Category Archives: Politics

The girl in the red coat

Look familiar, Mr. Trump?

red_dress

There is a rather famous movie entitled Schindler’s List, Mr. Trump. Perhaps you have seen it? I rather doubt that you have, or if you have you probably wondered what the fuss was all about. But it is an important movie, if only for how it captured the horror inflicted on one group of people by another group of people who you have a notorious soft spot for, and for the lengths to which some people will go to fight back.

The movie as a whole is disturbing, but there is one particularly distressing scene depicting a young girl in a red coat wandering through crowds of people as the Nazis rounded up Jews, separating family from family; children from mothers. It is an immensely powerful visualization of the horror of that period in time. It is also an immensely powerful visualization of a particular horror of this time.

When rounding up the Jews, the Nazis segregated family members: husband from wife; young from old; parents from children. Some were murdered on the spot, some were sent to work camps where they were worked to death, some were packed into rail cars where they died standing up. Some six million were exterminated in places like Auschwitz, and Chelmno, and Janowska, and Majdanek, and Maly Trostenets, and in the forests and woods of Poland, and so on. Of those who survived, many never saw their family members again. That haunted them for the rest of their lives. It haunts anyone with a shred of humanity.

Of course, Mr Trump, you have yet to take it that far here. You are not yet engaging in mass extermination. But the mass separation of family members: husband from wife; young from old; parents from children; well you are very much pursuing that. You are very much going down that road of atrocity.

You see, Mr. Trump, the girl in the red coat haunts me. The thought of a child separated from her parents, alone, in a strange place, crying out, in a cage, is horrifying. It is haunting. It is immensely disturbing. It is beyond words to describe. It speaks directly to anyone who is a parent, to the soul of anyone who has even a shred of humanity. And to perpetuate it, to staunchly defend it, speaks directly to the kind of person you are. For while the girl in the red coat may haunt most of us, she will never haunt you.

We all know your feelings about those who are not white. I wrote some thoughts on it in my last post. But while people may be forgiven for not empathizing with members of  gangs like MS-13, they will empathize with the plight of children. And make no mistake, Mr. Trump, most people are not buying your excuses. Indeed, this is your Katrina moment. This is the moment when the depth and depravity of your malevolence and cruelty become impossible to ignore, when it is exposed for the entire world to see.

Your time will pass, Mr Trump, and hopefully soon. But this horror will live on. Your horror will live on. It will live on in the minds of those who are witnessing it. It will live on in the hearts of the parents and children you have separated. It will live on in the soul of this nation. It will live on as yet another example of depravity; your gift to the human race, your contribution to the story of America. I hope we will never forget.

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Animals

Who are the animals in this picture, Mr. Trump?

 

So, Mr. Trump, you have gone on record as suggesting that there are animals crossing the border. Not your traditional kinds, like snakes, or lizards, or coyotes. But a specific kind that walks on two legs and falls under the classification of homo sapiens, aka human, but nevertheless to your mind are mere animals.

But there is a difference, Mr. Trump. Humans are afforded the rights of due process and habeas corpus that are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Animals are not. Is that your intention? To suggest that certain people are afforded those rights, and some are not?

Now, your handlers have persuaded you to somewhat walk back that statement by saying that you were referring specifically to MS-13 gang members. Fair enough. So are you suggesting that MS-13 gang members, being animals, are not subject to the human right of due process? That they should just be exterminated at will, like any other rabid animal? Because that is a dangerous assertion, Mr. Trump. Those are dangerous ideas.

There is an organization that goes by the name of Genocide Watch. They have defined the stages of genocide. It is a rather short list, Mr. Trump, only eight stages; short enough to fit within even your notoriously limited attention span. Of specific note in these stages is the labeling and dehumanizing of groups of people. You see, once a group of people have been successfully dehumanized, then all sorts of atrocities can be inflicted upon them because, after all, they are not human. They are animals–vermin, if you will–that should be exterminated. Because that is the fundamental difference between humans and animals: Humans can be murdered; animals cannot. Animals may be wrongfully put down, but never murdered.

