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General News    H3'ed 3/5/19

Tomgram: Greg Grandin, Donald Trump, Pornographer-in-Chief

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He descended that Trump Tower escalator on June 16, 2015, to announce his presidential candidacy already bragging about the "great, great wall" he was going to build on the U.S.-Mexico border ("and nobody builds walls better than me... And I will have Mexico pay for that wall"). "When Mexico sends its people," he insisted that day, "they're not sending their best... They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

And his tune has never really changed. Almost three years later, in April 2018, he was still focused on those Mexican rapists, still insisting "they're not sending their best." In his final presidential debate with Hillary Clinton in October 2016, he denounced all the "bad hombres" who have made it to this country and how "we're going to get them out." A week into his presidency, he was already threatening to send the U.S. military into Mexico to get rid of the "tough hombres" from the Mexican drug cartels preparing to invade this country. And just a week ago at a breakfast with U.S. governors, he was at it again, this time denouncing "rough hombres": "And I told Guatemala and I told Honduras, and I told El Salvador -- three places where they send us tremendous numbers of people... They're not sending us their finest... They're sending us some very -- as I would sometimes say -- rough hombres. These are rough, rough, tough people."

In fact, many of those "hombres" -- and they are always hombres -- turned out to be rough, tough, bad children (even breast-feeding babies of the roughest, toughest sort) and rough, tough, desperate mothers, a crew so malign that they had to be eternally separated and incarcerated, which meant creating a children's Gitmo on the southern border.

In his new book, The End of the Myth, From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, TomDispatch regular Greg Grandin focuses on what it means for our country to live beyond the end of its own mythology. He sees that great wall, the one long ago constructed in the president's mind (if nowhere else), as a forerunner of a grim new American mythology, "a monument to the final closing of the frontier." Whether it's ever built, that wall is already a symbol of a country whose inhabitants once believed they could escape history and now are in the process of walling themselves in, psychologically speaking, and becoming what Grandin calls "prisoners of the past." Oh, and speaking of prisoners, today he points out the one circumstance in which the president tosses those hombres out the window and focuses instead on mujeres. And it's undoubtedly no mistake that, when he brings them up, they always have duct tape across their mouths. Tom

Bread, Circuses, and Duct Tape
Bound at the Border, or How to Make Border Porn
By Greg Grandin

On February 15th, Donald Trump declared a state of national emergency in order to fund his "great, great" border wall without having to go through Congress. There is, of course, no emergency, despite the rape fantasy that the president has regularly tried to pass off as public policy. In speech after speech, including his declaration of that emergency, he has told the same story: the United States needs a border wall to prevent sex traffickers from driving women into the country, bound with duct tape.

"Women are tied up," he typically says. "They're bound. Duct tape put around their faces, around their mouths. In many cases they can't even breathe."

It's a scenario he's only continued to elaborate over time. "They have tape over their mouths, electrical tape, usually blue tape, as they call it. It's powerful stuff. Not good. And they have three, four, five of them in vans, or three of them in back seats of cars." As they approach ports of entry, he swears, the vehicles carrying them "get off the road, and they drive out into the desert and they come in, they make a left turn -- usually it's a left, not a right."

Fact-checkers and experts in border sex trafficking have been quick to insist that they know of no such incidents, however elaborately imagined -- not one. Instead, most women and children forced into prostitution, they report, enter the country through legal ports of entry.

Border Patrol headquarters even sent out a request asking agents to provide any evidence whatsoever that might help support the president's tall tales. None apparently did. It's worth noting that Trump first added stories of duct-taped women to his border repertoire in early January, not too long after the heartbreaking news broke of the discovery of two Saudi sisters, 16 and 22, found dead in New York City's Hudson River, duct-taped together. Their deaths were ruled suicides, committed after the United States denied them asylum and ordered them deported to Saudi Arabia, a close American ally. Their bodies even washed up on West 68th Street and Riverside Drive, close to Trump Place Condominiums. (He seems inescapable.)

In any case, one doesn't need Sigmund Freud to grasp the crude displacement evidently underway here. By narrating the "crisis" on the border in a pornographic manner, painting it as a hellscape ruled by MS-13 murderers and rapists, President Trump is undoubtedly using ever more salacious fables to sublimate guilty desires, as well as his and the nation's complicity in hellish atrocities.

Currently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has nearly 50,000 migrants in custody. That's roughly the number of people Canada incarcerates in its entire prison system. And no one knows how many migrant children the U.S. is detaining, except that the number is much higher than the 2,737 listed in court documents. The Department of Health and Human Services can't even provide journalists with an accurate count: "The total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is unknown" is all its spokespeople can say.

Many of those children are housed in tent compounds in the desert or vacant Walmarts, forced to eat in shifts and sleep on the floors of chain-link cells covered only by a thin, metallic blanket. In one Florida detention center, children are packed "like sardines" in large halls stacked with bunk beds with little room even to walk. At such places, they are reportedly taunted or even sexually terrorized, either by staff or older migrants. They are overprescribed psychotropic drugs to numb them, given pills to make them sleep, and often refused medical attention when sick.

Border Patrol agents have even reportedly snatched babies from their mothers as they were breastfeeding them. Families have been tear gassed at the border and children have already died in Border Patrol custody (though "custody" is undoubtedly too soft a word to describe what the U.S. is doing to the progeny of nearby republics). "These kids are incarcerated," said an MSNBC reporter who visited one of the detention complexes.

Some of the incarcerated migrant children are then delivered to a Christian adoption service with links to Trump's Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. According to the Associated Press, the Trump administration has all but given up trying to reunite children placed in "sponsor" homes with their actual families, since returning them, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, "would present grave child welfare concerns."

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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