We Americans are a terrible, merciless people.
I don’t think that’s what anybody wants to hear. I hate saying it. It’s a declaration that won’t make me popular, and I’m certain some of my conservative friends will roll their eyes — or worse — and suggest I’ve finally decided to join the “blame America first” crowd. I guess I’ll live with that.
Because the evidence is increasingly incontrovertible. Here is the latest:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Monday that fear of domestic violence is not legal grounds for asylum in a closely watched immigration case that could have a broad effect on the asylum process, women who have endured extreme violence and the independence of immigration judges.
Mr. Sessions reversed a decision by a Justice Department immigration appeals court that had given asylum to a woman from El Salvador who had been raped and abused by her husband. The appeals court decision had overruled earlier orders in similar cases.
This, of course, follows last week’s Justice Department ruling that there is no legal distinction between being an enthusiastic member of a terror group and a person who was forced to do slave labor for that group.
Which follows the Trump Administration’s decision to “discourage” immigration by separating parents from their children as a matter of deliberate, cruel policy.
And that, of course, follows two years backlash against refugees of all stripes — a backlash that preceded Donald Trump, led in part by then-Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback, who is now Trump’s “ambassador for international religious freedom.” (That’s a sentence that feels like ashes in my mouth.)
In other words: This utter absence of mercy — this is who we are, we Americans. This absence of mercy is one of the defining qualities of our governance and rhetoric in the Trumpian Era. (And oh, dear God, I am guilty. I am guilty.) This mercilessness is delivered in our name, on our behalf, by a president loved and applauded by many of America’s best-known Christians.
The news of Sessions’ decision comes, not incidentally, as this little nugget reached the public view:
The best distillation of the Trump Doctrine I heard, though, came from a senior White House official with direct access to the president and his thinking. I was talking to this person several weeks ago, and I said, by way of introduction, that I thought it might perhaps be too early to discern a definitive Trump Doctrine.
“No,” the official said. “There’s definitely a Trump Doctrine.”
“What is it?” I asked. Here is the answer I received:
“The Trump Doctrine is ‘We’re America, Bitch.’ That’s the Trump Doctrine.”
That the Trump Doctrine should be summarized in misogynistic terms is, of course, no surprise. And it gets to the heart of everything about this administration — and the country Donald Trump defines: An overconfident phallocentric swagger that plays best on a teen nighttime soap, but which — again — displays no qualities of mercy.
This is who we are. This is how we’ll be remembered. This is what we’ll be lying about to our grandchildren when they ask what we did during this era. All we can do is hope that those same grandchildren show us the mercy we’re withholding from those who need it so much.
And if they don’t: It’s no better than what we deserve.