The fact that a new detention facility for immigrant children in Brownsville, Texas, isn’t igniting mass protests across the United States tells you a lot about the current state of Trumpland. We’re living through a strange time, one when the Department of Justice no longer defends the laws of the land, and the President meets North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un solo and spreads lies about a spy scandal — the Toronto Star newspaper has tallied 1,665 lies from President Trump’s 500 days in office, which is an extraordinary number.
One of the strangest elements of the Casa Padre child detention center story, which is horrible in every which way, is that the center has an artistic feature. Throughout the center — which previously had a life as a Walmart — there are various murals of US Presidents, and one of the most prominent, according to reporters who have been inside, depicts Trump accompanied by a quote, “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” While the quotation may be a variation of the popular saying about losing a battle but winning a war, this one has a specific origin, as it’s from a chapter titled “Low Rent, High Stakes” in Trump’s 1987 book The Art of the Deal.
That title became a best seller — reaching number one on the New York Times best seller list for 13 weeks — but it wasn’t even written by Trump himself, as journalist Tony Schwartz was the well-known ghostwriter of the 372-page book. Yes, the same Schwartz who called Trump a “sociopath” during the 2016 Presidential campaign, and just yesterday claimed that Trump’s “dangerous & pathological narcissism” is getting worse.
Over 1,400 boys from the ages of 10 to 17 (roughly 5% of whom had been separated from their parents) are housed at Casa Padre and placed in school for six hours a day, which features lessons in American history, even if many of these children will be denied a path to US citizenship. Let the cruelty of that sink in. Why indoctrinate them with the history of a place that rejects and dehumanizes them? What’s the purpose?
There are also murals of Presidents Obama and Grant in the facility, among others, but the Trump mural is the most peculiar because it derives from a discussion of real estate acumen.
The American dream has always been unevenly distributed, if shared at all, and land, namely who gets to own it, has been one of the foundations of that fantasy. The fact that these children are being taught to look up to a figure bragging about a real estate deal in one of the most exclusive zip codes in the world may suggest that the American dream is evolving into an unconscious parody of itself. If it felt unattainable to most Americans before, it now appears to be embodied by a smug and privileged heir taunting everyone else.