Other Opinions

Helping starving, thirsty migrants is not a crime, even if Trump says it is

According to the Trump regime, Scott Daniel Warren, a man who picked up hungry and thirsty migrants who wandered the desert after crossing the border, illegally, deserved to spend 20 years in jail for aiding and harboring criminals.

If you want to be a good citizen by Trumpist standards, then, you must let the hungry and thirsty die.

Lars Maischak

It strikes us as morally right that it should be a crime to aid a criminal. We might think of the college buddies of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber, who attempted to hide his laptop from the police, knowing full well it contained evidence for their friend’s involvement in an act of terrorism.

But when Tsarnaev hid in a boat in someone’s backyard, bleeding from bullet wounds, would it have been a crime to dress his wounds, even in the absence of police?

By the logic the Trump regime applies to migrants, yes. You must let them die or go to jail.

This is a textbook case where what is moral and what is lawful no longer align.

It reminds me of the Fugitive Slave Law. To be a law-abiding citizen, you had to make sure a fugitive slave was returned to the rightful owner. This violated the sense of morality of many Americans.

By federal law, you were obligated to do the bidding of a racist minority whose insistence on their right to harm others, and to treat others as less than fully human, was backed by the full force of the government.

In the same fashion, today, a racist minority who insist on their right to harm others, and to treat others as less than fully human, are using the full force of federal law to threaten those who insist that everyone, equally, be treated as human.

Morality is on the side of those who oppose Trumpism.

When the religious refugees led by John Winthrop were en route to Massachusetts in 1630, he delivered a sermon best known for its phrase, “A City Upon a Hill.” In this sermon, Winthrop admonished his congregation to treat even their enemy as human:

“The Law of Nature requires … that every man afford his help to another in every want or distress. ... The law of grace or the Gospel hath some difference from that: ... the Gospel commands love to an enemy. Proof. If thine Enemy hunger, feed him; Love your Enemies, do good to them that hate you. Matthew: 5.44.”

Winthrop’s law of nature and law of grace are both violated by the Trump regime and its core backers. The command, let them die, or go to jail, is barbaric. Note that, in Winthrop’s words, the moral laws to be observed by Christians put an even higher burden on the individual, in that they also apply to enemies.

While the jury asked to convict Warren could not agree to do so, it is alarming that there were apparently some jurors who were willing to give Trump’s prosecutors what they asked for.

Do not be placated by this outcome. Warren faced serious charges, and had to expend significant amounts of time and money in his defense. Anyone inclined to help a person in need will now think twice. The regime has succeeded in planting the seed of barbarism in everyone’s heart, if it can cause its citizens to second-guess their moral judgment. Should I maybe let this person die? Can I afford not to?

Trumpism has made morality a luxury. Do the right thing, if you have that kind of time and money.

I am reminded of my family’s past. There was a slave labor camp next to the shipyard where the men from my family worked. My grandmother claimed to have been unaware of it. My aunt protested. Don’t you remember the woman who stumbled down our street, crying for help? How people hid behind their curtains as she went from house to house? How everyone fled from their windows when the SS showed up to recapture her? My grandmother shook her head, but it was quite clear that she had been there, and that she remembered. You cannot forget a scene like that.

More importantly, you cannot outlive your shame.

You are now witnesses to a crime against humanity, prepared and executed in broad daylight by your government. Do not stand by and watch as Trump-brand fascism turns the city upon a hill into a car wreck in a ditch. People will still be watching, but not in admiration. “The eyes of all people are on us.”

Lars Maischak is a lecturer in American history at Fresno State.