Trump's abhorrent policy runs counter to who we are

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Ever since January of last year, the nation has endured President Donald Trump's debasement of the highest office in the land. Through it all, his base — wooed by his careful nurturing of its fears and prejudices — has stuck by him. Until now, the ruling Republicans in Congress have generally remained silent, more interested in passing their political agenda than in acting as a Constitutional safeguard against the unbridled instincts of an executive bull who carries his china shop around with him.

With his latest "zero tolerance" policy toward border crossers, President Trump has reached a new low even by his standards. This policy, in the administration's mind, justifies the contemptible policy of separating thousands of children from their parents and placing them in cages as they await placement with sponsors, assuming they aren't lost. It's a policy that has been rightly condemned not only in this country, but around the world.

The president's immigration policy has proved too much to bear for Gov. Phil Scott, who has announced that, if asked by the White House, he will refuse to send the state's National Guard troops to aid in border protection work. Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker similarly refuses; Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, also a Republican, is recalling his state's forces. Joining them in condemning President Trump's acts have been every living former first lady, including Laura Bush, who penned a courageous and poignant op-ed in The Washington Post comparing the action to the shameful U.S. internment camps for Japanese-Americans in World War II.

Mr. Trump has blamed Democrats for passing a law (that doesn't exist) forcing him to commit such acts of institutional cruelty. He has claimed his hands are tied, when he possesses unilateral authority to halt the family separations. Meanwhile, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has quoted a Bible passage used in the past to justify slavery in defending the indefensible. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, in an out-and-out falsehood, tweeted, "We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period." The president and the administration consider this hard line a "winning issue," and he would like to be seen as simultaneously repudiating and endorsing it.

Sad to say, trying to have it both ways is typical behavior coming from a man who must always "win" and can never be wrong. Once we enter a looking-glass world where irreversible emotional trauma is being visited upon helpless families and innocent children as official national policy, however, we have crossed out of the political realm into something more definitive. We face an existential question of who we, as a nation, purport to be other than a mere self-interested group of people living within a geographical area.

Thankfully, what most of us know is that Donald Trump's America is not the America of the Statue of Liberty, the America that willingly sent its own young men and treasure across both seas to fight tyranny, the America that passed the Civil Rights Act in an attempt to correct its own flaws and set a more direct course to become a haven of liberty and justice for all.

This ethos must be protected. Congress, even timid Republicans among its ranks, is considering legislation to at least halt the family separations. Our representatives should not be allowed to shirk their duty to correct what is clearly a crime against humanity being committed in our name, and should pass such legislation promptly with a veto-proof majority.

Additionally, since we as Americans are all complicit in the acts of our participatory democracy, we must have a hand in expiating its sins, starting with turning out every Republican in November who supports this administration and its policies.

We can begin by working to unseat Rep. John Faso of New York Congressional District 19, which abuts Bennington County — a Republican who has voted 84.7 percent of the time in support of President Trump.


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