Our president has recently followed through on campaign pledges to ‘make America safe again’ (or is it great again? I can’t remember) by increasing the deportations of “bad hombres“.
In reality, this just means people who are living here without legal documentation, as mothers are being separated from their American born children, and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are rounding up employees at Asian Restaurants in Mississippi, and removing a woman with brain tumors from a hospital and sending her back to detention against her medical wishes.
Who are the bad hombres again?
Additionally, the President’s Executive Order (now awaiting either intervention by the courts or a promised re-writing) excludes the residents of 7 predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US, and is titled “Protection Of The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States.” Residents of Muslim countries where President Trump does a lot of business, and from which the 9/11 terrorists came, are excluded, incidentally.
And I want to invite a national conversation about FEAR. Because clearly there is a lot of fear out there, about terror and about bad hombres. And I don’t want to dismiss that fear out of hand. People really are afraid. Some people are grateful for the President’s actions to make us “safe again”.
Here’s the thing. Deporting people and keeping people from re-settling here after they have been victims of terror, war, and famine in other countries will not actually make us safe again.
We already have policies in place to vet refugee applicants. Those seem to be sufficiently working. We already have policies in place to deport violent criminals without documentation. Those have been working too. I’m not advocating for abrogating responsibility altogether.
There is nothing any president could do to ensure that Americans would be “safe” from all harm. Life is an inherently risky venture. To pretend otherwise is to delude ourselves.
There are measurable things a president could do to increase safety (see “gun violence in the US” for comparisons of how many Americans will die by gun violence vs by Islamic terrorist).
We can’t deport the danger. And language that suggests we are only at risk from “outsiders” masks the way that language separates people and endangers minority populations. We are the danger when we do that.
Adam Purinton, a white man from Kansas, killed one man and injured two others the other day when he yelled, “get out of my country” and open fired on two men legally in the country, and employees of Garmin.
If President Trump wants to make America safer again, he can ratchet down language that divides and separates us, one from each other. He can speak against violent rhetoric used by his supporters. He could fire Steve Bannon. He could stop lying about the murder rate, which is not the highest it has been in 47 years, as he said. He could address systemic racism that unfairly and disproportionately kills and imprisons men of color. He could support policies that protect LGBTQ youth and adults from discrimination.
Instead, he continues to give us a list of people and groups we need to fear.
We have to manage our fear before it kills us, literally and figuratively.
One of the attributes of our great nation that I’ve always found hope and solace in is our ability to offer compassion and assistance when people have been in need of both. I’m thankful that my ancestors were able to find a new hope and a new start in this country when they left their countries in search of the promise of Lady Liberty.
Who will we be when our compassion is replaced by our fear and our hope is replaced by scarcity? We won’t be great again, that’s for sure.