Monday, Sept. 12, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Give me your extreme-vetted, your ideologically certified, your elite. Send only the smartest, the best-connected, the richest to our shores. No losers, no freethinkers and no ugly people, please.
In the hate speech that Donald Trump gave on immigration in Phoenix last Wednesday night, he all but deported the Statue of Liberty, laying out one of the darkest visions of the U.S. experience that any major-party nominee has ever given. Despite the media misread by some who presented the speech as a pivot, it got rave reviews from neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan supporters, and prompted some of Trump’s few Latino advisers to resign in protest. “Excellent speech,” said David Duke, the former Klan leader.
In Trump’s America, those working in the shadows are not the lawn cutters, Sheetrock hangers, fruit pickers or nannies we see in every community, but the criminal dregs. Under his rules, this country would have closed its doors long ago to those who made the United States the great experiment, unique to the world. He would have shut off the flow of people whose best and perhaps only asset at the time was desire for a better life.
So, the Kennedys from County Wexford, the family that eventually gave us the first Irish Catholic president — not worthy of entry. Famine rejects! No prospects. From a nation whose people were already filling New York’s jails in the 1850s. Enough with potato-panicked Paddys.
At the door into Trump’s America, he would “select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in U.S. society, and their ability to be financially self-sufficient,” he said. Sorry, Sicilian peasants. Not many of them could pass a Trump screen for “merit, skill and proficiency.” Not many of them could even read, or speak the language, let alone operate an Industrial Age machine. And what about those secret societies that many of them belonged to?
The Republican nominee laid out a test for political correctness, in the most authoritarian sense of the term. “I call it extreme vetting,” said Trump. “Right? Extreme vetting. I want extreme.” What’s he talking about? He said “an ideological certification” would be required.
Sorry, Albert Einstein. So, the German-born Jew knew a thing or two about physics, what with his fancy Theory of Relativity. But he had some uncertifiable political views. He could never get past Trump’s extreme vetting after saying things like this: “I am convinced that there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.”
He sounds like nothing but trouble. On top of that, his native country accused him of treason. There’s something there, folks, something going on. You have to wonder why Einstein’s property was seized and his books were burned. When Germany sends its people, it’s sending the treasonous, people whose ideas don’t always match ours. Get him out.
That goes for Andrew Carnegie as well. What kind of man gives away all his money after making one of the great fortunes in the world? A dangerous one. Trump’s political police would have turned the Scottish-born Carnegies away before they ever got anywhere near Allegheny, Pa.
Andrew Carnegie’s father was a loser; he couldn’t hold his job as a weaver. The old man was part of Britain’s Chartist Movement, a bunch of wild-eyed dreamers espousing worker rights and universal suffrage. On his mother’s side, same thing; one of the leading political radicals in Scotland was her father, Thomas Morrison.
And Trump wants to make sure that countries associated with drugs don’t send their people here, either. Sorry, Colin Powell. His parents were from Jamaica, the largest illicit producer and exporter of marijuana in the Caribbean. Sure, Colin would became a four-star general and secretary of state, but the parents? Would they have been living in the South Bronx if they could show “an ability to be financially self-sufficient?” Not so sure about that.
Speaking of Caribbean, how did Alexander Hamilton get in? A lot of red flags with this character. Dubious parentage from an exotic island. An unemployed single mother who was locked up for violating the sexual standards of the day. Extreme vetting would have stopped this abandoned Hamilton kid before he got to New York and starting toying with the mechanics of nation-building.
We shouldn’t be fooled, as the hapless Mexican president was, as much of the political news media was, by Trump’s stunt last week: trying to hold his hatred back long enough to get a statesman photo op. His true feelings poured out in the rant in Phoenix.
Look around you — at O’Shaunnessys and Riveras and Naccaratos and Goldbergs and Chens and Khans. Those families would never have left their old countries if they were living in comfort, if they could easily demonstrate “merit, skill and proficiency.” What forces someone to leave a home, family — everything — is desperation. And then, more often than not, having seen the worst that life can offer, those families become the best.
Timothy Egan is a columnist for The New York Times.