Since 2015 when huge numbers of refugees trudged into European countries, a radically energized West has been streaming like an uncontrolled meteorite toward an era of anger and hatred. In its wake we are left with fractured social relations and an exploding volcano of white supremacy. The rise of Trump and his devoted followers embodies the essence of the social forces struggling to get loose around the world, giving power to those who believe that cruelty should be one of many inhumane tools stifling goodness and virtue.
Rather than something to be alleviated, suffering has become a tool to bestow benefits to the narcissistically rich and powerful. Regrettably this is true of both individuals and nations.
For the past 14 months, those that truly care about other human beings, have been counting the days until they can replace President Trump with a less toxic and less destructive leader. But their dream may become a faint fantasy as the forces of the rule of cruelty replace the rule of law.
Making America Cruel Again
Contemporary Western morality now does not approve of instigating suffering as a way to punish and control. But in the heydays of slavery and genocide of indigenous American people, cruelty and imposed suffering were seen as an essential method for keeping Black and Brown people in line. The rationale for cruelty as acceptable came from stereotypes of slaves and native Americans as less than fully human.
For years, Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been filled with cruel slurs and disdain for non-white people around the world. His targets include non-white American citizens as well as legal immigrants from Mexico and other developing nations he labeled as “sh–holes.”
Julianne Hing in the April 9, 2018 issue of The Nation magazine said, “For Trump, cruelty is the point: the White House’s immigration policies are designed to maximize suffering.” Some Americans view the Trump White House and other nationalist organizations in the West as merely misguided and anti-humanitarian. However, cruelty and the escalation of suffering also constitute deliberate techniques for degrading, and ultimately destroying, American values and virtues. President Trump and his disciples will not rest until the rule of law and the norm of human dignity have faded away.
Hing (2018) reported that a Mother and her child had to flee from military raids in the Congo. After arriving in Mexico, they entered the USA to begin the process of applying for asylum. Instead of sending her to an asylum shelter, ICE imprisoned her San Diego, and. her 6-year old daughter was forcibly transferred to a detention center in Chicago. They had committed no crime but remain locked up in separate immigrant prisons.
Why was an innocent asylum-seeker subjected to cruel and unusual punishment? Such disrespect for human dignity and the rule of law would be expected under an authoritarian regime. Why is the United States Government acting like an oppressive dictatorship in this and other instances of migration?
The Trump regime has been ruthlessly, without apparent cause, imprisoning immigrants and breaking up their families for over a year. John Kelly, when still heading Homeland Security, said that movement of refugees toward the US Border is so corrupt, that the US should do anything to discourage others to try to enter the United States. Under the pretext of reducing the danger faced by asylum-seekers, the Trump Administration policy this past year has been to make innocent migrants suffer from truly cruel treatment in the hope that this police-state treatment will discourage potential migrants to America from trying to cross the U.S. border. As if to prove that the U.S. government is cruel and inhumane, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) secretly breaks up families by putting members in widely separately detention centers, effectively destroying innocent families.
Mr. Trump over the past two years repeated told stories about the “evil” Mexican MS-13 gang members. With his voice hinting of deep hatred, he refers to these non-white gang members as “animals.”
Without changing any laws, the Trump regime exaggerated the threat of Mexican gang violence in order to keep kind-hearted Americans from objecting to their practice of inflicting maximum suffering upon non-white gang members. Their short term goal is to justify deporting as many black and brown people as possible. Their long term goal is a path to white nationalism and white supremacy.
Trump’s campaign slogan “Make American Great Again,” says it all, because “again” implies reverting to the late 1800s when only white men could vote and the Black sector in American society not only were segregated and sometimes treated as slaves.
The war between the Trump Justice Department (DOJ) and humanitarians citizens escalated this Spring when Jeff Sessions and his DOJ sued the State of California over three newly enacted State Laws, which attempted to mute the cruelty of ICE. ICE attack strategies have included warrantless, surprise raids of workplaces without probable cause and refusing to allow the State to inspect ICE Detention Centers. These attack strategies of the DOJ and ICE extend the already existing war against “sanctuary cities.” Following the lead of Russia in arresting activists, ICE has been arresting immigrants-rights activist leaders.
