Opinion | Mike Littwin: In TrumpWorld, we are forced to choose which horror most deserves our outrage
Fair and Unbalanced
At the risk of stating the obvious, Trump fatigue has not simply overtaken the country. It is now the only thing that many of us can even feel. The unwieldy Democratic primary hasn’t seemed to help. The post-partum depression from the Mueller report definitely hasn’t helped, although maybe the scheduled Mueller public testimony will. Even Donald Trump’s refusal to allow other officials to testify before Congress hasn’t caused the outrage you might expect.
Instead, this is where we are. A headline on a Washington Post editorial reads: “America should be horrified by this.” And before I click on the link, I wonder which “this” we’re talking about. And why we’re not sufficiently horrified.
Could it be that the president of the United States, when confronted with the latest sexual assault lodged against him, explains that he must be innocent because, he said, the accuser, writer E. Jean Carroll, was “not my type”? Trump obviously completely misunderstands the #metoo movement, favoring his personal #it’salwaysaboutme movement, in which apparently Trump assaults only those women who are his type.
Or could it be our lack of concern than much of the media chose to basically ignore the accusation because it’s hardly news when Trump is credibly accused of raping someone in the 1990s in a Bergdorf-Goodman dressing room? To paraphrase the president from his “Access Hollywood” description of how he treats women, Carroll might just as well have said: He moved on me like a bitch. He grabbed me by the pussy. When you’re a star, they let you do anything.
In this case, he allegedly raped her. By The New Yorker’s count, Carroll is the 22nd woman to have accused Trump of sexual misconduct.
Or, moving on, could it be the Iran situation, in which Trump, likely moved by his neocon advisers, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, was minutes from launching a coordinated missile attack on Iran that could conceivably have led to actual war? He stopped himself — in a classic Trump v. Trump moment — because he was told that maybe 150 Iranians would die and decided that the attack, in response to the downing of an unmanned drone, wouldn’t be “proportionate.”
Trump then tried to make nice with the Iranians, talking about his many Iranian friends and how he’s ready to get back to the negotiating table — after tearing up the previous negotiated agreement for no good reason — and also to help “Make Iran Great Again.” This was his pitch as Trump was once again upping the Iranian sanctions. Iranian leaders responded by calling the new sanctions “outrageous and idiotic” and calling Trump “mentally crippled.”
In a proportionate response, Trump went, well, mental, tweeting that Iran doesn’t understand the words “nice” or “compassion.” He concluded his tweetstorm with this: “Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration!”
But it turns out the Post editorial wasn’t about either of those horrors, but about the one from Clint, Texas, where nearly everyone concedes that immigrant children — mostly from the dangerous streets of Central America — were being held in horrifying conditions. We learned of this a few days ago from lawyers who visited the overcrowded site, where more than 300 children — some who came to the country unaccompanied, some who were separated from relatives — were being held in a facility built to hold 104 adults.
Reporters aren’t allowed to visit the site, where lawyers said they found dirty children who didn’t have access to soap, to toothbrushes, to toothpaste. Where toddlers were being cared for by unrelated young teens. Where kids slept, in some cases, on cement floors. Where kids told the investigative teams that they were often hungry. Where some kids had the flu. Where the law says immigrant children need to be turned over to relatives as quickly as possible and where some of the kids said they’d been at Clint for three weeks or more.
At the same time we were learning this, we saw clips from 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing asking whether the Trump administration must allow a court appointee to oversee conditions for children in ICE and CPB custody. (You have probably read about conditions at the ICE facility in Aurora.) In the clip, earlier last week, Department of Justice lawyer Sarah Fabian told incredulous judges that a facility could be “safe and sanitary” — as required by law — even if children don’t have soap or toothbrushes.
The clip went viral and the outrage was sufficient that the Trump administration decided to move all the potentially traumatized children to other facilities. And then came the story that 100 of the kids were taken back to Clint because they couldn’t find anywhere else to put them. As that story was breaking, John Sanders, U.S. Customs and Border Protection director, announced his resignation.
Meanwhile, Trump and Mike Pence were blaming the Democrats for not passing legislation that would give the money to fix the problem, if, you know, there really is a problem. Trump said his administration was doing a “fantastic job.”
Are you sufficiently outraged? I’m going to guess you are. But if you’re not, in a related story, there is this photo, this heartbreaking photo, from an attempted crossing of the Rio Grande by a Salvadoran father and his 23-month-old daughter, who were found lying face down in the shallow water, with daughter Valeria’s arm wrapped around her father’s neck.
According to the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 26, had tried unsuccessfully to present himself to U.S. authorities in order to seek asylum. There is a crackdown on asylum seekers and there is pressure from the Trump administration on Mexico to stop the refugees. And so, Martinez Ramirez decided to try the river. Martinez Ramirez’s wife, Vanessa Avalos, told police he took their daughter to the other side of the river and placed her on the bank. But when he went back to help his wife, the little girl jumped back in the river to follow her father. When he went back to rescue her, they were swept away in the undercurrent.
In TrumpWorld, where the crises come daily, it’s hard to keep track of what to feel or what to be horrified by. In a better world, this photo would help clear that up.
Mike Littwin writes the biweekly column “Fair and Unbalanced” for The Colorado Independent. He previously worked at The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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