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Making America great: Trump, children… and jazz

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The Trump administration's family separation policy has exposed, yet again, the danger of electing a narcissistic president who doesn't read, believes governing is simple, and is a master at hate-filled rhetoric.

Apparently Trump's base is perfectly happy with his immigration policy. But images of crying children – and the public's reaction to the images – have unsettled even some of Trump's collaborators and enablers. And it has caused such chaos and outrage that the administration is now trying to undo it. As news reports are making clear, though, it's not going to be easy to find and reunite the families who have already been ripped apart. And their psychological trauma won't magically disappear.

In addition, reunited families will be detained until their cases are heard, and the government is ill-prepared to house them humanely. Humaneness has never been a concern for this administration, but in an article in The American Prospect, Adele Stan suggests that there's more to this policy than we might recognize.

"The demonstrated brutality of taking these children from their parents and sending them to internment camps," Stan writes, makes his base happy. But we should also see it as a warning. It's the "dominance display" of an authoritarian.

"If he would traumatize children and babies in order to make a point (even if the stated point shifts daily)," Stan writes, "imagine what he could do, without conscience, to any one of us."

The lesson of the immigrant families' plight, says Stan, is that "people who would do such a thing to babies are very dangerous."

Is Stan going too far? I'd like to think so. I hope so. And yet, Trump's behavior is becoming more and more that of a despot, not the president of a democratic nation. His rhetoric, his repetitive lies, his obsession with his image and his strength, his admiration and embrace of brutal dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un: these are way more than worrisome.

And then on Sunday morning, the president of the United States tweeted this:
"When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order."

No judges. No court cases. No rule of law. To paraphrase Adele Stan, if he will do this to families fleeing the violence they suffered in Central America, imagine what he could do without conscience to any one of us.

We're halfway through this year's version of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, and the International part of its name is particularly important right now. It's always a joy to spend these nine afternoons and nights in the midst of the happy mob that the festival brings downtown each year. But this year, the festival has also been an important refuge, away from the protectionist, nativist path that Donald Trump is leading us down.

Saturday night, the Max Atrium was packed for the initial performance by the Canadian gypsy jazz group Des Sourcils. "Thank you for coming out," guitarist Mathias Berry said. "We didn't know what to expect." He mentioned the border and Customs and said the group had been a little nervous about planning the trip.
I bet they were.

Such is the state of things, now that we have a president who believes that the way to make America great is to turn our backs on the rest of the world (except maybe on Russia).

"Music has no color," festival's producer and artistic director John Nugent said between shows Saturday night as we talked about the contrast between the festival's lineup and Trump's policies.

No color, and no boundaries. No walls.

"We'd like to come back again," Berry said as Des Sourcils wrapped up its set. I hope they can. But who knows what things will be like after another year of Trump.

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