Donald Trump doesn’t value wisdom. In his black and white worldview, thinking and learning only hamper winning: winning in the television ratings for his popular TV shows and in early polls for his newly started Republican presidential campaign. In his first flashy announcement of his candidacy, he declared that his personal wealth was enough reason for him to be elected. He later explained that Mexican immigrants to America are losers and presumably not presidential material because they are not rich like he is, and because their children annoy Trump by their very existence. (Never mind that Trump has declared bankruptcy for his profitable businesses several times, a fact that might make him sympathetic to others who are struggling now, whatever their nationalities are. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2011/04/29/fourth-times-a-charm-how-donald-trump-made-bankruptcy-work-for-him/).
As a student of eighteenth century literature, I automatically assume that Trump’s anti-immigration speeches must be satirical, similar to Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” in which Swift’s persona argues that the problem of Irish poverty can be solved quite simply by eating all of the Irish babies, a solution in which everybody wins: no more hunger, no more bothersome children in the streets. Similarly, Trump posits that in twenty-first century America, immigrants from Mexico are intruding into our country: drug-dealers, rapists, and, generally bad people. Trump stops short of arguing that Mexican babies should be eaten, but does offer to deport children, born in the United States whose parents happen to be illegal aliens. If Trump’s narrative is not intended as a satire, it should be.
Trump’s grasp for power reveals about as much wisdom as Swift’s persona seems to have. If Trump had studied amendments to the U.S. Constitution, or even looked at Wikipedia for information about citizenry, he would realize how flimsy his argument is. Children born in America are citizens of America, no matter how much money they have or how much their presence annoys Mr. Trump. That the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution grants birthright citizenship to anyone born in the United States, and that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 grants equal protection under the law to all citizens regardless of sex, race, or ethnicity, cannot be blamed on Obama, as convenient as that path might be for Trump. Trump’s insistence that Mexican children should be deported immediately and sent back to Mexico to fend for themselves is not only unwise but also immoral and illegal. Illegal immigrants may, by virtue of their lack of an American passport, somehow present a threat to Trump, but their children are American citizens now, and as such are guaranteed equal protection under the law.
I wonder if Trump’s willful amnesia about his own troubled past or, by extension, America’s troubled past might evoke another eighteenth-century writer, Thomas Gray, who considered the innocence of young children who, while gleefully playing, are unaware of the inevitable unhappiness that will occur later in their lives. Trump may be trying to regain his youthful innocence or ignorance when he clings tenaciously to his own myths about his power and wealth. Like Gray, Trump seems to conclude that “where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.”
Anna grew up in Alabama, spending her entire childhood in the same house where her parents still live today. Anna is a retired Professor of English and Women’s Studies from the University of North Alabama, where she charmed her loyal and adoring students for almost twenty years until a bad MS exacerbation convinced her that she should start spending her days playing games on her iPad, reading and writing whatever and whenever she feels like it, and watching the birds feed outside her window.