Owning the libtards

It’s probably unjustifiable, but I think the vitriol he has directed at migrants has been the hardest thing for me to deal with about Donald Trump.

Maybe it’s that migrants were a focus of my dissertation.[1] I don’t know; to bracket it as such, even understanding migrants’ plights to the extent that I do, seems an inadequate explanation. I’m not sure that it is even the concentration camp issue,[2] if I’m to be completely honest, because that’s one in a series of outrages (remember, for example, when we earlier learned of parent-child separations?[3]) that runs longer. But Trump’s xenophobia somehow consistently strikes closer to home than any of the many other manifestations of Trump’s hatred.

This xenophobia doesn’t move me toward action. Just toward revulsion. I can barely even stand to look at the news of whatever Trump is doing or saying now.[4] I always have to get some sleep before I can even begin to deal with it.

I do think that, for me, there is a real dissonance between what Amerikkkans say we are and how we treat migrants who survive 1) the conditions that drive them from home, including some of the highest physically violent crime rates in the world and extreme poverty, conditions for which we, with our policies, bear considerable and utterly unacknowledged blame; 2) a long, dangerous, and arduous trip to the U.S. border; 3) the increasing difficulties and dangers of crossing that border; 4) the vitriol of people like Donald Trump and of people who think like him once they’re here; and 5) having to live in the shadows, underground, vulnerable to anyone—especially employers—who knows or can determine their status.[5] We say we admire the very qualities, the determination, the persistence, the improvisation, the resilience that enable this survival. What we do is something else entirely.

