A favorite argument of the Confederate monument defenders is that those who are trying to take them down are destroying history. They we are whitewashing it. That we are making future generations ignorant of history by destroying them, and that they will be the poorer for it.


My governor, Governor Abbot of Texas, just weighed in on this issue on Wednesday.

“But we must remember that our history isn’t perfect,” Abbott added. “If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.

What my governor, and all like him overlook, is that these monuments were never about history.  History is best taught in museums, in schools, in books, in articles, on historical tours, all of which can provide the context and details that will allow a person to understand the history.

A stone or metal statue can and does do none of that.  What they do instead though is show what values a society values   They provide a tangible form to intangible societal beliefs and ideals.

This is something that those who created and raised these monuments understood.  It is why they so often have inscriptions that make this very plain, such as that that once was on the Battle of Liberty Place monument (taken down in 2017).

McEnery and Penn, having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed bb this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant –Governor Antoine (colored).

United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the south and gave us our state.

Values, not history is what is being shown here.

The same holds true for the vast majority of other statues and monuments. When not explicitly inscribed in the monument, it is explicitly inscribed in the words of the newspapers and speeches of the time on why this or that confederate monument was raised.   A testament to white supremacy.  A testament to white superiority.

This should be something so obviously true that there should be no dispute. A monument to honor the Confederacy – an almost country created to preserve and protect the ideal that whites can own blacks as easily and as morally as they can own a dog and the ideal that whites are supreme race – can be nothing else.

These were not monuments to men and history. They were monuments to the ideals of white supremacy. Their primary intent was not to remind people of a historical person or event, but rather to remind both whites and blacks of their place.

These monuments were raised to promote the values of the Klu Klux Klan. They were raised to promote the values of Jim Crow.  They were raised to promote the values of white supremacy.

Those values are, or should be, our shame now.



What’s a Government Good For?

My next two blogs are going to be on two fundamental outlooks that often lie at the base of our current state of discord and acrimony.  Note, I am sure that there are more, but these are two that I have seen in play over and over again and are fundamental to our national disagreements.  By fundamental I mean they are the reason why we so often can agree on facts but not on what they mean or what should be done.  They also, though, explain why we so often disagree on what the facts even are, with some people the-dressaccepting some and others rejecting the same facts.

The first of these issues is the question of what’s a government good for.  Speaking very broadly, there are two views on what a government is good for.  The first sees it as a necessary evil.  The other sees it as an adaption of our small society writ large. Let me start with those who believe government to be a necessary evil.

Those who believe this tend to value the self – sufficient individual as the ideal.  Their focus is primarily on an individual’s rights and freedoms, and all the rest is seen as a possible threat to those rights and freedoms.  Now, this is not to say they are antisocial or don’t recognize the necessity of humans forming groups and societies for protection and support.  They do.  However, they want each individual to have sole and total control over being a part of and supporting that group.  These are the people that view taxation as theft – possibly necessary, but still theft.   Let’s call these individuals the Individualists.

Along with this belief in government being, at best, a necessary evil is the belief in the self-sufficient individual.  They believe everyone should be able to get by on their own without “handouts” from the government (private charity is OK).  Having the government provide unneeded, in their view, services only creates a people dependent upon the government and not able to be self-sufficient and thus at risk of losing their liberties.

For Individualists, the federal government’s purpose is to protect its citizens against other governments, to provide for public safety with law enforcement and courts, and for infrastructure that cannot be done by smaller groups.  Anything beyond this is a threat to individual liberties.  And the bigger the government, the bigger the threat. The list of those government organizations that create this risk varies from one Individualist to another, but usually includes most or all of the following areas– education, the environment, welfare and economic safety nets, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, government laws regulating workplace safety, food safety, drug safety, NASA, science and so forth.  While those thinking this way may acknowledge that these government organizations may provide some benefits, they also believe that the restrictions they impose on individual choices, the threat they pose to individual liberties, and the fact that, to them, large governments cannot do anything well, more than offset any possible benefit they provide.   Because of this, bigger government, whatever it is, they’re against it.

spinning dancerWhich means that to those who believe this, the same facts showing some benefits from a certain government program won’t have the same impact or meaning as it does to those who believe differently. After all, it comes attached with some serious, from their point of view, downsides.

