It seems that the past year since Donald Trump got into office, one specific mantra has been repeated over and over again by citizens of the United States. Every time the Trump Administration takes a hit from the general public for a despicable piece of policy––from banning refugees from Muslim-majority countries to an unwavering commitment to neo-Nazi’s––the response seems too repetitive: “This is not America, and [policy] is not consistent with the values of the American people.”
At a first glance, this appears to be a valid argument. After all, the ordinary citizen does not have the ability to rein in a rogue President or control a rather spineless Republican majority house and congress. The best the ordinary citizen can do, is to protest and tell the rest of the world that this is not what America stands for. And as the Trump Administration defends a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy that separates children from their mothers and fathers, we are told that this is not a very American thing to do. However, there is a problem with the claim that America is above the repugnant and obscene policies of the Trump administration; America was founded, if not built, on the very policies that Trump has created and enforced during his tenure as President.
Family separation is not a new human rights violation for the United States, as white slave-owners auctioned off slaves with little to no regard of keeping families together. Additionally, Residential boarding schools literally stripped indigenous children as young as 3 years old from their families with the goal of ‘assimilation’. Japanese internment camps also had a history for separating children from their families. Whats more, the United States has a record of being particularly unwelcoming towards refugees and immigrants. For instance, at the brink of the Holocaust and World War II, the United States turned away the MS St. Louis which were carrying Jewish refugees fleeing from the anti-Semitic climate of their home country’s. The ship had no choice but to turn back to Europe, where the majority of the passengers were slaughtered at the hands of Adolf Hitler’s despicable Nazi regime.
Yes, these events took place in the past, with a different population electing officials, and different politicians running for office. But the fact remains that this past has continued to haunt the United States, as black and indigenous populations in the US are still struggling to make ends meet, compared to their white counterparts.
All of these instances are emblematic of a larger problem in the human rights legacy of the United States: the constant dehumanization of the other. This is clear when it comes to the issue of slavery, as blacks were viewed as sub-human and thus, were treated as such through chains and bonds. Not only were indigenous children stripped away from their parents, but the Residential school system taught young impressionable kids that the language and culture of their family is inferior and consequently, they lost their sense of identity. They were taught to be ashamed of who they were rather than to be empowered. Japanese-Americans had their possessions, the few things that brought them good memories and solace in internment camps, stripped away so that they slowly loose their sense of humanity.
In 2018, decades since the atrocities mentioned, children are being taken away by force from their parents and thus, loose the only sense of comfort and love they may have ever known. The love of a parent is a force to be reckoned with and it cannot be matched by a soul-less ICE or border patrol officer. To separate children as young as 2 years old from their parents is cruel and unusual, as the lack of familiar and comforting human contact sends them the message that they are not worthy of love which consequently, dehumanizes them. History as a tendency to repeat itself, unfortunately.
Whenever Americans talk about the atrocities that previous governments have committed, they promise to the rest of the world that they can do better. They promise that such blatant human rights abuses will never happen again in the United States. They proudly declare themselves to be the land of the free, with equal opportunity to all and equality under the law. When asked how they will ensure that these human rights abuses will never take place again, they point to their Constitution and their justice system.
Despite this, the same people who promise that history will not repeat itself are neighbors with those who are hateful and ignorant, and elect and administration with little concern for basic human rights. These people are silent in their bigotry and are scattered throughout the country. Regardless, they have a knack for showing up in masses and unapologetically defend the pain and abuse inflicted by the Trump administration. They are the people that turn civil liberties and human rights into a partisan issue in the United States.
America, you can no longer hide under pretenses of learning from previous mistakes and doing better. You cannot act like the supporters of Trump are not that of a majority, because there were enough of them to elect Donald Trump as President and there are enough of them to proudly defend Trump of Fox News.
America, take this time as an opportunity to evaluate your legacy on in history. Perhaps you can all learn from this and take measures to ensure that cruel and inhumane policies are never practiced again. Until then, this is America.