Without morality, ethics and humanity -- laws can be used to justify any act of horror. History has shown this when Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps during WWII. History has judged that incident harshly. And so Americans must also remember what just occurred in the recent policy that separated families at the border and held innocent children in detention camps alone, apart from parents. Americans must not forget.
What Trump and his Justice Department attempted to do was use children as deterrent to discourage illegal crossing, use children as pawns to advance his political agenda. What Americans and the world had witnessed was sheer abuse of power by President Donald Trump. Zero tolerance policy was “state sanctioned child abuse.” Immoral. Unjust. Inhumane. And even as some religious figures called it, including Catholic Jesuit Fr. James Martin – Evil.
Trump thought he could get away with the zero tolerance policy as he normally does with everything else. He used his Justice Department to exploit discretion in existing law to separate over 2,000 children from their family while adults await criminal prosecution and deportation. But he never anticipated the huge, civil disobedience, grass-roots community opposition against zero tolerance that even scared a few key Republican politicians to bolt from Trump on this most poorly thought out political firecracker. Trump caved into political pressure; but certainly his true “will” was evident by his compassionless action in the first place, followed by falsely blaming Democrats for separating migrant children.
Americans cannot forget this incident and simply brush it under the rug because the president signed an executive order stopping child separation from families at the border. Remember, he was forced to do it only because of political pressure. (The NY Times reported there were over 700 protests spread across all 50 states just this past weekend.) This man’s conscious remains the same. This president’s cruelty remains the same. His lack of compassion remains the same. This leader’s moral compass remains the same. Trump has crossed the border of decency and brought shame to the United States as the entire world witnessed the lowest form of migrant abuse the U.S has implemented in masse in modern history. Without a doubt, he would be willing to do it again if suddenly it became popular to do so.
Americans must remember zero tolerance policy and go to the polls in the midterm. A few Republicans were courageous enough to stand against Trump and zero tolerance policy. These were only a few Republicans with large Hispanic populations in their state. These Republicans sensed a feverish pitch of anger beyond normal decibels. But in the broad picture, the GOP has been silently complicit prior to zero tolerance on so many questionable immigration matters that they actually emboldened the president to try anything in his war against immigrants and migrants. The same could be said of Christian Evangelicals with some prominent members only abandoning Trump on this latest zero tolerance policy.
What Americans have witnessed in the past two weeks is a defining moment. Americans took to the streets and proudly defended human rights in this country. Inhumanity is not what a majority of Americans will tolerate. It is a proud moment that Americans pushed back when law and policy overstep boundaries of cruelty. Americans have sent the strongest message that people in power cannot hide behind unjust laws. Americans are smarter than that. There were many justice heroes in this battle to end family separation. Sens. Mazie Hirono, Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Ted Liu were strong opposition voices; credit also to Sens John Cornyn and Ted Cruz on the Republican side. The nation’s medical community became activists on this issue, so were women’s and immigrant groups, the ACLU, and countless other organizations. But the real heroes were you, the American people.
Americans must now demand that each one of these migrant children be returned safely to their parents. Already, there are cases in which migrant children have not been able to be located and reunited with parents for months after deportations have been finalized. Sadly, the child of a man – whose father committed suicide because of separation -- will not have this opportunity to reunite.
Remember all the harm that zero tolerance policy caused. Remember what this president has done and is already proven to be capable of doing in the future.
Building Camaraderie and Trust was the First Step
The unprecedented, history-making summit between the U.S. and North Korea has been called a lot of things: a PR show, much-ado-about-nothing, hype, propaganda, failure, and insubstantial. While these descriptions could all be true, the world has benefited from the summit.
The prior build-up toward military engagement has decreased by the two leaders. That is success in and of itself.
Not too long ago, a thick fear gripped the Asia Pacific region, particularly in South Korea and Japan. Hawaii residents had its notorious false missile scare, too. The war of words between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un had escalated to a level of détente, perhaps not seen since the Cold War. The summit, at least for now, has relieved some of that hot air and tension. It also set the groundwork for more talks and cooperation between the two leaders toward a North Korea denuclearization in exchange for security and a lift on imposed economic sanctions.
The real work, real strides, real details have yet to take place. What the summit also accomplished is cooling down this sense of urgency. Prior to the summit, the world and the U.S. were pressed that something quick needed to be done before Kim achieved full long-range nuclear capability. The U.S. has also suspended for now joint military exercises with U.S. allies in the region that will help to reduce animosity and distrust.
Instead of drawing up war plans, the two leaders have bought more time to draw up plans that could make the region and world safer. This is perhaps the biggest success to come out of the summit.
At the same time, naysayers are right to be skeptical of what Trump proclaimed: there is “no longer a nuclear threat.” The military hardliners in North Korea who’ve been accustomed to this mindset of nuclear building as strength for decades will not be easily convinced of a better future without nuclear weapons.
But Kim Jong Un’s pledge to continue working for de-nuclearization must be taken seriously and given a chance. Diplomacy must be given a chance.
The End Goal
The ideal scenario is for complete de-nuclearization, stability between both Koreas, and for the U.S. to dramatically scale back its military presence in that region. This will take time, hard work, and tough negotiations
What also must be encouraged is supporting the North Korean leader to transition the country to a more open, democratic society. North Korean society must mature in this area and be reconnected to the rest of the world. That would require that Kim Jong Un lift many of the repressive tactics that have kept him and his family in power for generations. For example, there needs to be steps toward having a more open media, access to social media networks by its citizens, allowing opposition parties to form, and definitely stop the state’s human rights abuses. All of these could appear troubling for a leader like Jong Un. The easier part, which is what perhaps Trump and Jong Un’s neighbors (China, South Korea, Japan) have been selling to the North Korean leader is opening up the country to more free open markets.
If the citizens of North Korea do not change and remain suspicious of the world, Kim Jong Un’s successor could easily revert back to old ways of isolation and nuclear-building. Then the world is back at first base.
What analysts and editorial writers rarely make mention of is that North Korea’s obsession with nuclear-building has more to do with fear of invasion – it’s a defensive reaction to their fears. So eliminating that fear could be just as challenging as abandoning their nuclear ambitions, but necessary. The fact that Jong Un is a young leader bodes well for him to make this transition.
Where the U.S. and West have made mistakes in the past is rushing this democratization process only to have a country fall apart and be replaced with lawlessness, i.e., Libya. The pace of change while maintaining sovereignty (little interference from the west) that China has made toward democratization and open markets is the likely pattern that North Korea will pursue.
In all likelihood, that had already been discussed between Kim Jong Un and China’s President Xi Jinping in their meeting prior to the U.S.-North Korean summit.
For now, the handshakes and goodwill between Trump and Jong Un will have to do. The summit set off a process that could lead to a new era of cooperation. The summit was historic and should be viewed with less cynicism for real post-summit success to work.
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