And Then They Came For Me

Fayes T Kantawala considers the Muslim Ban

And Then They Came For Me
“But he won’t ever do that!” has been, for the last two months, the mantra of all decent people in the (barely) United States of America. But this is no longer a hypothetical how-bad-can-it-get query. This is a catastrophe, and no matter how bad things may seem now, the pace of degradation confirms that the only thing we can count on is that things will get a lot worse. This is a full-on disaster movie, unfolding in a near-constant stream of horrifying where-do-we-run-to-now moments. The world in the Time of Trump looks like the last twenty minutes of The Sound of Music, when the family has stopped breaking into song and is instead running away from White Supremacist/telegram deliverer Rolf. For the less musically inclined among us, this is Harry Potter Book 5 and Dolores Umbridge is now the Queen.

Trump’s ban on immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim countries was, and remains, deeply racist and petulantly cruel. That he included Iraq on the list was particularly awful. It shows no sense of responsibility or remorse at the fact that the Americans invaded, pillaged, ravaged and then abandoned a sovereign country on patently false charges. The ban even went so far as to target people who have been living in the States legally - Green Card holders and people who have valid work visas - a move that was literally without precedent in the history of postwar America. Malevolent and conniving as the administration has proved itself to be, the ban was inposed on Friday so that most of the carnage and confusion at airports around the world happened over a weekend, when access to legal resources was most limited. It was tailor-made to wreak as much damage as possible in the smallest amount of time.
You know that if the Muslim ban is a guest-list, we most definitely are invited to the party

Although we are spoilt for choice in this buffet of banality, possibly the most dangerous of the new orders was the announcement that the White House is planning on publishing a list every week detailing the crimes committed by immigrants. All immigrants. Let that sink in. An American administration wants to publish lists demonizing groups of people every week in 2017. The last time they did something like that was during the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s and, while we are on the subject of madmen, I just want to throw it out there that the only other government that published lists of crimes committed by a racially or ethnically defined group of people was in Third Reich Germany. The Nazis quite literally come to mind.

The aim of these lists is to spread fear and misinformation among the American people. They did the same thing to the Jews in Germany in an effort to get the public to blame the community for whatever was going wrong with the country. Ban refugees and immigrants, Trump’s America says, and your country will be safer, your factories will reopen and your jobs will come back. He is wrong. They won’t. And it is sickening to witness a mistake humanity has made so many times before (refer again to Harry Potter 5/WW2 movies) play itself out in our data-friendly, Wiki-saturated day and age all over again.

Poster for an infamous Nazi propaganda film, described in the Third Reich as a 'documentary', meant to aid in the state's anti-Semitic policies
Poster for an infamous Nazi propaganda film, described in the Third Reich as a 'documentary', meant to aid in the state's anti-Semitic policies

The response to this onslaught from the American left has been to release carefully worded, exhaustively fact-checked rebuttals that hope to expose Trump supporters’ deplorable lack of knowledge. History tells us that the left in Germany tried to combat the rise of Nazi misinformation the same way, by publishing facts and crafting nuanced responses to outlandish claims. The reason it doesn’t work is because showing these people facts does not change how they feel.

This administration is not just a bunch of conservatives at work trying to undermine the legacy of their Democratic predecessor. It is far more sinister than that. This in an unabashed, publicly unapologetic gang of white supremacists who believe fascism and imperialism are America’s right. If someone (or in this case a vast population of a powerful country) is afraid that their white power is being taken away from them and the only way to get it back is to pick on Muslim immigrants, then frankly no amount of CNN factsheets are going to change their minds. Racism and bigotry are not the products of wrongful information. They are willful acts of hate.

The strange thing is that even now, weeks into Trump’s terrifying presidency, and months after the election results, no one is quite sure how or why this all happened. Bicoastal America is stunned and at a loss at how to fight back. The heartening thing in all this madness is that many Americans are trying to fight back. The ACLU launched a legal campaign that led to a stay on the so-called Muslim ban and forced the government to confirm that Green Card holders and other legal residents of the US can’t be denied entry. It’s a small victory in what promises to be a very long, very tiring fight.

As anyone who has traveled to the US probably knows, the border patrol agents are the kind of people most likely to have voted for Trump anyway. Undereducated, underpaid bureaucrats with guns attached to their waists are likely thrilled that they now have an executive order allowing them to be as cruel and arbitrary as they want.

I am a legal resident alien in the US and (no matter how many times I listen to the Sting song) I am feeling very scared. I feel scared, unsure and unwelcome, and that change occurred practically in a matter of days. I’ve lived there through the Bush years and never thought America could be a worse place to be a brown person than during that time, but it turns out I was wrong.

Pakistan is not technically on the list of the seven countries, not at the time this column was going to print. (Dear God...) But you know that if the Muslim ban is a guest-list, we are most definitely invited to the party. You may have to turn the page to find us, but rest assured you will find us. Hell, we probably arranged the appetizers. Amidst all of this Imran Khan, in his infinite dimness, has declared during one of his rallies that he prays Pakistan is on the list so that the brain drain is reversed. No, you brain-dead egomaniac who married a British heiress, that’s not how this works. You want the brain drain to reverse? You want talent to stay in the country? Well, unless you can hold a press conference on something other than your floundering political career (I dare you to say the word “Bloggers” in public), shut it and get to work. Make a country that facilitates talent, nurtures and protects it. Make sure there are opportunities and venues to celebrate it and maybe, just maybe, the talent will stay here.

In the meantime, I’ll build my bunker and lie low for a while.

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