I remain proud of the US, proud of its democratic traditions, its ideals and the aspirations embodied in its founding documents.

I am not proud of its government. While I've disagreed with American policy before — Bush's Iraq disaster or Obama's drone programme come immediately to mind — I have not, until now, been ashamed of America.

Yes, the historical wrongs perpetrated by that government — the Indian genocide, slavery, the internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII — gave cause for ambivalence. But that was in the past and gave reason for reflection, scepticism and resolve toward effort to seek balance toward true ideals.

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This time is different. The Trump administration is different. And not only because it is current, and on all our watch. It is different in embodying malevolence.

A complete list of Trump's deliberate failures and malpractice in the primary duty of a government — to provide safety — would be longer than this column space allows.

Retreat in the face of the threat of global warming stands out as prime example.
But even worse than failures in national (and international) security is the conscious abuse of the concept of "national security" to cover up crimes against humanity.

The recent US Supreme Court decision endorsing Trump's anti-Muslim travel ban on the grounds of thoroughly untested executive claims to determination of "national security interests" illustrates the current weakness of the balances and checks that were designed to limit executive power.

While such a bigoted ban may be ultimately contrary to our national self interest, depriving the country of the best and brightest of foreign students and innovators, it is not criminal.

Only a recreation of sad, failed immigration policies of the past. Anne Frank's family was barred from immigration due to Jewish quotas in the 1930s.

The crimes that should concern all who admire the US and who support democracy are those policies originating with Stephen Miller in the Trump White House to use children as hostage/bargaining chips in the political fight over immigration and Trump's need to satisfy his base supporters. Anne Coulter is a far-right purveyor of outrage, who once claimed that the widows of the murdered on 9-11 were "enjoying and exploiting their status".

An early outspoken supporter of Trump, she has recently declared that continuation of her support and that of her confreres depended entirely on the building of the wall on the Mexican border, a campaign promise.


Miller/Trump inaugurated the "zero-tolerance" policy of arresting asylum seekers, taking their children as "unaccompanied" (secondarily), supposedly to discourage further migrants, but actually to force Democrats and unenthusiastic Republicans to support a border wall.

The people who crossed Mexico from Central American countries mired in gang and drug violence — partially a result of US policies there — are not economic migrants who may have a choice. Life or death is not a free choice.

These families are refugees, and their detention (or as Trump wants, deportation without due process) violates international norms and treaties, specifically the 1951 Convention on Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, to which the US is signatory.

Targeting children and families is itself a war crime. Separating children from parents is a principal terrorising technique of authoritarian states. Separating children from their parents, especially young children, is to deliberately inflict psychological damage, particularly in their capacity to trust, the basic substrate on which both cognitive and emotional development are based.

Jay Kuten
Jay Kuten

Mere reunification will not undo the damage which will go on and be reflected in these children and families for decades.

Trump/Miller/Sessions claim falsely that border crossing itself is a crime. Not for refugees.

The offence of the refugee families was their belief in the hope of safety in the America of its ideals. The Trump administration is destroying those ideals and that hope. To fail to condemn these crimes is itself shameful.

New Zealand needs to stand up and be counted among the righteous defenders of democracy and condemn the Trump administration's criminality.

Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.