Shutting Down the Government for a Month Over a Monument to White Supremacy

Shutting Down the Government for a Month Over a Monument to White Supremacy

The U.S. federal government has been closed for 32 days (as of writing this) over a fight to fund Trump’s promised wall. So far, the Trump administration considered using a state of emergency to build it, and then signaled that they would offer temporary protections for DACA recipients or “dreamers” in exchange for the wall, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already rebutted as an unpersuasive half measure that wouldn’t convince Democrats to fold. Now it looks like the Senate is proposing a bill to open the government for three weeks to allow the State of the Union address to continue as previously planned while negotiations continue. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are taking up jobs as dog walkers, uber drivers, and babysitters to find some source of income (if they’re not being forced to work without pay). 

This fight is about much more than a wall; it’s about the values of Americans. There are already limited structural barriers along the border in some places, and illegal immigration is not among the most pressing issues facing everyday Americans. But that doesn’t actually matter. This wall, Trump’s wall, is a monument to white supremacy. White House aids like Steven Miller and representatives like the openly racist Steve King truly believe that immigration, legal immigration, makes the U.S. worse. What they, and those like them, want is a white ethnostate, a country that is demographically and culturally white-dominant. Ann Coulter, a fringe right wing personality who abhors immigration, holds enormous influence over the president and demands a border wall while mocking the DACA deal which she calls “amnesty.” Trump listens to these angry rich white people, as does his base.  

This fight is about much more than a wall; it’s about the values of Americans.

Shutting Down the Government for a Month Over a Monument to White Supremacy..
President of the United States Donald J. Trump at CPAC 2017. Photo credit: Michael Vadon via Flickr

Emboldened by these forces, the Trump campaign fabricated a border crisis running parallel to the false and racist narrative already present in right wing media. Multiple reports suggest that the wall was at first just a pneumatic device to help Trump remember to talk about immigration, but regardless of whether that is true, the idea of a wall along the southern border has been percolating in right wing circles for years. In everything he does, his tweets, and his border visits, President Trump acts as if he’s visiting a war zone or natural disaster. In Trump’s fake crisis, he suggests that Latinx immigrants are bringing drugs and violence through the border. That’s not true, and it’s why lawmakers shouldn’t just bite their tongue and give him his  money. It would reward lying, dog whistling, and the longest shutdown in US history with billions of dollars of taxpayer money. 

In a recent tweet, Trump conveniently omitted the word “heroin” from a statement that otherwise implies that 300 Americans are being murdered daily by undocumented immigrants. What he meant to say was that 300 are killed by drug overdoses each day, which is based on numbers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

There’s no denying that  the opioid epidemic is crushing many small American towns; I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and saw the beginnings of the crisis, as some of my parents’ friends became dependant on the pills they took for chronic pain. However, 90 percent of heroin comes to the U.S. through legal points of entry, like airports or docks, not across the border. Focusing solely on where the drugs are coming from, rather than who is taking them and why, is a bad way to prevent drug overdoses, but a great way to “other” immigrants and sow fear. Imagine the good just one billion dollars towards empathetic, non-judgemental treatment centers would do. But this wasn’t about a wall, and it certainly isn’t about helping Americans with drug problems. 

Credit: Melany Rochester via Unsplash

The government has been closed for nearly a month; food is going un-checked, TSA agents are quitting en masse, and airplanes are likely not being repaired and inspected as they should. This is making Americans objectively less safe, and it’s all for a symbolic wall that security experts agree will be ineffectual. Almost every congressman from a border state opposes the wall. People whose land would be eminent domain-ed for its construction oppose the wall. Meanwhile, illegal immigration is declining and lower than it’s ever been, and a wall won’t change U.S. refugee policy, though the administration is looking to tighten legal immigration rules as well. So, if all the claims that are used to justify a wall are blatant lies, the natural question is who benefits from the falsehoods? That’s Trump himself, having earned the support of his base, and the racists who have wanted hardline immigration policy for years.

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Title image of protestors outside Trump Tower in New York City, December 2018. Photo credit: Chris Beckett/Flickr

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