The Vainglorious Eternals Go Golfing

There is always a photograph, and so naturally there is a photograph. This one was taken during the summer of 2008, on a golf course owned by President Donald Trump in New York’s Westchester County. Despite whatever accidental prescience the image might since seem to have acquired, the photo itself was and remains just what it is: artless proof that some wealthy and powerful men—in this case Rudolph Giuliani, Donald Trump, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill Clinton—had at some point posed together on a golf course with their respective Big Bertha drivers out.

It’s the sort of photo that the principal figures have had taken thousands of times over the course of their public lives and equally public retirements. For people of this stature, taking pictures like this with other members of their micro-caste of puffy swells—variously seared pink or golden brown, buzzcut and triangular or pillowy and spheroid, foreign or domestic—is something like their job. There’s no aesthetic merit to these photos, which invariably involve three or four or more pairs of golf shoes and varying shades of incipient sunburn—and sometimes, as this one does, multiple pairs of centimillionaire knees. Aesthetic merit of course plays no role in the staging of such photos; rather, they serve to document a convergence of egos and interests. In functional terms, they mark a random historical moment in roughly the same way and for roughly the same reasons that hostage-takers photograph their captives holding up the front page of a given day’s newspaper. Everyone in the shot can point to it as proof of themselves being in the proper company and the correct milieu. Images like this do not exist to be looked at so much as they exist to be seen, or noticed.

And that’s what we have here. Giuliani, far left, looks as ever as if he has somehow been spilled into his clothes; he is turned such that he is grimacing towards a camera that no one else is facing. Trump is halfway into or out of a grin, and sagging to leeward like a butter sculpture left out in the sun. A head shorter and directly to Trump’s left, Bloomberg is trim, mirthless, and more deeply tan than any public official has a right to be. Bill Clinton had not at this point embarked on his vegan glow-up, and so looks jocular and fluffy in shorts and a pastel golf shirt with implausibly girthsome sleeves. Most versions of this photo that have circulated over the days since Bloomberg announced his interest in joining the field of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination crop former Yankees Manager Joe Torre and professional Yankees fan Billy Crystal out of the photo entirely, even though the picture was taken at Torre’s own charity golf event.

That is rude, but it fits. Characters like Torre and Crystal are incidental to photos like this, or anyway useful mostly as local color, or a spritz of local flavor atop the expensive lobes of foie gras at the center of the image. The photos are proof that various powerful people once stood next to each other, more or less as peers, and they are to be hung up like a diploma—something for guests to see on the wall of a long corridor in some cold and fancified house, or notice in an office in which, as a matter of course, no actual work gets done. A bunch of rich old men, together, their respective pendulous drivers arrayed before them such that their identical heads are nearly touching, but not quite. Well, doesn’t that beat all?

In a better world, such photos might still exist. The people in them would not have become nearly as rich or unaccountable or powerful as they are in this one, but there’s no reason to think that they would not have found each other in some refrigerated clubhouse or hotel dining room or breakout session or cigar bar. In that world, these men would not be any better than they are in this one, because they are what they are by nature—mutants of appetite and ego, and outliers from the rest of humanity in terms of both the depth and the breadth of their need. But in that other world, in which they are merely rich and terrible, they would threaten only the good times of the other people sharing those spaces with them.

In this one, though, these vainglorious eternals somehow shamble on atop the culture even in their curdling dotage. From that commanding position they do what they do—pursue their endless blowsy feuds, scheme and carp, watch television and go on television and, where the opportunity presents itself, blithely commit various high crimes and misdemeanors. Far above the struggle and insecurity of everyday life, these brittle titans squabble and gossip and go through acrimonious and highly public divorces; for all the ways in which the toxic runoff of inequality can currently be felt in the culture, the fact that the cheesy churn of rich and petty men drifting into and pissily out of each other’s good graces now so distorts our politics is among the most enervating. It is one thing to see so much of our popular culture narrowing and flattening to suit various billionaires’ crude and idle whims, but it’s something else to realize that the political life of the richest and most powerful country on earth is in large part determined by the spats and obsessions of a super-class of aged and lazy lords, all of whom consider themselves peers of each other and virtually no one else.

