Govt shutdown: While the world is building bridges, an isolated US stands alone behind walls

Published: January 25, 2019
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The mood in Washington is one of despondency and profound remorsefulness.

Where do I begin? Who do I pin the blame on? How did we get here? What happened to my United States of America, where from the time I came of age until now, in the twilight years of my life, I’ve held on to the belief that this is it; this is the land where I belong; this is home, the values of which I am wedded to. Where did we go wrong? How did this completely unworthy and unruly under-achiever manage to get elected to the highest and most revered office of the country?

We’ve had several government shutdowns in the past. However, the current one, just like the times we live in, is one of unprecedented nature. It’s a beast that is refusing to bow down. What started as a feud between Donald Trump and the Democrats over the US-Mexico border, this shuttering episode has already lasted for more than a month. It has impacted the lives of almost four million federal employees and contractors.

Those four million people are not only suffering financially, they are also unable to provide services to the public at large. Their absence from the places of work is affecting those who are in dire need of help to take care of their needs, such as mothers who are dependent on government benefits for feeding their children or disabled folks who are institutionalised and count on subsidies and grants.

Immigration is, no doubt, a problematic issue but it is an issue that can’t be dealt with the Trump way. Building a wall across the length and breadth of the border will not solve the problem. It will, in fact, only add to the US debt woes. Trump is stuck with the wall since his right-wing comrades have drilled into his head that the wall is the only way to stop people from infiltrating the US-Mexico border.

Little do they realise that (a) those crossing the border and seeking refuge are not criminals. They are not rapists, drug-traffickers or gangsters as Trump has made his supporters believe; (b) building a wall will not solve the illegal immigration issue simply because most of the undocumented aliens in the country enter the US through legal means (on visas) via the airports.

As for the drug traffickers, human smugglers and so on, a wall won’t deter them from carrying out their operations. They will find newer and innovative ways to get around any barrier that is put in their way.

Facts do not support Trump (they never do) or justify his case for building the wall. Illegal border crossing has shown a remarkable decrease over the past several years. While Trump relentlessly continues to fool around with the emotions of his base, both the Republicans and the Democrats are sticking to their guns. It seems like this circus can potentially go on forever. Trump has effectively torpedoed the Republican party’s identity and hijacked its values. Leaders like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham are sold out to Trump. The Democrats, on the other hand, won’t just sign off on the $5.6 billion that Trump is asking for the wall.

The current shutdown can easily end if Trump shows some leadership skills and takes the high road. He can establish a bipartisan congressional committee/fact-finding body and give them a deadline to come up with proposals for overhauling the immigration problem. That way, no one will lose. As a matter of fact, by doing so, he might end up earning some political goodwill.

But wait a minute. This is Trump we are talking about. He isn’t a peacemaker. He’s a mobster who wants action and drama! So instead of a reconciliatory effort, he would rather use his bully pulpit, get on Twitter and add fuel to the fire.

The wall is nothing but Trump’s monument to himself. It is also a bad ‘business’ idea just like the long list of his ideas that failed miserably in the past. He took office touting his skills to make deals. Two years into his presidency, Trump doesn’t have much to show regarding deal-making. He has pulled the US out of agreements and treaties all over the globe which implies that he’s more of a deal-breaker rather than anything else. On account of Trump’s handling of foreign affairs, the US is gradually getting isolated in the comity of nations. For better or for worse, it appears that he’s hit the wall as far as his “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful” wall is concerned.

The mood in Washington is one of despondency and profound remorsefulness. But that’s just a big city phenomenon. Trump still has his loyal supporters standing by him in the heart of America, that is, in small towns and rural areas. To them, he’s a celebrity and a hero; one who is protecting them from ‘illegal Mexicans’ and all the black, brown and yellow people. To his base, Trump is the one who will keep their weapons secure and help them get their country back (whatever that means).

There is absolutely no efficacy of a concrete or steel superstructure. It is only meant to satisfy Trump’s ego and grab the limelight. The US has clear and cutting edge technology that can digitally and virtually man all areas of the border. It only needs a few good men in the power centres of Washington to put their heads together and use the technology to improve the border-crossing infrastructure. If a tiny country like Norway can do it, so can the US.

