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Let's Unpack One Trump Tweet on Refugees

No one can  -- and I certainly don't want to try -- to unpack every tweet the person currently holding the office of President of the United States sends out.

No one has the time to respond to every one of his tweets on just one issue. Although I wish I had the time on the issue of the Executive Orders recently issued in regard to refugees.

But every so often I feel I MUST respond to at least SOME of those tweets, lest I grow accustomed to them as normal. And I refuse to normalize the abnormal. 

Take one of Saturday's tweets, for example: in response to Judge Robart's temporarily stopping an Executive Orders, there was this: 

“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?” 

Let's unpack: 

"What is our country coming to..." 
  • Does that lament sound familiar? Ask yourself: who often says it, where do you hear it from the most? Is it a positive, hopeful line of thinking? I will give credit to Trump for being "on message" here: it's a "Make America Great Again" appeal, an appeal for some indeterminate time when America was great. But that claim relies on a lack of specificity: when was that time, exactly? What decade? And who was it great for? Gays? Blacks? Women? 
  • "What's our country coming to" is a general, unspecific lament that things are turning to crap. That we're "coming to" or "heading toward" something awful.
  • "What is our country coming to?" invokes a sense of dread: imagine if someone said, at your dinner table, "what is our family coming to?" You'd be alarmed, right? You'd say, "what do you mean by that, what's the matter?" It's alarmist language
  • Alarmist language is manipulative. "What is our country coming to..." begins like, and sounds like a question -- Trump's tweet ends with a question mark -- but it's really not intended to invite a response so much as it is intended to be an expression of deep anxiety. Again, if someone said "what's this family coming to?" at your dinner table, it'd be difficult to go on talking about anything other than that person's question/statement. It's a conversational hijack. 
  • The power of the lament/anxiety relies almost entirely on a lack of specifics: it breaks down when engaged. 
..."when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban..."
  • Pay attention to the implied "possessive" -- to whom does Donald Trump want us to believe the travel ban belongs? Homeland Security, that's who. Notice he doesn't say "...when a judge can halt my travel ban..." or even "...when a judge can halt my Executive Order..." His intention here is to wrap his travel ban in the good graces of Homeland Security. Make it seem "my executive order = homeland security." 
  • Remember, though, the "Homeland Security travel ban" was only a travel ban because Homeland Security was instructed to -- required to -- implement the Executive Order. With the order stayed and Homeland Security no longer implementing it, it can't be said to be a "Homeland Security travel ban." 
  • The judge halted a Donald Trump travel ban, and its constitutionality is being challenged in court. 
"...and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?"

Let's skip over the bad grammar: I know he means to say "anyone, even those with bad intentions can come into the United States."  Let's give him a break there: the medium he's using is Twitter, and I suppose The President of the United States doesn't have time to pay careful attention to what he is telling more than 23 million followers on his personal Twitter account and over 15 million followers on his official presidential Twitter account. I want to address the substance of what he is saying, because the substance of what he is saying here is wretched: 
  • "anyone" cannot come "into U.S." under the previous (and now current again) refugee law. 
  • To be considered a refugee, migrants must show they have been persecuted or fear persecution based on their race, religion, nationality or membership in a social or political group.
  • Like with the family that our church and Lutheran Social Services and Homestretch is sponsoring, and who, thank God arrived before Inauguration Day, it typically takes between 18 and 24 months for someone to be screened by government officials before they can be granted to be part of the program. There is an extremely rigorous vetting process, including screenings done by Homeland Security and the FBI.  
  • In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the program allowed 85,000 people to settle in the U.S., and 72% of them were women and children.
  • Refugees coming into the United States are the most carefully screened of any U.S. travelers. To say otherwise is a lie.
Banning the refugee program out of a fear that immigrants endanger this nation is like banning AA meetings out of a fear that people in recovery endanger their families.

So, why this Executive Order? And why such defensiveness over the fact that it is being challenged in courts of law? 

Because, I think, the judge's order upholds one of the United States' core values: that refugees and immigrants are good and positive things. 

What needs to be named, and re-named, and re-named again is that this travel ban is NOT in the category of "ensuring public safety;" is it in the category of politically-motivated fear-mongering.*

It's a classic, enemy-based, "let's scare people about immigrant, refugees and 'others'" so we can distract ourselves from ourselves."

It's a "look over there, so we don't have to look at our own internal proclivities to glorify violence" stance.

Even in the aftermath of 9-11, President Bush was very careful – took pains! -- to make a distinction between Muslims and terrorists; this ban (on predominantly Muslim-majority nations, this defacto ban on Muslims) dangerously blurs the line. 

It is also cruel to those in the process, many of whom jeopardized their lives by helping Americans and American allies, which is why they got into trouble and became refugees in the first place.
    Thank God "a judge" stayed this unjust, unnecessary, and cruel Executive Order because through that Executive Order -- during its brief but world-disrupting implementation -- we turned our back on vulnerable people. We violated our nation's core values. We discriminated against people based on their religious beliefs. 

    Overturning the travel ban protected our constitutionally-based separation of powers, saved the lives of innocent people, and, by allowing more grateful refugees to complete their journeys into our nation, made us more secure, not less. 

    Don't let any early-morning tweet convince you otherwise.


    *(p.s., adding to this post on Monday, February 6). In yet another tweet, it got worse: According to the Wall Street Journal

    "Over the weekend [February 4th  Mr. Trump repeatedly criticized Judge Robart’s ruling. “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril,” he posted Sunday afternoon on Twitter. “If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

    Let's unpack:

    "...a judge would put our country in such peril." 
    • ...a judge would put.."
      • Notice that the President of the United States is attempting to make a Federal judge the the actor -- the agent, the responsible party -- for whatever it is the President is about to claim. 
      • And what is he about to claim? What will "a judge" supposedly responsible for? Putting
    • ...our country in such peril."
      • The President of the United States is accusing a Federal judge of "[putting] our country in "such peril." 
        • The definition of "peril" is "serious and immediate danger." 
        • The claim here is that a judge -- by allowing refugees to resume entering the country through the mechanisms in place before the Executive Order -- is putting the country in serious and immediate danger. 
        • That claim of course assumes, without giving any evidence, that refugees pose a danger to the nation's security.
      • "in such peril" -- begs, but does not answer the question, "of what such peril?" It is a generic claim; it comes across as ominous. 
      • The claim is therefore an unspecified kind of fear-mongering. 
      • Perhaps one could expect such things during a rough-and-tumble campaign. But this is the President of the United States sending this message to tens of millions of people.  
    "...if something happens..."
    • "If something happens" -- again, a vague, ominous implication. It begs us to ponder what that "something" might be. What might happen
    • Pause for a second and ponder the fact that the President of the United States is inviting tens of millions of people to imagine that "something" might happen. 
      • He does not say if this "something" will be a good thing or a bad thing. 
      • But the President of the United States is implying, or invoking a fear of something bad happening, right? Because if "something" good happened, we would thank them. But here the President of the United States is saying "if something happens" we should "blame" someone for it. 

    So, again, the President of the United States is implying, or suggesting that refugees might cause something bad to happen.

    And then, the closer: 

    "...blame him the court system..." 

    Q: If something bad does happen, who are we are supposed to blame for it?
    A: A judge and "[the] court system" who is challenging the constitutionality of the order.

    Think about it: the President of the United States has told tens of millions of people that if something bad happens, we are to blame a specific judge and "[the] court system" for that bad thing happening. 

    "I think it’s best not to single out judges for criticism," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) told CNN on Sunday. Are conservative Republicans beginning to be alarmed over the President's behavior? 



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