It’s not a constitutionally enumerated power of the office, but presidents invariably shape the culture in ways that reflect their own values or anti-values, politics, and vibe. Clinton’s America applauded itself from the apex of boomer self-assurance; Bush’s was gilded and blustering and fragile, both strident and utterly bereft of ideas; Obama’s was cosmopolitan and smart from afar and naively inclined to assume facts not in evidence about the trajectories of various important things. It makes sense that Donald Trump’s America would be just the country for these old men—that the machinations and endless feuds of the tabloid undead would crowd and then devour everything else.

If Trump has values beyond the protection and promotion of his hideous and hungry self, they are these tabloid-driven rules of engagement. If Trump has peers—if there are people that matter to him beyond those who might be instrumentalized to advance his pursuit of more of everything—these are those people. Bloomberg will not be the next president of the United States, because virtually no one alive wants him to serve in that role. And yet he and his untouchable peers, who have been allowed through various long-standing failures to have so much more than any person ever should, will spend millions of dollars not in pursuit of any particular set of policies or even the office itself, but out of habit. Look at that photo again, and it is clear that none of the people in it are really friends—but just as important, they’re not enemies in any meaningful way, either. If you know the roles they play in our politics, the people in the photo seem like an unlikely foursome—the lumpy blowhards who backed into fascism for lack of any conviction deeper than a distaste for those with less than them, grinning alongside the savviest and most state-of-the-art ur-moderates. Someone who didn’t understand how weak everything around them had become, or how high these duffers had been allowed to rise as a result, might just look at the photo and see some old guys heading out to play some golf, and maybe bet a little something on the outcome to make things interesting.

Cleaning Toilets, Following Rules: A Migrant Child’s Days in Detention

.. Adan Galicia Lopez, 3, was separated from his mother for four months.
.. Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case.

Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.

.. one of more than 100 government-contracted detention facilities for migrant children around the country that are a rough blend of boarding school, day care center and medium security lockup.

.. The facility’s list of no-no’s also included this: Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita — your little brother or sister.

Leticia had hoped to give her little brother a reassuring hug. But “they told me I couldn’t touch him,” she recalled.

.. the government returned slightly more than half of the 103 children under the age of 5 to their migrant parents.

.. But more than 2,800 children — some of them separated from their parents, some of them classified at the border as “unaccompanied minors” — remain in these facilities

.. these facilities are united by a collective sense of aching uncertainty — scores of children gathered under a roof who have no idea when they will see their parents again.

.. She would quickly write these notes after she had finished her math worksheets, she said, so as not to violate yet another rule: No writing in your dorm room. No mail.

.. She kept the letters safe in a folder for the day when she and her mother would be reunited, though that still hasn’t happened. “I have a stack of them,” she said.

.. it chose one of the harshest deterrents ever employed by a modern president: the separation of migrant children from their parents.

.. earning “big brother” status for being good role models for younger children. They were rewarded the privilege of playing video games.

.. You couldn’t touch others. You couldn’t run. You had to wake up at 6:30 on weekdays, with the staff making banging noises until you got out of bed.

.. Diego said that he was not afraid, because he always behaved. He knew to watch for a staff member “who was not a good guy.” He had seen what happened to Adonias, a small boy from Guatemala who had fits and threw things around.

They applied injections because he was very agitated,” Diego said. “He would destroy things.”

A person he described as “the doctor” injected Adonias in the middle of a class, Diego said. “He would fall asleep.”

.. But because of the rules, the two boys did not hug.

.. Yoselyn Bulux, 15, is a rail-thin girl from Totonicapán, Guatemala, with long dark hair and no clear memory of how she summoned the strength to climb the wall at the border.

.. “If you do something bad, they report you,” Yoselyn recalled. “And you have to stay longer.”

..  Also on Saturday, Yoselyn met with a counselor, whom she liked. They talked about her hope to be with her mother soon.

.. then the woman serving as her escort handed Yoselyn over to her father, who was so overcome at the sight of his daughter that he could not speak.

