History has a strong sense of irony, proven once again when a letter written by President Donald Trump's grandfather over a century ago was discovered in Germany in November 2016.
Faced with deportation by royal decree, The Independent reported that Friedrich Trump wrote to the prince regent of Bavaria and begged him to allow his family to remain in Germany, sentiments undoubtedly echoed by families throughout the United States today caught in Trump's grandson's harsh immigration policies.
The letter, written in 1905 and recently translated from German into English to be published by Harper's Magazine, gives insight into the Trump family's American dream origins. It tells the story of a poor boy from the Rhineland who avoided conscription by immigrating to the U.S., apprenticed as a barber, built on empire of allegedly some ill-repute, and eventually achieved American citizenship. Now wealthy, married, and the father of a young daughter, Trump returned to his homeland, but was ordered to leave and never return due to his failure to answer when called to mandatory military service.
"We were paralyzed with fright; our happy family life was tarnished. My wife has been overcome by anxiety, and my lovely child has become sick," Trump wrote to Prince Luitpold. "Why should we be deported? This is very, very hard for a family. What will our fellow citizens think if honest subjects are faced with such a decree — not to mention the great material losses it would incur. I would like to become a Bavarian citizen again."
His pleas fell on unrelenting ears, however, and Trump was forced to leave Germany and set up a life in New York, which became the seat of his family's controversial empire and the origin story of one of America's most infamous villains.
In the America of today, Trump's grandson could very well receive a letter like the one his grandfather wrote, a plea for clemency he could easily dismiss without considering the expansive repercussions. In the America of today, Trump's grandson moves to curtail immigration to the U.S. and streamline deportation of illegal immigrants without taking the human cost or the nuance of human experience into account. He has laid the foundation for individuals to be banned based on their passport, to be harassed based on their appearance, and to be denied a second chance in the same country that gave his grandfather one.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters photographer Aaron P. Bernstein