Like most bullies who began their careers on schoolyard playgrounds, Donald Trump loves “busting chops.”
This phrase which I am confident is in President Trump’s vocabulary, has a literal meaning, “breaking jaws.” This is always a menacing possibility, but usually “busting chops” involves being aggressively annoying or insulting as an expression both of superiority and impunity.
A crippling addiction to those 2 feelings, superiority and impunity, is what drives the Trump-truck. Why else would a man interrupt his moment of maximum uplift, the announcement that he was indeed running to become the President of the United States, for a rant against Mexican immigrants?
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump told a national TV audience from his podium in the Trump Tower Atrium. “They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
In the schoolyard, one of the chop-buster’s victims might have muttered in response to that last aspersion, “It takes one to know one.” But softly, unless he was ready for a fight.
When the Bully is the President he has a lot of surrogates to do his fighting for him, and that causes a lot of trouble, because bullying is contagious in just the way shit rolls downhill.
People who were abused as children are likely to abuse children as adults. They act out what they saw modeled by people who did enjoy superiority and impunity. This doesn’t just happen in families. Intemperate bosses create volatile work environments as the hurts and grievances that start with eruptions from the top work their way down the pyramid of power to the shop floor.
In the context of immigration law enforcement, abusive busting of chops can involve the gratuitous violence of broken windows and battered-down doors during domestic raids, or the humiliating public arrest of a father dropping his kids off at school, or what the Chief Judge of the California Supreme Court called the “stalking” of immigrants coming to court to seek or face justice.
Camille Cook, a longtime immigration attorney who works with farmworker communities in California’s Central Valley, says the message for her and her clients is clear: “What has really changed is the attitude, she told our guest, journalist Lauren Markham, “[ICE] now has permission. All the officers who felt like they were being reined in, they now feel like they have permission and encouragement” from the highest office in the land.”
President Donald Trump has given his anti-immigrant forces permission to bust chops, to act out their feelings of national, ethnic or racial superiority and official impunity, permission to hand out the feeling that his every bully’s payoff at the bottom line; fear.
A travel agent from the Central Valley says fear is killing one of the mainstays of her business, the annual trips to Mexico farmworkers made for family reunions.
“They didn’t want to risk it, even if they have papers,” she told the NY Times. “Everyone is scared.”
Lauren Markham is a writer and reporter based in Northern California. She writes fiction, essays and journalism – mostly about migration, youth and the environment. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The New Republic, Guernica, VICE Magazine, Orion, The Utne Reader, Pacific Standard, The New Yorker.com and VQR.
In addition to writing, Lauren works at a high school for immigrant youth in the Bay Area. Her book about child migration from El Salvador, THE FAR AWAY BROTHERS, will be published by Crown in September 2017.