.. They were taken to the shelter, given new clothes and separated: Victor to the boys’ area, Leidy to the girls’.

.. But at least he had a trabajadora de caso — a caseworker — named Linda who helped him navigate his new world. “She did everything she could to find my mother,” Victor said. “She called every state.”

.. The walls that separate the sleeping quarters do not reach the high ceilings, which means that sounds travel in the yawning spaces within the 250,000-square-foot building. One boy will make a loud animal noise, after which another will emit an animal-like response.

“Someone will start mooing,” the employee said. “They just think it’s funny. They just do it long enough so everyone can hear, and then we all start laughing.”

.. staff is overworked and a little stressed out by the 12-hour shifts and the considerable responsibilities.

.. During the day, the staff is required to maintain a ratio of one worker for every eight children. The ratio sets the tempo and culture at Casa Padre, the employee said. “It’s a big deal if we’re out of ratio.”

.. If one boy in a classroom needs to use the restroom, then a staff member has to find seven others who also want to go to the bathroom. “They’ll all stand in a line and then we’ll walk to the restroom,”

.. Some of the boys at Casa Padre were separated from their parents at the border, but most were caught crossing without a parent or guardian. All seem to keep themselves entertained with soccer or movies or video games.

.. “If they get sad, it’s like a quiet thing,” the employee said. “You’ll see them sit on the floor and just kind of wrap their arms around themselves.”

.. Some time in the evening is set aside for prayer. Boys can be found praying in a classroom, in a game room, in a bedroom. Some kneel.

 

She Became a Face of Family Separation at the Border. But She’s Still With Her Mother.

The father, Denis Javier Varela Hernandez, 32, who lives in Puerto Cortés, Honduras, said in an interview in Spanish on Friday that his daughter Yanela, who turns 2 next month, and her mother, Sandra Maria Sanchez, are together and fine. He said Ms. Sanchez, with whom he has been in a relationship for 14 years, left for the United States three weeks ago.

Mr. Varela, in an interview with Spanish-language Univision that aired on Monday, said that he was surprised to see his wife and daughter featured in the photograph, but that he was not worried. Mr. Moore had captured the image six days earlier, in McAllen, Tex.

“She was looking for a better quality of life, a better future,” Mr. Varela told The Times on Friday. “She had mentioned to me that she wanted to leave. But she never to

“She wanted a house and she wanted to have her own business,” said Mr. Varela, who works as a boat captain in Puerto Cortés. “Everyone here wants those things. I always told her to not leave, but everyone makes their own decisions.”

ld me about taking our daughter.”

The couple has three other children: a son, Wesly, 14, and two daughters, Cindy, 11, and Brianna, 6.

.. But the magazine issued a correction to the accompanying article, saying that Border Patrol agents had not carried the girl away screaming. Instead, the correction said, the mother had picked the toddler up and they left together.

.. For now, he said, he is glad to see that the photograph of his daughter had made an impact. “I feel sad because of the image, but at the same time, happy,” he said, adding, “Look at what my daughter has come to mean to immigrants and the topic of immigration worldwide.”

‘I wanted to stop her crying’: The image of a migrant child that broke a photographer’s heart

The night-crossers were often families, exhausted and terrified from their journeys, seeking asylum from whatever terror had driven them from home.

.. While they had been evacuating their homes and traveling — some for weeks — the United States had changed the rules. Pleas for asylum that had been accepted for years might now be rejected.

.. Mothers and fathers, who would have been released to await court hearings, would now be jailed. Their children would be seized

.. There were dozens of them, though it was hard to count in the dark. When the guards’ lights hit them, Moore saw that they were almost entirely women and children. It was about as pure a family exodus as he had seen in his career.

.. On their faces were mixtures of relief and fear. Sometimes just one or the other. “There was a boy, about a 10- or 12-year-old boy, who was visibly terrified,” Moore recalled.

.. The secretary of homeland security has suggested that the nearly 2,000 children who have been seized at the border since April were taken for their own safety. How could the government know that their parents were not their captors?