California Forum

Bullies don’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Here’s what decent people can do instead

The past two weeks, President Donald Trump has touted his qualifications for a Nobel Peace Prize for his improbable rapprochement with Kim Jung-Un. At the same time, he has engaged in an orgy of bullying.

The latter is extreme even by his degraded standards: against residents from Honduras, who have been in the country two decades, have built lives and families here, and have now been told they are to lose their Temporary Protected Status and be rendered illegal. Against would-be asylum seekers from Central America. Against hungry food stamp recipients, on whom he wants to impose stringent work requirements.

One oughtn’t give a peace prize to a leader who revels in hurting refugees and asylum-seekers, who believes immigrants are drains on his country, who defends torture and has contempt for the free press. This isn’t about party politics; it is about human decency.

Against legal immigrants, whose families he intends to exclude from all public benefits, including food assistance and medical care. Against Iran, in pulling the U.S. out of the agreement to curb that country’s nuclear program, and, by extension, against America’s European allies, whom he deliberately humiliated in rejecting their increasingly desperate appeals to stay in the deal. Against Palestinians, with the grotesque celebration of the opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem while dozens of protestors were being shot dead by the IDF at the Gaza border.

And while we’re on the subject of walls and hyper-militarized borders, Trump is now moving full steam ahead to commit the U.S. government to take away children from parents who cross the southern border illegally – meaning that, in your name, my name, and the name of every other resident of this country, our government will soon be officially engaged in the mass hostage-taking of innocents. Let there be no euphemism here; such a policy is, as the writer Masha Gessen pointed out in an eloquent denunciation of the practice in The New Yorker, quite clearly state terrorism.

Bullies may win in the short term. So long as the economy is humming along, they may kick poor people in the teeth without suffering immediate electoral consequences. They may rip up international treaties, perhaps invade other countries under manufactured provocations. And, yes, bullies may even on occasion stumble into beneficial, even vital, rapprochements with erstwhile enemies, as Trump and Kim Jong-Un could end up doing with each other in Singapore.

That doesn’t mean, however, that their methods are okay or their values worth emulating. And it certainly doesn’t mean that they deserve Nobel Peace Prizes.

In the end, history catches up with bullies. And eventually those who acquiesce in, or ignore, the bludgeoning of the vulnerable – rationalizing to themselves that the economic good times somehow neutralize all the moral awfulness of an administration like Trump’s – are reviled by future generations.

In the meanwhile, one oughtn’t give a peace prize to a leader who revels in hurting refugees and asylum-seekers, who believes immigrants are drains on his country, who defends torture and has contempt for the free press. One oughtn’t celebrate a leader who keeps on his staff, and refuses to apologize for, a person who openly mocks an old man dying of brain cancer.

This isn’t about party politics; it is about human decency. It is about whether you are willing to tolerate the hostage-taking of children in your name, along California’s border with Mexico. It is about whether you are willing to countenance the entirely gratuitous destruction of 57,000 Honduran families, and hundreds of thousands of El Salvadoran families, a large proportion of whom live in California and are your neighbors and colleagues and quite possibly friends, all in your name. It is about whether you are willing to turn a blind eye to policies that will, quite deliberately, drive vast numbers of immigrants – more of whom live in California than in any other state – into destitution and malnutrition.

This can’t be business as normal. We all have a moral stake in stopping the foul deportation and family destruction machine that Trump is now unleashing.

After the 2016 election, the Sacramento City Council provided $300,000 in grant money for Family Unity, Education and Legal (FUEL) services. The money was primarily intended to go toward providing legal assistance for impoverished immigrants in the region, and the fund is administered by the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

While clients are not charged for the services provided, Marcus Tang, the Citizenship and Immigration Project Director for CRLAF, which serves people up and down the Central Valley, estimates that a simple consultation costs the organization about $100. If it turns out a TPS recipient is eligible for an adjustment of immigration status – say their spouses are Green Card holders or citizens, for example – as about 10 percent of the clients they advise are, then the cost for taking them through that process ranges from $2,000 through $5,000. Looked at that way, the $300,000 grant money from the city isn’t nearly enough to meet the legal needs of the region’s thousands of immigrants now in such peril.

I donated to FUEL legal services this week so that they can work on TPS cases in the state. I would urge local readers to go onto their website, www.crlaf.org, and to donate, too. For readers outside the area, the Immigration Advocates Network, www.immigrationadvocates.org, is working on legal assistance for immigrants nationally.

This can’t be business as normal. We all have a moral stake in stopping the foul deportation and family destruction machine that Trump is now unleashing. And for those readers who work in USCIS, ICE, Border Patrol and the other agencies involved in enforcing these vile policies, in particular the forced separation of parents and children: Remember the old documentaries about World War II, in which villainous German civil servants and uniformed officers claimed they were “only following orders?” It was a lousy excuse then and, today, as the president and attorney general urge the hostage-taking of children, it’s an equally awful cop-out now.

As for that Nobel Peace Prize? A man who advocates state-sanctioned child-kidnapping, the deliberate, vandalous, shredding of families, the illegalizing of people who were previously legal, is a man of hatreds and bigotries, not a messenger of peace.

Sasha Abramsky is a Sacramento writer who teaches at UC Davis. His latest book is “Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream.” He can be reached at sabramsky@sbcglobal.net.

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