“Inconvenienced”? “Inconvenienced”?! This is the word chosen by the government to describe their perspective on those who have been stopped in airports around the world as a result of Trump’s executive order:
The Department of Homeland Security noted that ‘less than one percent’ of international air travelers arriving Saturday in the United States were ‘inconvenienced’ by the executive order… (Washington Post)
One percent. That doesn’t sound like much. One percent of a dollar is one penny. Losing a penny is an inconvenience.
But 1% in human lives? Taking away the legal rights of one human being? That’s not an inconvenience. That’s an abuse of power.
To put this in the context of human lives, it’s helpful to think about how that reasoning applies when you say that 1% of human beings is insignificant.
The total population of the United States was 323,127,513, according to the 2016 government estimates. One percent of that number would be 3,231,751. According to the United States Census Bureau, 21 states and the District of Columbia had a total population that was less than 1% of the country’s population.
By the Department of Homeland Security’s reasoning, this would mean that if a federal law negatively affected only people in one of those states, it would be a reasonable law. So if you live in West Virginia, Alaska, Nevada, or another of those states, how do you like those odds?
The women’s marches might also lend us some insights. Crowd estimates say that in the United States alone, over a million people participated in marches the day after the inauguration. In the Women’s March on Washington alone, experts estimated the crowd at half a million people. That’s far less than 1% of the country’s population. Should we say that their voices and their concerns don’t matter?
If 1% is insignificant, then why are so many of us upset that 1% of the country’s population holds so much of the country’s wealth?
Let’s make it a little more personal. The school district where I taught and where my daughter went to school has a student population of 159,242. One percent of that number would be 1,592. My daughter’s elementary school has an enrollment of 369, her middle school 902, her high school 1,513—all under 1% of the school system’s enrollment. Does that mean that it would be okay to close any one of those three schools and inconvenience parents and students by forcing those students into longer bus rides that start earlier in the morning?
One only needs to consider the uproar in any school district when a school is closed to see what I’m getting at here. That 1% figure doesn’t sound like very much until the human lives in your family are “inconvenienced.”
The consequences for some of the people who were detained on Saturday are far more than an inconvenient delay at the airport. Some of the people detained were people who were coming here legally and whose lives would be endangered if they were sent back. Had the order not been immediately challenged by people who could get lawyers in a hurry and had the judge not issued a stay, some of them might have lost their lives when they were returned to the country where the flight originated.
Let’s consider that from another perspective. The United States Foreign Service has more than 37,000 employees, more than 11,000 of them serving abroad in 2012 when the attack on our embassy in Benghazi, Libya occurred. Does that mean that Chris Stevens’ and Sean Smith’s lives are less significant because they made up only .00018% of foreign service employees? Or that Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, the Navy SEALs who also died there, are less important because they are such a small percentage of the 323,792 on active duty in the Navy?
This list could go on—the number of law enforcement personnel who are killed as compared to the number serving in law enforcement nationwide, the number of children killed in a school shooting as compared to the number of children enrolled in schools nationwide.
If we think about the difference 1% would make in our own lives, perhaps we might have more compassion for those affected by Mr. Trump’s executive order.
And speaking of Mr. Trump and tiny percentages, why is he so upset about a popular vote that he lost by only 2.1% when he won in what he called “an Electoral College landslide”?
Yes, small percentages matter more when they affect one personally.
When all is said and done, what percentage of those “inconvenienced” by Mr. Trump’s executive order will be found on no-fly lists or will have actual ties to terrorists? That’s the percentage I want to know.