To take an example to show how this works, consider climate change.  Individualists often know that if they accept man made climate change as real then big government is a necessity in order to deal with this issue.  Because of this they become extremely skeptical of the reality of climate change and often view climate claims and arguments as nothing more than a cover for big government.  Even if brought to acknowledge its reality, they would often be against any actions being taken on the twin basis of big government being the greater danger to human rights, and, at the same time unable to deal effectively with anything of consequence anyway.  When combined with the other foundational difference that I’ll discuss in my next blog on next Wednesday, they will deny, downplay, distort, and twist evidence and willingly believe falsehoods over truths.

And this is even more true about multi-national agreements and organizations such as the UN and NATO and the EU.  They believe that such entities of necessity take away or limit the essential rights and liberties that are the birthright of every person.  Now, in a minute I’ll discuss what an essential right and liberty is, and the question of are some rights more essential than others.  But, first, let me go over the other side, the one that sees big government as an extension of our smaller societies.  For fun, let’s call them the Socialists (which is how many Individualists see such people, usually wrongly so).

Socialists might start things off with a nice, short definition of humans as being a highly intelligent and highly social animal.  Living in some sort of society is a necessity for us, for various reasons, and is part of our survival kit.   As a result of this, we have empathy for and concern about those within our group.  Historically that has been restricted mainly to family groups.  However, as we became more and more successful as a species and developed into larger and larger societies that encompassed a greater diversity of people, our definition of who was a part of the group and who was not changed too.

Even our earliest societies had rules that were followed with consequences for not doing so.  They had ways to make decisions when decisions needed to be made that affected the whole group.   This nascent government went beyond just protecting each individual’s own personal rights.  They insured fairness and promoted peace within the group as well as the welfare of all of its members. In most, for example, hunters shared the meat they caught with the whole group.  The well and able would help those members who were sick, old, and infirm.  In other words, this primitive government expressed the values of that group.

While our societies are much more complex today than then, with a much more complex government now than then too, the ideas and principles behind the reasons for government are still the same.  To protect the group and ensure its survival.  I, and those like me, us Socialists, believe that those who believe that government is an essential evil are only half right.  It is an essential.  And while it can also be evil, it can also be an essential good.  It depends on the shape and form of the government.

For Socialists, government services such as healthcare, education, worker safety, EPA and so forth are a necessary part of any good government and reflects the values of our society.  The values rooted in our ancestral family groups – taking care of each other.  Just as the smaller family groups were concerned with all members of their community and their wellbeing, so should it be today.  To not take care of the group is to harm our society and ourselves.   The difference is in size and complexity.  Where in the original small, family groups there was a great deal of homogeneity, and getting most or all to agree was simpler, doing so in our large and diverse society is more of a challenge.  But it is one that has to be met, and often is, in order to remain true to who we are as a species.

268991-declaration-of-independenceNow, let’s delve, briefly, into definitions of essential rights.  For the Individualists, essential rights seem to encompass almost every decision a person can make.  Any restriction on a person’s ability to do what they wish is an infringement of their essential rights.  When faced with such restriction in the name of furthering education, promoting better health, and so forth, the Individualists sees a “nanny state” working to take over all decisions from the individual so that the individual becomes nothing more than a government controlled robot.  .

For Socialists, essential rights can be divided into two types.  The first type are those rights that help the people to control the government.  These would be the rights to vote, of free speech, of a free press, and of assembly.  The second type are those that relate to the individual; the right of conscience, right to privacy, the right of association.

The Socialist does not see that having a restriction on some choices is a violation of an essential right.  First, we as a society, we the people, have to make laws the will protect and promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  We the people have to make laws that will protect not only us, but future generations.  Environmental laws.  Labor and food safety laws.

We the people recognize that not being able to turn your one acre lot into a concrete parking lot due to zoning laws is not an infringement of rights.  It is the actions of a people to ensure that flooding is controlled during heavy rains (one of the reasons why Houston flooded so badly is due to it not having zoning laws and concreting too much land).

