Dad Love 7 – I need a pep talk.

September 29, 2015

About 15 years ago I was helping this young skinhead get out of a dangerous hate group. He told me he would pass the difficult act of assistance on to others. He became a social worker. You spend your entire adult life working to deconstruct the harm caused by racism, sexism, and homophobia, you hope something will come from it. I don’t mean a Nobel Peace Prize, just a sense that your efforts mattered. And they would end when you felt you were done.

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I always trip up on the difference between empathy and sympathy. Can I have empathy for a person of color who has been hassled by the police? I have never been a person of color. Can I have empathy for women dealing with the low-grade burdens of patriarchy? I have never been a female. I can have a lot of sympathy, but can I have empathy? Some would argue that just being a human being allows you to have empathy for any other human being. I like that idea but it misses something.

The reason I mention this is I just got the notice that my unemployment benefits have run out and the pressure is now on to get Career Part 2 on its feet. You might remember in January I posted a slightly cryptic blog about needing a career change and then in May another post added some details to my unpleasant exit from my university home for twenty years. It wasn’t all grim. During that time I had my Kickstarter project for my new novel fully funded and got to teach an amazing anthropology methods class on Isla Mujeres. I didn’t get paid but it was a free summer on a beautiful Caribbean island with my family. I cherished every second of it.

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Americans love adages; One door closes and another opens! Follow your dreams! It gets better! Don’t stop believing! The movies and TVs are filled with the rags to riches stories that prove that big dreams can happen. Just listen to an interview with the winner of your favorite reality show. “I knew that if I just kept believin’ I would be the next American Ninja Warrior.” What we don’t see is all the suckers who thought the same thing and got absolutely nowhere. When I lecture about social stratification, I discuss how the reality is that most American stories are rags to rags and riches to riches, like silver spoon man-baby Donald Trump (Trump reference!).

People don’t want to hear that. They want to believe that everything is possible with hope, God, good Karma, the right lottery numbers, friends, a good haircut, blah, blah, but the statistics just don’t back that up. But I am special! I’m not a statistic! You want to believe that there is something bigger and better just around the corner, just like Tony in West Side Story. (Spoiler alert! He got shot to death.) We will buck the trend.

I’m not on a bummer bender. (OK, maybe a little bit.) I had my dream. I was a tenured professor at a great university. It was a path I started on in my freshman year of college. I had a career that made a difference in the world. I won awards for my teaching and my research was in textbooks. I was the face of my university in the media and I took it all as serious as your life. Then a handful of people, for reasons I can only pretend to understand (the squeaky wheel gets the hammer), decided taking it all away was a worthwhile activity. They hurt my colleagues, my students (especially my graduate students who came to work with me), the school itself and, most of all, my family. My daughter’s financial security has been gutted. It’s a story so bizarre, someone should write a book about it.

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Malala Yousefzai was on Colbert last week and she said she had forgiven the Taliban members that shot her in the face. That really shook me to the bone. If she can do that, I guess I could forgive a dean or a provost, but it’s not so easy. Not when I think of my savings account shrinking as I try and care for my family. Not when I think of the community work I could be doing instead of figuring out next steps. Forgiveness is the goal.

But there is a huge bright side. I’ve had all this wonderful time with my daughter that I would have spent working on campus or grading papers late into the night. She will be a better person because I was there. I’ve had time to write and cook for my wife and plan a wide open future. In a way it’s been a wonderful blessing. Instead of fantasizing about flying a plane into the administration building I want to thank them with a big sloppy hug. There is something wonderfully exhilarating about being zipped to a clean slate.

I can’t say there haven’t been moments of great challenge. Our wonderful health benefits were cancelled. Fortunately, thanks to Obamacare, were are all covered now and Cozy has a dentist appointment coming up. Andrea is back to work and I’ve got some great possibilities on the horizon but all involve us moving away from Portland, a community we both feel deeply connected to. I guess there’s a handy saying about that as well. Get out town before you get thrown out, or something like that.

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This is where the empathy comes in. When I look at my beautiful child, who I love more every single second, there’s a sense of desperation that wells up. What if there’s not a better job out there? What if that was the most secure gig I will ever have? What if Cozy is destined to a life living in a van down by the river? I start to empathize with people who turn to crime to provide for their family, robbing banks and lemonade stands. I’m a long way away from becoming Jean Valjean or a character in a Springsteen song, but I get it. I would do anything for my kid, just like those Syrian refugees. Anything.

My brown wife laughs at all this and says, “Shut up. You’re a white male with a PhD.” I know I’ve got some assets that will keep us out of the shelter but I have to think about all those parents who are downwardly mobile. I’m sure each one of them felt special, too. “Everything will work out,” I can hear them say. But like Liam Neeson, I have a very particular set of skills. Yeah, I could land a job at Costco but I’m a teacher and writer. It’s a small lane to get back in to and make enough dough not to slip backwards.

