Just a week ago, President Trump signed an executive order suspending refugee resettlement and blocking access to the US for the nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East. Opposition to this order came together incredibly swiftly, as thousands of Americans went to airports to protest this action.
There are, I think, a lot of reasons that this executive order drew such widespread and immediate resistance. Some have been discussed at length. We think of ourselves as a nation of immigrants. And many, many of us have ancestors only a generation or two back who came to this country as members of despised minority groups. Many Americans also have friends, colleagues, loved ones, and relatives directly affected by the order. And, as sign after sign indicated, years of Holocaust education has taught most Americans that if they come for some other group, your group will be attacked soon enough.
But one thing that hasn’t been remarked on quite so much was the centrality of restrictions on freedom of movement to American understandings of Soviet communism, especially during the latter half of the Cold War. Closed international borders were one of the key things separating the “Free World” from the Eastern Bloc. Tens of millions of Americans – all but the Millennials, really – who still remember this. Continue reading