We the people recognize that requiring inspections of meat and food plants is protecting the health of our nation.  We the people recognize that building codes is self-protection.  We the people recognize that laws requiring handicap access is not a nanny state but an effort by us to ensure that all of our citizens have a chance to be independent.  It is not a limitation but a way to promote independence.

Socialists recognize that as long as they have the essential liberties mentioned above, the rights that give control of the government to the people then the government can be used to protect the rights of the individuals.  Government then, properly formed and vigilantly maintained, is a way for us to protect ourselves and to ensure that all of us have a chance for an independent, full, and meaningful life – even the poor, the handicapped, the elderly, the marginalized.

A short summation of the difference between Individualist and Socialists is that the individual is the measure of all things for the Individualists.  Their rights and freedom of choice is paramount.

For the Socialists, the group is what is most important.  However, they also realize that in order to protect and promote the group, individuals have to be protected too.

Let me end this by saying that the picture painted here is true, but simplistic.  Further, there are a multiplicity of views ranging from one extreme to the other.  But, despite this, I think it useful to keep this in mind when trying to understand why the other person is not convinced by your facts.  Especially today when the extremists have so much power.

On this particular July 4th I think it appropriate to check over the state of our humanity.  Patriotism I am not worried about.  We have lots of that. In fact, we are overflowing with patriotism. So much so that many people are justifying immoral and inhumane actions in the name of God and country.  Or, just country.  Either is equally bad.

Our imperfect founders founded an imperfect Republic, one that imperfectly provided 268991-declaration-of-independencerights.  Imperfect because at first they were given only to white males.  It was imperfect in also not requiring that the states hold to the same standards of individual liberties, so that states could and did restrict freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly.  And let us not forget, many of these states also restricted who could be called human.  And being imperfect, it was immoral.

To our nation’s credit, we have gradually made our government, our system, less imperfect.  First, through a Civil War that resulted in the abolishment of treating people as property and, at least on paper, gave all males the same rights. In practice, not really.  Another 100 years would pass before another great upheaval would result in significant gains being made in providing equal rights to those who were not white.  And even today we are still working to finish the job.  Or were.

Women.  When the 14th amendment was passed eliminating slavery, it defined “citizens” and “voters” as male. No women need worry themselves about such things as rights.  That’s what husbands are for.  It would take marches and protests and work and perseverance and the breaking of many laws on federal, state and local level before the 19th amendment was passed and women also got the right to vote. However, just like blacks, that did not make them equal.  Although we have made progress traveling down that road leading to equality, we have not arrived yet.

And then there is the other, those that were not born here but who come to work and live. Many of these fleeing persecution, oppression, extreme poverty, and death. We have always had a mixed record on that.  At times welcoming and winning a reputation as a beacon of hope.  So much so that France gave us a lovely lady to honor that ideal.  At other times though, treating the immigrant – the Irish, the Chinese, Eastern Europeans, the Jew etc. –  with scorn and derision, as second and even third class citizens.  Often on a par with women and blacks.

This included the others who were here before us, the Indians.  Treaties broken, massacres given, lands taken, peoples moved.  And then families separated. This time with the intent into turning them into good little white folk instead of allowing them to remain red skinned savages.

And the Japanese.  Driven by fear and racism, during WW2, we took all of our citizens of Japanese decent and put them caged them in communities surrounded by fences and guards.  Citizens treated as enemy.  Men, women, and children.  Although, small comfort, they were kept together as a family and did not face the Sophie’s Choice of either choosing to stay confined or being expelled from the US.  I guess that their citizenship did count for something at least.

And I have not even touched on all of our history here.  Just enough to show that we have been an imperfect bearer of liberty.  Still, we have been a bearer of liberty.  We GettyImages-515177534-Horizontalhave over our history expanded who we considered a citizen with the full rights of citizenship.  We have also, much more slowly, expanded our ideals on who is the same sort of human as us.

Which brings us to today.  To this Fourth of July.  Over the years we have erratically and inconsistently, expanded who deserved the liberties and rights of being a citizen.  We have also erratically and inconsistently expanded our ideas on who was fully human and who was not.  And combining the both, we have also, even more erratically and more inconsistently, expanded who deserved to come to the US to both work and to join.