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So you start engaging in magical thinking. I could win Power Ball. I could get a massive publishing advance for the book I’m writing. My previous book could finally get made into a film and I could wave to university administrators from the red carpet. Ellen DeGeneres could give me a $10,000 gift card to Target. And there’s always the possibility that they’ll need a sociologist on a hastily assembled manned mission to Mars to collect water (sponsored by Nestle).

When I was a single guy, I just would have rolled with it, part of the grand adventure. Maybe moved to Prague to teach English or enrolled in assassin school. But when you have a family, it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. It’s easy to panic and think the ship’s going down, like it has for so many other families.

But then my wife lays her legs across mine and Cozy crawls across my chest and I think, who cares about the rest of it. The work I’ve done has a life of its own and as long as my family is healthy and together, all the rest is just sprinkles on a cupcake. Besides, I have a enough crap to sell on eBay to pay the mortgage for years. Everything’s gonna be fine.

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Mr. Trump, kiss my anchor baby.

September 25, 2015

Since the traffic to my blog this week has increased by 8321.6% (true), I feel obligated to lob another brain grenade at America’s favorite gameshow host and his intellectually challenged followers. Hundreds of thousands of folks have been kind enough to read and share the previous Trump essays, “Donald Trump is the new face of white supremacy” and “Trump Part 2 – This is what fascism looks like,” so I thought I’d tackle another issue related to Trump and my family. And I figure I shouldn’t wait because it seems like the Trump bubble is starting to deflate. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking by myself and pathological liar Carly Fiorina.

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I’m not going to go after his great lack any specific policies. All we know is that, whatever the issue, he has people (Can we meet them?) looking into it and that he’s going to hire (Does he mean appoint, subject to Congressional confirmation?) amazing people and that he’s going to fix the problem so fast your head is gonna spin. It reminds me of when I ran for President of Student Council in seventh grade. I had no platform, just the slogan, “Randy B. for presidency! Make Woodridge Elementary great again!”

And this post is not about his pseudo-fascist claim that he is going to round up 11 million undocumented people on his first day in office. He hasn’t explained how he’s going to do this but I have a suspicion he’s been watching Schindler’s List for ideas. Welcome to the Trump police state. Any man, woman and child who looks “illegal” gets tossed over the Texas fence. (Don’t worry illegal Russians, you’re safe.) He also hasn’t said who is going to do all the work those 11 million undocumented folks do, whether it’s working in strawberry fields or in his hotels. (The answer is his plan would destroy the American economy and it just ain’t gonna happen as much as Trumpie racists wish it would.)

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This post is about Trump’s obsession with anchor babies. And not his bizarre belief that he can magically change the Constitution to rewrite the 14th Amendment. (He claims he has “many scholars” that agree with him. Wrong.) It’s about this repeated refrain that people come to America just to have babies and then “we have to spend the next 80 years taking care of them.” It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, but his sub-moronic hat-wearing base loves it. (Hey, those hats are only $23.95 and may or may not be made in China or Mexico.)

I’ll start with a story. I was in a Jiffy Lube in Metairie, Louisiana a few years ago, on my way to Atlanta. The Prius needed an oil change and I was stuck in the waiting area with a couple of good ol’ boys (AKA white gentlemen). Since I was white, they started in on the racist crap, complaining about how Obama was letting in all these “illegals.” I pointed out that illegal immigration has actually decreased under Obama and deportations have increased. I got a look like, who is this fact-talking stranger? Then their fallback position was, “Well, they live here and don’t pay no taxes.” To which I said, “You’ve got sales tax in this state, right?” They nodded. “Then every time they buy something, they pay taxes. You’ve got property tax in this state, right?” They nodded. “Then every time they pay rent, they pay taxes.” The good old boys then started talking about the weather. You gotta shut this bullshit down every time.

The truth is that undocumented immigrants pay all sorts of taxes, including income tax. If you are working on a fake Social Security number, you are paying into a fund you will never be able to withdraw from. These funds go to what the Social Security Administration calls the “suspense file,” and you old white Conservatives should thank those “illegals,” because they are helping to keep SSI afloat. A study released this year by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that undocumented immigrants paid more than $11.8 billion in state and local taxes last year. And that doesn’t even include fees and federal taxes. But the “I’m not a racist but…” crowd that rallies around Trump can’t be bothered with facts and figures. Brown people are ripping them off! Off with their heads!

