Father’s Day Under Trump: A Grotesque Exercise in the Destruction of Families

Every great fascist catastrophe in history has seen a moment on the eve of the final calamity when it could have all been thwarted. This is that moment, right now, on Father’s Day.

His name was Marco Antonio Muñoz, he was 39 years old, and he was a father.

An asylum-seeker from Honduras, Muñoz crossed the southern border at Granjeno last month with his wife and three-year-old son. Like millions before him, he had taken his family and fled to the United States seeking a better life with the bedlam of violence still ringing in his ears.

Honduras, his native country, suffers one of the highest murder rates in the world due to deadly gang violence. The US State Department has issued a Travel 3 Advisory warning against visiting that country. Many thousands of Hondurans have been forced to flee the violence, some of them forming the “caravan” Donald Trump has been demagoguing on for months.

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Muñoz and his wife Orlanda lived previously in the US and had a son here, but chose to return to Honduras some years ago to grow coffee. Three years ago, Orlanda gave birth to another son. When Muñoz’s brother was murdered in Honduras, the family decided to flee. They put the older boy, a US citizen, on a plane, and carried the toddler with them as they went north by land.

When Muñoz and his family arrived at the border, they were taken by border patrol agents to a processing station, where they were informed they would be separated. Muñoz resisted, fiercely. “They had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands,” one agent told the Washington Post. Muñoz lost his three-year-old boy to the agents and was himself taken to the Starr County Jail.

The last time anyone saw Marco Antonio Muñoz alive, he was praying in the corner of his cell. A short time later, he was found in a pool of his own blood. Authorities ruled it a suicide. No one knows what has become of his three-year-old son. His father is gone forever.

The ongoing separation of children from their parents at the US border — a practice put in place by Attorney General Jeff Sessions upon the order of President Trump — is not always as brazen as ripping a toddler from his frantic father’s arms. A number of asylum-seeking mothers were told by border agents their children were to be given baths. The children were never returned.

There are 1,469 children currently living in an old Walmart outside of Brownsville, Texas. All were separated from their immigrating parents and sent to this facility, which was given the grimly Orwellian name Casa Padre, or “Father’s House.” Upon arrival, the children are confronted by a large smiling mural of Donald Trump and a caption that reads, in English and Spanish, “SOMETIMES BY LOSING A BATTLE YOU FIND A WAY TO WIN THE WAR.”

The number of separated children grows by the day, and Trump now plans to house them in tent cities to be created in the desert outside El Paso. Health and Human Services said Thursday that it had some “11,432 migrant children in its custody,” reports the Washington Post, “up from 9,000 at the beginning of May. The numbers include minors who arrived at the border without a relative as well as children separated from their parents as part of the administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ push to file criminal charges against anyone who enters the United States illegally.”

“We have to break up families,” said Trump in May. “The Democrats gave us that law.” This claim, according to the Washington Post, is “violently divorced from reality.” There is no single law governing US immigration, but rather a series of laws and policies that both Democrats and Republicans have put in place. Tearing families apart is a policy specifically enacted by Sessions and the Trump administration to punish illegal immigrants, and to stroke the nativist rage of the president’s base.

“The heartlessness of that,” writes The New York Times editorial board, “is mind-boggling. It seems to elude the administration and its cheerleaders that this is not about crime or security, but about the most elemental human values; that ordering armed border guards to cruelly and needlessly rip children from mothers — in one case, while she was breast-feeding the child — goes against fundamental American values and undercuts its standing in the world.”

The fact that this practice is wildly unpopular beyond the bubble of Trumpland, and that it is also capturing asylum seekers who are perfectly within the law, has compelled Trump and his administration’s defenders to lie to the nation and the world with their bare faces hanging out. It’s not us, it’s the Democrats! How the party with no control whatsoever of the entire federal government bears responsibility for Trump’s brand new child-snatching border policy has yet to be adequately explained.

Doubling down on their defense of the policy, Administration officials have reached for one of the most gruesome verses that biblical Scripture has to offer in order to justify their actions.

When confronted with the horrors being inflicted upon children, Sessions told law enforcement officers, “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”

Romans 13 reads: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” It is an exhortation for rigid obedience to authority that has been used over the centuries to defend slavery in the US, Nazism in Germany and apartheid in South Africa. It is the fascist’s favorite verse, and the attorney general of the United States of America believes it validates the brutalization of children.

On this day of official recognition for the simple, monumental responsibility of fatherhood, let every parent rise up in outrage against the monstrosity being done under the fraudulent cover of God, justice and the law. There is no God here, no justice, no law. There is only ruthless racism, xenophobia and the political need to motivate the GOP’s hard-right base to vote come November. Clearly, there is no moral line this administration will not cross to expand its authoritarian power.

Every great fascist catastrophe in history has seen a moment on the eve of the final calamity when it could have all been thwarted. This is that moment, right now, on Father’s Day. Here, now, they must be stopped, or there will be no stopping them.

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William Rivers Pitt is Truthout's senior editor and lead columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know," "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence" and "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in New Hampshire.