Today, we are in retreat.  Retreat in regards to who deserves to be considered a full citizen deserving of all the same liberties and protections as the white Christian male.  The transgendered, the gays and lesbians who have so recently started to make progress have had that progress come to a halt. Not only a halt, but are being pushed back towards being made second class, at best, citizens again.

Retreat in regards to keeping, never mind building on, the gains made by minorities and women in achieving the equal rights given to white males from the beginning.  Retreat in regards to a woman having control of that most precious possession, herself.  Retreat from the idea that our government is neutral in regards to religion and cannot and should not favor one religion over another.  Muslims are being singled out.

And fear of the others is increasing, stroked by our President and his administration and, unfortunately, finding ready tinder in the souls of too many citizens.  Instead of treating those who come to our country, both legally and illegally, as human, they are being treated as non-human threats.  Threats we can deal with however we chose, no matter how inhumane.  After all, morality only applies to US citizens.  Everyone else is fair game.

Our founders set in motion a process that would expand not only liberty and rights, but also expand our moral treatment of others, our recognition that the others are humans, just as we are, and so deserving of being treated with respect and dignity.  As I said, it has been an uneven and jerky process, filled with stops, reverses and often glacial slowness.  But, despite this, in the long term, progressing forwards and expanding who we include as human.

Unfortunately, we now live in a time where progress has stopped and we are being walked backwards.  Where the other is no longer considered fully human. Where the job of ensuring those considered fully human is considered done and over with, and even overdone.  And so progress stops for the minorities and women.  And often reversed, as it is for those of differing sexualities.   Instead of expanding what  it is to be a human being fully deserving of being treated humanely and with respect, we are letting fear and anger restrict our definition of who is fully human and who is not.

Whether this will someday become just a stain on our national history, a stain  like many others we bear, or whether this will become the new reality forever and ever amen, is up to us to determine.  And I take hope in seeing how many are working hard to make sure this is a stain and not a permanent reality.


Much is made of civility today.  Mainly by those who are restricting our definition of who should be fully recognized as human; from those whose leader insults freely and often, treats others poorly, who lies constantly, calls for violence, is vulgar in his treatment of women and others, who has cheated others; from those who denounce “political correctness”, which is often and usually just treating others who differ with respect and as equals, so that now they feel empowered to insult and abuse those they consider a threat and inferior.

For myself, I am a believer in civility.  To a point.  In the past, during the past of my own life, with past administrations, whether Republican or Democrat, whether liberal or conservative, we never reached that point.   Today we have, or at least have started to. Due to the dangers posed by this administration both by words and deeds, it is time to become a bit uncivil (it is not an all or nothing thing).

In the past I would not have supported confronting members of an administration when they go to restaurants, when they go to movies, when they go to the theater.  I do now.   This is not a call for violence.  This is not a call for an unlawful overthrow of our government.  It is, though, a call to let our government know in no uncertain terms that what they are doing is not only wrong, that their actions and words not only harms our nation, but harms our humanity.  It is a call to use the tools of democracy to overthrow this government – by petition, by contacting representatives in a tsunami of emails, letters and calls, by taking to the streets, by registering to vote, by voting in all elections, by attending town hall meetings, by contributing what time and money you can to those assembled to protect our freedoms and our humanity and by direct confrontation of this administration who are promoting this harm.



“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

My own personal take is that we have too many good  and moral people in the United States, that we have a sound system of government, that we have a long history of surviving traumas, that an actual civil war or revolution will not happen.  Violence on the scale of the Civil Rights and Vietnam War protests may occur, but I do not see a full scale violent revolution.  Or Civil War.  Although there are commonalities, Trump is not Hitler and our government and history not the same as 1930 Germany.  However, does an evil and threat have to reach the scale and scope of a Hitler before civility is no longer the chief concern and stronger actions taken?

This Fourth, celebrate what our founders created, what we have over the years laboriously and with a great deal of suffering and blood, created by protecting that creation.  Celebrate by Resisting.

Humanity Unfilled


Soft sun floats above whispering wind

Grasses green and trees shade

Children running, parents talking, lovers strolling,

Ignorant nature is indifferent.


