Trump's toxic message fueling xenophobia
To the editor:
In his op-ed commentary in this newspaper on May 28, Pittsfield physician Mehernosh Khan eloquently described immigrating to America, becoming a citizen, and establishing himself as a productive member of society — just like my mother did. When Mother arrived, job advertisements were often accompanied by "No Irish Need Apply" notices. That seems mild now, given Trump's plans for today's immigrants.
In 1905, George Santayana famously warned that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." As a nation, we have seldom heeded that warning.
Early in the 20th century, the United States wallowed in xenophobia, culminating in passage of the Immigration Act of 1924 targeting the Japanese with new, stringent restrictions. Immigration from Japan was essentially shut down for the next 30 years.
The people of Japan were outraged by the discriminatory provisions of the 1924 Immigration Act, thus ending an era of improving Japanese-American relations. The insult contributed to the Japanese people's acceptance of the military's move to control the government, and motivated the country's aggressive foreign policy toward the United States. Many historians consider the Immigration Act of 1924 an important contributing cause of World War II in the Pacific.
Trump's toxic message is designed to appeal to the xenophobia now rampant in America. He embraces racism in every form, whether the tacit acceptance of an endorsement by the KKK, a border wall to keep Mexicans at home, or new rules to ban the entry of Muslims. He maligns an Indiana-born judge because of his Hispanic ancestry, and adds that Muslim judges would "absolutely" be just as biased. About one-third of eligible voters this year are minority group members; Trump doesn't discriminate among them — he insults them all.
Trump's vituperative comments are not limited to illegal immigrants; he once said "legal immigrants do not and should not enter easily." Trump's views on immigrants are bizarre for someone whose mother immigrated from Scotland, whose grandparents immigrated from Germany, and whose present wife immigrated from Yugoslavia (now Slovenia).
The Republican candidate's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. is an insult to the entire Muslim world, in the same way the Immigration Act of 1924 was an affront to the Japanese. His threats already fuel hatred of America among Muslims abroad, deeply offend the millions of loyal Americans who happen to be Muslim, and nourish the growth of terrorist regimes.
Trump speaks of requiring all Muslims to register with the government; would rounding them up in internment camps be his next step? And when we run out of insults and find ourselves in a full-blown war against the Muslim world will we ask how such a thing could have happened? Will we ever heed Santayana's warning?
The Republican Party shames itself by offering this sorry individual as its nominee for the highest office in the land. After years of racist policies couched in code words, the GOP's chickens have come home to roost. It is time for the ragged remnants of the Republican Party to stand tall and say: "Trump, you're fired!"
Richard C. Henneberry, Melbourne, Fla., Canaan, N.Y.