Donald Trump’s Uncivil War on American Values and Human Decency

January 30, 2017

There’s been so much to write about in this new year, but last Friday’s immigration ban from Donald Trump was a call to arms to everyone in this country (and across the globe) who cares about the core values of American freedom and decency. Fortunately, thousands of Americans quickly flooded airports across the country to protest the ban and defend those trying to legally enter the country. Within twelve hours of Trump’s executive order, five federal judges (four who were female) struck down the provisions that detained individuals and families (including children) in several American airports. Many people are still stuck in limbo, but the pressure is on the goon squads.

americafirst

When he was on the campaign trail, I wrote more than one piece about how Trump represents a slippery slope toward fascism. A lot of mainstream folks poo pooed the seemingly alarmist concern. After he won the electoral college, his cabinet appointments, a motley crew of seemingly incompetent millionaires and Wall Street billionaires, began to worry voters. What does it mean when Rick Perry is the most shovel-ready guy in the room? And a waiver to have a non-civilian run the Department of Defense was certainly cause for concern. Then his dark inauguration address, where he painted a bleak picture of a ruined nation (actually in a bright economic recovery) brought a chill to all but the most gung-ho Trumpists. His “America first” refrain brought to mind for many another nationalist in Europe about 84 years ago. The silver lining was that Trump was coming in to record low approval ratings. The tide was already turning against him.

Friday’s executive order stopped cold immigration to the US from seven Muslim nations where no terrorists have actually come from. It excluded all the nations the 9/11 attackers came from (like Saudi Arabia and Egypt) and where Trump has significant business dealings. This meant that Syrian families escaping the hell in Aleppo are to be turned back, much like how we turned away Jews fleeing Hitler in the 1930s. Is this who we are as a nation?

That question is important.

jfk

One of the people detained at JFK Airport (in handcuffs) was an Iraqi named Hameed Khalid Darweesh. He worked for the US government in Iraq for ten years as a translator at great risk to himself and his family. He was promised that for this sacrifice he would be granted a visa to emigrate to the United States. That was before Donald Trump arrived and killed all those agreements with our allies in the Muslim world. He reneged on America’s deal with Darweesh like he’s reneged on so many deals he’s made in the business world. But this betrayal has global impacts. Who in the Middle East will want to work with us now? (Is Trump for Russia and ISIS?) I think of the great shame America carries for all its broken treaties with Native Americans. How will history rank the shame we will inherit from the Trump Administration? Is this who we are as a nation?

It’s clear that the grown-ups have been kicked out of the White House. This executive order was probably the work of alt-right guru Steve Bannon and not any sane people in the State Department. Trump’s dismantling of the National Security Council was labeled as “stone cold crazy” by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. His promotion of torture as an effective way to fight terrorism (when all evidence shows the contrary) rattled even his hand-picked generals. Besides the fact that all of this makes us less safe, is this who we are as a nation? This chaos?

The seeds of Civil War II

Just like Brits who regretted Brexit immediately after voting for it, there are scores of Americans who have had second thoughts about their vote for this madman. They were there with the millions who participated in the Women’s March and they were also some in the airports Saturday night demanding the release of immigrants who had followed all the rules. The civil rights movement was greatly energized by whites marching arm in arm with blacks in the 1960s. The anti-Trump movement to restore America is going to require conservatives joining progressives to try to make America great again. We will need our Republican brothers and sisters in this struggle.

The danger is in the fact-free environment that Trump and his alt-right cronies have fostered. There’s a certain chunk of the population that is easily manipulated by pressing a few racist buttons. They were the chumps that thought President Obama wasn’t legitimately American because Trump said so and they are the chumps that think crime by “illegal aliens” is a significant threat, despite the actual facts. Trump has said that he will publish a weekly list of crimes by “aliens” (which would include legal resident aliens, like my wife), stoking the fear mongering, negating the legitimate fact that most offenses in this country are committed by white male citizens. Facts don’t matter when fear of “the other” rules the day. This how fascism works.

trumpie

As more Americans come out to defy the unconstitutional and unAmerican actions of Donald Trump, how will his loyal cult respond to the assault on their Dear Leader’s campaign to remake America in his image? The great hope is that we can convince them that he is bat-shit crazy and a danger to the core values all of us share, even the guy who only listens to Lee Greenwood records. But there are a bunch of Trumpies that are even more bat-shit crazy than our celebrity president and they have a lot of guns. They live in Trump’s land of wacky conspiracy theories and think “real America” is closer to the empty wilderness of Wyoming than the world millions of citizens on the east and west coasts live in. And they are ready to fight with God and his orange son on their side.