A lump of cells decay, rocking slowly on the shore,

Curled short strings, brown and salty clean,

Ten fingers, ten toes,  open blue orbs

Humanity’s purpose unfilled


Wind chases wind, and faster goes

Cars fly and buildings shatter

Bodies break and bodies die

Ignorant nature is indifferent


Mother, father, and infant son

Forced back to the eternal desert

Reluctantly giving air their water,

Reluctantly giving ground their bodies

Humanity’s purpose unfilled.


Warm rain; not too hard, not too soft,

Falls just the right time, just the right place

The farmer looks and calls it good.

Ignorant nature is indifferent.


Home and death and rape behind them

Clinging both to child and Beast,

Or, falling to rocks and rails and moving wheels.

Humanity’s purpose unfilled


In metal tomb encased in white

Breathing out hope while breathing out warmth

Sleep short and then long arrive

Ignorant nature is indifferent.


They did walk a thousand miles,

Destined hope, finding torched lady’s words lies

Behind a wall, within a cage, a building

Filled with children’s cries

Humanity’s purpose unfilled






I was planning to do a blog on an entirely different topic.  Instead though, due to several conversations I have had recently,  I am doing a follow up on my last blog The Shame of the United States.

When talking to a person who is supporting the new Trump policy of separating families at the border, it is important to remember the facts.  Always.  Because you will have to reference them time after time after time.


Fact 1:  There is no law requiring that those stopped for illegally crossing the border have to have their children taken from them.

Fact 2:  No President, going back at least as far as President Eisenhower, has ever promoted or tried to carry out a policy of separating families crossing the border illegally.

Fact 3: Not all crimes carry the same penalties.  Jaywalking and a mugging, for example, are both crimes, but not the same penalty.

Fact 4: Those crossing and then turning themselves in immediately to a border agent are not breaking the law.  They are instead following one of the procedures for asking for asylum.

  • Fact 4a. Yes, despite what the director of Homeland Security may have said, they are separating the children from their family for these asylum seekers too.

It is also important to remember the facts that some who are also outrages by this policy ignore.

Fact 5: The photo of children in orange prison jumpsuits is not of the immigrant children.  Instead, it first showed up as a photograph in an article about schools and prisons and was intended to make the point that more prisons are being built than schools in the United States.

Fact 6: None of the photos of children in wire cages are recent.  Or, at least none that I have found have been.  Most are from 2014. Now, we do have eyewitness accounts of the GettyImages_458329272conditions where many children are being held, and those eyewitnesses say that the 2014 pictures are accurate today too.  However, so far, none of these facilities have allowed photographs to be taken.


So, now we have our facts.  Facts that we will use to defend our view that this policy is immoral. The question becomes then, what argument are we defending it from?


From what I can see, all the arguments from those defending taking children from their parents are variations of “It is against the law” or “they broke the law”. Often these are used in conjunction with the observation that when we arrest American citizens and cart them off to jail their children are separated from their parents too.  So, the argument goes, why is it then immoral with illegal immigrants.

There are several possible responses that could be given.  One of them is to present Fact 4, that we have an asylum process in place in which immigrants seeking asylum immediately present themselves to a border patrol agent and claim asylum.  These people are not breaking the law.  They are following it. Yet they are still being separated from their children.

This can then be followed up with Fact 3, not all crimes carry the same penalties.  For example, you are not going to arrest and send someone to prison for speeding whereas you will for someone who commits armed robbery.  Both broke the law, but to give both the same punishment would be unjust.

In the case of illegally crossing the border, it is a misdemeanor in most cases. This then leads you to Fact 1, there is no law requiring that parents be separated from their children.  None. Zilch.  Legally it can be done, but it is not required by law.  In fact, historically it has not happened.

And this is where Fact 2, no president, no administration, going back to at least the time of President Eisenhower, and probably before, has ever carried out a deliberate policy of separating families who crossed the border illegally.    Now, suddenly we are.   Don’t give me legal requirement or historical precedent as justification because neither are.  Both are against this policy.

Also, there is a difference between separating a parent from child of  citizens with that of an illegal immigrant.  Those who are here usually have family and friends here who can take care of their children.  Illegals, not so much.  Those who live here are used to this culture, the food, the customs, the language.  With the illegal immigrants, their children are living among strangers in a land very strange to them. They are living among strangers speaking a different language, eating different foods, and dealing with  different customs. A scary place for anyone, but more so to a seven year old child without their parent.