But these are horrible people, you say. Bad! Well, you see, due process is designed to make sure that bad people are really, you know, bad. Like Daniel Ramirez Medina. You might know of him. He is an informant who was working with law enforcement to identify MS-13 gang members until he was arrested by your Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and who, in your lexicon, should have just been put down. Lucky for him that some people still consider him human! After some due process, it was discovered that Mr. Medina had been the subject of some good old fashioned evidence tampering by your ICE agents, that Mr. Medina was not an MS-13 animal, but, in fact, an innocent human. Oops!

Now, similar to the man who can’t be racist because he hates everyone equally, you could be given the benefit of the doubt. Many people would agree with you that very bad people are mere animals. But you don’t hate everyone equally, do you Mr. Trump. Oh, you have no problem with labeling brown people as murders and rapists and, you know, animals. But when is the last time you labeled someone white as an animal? You haven’t. Not once. They might be bad people, but never animals. And that’s the problem, Mr. Trump. That’s the rub.

You can call people animals. But when you restrict that label to people of color, that’s racism. And when you further use that label to classify people, and use that classification as a symbol of hate, and use that symbol to dehumanize, and use that dehumanization to organize and polarize and round up and eliminate, well then you are on a path, Mr. Trump, and that path is paved with atrocities and often ends with genocide.

The language we use allows a look into our minds, and the language you use, Mr. Trump, is predictably simple and clear. We know your mind, such as it is. We unfortunately know exactly who in the picture above you consider human and who you consider animals. We know your feelings on race, and white supremacy, and who should be afforded due process and who should just be rounded up and exterminated, innocent or not.  White lives are precious, brown lives are not. We get it. But there are many of us who believe that everyone should be afforded due process, regardless of the color of their skin and the charges against them. That is what separates the humans from the animals, and a system of laws from the rule of petty dictators. Not the parochial, animalistic urges you yourself represent, but the drive to listen to our better selves.  You should try it sometime. The world and the country need it.

 

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The NRA: A Rebuttal

The National Rifle Association of America recently decided to produce a message of hate directed against the liberal community. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of this country for all Americans, I have prepared a rebuttal.

To the NRA:

We do not use our media to assassinate real news. If real news appears to have a liberal bias, that is a matter of your viewpoint, not ours.

We do not use our schools to teach children that the president is another Hitler. What we teach in school is that decisions are best made through the use of facts and evidence. If President Trump appears to be racist, misogynist, and authoritarian, that is because there is a mountain of evidence to support those assertions. Besides, Trump is demonstrably too stupid to be another Hitler.

We do use movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat our narrative of peace and acceptance over and over again. As do you, with your movie stars and singers and media outlets and talk radio hosts with your message of autocracy and intolerance. And if we use ex-president Barack Obama to endorse “the resistance” it is because he is the living antithesis of the hate, and fear, and rage that seems to dominate your resistance.

We do march, and we do protest. We do not scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia, but we do unabashedly point them out. Does that bother you? We do not smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, or bully and terrorize the law-abiding. Our message is a message of peace, and peaceful protest is enshrined in the Constitution you claim to defend. Perhaps you should review it.

The madness that we ask the police to stop is the cycle of violence perpetuated against anyone who does not look or act or believe what you do. And the only way we stop this, the only way to save our country and our freedom, is to understand that truth does not come bound in a book, dispensed as dogma, or projected from the lips of prophets and pundits. The truth is something to set you free, not to clench in your fist.

I am not the National Rifle Association of America. And the safest place for freedom is in the collective hearts and minds of all Americans, not held hostage at the business end of a gun.

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The soul of a country

Slavery
The art of the deal!

 

People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
— Donald Trump

A hundred and fifty years ago, a war was fought for the soul of this nation. On one side was the belief that this country should be a place where all people are free. On the other was the belief that one man should be able to own another. That is why the Civil War was fought, Mr. Trump. It is simple to understand, I promise you. Really, it is.

