This is a Mockup of Substack using CiteIt.net citations.
In the days leading up to Christmas, much of the country was slammed with an Arctic blast causing a combination of unusually frigid temperatures—even for those of us who are used to harsh winters—and high winds. Millions of people lost power and in Buffalo, NY alone over 31 people have died after 49 inches of snow buried the city.
Life is hard enough.
It was under these circumstances, that Texas Governor Greg Abbott, protean in his repulsiveness, thought to burnish his already solid bona fides as one of the worst governors in America. On Christmas Eve (a high holy day among Christians which Abbott pretends to be), he sent three buses full of 110 to 130 migrant men, women, and children to Washington DC. It was dark when they arrived and the temperature had fallen to 18 degrees. Despite this, they were told to disembark in front of Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence. Abbott’s administration had not alerted federal authorities and there was no coordination with local officials. Luckily, volunteer organizations had gotten word but they still had to scramble to make sure the migrants were provided with food and shelter.
[To be clear, these people had done nothing wrong. According to 8 USC 1158: Asylum, “
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien's status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable.”]
I hesitate to call this kind of calculated sociopathy on Abbott’s part a “stunt.” Yes, it’s designed to get him the attention and publicity he so craves but the consequences are potentially life-threatening and the word “stunt” doesn’t do his depravity justice.
On Christmas morning, Abbot had the temerity to go on Twitter and write, “May the hopeful promise of our Savior’s birth bring comfort & joy to you & your family. Merry Christmas, Texas!” a tweet that was properly ratioed. He’s vile, he’s indecent, and Dante needs to add another circle of hell to accommodate people like Greg Abbott. All of that notwithstanding, Abbott was re-elected less than two months ago.
Some of the reasons for his re-election are structural—Texas Republicans have implemented among the most restrictive voting laws in the country and the Democrats have yet to invest sufficient resources in the state. Abbott’s margin of victory, however, still blew me away. His Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke—a good man and talented politician—was absolutely trounced, losing by eleven percentage points.
Over 4,426,000 people voted for Abbott after, on his watch, the state had spent as much as $13 million to displace other migrants, using human beings as pawns in a game only he and Ron DeSantis seem to be playing. They voted for him after as many as 700 of his constituents died, either directly or indirectly, when the electric grid failed due to his government’s failure to winterize power sources as a result of deregulation driven by greed; after his hideous behavior in the wake of the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. (Abbott called the shooting “unacceptable” while making it clear he had every intention of accepting these kinds of horrors by saying “
it could have been worse.” He exalted what can only be described as the criminal and cowardly law enforcement response. He blamed the shooting on mental illness even as he reduced funding for mental health treatment in Texas while at the same time making it legal for 18-year-olds to own weapons of mass death.) And all of those people, including 64% of white women, voted for him after the enactment of SB8, a bill, later upheld by the Supreme Court, that effectively ended access to legal abortion while instituting a sadistic system of vigilantism designed to punish anyone who helped women seek reproductive health care.
Texans had more than enough information about Greg Abbott before the gubernatorial race in November. Despite the decency, empathy, and competence of Beto O’Rourke they still pulled the lever for the madman. In a bit of cruel irony, more than 60% of the votes cast in Uvalde went to Abbott.
I worry that we who value decency, empathy, and competence have either become inured to the cruelty on the right or have begun to look away from it because, honestly, it’s just too much to bear. At times it seems we simply accept it as a tried-and true electoral strategy the Republicans have become effective at using to win elections. We and the mainstream media accept it because cruelty so often works. In Donald Trump’s wake it has, after all, become the party’s most valuable currency.
Kindness is weakness, so it goes, but trafficking in cruelty—if it plays with the “base”—that is smart political strategy that can neither be judged nor questioned. We’ve arrived at a place where Democrats don’t make enough of the right’s viciousness (part of a broader problem that seems to be hardwired into the Democratic Party’s DNA) and the media continue to be unwilling to describe it accurately for fear of seeming biased.
I continue to hope that somebody with the requisite expertise will explain why Greg Abbott’s trafficking of people legally seeking asylum over state lines isn’t itself illegal. Unfortunately, the fact remains that some of the most egregious crimes against humanity in American history weren’t considered crimes at all when they were committed; or they were deemed to be constitutional; or they were sanctioned government policy. The forced relocation of one hundred thousand Native Americans during Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears and the founding of the domestic slave trade after the international slave trade had been abolished are only two examples.
Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, said in a Vox interview with Ezra Klein in May 2017, “
I actually think the great evil of American slavery wasn’t involuntary servitude and forced labor. The true evil of American slavery was the narrative we created to justify it. They made up this ideology of white supremacy that cannot be reconciled with our Constitution, that cannot be reconciled with a commitment to fair and just treatment of all people. They made it up so they could feel comfortable.” That ideology continues to be operative in this country. The commitment to racial hierarchy is too deeply entrenched and, for many whites, still psychologically necessary.
It is the denial of white supremacy and the vehement need to deny it—whether we’re talking about immigration, or Black Lives Matter, or reparations, or Critical Race Theory—that have ensured that the traumas upon which this country was founded will never heal, that they will in fact worsen over time, compounded by the continuing neglect of our democratic ideals and the pressing need of the white majority to pretend the traumas never happened in the first place. The urgency of white supremacy requires that white society always finds a way to achieve homeostasis. In America this homeostasis can only occur when white people are at the top of the hierarchy and Black and brown people are at the bottom of it.
What gets lost in all of this performative inhumanity is the cost—in lives lost, upended, and, in far too many cases, ruined, but also in the squandering of economic and human capital. The right’s regressive bent forces the rest of us to keep defending positions we thought were past the need to defend and to fund initiatives that should have been long settled. Instead of being able to support forward-looking causes we keep having to fight the same old battles. And it’s exhausting.
We all need to do better. We need to pressure our leaders to do better as well. We let the George W. Bush administration get away with torture. Letting American governors get away with their own crimes against migrants—in a country of immigrants—will break us just as surely as failing to hold the insurrectionists, seditionists, and traitors accountable.
I’ve often said that Donald Trump isn’t the problem, he’s merely the symptom of a disease that, on the right, has long gone untreated and has therefore metastasized. The Republican politicians who cater to and enable him are the problem. By the same token, we need to come to terms with the fact that it’s Republican voters who support and perpetuate the system of bigotry and cruelty their leaders embrace. It is our fellow citizens who continue to give power to the worst among us not only because they tolerate their inhumane policies but because they sanction them.
My faith in humanity is restored by the fact that there are so many people willing to work overtime under horrendous conditions and, in some cases, risk their own lives in order to save others from a deadly arctic storm. But the generosity and kindness on display in DC, though something for which we should all be grateful, shouldn’t be necessary at all. The fact that it is makes me unspeakably angry.
[If you are able in any way to help the migrants whose only transgression is risking everything in order to find a better life for themselves and their children in a country that has long pledged to welcome them, please check out this Linktree.]
This is what I hope for America in 2023:
I hope more than almost anything that we can change from bad to good as as easily as Kris Kringle tells us we can. We are still very much on the wrong side of that ledger.
The Good in Us by Mary L. Trump is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.