Just ask the latest third world country in the news.
Not too long ago, I was talking to a Trump supporter about the first kid that died while in custody of the border authorities. I remember his words well. He said that when a child dies in custody of the border authorities that should serve as a deterrent to anyone else who wants to try to enter our country illegally. Huh. That sounds kind of punitive and vindictive. Does our government really think this way?
In so many of the articles I’ve read on this topic, it seems like there is a measurable faction of Americans who think that migrants should be punished. Yet, there is doubt about whether the federal government is really that vindictive. Here is a snip from an article from the Chicago Tribune:
The deaths of two migrant children in just over two weeks raised strong new doubts Wednesday about the ability of U.S. border authorities to care for the thousands of minors arriving as part of a surge of families trying to enter the country.
It may very well be that the border authorities lack the ability to properly care for the people they happen to snare. I guess that part about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” doesn’t really apply to migrants who come here seeking a better life. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that those migrants are covered in brown skin.
But then I see Donald Trump harping on the drugs coming into the country, too. He’d really like to stop those drugs from coming into the country. Hell, he hired Jeff Sessions just to spite those who would self-medicate if their lives were not what they were dreaming of in school. If drugs are such a problem, I have to wonder, what creates that demand for drugs in the first place? It must be the booming economy, right?
Or maybe people with money actually have the money and the time to engage in the use of recreational drugs. I know, I just can’t get over that phrase, “recreational drugs”. That assumes that using drugs is “fun”. It’s kind of hard to have fun when your brain is not working right, “on drugs”.
So we should punish those migrants who want to come here and pick our strawberries and we should punish those self-medicating hippies and brown people. Jeff Sessions is a Christian. Congress is mostly Christian, 92% Christian to be exact. So it seems that many of those Christians in Congress are Puritanical, too. There was a famous quote about Puritanism by H.L. Menken:
“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
This is what I think of when I see just how punishing our new leaders in power have turned out to be. First, they punish South American countries for even thinking of communism or socialism or running state-owned oil businesses that distribute the profits to the people. To set things right, American banks strangle the economies of the South American countries for profit. Then when those countries experience unrest, their people flee to America, only to be held in concentration camps with poor sanitation and lack of access to clean water and food. This is red meat for the Trump base, right?
If communism and socialism are so bad, we could just leave them alone in South America and let them figure it out for themselves. Funny how hardly anyone talks about Bolivia. Bolivia has an oil and gas industry, too. But they’re saving their money. They're preparing for contingencies. They’re doing better than Venezuela, but they’re not in the news. When the banking industry wants to make an example out of a country, they make sure that that country is in the news. Just ask Iran about all the sanctions being placed on them. That couldn’t be done without the help of the banking industry.
The Trump Administration and its supporters are all about punishing people. They seem to believe that if they punish other people enough, that through the magic of behavior modification, those other people will shape up and behave. Like maybe with enough punishment, they’ll all become Christians and we can all live happily together.
The problem with punishment is that it doesn’t teach any skills. Punishment teaches two things: obedience and rebellion. When faced with the threat of punishment, people tend to go to either obedience or rebellion. And underneath obedience on the threat of punishment, there lies rebellion ready to spring at the next available opportunity.
Instead of punishing Venezuela, we could just live and let live. They’re not a threat to us. Not even close. We could teach them the skills they need to take care of their people and thrive, even if they have a socialist government. God knows how we’d protest if some other country like China, sent troops to our country and told us how to live. Yet we think it’s OK to punish other countries and “make them pay” for their mistakes.
This is why I don’t believe in American Exceptionalism. The only thing we’re exceptional at is imposing pain on other countries. We’re very good at that. But we’re not so good at living in harmony with other countries with mutually agreed upon terms. It’s very hard to set terms with the only military superpower in the world, a country that is willing to punish for trivial reasons, as Trump has shown us.
So whenever I see Trump using his foreign policy to punish China, Iran, Venezuela, or some other country, I just roll my eyes, “here we go again”. I see someone who is playing to his base. I see someone who is acting on stage and wonder if Trump ever breaks character. I see someone who wants us to believe that America is about punishing adversaries for justice. I see someone who wants us to forget about the numerous investigations about him and his friends. I see someone who lacks the skills and capacity to do better.