“’When they used to separate children … far fewer people would come, and we've been on a humane basis, it's pretty bad,’ (President) Trump told Maria Bartiromo, host of Fox News’ ‘Sunday Morning Futures,’ in a phone interview. ‘We go out and we stop the separation. The problem is, you have 10 times more people coming up with their families. It's like Disneyland now,’ he continued.” – POLITICO
Commentary: My son looked at me incredulously. “This was a fun place when you were a kid?”
“Disneyland was different then,” I said, affecting a thousand-yard stare so as to avoid catching my wife’s eye.
In the early 1980's I would spend 362 days of the year anticipating three days with my grandparents visiting the happiest place on earth. Those visits to the park’s themed neighborhoods — Frontierland, Adventureland, and so forth — were the highlight of my year.
The newest addition, Trump Borderland, was rather dreary. No fairy tale castle wall here, but an armed fortress surrounded by concrete and steel bollard structures, which the brochure insists are “beautiful.”
To start with, the lines to get into the happiest place on earth, always famously long, now take several months or even years. We got there before the new policy of taking cheek swabs of everyone in line to make sure families are actually related, but my children were checked to make sure they weren't small adults wearing kids' clothes.
Fortunately, my children are young and our family is not fleeing for its life from despotic regimes, economic collapse, environmental destruction of farmland or ceaseless gang warfare and recruitment. Because that would be off-putting.
Disneyland always presented a distinctly bent image of the United States and the rest of the world, but Trump Borderland seemed darkly estranged from reality.
Illegal crossings peaked decades ago, but asylum applications are way up in recent years. The Department of Justice records more applications in the first quarter of 2019 than annual totals as recently as 2013.
The causes of this refugee crisis were dramatized at the redesigned Epcot Center, and its international exhibitions have been greatly simplified: the map of our continent was reduced to Canada and the U.S., Mexico, and the rest as "Mexico-ish," a mass of maybe-socialist countries rife with infectious disease despite their high vaccination rates.
Trump Borderland’s overall mood had infected other parts of the park as well.
“It’s A Small World” was a rather depressing ride, with the singing dolls frequently being interrupted and asked to show their papers.
“Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” was gone, and instead families were packed into the back of a van and taken for a high-speed cruise across New Mexico’s Bootheel region without seat belts.
The Thunder Mountain railroad, one of my childhood favorites, still offered a breakneck ride, but it ended by depositing us on a street in Las Cruces, leaving us to work out how to get back to the park.
When we got there, park officials asked us to explain why we left and why we wanted to come back.
Despite our disappointment, it still seemed a privilege to pack for a trip with my family and travel somewhere far from home for some amusement and recreation, rather than a desperate march across a continent by tens of thousands of parents and childreneach month.
"Where do you want to go the next time we can afford a vacation and take time off from all of our jobs?" I asked the family on our way home.
My youngest son suggested Sea World. He heard about a playground there constructed entirely from ocean plastic removed from a beached whale.
Childhood isn't what it once was.