The premise ‘better fences make better neighbours’ is intrinsically flawed in the US case. We have done just fine with our Canadian and Mexican neighbours and lived in peace for eons. This is by no means the Pak-Afghan border where religious fanatics, drug barons, and all kinds of nefarious elements slash and burn in rampant abundance.

While precious time is being lost, Trump doesn’t have a clue on ending the shutdown. He doesn’t have an exit strategy. He’s chancing his luck by tweeting aimlessly while people like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Steve Miller keep a vigilant eye on him.

Shutting down the government as a bargaining chip with the Democrats for wall funding was a political stunt that didn’t pay off. It was a move to distract public attention from the Mueller probe that is causing sleepless nights for Trump. Trump is a president who is not presidential; a statesman who can never act like one; a leader who can’t lead. We messed up and are paying a heavy price.

In an era where the world is building bridges, Trump is isolating the US and constructing walls around it. As law enforcers, first responders, border control agents, and countless others continue to go unpaid for the fifth consecutive week, one is sure that Trump’s best buddy, Vladimir Putin, is having giggling fits as he sees perhaps the greatest country on this green planet going down in disarray and unable to solve a political crisis that can potentially spell doom for millions of its denizens.

Ahson Saeed Hasan

Ahson Saeed Hasan

The writer is a proud American, a peacenik who has traveled well over 80 countries and lived in four continents. He likes to share his experiences and reflect on the worldly surroundings. He tweets @tweetingacho (twitter.com/tweetingacho)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Alex Sal

    The current immigration policy favors law breaker, while our hard working ,tax paying folks wait in a long line.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Now you can relax …the shut down has ended and the Democrats are crowing about a political victory. What little I have read of Trumps nature, I feel he will not take this lightly ….. so lets see what happens.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Say, where did you get the picture? For this comment? From a
    magazine?
    “hard working tax paying folks wait in long lines” Huh? Seriously?
    Where did these hardworking ‘folks’ got the authorization to “work”?
    How come they are working? YOU are not allowed to work if your
    immigration status is pending. Nope, they cannot work.
    If they are working,…and still waiting for an immigration status or hearing…
    they are breaking the law!
    Where and how did they get the social security number?
    [which EVERYONE MUST HAVE, to work, legitimately, in the US] a fake one?
    YOU have no idea what you are commenting on. Nope, not one bit.Recommend

  • Patwari

    This is indeed a strange dirge. A rhapsody of moaning and groaning. For all the wrong reasons.
    Donald was NOT elected by Americans! He had massive, massive help from the Russians.
    They helped him win the election. Period. Money trails from the Russian oligarchs are being
    exposed. None of the American banks are involved. They do not do business with Donald.
    All this is gradually coming to light. piece by piece. Like peeling a rotten onion. You will finally
    get to the bad core,…in due time. This is massive fraud in every hue coming to light.
    So far 27 people, all close associates of Donald, have been criminally indicted. Some of them,
    for collaborating with Russian Intelligence to aid and abet Donald in winning the election.
    Trump does not fool around with “the emotions of his base supporters”. His supporters are
    from the fringes of society. Any society. White Supremacists, Aryan Nations, Ku Klux Klan, White Power, bigots, racists, misogynists consider Donald their Messiah. Spreading their message of
    hate and divisiveness. No diversity. America is for Whites Only. And Donald is doing that exactly.
    There no atmosphere “despondency and profound remorsefulness” in Washington. Washington did not elect Donald. It’s the Republican Party that has lost it’s moral compass. They are afraid of standing up to Donald. If they do they will be primoried. Meaning when they come up for re election, another candidate FROM their own party will contest the election too! To defeat them! Why? Because they STOOD up to Donald.
    The Wall is NOT a bargaining chip with Democrats. It was to be paid by Mexico!! Remember??
    Thank God, that the Mueller investigation will expose Donald for what he is.Recommend

  • Patwari

    So sorry to bust your bubble. The Democrats are not crowing at all.
    See, they don’t sit on the wall, undecided. They simply refused to
    pay for a Trump Wall,… a monument to himself.
    The wall was/is to be paid by Mexico,…as per Big Yellow, himself.
    So Big Yellow should go south of the border with hat in hand
    to beg to get the money for the wall.
    Right now Donald is like an empty suit. Shriveling up. Poor man!Recommend