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Silence and a rubber stamp from Northeast Tennessee

Jennie Young • Jul 18, 2018 at 8:15 AM

I’ve occasionally praised Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker for their efforts, positions and language. I value the independent thought which both Corker and Alexander value and practice in their jobs as Republican senators.

Congressman Phil Roe, in contrast, seems to be a conduit and rubber stamp for whatever is the latest manifestation of the Republican Party. I started to say Republican orthodoxy but for some time, especially lately, that concept has nearly disappeared. I think that accounts for Alexander and Corker’s willingness to be out of step when it counts. They’ve proven it once again by telling Trump that in their names he can’t separate children from their parents and that he should stop.

For his part, Roe latches onto the Trumpsters’ go-to phrases for minimizing the latest scandal, to distract from a refusal to address or acknowledge it. Like the profound corruption of EPA Director Scott Pruitt, who still has his job. Announcing his campaign on June 18, Roe said the sin against some 2,300 children at the southern border is just “bad optics,” but lawful and beneficial for our country of course. The subject may have come up because his campaign launch was “marred” by around 50 protesters (I was one) who’d taken the best course we knew to communicate directly with him. We needed to let him know that Trump shouldn’t be allowed to use government auspices to leverage cruelty against children, using them as hostages to effect policy. Simply said, Roe takes his cues and his language from Donald Trump and assumes that will work for us. As does Marsha Blackburn who wants to be junior senator from Tennessee. As does Diane Black who thinks she should be governor.

I received Roe’s email newsletter (6/23), in which he had promised to discuss the issue. He acknowledges there has been a great deal of “debate” about deliberate separation of children from parents and that Trump was right in belatedly signing an executive order for keeping families together. The rest concerns his notions of border security and immigration reform. No one denies the necessity of immigration reform, though most Americans, including many Republicans, deny we must buy a $25-billion sunk-capital wall which would surely be rendered useless as times change. A monument to, and painful reminder of, when our government was headed by sociopathic incompetence. For now, the word I would really challenge in the newsletter is “debate.”

Who among Roe’s staff thought of spinning the revulsion directed at Trump for a barbaric policy choice as a debate? What exactly does Roe think was the proposition? “Should Trump affirm himself by leading us in a race to the bottom, seeing who can scare frightened asylum seekers more, their home countries’ gangs and drug cartels or the U.S. government?” Roe’s silence on that leaves no question which side of that proposition he’s favored. Ditto Blackburn and Black. After all, what’s the big deal about adding a tad more needless trauma, American style, to this tragedy? “Americans are the fairest people on the earth,” Roe says at the end of his newsletter. It’s the beginning of a compound sentence, next comes “but …” and then a trite launch back into his spiel.

Roe doesn’t mention that most of the 2,300-plus children are still separated and some may remain so, even with efforts to reunite them. That’s because the Trump administration so poorly considered what they were creating. They’ve become famous for precipitous action, but it seldom concerns Trump. He even claims to thrive on upset and drama. He’s counseled on immigration by Steven Miller, his far-right senior adviser, who previously was Sen. Jeff Sessions’s communications director, the most malignant influence in the White House and highly valued. Trump seems to be committed to one actual ideology and that’s nativism, more commonly called white nationalism, the same one that drives Miller. And likewise Sessions, which may explain why their urgency burned hotter than any consideration for follow through. All three register negativity on letting brown people into the country, even legally, so just make it happen and devil take the hindmost. This was and is cold and calculating. No wonder they try to downplay it.

Our message to our representative should be that we shall refuse to forget this. With our country branded by an unspeakable evil, Roe doesn’t get it. It’s more important to “bury” Democrats. He seems a pitiable man, who has yet to realize his character is being incrementally diminished, along with the rest of us as Americans, Republican and Democrat, by our choice of leadership.

Jennie Young of Elizabethton is a retired language arts teacher.

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