Monday, July 9, 2018

Do You Hear The People Sing?

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the songs of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
Do you hear the people sing?"
- Les Misérables

Subject: Stop Separating Immigrant Families Press Conference and Rally Chicago Illinois on June 5, 2018. | Date: 06/05/2018 | Photographer: Charles Edward Miller |This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

I know I've written about this topic a lot lately, but it's one I can't get past. The idea that we are taking children away from families who are looking for a better life appalls me. The patriot in me has wanted to curl up into the fetal position and die. I have been ashamed to be an American.

As I grew up, I was taught that Americans were the good guys. I was proud to wear the red, white, and blue. Our country was a shining beacon of hope to the world. Hell, we have the largest lawn ornament in the world outside our country's front door welcoming immigrants looking for a better life.

Over the last few months, we've slammed the door on immigrants, illegal and legal alike. That's right boys and girls, not only have we ripped away children from illegal immigrants, we've taken them from asylum seekers as well.

A federal judge ordered the government to reunite all the children under five years old with their families by July 10th. Two days before the due date, the government was forced to admit they've lost, or destroyed, the records. Officials don't know which child goes to which family or where they are. The government has suggested that giving the children to foster homes is the same as unifying them with their actual families.

These policies are just evil. No, I'm not exaggerating! When you take children away with no clear procedure to reunite them, you've made it clear you don't care about people. Not caring about people is the foundation of evil. That's what evil is. I've been hanging my head for weeks, embarrassed to be an American.

I forgot one fundamental truth. America is not the government. America is not the White House. America is not Capitol Hill. America is WE THE PEOPLE! We are America.

As I was hanging my head, Americans of good conscious were busy finding ways to combat these atrocities. On the 28th of last month, six hundred Americans allowed themselves to be arrested in Washington D.C. for protesting the actions of ICE. Here in Portland, good Americans occupied ICE headquarters effectively closing the office for over a week. In fact, tens of millions of Americans, in all fifty states, have protested the horrors taking place on our southern border.

There are even Americans of noble intent taking matters into their own hands.  Some people are coming forward to pay the bond for as many immigrants as possible. Others are organizing nine car relays to get mothers from Texas to New York to claim children who have been located.

As Patricia Okoumou climbed the Statue of Liberty in protest of government sanctioned child abuse, I was reminded of a scene from Les Misérables. "Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of angry men? It is the music of the people Who will not be slaves again!" These lyrics roared from the throats of the young Frenchmen as they marched through town waving flags in defiance of a corrupt regime.

Over the last few weeks, this scene has been mimicked over and over again. Good-hearted Americans are rising up against tyranny.

Nobody knows how the future will unfold. In twenty years we don't know how this moment will be remembered. Will we be known for making our voices heard loud enough that policies were changed to reflect the values of; compassion, tolerance, and justice; or will our actions be recorded as a passing fad that was abandoned when the next shiny thing came along? It's up to us.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses Yearning To Breathe Free?


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Also known as the Statue of Liberty poem, New Colossus is displayed on a plaque mounted inside the pedestal of the statue.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.
Our country has the biggest lawn ornament in the world just outside our front door. For years she has welcomed the down-trodden and the oppressed to our shore.  America is known as a melting pot. We are a country of immigrants. That's who we are.

However, seemingly overnight President Trump has morphed our country from being a global beacon of hope into a tyrannical regime who is willing to abuse children in order to make a political point.

Last week, I briefly touched upon the topic of government sponsored child abuse. I was outraged not only by the children being herded into gulag-like camps, but the guards in charge of the camps were not allowed to comfort the children. I thought this was as bad as bad can get. Yet,  I did not take into account the level of incompetence of those who were perpetrating this evil.

Thanks in no small part to the news media who have kept this story in the limelight around the clock, Trump finally felt enough pressure to sign an executive order on Wednesday, which would ban the separation of any more immigrant families. Good-hearted Americans took a collective sigh of relief thinking the nightmare was over. D'oh!

We still have over two thousand children still in lock-up around the country. The problem is we kept no record of which child goes back to which parents. We knew the program was evil, but no one knew how sloppily the program was being managed. Moms and dads may have been deported back to Guatemala with no way to lay claim to their four-year-old child in Oregon.

The bitch of it is, we have the technology which could have avoided the problem from the get-go. I am, of course, talking about HOSPITAL BRACELETS! Think about it, all we had to do was tag the kids. I'm talking about a seventy-year-old technology, which could have kept the egg off our national face.

Here's what you need to ask yourself, if Trump had not been pressured into ending the program, how bad was he going to let problem get?  How many children were the government planning to rip away from their parents with no way of reuniting them?

As it is, we will have to live with this stigma of the program for years to come. We are stuck with thousands of children who are going to grow up with severe emotional problems as a result of the trauma we've inflicted upon them. And their trauma was totally avoidable. Even if the guards aren't allowed to comfort the children, the government could have advertised for volunteers to come and hug the children. They would have easily had thousands of good-hearted people taking up the call.

As I write this, good-hearted Americans are protesting the oppressive policies of our government. Locally, hundreds of Portlandians are occupying the local ICE Headquarters. It gives me hope that Americans are speaking out against this tyranny. The question is, when will our leaders take the hint?

