T.H.R.E.A.T. Watch: The Frog Pot Heats Up

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It's been awhile since my last T.H.R.E.A.T. (Trump Human Rights Erosion And Termination) Watch post. That's because things haven't deteriorated as rapidly as I feared in the areas that worry me most: the suppression of free speech, including suppression of the press, and the targeting of minority groups and immigrants. All kinds of other things have gone to hell, but the press has risen to the challenge and spoken truth to power instead of cowering behind weak condemnations and false equivalencies, and the courts have blunted Trump's assault on immigrants. Things could be much worse.

But we have to be wary of the "frogs in a pot of water" scenario where we don't notice a gradual increase in heat until we find ourselves up to our necks in boiling water. Over the past few weeks, I've felt a gradual, worrisome temperature increase, and it's not from the Tucson heat wave.

The media has not only been standing its ground against the assaults from Trump, it's been going the extra mile, doing what the press is supposed to do. It's been a watchdog, scrutinizing the daily outrages of the Trump administration and putting extra staff on investigative duty, trying to ferret out possible/probable wrongdoings by the Trump campaign and the possible/probable coverups of the wrongdoing now that he's president. Recently, however, Trump has stepped up his attacks on the media, which worries me because I've seen how quickly members of the press can go from brave to bullied when they're hit by a flood of negative pressure. Trump reached back to the haemophobic [fear of blood] attack he used against Megyn Kelly, this time targeting Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski with a despicable tweet. Days later Trump retweeted a video of him putting a body slam on CNN. In a July 3 tweet, he predicted that the press will praise him at some point, tellingly using the verb "forced":
At some point the Fake News will be forced to discuss our great jobs numbers, strong economy, success with ISIS, the border & so much else!
"Forced." Trump would love to have the power to force the press to bend to his will. He hasn't figured out how to do it, but he's trying harder with each passing day. Whether he thinks the walls are closing in on him with the latest revelations in the Russia probe or he's just pissed, he's growing increasingly aggressive toward the press. Members of the media are standing their ground, but that can change.

Trump's ban on people traveling to the U.S. from six predominantly Muslim countries has finally begun, though in a limited form. The courts have said he can only keep people out who don't have a "bona fide relationship" with someone in the U.S., so his administration is using the most restrictive and punitive definition of "bona fide relationship" it can, excluding, among others, grandparents, aunts and uncles. People from the six banned countries tend to have strong extended family ties which go well beyond the nuclear family. The Trump administration's limits on what is considered a bona fide relationship are culturally insensitive and insulting, which, I imagine, is the point. And a future Supreme Court ruling favorable to a complete travel ban for those six countries is always a possibility, given the conservative makeup of the court.

Meanwhile, undocumented immigrants in this country are feeling an escalation of the pressure being put on them and their families. Detentions, arrests and deportations are becoming increasingly frequent and arbitrary, even for people who have been here for years and haven't done anything to make them likely targets for deportation. Picking your child up from school, driving in a car and going to the courthouse all put undocumented people at increasing risk. Even picking up a child from a detention center can lead to arrest. And at any time, a knock on the door can be the signal that a family member will be taken into custody, tearing a family apart. It's not simply the number of people being picked up. It's the randomness of the events. One purpose of terrorism is to make people feel unsafe. "At any moment, without warning, I could be next." Random roundups of undocumented immigrants, and stopping of people who look to the immigration police like they could "illegals," are designed to strike terror in the hearts of communities where undocumented immigrants live.

Things could be worse, but things definitely aren't good. The damage Trump has wrought on the nation has been slowed by the courts, the media and his low approval ratings. But no question, it's getting hotter out here.

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