Now, here are some tips on other strategies that will be employed in defending the indefensible.

They might try to bring up those pictures of children in cages and point out that these were taken during President Obama’s administration.  They then will try to ignore the moral problems of doing this today by saying “why didn’t you protest about these then, you are a hypocrite”.

Of course, whether I am a hypocrite or not really has no bearing on whether this is a moral policy or not.  It is a separate question. A separate issue. However, it is one that they love to employ to change the subject and divert attention.

However,  they are correct about when these pictures of children in cages were taken.  Yes, those pictures were taken during President Obama’s  watch.  However, they occurred because there was a flood of unaccompanied minors coming up from Central America. Minors with no family, no parent with them. So many that they totally overwhelmed the system.   In other words, it was not the result of a deliberate policy of separation.  And it was something Obama’s administration was working on to correct.

Along with this might be an attempt to show that some of President Obama’s immigration also resulted in separating families.  And that too would be true.  Again though, this separation was not the result of a deliberate policy but rather it was an unintended side effect in some cases.  And one that did not result in nearly as many separated families as what Trump’s policies are purposely creating.

And again, just like the hypocrite argument, how does what President Obama did or did not do effect whether this policy today is moral?  Does President Obama’s actions define morality and what is right?  No.  Again, separate issue.

5472Another important fact to be kept in mind is that our knowledge that the separation of the children of those crossing our borders from their families is what is immoral. Whether children are being put in these cages or not, whether they are being shipped in freight trains or not, whether they are being made to wear orange jumpsuits or not, is purely of secondary importance.  The main issue is that this policy of separating families needlessly like this is wrong and immoral.  This holds true whether the children are being detained in nice homes with nice people or whether they are being kept in cages.

Also, underlying this whole defense that these people were breaking the law is the assumption that all laws are moral. We are stating that this action is immoral. That holds true whether it is legal or not.

A final thought on this issue. We have not had a policy of separating children from their parents for those crossing our borders illegally or requesting asylum before, but there have been two times in our past when we did have a policy of separating children from their parents.

One of those times is with many of the Native American tribes. We would forcibly take children from their families and send them to “Indian Residential Schools” where they would be immersed in Euro-American culture, given normal haircuts, forbidden to speak their native language, and their name taken away and given a new normal name.  These schools were also known as American Indian Boarding Schools.  But, a rose by any other name…..

This black mark on our history started in the 1870s.  It did not end until the 1970s.  Looking back over the last two sentences, I hope those that read this consider this a black mark and stain upon our history.  If not, then you have a serious problem with your sense of morality and should start to work on that immediately in order to become a decent human being.


The other time when we have taken children from their parents was during the time of slavery.  This was done casually and without thought. Doing so was common.  A result of this can be seen in the nations newspapers after the Civil War. Those papers were flooded with ads from mothers, fathers, children seeking their loved ones.  Such as these one below.








And now, today, we are adding to our history. In addition to the separation of children from families from the Native Americans, and from black slaves, we now get to add a new chapter in our history – taking children from those crossing our borders.  I believe that not only do most Americans now find it wrong and immoral and abhorrent, so too will history judge it to be so.


“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


Yes, I know.  For this subject quoting this poem is something trite, something always done, and something common. However, that does not mean it shouldn’t be quoted.  In shutterstock_56386615these times we need to read and quote and consider these words more than ever, no dismiss them as being trite and overused.   After all, the reason that this poem from the Statue of Liberty is so trite is because it is an integral part of our history and, until recently, a part of who we were as a nation and a people.  It is one of our defining ideals, often fallen short of, but just as often clawed back to.

This time though we are starting to fall very, very short of this ideal.  Now we are not only turning away those  legitimately and justifiably seeking refuge in the United States, but area also separating families – taking children away from their parents, no matter the age of the child.  From what I have researched, we have never done that before.

With those crossing our borders illegally the excuse was that they broke the law and were trying to live in the United States illegally.  It is not a good excuse for such an inhumane policy, but it is something.  However, with asylum seekers, they do not even have that threadbare excuse. These are people who present themselves to officials requesting asylum.


