With protests against Trump actions seemingly only exploding with greater force since his election, there is a critical question that is seldom being asked. Even for one who acknowledges that there is plenty to be protesting against, you have to wonder: Where were the protests in December of 2015 when Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, an appropriations bill with buried language designating seven countries to restrict visa waivers from due to them being considered special risks for visa entry?
After all, they are the same seven countries that Trump has now restricted in his so-called “Muslim Ban” (a misnomer, because the actions only affect 10-15% of the world’s Muslim population). An official list with those seven countries on it only exists today in that context because of the law that Obama signed. Did the protestors not care back then? Did they think it was fine because Obama seemed nicer and more well-spoken and seemed more thoughtful to them than Trump does? Did they forget to read the news that morning? Was it because they are only 18-24 years old, and when Obama was first sworn in they were only between ten and 16 years old?
I’m not saying that Obama’s refugee and immigration policy for these countries was the same, or even similar — it isn’t, but that entire discussion is only missing the point. I am saying that none of this is happening from the waving of a magic Trump wand. Precedents had been set and legal infrastruture established long before anyone even considered the idea that Trump might end up in the White House.
I don’t remember any significant protests whatsoever when Obama cluster bombed the mother-loving shit out of Yemen (killing a 16 year old American citizen), air striked Syria into the stone age, and armed violent jihadis in Libya, largely creating the current refugee crisis. Did activists not see fit to organize protests against that because Obama wasn’t brash and buffoonish enough for it to seem bad? What was it then that caused almost no one to pay attention when the stage was being set for all of this?
Protesting is fantastic and necessary. All I ask, and apparently it is asking too much, is that activists make even the most basic effort to look at roots and historical causes. And Trump isn’t one of them. Protesting Trump the man will never allow them to defeat him because Trump the man is nothing but a symptom. A symptom of the disease of corporatocratic neoliberal globalism that has disenfranchised people by treating them as nothing more but pawns; opportunity points from which to harvest income, debt, and data. Trump’s rise, as with populist movements around the world including Brexit, is a response to that global sense of disenfranchisement. And a fairly logical answer to those phenomena.
And if you want to know who opened the doors for Trump to do the things he’s doing, just ask the other guys — the ones these protestors never organized against because they thought they were doing a great job, or were charmed by their saxophone-playing, rustic wit, or dancing around with Ellen Degeneres on daytime TV. They missed the damned bus when the stage was being set, and now Trump is driving in top gear with a cement block on the gas pedal, and you’re complaining about “Evil Trump.” Deal with it, suckers. You’re late to the outrage party, and now there’s no turning back.
If we run around screaming, reacting to nothing but the present political moment, all with the historical memory of circus fleas and the political depth of a bunch of high-functioning Mr. Potato Head dolls, we’re finished.
Take a look at the children in the above photos. On the left, that’s Anwar al-Awlaki, the 16-year old American citizen that Obama vaporized with a drone strike during an “extrajudicial” (read: illegal) bombing in Yemen targeting his father. On the right is his sister Nora, eight years old and also an American citizen, killed in a Trump administration raid only yesterday.
Could Trump have blown this American child to bits in the name of fighting terror it if the precedent wasn’t already firmly set by Obama and his forebears, like Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II? Maybe, maybe not, but God knows it would have been a hell of a lot harder. Same goes for the immigration order, and plenty more that we have coming.
Scream at Trump, but blame yourselves. You treat him like he exists in an historical and political vacuum, and for that reason, you will fail. You forgot that freedom and peace are only sustained when we fight for them indiscriminately.