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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Vivimos en dos mundos (We live in two worlds)

July 4, 2014

This is my first time blogging from another country. We arrived in Mexico two days ago so I could teach a research methods class on an island in the Caribbean. I’m not doing it for money, just to live on a tropical island for six weeks and get my Ernest Hemmingway on. Cozy will have her first birthday on Isla Mujeres and probably celebrate it by riding away on the back of a dolphin.

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But first we’ve come down to the city Andrea is from, Morelia, to spend time with her family. We’ve been here together before and I wonder if last time we were here, her mother imagined us returning with a child. I love seeing my wife in her native land, returning to the house she grew up in. And Cozy’s eyes are wide at all the new sites, sounds, smells, and flavors. While her dad and her uncle do shots of mescal, she watches kids play soccer in the alley.

We made a decision early on that our daughter would spend as much time in Mexico as possible. She is “bi-racial” and certainly, at least, bi-ethnic. On the 2010 U.S. Census, nearly 3% of the population identified themselves as being more than one race. The number of biracial children increased 50% from the 2000 census. While the white-supremacists I study see all this “race-mixing” as the end of the white race as we know it (a race that never actually existed until slave-traders invented it), most of us see it as a beautiful door that opens to more goodies. Postmodernists tell us that collision is production. You bigots can keep your chocolate and peanut butter separate, but give me my damn Reeces.

The line I’ve always heard from people (especially racists) is that bi-racial children suffer because their identity is somehow split in two. There was the famous 2009 case of the Louisiana judge, Justice Keith Bardwell, who refused to marry an interracial couple because of the harm it would do their future children. Tell that to Barrack Obama. There is no scientific evidence that shows that biracial kids have it harder because of their status. The only evidence of harm comes from the racists themselves who stigmatize such children as “half-breeds” (Cue Cher song.)

Most anti-miscegenation appeals are by racists who fear the blurring of racial boundaries. There has long been a fear of “mulattos” making it hard for whitey. Just watch the 1915 epic Birth of a Nation. “Is he black or is he white? Quick! Call the Klan! Stay in your racial box, boy!” But the other side is about the loss of culture. For example, the more Native Americans assimilate with American culture, the less of their own culture they have to hold on to. I went to a wedding on the Warm Springs reservation between members of two different tribes and there was an awareness that the children would be less than full-blooded members of any one tribe.

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Cozy isn’t half anything. She’s full on human. Like most of us, her parents bring different pieces of ethnic culture to her party. I’m far from 100% Czech and my Czech relatives were probably from Poland anyway. We’re all mutts to some degree. And we know that genetic diversity makes us stronger. I’d like to convince some inbred white supremacists who think the “white race” is going to disappear of this, but they’re too inbred to understand that it’s all just shades of flesh color.

Anyway, the point of this blog post (and this trip) is that we want our daughter to know the vibrant Mexican culture her mother comes from. When I grew up watching TV,  I thought Mexico was a big desert filled with banditos, siestas, and mice that ran really fast. The reality is much different. My wife had never even heard of Mexican jumping beans. And don’t go looking for burritos here. Huaraches y micheladas, si. I love Mexico and I want Cozy to know the real deal, not the fear of rapists and murderers that morons like Donald Trump spread. Or the reports of narcos chopping off people’s heads that pop up in the news and then end up on Breaking Bad.

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Mexico is a colorful land filled with endless music and food and generous people. (Can I please pay for something? You payed for the last ten things!) Sure, it’s had its recent struggles with corrupt police and narco syndicates who exist solely to feed America’s drug appetite, but there is also a beautiful resistance. Just watch the brilliant film Hecho en Mexico (now streaming on Netflix) to witness the true soul of this land, defiant to generations of colonizers. I want my daughter to know the vibrance of this spirit.

In many ways, Mexico is like los Estados Unidos. People are addicted to their smart phones and crappy TV shows. They just wear more Hollister gear and don’t believe in car seats. But they do have movies in 4-D. We just saw the new Terminator film and were, quite literally, blown up and down. (C’mon, USA, catch up!) And Mexico has its own issues with gender fairness just like us. But for every macho ranchero there is a budding feminist rapper, like Mare Advertencia Lirika, bubbling up from below the ground.

The big question for us is will baby Cozy get her ears pierced while she’s here. (It’s the culture, OK?) She will be baptized in a Catholic church in two weeks, which will give her something totally valid to rebel against later. 11356677_1464214720555714_304303057_n

How can anyone be less for sharing in two cultures? Our daughter will learn how to eat Velveeta from her white dad and make abuelita from her brown mom. Being from two worlds will give her options. How Latina does she feel today? Culottes or an escaramuza? She can travel widely as 450 million Earthlings speak Spanish. Summers in the Philippines or Costa Rica? The future looks a lot more like her mother than it does me. She will be a richer person because she is bi-racial and I’m excited for her to have both worlds to enjoy.

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But for now she is going to enjoy two weeks in Morelia being gushed over by her family here while I head off to Isla Mujeres to start my teaching job. When I rejoin her I’m sure she will be a little darker and a lot more spicy. My little Mexican jumping bean.

Dad Love Pt. 4 – You’re so far away

May 22, 2015

This is just a little shout out to all the parents who have to be away from their kids. I’ve been gone all this week, first to Washington, DC, do do some work with the National Institute of Justice, then to Montgomery, Alabama to work with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Now I’m in the Atlanta airport about to head in the right direction, Portland. The airport is full of parents going somewhere.

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“Home,” has a bit of new meaning these days. All week I’ve had to talk to my child via FaceTime. I think Cozy thinks I now live inside my wife’s laptop. Seeing her face light up when I appear on the screen is a great rush of emotion. Andrea and I can get plenty done on the phone (including going on about how we much we miss each other), but when Cozy’s face pops up, it’s all over but the drooling. Andrea and I have business to deal with (the heating oil tank is leaking), but when Cozy is there, it’s just baby talk. The people in the next hotel room must think their stuck next to somebody who speaks in tongues.

It makes me think of parents who are in the military, or are working overseas or out of state. It also makes me think of parents who are in prison and rarely, if ever, get to see their kids. While my colleagues were going out for drinks, I was racing back to the hotel room to get a fix of baby face time. Wifi’s not free? I’ll pay!

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The sociologist in me worries about those soldiers, prisoners, and others who don’t get that face time. What’s the impact on them and their children? It’s a miracle drug. We humans need it to to be human. That emotional bonding. I’m just glad I get to go home and see my family. Home, it’s where I want to be. My flight is boarding.

I know that someday Cozy will read all this. I just wanted her to know that I’m never not thinking about her.