I also think that a part of this, no matter how ridiculously trivial, is that I know I’m being owned. Authoritarian populists in particular often celebrate “owning the libtards,” that is, outraging those of us with any sense of humanity toward other human beings. This is my morality of polarization[6] taken to the next level: Trump’s moves don’t just delight his base; they delight his base by outraging and provoking the rest of us.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  2. [2]Priscilla Alvarez, “Lawmakers, including Ocasio-Cortez, lash out over conditions following border facility tours,” CNN, July 2, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/01/politics/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-clint-texas-facility/index.html; Josh Dawsey and Colby Itkowitz, “‘This is tough stuff’: At Texas detention facility, Pence sees hundreds of migrants crammed with no beds,” Washington Post, July 12, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/pence-tours-detention-facilities-at-the-border-defends-administrations-treatment-of-migrants/2019/07/12/993f54e0-a4bc-11e9-b8c8-75dae2607e60_story.html; Caitlin Dickerson, “‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children,” New York Times, June 21, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/21/us/migrant-children-border-soap.html; Adam Harris, “An Astonishing Government Report on Conditions at the Border,” Atlantic, July 3, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/07/government-report-details-inhumane-conditions-migrant-facilities/593242/; Miriam Jordan, “Judge Orders Swift Action to Improve Conditions for Migrant Children in Texas,” New York Times, June 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/29/us/migrant-children-detention-texas.html; Alejandro Lazo and Jacob Gershman, “Lawsuit Alleges Government Mistreatment of Migrant Children,” Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/lawsuit-alleges-government-mistreatment-of-migrant-children-11561608969; Sam Levin, “‘Happy hunting!’ Immigration agents swapped cheery messages about raids, records reveal,” Guardian, July 3, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/03/ice-us-immigration-messages-raids; Katie Mettler, Mike DeBonis, and Reis Thebault, “Border agents confiscated lawmakers’ phones. Joaquin Castro captured photo and video anyway,” Washington Post, July 2, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/02/ocasio-cortez-says-dispute-with-border-patrol-agents-started-after-one-tried-take-stealth-selfie/; Geneva Sands and Nick Valencia, “2nd Customs and Border Protection-connected secret Facebook group shows mocking images,” CNN, July 5, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/05/politics/cbp-second-facebook-group-images/index.html; Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley, “Migrant kids in overcrowded Arizona border station allege sex assault, retaliation from U.S. agents,” NBC News, July 9, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/migrant-kids-overcrowded-arizona-border-station-allege-sex-assault-retaliation-n1027886; A. C. Thompson, “Inside the Secret Border Patrol Facebook Group Where Agents Joke About Migrant Deaths and Post Sexist Memes,” ProPublica, July 1, 2019, https://www.propublica.org/article/secret-border-patrol-facebook-group-agents-joke-about-migrant-deaths-post-sexist-memes
  3. [3]Alexander Bolton, “GOP fears Trump return to family separations,” Hill, April 8, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/437930-gop-fears-trump-return-to-family-separations; British Broadcasting Corporation, “Trump migrant separation policy: Children ‘in cages’ in Texas,” June 18, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44518942; Nancy Cook, “Trump aides plan fresh immigration crackdowns before midterms,” Politico, June 18, 2018, https://www.politico.com/amp/story/2018/06/18/trump-aides-plan-fresh-immigration-crackdowns-before-midterms-652246; James Hohmann, “Trump is losing the debate over splitting up immigrant families,” Washington Post, June 15, 2018, https://s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?e=YmVuZmVsbEBwYXJ0cy11bmtub3duLm9yZw%3D%3D&s=5b23c997fe1ff66463922db0; Kevin Liptak, Kaitlan Collins, Jeff Zeleny, and Sarah Westwood, “White House scrambles to contain immigration fallout,” CNN, June 18, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/18/politics/immigration-white-house-pressure/index.html; Nesrine Malik, “Trump is creating his American caliphate, and democracy has no defence,” Guardian, June 18, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/18/trump-american-caliphate-democracy-arab-world; Nomaan Merchant, “Hundreds of children wait in Border Patrol facility in Texas,” Associated Press, June 17, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/9794de32d39d4c6f89fbefaea3780769; Brianna Rennix, “Understanding The Administration’s Monstrous Immigration Policies,” Current Affairs, June 17, 2018, https://www.currentaffairs.org/2018/06/understanding-the-administrations-monstrous-immigration-policies; Reuters, “Tent city for immigrant children in Texas,” June 19, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/pictures-report-idUSRTX69U2N; Jennifer Rubin, “Leave the Bible out of it, child separation is not ‘Christian,’” Washington Post, June 15, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/06/15/leave-the-bible-out-of-it-child-separation-is-not-christian/; Brett Samuels, “Trump denies he’s planning to restart family separations at border,” Hill, April 9, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/438050-trump-says-hes-not-planning-to-restart-family-separations-at-border; Kelsey Snell and Susan Davis, “President Trump Injects Fresh Chaos Into Immigration Debate,” National Public Radio, June 15, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/06/15/620356425/president-trump-injects-fresh-chaos-into-immigration-debate; Jake Tapper, “Trump pushed to close El Paso border, told admin officials to resume family separations and agents not to admit migrants,” CNN, April 9, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/08/politics/trump-family-separation-el-paso-kirstjen-nielsen/index.html; Julie Zauzmer and Keith McMillan, “Sessions cites Bible passage used to defend slavery in defense of separating immigrant families,” Washington Post, June 15, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/06/14/jeff-sessions-points-to-the-bible-in-defense-of-separating-immigrant-families/
  4. [4]The latest: Devan Cole, “Cuccinelli rewrites Statue of Liberty poem to make case for limiting immigration,” CNN, August 13, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/13/politics/ken-cuccinelli-statue-of-liberty/index.html; Abigail Hauslohner et al., “Trump officials move to deny green cards, path to citizenship for poor immigrants,” Washington Post, August 12, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/trump-administration-aims-to-make-citizenship-more-difficult-for-immigrants-who-rely-on-public-assistance/2019/08/12/fe3f8162-b565-11e9-8949-5f36ff92706e_story.html; Public Broadcasting System, “Trump administration issues rules to deny green cards for immigrants on food stamps,” August 12, 2019, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/new-rules-can-deny-green-cards-for-immigrants-on-food-stamps?fbclid=IwAR3ucMIKGcFP9nPmwyvnfib6SfsYY4zV0H-KFvoAEwaiOmgPkHbcLHJ5aOU
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  6. [6]David Benfell, “The morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, September 21, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/09/21/the-morality-of-polarization/

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