By the time Donald J. Trump threw in the towel, who among us hadn’t seen or heard the chilling videos in which US border officials shamelessly grabbed uncomprehending children and toddlers from their pleading mothers and fathers? Some were told they were being taken to bathe or shower by people with little sense of the resonances of history. They were, of course, creating scenes that couldn’t help but bring to mind those moments when Jews, brought to Nazi concentration camps, were told that they were being sent to take “showers,” only to be murdered en masse in the gas chambers. Some of those children didn’t even realize that they had missed the chance to say goodbye to their mothers or fathers. Those weeping toddlers, breast-deprived infants, and distressed teens were just the most recent signs of the Trump administration’s war against decency, compassion, and justice.
Because the victims were children, however, it was easy to ignore one reality: new as all this may have seemed, it actually wasn’t. Dehumanized, traumatized, and scared, those children — their predicament — shocked many Americans who insisted, along with former First Lady Laura Bush, that this was truly un-American. As she wrote in the Washington Post:
“Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation, on being the nation that sends humanitarian relief to places devastated by natural disasters or famine or war. We pride ourselves on believing that people should be seen for the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We pride ourselves on acceptance. If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place.”
Her essay essentially asked one question: Who have we become? Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, tweeting out a picture of the Birkenau concentration camp over the words “Other governments have separated women and children,”