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What Trump and his rabid flock deny is that every immigrant, undocumented and otherwise, has a personal story to tell. I’ve written about the families that come to America to provide for their children, not traffic drugs. Some, like my wife, walked across the border in the middle of the night. Even more arrived on airplanes with visas and stayed after their visa expired. (Trump’s fantasy wall won’t help there.) The Donald’s racist comments about them have brought these people to the front of the American story. (And if you don’t understand how racist those comments are, you are also racist. But there’s help for you, I promise.) These “killers and rapists” have started to tell their stories. And their children have started to tell their stories. They are not a burden on you “legal” Americans. They are making this country strong and profitable. Most are doing the work you whiners won’t do, for pay and in conditions you never would accept. They are working twice as hard as you and getting less for it. Sometimes nothing at all. (Just Google: Wage theft.) There are millions of stories, like the one 28-year-old Adriana Almanza went on YouTube to tell. Here’s your anchor baby and you and your demographic don’t have to “take care of” her. She will take care of you.

My wife and child are on Trump’s hit list but they are not a drain on your pocketbook. Trump’s corporate welfare friends in the finance industry are, but I promise you my Mexican family is not. My “illegal” wife worked hard to earn a green card and through her I have met many other hard working people who do not yet have papers and live in fear of deportation by Obama’s ICE. Trump would deport them all on “Day 1,” but they are more important to the health of this great country than he is. Our daughter, who Trump might call an “anchor baby,” is an American citizen because she was born here. I am willing to wager that Trump’s children got more unearned handouts than she ever will.

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The reality is that Republicans (including many of my family and Facebook friends) are scared shitless that America is changing in a way that looks less like them and more like my bi-racial daughter. They want to scapegoat an easy target the way that desperate dominant groups have always done when they feel their dominance slipping a tiny bit. The want to “restore” America to an imagined time when straight white males were the unchallenged authority. Sorry, old white guys, you can ride that sinking ship to the bottom of the ocean or join us at the fiesta. The stories of our immigrant friends prove the American dream is alive and well, pero el futuro es cafe.

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And just to be clear, I am not writing this as a PhD in sociology who has studied racism for over 25 years. This is not a policy blog. I am a father and husband who is angry and sad that his family has been devalued and dehumanized by a loud minority of Americans (not a “silent majority”) who are too ignorant and/or fearful to understand that this is a nation of immigrants and that’s what makes us great. We don’t need Donald Trump or his xenophobic mob to drag us into the past.

And if you are a Trump fan, just watch this music video to see the human side that Trump’s ignorant rhetoric covers up. Maybe it will reach your corazon.

Feminist Herstory Part 6 – Revolution Grrrl Style Now!

September 22, 2015 (Happy birthday, Joan Jett!)

We’re back for the occasional history of feminist theory. Earlier posts are here:

Feminist Herstory Pt. 1 – It is discovered that Women are PEOPLE!!!

Feminist Herstory Pt. 2 – Here comes the FIRST WAVE

Feminist Herstory Pt. 3 – Let’s Judge Ourselves as People

Feminist Herstory Pt. 4 – The Swingin’ Second Wave arrives

Feminist Herstory Pt. 5 – Hey, Soul Sister

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In the early 1990s, it was clear there was something going on with feminism. As the second wave became an established voice in academia and the media, things begin to change. There was a wave of books finding a new audience of young women and men, like Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth (1991), Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (1991), and Camile Paglia’s Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990). No one could figure out if Paglia, for example, was a feminist or an anti-feminist. She wrote about patriarchy and sexuality in a way that pissed-off established feminists, like Germaine Greer (but got her on a lot of talk shows). Was this a new kind of feminist voice?

At the time I was teaching my signature class at Emory University called The Sociology of Youth Subcultures (which I continued to teach at Portland State). I had a young graduate student named Lauraine LeBlanc in the class. Lauraine was a Canadian with a Mohawk and deeply involved in the punk subculture. A big part of the class was the exploration of link between music and youth and I made the students several compilation tapes, mixing everything from Minor Threat to the Sugarhill Gang (and violating countless copyright laws). Lauraine told me about a new scene coming out of Olympia, Washington called Riot Grrrl.

Born at Evergreen State College, the Riot Grrrrl movement built on the failed promise of punk rock. In the 1970s, punk emerged as an androgynous subculture that rejected the beauty myth and the macho bullshit of mainstream hard rock (with Alice Cooper hacking up female mannequins and all). In 70s punk, females had a place on the stage or in front of it. But by the 1980s, punk had devolved into “hard core” and females bands faded out and females being groped in the pit at Corrosion of Conformity shows faded in.

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So the radical kids at Evergreeen and in other scenes across the country began to create pro-women punk rock. There was an explosion of bands like Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy, and Bratmobile. What the bands lacked in musical chops, they made up in passion. Most bands had only female members and the songs were about things like rape victimization and menstruation, stuff you were not going to hear Ozzy Osbourne singing about (although allied male groups, like Nirvana did take up the banner).  They drew on influences like Patti Smith, Joan Jett and Yoko Ono and even the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. It was so exciting that something new was happening in music and it was coming from young women who were sick of being told that if they wanted to be in band, they had to be the sexy lead singer.

