It is a sad fact of our current situation that great literature no longer carries the weight that it used to. This is no simply a matter of postmodernism knocking the wind out of linear novelistic narratives. In some cases, it is a matter of what was barely thinkable becoming commonplace.
Take, for instance, the case of George Orwell. Where once Orwell’s intense, dystopian vision was viewed as a cautionary tale just outside the boundaries of the practically likely, it is now the case that Mr. Trump is making this vision a reality.
That can be seen in the situation now brewing along the southern border where thousands of children have been forcibly separated from their parents for having entered the country illegally. This is quite a grim situation, even apparently from the point of view of the perpetrators.
It is a staple of conservative ideology that children are best off when kept by and subjected to the judgments of, their natural parents. Yet it has always been clear that this really only applied to the children of white people, preferably of some sort of evangelical strip. Children of colour whose parents deviated from society’s norms were best put in some sort of remedial care so that the failings of the parents (principally mothers) were not visited upon the children.
One can discern exactly the degree of bad conscience in Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s attempts to envelop this policy in biblical teaching. To envision the apostle Matthew undertaking such a policy takes a great deal of mental effort, and one rather thinks that the vehemence with which the policy is asserted to be commensurate with the teachings of Christ and his disciples suggests that even the perpetrators don’t really believe it.
The shrouding of children’s camps in secrecy is a further clue to the degree to which even those responsible understand them to be disreputable. When Oregon senator Jeff Merkley attempted to visit one such concentration camp (the nature of which was made even more creepy by the fact that it was housed in a disused Walmart) his was denied access and eventually escorted away by police.
When members of the press were finally granted access they found more than 1000 children detained in a facility which featured, among other oddities, murals of US presidents and slogans just this side of the views of Big Brother painted on the walls.
Mr. Trump, who entered office with the promise to make America great again, seems to believe that American greatness can be regenerated via pages taken from the Schutzstaffel playbook. The assertion that this does not constitute, on its face, a violation of human rights on a massive scale is wholly risible.
Worse yet, the administration’s defence of its actions wouldn’t pass the chuckle test in a fifth-grade civics lesson. The proposition that these families constitute the murderers, rapists and MS13 members that Mr. Trump is found of frightening his gullible supporters with is ludicrous in the extreme.
Trump called Mexican migrants “murderers” and “rapists”. Central Valley still voted for Trump, even the area depends on migrant labor
— Pé Resists (@4everNeverTrump) August 7, 2017
But, one hears from the right, the law must be enforced! Without exception and irrespective of the consequences! If only matters were so simple. Certainly, this doesn’t apply to Joe Arpaio, whose pardon for blatant violations of federal law under the colour of authority seems plainly at odds with the commitment of Mr. Trump and his supporters to rigorous enforcement of the statutory law.
Indeed, hardly a week goes by without Mr. Trump threatening to use his power to pardon to alleviate the situation of the various miscreants who assisted him in his rise to power. The unspoken codicil of the commitment to law is that it only applies to people who are rich and white.
Anyone who has bothered to invest even a small amount of time investigating the political situation in Central America will know that many societies in that region suffer from serious dysfunction. For Mr. Trump and his enablers, these problems are attributable to the failings of the locals, when they are acknowledged at all.
Why bother acknowledging that US support from the 1940s through the 1980s for a series of exceptionally brutal dictatorships in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and elsewhere may have done lasting damage. And if it was necessary to put fascist psychopaths like the Salvadoran ARENA party in power, the victims should at least be thankful that they weren’t subjected to the depredations of communism.
Let us pause here for a moment and consider the decision-making processes of the current president. Not a week passes without someone asserting on the interweb that Mr. Trump is actually some sort of tactical genius whose bizarre policy contortions are actually just a means of keeping the liberals and their media lackeys off balance.
In the lead up to the summit with Kim Jong Un, MSNBC and others were reporting that aides to Mr. Trump had claimed that he was just winging it. This rings true, especially given his years spent as a real estate speculator.
The key issue is not what Mr. Trump says or does. These are usually just a function of who he talked to last, or who most effectively tweaked his white male victim complex. Given that Mr. Trump has a thinly veiled propensity to view non-whites as not entirely human, it makes sense that whoever suggested the policy of separating brown children from their parents was able to get traction on the maelstrom of his day to day consciousness.
Trumpers are more offended by Robert De Niro saying “Fuck Trump” than by 1,500 migrant children missing and 10,000 children living in cages likes animals.
— Denizcan Grimes (@MrFilmkritik) June 13, 2018
From that point, it was just a matter of finding individual and corporate entities willing to work toward the leader. Once Mr. Trump has made it generally known what sort of policy it was that he wanted, it was only a matter of time before people willing to make money from any variety of human misery answered the call to build gulags for children.
It is the privilege of Americans to look away from this travesty. After all, the dear leader has now erased the North Korean nuclear threat. And if it was necessary to give credence and validation to one of the most brutal dictators in the world today, at least it must be acknowledged that in his heart he is a nice guy. Mr. Trump was able to grasp this fact in the opening handshake, apparently because it’s one of his powers.
To sum up, we are now confronted with a situation in which a nation claiming to be morally sound has established concentration camps for children, a mass murderer has been given the imprimatur of statesmanship and an agreement on denuclearization that is literally not worth the paper that it is written on is now claimed as the basis for a safer world.
Beside all of this, speculative assertions that war is peace, freedom is slavery, freedom is slavery, or ignorance is strength seem somewhat paltry.
Photograph courtesy of Justin Norman. Published under a Creative Commons license.