Stok­ing fear

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - PERSPECTIVE -

For this na­tional po­lit­i­cal sea­son Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has found a new “Wil­lie Hor­ton” to in­flame his base — the car­a­van ap­proach­ing from south of the bor­der.

Dur­ing the 1988 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign, then-Vice Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H. W. Bush and his al­lies used Hor­ton — a con­victed mur­derer who fled dur­ing a week­end fur­lough and then com­mit­ted ad­di­tional heinous crimes be­fore be­ing cap­tured — to say Demo­cratic can­di­date Michael Dukakis and his party were weak on crime.

To­day sim­i­lar tac­tics are be­ing used by Trump to raise fears over a car­a­van of sev­eral thou­sand His­pan­ics, mostly from Cen­tral Amer­ica, with many be­ing women and children, seek­ing to es­cape the hor­rors in their own coun­tries and find asy­lum in the United States.

Trump claims those in the car­a­van, which by some es­ti­mates is not ex­pected to reach the U.S. bor­der for 60 days or more, will il­le­gally en­ter our coun­try bring­ing dis­eases and crime. The pres­i­dent is send­ing as many as 15,000 of our troops to the bor­der to stop them. Trump has added that if those in the car­a­van throw rocks or stones, the troops should fire on them.

The U.S. has a long his­tory of wel­com­ing those seek­ing a new life in our coun­try, but in the past it also has been less wel­com­ing to many, in­clud­ing the Ir­ish, Catholics, Jews, Chi­nese and oth­ers.

In 1939, the SS St. Louis, a pas­sen­ger ves­sel sail­ing un­der the German flag, at­tempted to bring more than 900 in­di­vid­u­als, the ma­jor­ity Jews, flee­ing Nazi-ruled Ger­many to safe har­bor. They were re­fused en­try to the U.S. be­cause our then im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies were based on do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal sen­ti­ment, rather than hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds. New for­eign­ers were not wanted! Sim­i­lar at­ti­tudes faced these refugees when they were taken to Cuba and Canada. While some sur­vived af­ter be­ing ac­cepted in some Euro­pean coun­tries, many died in what we now know as the Holo­caust.

Then U.S. sen­ti­ment was against the St. Louis refugees. Trump is now ral­ly­ing sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment against this new group of refuge seek­ers. Have we for­got­ten our past and what can hap­pen if we once again re­ject the ideals on the base of our Statue of Lib­erty? — Bernard Bier­nacki, Aurora

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.