The differential between America’s traditionally sung pretensions to fundamental morality and empathy, and the empirical reality, disappointingly, is no less than infinite. Americans, basking in the afterglow of the success of the founders’ novel experiment in republican democracy some few centuries ago, regularly entertain warm and self-serving assurances of the new nation’s perceived contrast with autocratic, repressive governments, regularly viewed by them on the mass media.
We learn from that media that our autocratic chief executive has expressed an intention to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA). This humanistic and empathic act passed approximately five years ago, assisted upwards of 700,000 persons brought to the U.S. as young children and babies by their parents who were unregistered immigrants. The Act provides that such children would be granted deferment and reconsideration, in lieu of immediate deportation [ to unfamiliar and perhaps, dangerous countries] relative to their assigned ethnic origin. These people, in truth, are the recipients of legal work permits, pay taxes, serve in the military, and most significantly, know no other home than this country. The demise of DACA would mean the heartless dislodgement and separation of countless resident families. Those who agree with the President, yet regularly attend houses of worship, with any confident assumption of moral rectitude, need to objectively audit their chosen criteria for the determination of personal virtue.
In an earlier era, another despicable autocrat, President Andrew Jackson, oversaw the “Indian Removal Act” (1830), whereby peaceable Native Americans were forcibly evicted from their homes and farms located in the Southeastern United States and unjustly removed to remote, less desirable, territories out west [ considered by the perverse U.S. Administration, “more suitable to Indians.”] This extremely shameful period of American History, effectively portrayed in the historical novel, “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee,” tragically destroyed a great many Native American lives, and immorally despoiled their religious and property rights. This cannot, ironically enough, be reasonably categorized as “xenophobic nativism”, since in this instance, the Indians were, inarguably, the natives, and the U.S. Army under the command of the tyrannical Andrew Jackson, were the immigrants.
Shortly after the outbreak of World War II the iconic, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, caused hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans to be incarcerated in remote, uncomfortable barbed wire prison compounds, responsive to a popular paranoiac fear that Japanese people would, ethnically, be disloyal to America. Reportedly, two-thirds of such incarcerated people were American citizens, many of whom served in the U.S. military, combating our German and Japanese adversaries.
One wonders how long, after the arrival of an immigrant to the United States, and following his settling in, he commences the process of delusional patriotic amnesia, unmindful of the fact that he himself, (like all our forebears) was an immigrant, appropriately looking for a better life in America.
We ought not, in our self-serving, smarmy pretensions that bigotry is traditionally un-American, forget the huge amphitheater of its historically shameful behavior; regarding which over- crowded amphitheater, there is limited availability, for “standing room only.”