Trump has divided this country in a way that makes national unity now seem like a far off dream. All he needs is one terrorist attack (real or contrived) or one heinous crime by an immigrant (real or contrived) to take the next step in his clampdown. He’s already floated the idea of immigrants turning over their social media accounts to the Feds, as well as just “closing up” the internet. No wonder Amazon has sold out of George Orwell’s 1984. We are living in a dystopia.

droogs_3

The demagoguery has proven Trump cares more about his ego than the survival of the nation. From his obsession with the crowd size at his coronation to his inability to get off of unsecured communication platforms like Twitter (Does anybody remember Hillary’s emails?) and now to this gift-wrapped present he just handed ISIS, it’s clear he could give a rat’s ass about national security. Let’s just hope the NSA was smart enough to give him fake launch codes for our nuclear arsenal. Trump is rapist Alex in A Clockwork Orange who will lead his moronic droogs into a war against the rest of us just to prove his hands aren’t that small.

It gets personal

This is just beginning. Out of this weekend’s chaos came the message that people from these seven Muslim nations with green cards shouldn’t expect to be admitted back into the country if they leave. That means, if your mother in Somalia is sick, you can’t visit her because the Trump kakistocracy thinks you might be a terrorist instead of a concerned child. And if you are student from Iran studying at an American university, you better hide in your dorm room for the next four years. (Again, no terrorist attacks in the United States have been committed by anybody from these countries.) Trump has stated his list of seven countries could be widened and what nation does he hold the most disdain for? Mexico.

immigrant-andi

There are over one million lawful permanent residents in the US, known as green card holders, and 13% are from Mexico. That includes my wife who got her green card in 2010. We enjoy our trips to Mexico to see her family and immerse our daughter in her Latin heritage. I also teach a summer college course on a beautiful Mexican island each summer. If Trump widens his enemy nation list, that could all change. It’s already changing.

Reports are coming in of plainclothes ICE agents lurking in court houses looking for any potential “illegal” they can detain. Across America, immigrant communities from Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Libya are in lockdown, off the streets, for fear that Trump’s gestapo will come knocking; afraid to leave the house, let alone the country. Many of these people went through the absolute extreme of human suffering to find sanctuary here in the land of the free. Additionally, Latino immigrants are now being told by bosses not to complain about working conditions or pay or be reported to ICE. Middle-eastern immigrant kids are being told by bullies (and some teachers) that their parents are terrorists and are going to be kicked out of the country. Trump’s crackdown on “sanctuary cities” has already violated the 10th Amendment (see Printz v. United States, 1997), but the wave of fear will have countless casualties before the issue is re-argued before his stacked Supreme Court. This is not America.

The good news is the freedom-loving world has condemned Trump’s fascistic chaos. The images of refugee children dying to escape actual carnage (not Congressman John Lewis’s wonderful 5th district in Atlanta) are forever burned in our memories. Real American Christians are strong in the opposition along with every other demographic who wants to stand up to this insanity, this anti-American obscenity. Unfortunately, this call to the defense of basic human decency is happening as his cult rips the country into bits. Is this who we are as a nation?

Americans cannot wait until this lunatic destroys our great nation. He must be condemned and removed now. For the sake of all that is sacred to us.

airport-flag

Advertisements

Butterflies for the Children of Aleppo

December 1, 2016

What can we do? Can we dance while the children of Aleppo are being slaughtered? Can we smile while the last doctors pull the ball bearings from Russian-backed Syrian regime cluster bombs out of the spines of toddlers? The monarch butterfly only lives for six months. Do we have a right to enjoy its beauty knowing that its wings will soon be broken against the wheel? What can we do? What did you when you saw little Omran in the ambulance? What will we do now that we have seen him?

