He descended that Trump Tower escalator on June 16, 2015, to announce his presidential candidacy already bragging about the “great, great wall” he was going to build on the U.S.-Mexico border (“and nobody builds walls better than me… And I will have Mexico pay for that wall”). “When Mexico sends its people,” he insisted that day, “they’re not sending their best… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
And his tune has never really changed. Almost three years later, in April 2018, he was still focused on those Mexican rapists, still insisting “they’re not sending their best.” In his final presidential debate with Hillary Clinton in October 2016, he denounced all the “bad hombres” who have made it to this country and how “we’re going to get them out.” A week into his presidency, he was already threatening to send the U.S. military into Mexico to get rid of the “tough hombres” from the Mexican drug cartels preparing to invade this country. And just a week ago at a breakfast with U.S. governors, he was at it again, this time denouncing “rough hombres“: “And I told Guatemala and I told Honduras, and I told El Salvador — three places where they send us tremendous numbers of people… They’re not sending us their finest… They’re sending us some very — as I would sometimes say — rough hombres. These are rough, rough, tough people.”
In fact, many of those “hombres” — and they are always hombres — turned out to be rough, tough, bad children (even breast-feeding babies of the roughest, toughest sort) and rough, tough, desperate mothers, a crew so malign that they had to be eternally separated and incarcerated, which meant creating a children’s Gitmo on the southern border.
In his new book, The End of the Myth, From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, TomDispatch regular Greg Grandin focuses on what it means for our country to live beyond the end of its own mythology. He sees that great wall, the one long ago constructed in the president’s mind (if nowhere else), as a forerunner of a grim new American mythology, “a monument to the final closing of the frontier.” Whether it’s ever built, that wall is already a symbol of a country whose inhabitants once believed they could escape history and now are in the process of walling themselves in, psychologically speaking, and becoming what Grandin calls “prisoners of the past.” Oh, and speaking of prisoners, today he points out the one circumstance in which the president tosses those hombres out the window and focuses instead on mujeres. And it’s undoubtedly no mistake that, when he brings them up, they always have duct tape across their mouths.