July 4 is a reminder of what America should be—but isn’t, under Trump
Independence Day should be a celebration of who we are as a nation and the ideals we hold dear. Sadly, this year it will be a reminder of how those values have been denigrated by the people entrusted to uphold and protect them – the president of the United States and members of his administration.
Three recent events demonstrate just how low we have stooped as a nation that should be championing freedom, justice and decency but is doing exactly the opposite.
The first is the photo of the drowned father and daughter who were found on the banks of the Rio Grande, the river separating the U.S. and Mexico at our southern border. The migrant father was Oscar Martinez who, with his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, clinging to his neck, was trying to cross the river with his family in search of a better life and a brighter future free of abject poverty, gang violence or drug cartels.
That photo spoke more than a thousand words. And it told us something alarming about our president.
Yes, we have a humanitarian crisis at the border that we must deal with. Yes, immigration is a complicated issue that both parties have failed to adequately address.
Unfortunately, President Trump seems uninterested in fixing it and does not understand how to do so. He has used the immigration issue to his political advantage to rile up his anti-immigrant base and has implemented policies that have exacerbated the problem exponentially.
Taking aid away from Central America’s “Northern Triangle” countries, which Trump has threatened to do, only makes matters worse. Threatening to close the border and shut down legal entry to asylum-seeking families – other things Trump has threatened to do – only plays into the hands of the “coyotes,” or human smugglers, and the drug cartels who are exploiting the crisis.
It also puts thousands of migrants in harm’s way, as evidenced by the photo. This crisis can be abated lawfully, with humanity and empathy, by bringing in more immigration judges and asylum caseworkers, releasing families to their families here in the U.S. to avoid chronic and dangerous overcrowding (most asylum applicants show up to their hearings if given proper legal advice and procedure, contrary to what the Trump administration claims) and giving kids proper medical care, basic cleanliness, food and water.
It should shame us all when former prisoners of the Taliban, Somali pirates or Iran tweet that they were given soap, toothbrushes, blankets and other basic necessities that reportedly have been denied to migrant kids in U.S. government custody.
The second instance of Trump trampling our democracy came when he was in Japan for the G-20 Summit. While his overall behavior was once again embarrassing and cringe-worthy, two of his statements underscore the contempt with which he holds our democracy and its core values.
During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20, Trump was heard saying of journalists, “Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it?” as he and Putin chuckled. “You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do,” he added, to which Putin responded in English: “We also have. It’s the same.” Putin allegedly has ordered the deaths of scores of Russian journalists who were critical of his regime.
Asked by a reporter if Trump would tell Putin not to meddle in the elections, he did just that—in a mocking fashion. “Of course I will. Don’t meddle in the elections,” he said, waving a finger in Putin’s face as Putin smiled.
Trump’s words and actions betray us all. They betray our country, our moral convictions as a democracy, our common-sense belief that our commander-in-chief should also be our defender-in-chief, not an authoritarian-wannabe who cozies up to dictators and murderous despots.
Meanwhile, our democratically-elected Western allies, built on the same values as the United States, look on while Trump insults them at every turn.
The third example of Trump’s despoliation of our democracy, and an indication that his words and actions fuel hatred on the part of the very people whose job it is to protect us, is the secret Border Patrol Facebook page uncovered by a Propublica investigative report.
This Facebook page, made up of almost 10,000 current and former Border Patrol agents, is vile and filled with insults, memes, caricatures and trash talk. It insults migrants as well as a member of Congress; it is racist, xenophobic and misogynistic. Any agent who is a member of this despicable page should be fired, and the Border Patrol needs to undertake a full investigation of its culture and make clear that these attitudes and behavior will not be tolerated.
As a nation of immigrants, this country reflects our collective stories. But with this dangerously unfit president at the helm, and the racism and xenophobia he has allowed to fester, this country is reflecting our collective shame.
This fourth of July, while Donald Trump brings in tanks, military planes and a parade that he needs to honor himself, let’s reflect on who we are, what we have become under him and how we can return to the nation we want to be.
We are still the greatest country on earth, one that people risk death to reach so that they can live freely and give their families a better life. Let’s act as if we still deserve to be seen that way.
Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.
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