Tuesday, June 19, 2018
By Michelle Goldberg
Over the last few days, stories of bureaucratic sadism have poured forth from America’s southern border. The Associated Press described a Texas warehouse where “hundreds of children wait in a series of cages” with up to 20 people inside. The New York Times reported on a mother deported to Guatemala without her 8-year-old son. In The Washington Post, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics described a shelter for toddlers where staffers aren’t allowed to hug or hold the bereft children. ProPublica obtained a recording of small children wailing for their parents in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, while a Border Patrol agent joked, “We’ve got an orchestra here.”
As outrage has built nationally, several people associated with the White House stepped forward to dissemble. Kirstjen Nielsen, head of the Department of Homeland Security, sent out a series of tweets denying that the administration’s policy was in fact the administration’s policy. “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period,” she lied.
Melania Trump’s spokeswoman put out a slippery statement distancing the first lady from the president’s actions and sowing confusion about their cause. “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” the statement said, as if her husband were not responsible for the separations.
On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, claimed that “nobody” in the administration likes the policy. “You saw the president on camera, that he wants this to end,” she said.
It’s hard to tell if these women are engaged in deliberate gaslighting or frantic reputation maintenance. Perhaps Nielsen is worried about her post-White House prospects now that she’s best known for the systematic traumatization of children. Maybe Melania Trump realizes that being the trophy wife of a child-torturer is bad for her brand. (#BeBest!) Conway, whose husband has already staked out a position as a Trump critic, may think she has a road back into decent society when this Grand Guignol regime finally ends.
But no one should be able to squirm out of admitting that the evil practice of family separation is Donald Trump’s doing, abetted by everyone who abets him. Indeed, part of the madness of this moment is that while some Trump apologists — as well as Trump himself — deny their role in tearing families apart, others in the administration boldly own it. “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry, period,” Trump’s senior policy adviser Stephen Miller told The Times.
Some of the president’s defenders insist he’s bound by a legal settlement mandating that children be held in the least restrictive setting possible. The only alternative to the current policy, they say, is what they call “catch and release,” a dehumanizing term borrowed from fishing to suggest that migrant families are simply being let go.
Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, dispatched this argument in a Facebook post on Monday. “The administration’s decision to separate families is a new, discretionary choice. Anyone saying that their hands are tied or that the only conceivable way to fix the problem of catch-and-release is to rip families apart is flat wrong,” he wrote. Some in the administration, he added, “have decided that this cruel policy increases their legislative leverage.”
The administration’s justifications and denials are meant to obscure that fact. Consider Nielsen’s suggestion, during a speech on Monday, that the administration is worried about child smuggling: “We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are, in fact, a family.”
The government has made this argument before, in one of the first family separation cases to go to court. Last November, a Congolese woman known in court filings as Ms. L and her then 6-year-old daughter arrived at a port of entry near San Diego, presented themselves to border agents and asked for asylum. Officers separated them — according to a lawsuit, Ms. L could hear her daughter in the next room, screaming — and the girl was sent to Chicago while her mother was held in California. When the A.C.L.U. sued on Ms. L’s behalf, officials claimed they’d taken the girl because Ms. L couldn’t prove she was her parent. The judge in the case ordered a DNA test, which quickly demonstrated Ms. L’s relationship to her daughter. (In March, they were finally reunited.)
“The truth is they’ve been doing this all along for deterrence purposes, as sometimes they boldly said in the press,” Lee Gelernt, an A.C.L.U. lawyer who argued the case, told me. “But when confronted in a federal lawsuit, they tried to retroactively justify it by saying they couldn’t figure out whether it was the mother.” It’s hard to know who’s worse — the sociopaths like Miller who glory in the administration’s cruelty, or those who are abashed enough to lie about the filthy thing they’re part of, but not to do anything else.
Here are 4 lessons Imran Khan badly needs to learn about this whole feminism motherhood situation.
"A mother has the biggest influence on children... I disagree with this western concept, this feminist movement, it has degraded the role of a mother. My mother had the greatest impact on my life."