I got a first hand lesson in Riot Grrrl ethics when I went to see the band 7 Year Bitch in Portland in May 1996. I will always be the guy who wants to get as close to the band as possible. I was a huge fan of 7 Year Bitch. The four women from Seattle rocked full on, so I pushed my way to the front of the stage at EJ’s, the tiny punk club on Sandy Boulevard. Within seconds a young woman said, “Hey man, you guys always have the space in front of the stage. How about tonight letting us have it?” I got it. I’m a tall view-blocking guy and guys who look like me often want to get rough in the mosh pit. Female fans usually get pushed farther and farther away from the action. I got how much that must suck for a young woman who just wants to rock. I smiled and watched the show from bar. Man, those riot grrrls were in heaven.

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Lauraine brought me tapes, CDs, and lists of bands I needed to seek out. She also supplied me with zines, homemade magazines, made by young, pre-internet, women who didn’t want to be told by Cosmopolitan or Glamour how to do gender. They re-appropriated the dismissive term, “girl,” as the angry “grrrl” and wrote it across their chests. Boys who didn’t get it could fuck off. I learned a lot from Lauraine LeBlanc that semester, including how to think about gay and lesbian subcultures. Lauraine ended up turning her interest in the voices of young women in punk into her doctoral dissertation and one of the best books ever written about gender and youth culture, Pretty in Punk: Girl’s Resistance in a Boys’ Subculture (1999). It is required reading in my Subcultures class.

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The Riot Grrrl scene was part of a larger trend that became known as Third Wave Feminism. The Third Wave took a cue from black feminists, like bell hooks, and rejected the monolithic voice of mainstream feminism. There wasn’t one feminist position, there were millions. And the voice was local. Like postmodernists, who love to deconstruct all things social, third wavers deconstructed what it meant to be a feminist. Supposedly, wearing lipstick and a short skirt made you a sex object and potential rape victim. Third wavers asked why can’t you be a feminist AND dress how you like? Can’t you be for the eradication of sexism and enjoy silly pop culture?

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So it’s not surprising that by the late 1990s, “grrrl power” had morphed into the girl power tag associated the Spice Girls (more on them next chapter). Any female in music was being called a riot grrrl, including Madonna and Gwen Stefani. But any girl power is a good thing, right? But the ethics of the subculture survived its diffusion into the mainstream, with institutions like the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls, based here in Portland, Slut Walks, and the continuation of much-revered band, Sleater-Kinney. Sara Marcus’ 2010 book, Girls to the Front The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, is now required music history reading. The 2013 film, Punk Singer, about Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna has brought the message to a whole new generation of girls who weren’t even alive in the 1990s.

We’ll discuss next about how Third Wave Feminism is about a lot more than a punk rock position statement, but the call of the wild attracted a lot of kids (and a few older sociologists) with the battle cry, “Revolution, grrrl-style now!”

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I got to see one of the first Sleater-Kinney shows in 1995 and Andrea recently went to their reunion show here in Portland and got a T-shirt for our daughter Cozy. Cozy will grow up with this music in her house and be her own rebel girl. I’m glad I live in a time with people like Kathleen Hanna and Carrie Brownstein, of Sleater-Kinney (and Portlandia) and all the other strong young women who rocking out on their own terms. Sisters are doing it for themselves, and it sounds damn good.

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The following books mentioned in this post are available at Powell’s by clicking on the covers below.

Help, there’s an alien/cyclone/toddler in my house!

Sept. 18, 2015

Warning: This post is not about Donald Trump (unless you find tips on how to handle a toddler relevant).

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We headed off to Mexico this summer with a 10-month-old baby and came home with a year-old kid. A lot of amazing things happened in those two months, most importantly, Cozy started walking. We’ve been home almost a month and she’s pretty much running the house. So this post will be a trip down memory lane for some people and a cautionary tale for others.

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First, I’d like to say to all those who have toddlers whose homes I’ve visited and thought to myself, “Christ, this place looks like a bomb went off,” I apologize for judging you so harshly. I have to think that cartoon of the Tasmanian Devil is based on a 1-year-old child. We have our own little devil. Cozy is in love with the theory of gravity. She loves to see things fall to earth. Anything on a shelf or a plate becomes subject to an experiment. If I hear a crash I know she is doing science. When we got her a helium balloon she was completely fascinated that some things fall up. But most things fall down and shatter.

She’s also in love with the theory of entropy, the gradual decline into disorder. Although, it ain’t so gradual in this house. Where did dad’s work-out schedule go? Cozy. Where did our sleep schedule go? Cozy Where did that book go I was reading? Cozy ate it. Where did the power bill go? Cozy ate it. Where did the Cheerios that Cozy was eating go? In my underwear drawer. Where did the year go? Loved every second of it.