This, this is the threat to the United States?

While attention is on the ones coming to our southern border, this covers all asylum seekers.  For example, a Congolese woman presented herself to our border guards at the port of entry near San Diego.  Now she is being held in detention there.  Her seven year old daughter was taken from her and is being held in Chicago.  And it gets worse.  The Trump administration has cut funding for the program providing lawyers for migrant children.  So, now a seven year old, without benefit of parent or counsel, has to make decisions and navigate our labyrinthine immigration system.  Alone.

For an administration that, for some reason, is popular among a group that tout family values…well, this shows that the only families they value are their own.  For an administration that, for some reason,  is popular among a group that believe all humanity is related and brothers and sisters, who brag about missions to help the suffering in other countries…well, it seems that some  brothers and sisters are better loved and cared for than others.

Yes, we need to maintain our borders.  However, asylum seekers are not a threat to our borders (nor illegal aliens a threat to our country).  Instead, they are a testament to our nation and its ideals.  Ideals that are becoming more deeply tarnished by the day.

In our past anyone outside of our immediate community were considered “other”.  Often they were not even considered fully human within the community.  You could do things to “others’ that you could not do to those within your community.

It seems that we are moving back to those times, away from the recognition that no matter our nationality, no matter our race, no matter our religion we all share a common humanity and have a right to be treated as a human.   It seems that is no longer the case in the United States. Instead it seems we are in the process of blockading ourselves against the world; politically, economically and morally, and in doing so denying the humanity of those “others”

These families are not coming here on a whim.  They are not coming here just because they think the food is better.  Or even just solely for economic reasons.  They are fleeing.  Fleeing a danger to them and their loved ones.

Here is a link to a fact sheet about why they flee.

But, since I know most don’t click on links, and since it is short, rather than summarize it, let me copy and paste what it says here.


  1. Northern Triangle countries are experiencing record levels of violence.
    El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are facing unparalleled levels of violent crime and all three countries continue to rank among the most violent in the world.
  2. Impunity rates for homicides in the Northern Triangle countries hover above 95 percent.
    This means that 19 out of every 20 murders remain unsolved, and the likelihood of being caught, prosecuted or convicted for murder is practically nil.
  3. Extortion is common, and the failure to pay can result in harassment, violence, or death.
    It has been estimated that Salvadorans pay more than US$390 million a year in extortion fees, while Hondurans pay around $200 million and Guatemalans an estimated $61 million.
  4. Lack of opportunity and poverty are serious problems.
    According to the World Bank, 60 percent of people living in rural areas in the Northern Triangle live in poverty. Honduras’ July 2017 national census showed that 64.3 percent of all households live in poverty.
  5. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual assault.
    El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are some of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman. In Honduras, 468 women were killed in 2016—one every 18 hours.
  6. Children and families under threat of violence and extortion often feel like they have nowhere to turn for protection.
    In all three countries, citizens do not feel that the police will protect them and often fear the authorities as much as criminals. According to a 2016 survey in Honduras, 83 percent of the population believes the police are corrupt.
  7. Being denied asylum or being deported can be a death sentence.
    Although the United States does not have a comprehensive database of migrants who were killed after being returned to their countries of origin, the Global Migration Group at Columbia University has created a record of over 60 people who had been deported to their deaths or to other harm.

Young girls are often raped  by gang members and forced into prostitution.  Boys are forced into drug gangs.  Many have seen family members killed.   Many have seen friends killed.  There is no law, no justice, no  protection.  It does not exist.  Only poverty, fear, pain, and loss.

This link provides some of those stories.  In this link you will read about:

2EDD631F00000578-3337589-image-m-30_1448745141324Two brothers, 13 and 7, found dead.  The seven year old, in addition to being shot as his brother was, was also tortured and beaten.

A grandfather with two granddaughters who fled the country with them.  Three of his four sons had already been killed by gangs.  He did not want to lose his granddaughters too.

A young woman who opened her door one day and found a plastic bag with body parts in it.  It was a warning of what would happen to her should she refuse to become the girlfriend of a gang member who liked her.

