Recently President Donald Trump spoke in Las Vegas to the Republican Jewish Coalition. News reports indicate he was given an enthusiastic reception and, true to form, Trump mocked victimized, disabled or marginalized people.
Taking aim this time at migrants and asylum-seekers, Trump accused them of operating a scam. He slurred them, equating them to UFC fighters, with tattoos on their faces and violence burning deep in their hearts.
Trump then impersonated a hypothetical migrant being trained by a lawyer to mouth a memorized script that would yield him instant asylum in the U.S. He also repeated what he said earlier at the border, directing himself toward Mexico and the thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers and refugees from Central America there: “Our country is full. Go home.”
That’s when I recalled what has been dubbed the St. Louis Incident or, more aptly, The Voyage of the Damned. By 1939 millions of European Jews had been displaced from their homes by the Nazis and their sympathizers. The German ocean liner St. Louis and its 937 passengers, almost all Jewish, sailed to the U.S., a country with a poor record for offering asylum. The St. Louis was turned away from the Port of Miami, forcing the ship back to Europe where more than a quarter of the passengers died in the Holocaust.
Do we really live in a more progressive era today? Where is our leadership’s sense of decency and our outrage?