The world watches in horror as the U.S. enacts state-sanctioned cruelty toward children at the U.S. border.
No matter our stances on immigration, we should all agree that there are moral lines we won't cross. Cruelty to innocent children goes far over that line, and separating children from their parents with no reassurance or hope that they’ll see them again is cruel. A Washington Post op-ed by a professor of developmental psychology at UCLA likens the effect of such forced separation to torture.
How did we get to a place where the U.S. government decided separating kids from their parents at the border was morally sound?
Photo via John Moore/Getty Images.
That’s easy: anti-immigrant propaganda, lies, fear-mongering, and more lies — most of it coming straight from the highest levels of our government.
President Donald Trump's lie-laced tweets are a perfect example of the kind of propaganda that allows human cruelty to flourish.
Fear is a powerful human motivator. That’s why marketers — and con artists — make liberal use of it to influence people, truth be damned.
And that's what the Trump administration has done, and continues to do, with anti-immigration rhetoric. It's designed to convince Americans not just to condemn undocumented immigration, but to be afraid of it.
Take the president's tweets as Exhibit A:
"Crime in Germany is way up." No, it's not. That's a lie. Just last month, Germany's Interior Minister (who happens to be anti-immigration) released data showing that Germany's crime rate is at its lowest since 1992.
And despite persistent falsehoods about no-go zones (they don't exist, folks) and despite zeroing in on a few specific crimes committed by migrants in Europe (statistically, a group of hundreds of thousands of people will have some crime, but that does not make that group more likely to commit crime), Europe has not fallen into violent chaos. It just hasn't.
The president followed that tweet up with "We don't want what is happening in Europe with immigration to happen to us!" Fear-mongering at its best.
The problem with fear-based propaganda is that it works really, really well.
Since we have a primal instinct to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and our brains like to make generalizations, we're susceptible to rhetoric that fuels fear and prejudice.
Screenshot via Donald J. Trump/Twitter.
"Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country," Trump tweeted, before pointing to the danger these families are trying to escape. The president is using fear of children to justify cruelty to those same children. It's unreasonable. But fear and reason rarely go hand in hand.
Screenshot via Donald J. Trump/Twitter.
Even the erroneous capitalization of "border security" (yes, I'm ignoring the misspelling) and "crime" in this tweet seem designed to drive home the lie. It's not just "crime," it's "Crime." Big Scary Stuff. Be So Scared.
These tweets are just from one day, and they're just the tip of the iceberg.
Anti-immigration rhetoric has led directly to hurting children. What's next?
Saying that Mexico is sending us rapists. Setting up and promoting a hotline specifically for people to report crimes they think were committed by illegal aliens. Ranting about immigration increasing crime rates when it doesn't. Insinuating that undocumented immigrants are more likely to commit crimes when they're not. Highlighting specific crimes to make it look like immigrants commit more or worse crimes than native-born Americans. This anti-immigrant rhetoric makes it easier to swallow inhumane immigration policy.
The constant drip, drip, drip of fear-based propaganda has brought us to where we are now — a nation publicly and purposefully inflicting anguish upon innocent children.
Words matter. People with power have wielded words to foment fear and promote prejudice throughout history, leaving heinous atrocities in their wake. Ignoring or brushing off rhetoric as "just words" is dangerous, as we find ourselves flirting with atrocity right now, on our soil, in our name.