Let us think for a moment and consider who Donald Trump has attacked since becoming President of the United States: Muslim-Americans, legal permanent residents, who are not necessarily Muslim but come from an arbitrary list of Muslim-majority countries, immigrants working and residing in the US…and all refugees.
Leaving aside the glaring unconstitutionality of Trump’s actions, the shameful legacy of Donald Trump will be his attack on the most vulnerable members of our international community.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a refugee is someone who is forced to flee his/her country because of persecution, war or violence. By definition, a refugee is someone who fears for their safety – so much so that they often go to great lengths to seek refuge. We, who live in countries like the US, cannot even fathom the horrific terrors which cause refugees to flee and fall under this ominous definition.
We don’t have to think too far back to remember the heart-wrenching image of three-year old Aylan Kurdi, in his bright red t-shirt lying face-down on the coast of Turkey. Kurdi drowned, along with his five-year old brother and mother, when his family desperately got onto a dinghy which capsized while they were trying to escape the terrors of radical Islamic forces in Syria.
Or what about the haunting image of five-year old Omran Daqneesh being pulled out of the rubble from an air-strike on his neighborhood. Or what about the unbelievable atrocities which are often too difficult for us to grasp, understand and process: Russian airstrikes targeting civilian-filled hospitals; concentration camps which still exist today, torturing hundreds of thousands North Koreans; mass rape, torture and murders of the Rohingya in Burma.
There are limits, of course, to our empathy. After all, the UNHCR estimates that there are over 20 million refugees in the world today. We, of course, do not expect the US to provide a home for all 20 million + refugees. And it is not as if the US has ever historically taken in a large percentage of the world’s refugees. Indeed, the US has a rigorous vetting process which make refugees the most vetted individuals to enter the country.
But Donald Trump and the sudden implementation of his ‘Muslim ban’ have gone well beyond the complexities of the refugee crisis. Not only is Trump breaching the US constitution and US international legal obligations of non-discrimination and non-refoulement of refugees (i.e. returning refugees to the very horrors from which they have escaped!), Trump and his “America First” policies are breaching the very moral authority and integrity of the United States.
This was, of course, not always the case. After the horrors of two world wars, sovereign nations came together, let go of their “me first” attitudes and took the moral high ground by forming the United Nations. Nations, including the United States, recognized and acknowledged the moral authority and common ground which could supersede all differences in race, religion, ethnicity and even form of government: Our humanity.
Some may say that American moral authority has been crumbling throughout the past decade. But let’s be honest. History has never been kind to those who have perpetuated racism, discrimination and an attack on the vulnerable – particularly in such a blatant manner as Trump and his administration. Yes there have been cowardly moments. Even cowardly decades. We are witnessing that now with the silence of too many American elected officials who are not standing up to Trump and his breach of national and international laws.
But in the end, our humanity will always prevail. We may do too little to prevent atrocities from happening, but in the end, history has never celebrated the likes of Donald Trump.
The shameful legacy of Trump will be read in future history books as an era to which we cry “never again”. It is time for each of us to stop standing on the wrong side of history.