Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, and Robert Frost
When candidate Trump first proposed building a wall along the Mexican border, the old English Professor in me immediately thought of Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall.” Then the old political observer in me thought of Ronald Reagan’s famous line at the Berlin Wall: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Frost opens his poem with the line, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” Frost knew, as did Reagan, just exactly what walls represent—exclusion, separation, divisiveness, isolation, and tyranny. Donald Trump knew too.
Like most thinking people, I initially recognized the wall proposal for what it was—the worst sort of political demagoguery, a shameless appeal to the worst of human nature: bigotry, hatred, and fear.
Racism has always been the supreme irony of the American Experiment. Trump’s election demonstrates that white supremacy is alive and well and continues to be fertile ground for political exploitation. Trump’s positions on immigration demonstrate he is mean-spirited and devoid of humanity.
Consider the repeal of DACA, a 2012 executive action by President Barack Obama that has shielded an estimated 800,000 illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. Many of these children have grown up in the U.S., attended college, and have become productive members of society.
Trump’s immigration policies are in sharp contrast with those of the Patron Saint of the GOP—Ronald Reagan. In 1986, President Reagan—certainly no champion of civil rights by anyone’s estimation—signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which gave amnesty to nearly three million undocumented immigrants. At the bill signing, Reagan said, “Future generations of Americans will be thankful for our efforts to humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people: American citizenship.” Key word: humanely.
Trump has stated he wishes he could end immigration altogether. Like most racists, he probably inherited his bigotry from his father. Daddy Trump was, after all, arrested at a KKK rally that turned violent in 1927.
Frost, who was right about everything, comes to mind again:
“I see him there. Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top. In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father’s saying, And he likes having thought of it so well. He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
If only our “old-stone savage” President had read “Mending Wall,” he might not “move in darkness.” Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.