The ICEmen Cometh: Madness, Blindness and the Anti-Immigrant Cargo Cult

The New York Times has a story about the consternation of a small town in rock-ribbed Trump country after one of its leading citizens, Mexican native Carlos Pacheo, was hauled off by armed immigration officers. The good townsfolk still “firmly believe” that “illegals” need to be deported, you understand, but it turns out that their long-time friend and public-spirited fellow citizen is one of the “good ones,” a special case for whom their hero in the White House should perhaps make a special exception.

(I’m not belittling their desire to save their friend from deportation — more power to them if they can keep him in the country with his wife and children. But seeing how this humane impulse exists simultaneously with their ardent desire to deport all the other “illegals,” I can’t help but be reminded of Josef Goebbel’s remark to Hitler about the difficulties he was encountering with the racist Nuremberg Laws. He said the policy itself was widely supported, but enforcement was hard because “every German has his favorite Jew” whom they think should be treated as an exception.)

Many Americans seem to believe that if you just got rid of Mexican restaurant owners and all the “illegals” who clean hotels and offices and do other grunt work for peanuts, then somehow, magically, a cornucopia of secure, high-paying jobs will suddenly appear. How this will happen is never made clear; undocumented immigrants aren’t holding such jobs, they never “took away” those jobs in the first place — and their absence won’t bring them back.

America’s working class (and middle class) communities have been devastated and undermined by the rapacious greed of rich white All-American elites, who’ve spent stripping the country’s assets — its land and its labor force — by sending away jobs to maximize their own profit, by hiding their own bloated profits in tax havens (or gaming the system like the mobbed-up casino boss in the White House), by gorging themselves on corporate welfare and “incentives” and tax cuts from the politicians they’ve bought, by draining the treasury with endless wars and military operations that destabilize the world, erode security but make huge profits for fat cats. They gutted thriving businesses and starved public bodies of funds, leading to a greatly diminished quality of life for millions of people. The “New Democrats” like Bill Clinton and his successors clearly aligned their party with these developments, meaning they could offer no real alternative, no good solutions when this inherently unstable, unjust system was hit by a reality bomb in 2008 and began to crumble.

And now a mobbed-up casino boss has stepped into the vacuum, promising to fix it but using hatred and chaos to distract from his real purpose: letting the same rich white All-American elites who created the situation to tear the remaining bits of meat from the American carcass to fill their own bellies while the country sinks further and world burns. But somehow, these Trump voters believe that sending armed goons into homes and restaurants — even hospitals — to drag immigrants away is going to solve all this. Meanwhile, those same New Democrats will tell you that it’s all Putin’s fault, and if only the good guys of the CIA will step in, we can get back to having leaders who make pretty speeches while drone-bombing weddings, bailing out Wall Street, overthrowing governments, raising military budgets and, er, deporting millions of people, and everything will be OK.

There is a kind of madness, and a kind of blindness, abroad in the land — and absolutely pervasive throughout both political parties — that I can’t recall seeing before, at least not at this level. It’s as if every political and institutional bulwark against authoritarianism and oligarchy has either been deliberately destroyed or has inexplicably disarmed itself. And here is Trump, whose administration embodies authoritarianism and oligarchy in their most naked, berserk forms. Yet Americans keep believing that “getting rid of illegals” — or, on the “left,” getting off some “really killer” satirical lines at the Oscars — will change things. And so the madness and the blindness go on.