Congressman Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat and Constitutional scholar, spoke at Wellfleet Preservation Hall this summer about the state of the world and the coming elections. “All over the world,” he said, “the bullies and autocrats and kleptocrats have found each other and are working together. The democratic forces have got to wake up.”
About the Republican Party’s current leadership Raskin said, “They have destroyed their ability to ask questions. They are not conservatives. They are nihilists.”
Nihilism is the view that traditional values and ideals are meaningless and that society is so corrupt that destruction is desirable for its own sake.
It is now 21 years since a band of suicidal nihilists hijacked four airliners and changed the course of American history. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 led to many changes in national policy. One of the most far-reaching was the creation of the Dept. of Homeland Security, which now has an annual budget of more than $50 billion.
But what exactly is the “homeland”? That term was rarely used to describe the U.S. before 9/11. Indeed, in a nation of immigrants, “homeland” usually referred to the place one’s family had left to become Americans.
If anyone has the ultimate right to call this country his homeland, it would be the members of Native American tribes — but “homeland security” is clearly not about protecting tribal interests.
In 2013, more than 10 years after the establishment of the Homeland Security Dept., the Congressional Research Service issued a report on its mission and purpose. It found that there was no clear definition of “homeland security.”
“That’s problematic for a government that has been fighting the ill-defined ‘war on terror,’ ” wrote David Kravets in Wired. “In short, ‘homeland security’ is whatever the government says it is.”
The Atlantic this month reports on the secret history of what happened when Homeland Security was taken over by the nihilists of the Trump administration in 2017: obsessed by the desire to portray immigrants as enemies, the department imposed a policy of family separation on those crossing the border from Mexico to seek asylum. Thousands of children as young as two were forcibly taken from their parents. “Four years later, some families are still separated,” writes Caitlin Dickerson, and “many of those who have been reunited have suffered irreparable harm.”
Dickerson’s report documents a nightmare of chaos, rationalizations, mind-numbing cruelty, and lies. “Trump administration officials,” she writes, “declared that separating families was not the goal of the policy, but an unfortunate result of prosecuting parents who crossed the border illegally with their children. Yet a mountain of evidence shows that this is explicitly false: separating children was not just a side effect, but the intent.”
It is almost unbearable to read what was done to children and parents in the name of “homeland security.” How should we honor the 9/11 dead? By welcoming the refugee, comforting the abused, and stripping the bullies from their positions of power.