More ‘modest proposals’ to resolve Donald Trump’s border problem

There are a number of options Mr Trump has to deal with the crowd of children at his southern border.

Immigrant children US border - Reuters
Undocumented immigrant children look back towards Mexico through the border wall as they await apprehension after crossing into the US from Mexico in August 2018 [File: Adrees Latif/Reuters]

“This is a humanitarian crisis – a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.” These beautiful words penned by President Donald Trump’s speechwriter brought tears to my eyes. “Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States – a dramatic increase” – the heartfelt emotion, the truth, the elegance, the care and deeply humanitarian consideration of the man who wrote them, Stephen Miller, were so beautifully evident.

“These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs. One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico. Women and children are the biggest victims, by far, of our broken system.” Both Trump and Miller, along with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, should all be nominated for the next Nobel Peace Prize, to stand shoulder to shoulder with other political luminaries, such as Aung San Suu Kyi and Henry Kissinger.

While watching President Trump’s historic message to the American people from his august seat at the Oval Office, I was reminded of Jonathan Swift’s classic, a masterpiece of English literature – “A modest proposal for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burthen on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick” (1729). The recommendations of this landmark essay by the towering English literary giant have never been so timely.

In his “proposal”, Swift makes a number of modest suggestions regarding the increasing number of poor Irish children in public sight, which leader of the Free World President Donald J Trump could certainly benefit from reading. 

First, Swift explains how the cost of providing a livelihood for these poor children is an unbearable burden on the taxpayers’ generosities. “I am assured by our merchants that a boy or a girl before twelve years old, is no saleable commodity, and even when they come to this age, they will not yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half a crown at most, on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value,” he observes.

Then he makes a much simpler and less expensive proposition – and you, oh gentle reader, need to keep your liberal bourgeois sentiments at bay when reading the following: “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie [fricassee], or a ragoust [ragout].” 

Swift then assures his readers such a delicatessen would be of immediate interest to “the persons of quality and fortune, through the kingdom” – and, I daresay, across the ocean.

Time to update Mr Swift

I, the hitherto little known distant Oriental cousin of Mr Swift, would like to make a few similar (but not identical to be sure) suggestions regarding another flock of children menacing the southern borders of the kingdom of these United States of America which we are told to make great again.

The first is informed by a compelling statistic released by charity organisation Save the Children: “In 2016, 23.5 percent of America’s children in rural areas were impoverished as compared with 18.8 percent in urban areas. On the county level, between 2012 and 2016, 41 counties in the United States had child poverty rates of 50 percent or higher, 93 percent of which (38 out of 41) were rural.”

In other words, depending on where bona fide US children are located (mind you, we are talking about blue-blooded, American born and raised children, living on this side of Trump’s yet fictitious wall), they have a 20 to 50 percent chance of starving.  

Hence, the simplest solution seems to be just letting these children from the southern borders join their American counterparts with the reliable assurance that they will soon starve away without the slightest burden on the honest Christian evangelical taxpayers who voted to make America great again. And if we put them up in schools, there is also a high chance they would fall victim to a school shooting (we’ve already counted 200 of those since Sandy Hook in 2012).

Alternatively, these children running away from violence and poverty, which the US is at least partially responsible, could be used as the seed for reviving the practice of slavery. We know for a fact currently “more than 400,000 people could be living in ‘modern slavery’ in the US, a condition of servitude broadly defined in a new study as forced and state-imposed labor, sexual servitude and forced marriage”. 

These children from Latin America could be easily added to these numbers without much consequence for the rich and powerful Americans running the country. Surely, Ms Kirstjen Nielsen, our loving caring and competent US Secretary of Homeland Security, would agree.

If we decide not to go for that option, a good substitute solution could be to add these children to the already sizeable child labour force, which includesapproximately 500,000 child farm workers in the US. Many of these children start working as young as age 8, and 72-hour work weeks (more than 10 hours a day) are not uncommon.” 

So before we come to the rather dire proposal that these poor kids from Latin America be “stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled”, as our Mr Swift would say, they could be put to good use to make America great again by doing 10-15 hours backbreaking shifts for nothing. Why waste such a precious source of cheap labour?

A wide range of global options

In the age of globalisation, I can, of course, imagine a number of international solutions to the border children crisis. One is to put them on a boat and send over to Europe. The latter would surely let them sink close to its coast to preserve the racial purity of its Aryan people and culture and to give the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei an opportunity do another artwork about refugee kids and become even more famous. If any of them miraculously survive, another Anders Breivik might come around and shoot them. 

Alternatively, these children can be shipped over to Yemen. Part of them can join Yemeni children dying from starvation under Saudi and Emirati siege and from Saudi-led, US-backed coalition bombs; another part can join the Darfurian children currently being sent by Khartoum and Riyadh to fight the war in Yemen or their sworn enemies, the child recruits of the Houthis.

If Yemen is too difficult to ship to, the children can surely be sent to Palestine to accompany their Palestinian peers in facing mass imprisonment and torture in Israeli jails and mass death by Israeli bombs in Gaza. 

Let us not forget that Iran is also an option. There, they can be part of the mass recruitment campaign preying on poor Afghan and Pakistani refugee children. They can also be indoctrinated and swiftly dispatched to Syria, Lebanon or Iraq to fight for the obscure causes of the ruling Iranian clergy. After all, it was they who during the Iran-Iraq war perfected the art of child soldiering; even Ayatollah Khomeini praised the 13-year-old Hossein Fahmideh who strapped grenades to his own body and threw himself under an Iraqi tank in 1980. 

Our Good Honourable Gentleman Mr Swift writes towards the end of his learned essay, that he is “not so violently bent upon [his] own opinion, as to reject any offer, proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual”.

All of my above suggestions are offered in that spirit of collegiality and common purpose. But in my humble opinion, before we make “stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled” food out of these children, as Mr Swift suggested, there is much use to which they can be put – to the delight of Mr Trump and other world leaders concerned about the wellbeing of children crowding up at their borders.  

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

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