It’s fitting that the Statue of Liberty has her back turned to Martha’s Vineyard.
Or maybe it’s just as fitting that the metal where her eyes should be can’t see what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did with several planes of refugees – the huddled masses teeming to be free, version 2022.
Lucky for us that copper-clad statue can’t cry or New York might flood.
As a nation of mostly immigrants, whose international reputation is built, in part, on our historic embrace of tired, desperate folks who would risk and trade everything for a shot a starting a new life in a free country with equal opportunity, there’s no overstating the damage the Florida governor has done to this country’s reputation.
DeSantis’ most recent publicity stunt, paid for by the taxpayers, is sending Venezuela immigrants via plane to Martha’s Vineyard, a tony, liberal-infested enclave often associated with America’s elite and wealthy. DeSantis’ cruel rationale is to pack a plane full of immigrants to such a place and watch them recoil and buckle under the pressure that some southern border states say they feel daily.
Except it largely backfired as Martha’s Vineyard did the most American thing imaginable: It fed, clothed and rallied to support these people who were just as confused as they were.
What does it say about America when the “libs” can own DeSantis by simply being kind and compassionate?
In a country that is getting accustomed to being shocked daily by the headlines, whether it’s stories of new epidemics rising up because of nearly-extinct diseases to purloined presidential papers, the psychic overload has led many to a state of numbness or resignation. It’s easy to say that nearly every daily headline is historic only to have tomorrow’s headline eclipse today’s, a sort of never-ending poker game of news where the ante is raised, but the bet is never called.
There’s even a danger in that: That we become so calloused or indifferent that the most recent outrage passes us by like passing subway trains until we can screw up the energy to do something about it. I worry that parasites like DeSantis, who feed off the publicity of these inhumane stunts, will take our indifference and exhaustion for approval. I fear DeSantis and other politicians who crave the spotlight during election season will continue to concoct new ways to be inhumane in order to prove fealty to a radical political agenda, and earn the endorsement of their party’s leader whose only defining and consistent characteristic is his singular ability to enhance his cruelty by insult.
That’s why I am pausing today to denounce DeSantis’ action lest it just become another headline or news story that rolls over my frazzled nerves. That’s what guys like DeSantis want. Check that: That’s what people like DeSantis need.
They need for the rest of us – folks far removed, as is the case with us in Montana – to look at something else on Facebook or “to Netflix and chill,” while the acolytes and cheerleaders of the right urge on these sorts of mean-spirited (and possibly illegal) exercises.
If someone lured me onto a plane with promises of expedited bureaucracy or better housing only to leave me stranded a thousand miles away, that would be fraud or possibly kidnapping. But since these immigrants have few legal protections, DeSantis has taken advantage of them.
For those on the right, who seem fond of the notion that America is somehow set apart because of its affinity for Christianity, there are few commandments in the Bible more certain than the necessity of showing kindness, hospitality and compassion to strangers who are from other countries. Let’s just say neither the Bible nor God were fond of those people and towns that were inhospitable (Sodom and Gomorrah, I’m looking in your direction).
But it shouldn’t take an appeal to the Lord Almighty to get us to act with decency.
I am proud enough to be an American that I can say that I am embarrassed to be an American right now. America the imperfect? Always. But America the intentionally cruel? No, thank you.
It can’t just be that we are tired. It cannot be that we are too weary from years of pandemics and outrages that we just don’t have anything left to give. If people still believe enough in this country that they’re willing to trade their entire lives and possibly be subject to the pranks-gone-mad of leaders like DeSantis, then we have to find the courage to demand better from our leaders.
Those immigrants have no power and little recourse, so it’s going to have to be people beyond the borders of Martha’s Vineyard or Tallahassee who stop this outlandish behavior that has blackened America’s eye.
Folks in Montana should be able to look around and see similar shameful monuments, whether it’s Heart Mountain in Wyoming – an example of a forced World War II encampment mandated by the Roosevelt administration for all citizens suspected of having Japanese ancestry, or the legion examples of trying to exterminate Native Americans on battlefield and massacre sites. And, then there’s Fort Missoula — another reminder of the same type of intolerance.
We continue to build education centers and monuments that remind us what happens when we treat strangers differently in hopes that we will remember, and more importantly, change our behavior.
It’s uncertain if those monuments and history are having any tangible effect.
If our children acted like this in school, we’d call it bullying.
When our elected officials do even worse, we call it politics.
But, when is anyone going to call it enough?
Daily Montanan is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Daily Montanan maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Darrell Ehrlick for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Daily Montanan on Facebook and Twitter.