There’s also the fact that now that she is fully mobile, all the household dangers just got magnified by a factor of ten. She went from crawling to walking to sprinting in the blink of an eye. I ran downstairs to change the laundry and thought she was in her room, but she doubled back behind me when I came upstairs and I heard a horrible thud as she rolled down the steps to the basement. Fortunately she busted her lip instead of her neck but that door is now permanently closed. So is the cabinet door under the sink where’s she convinced some great wonder must be. I think she figures we have Elmo locked up under there. It’s her mission to break him out.

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So the baby is long gone. We now have a little alien person living in our house who speaks full sentences in some strange language. As best as I can tell, it’s a cross between Icelandic and that derka derka language the terrorists in Team America spoke. But she knows what she’s saying. She’ll tell you that she wants mac and cheese, not oatmeal (Sorry, off the menu), or that I need to get out of bed and put on a puppet show, or plastic bottles don’t go in the recycling. (They’re for throwing across the kitchen.) If there was a Rosetta Stone for this language, I would gladly pay medium bucks for a hot version of it on Craigslist.

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After a year, we have a lot more than the germ of a personality. She’s pretty much here. Cozy loves art, like her mom. She loves to paint and draw. A brush or a pen or a crayon and she’s busy for precious minutes. So far only the oven has been tagged. She loves books and will just dive into a story. Thank God we’ve got Goodnight Moon in English and Spanish (Sorry, Trump). But most of all she loves baths. That’s a lucky one. Really, any kind of water. In Mexico, her abuela took her swimming in the ocean almost every day. Yesterday we went to Salmon Street fountain and it was all I could do to keep her from jumping in. And when dad is in the shower, there’s often a little face that will pull back the curtain for the thrill of getting soaked.

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Now that Andrea is back at work after our summer on the isla, I’m back to playing stay-at-home dad and there’s a lot of intense bonding. Before I was racing to get housework done during naps. Now, I’m just hanging out with my new friend. Sometimes we go out for coffee, sometimes we color, sometimes she helps me to take the dishes out of the dishwasher and sometimes I take a nap while she spackles the concrete wall in the laundry room. (OK, that last one is just wishful thinking.) Sometimes we just lay in bed making faces and I think I could just do this forever.

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I love getting to know this person (who is still free of gender). It’s a whole new ballgame. Yeah, mom and dad would really like it if she took more naps, but she’s got too much to figure out about the world. You can see the wheels turning behind those big brown eyes as her brain grows at a dizzying rate. One minute she trying to figure out if the cat can talk, the next she’s striking a pose in hope she can convince dad to get a kitten. She’s figured out how to talk to Siri on Andrea’s iPhone, so maybe Cozy can ask her. I just look at her in wonder. Where did this amazing little person come from?

All that “it goes by so fast” business is truer than true.

Trump Part 2 – This is what fascism looks like.

September 14, 2015

Trumpmania has infected everything, including my parenting blog. My piece comparing Trump’s rhetoric to the white supremacists I’ve studied for almost 30 years went viral, pushing Watching the Wheels way over 100,000 views. As it spread, I started doing interviews, including with Spanish languages radio stations and a newspaper in Spain. On Wednesday, I will be appearing on Al Jazeera’s The Stream to talk Trump. The blog got reposted on Countrpunch and my comment section has taken on a life of its own.

If you are one of the few folks who hasn’t clicked on that post, here it is:

“Donald Trump is the new face of white supremacy,” says hate crime expert.

ct-huppke-trump-aj-jpg-20150824I promise to get back to writing about my daughter later this week. She’s doing amazing things. But I wanted to further clarify my argument about the GOP front-runner and reality show star. First, let me be clear, I don’t think all of Trump’s supporters are racists, even though people at his rallies have been chanting “White power!” and talking about killing immigrants and at least two of his followers have been arrested for committing a hate crime against a Latino man in Boston. To borrow from Mr. Trump, some of his followers, I assume, are good people.

It’s clear from Trump’s followers that America’s favorite billionaire can do no wrong. This includes lie. Trump “tells it like it is.” To allude to Bill Clinton at his worst, it depends on what your definition of “is” is. Trump makes up “facts” that are completely untrue but the followers follow unquestioningly. There’s an f word for that; fascism.

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Trump is a demagogue in the truest sense of the word. He could come out in favor of eating immigrant babies and his Trumpies would cheer, “What a brilliant idea!” A study found that when you give a Trumpie a classic liberal issue but say that Trump supports it, they suddenly support it. Another survey found that 66% of his supporters think Obama is a Kenyan Muslim. These are followers in the truest sense and they remind me of the white supremacist followers I’ve spent my life studying. They want a black and white world and an easy solution, like build a wall.

