Winston Smith isn’t sure why he is writing his diary in George Orwell’s novel “1984.” For the future, he speculates, “for the unborn.”
For whatever reason, he sits down to describe an ordinary evening at the movies:
April 4, 1984. Last night to the flicks All war films. One very good one of a ship full of refugees being bombed somewhere in the Mediterranean. Audience much amused by shots of a great huge fat man trying to swim away with a helicopter after him. first you saw him wallowing along in the water like a porpoise, then you saw him through the helicopters gunsights, then he was full of holes and the sea round him turned pink and he sank as suddenly as though the holes had let in the water. audience shouting with laughter when he sank ...
That scene flashed into mind, watching Trump perform his repugnant fear-mongering act in Minneapolis last Thursday, as he bragged:
Since coming into office, I have reduced refugee resettlement by 85 percent. And as you know, maybe especially in Minnesota, I kept another promise. I issued an executive action, making clear that no refugees will be resettled in any city or any state without the express written consent of that city or that state. So speak to your mayor.
He said this because the mayor of Minneapolis, like the mayor of Chicago and the mayor of any big city worthy of the name, welcomes immigrants, particularly refugees, as the essential future American citizens that they are and always have been.
”Consent given” tweeted Mayor Jacob Frey. “Immigrants and refugees are welcome in Minneapolis.”
Patriotic Americans embrace immigrants not only because it’s the right thing to do but out of self interest, because immigrants built this country. To act otherwise is as anti-American as undercutting the military or the press or the justice system — three elements of society Trump has continually attacked, trying to dim the light they shine on his betrayal of our country and all that it represents.
Most Americans support these institutions. Others cheer the president, and it was the crowd’s laughter that brought to mind “1984,” Orwell’s warning against totalitarianism. The 1949 novel shot to the top of bestseller lists when Trump was inaugurated, as people tried to find a framework to grasp Trump, who appeals to those fearful of the future, fearful of their neighbors, fearful of anyone different than themselves.
Trump singled out Somali refugees Thursday because Minneapolis has the largest community of Somali refugees in the country. He spent six minutes castigating Rep. Ilhan Omar, a freshman congresswoman from Minneapolis and the first Muslim woman elected to Congress. She was born in Somalia but is a naturalized citizen which, in Trump’s eyes, doesn’t allow her a seat at the table of American life.
”An America-hating socialist, she minimized the Sept. 11 attack on our homeland ...” Trump said. This from the man who on Sept. 11 boasted, inaccurately of course, that he now had the tallest building in New York City.
”She pleaded for compassion for ISIS recruits ...” he said. This from a man who just committed a mortal betrayal against the Kurds, who have been fighting ISIS for a decade.
”How do you have such a person representing you in Minnesota?” he asked. Omar defeated her Republican opponent 78 to 22 percent. The kind of landslide Trump, who received 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, can only achieve by lying.
I cut off the diary scene, because it gets worse, plunging into graphic horror. A bomb is dropped into the refugee boat:
... among them a terrific flash and the boat went all to matchwood. then there was a wonderful shot of a childs arm going up up up right up into the air a helicopter with a camera in its nose must have followed it up and there was a lot of applause.
How much worse will our country get? A direct line runs from the president of the United States stoking xenophobic hatred at a rally to movie audiences cheering as a refugee boat is bombed. The line might be a mile long, or an inch. It’s hard to tell. But we are on that path, have been for years and will continue down it until we turn our country in a different direction.