These comments made by PTI chief Imran Khan during a televised interview have drawn ire on social media, with commentators saying he has misinterpreted feminism's take on motherhood.
Imran Khan is a man who sees the premiership firmly within reach. It is therefore most unfortunate that no one sent him the memo. The one cautioning men in positions of power to keep schtum when it comes to discussing feminism and motherhood.
The latest gaffe has seen the PTI chairman conclude that “western feminism has degraded the role of mothers”. What he means by this still remains rather unclear. Though there was mention of how children learn from their mothers; especially when it comes to the mother tongue.
Which may or may not be another way of saying that Kaptaan subscribes to the notion that a woman’s place is in the home; at least when children are in the need of primary caregivers. To say that this is an outdated notion is an understatement. Particularly as it appears to take as its premise the idea of a nuclear family whereby both parents are present and fully attendant. Yet here in Pakistan, as anywhere else, there is no one-size-fits-all.
Moreover, children can best learn from their mothers or any adult women in their lives what it means to respect women; be they homemakers or as they climb their way up the career ladder. For here in the 21st century, women are not restricted to either one or the other. The world has moved on due to the struggle of generations and generations of women who came before.
Equally regrettable, however, is the false demarcation between western feminism and ‘the other’. For this unnecessarily pits one group of women against another — when the endgame ought to be the same: equal rights. Or, rather, equality of opportunity between the sexes. But what Imran has unwittingly or otherwise reduced this to, is a conflicting narrative between women of the First World and those of the Global South.
And this has inevitably played out in the legitimate social media backlash against him. Meaning that what we have seen from certain quarters is the message that women in Europe, say, do not share the same struggle as Pakistani women given that the latter are fighting for fundamental rights. This is, of course true, for the majority. But such one-dimensional discourse conveniently circumvents the issue of class. Both here in Pakistan, where some feminists all too often speak for the rural poor. And in Europe, where working-class women increasingly find it difficult to feed themselves and their families.
The issue at hand is not, therefore, what kind of feminism different women believe in but, instead, a recognition that the patriarchy still needs to be smashed. And urgently so. For this global system of gendered injustice will continue to triumph for as long as women are held responsible for suffering at the hands of those who would first oppress them and then castigate them for trying to redress the balance.
All of which is an unwelcome distraction from the issue at hand. Namely, what will a Naya Pakistan look like for the women of this country? We sincerely hope it will be one where women are encouraged to fulfil their individual potential in whichever way they choose. *
This Eid ul Fitr was special for the entire nation. At last, the notorious militant Mullah Fazlullah –who was head of Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – was killed in a drone strike. The news came as a sigh of relief for many whose lives became miserable as these militants not only wrecked the peace of the country but also killed thousands of civilians including children. The scars of attack on Army Public School Peshawar are still fresh in the collective memory of the people.
The death of the TTP leader will also pave the way for better bilateral relations between Islamabad and Kabul. The drone strike that killed the notorious Taliban leader was a joint effort thus strengthening Islamabad’s stance “that a cooperative and coordinated approach is the best response to the menace of terrorism.” The reports that the TTP has confirmed its leader death as well means that their leader is gone for sure unlike the previous false claims about his death.
Meanwhile, when the organisation is in tatters and trying hard to find a haven, it is crucial for America, Afghanistan and Pakistan to work jointly to eradicate terrorism from the region. Instead of securing narrow national interests, a better approach towards the elimination of terrorism and militancy will be if the governments work together to strengthen cooperation and coordination.
The confirmation of Fazlullah’s death will no doubt remove the environment of mistrust between the two neighbours. His demise is also a considerable loss to the TTP. The killing of TTP’s chief is a sigh of relief for Pakistan since he never appreciated dialogue or rapprochement with Islamabad. However, what is essential for all the concerned governments is to keep the fact in mind that his death will not bring Taliban to stop from their attacks on Pakistan. His death is only a temporary setback to the movement. While individuals may be necessary, their end does not mean the elimination of a cause. The uneasy partners in this war on terror need to come up with a strategy that can dismantle the movement.