But what I really wanted to write about was the techniques Trump borrows from Klansman, neo-Nazis, Patriot Militia members and other extremists on the far right. This is how you create a movement based on hate and fear.

Anecdotes – Trump is the master of using one crime story to “prove” that Mexican immigrants are rapists and killers. He’ll drag a few headlines out from cases that are far from resolved. (You’re innocent until proven guilty in America, unless have brown skin and can be used by Trump.) He denies two very important facts. People are overwhelming raped and killed by people they know. (Sorry, white people. Most crime is intra-racial, not inter-racial.) And repeated studies show that immigrants have lower crime rates than non-immigrants.

I’ve seen more than one Nazi skinhead and Klansman point to story in the news about a black criminal to prove their racism, ignoring ALL the stories about crime committed by whites. It’s called selective perception. They are still talking about OJ! Proof black people are BAD.

Conspiracy theories – We can all enjoy a good conspiracy theory. Who killed JFK? The illegal aliens from Roswell! You know who really loved conspiracy theories? Adolf Hitler. The Jews run the banks! Get ‘em! This funny little theory is still popular with neo-Nazis, Islamic extremists and Lyndon Larouche. I like to ask my Jewish friends when the next cabal meeting is and they just look confused. Those sneaky Jews.

Donald Trump has his own conspiracy theory. The Mexican government is sending its worst people across the border. His only evidence of this is that he’s “talked to people” on the border who know. Right. My wife came to America from Mexico by walking across a border, so I asked her who sent her to the USA. She said her mother. Oh, those clever Mexicans.

Conspiracy theories give simple people a simple view of how the world works and allow them to sidestep the complexities of reality. Illegal immigration is a complex issue. “Ow! That makes my brain hurt! Donald says it’s the clever Mexican government pulling one over on our stupid leaders in Washington!” Um, most of those leaders are Congressional Republicans that you voted for. “Ow! My brain!”

Us vs. them – White supremacists love to see themselves as a defined tribe that is under siege by external enemies. Jews, homosexuals, African-Americans. Basically 3/4 of the cast of The View. They see themselves as the “real” Americans,  or as the 1920s Klan said, “100% American.” The homosexuals are destroying traditional (arranged?) marriage! Muslims are destroying our (WASP) religious monopoly!

Trump sees America under attack, by Mexican immigrants, Chinese businessmen (“They’re killing us,” he keeps saying) and mad nuclear scientists in Iran. He has no time for our internal problems unless he can simply blame it on “stupid leaders.” You know, because he has such a clear solution to childhood poverty, failing schools and America’s obesity epidemic. “I’ll hire the best people,” he keeps saying. Um, the President of the United States doesn’t hire anybody, Donnie.

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The bullet points Trump uses were lifted right from Dylan Roof, the young man who killed nine people in a black church in Charleston this spring. Roof said, as his massacre of the black parishioners was under way, “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.” Trump says that at every stop.

Apocalyptic visions – White supremacists see the end coming very soon. They think that Obama is going to suspend democracy and herd whites into camps. Or that Black Lives Matters activists are going to just declare open season on white people. Christian extremists like the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations folks see a biblical confrontation looming. They call it “Rahowa,” short for Racial Holy War. So if “we don’t do something,” America as we know it will be ripped from our (white) hands.

Trump does the exact same thing. Walking on stage to REM’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” (unironically) only made the point that much more clear. Does he feel fine about it? You betcha, because all this end times talk lifts his numbers in the polls. It’s a classic technique used by Nazis, gun dealers, and used car salesman. “Things are about to change so buy this Uzi/Pinto/Trump vote right now or you’ll regret it!” Trump has his followers believing that if they don’t vote for him, America will become a 4th World nation in a matter of days.

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The thing that makes Trump a fascist is that all this is built on a cult of personality. He’s hard not to watch. I feel addicted to him at times. But listen to him talk. It’s all about him. How popular he is and how rich he is and how good looking he is. Just look at that face! There is no discussion about real Americans and the real issues they are struggling with or finding success with. Much has written about Trump’s narcissism but I would just like a word count of the number of times he uses the word “I.”

So why do so many Americans follow this buffoon? There are two very simple reasons. The first is he speaks in simple terms. Health care is a complex issue. Just say it’s “illegal aliens” having “anchor babies” on your tax dollar. It’s us verses them and them has a big conspiracy running out of Mexico City and Bejing. What 5-year-old couldn’t understand that? Keep it simple. America was better in the past (when, he hasn’t said) so let’s make America great again. Say it over and over. It’s the new “White power!” mantra.