Wounded Syrian Kid Omran Daqneesh

The siege of Aleppo continues unabated. The once bustling city has been hollowed out by Syrian and Russian jets dropping barrel bombs that spread explosions of shrapnel which decapitate children every single day. The innocent civilians cry to the sky. “Where are you, world? How are you letting this happen to our loved ones?” And the world Tweets something clever, indifferent. #WeirdBathroomConvos

History will ask where we were in 2016 while this horror happened. Just like it asked where where were in 1994 during the Rawandan genocide and where we were in 1975 during the mass killings in Cambodia. We are always in the same place; dancing with our eyes closed.

In 1993, I was in eastern Europe, doing my dissertation work on new fascist youth movements. The civil war in Yugoslavia was in full swing and Bosnian refugees were streaming out of the country with horror stories beyond belief. I tried to make it to Sarajevo, but the city was under a murderous siege and all travel in was closed.

It was a sunny day in Prague so I went to Josefov, the old Jewish quarter, to soak up the sun and some relevant history. There was an exhibit about the internment of Jews in the German concentration camp in nearby Terezin. Toward the end of the war, Hitler didn’t want the world to think his camps were so bad, so he invited the Red Cross to tour the camp in Terezin. The barracks were cleaned, prisoners that were sickly were quickly shipped off to Auschwitz, and the children were given art supplies to show the kindness of the Nazis.

What kind of art would children in a Nazi death camp create?

terezin

The exhibit had some of their art preserved over the decades. The art was their escape. Amid certain death they drew pictures of red birds and green butterflies flying though perfectly blue skies.

Later that day I was in the Old Town Square in the Staré Mesto part of Prague. In an abandoned storefront people had created an exhibit about the war in Yugoslavia to raise awareness about the violence nearby in the Balkans. The exhibit included art by Bosnian Muslim refugee children whose parents had been killed by Serbian soldiers.

yugo

When kind of art would the children of ethnic cleansing create?

Crayola crayon drawings of red birds and green butterflies flying through perfectly blue skies.

I walked outside and wept that this was happening again. And this time it was happening on my watch. I sat down in the Charles Bridge over the Vlatava River and wrote this.

Terezin Revisited

Kids in cages, kids in camps

Kids on TV, kids on maps

Crayon dreams of simple pleasures

A blue bird and a yellow sun

cross with grey sketches

of a brother being hung

Playground mortar shell

interrupts an afternoon soccer match

Late night round up

Out of bed shouting family snatch

The innocent monsters of childhood

are traded for the nightmare monsters of mankind

Kids in cages, kids in camps

Kids on TV, kids on maps

Twinkle, twinkle, night lights off so far

Doomed by the brands of moons and stars

Red rockets fly from mountain tops

Yellow bayonets from ghetto cop cars

When I grow up I want to be alive

I want to be married to a brave prince

with Mommy and Daddy smiling

But instead I go to Srebrenica or Auschwitz

“Never again” is an empty cry as Sarajevo’s children

relive the genocide plans of the ruling mind.

I wonder what type of art the children of Aleppo are creating now, in those precious moments between bombings and siblings dying. I imagine drawings of red birds and green butterflies flying through perfectly blue skies.

walbutt

Andrea and I have been crippled by the images of Syrian children creeping into our mundane lives as parents in America. How can we look away? We are somehow complicit as “strong leader” Putin continues to bomb civilians. What can we do? Could butterflies help?

Andrea made the decision to use her artistic shoulder to slow the wheel. She is doing a series of  paintings of Monarch butterflies, the symbol of her home in Michoacan, Mexico and symbolic of the great migrations we make to live and reproduce. She will be debuting them at my reading at Music Millennium on Saturday. All proceeds go to UNICEF Aleppo Relief. They will also be available on her website (andreabarriosart.com) for only $40 (they come with a little easel). It’s one way relieve an ounce of the suffering of children who do not deserve the hell of adult politics.

