When I listen to a speech like the one Donald Trump gave in Arizona last night, my immediate reaction is to go into fact-check mode and try to point out all of the hypocrisies and the lies he is telling. But that doesn’t change much of anything and becomes a bit of a distraction from what is really going on here. I have to say that the editorial board at the New York Times really nailed it today.
By now we should all know better than to take what Mr. Trump says on any given Wednesday as somehow truer than what he said the previous Wednesday, or will say the following Wednesday, and whether what he tells the Mexican president or a crowd in Phoenix is more honest than what he says at a presidential debate or in a campaign ad.
The details may change. Mr. Trump and his surrogates may talk about a real or “virtual” border wall, electronic workplace verification, this or that entry-exit system, an aggressive deportation force or more gradual “attrition through enforcement.” They may talk about legalization someday, years from now, or never. Those talking points ultimately don’t matter — a President Trump wouldn’t have the resources to deport 11 million people. He has no workable plan to seal the border, build a wall or repair the economy once he destroys it by devastating the immigrant work force. He would, however, be able to make millions of immigrants miserable, and break up their families, and damage the country…
Arizona, home of Minutemen vigilantes and a powerful grass-roots immigrant-rights movement, has long been a national bellwether on immigration policy. It was a fitting backdrop to Mr. Trump’s hollow proposals, and his relentless lies about the dangers that immigrants pose to the lives of “our American citizens.” Tornadoes are hollow at the center, too, and they do a lot of damage.
That hit a personal note with me. It made me realize that it was finally time to write about something that has been rolling around in my head for the last couple of weeks. I recently had lunch with a friend and former co-worker who is a child and family therapist for a local HMO. She recounted stories of immigrant children she is currently working with who are American citizens but whose anxiety about the possible deportation of their parents is becoming a mental health issue. She also said that in her 30+ years as a family therapist, she’s never experienced so many people needing to talk about what is going on in this election. It has gotten so pronounced that she and a co-worker have decided that they need to bring it up in their group consultation. As professional therapists, they recognize that talking about politics with clients is usually unethical. But this election is different. People need to talk about how is it affecting them.
As the feminists in the 60’s and 70’s so wisely said…the personal is political. That has never been more true than it is right now. The one thing I’d add to what the NYT editorial board wrote is that this is not just about the potential damage a Trump presidency would do. It is also about the damage his candidacy is doing to people right now.
Pundits are meant to analyze policy and write about the political horse race. But I need to say that this kind of hate is personal for me. People’s lives are being damaged by our current political dialogue. Perhaps if we notice and say so, they won’t feel so alone.