President Chaos strikes again. The entire national media – not to say the entire nation itself – is focused on a few dusty border towns in Texas where American federal agents are busy with the essential work of ripping children from the arms of their mothers.
Foreign children from foreign mothers who crossed into this country illegally. So, you know.
No one saw this particular Trumpian curve ball coming, but we might have expected it. President Chaos and Captain Evil (Attorney General Jeff Sessions) have decided that the best way to spend the summer is to spin the country into a heart-rending, sanity-testing tailspin, where we endure audio recordings of Latino children screaming, “Papi!” and can’t do a thing about it except scream and feel like we’re going insane. While the Trump gaslighting machine insists that those Democrats ought to fix that mess they made.
Now we learn that our government has not just separated families, but actually separated mothers and babies, parents from toddlers. Put them in something called “tender age” detention centers.
This was too much for even the no-nonsense Rachel Maddow, who broke down crying on the air on Tuesday night as she tried to read the AP headline. The following hour, Stephanie Ruhle — mother of three — barely fought back tears as she lectured viewers about American values and what it means to be part of the sisterhood of mothers everywhere.
We’re unhinged, again, because Trump is crashing through civilized norms, again, because that’s what he likes to do.
As I have written before, when we experience the cognitive dissonance of the Trump administration — condoning white supremacism, embracing dictators, lying with abandon and now arresting babies — we must remember that the shock is calculated. That the disorientation caused by the jettisoning of our democratic values by our government is a feature of the Trump presidency, not a bug. Somewhere in the West Wing, Stephen Miller is smiling.
For those of us who are working to elevate the conversation around women, promoting leadership and gender equity, it is hard to process all of this and put it in context.
Just last week in Washington DC and New York, TheWrap highlighted the courageous work of women photographers for National Geographic, people of talent risking their lives to chronicle sex trafficking in the Philippines and illegal animal poaching in Africa. We showcased the work of activists and mothers like Shannon Watts, seeking to end gun violence alongside advocates like Shenee Johnson, who lost her son to a gun. We heard the delightful Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) recite the Dr. Seuss-style poem that got her old white guy colleagues to let Senator Tammy Duckworth bring her baby to the Senate floor.
But to be honest, the sisterhood of powerful women does not feel so powerful when the state brings its awesome power to bear on defenseless women who have fled violence in Honduras and El Salvador to save themselves and their children.
So we howl into the maw of Twitter and Facebook. Now protesters have gathered, the media has been pulled into that 24-hour crisis vortex, and I swear we are all walking around with persistent nausea in the pit of our stomachs, the echo of that little boy ringing in our ears, “Papi! Papi!”
This is what it’s like to watch the state abuse its power, without the mandate of its citizens and in shameless defiance of our democratic norms. Trumpsters tell us it’s the law, but it’s not. They tell us it’s necessary to create order, but it’s not.
Soon they will tell you that it’s all somebody’s fault. Maybe they’ll fill in the blank with — you know, anybody who’s not Russian.
But it’s our own fault. We chose this. Now we must own it, and all we want to do is make it stop.