Try Not to Look Away

Anger is both a necessary and destructive emotion and I have been very angry for a very long time. A commentator noted that the election of Trump in 2016 was a monumental slap in the face for the baby boomers of the 1960s and early 1970s, at least for those who protested and continue to protest. Some of us grew up in relative comfort and were confronted by a bestial war in Southeast Asia. Others of our generation grew up without many resources and still confronted the war machine and empire and put fear into the hearts and minds of those who paid attention to our words and actions.

The psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Fireman wrote people out of the draft during the Vietnam War and pissed off some in his medical specialty by observing that sometimes the society is at fault and not the individual.

A leader of the Free Speech Movement in California during the 1960s, Mario Savio, said (I paraphrase here) that when the machine becomes so sickening you have to throw yourself on its gears to stop the abomination.

The New York Times carried an article about the youngest child, a four-month-old named Constantin Mutu, who had been separated from his family at the U.S.-Mexico border and sent to live with a foster family in Michigan while his father was deported to Romania. Constantin’s mother had returned to Romania with a 4-year-old sibling (“The Youngest Known Child Separated From His Family by the Trump Administration,” June 14, 2019). Here, in full view is the rot of Trump, et al., making political hay with its so-called “zero tolerance” policy against immigrants.

I believe that those replicas of the Statue of Liberty that can be found in tourist souvenir shops in various sizes around Times Square in New York City are just another expression of how meaningless the ideas of freedom and liberty are in the contemporary U.S. to many. Trump is not alone either, as the wheels and gears of hostility toward immigrants have been going on for decades, and significant amounts of grease were also thrown on those gears by the Obama administration. “Hope and change?” Well, for Wall Street there was plenty of that to go around after the debacle of the Great Recession of 2007-2008, but not enough of that magnanimity to extend those empty words to immigrants.

Read the New York Times article cited above and watch the embedded video of Constantin and try not to look away in shame or feel the overwhelming anger of just what a significant part of the nation has turned into and a large part of the political, economic, and social system has become.

A well-done accounting of how the New York Times is approaching reporting in the age of the sped up Internet is found at Salon in “Why the NY Times is breaking this devastating story about an asylum-seeking family on TV,”  (June 16, 2019).

There are many who follow their humanitarian instincts and nature and go out and ease the suffering like Scott Warren who faced 20 years in prison for aiding immigrants in the Arizona desert and was freed (at least for now) when a jury was deadlocked and could not reach a verdict (“No More Deaths: Mistrial Declared After Jury Refuses to Convict Scott Warren for Aiding Migrants,” Democracy Now, June 13, 2019).

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).