The New York Times reported that immigrant families have been deliberately dropped out of poverty programs such as food stamps, food banks, and nutrition for pregnant women. The purpose of this harmful withdrawal of help from immigrant families is to scare them out of the United States. Mitt Romney called the result “self-deportation.”
These Gestapo-like racialized persecutions by ICE are said to protect national security and the rule of law, but some argue that this is a ruse. Hing said “Like so much else with this administration, the US immigration agenda is now being driven by a disdain for the most vulnerable communities among us.”
Accusing a government of such inhumanity and cruelty cannot be taken lightly. However, as argued by David Frum, in his book, Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic: President Trump has plunged the government of the United States into chaos “to enhance his personal power, which is sustained by cruelty.”
Closely allied with these tactics Trump has persuaded millions of Americans to ignore information they need in a democracy as “fake news” from a “corrupt media.” He has allowed foreign states and local politicians to tamper with the integrity of American elections to his own benefit. He demands that high officials disregard the law in favor of personal loyalty to him. According to Frum, President Trump has alienated allies, appeased large enemies, and goaded small ones to the edge of war. Trump continues to brutally inflame the ethnic and class divisions that empowered him in the first place.
President Obama’s immigration policy deported a lot of people, but they were limited to criminals. Trump’s policy, on the other hand, is indiscriminate and ruthless. As noted by Hemmer (2018), under the Trump deportation policy, “communities are becoming less safe,” because victims of domestic violence have been exposed by the deportation review and execution. Hemmer concluded that “As a nation becomes inured to government cruelty – or worse, as a subset of Americans have their appetites whetted by it – it expands.”
In addition to immigrant persecution, Donald Trump as campaigner and president for two years has been refining the art of devastating humiliation. Gioux (2017) in the online journal Conversations, wrote “Trump seems addicted to violence.” As evidence, she referred to next situations during the campaign where Trump ridiculed women, Pope Francis, all of his political opponents, the terminally ill John McCain, James Comey and many others. Donald Trump has earned the title, “Humiliator in Chief.”
Not only did he attack the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, but he effectively failed to recognize that Puerto Rico desperately needed humanitarian aid. Many of its citizens still do not have drinking water and homes to live in. This, Gioux argues, is a form of domestic terrorism, filling minority populations in the U. S. with fear and intimidation. Gioux concluded that Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate change Agreement, slashing the Environmental Protection Agency, gutting teen pregnancy prevention programs, health care for children of the very poor, and ending funds to fight white supremacy, all were forms of cruelty and indirect support for violence.
Friedersdorf (2016) expands upon these themes of President Trump’s personal style and warped values. He reminds the readers of Trump’s cruel attacks upon Ted Cruz’s wife and made fun of Chris Christie’s weight problem. He concluded that: “For decades, Trump has been deliberately cruel to others, often in the most public ways. He behaves this way flagrantly, showing no sign of shame or reflection. What kind of person still acts that way at 70? A bad person.”
A nation that taught its children to abhor bullying discovered it had installed the noisiest bully in the country in the highest office in the land. In the New Testament in Matthew 25:35–40, Jesus told his people that their purpose in life was “to care for the poor, the suffering, and the needy.” Yet, millions of evangelical, Trump-supporting Christians totally repress this core teaching of Jesus Christ. In their devotion to Trump, they not only ignore the poor and suffering but accept official cruelty and intentional suffering toward racial minorities and non-Christians.
Friedersdorf, C. (2016). Donald Trump’s Cruel Streak. The Atlantic. (Sept. 26) Assessed on 31 March 2018 at https://theconversation.com/donald-trumps-passion-for-cruelty-84819
Frum, D. (2017). Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic. NY, NY: HarperCollins.
Giroux, H. (2017). Donald Trump’s Passion for Cruelty. . Accessed on 31 March 2018 at https://theconversation.com/donald-trumps-passion-for-cruelty-84819
Hemmer, N. (2018). Cruelty Is the Policy. US News and World Report (Feb 6). Accessed on 31 March 2018 at https://www.usnews.com/opinion/thomas-jefferson-street/articles/2018-02-06/donald-trump-is-making-cruelty-toward-immigrants-official-government-policy
Hines, J. (2018). For Trump, cruelty is the point: The White House’s immigration policies are designed to maximize suffering. The Nation. (April 9), Pp. 12=14.
Kivisto, P. (2017). The Trump Phenomenon: How the Politics of Populism Won in 2016. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited.