives to countrymen than to invaders. Stalin starved millions to death. Hitler ordered “extermination” of the Jews. Pol Pot’s “killing fields” massacred roughly 25 percent of Cambodia’s population. And so on.
These things happen when someone has absolute power. Kim inherited his, but Hitler’s example is the relevant one. He got power first by winning an election. Then Hitler’s Big Lie saddled the Jews with the blame for devastating Germany’s economy, but penalties exacted by the Versailles Treaty did it. That win-win put him firmly on the tyrant’s well-worn path to eliminating all opposition.
Remember that as you read this litany. Trump:
Installed family members in key government positions.
Called the independent press “enemies of the people.”
Said that negative press should be a crime.
Had budget proposal defunding public broadcasting.
Incites crowds to chant, “Lock (opponent) up!”
Said the Attorney General’s job is to protect him.
Gave EPA control to a lawyer who made suing it his career.
Named an outspoken critic of public schools to head Education.
Withholds tax returns he promised to disclose “after the election.”
Trump’s contempt for the institutions protecting our freedom and for voices disagreeing with him is clear. Shine a bright light down the road he wants to take us; you won’t like the scenery.
Frederick Hall lives in Grass Valley.
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