[CORRECTION 11/23/2018*] The president says America will make $110 billion dollars selling arms to Saudi Arabia, so he will overlook the torture and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the orders of the Saudi government. The president says this is putting America First. He lies on both counts. The first lie is that selling out human rights is putting America First. The second lie is the $110 billion: the actual arms deal is only $4 billion.
The president’s position reminds me of an old story:
A man asks a woman if she would be willing to have sex with him for a million dollars. She replies affirmatively. He then asks if she would be willing to have sex with him for ten dollars. “Absolutely not!” she replies indignantly. “What do you think I am?”
“We’ve already established that,” he says. “Now we’re just haggling over price.”
The president’s position is that America is a whore, selling out principles for profits. If the price was right, would he sell bone saws to the torturers?
“America First” betrays America and Americans. This country was not founded on the sacred principle of profit über alles. As this president worships at the altar of arms sales, invokes the god of Mammon to overlook murder, refuses to listen to Khashoggi’s tape-recorded torture and death, ignores the Saudi war that has starved to death 85 thousand Yemeni children under the age of five, he betrays every sacrifice made to build this country and every dream that Americans still struggle to realize. As long as we can make a buck by overlooking crimes against humanity, the president says, we will put America First, full speed ahead and damn the victims. He betrays America for thirty pieces of silver, or, in today’s inflated market, for four billion greenback dollars.
For all the failures of the United States, we are better than this. “America First”is not the America that our ancestors believed in and fought and lived and died for, whether as soldiers in wars or as martyrs in battles for civil rights and human rights at home. “America First” is not the America that we fight for today.
At the southern border, thousands of people wait to tell their horror stories to U.S. immigration officers. Families have fled terrible violence, threats, poverty, and hunger. They believe the United States offers safety from fear and from hunger. They believe that human dignity is respected in the United States. They believe that they will find work here, and that if they work hard, they will be able to feed their families and educate their children. That is their American dream. That is the same dream that my Irish and German and Luxembourg ancestors had when they came here.
We—some of us, most of us—still share that dream. We want to live in a country that puts people first, that respects human rights at home and around the world, that believes human beings count more than the bottom line.
Today we need to refuse the cynicism that says “America First” is the way our country thinks about itself. We need to recommit ourselves to fighting for the dream of a country committed to defending human dignity and human rights, to becoming the country of the immigrant dream.
*CORRECTION 11/23/2018 85 million corrected to 85 thousand – thank you to John for catching my error.