In addition, 10% of the sales for my new novel, The Dream Police, are going to UNICEF Aleppo Relief. It’s not much but if the book does well, it might be.

I think of all the places that children suffer from the actions of adults; Syria, South Sudan, Chicago. I think about food contaminated with plastics and guns in schools and lead in water. I think about how much we don’t think about our children and I want to turn into a butterfly and fly away.

Please help UNICEF help Syrian children by donating here: UNICEF

mapbutt

The Man Way: The stupidity of fighting terrorism with more terrorism

July 6, 2016

I don’t know who first said, “War is terrorism with a bigger budget,” but it seems profound these days. Smart bombs away! Boys love war. They’ll lead wars against poverty, against crime and drugs.  And don’t forget the war against terrorism. All of which have been miserable failures. And yet boys think more war is the answer.

300px-J_Wayne-TGB

When I was a boy, I loved war too. I played with G.I. Joe and my plastic machine gun. I did school reports on Sherman tanks and studied the dogfights of World War 1 pilots. I watched John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima and The Green Berets. Like John, we boys played Vietnam War in the Georgia woods, only this time we won. I wondered what war I would fight in when I grew up. I imagined I’d be an Air Force pilot, safe above the clouds as I dropped bombs on the faceless enemy below. When I was 16, Ronald Reagan was elected on the promise of more and better wars and my testosterone pumped. Iran, Afghanistan, maybe even Mother Russia herself. But suddenly the 4 O’clock movie started to look like a reality and I began to have second thoughts about the thrill of war.

Then I grew up. In college I read Gandhi and Martin Luther King and The Gospel According to Matthew. And my love of war began to fade.  I met some of those soldiers I had romanticized and the dream of war became a nightmare. Over the years all the warriors I’ve met have told me tales of dead friends, sleepless nights, long waits at the VA, and 4th of July fireworks triggering PTSD. I haven’t met John Wayne once, just men and women who need support in managing the effects of politicians playing soldier.

MarvinGayeWhat'sGoingOnalbumcover

So you will excuse me if Mr. Trump’s talk of “bombing the shit out of ISIS” just makes me want to puke. We’ve dropped countless bombs on the middle east and people are still being killed by terrorists in cafés and nightclubs. The war in Afghanistan is in its fifteenth year and the place doesn’t look that much different than when we showed up in 2001.  And today we learn that 8400 US troops will remain in Afghanistan in the war without end. (But war profiteers have made billions of dollars so don’t expect it to end any decade soon.) George W. Bush’s (and Tony Blair’s) idiotic invasion of Iraq that opened the door for ISIS and Obama’s “clean” drone strikes in the region have only made us less safe while funneling trillions of dollars out of the American economy. Do you think those dudes sing along when they hear Mavin Gaye ask “What’s going’ on?” Maybe they just giggle at the “War is not the answer” part.

Unknown

The Obama administration released a report last week about civilians killed in drone attacks in Africa, Yemen, and Pakistan. They believe that between 2372 and 2581 “enemy combatants” were killed between 2009 and 2015. We trust that these “enemy combatants” were sociopathic terrorists who want to blow up shopping malls in Kansas and not kids who were forced into someone else’s jihad. For the same period, the administration estimates that between 64 and 116 non-bad guys (men, women, children, doctors, aid workers, etc.) were accidentally killed by our drones. Investigative journalists think that count may be ten times higher. And this does not include civilian deaths from the drone strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria that are a daily terror. By the way, the going price for a remote controlled MQ-9 Reaper drone is $12, 548,710.60. (The 60 cents is for the pine scent.) And we wonder why we can’t “afford” free college or health care.

