by Eleanor Jaffe
During the months of preparation for my five-week BOLLI course, “Crisis on our Border,” newspapers headlined stories of increasing inhumanity perpetrated by our government. From attempts to ban Muslims and immigrants from “s-hole” countries to separating parents from their small children, denying asylum, and more, newspapers like The New York Times covered the calamitous news. And the news revealed that the leadership of this nation was without moral compass.
No more rapists and gang members and drug lords would be allowed to come to the U.S. to prey upon American citizens. “It’s a national emergency!” President Trump declared before closing down the government so that his wall could be built. “Let’s draw money from the Pentagon budget so that the wall can be built! Let’s send troops to the border and shoot migrants if they attempt to cross! Let’s close asylum posts!” But, most of all, let’s dehumanize these dark-skinned people who, for the most part, don’t speak English.
Let’s rule out domestic violence as a reason for women and children to flee. Let’s forget about the murders in the streets of Honduras and Guatemala, the rampant drug gang violence in Mexico, the drafting of young boys into gangs that roam with impunity, the forcing of young girls into prostitution.
For months, as I prepared, I clipped hundreds of newspaper articles that chronicled the heinous situation on our border.
How can we explain why so many Americans fell “hook, line, and sinker” for this hateful rhetoric and supposed “national emergency?” How were they able to convince themselves that these human beings did not deserve humane treatment by our government? The answer can’t be that they didn’t want to have their tax dollars spent on them. After all, millions have gone to incarcerating asylum seekers and children in “for profit” private jails. Even more millions have been spent sending these people “back to where they came from” or to the first countries they trudged through outside their own. Too many Americans seem to have forgotten the immigration stories their own grandparents told them. That was then. This is now. We are “full up.” There is no more room in the United States.
My class ended a few weeks ago, but, suddenly, so did the headlines. The media shifted attention to impeachment, to the betrayal of the Kurds, and to other outrages. Articles about the crisis on our border have vanished. Why so fickle? Many thousands still suffer. No solution has been found–or even suggested. Do people need new titillations to satisfy their appetite for disasters? If so, we have a president who will happily feed their ravenous maws.
Eleanor also serves as leader of BOLLI’s “Make a Difference” Special Interest Group. Watch “BOLLI Matters” as well as the Bulletin for announcements of the group’s meetings and activities. All interested members are welcome to attend.