I’ve reached the point at which I’m less troubled by the outrages that are being reported than by those that are going unnoticed.
There’s been extensive coverage of the Republican health care proposal, and appropriately so. It’s an outrage that a major political party is pushing legislation that would place critical health care beyond the reach of millions in order to fund a tax cut for billionaires.
It’s chilling to see so many politicians willing to send Americans to avoidable death in order to confer additional wealth on a group of already very wealthy people. Chilling, yes, and perhaps more extreme than past measures, but it’s nothing new. For decades now, our leaders on both sides of the aisle have been all too willing to sacrifice the well-being of the many in an effort pamper the few.
Barely covered, however, was a House vote in favor of what really is a form of collective punishment, with many Democrats, including Kyrsten Sinema and Tom O’Halleran, joining the Republicans. That is an outrage of immense proportion. Yet most Americans are unaware.I’m referring to a measure commonly known as Kate’s law, named for Kate Steinle, who was brutally murdered by an undocumented immigrant.
In an appeal to the basest instincts of Americans, Trump campaigned on his proposal to impose harsh punishment on all immigrants who are caught crossing the border a second time without documentation, because Steinle’s murderer had done so.
Trump’s proposal was no more logical than sentencing people who wear hats to prison because a disproportionate number of bank robbers wear hats. It went without saying that millions of dimwitted Americans would buy in to Trump’s proposal. But our Congressional leaders are supposed to be better than that.
Sadly, they’re not. They voted overwhelmingly for a measure that would impose absurdly harsh punishment on people whose “crime” was crossing a border without the required paperwork.
Make no mistake. This is a step down a slippery slope that ends with mass atrocities. Yes, crossing the border illegally is a crime, but it’s a crime only because it is defined as such, not because it involves conduct that is inherently wrong, like murder, for example. What the House did was to pass a measure that would impose punishment not justified by the gravity of the conduct, but by the fear, irrational as it may be, that those who engage in this conduct we’ve defined to be wrong are more likely to later engage in conduct that is inherently wrong.
If this measure can win approval, how far are we from, say, associating the status of being Muslim with a higher likelihood of engaging in terrorism? Could we then punish law-abiding Muslims based on the likelihood of their future wrongful acts? Seems we could. And we’ve done so before. During WWII, we sent Japanese Americans to internment camps, based only on their national origin and our decision to associate that national origin with the likelihood of future wrongful conduct.
But it gets worse. When sane voices on social media criticized Sinema and O’Halleran for their cowardly votes, the “it’s a tough district” chorus was singing as loudly as ever.
Which means Americans can be divided into three groups: a large group that’s okay with collective punishment; another group that doesn’t approve of collective punishment, but isn’t willing to rise up against it; and a small minority willing to speak out against it.
This won’t end well.