A day before President Trump delivered his first Oval Office address, a Florida prison employee named Crystal Minton was quoted in the New York Times. Hurricane Michael tore most of the roof and fence off her workplace, so the incarcerated were relocated to a Mississippi prison that is a seven-hour drive away. Thanks to the partial government shutdown that has resulted from Trump’s masturbatory wall fight, the corrections officers being sent there to work two-week shifts aren’t being paid for their service or reimbursed for their travel. Minton, a mother of seven-year-old twins, was understandably upset. But then she told on herself, and on many Trump supporters.
“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” Minton said to reporter Patricia Mazzei about Trump. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”
On Tuesday night, Trump reminded his flock that he wants to hurt the right people. He didn’t appear excited to be giving the address, and subsequent reporting verified that he was pushed to do it. Sounding like a tired lounge act singing to the few fans who still love his old songs, Trump once again marched out a fresh list of immigrant crimes and promised varied nonsense about his mythical border wall. It’ll end sex crimes, surely a chief concern of this president. It’ll help African Americans and Hispanic Americans the most, also high up on his list. The wall will stymie those darn coyotes who smuggle people across the border, the ones who are thriving now thanks to his policies…oh, well, never mind that — did you know that it’ll stop heroin, meth, cocaine and even the Fentanyl that is primarily coming from China? Boy, that’s some wall.
It was a concert of Trump’s greatest hits. His re-election could be yours for the low price of $5 donations to his campaign, or in the official-sounding “Official Secure the Border Fund.” Frightened Americans, your safety is but a click away.
The most racist part of all this wasn’t the unjust stereotyping of southern migrants as bloodthirsty rapists, drug dealers and cop-killers. It was the suggestion that building a wall would be a compassionate action.
“This is a humanitarian crisis. A crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul,” Trump said of the situation south of the border. Border crossings rose in 2018, but they had already been dropping precipitously since President Obama’s first term in office.
However, what is rising is the number of families with children coming to the border seeking asylum or crossing illegally. Rather than devise a humanitarian solution to this dilemma, the Trump administration decided that separating the families as a deterrent and incarcerating the children would be the best way to go. Women and children are being held in Customs and Border Protection “iceboxes” nicknamed las hieleras, in which conditions are below healthy human standards and may have contributed to the death of a Honduran woman named Roxana Hernández in ICE custody last May.
The deaths of two Guatemalan children, ages seven and eight, in CBP custody late last year didn’t make it into the president’s address lamenting this “humanitarian crisis.” When Trump said the words “America’s heart broke the day after Christmas,” for a half-second I thought he might mention Jakelin Caal Maquin or Felipe Alonzo Gomez, who died on Christmas Eve after being held too long in cramped facilities. Then I remembered all the racist stuff that this president has done and said, and I wasn’t surprised when he began talking about the murder of Cpl. Ronil Singh by an undocumented suspect during a traffic stop. Trump falsely blamed Democrats for the deaths of the children, so perhaps he feels no accountability at all.
The “humanitarian” language was previewed by Vice President Mike Pence on news shows days earlier, and fell just as flat then. Which humans are they talking about helping? Are they trying to protect white people in America, those scared of immigrants but who may be choking to death on pollution or working unpaid federal jobs during the shutdown? Are they trying to liberate people of color who Trump says are being hurt by undocumented immigration, but are denied their discrimination claims by his government? Who is this white savior of a president trying to save but himself?
We are now in the 19th day of a partial government shutdown, which, in two days, will become the longest ever. There will soon be a different kind of march on Washington if he doesn’t get his act together. But his racism and pride make for a toxic mix, and he can’t escape this invisible prison that he has built for himself. His solution to the shutdown has no future, and even he seems to realize it. Trump will go to the border later this week and make a big show of things. But there may even be Trump supporters like Minton who now realize that he really doesn’t care about any human but himself. If we learned anything from that address, it is that he will keep hurting us all.