Trump Has Dragged Us Into the Gutter

August 2019

The targets of the president’s rhetoric are experiencing a nightmare like no other in this country.

Protesters gathered in El Paso on Wednesday as President Trump prepared to visit.CreditCreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

By Charles M. Blow

It is in times like this that we are able to measure just how low Donald Trump has dragged this country.

On Wednesday, Trump traveled to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Tex., the sites of massacres that played out over the weekend. But he went over the objections of many locals, including elected officials, who didn’t think a visit prudent, largely because of Trump’s own words and actions.

In the El Paso case, the shooting suspect used a framing and language of immigration and Hispanics that seemed to mirror Trump’s own.

But pause to consider the absolutely extraordinary nature of these events: As the nation mourns, some blame Trump for causing it, and believe his presence will compound the pain.

This is what Trump has done.

If you are one of the people in this country who feel personally targeted by Trump — immigrants, people of Mexican heritage, Muslims, people who are transgender, women, African-Americans — you know that we are experiencing this nightmare in a wholly different way, in a deeper way, than people who are not targeted.

When you are not the target of this man’s hate, you can object on moral grounds, as an exercise of principle. But you have chosen the fight.

For the targets, the fight chose us. It dragged us in. We have two choices: be pummeled or fight back.

And the even more stinging part is that fighting and discrimination and oppression are not new to us. We know this struggle. We end our lives with a spirit covered in scar tissue. We endeavor every day to not let our weariness drift into despair.

Each morning, we rise, adjust our armor and set our minds, so that we can continue the battle, but also celebrate our victories and not forget to wring bits of joy out of life.

We are used to navigating unwarranted hostility from neighbors, co-workers and schoolmates, but when the person targeting you has actual power over you, it makes your life hell, psychically as well as a matter of reality.

Now just imagine how much higher the level of offense and betrayal is when one has to grapple daily with the reality that the chief executive of the country is the source of the targeting and the source of the pain.

There is no way to escape it. We are stuck. There is no way to remedy it until the next election. (I’m a firm believer that Trump should be impeached by the House of Representatives though I’m sure he won’t be removed from office by the Senate.)

We are forced to look on in horror as the power of the federal government is deployed in the service of racism: the Muslim ban, the family separation policy, children in cages, trying to build a wall, efforts to restrict even legal immigration and talk of invasions and infestations.

It is still unfathomable to me that the federal government took children away from their parents without a system for reunification, that some of those children may never see their parents again.

Even if this were only one child it would be outrageous and egregious. Unfortunately, it is more than one.

I stay stuck on this point. There is a new outrage every day, but I try to remember children. If I were one of them, away in a strange place, all alone, surrounded by strangers, and my mother or father or both were taken away, how could I possibly cope? If I were the father of a child taken away from me to who knows where, and I had no idea if I would see my child again, how could I continue to function?

And yet, this is happening in real time in the name of the United States government. And even as Trump makes overtures to trying to live up to the role of the presidency, his administration continues its pressure on immigrants unabated.

As The Clarion Ledger of Mississippi reported:

U. S. immigration officials raided numerous Mississippi food processing plants Wednesday, arresting 680 mostly Latino workers in what marked the largest workplace sting in at least a decade.

The raids, planned months ago, happened just hours before President Donald Trump was scheduled to visit El Paso, Texas, the majority-Latino city where a man linked to an online screed about a “Hispanic invasion” was charged in a shooting that left 22 people dead in the border city.

This action could have been delayed until the president’s visit was complete, but no.

What signals are these optics supposed to send to the mourning members of the El Paso community? Or, maybe the message isn’t aimed at those who are suffering but at Trump’s supporters.

And that’s the other part of the trauma: The targets have to constantly wrestle with the reality that a large portion of the American population is perfectly fine with what Trump is doing and many people will even show up at his rallies and cheer.

Trump has dragged this country into the gutter, and his targets have no choice but to get in the gutter with him and slug it out.