The second reason is that he’s got a convenient scapegoat. If this was 1980, he’d blame Japan and Iran and he’d have lots of followers. In 1988, white America was ready to blame all it’s problem on black criminals and Bush Sr. rode into the White House on the back of Willie Horton. Now the “I’m not racist, but…” Americans are ready to lay the blame on a familiar target. It’s not on the corporate elites, many of whom are stealing money right out of the accounts of Trump’s followers. Instead, let’s go after the folks on the bottom who are working in fields and meat packing plants and cannot defend themselves like Trump’s friends on Wall Street can. It’s a brilliant strategy and it’s working because it plays right into the racism that flows under the surface of polite American discourse. And Trump Bonus, black people can hate brown people now! You guys aren’t the rapists this time!

At the start of the summer, I thought Trump’s candidacy was a joke. In 2000, I thought bumbling coke head George W. Bush could never be elected and look what happened to the country when he did. Trump is a fascist demagogue. The hate mail I got after my last Trump post put me in fear because I dared to say the emperors clothes were white robes and red armbands. For may Latina daughter, I’m not going to assume that Trump and his rabid, fact-hating minions are going away. I think we are in for a big fight for the brain of America.

TRUMP Part 3 – Kiss My Anchor Baby!

What would you do to save your child? #Weareallimmigrants

WARNING: This article contains an image of dead child. It is an important picture but be ready.

Sept. 7, 2015

I was looking forward to writing something a little less intense this week after pissing off Trumpies and frat boys and Trumpie frat boys. I was going to write a piece about having a one-year-old walking around the house. Then a news story came up about the on-going refugee crisis in Europe as people escape North Africa and the Middle East. A small child’s family was trying to escape the war zone in Syria and had drowned in the Mediterranean. His little body washed ashore in Bodrum, Turkey. His name was Aylan Kurdi. Please remember that name. Aylan Kurdi.

When I first read the story, it said he was believed to be one, the same age as my daughter, Cozette. I immediately exploded into a fit of tears. The thought of losing my beloved child in such a horrible and desperate way turned me inside out. How is this happening?  Apparently there was a picture of the dead toddler but I refused to see it. But this being the internet age, it popped up anyway and I fell to me knees. His corpse was face down in the sand, similar to the way Cozy often sleeps. His little shoes, probably put on by his father, reminded me of how I put Cozy’s shoes on for her big day. Aylan’s big day was his last.

I wondered why everyone in the world wasn’t being forced to look at this picture. We are forced to look at Kim Kardashian’s selfies on a regular basis. This picture is a mirror of the world in 2015. It is the denial of the humanity of immigrants and, therefore, the denial of our humanity. The “news” distracts us with celebrity gossip or what stupid lie Donald Trump has told his flock this week, or how some bigot in Kentucky looks like Kathy Bates in Misery. This one image says everything you need to know about life on Earth right now. I wasn’t going to include it in this blog, but, AS PARENT, I HAVE TO.

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If this is your first time seeing it, please take some time to weep. I’m weeping as I write this and then I will tell you why we need to look at this image.

This post is not about Donald Trump. It is about the hateful xenophobia he represents. When he talks about “illegals” and Mexican immigrants being “rapists and killers,” he is denying three very important truths. 1) Repeated studies show that immigrants COMMIT LESS CRIME than non-immigrants. But racists want to believe this lie and Trump and various versions of him in Europe hand it over to bigots looking for an excuse to build walls. 2) Those “illegals” do most of the dirty work in America (and Europe) in this marketplace of labor that nobody else will do. They are not taking jobs away from anybody. And, on top of the hellish conditions they often work in, they are paying taxes (including sales, property, Social Security taxes that they may never get back). 3) Most importantly, they are human beings, just like Donald Trump and you and I. They are not beaners, wetbacks, hajis, rapists or jihadists. They are people who just want a safe and secure home. If you have ever had a child and you see this picture of Aylan, you understand that.

Many of you know my wife was an “illegal alien.” She came from Mexico and crossed from Piedras Negras into Arizona in the middle of the night with the help of two “Coyotes,” like the smugglers who promised to ferry Aylan’s family across the sea. She did not come here to kill or rape anybody. She was eight-years-old. Her mother brought her here because she thought she could give her daughter a better life in the USA. It wasn’t easy, she lost a shoe on a train track and had to hide in caves. When she finally made it across the border, carried by an older man, her group was caught by the border patrol and little Andrea spent her first night in America in jail before being deported. Fortunately, she and her mother had better luck the next night.

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I tell this very true story for two reasons. Despite the conspiracy stories that Trump and other fascist hate mongers spin (“The clever Mexican government is sending their worst people…”), the reality is that most people are just trying to make a better life for themselves and especially their children.  If you were a parent living in the Congo or Honduras or Syria, you would do everything possible to get your family to a safe place, where you could work and your children might not be murdered or be forced to become soldiers or sold into sex slavery. You might even break a law. Do not say you would not.

