The forcible separation of parents and children for “months or longer” under any circumstances, even for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, would have to rank high in the annals of cruelty and heartlessness. As Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced recently, the U.S. now has just such a “zero tolerance” policy at that border. No more “smuggling” (as the AG put it) of children into this country, though we’re largely talking about parents and kids, even toddlers, fleeing grim violence in their homelands. The Trump administration considers such a stance a “deterrence policy,” though — typical of the Trump era — it’s based on a false statistic. Such separations have, in fact, been going on in a less official fashion since the administration took office. And don’t even blame Jeff Sessions for the policy. We now know that the urge to rip children out of the arms of their parents comes directly from the White House, from the heart, such as it is, of one Donald J. Trump.
As Michael Shear and Nicole Perlroth reported in the New York Times recently, a presidential rant at a cabinet meeting against the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, that almost caused her to resign, was in part over this very matter:
“One persistent issue has been Mr. Trump’s belief that Ms. Nielsen and other officials in the department were resisting his direction that parents be separated from their children when families cross illegally into the United States, several officials said. The president and his aides in the White House had been pushing a family separation policy for weeks as a way of deterring families from trying to cross the border illegally.”
TomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg has already written for this site on the staggering numbers of children displaced by Washington’s wars across the Greater Middle East and Africa, who are now, of course, denied any hope of sanctuary here (another kind of zero-tolerance stance of the Trump era). Today, however, she focuses on a different kind of Trumpian separation policy, one directed at divorcing us from the very language we speak, the words we normally use to describe reality, which are now to be officially banished to the borderlands of our consciousness.