I think if I was a young man in Yemen and one of those 116 “non-enemy combatants” killed was my child, I might be a little angry. In fact, when I found out my child was killed by some American sitting in an air-conditioned office in Colorado, manning a flying robot bomb with a joystick, I’d want revenge. I’m like that. I’d find Al-Qaeda or ISIS, or whoever was screaming the loudest in my village and ask what I could do to strike back against these terrorists. Strap a bomb to my chest and walk into a crowded European airport? No problem. And I get to see my child again. I want them to hurt the way I’ve been hurt. It’s the cycle of pain that war perpetuates and we are all guilty.

support-our-troops-flag-ribbon

It’s easy to talk about how Presidents Bush and Obama and Prime Minister Blair (and Secretary Clinton) have blood on their hands, but there’s plenty of blame to go around as we fan the flames of war in somebody else’s backyard. We don’t want to be accused of not “supporting the troops” as a another generation of young warriors gets sent into the meat grinder only to become the next generation of old vets standing on an offramp asking for spare change.  They’re keeping us free, right? Why should we stop that?

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 12.43.10 AM

So that brings us to Mr. Trump. After the mass shooting in Orlando, Trump renewed his calls for an all-out ban on Muslims entering the U.S.. Omar Mateen, the shooter, was born in Queens, New York, just like Trump, so I’m not sure what his ban would have accomplished. He repeatedly tells his crowd that his strategy will be to “bomb the hell out of them” and his sub-moronic loyalists scream in approval. The problem is the recent attackers in Turkey and Bangladesh (and Orlando and San Bernardino) did not come from the battlefields of Syria. Like Mateen, they were most likely radicalized online. So I guess Trump’s plan is to bomb the hell out of every Muslim with a laptop or a smartphone. Gee, I wonder what the unintended consequences of that type of genocidal violence might me.

Do you think President Trump might end up creating more terrorists than he kills? You could make the case that lesson should have been learned by Bush, Blair and Obama. Oh, never mind. His fans love war. Trump is John Wayne! More bombs! That’s the answer! Today, a sister of one of the British soldiers killed in Iraq called Blair, “the world’s worst terrorist.” Tony has some competition for that honor. (4,486 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq.) Maybe President Trump can win that title. Winning!

519263583_c_570_411

Of course, Trump wants to make this about Islam and not the conditions that push young men into war. (Our war on their terrorism or their war on our terrorism.) The attacks this week in Saudi Arabia should prove that ISIS is not a real Islamic organization any more than the KKK is a real Christian organization. What could be more anti-Muslim than blowing up Muslims in Medina on Ramadan? (Wait, is ISIS a Trump front?)

Scholars have described the bulk of the rank and file members of these jihadi groups as being either illiterate or barely literate. They’re not reading the Koran; somebody is telling them what it says. Sort of like that backwoods Pentecostal preacher telling some hill person that dancing with a poison snake will make Jesus happy (and killing gay people is God’s will). You don’t stop their anger at the world with more bombs.

malala-yousafzai-quotes-7

“So what are we supposed to do, Professor Blazak?” Here’s the part you don’t want to hear. Terrorism is a complex issue, with a lot of moving parts (including a military part). But in an election year,  Americans want simple, bite-size solutions. Most could care less about the difference between Sunni and Shia followers of Islam. Just bomb the hell out of all of them. Am I right? Maybe not. Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the face by the Taliban, famously said, “With guns you can kill terrorists. With education you can kill terrorism.” But what does that kid know? And old guy in rural Georgia knows that our bombs can beat their bombs. “More war! (As long as I don’t have to go,)” he bleats.

Look, can we have a moment of national honesty? We’ve finally admitted that the War on Drugs was a horrible waste of lives and tax dollars. Republicans and Democrats actually have some agreement on this. Can we just admit the war on terrorism is sucking the soul of America dry and making the world less safe with every “smart” bomb we drop. Are we ready for a permanent state of world war or are we intelligent enough to imagine a more effective strategy? Just maybe war is the problem, not the solution. The answer is probably not going to come from a boy (or a girl who acts like a boy). I might listen to Malala. Just sayin’. War is over, if you want it.

One-man-s-terrorist-is-another-man-s-freedom-fight

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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 9.29.51 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 11.10.36 AM

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.

_65156906_e4480077-rock_art

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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 9.30.35 AM

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.

aylan-kurdi-kobane-syria

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.

CORTXgzWsAAS7wr

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.

childrensreport2013-banner-cc