The catalogue of small abominations dragging this “Brave New America” into the abyss continues to grow. The latest in the growing list are the recent ICE raids which have begun in many cities and an exemplary sentence in a voting fraud case.
The latter relates to the case of Rosa Maria Ortega, a 37-year-old Hispanic woman from Texas. The mother of four is a legal resident and green card holder; she obtained permanent residence after being brought to the US as an infant by her parents from Mexico.
Ortega was arrested for voting in the 2012 election. After a summary trial, a Fort Worth judge sentenced her to eight years in prison. The custody of her underage children is unclear. After her eight-year sentence, Ortega will be deported to Mexico, a country she has never lived in and does not know. All this because she registered to vote after receiving registration forms in the mail..
Ortega, who only attended elementary school, claimed she was not aware that enrollment on the voting lists was reserved for citizens. Her explanation did not convince the prosecutor, who asked for an exemplary punishment for voter fraud.
The sentence went beyond all measure: In the past similar cases have been adjudicated with sanctions or warnings. And it is of course framed by Donald Trump’s most incoherent narrative, the lie he’s repeated about “millions” of illegal voters swaying the popular vote in Hillary Clinton’s favor.
So, here is Ortega, a useful symbol for a conspiracy to undermine the democratic process, a member of the elusive “three to five million Mexicans who voted,” as the president obsessively claims. Yet, she remains so far the only ineligible voter identified (she didn’t actually vote in last year’s race), the scapegoat of a megalomaniac fiction, doomed by a Republican prosecutor who has made illegal voting a campaign issue. Her life has been sacrificed in the name of a conspiracy theory which in this case happens to ignore a crucial detail: In the two elections in which she cast a ballot, Ortega voted for Republicans.
As we are seeing with every new pronouncement, however, in post-factual trumpian dialectics details do not matter, and White House spokespersons continue to speak of the “thousands of American lives saved” by the crackdown. This alternate reality includes the crushed mother in Texas and the raids carried out in large urban centers as direct retaliation against the ruling that blocked the Muslim Ban.
The raids are nothing new. There were millions of deportations under Obama, but those under Trump’s orders imply the sinister threat of a regime for which ethnic cleansing is a matter of policy. The raids, allegedly against “criminals,” are actually targeting many of those millions who live in the gray area between illegal residence and citizenship. Millions who, like Ortega, have been living in this country literally for a lifetime.
They know no other country. They work and pay taxes. They are an integral part of the economy. They can even fight (and many do) for the U.S. military, but they have no right to citizenship. 750000 of these are the young students to which Obama had extended the temporary reprieve of DACA. Some of these “dreamers” have now been arrested and face deportation. The feeling now in the nation’s barrios is that anyone at any time can become a target of the patrols. In the precarious melting pot, panic like purposely sown like this is amounts to an act of government terrorism.
Of course, in the ideological hallucination advocated by the likes of Steve Bannon, chaos is a necessary stage of social purification. And what better way to begin the process than by whipping up the time- tested fear of the foreign agent, a proven mechanism to trigger the worst instincts in a nation of innate nationalist bent?
The infallible strategy adapted to a postmodern take on fascism which now manifests itself with the inevitable attending iconography. Take the recent Fox News “interview” with 9-year-old Jacob Silva. The alleged “youngest Trump supporter” explained live on air that immigrants “have weapons and drugs. They want to harm us.” Wearing a Trumpjugend uniform, with tie, campaign button and Trump “MAGA” cap, the nine year-old child-soldier evoked nothing as much as the youngsters trotted in front of North Korean cameras to denounce the sins of counter revolutionary parents. “We need the wall,” he dutifully recited to the leering interviewer.
These unequivocal scenes of authoritarian involution seem “unimaginable,” but they are really not so surprising in this country, uniquely devoted to the patriotic cult of itself, where only 36 percent of citizens hold a passport and children swear allegiance to the flag every morning, with their hands on their hearts.
While hiding behind the legitimate grievances of the “white working class”, Trumpism succeeds daily in revealing horrors at America’s core. The perversion of political discourse with systematic falsehoods and deception is enabling monstrosities which are now manifesting as the country careens towards uncharted territory.