The second point is that so many of the these immigrants around the world are children. A 2010 Pew Center study found that of the 11.1 undocumented immigrants in the United States, over one million are children (much different from Trump’s image). Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 9.30.16 AMThe number of refugees displaced by the war in Syria is growing. The current count is 12 million Syrians who have been displaced by the fighting and 4 million of those are now in other countries. Half of those are children under 18. These are not terrorists or jihadists. They are children who want what all children want, a warm bed, food and to know their parents are OK.

The comments of presidential candidate Donald Trump and Hungarian president Viktor Orban lead me to believe either they have some bizarre misinformation about who all these immigrants are or they are deeply evil men. Deeply evil men followed by either ignorant or equally evil people. To see a parent trying to bring a child to safe stable environment and see “rapist” or “jihadist” is nothing short of sociopathic.

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The reality is that we are all immigrants. Ever since Homo erectus walked out of eastern Africa 2 million years ago we have been on the move. We walked across continents and sailed across oceans. Over 20,000 years ago the first Americans arrived along the west coast and down to Chile. And we are still moving. The Blazaks were Czech, but we were probably Polish before that. Europeans moved as much as anybody else. Some, like Native Americans and Latinos in the Southwest moved and then were colonized by other migrants. The same thing happened to the British when the Vikings showed up. And if you’ve ever moved across county lines to find a better life somewhere else, you are an immigrant. If it’s not you, it’s probably your parents.

As a parent, I am ready to move for a better school or a better job to provide for my child. I may emigrate to Georgia or Mexico or Southern Oregon. Each place has it’s unique laws and culture. We will be outsiders and not “real (insert geographic identity here)” and because we are from Portland, they may think we are pot heads or music snobs or, horror of horrors, Vegan liberals. We tend to think anybody who comes to a place after us are lowly interlopers. “I’ve lived in this Portland neighborhood since 1999, before all these lame ass hipsters and gentrifiers moved in! This is MY neighborhood!!!” said I, more than once.

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The horrific scenes coming out of Europe have dominated the news there all summer. Here it was more about Duggar sex scandals and “Is Rachel Dolezal black???” Even the American media downplays the crisis by referring to refugees as “migrants,” like they just want to move to Germany to work at McDonalds. These people are fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan; wars that we had a significant role in ramping up. Just as Obama continued George W. Bush’s wars in the Middle East, Clinton signed George H.W. Bush’s NAFTA legislation, creating the economic situation that has driven so many Latin Americans northward. The point is whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, you can share in the blame for the misery that forces families to risk life and limb to find a better life for their children.

So, immigrants and children of immigrants (that includes my Native American friends and Aboriginal people around the world), lets do something. Let’s recognize the common love and dedication parents have for their children.

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Aylan Kurdi was a three-year-old boy who, with his five-year-old brother and mother, drowned when their small overcrowded boat capsized. They had been on a tortuous journey from their home in Kobani, Syria, destroyed by the duel tyranny of Bashar and ISIS, and were trying to get to a family member in Vancouver, B.C.. Alyan’s father, Abdullah, tried to hold on to his family but lost them in the high waves. He was just trying to give them a secure future but he lost everything. I have to believe that I would have made many of the same decisions as Abdullah for my family in that situation, as well as the parents who cross the border to work (not to commit crimes) in America and send their wages back to their family. When I see those children, I see my child and myself.

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So let’s reject the stereotypes and the fear-mongering. Europeans (Christians, Muslims and others), including in Hungary, have been coming to the refugee camps with food and clothes and begging to help. (Of course, others want to build a new wall in Europe.) On U2’s opening European show in Italy last week, Bono asked the audience, “What do you want? A Europe with its heart and its borders closed to mercy? Or a Europe with its heart open? What do you want? A place called home.” Sunday, Pope Francis asked European Catholics to open their doors. “May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe host a family, starting from my diocese of Rome,” he said.

Can you imagine conservative Christians coming to the Mexican border with food and blankets in true spirit of Jesus and saying, “Welcome to your new home. You’re safe now. What can we do to help?”  Mike Huckabee might burst into flames.

The images are too much, you have to do something. Andrea was reading the news from Europe in tears. She was thinking of her own journey, but most of all of our daughter. Aylan looked like Cozy and the kids getting tear gassed in Hungarian camps look like Cozy. We’re both not working but we made a $100 contribution to Mercy Corps’ Syrian Refugee Fund. It’s just a little something, but it’s something. Andrea is going to volunteer with Mercy Corps and I’m looking into other ways to spread the word.

If you are a parent and you are moved by the picture of little Aylan, I would ask you to do two things after reading this. First, think about what you would do to keep your family safe and secure. And second, I would ask you to do something to help immigrants and refugees somewhere in the world. That child could be your child.

Ways to help (They need more than prayers):

Mercy Corps

Save the Children

World Vision

These 6 groups you may not know are doing important work to help Syrian refugees.

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