His voice, his words were not just only phonetically admirable, but morally convincing, filled with a spirituality even in the midst of an atmosphere as toxic as the political world he had to confront. Elijah Cummings, who died at the age of 68 this past Thursday, leaves a moral void with his departure, in Congress as well as in society that will be difficult to fill, especially in this moment so dark, so anti-immigrant, so filled with hate promoted at the highest level of power in the United States.
If there was anyone at this precise moment in the country’s history who could raise up the values that have been proclaimed over the long term and before the entire world, it would be Cummings, Democratic representative from Maryland, who did not hesitate one second in identifying and condemning the immoral conduct of today’s president from the very beginning.
He warned us, as leader of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, about the evil that was looming in this nation and was being implanted with every one of the decisions or public policies coming from the White House, among them especially those that have severely impacted the U.S. legacy of migration.
The moral reprimand Cummings gave to the outgoing Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Kevin McAleenan, is already as memorable as it is historic, during that hearing before Congress in July of this year, when the troubled official was called to task in order to explain the policy of family separation under today’s government, as unsustainable as it is indefensible.
In a firm voice, fiery in the largest sense of the term because it was about condemning an inhumane practice visited upon minor children separated from their parents, Cummings, son of sharecroppers, snapped at the nervous McAleenan after asking him if he thought he was doing his “job” well:
“What does that mean? What does that mean when a child is sitting in their own feces, can’t take a shower? Come on, man. What’s that about? None of us would have our children in that position. They are human beings… We are the United States of America. We are the greatest country in the world. We are the ones that can go anywhere in the world and save people…. Come on, we are better than that! When we are dancing with the angels, these children will be dealing with the issues that have been presented to them.”
If there is something to mark for posterity about this anti-immigrant and xenophobic period in the United States, it is there words from Representative Cummings, which faithfully show that his ideas were on the right side of history and are like a finger in the sore of a self-inflicted wound of this nation, made by and for immigrants, but which right now is turning its back on this essence for the sake of achieving a supremacist agenda that should have no currency here nor anywhere else in the world.
Already at an earlier opportunity, Cummings had made reference to the cruelty of family separation at the border, in the heat of one of the most shameful rejections of immigrants who are poor, minorities, or fleeing situations of violence and extreme poverty. He said last February: ““I believe this is a true national emergency. When our own government rips children from the arms of their mothers and fathers with no plans to reunite them – that is government-sponsored child abuse.”
If today’s head of the Executive Branch thought that it would be relatively easy to convert the United States to a type of “monarchy in disguise,” using immigrants as “scapegoats” constantly, he met the perfect counterweight in Cummings with his Democratic passion; the representative not only demonstrated courage for not remaining silent in the face of the ignominy that still today crushes the most elementary moral of any nation, but also defended principles that concern us all, immigrants or not, and upon which new societies must be forged.
Calling Baltimore, the city where Cummings was born in 1951, “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” “one of the most dangerous places in the country,” where “no human being would want to live” unmasked, once again, the undeniable racism of this president, knowing that 52% of the population there is African American, according to Census data. And all because Cummings was constitutionally heading up investigations against the leader, who reacted like a badly-behaved child who does not know how to defend himself other than by using hurtful and foul words.
History always has a place reserved for each person who acts according to his conscience. The chapter that will be dedicated to Cummings will be long and complimentary. In it, without a doubt, will appear his defense of immigrants, his city, his voters, his country and its Constitution—its very freedom.
With that in mind, it is clear that with the loss of Cummings, the White House must be breathing a sigh of relief. Momentarily.
You can read the Spanish-language version of this article here.