Monday, June 18, 2018

I Find Myself Torn

 Mr Donald Trump New Hampshire Town Hall
Subject: Mr Donald Trump New Hampshire Town Hall | Date: 08/19/2015 | Photographer: Michael Vadon |This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Like all good liberals I've been watching Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign for over a year. I've been cheering Mueller along, "Get him! Lock Trump up." However, I've come to wonder when is enough enough.

So far, the investigation has resulted in twenty indictments and five guilty pleas. Most recently, Paul Manafort had his bail revoked for asking witnesses to lie.

The actions of Donald Trump and those around him are actions of guilty people trying to avoid the law. The liberal in me wants them to be held accountable. The liberal in me wants Mueller to uncover every little secret so Russia can never again influence our election.

The realist in me has a different take on things. Like it or not, 30 states cast their electoral votes for Donald Trump. Donald Trump won the election. Ever since the results came in, people have been trying to analyze the election. Multiple books have been written trying to explain why Trump won. A large portion of America is in a state of denial, unable to believe that a non-politician won the election for our country's highest office.

We could analyze until the cows come home, but like it or lump it, the man won. He won. Do I like it? No. I think he is a selfish, heartless brute with no understanding about how the government works. But he's our president.

I keep having flashbacks to the Obama administration. During those eight years, the GOP did almost nothing but try to nail Obama with some kind of charge. They tried to claim he was not born in America, therefore he was ineligible to hold the office of President.  Then there was the claim he was working with al-Queda to overthrow our country. I remember thinking how un-American they were for going after Obama instead of trying to compromise with him to get actual work done.

OK, the charges against Trump's campaign hold a bit more water than the conspiracy theories involving Obama, but I'm not sure the actions of today's Democrats are any more American than the actions of yesterday's Republicans.

Some people argue that if we can make a charge stick against Donald Trump, that he'll lose the next election. While that may be true, I believe he'll lose on his job performance alone.

Forget the fact that he practically tripped over himself in a mad rush to boot millions of people off Obamacare. Forget the fact that Donald gravitates toward dictators such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un,  while simultaneously alienating democratically elected leaders of traditional allies. Forget all that. Well don't forget it, but put it aside for a moment.

This man, this bastion of morality, has succeeded in institutionalizing child abuse. Under Trump, the federal government is taking children for parents seeking asylum. The children are being housed in a series of mass housing facilities. One such facility is an outdoor tent city, which can be found in Tornillo, Texas where the temperature routinely reaches 100 degrees or more. If the living conditions weren't spartan enough, staff members at these Gulags aren't allowed to hug or comfort the, already scared and confused children.

If this inhumane treatment of children isn't enough, all by itself, to defeat Trump in 2020, then America deserves what it gets. No joke. If the Democrats can't nominate Mickey Mouse and win in a landslide, people aren't paying attention.

Do I think The Donald broke the law?  Yes I do.  Do I think we should keep the investigation going in the hope of nailing the President?  I'm just not sure.  I don't want him to skate, but Mueller could investigate for another year and only ever make cases against Trump's capos.  Sometimes the top dog evades formal charges and dies of old age while spraying insecticide on his grape vines with his grandson.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Paragon Of Animals?

"What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals!
" - Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2

Hamlet uttered these words with contempt in his voice, meaning the opposite of what he was saying.  Yet, for most of my life I've embraced these words at face value, believing humanity is a fundamentally noble lot.  Such a viewpoint is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain these days.

Video captured by Canita Adams shows the Saraland Police Department officers arresting Chikesia Clemons at a Waffle House at 2 am on Sunday, April 22, 2018. During the arrest, Ms. Clemons top slides down exposing her breasts.
Chikesia Clemons was tackled by police at a Waffle House at 2:00 AM late last month. What was her crime? She was arrested for asking for a fork for her waffles. No kidding, that's what set events into motion.

When she asked for a fork for her waffles, she was told it would cost a $0.50 utensil fee. She asked for an address to write a letter to complain about the charge, at which point the manager called the police. The police found it necessary to wrestle Chikesia to the ground, exposing her breasts in the process. All because she wanted a fork for her waffles.

In a similar vein, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson are the two African-American men who were recently arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks for just being there. They were sitting quietly waiting for their friend to come before they ordered. The manager of the Starbucks thought they were there too long and called the police, who arrested the two men for loitering.

Hell I've done that. I spent the better part of the 1990's hanging out in coffee shops. If that's a crime I should have a record a mile long. The difference is I am white.

We watch movies such as "In the Heat of the Night," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and "Selma" and we pat ourselves on our collective backs for having come such a long way. We tell ourselves we no longer lynch African Americans, we no longer use "the N word, " and African Americans are allowed drink from the same water fountain as the rest of us.

How far have we actually come though? Just last year the Supreme Court undid key components of the Voting Rights Act of 1966, making it harder for African Americans to vote. We have the two cases I talked about above. Can we all agree that these people were not arrested because they wanted utensils or they wanted to hang out at Starbucks?  Can we admit these people were arrested for being African-American?

We are still a nation of racists. We might not all be goose-stepping, swastika wearing, cross burning fanatics demanding that  African Americans obey us white folks, but a lot of us look away when it happens. We tell ourselves we've evolved beyond racism, then we turn our backs and eat our waffles.

Ignoring racism is as bad as actively committing racist acts. If we really want to feel good about ourselves we need to make it known that such acts are 100% unacceptable. I still believe most people are basically good but the good people among us need to take an active role in shaping the laws and attitudes of our society.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -Edmund Burke