Of course, many from the South, your Attorney General being one, will tell you that the Civil War was a war of aggression, that it was about state’s rights vs. the tyranny of the federal government, and all that. So I can see why you might be confused, and wonder if maybe we could have just made a deal. I mean, for a deal maker such as yourself, anything is possible, right?

But here is the thing. There was a deal on the table: end slavery. That was it. That was the deal. End the practice of treating people like chattel. The South could have agreed to this and the war could have been averted. But instead, the South got up from the table and went home. No deal. Slavery was so important to the southern economy that the South would rather have created its own slave nation than give it up. And the rest, as they say, is history. You should read it sometime. Get a picture book if the words are too hard. Have Ivanka read it to you as she’s tucking you into bed. It’s important.

But what about a compromise, you say? Isn’t that the art of the deal? Come back with a counter offer until both sides reach an agreement? But what would have been agreeable in this case? The deal was no slavery. Not some slavery. No slavery. There is no possible compromise in a situation like that, unless you think that some slavery is acceptable. Is that what you think, Mr. Trump? That some slavery would have been acceptable to avert a war?

Make no mistake, even Abraham Lincoln struggled with this question, and wondered if perhaps preserving the Union at all costs was more important. But as this excerpt from a letter to his friend Joshua Speed makes clear, he believed in something more:

As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

We already know what you believe, Mr. Trump. We already know how you read it. There is little doubt in your interpretation that all men are not created equal. That, indeed, all men are created equal except. We hear about it whenever you give a speech to your supporters. Make America great again for everyone except. The rules should apply equally to all except. We welcome everyone to this country except. Every citizen should vote except. And so on.

Wars are fought for many reasons, and one reason is when except is not an option. The Civil War was fought because “all men are created equal except” was not an option. We continue to fight that battle as you aggressively seek to eradicate the accomplishments of our first black president. Because, as we know, in your world anyone can grow up to be president except. But that is not an option. It was never an option. It will never be an option. Some things are worth fighting for, Mr Trump. Some things are worth going to war for, even dying for. The soul of this country is one of them. There is no deal that can erase that, whether you understand it or not.

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I don’t know what to do with Real Americans.

Editor’s note: the title and tone of this post were inspired by Brit Bennett’s essay “I Don’t Know What to Do With Good White People.”

I seem to be surrounded by Real Americans these days. Real Americans determined to make America great again; Real Americans determined to round up those illegals and send them back home; Real Americans who want to deal with those crime infested inner cities by warehousing people of a certain color; Real Americans who never threw their sheets and ropes away, but kept them in the closet for a day such as today; and so on. Continue reading

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To Resist

Back in February of 2014 I wrote a post entitled To Dissent. I encourage you to go read it, but I want to quote the final paragraph of that post:

The times are always tumultuous for dissent, now more than ever. But if we are to regain the balance between the government and the people, if we are to take charge of the destiny of our societies and our species, if we are to make a better life for ourselves and our children, if we are to proactively look towards the future instead of reactively running from it, if we are to continue to rise to the challenges provided to us as intelligent, sentient beings, then we must on occasion stand and make ourselves heard, even if our legs are shaking – especially when our legs are shaking – because to not do so is to disregard and dishonor the great gifts bestowed upon us by those who have courageously done so in the past.

Hannah Arendt is perhaps most famous for her discussion of what she termed the ‘banality of evil.’ In studying how the atrocities perpetuated by Germany under control of the Nazis came about, she reached the conclusion that great evil can only come about through the compliance of the people; that the truly bad can only happen when good people put their heads down and, whether from fear, or tiredness, or dismay allow it to unfold unchecked. Continue reading

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Climbing out of the rabbit hole

As always in a democracy, there are issues where we can agree, and there are issues where we cannot agree. I can agree, for example, that the establishment has done a poor job of protecting the middle class. I can also agree that it has done a poor job of allowing minorities to enter it. Where I cannot agree is that the person gleefully supported by David Duke and white supremacists is the right person to fix it. I will never agree with that. Ever.

Continue reading

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