As Trump keeps pushing his wall, problems south of our border are escalating. The wall is more important than aiding victims of totalitarianism in Venezuela?
We’re over a month into Trump’s presidency, and the campaigning has not stopped. That includes the incessant talk about the building of a wall on our southern border. It doesn’t matter that the concept has been analyzed to death, with most admitting that it is not economically feasible, or necessary. What isn’t being discussed is the fact that beyond Mexico, there are people who are coming to our border as refugees. They aren’t from Syria or Muslim, so therefore Trump’s supporters can’t scream that they might be Islamic terrorists.
The people I’m talking about are Venezuelans, and they are seeking to escape a totalitarian government where dissent can mean death. Historically, Americans have generally supported the idea of offering asylum to people who do not enjoy the freedoms that we do. Sometimes we have been wary, or maybe a little fearful, but the desire to offer freedom to those who do not have it has usually prevailed. It is an attitude that we also wanted to see in our leaders, because if a president would not speak against the evil acts of a dictator, he would typically see a slump in his approval ratings shortly thereafter. Even the much beloved Ronald Reagan suffered for his dealings with world players who were perceived as authoritarian or outright illegitimate by the American public – remember the Iran-Contra Scandal.
While this attitude can be traced back to the beginnings of our nation, in more modern times, the shift toward viewing America as a nation which supports freedom and peace started during the Cold War, with one speech. John F. Kennedy delivered his commencement address at American University on June 10, 1963, which is remembered by many Americans as when he warned against attempting to force a pax Americana on the world. It was a warning against following in the footsteps of England at the height of the British Empire, but it was also pointing out the folly of playing peacekeeper for the world. Kennedy was trying to point out that enforcing peace through the threat of nuclear annihilation and actual military force was not the answer. It is important to remember that at that time, walls and fences were often viewed as not just barriers, but also acts of aggression against opposing political views. They were aggressive acts meant to trap people inside, and prevent the entrance of free thought into closely controlled societies, like what we see in Venezuela today.
Kennedy’s speech was about breaching those barriers with freedom, so that men could find solutions to their problems and disputes without restrictions enforced by tyranny. But, our current president is talking about building walls, instead of breaking them down. No one seems to be questioning, is he proposing this solely to keep those he deems undesirable out, or is it to keep Americans in? Both?
In case there is any question about whether or not Venezuelans seeking asylum in this country have ever been considered not in need of it, our government has historically accepted most who have applied for entry.
The graph above is from our Department of Homeland Security, and it shows that Venzuela is heading back into a trend of more people seeking asylum. This is not about oil prices dropping or poverty – these are people who come to America in genuine fear for their lives. Our own government has been believing them, and for good reason. We talk about protecting ourselves from terrorism, while the Venezuelan government engages in acts of terrorism against its own people. Dissent is not an option, unless one wishes to be imprisoned or die. The people who come to our border from there are not hoping to take advantage of our citizens, or take away jobs. They are fleeing from certain death.
Currently, our country has two problems when it comes to dealing with immigration. The first is a deep and abiding fear of terrorism, which is leading us down a path that will probably cause more terrorist acts and organizations to appear worldwide. These groups are fueled by fear and hatred, and our current policy decisions are feeding them. The second is a tragic lack of faith in our own ability as a nation to grow and build businesses to offer the opportunity of prosperity to far more people than already reside within our borders. Instead of viewing more people as more potential, we are viewing population growth as a problem that will eat away at an imaginary finite number of jobs. We are buying a message that we are not capable of causing economic growth, and that we need to live in fear of people who want us to fear them – and that message is being delivered to us daily by our own president. Any talk about policy, executive orders, border walls, or national security is window-dressing on top of those two core problems.
Kennedy had an answer for this: “Our problems are manmade – therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable – and we believe they can do it again.”
Right now, we’re being very small. It’s time to go back to being big. Can we at least talk about being big enough to take a stand against totalitarianism? Trump is missing that opportunity, but he’s on Twitter. Maybe it’s time to tell him we’re bigger than the evil that is being done in Venezuela.