Politics of “base” and its victims

Demonstrators gather outside the US Supreme Court demanding US President Donald Trump reverse hateful anti-refugee and anti-immigration executive orders in Washington, DC, January 30, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

FIFA World Cup is undoubtedly the most covered media event throughout the world. While American media covered football matches here and there, one particular story dominated the media for the past few weeks: separation of children from their parents in the US-Mexico border.

Most of those parents came to seek asylum in the United States, fleeing from desperate conditions in countries like Honduras and El Salvador. They were separated from their children as they waited for their cases to be heard. In some cases, parents had already been deported to their countries while their children remained in the US. This practice has been going on as President Trump adopted a “zero tolerance” policy on people crossing the border. Most Americans, including influential politicians of Trump’s own party, opposed the practice of splitting children from their parents.

This is a cruel and inhumane practice and it was implemented without much forethought and preparation. This is reminiscent of Trump’s botched attempt to ban Muslims from entering into the United States. Like the way Trump had to back down on the Muslim ban policy, he had to sign an executive order to stop the practice of separating children from their parents as the opposition to this policy grew louder. So, the question is: why has Trump pursued these sorts of policies and practices in the first place? Most observers believe that the Muslim ban and separation of children did not protect American interest in the long run. The objective of those policies and practices was rather political. Trump moved forward with those policies to rile up his political base, many of whom showed anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim bias. The xenophobic rhetoric to cater to people’s base emotion is nothing new in politics but we saw a dramatic increase of this practice after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

When I came to the United States in the fall of 1999 to pursue my education, I never thought I would spend much time thinking about my immigrant and religious identity in this country. But in retrospect, I think the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed so many things for me, for my family, and for people like me, precisely because a good number of American politicians began a practice of demonising immigrants and Muslims to cater to their political base. I do not blame common folks for harbouring negative attitudes toward Muslims…

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