Incompetence is an inescapable feature of Trumpland. For instance, when Kirstjen Nielsen said at the start of the fourth paragraph of her resignation letter, “I can say with confidence our homeland is safer today than when I joined the administration,” I’m certain she didn’t mean to say what she actually said. What she actually said was that America is safer now that she’s gone, and was in deep peril the minute she joined. She didn’t mean that of course. In fact she meant to say the precise opposite. After all, incompetence isn’t the only inescapable feature of Trumpland. Hubris is another. Whatever she meant, what she wound up saying was certainly true.
There are children today who are deeply and irreversibly traumatized, permanently separated from their parents and, sadly, dead, all thanks to Kirstjen Nielsen and no one else. That she was “only following orders” didn’t work at Nuremberg and it won’t work here. That she was genuinely proud of her “work” at Homeland I do not doubt.
It disgusts me to think that if every American was forced to read the foregoing paragraph, fully a third would breathe a sigh of relief to learn that the children I allude to above are brown, and many don’t speak English. It disgusts me on a level I’m having a difficult time enduring as I type this. These days I’m learning something I didn’t suspect then, that huge swaths of humanity are evil.
What else is sickening is it all could have been stopped had Kirstjen Nielsen stopped it. She could have implemented procedures at the border that would have kept families together. The software necessary to catalog individuals is cheap and easy to come by. Procedures can be taught. Temporary structures can be built. A few dozen foreign language speakers can be hired. Psychologists and experts on human behavior can be employed to help weed out the minority who have come with larceny in their hearts and lies on their lips. We have the technology. Of course she would have had to defy Trump in order to do all that. But Trump is a fool who is easy to fool. Nielsen is an educated person, so she could have fooled him. She chose not to even try. She did what evil does – nothing.
When California Congresswoman Nanette Barragán told Mrs Nielsen bluntly, “either you are lying to this committee, or you don’t know what’s happening at the border,” she was half right. Kirstjen Nielsen was both lying to the committee and she also didn’t know what was happening at the border. Not because she couldn’t have known but because she didn’t care. They were children, to be sure, but they were brown children. And she knew, with a confidence that may actually turn out to be not misplaced, that she will never have to answer for her crimes for precisely that reason.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.