Nine children who refused to join gangs were found tortured and shot in the face numerous times.  Some of them had skin peeled from their faces.

So, these families do the sane thing. They flee for somewhere safer.  The United States.  And when they arrive and apply for asylum, they have their children, the children they are trying to protect, taken from them by our border agents, following a cold and cruel new policy.

Some may say that they should stay in their country and fight to make it a good country.  The ignorance displayed by this sort of argument is amazing.  Only someone who lives in a country that is safe and secure, that has a functional and responsive government could ever say such a thing.

Others argue that they should go somewhere else, that we are tired of holding that lamp up high.   And since we are tired, we are going to discourage them coming.  Idiocy.  Ignorance. Cowardice.

Some justify these actions as being necessary to discourage others from coming to our borders, seeking a better place, seeking refuge and safety not only for themselves but their children and families.  Safety from atrocity.  This justification not only betrays our ideals and humanity, it is also one that I do not think will work.

Ask yourself, if you lived in such a country, would this policy of being separated from your child really discourage you from fleeing and coming here?  It wouldn’t me.   However, instead of presenting myself at the border, I would be looking at ways to enter illegally and stay.  Further, as some of these parents are saying, it would be much better to be together, but even separated their child is still in a much safer and better place than back home.

And before you say – see, its not such a bad policy – ask yourself would you like to be separated from your child by thousands of miles, in a strange land, and have them live with strangers?  Would you like the thought of your child being alone among strangers uncertain and afraid? Do you think your child and you would not suffer from that separation?  It is only the direness of their situation that makes this a good option.  And only our labelling them as “other” and no longer worthy of being treated with the dignity and respect all humans should be till shown otherwise that makes this cruel choice a “good” one.

We talk about how terrible and like animals those of the MS 13 gangs are.  They are our ms13current bogeyman embodying the worst that humans can do to each other.  For that reason, to protect our selves and society we work to lock them up or deport them.  Now, imagine living in a country where the MS 13 gangs rule.  They cannot be deported.  They cannot be jailed.   And that is what we too often send these families back to.

As the saying goes “all fall short of glory”, and so we have. Badly. In fact, we have done so many times over the years since we were founded. But, the words and the humanity behind those words still remained as an ideal, though at times a badly defined one.  It is an ideal that we have worked towards living up to, towards making it real.  And though we never fully managed to do so, there were times when we approached glory.

Today though. Today, we are no long climbing for glory but, through our treatment of our fellow humans as other, as numbers, as the bogeyman, through our cold and hard laws and policies, we are reaching for hell. And hell is easier to obtain because gravity helps a fall.

I think it may be time to return the Statue of Liberty, The Mother of Exiles, to France, along with its plague bearing ideals we no longer seem to hold.  Maybe someday, soon I hope, we will deserve to have it gracing our shores again.




Landay Landmines

This is something I wrote a few years back after reading “I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays From Contemporary Afghanistan” by Seamus Murphy.  Landays are Afghan folk poems created and spread mainly by women today. They consist of couplets with the first line having nine syllables and the second thirteen.

After reading this book I created this, a series of couplets that comment on US foreign policy.  I never really did anything with it, but in looking through this and that came across it again.  In reading it I decided to dust it off and try it here, as something a bit different from my usual commentary.


Landay Landmines

Always we say, we have come to save,

By giving you our freedom free and already made.


The world our nation for which we care,

Partly delusory and somewhat illusory.


Ideals our first, earnest our middle,

Undone by being and size, hypocrisy our last,


Giants tread water and pound rock to sand,

Swim forward and tsunamis witlessly drown the land.


Easy women look for protection,

Confusion reigns on whether virtue is taken or sanctioned.


Afkhanistin, Japen, Mexeca,

It seems we are always almost, but never quite right.


Other states say they would do better,

But know size matters in becoming fucked or fucker.


Something that I see over and over again from conservatives, especially among the more extreme conservatives, is this idea that everyone should be treated equally regardless of race or gender.  This was brought to mind recently by a Facebook post by one of these individuals about Harvard having a separate graduation ceremony for blacks. Its caption read something along the lines of “Congratulations Harvard!  You have just brought segregation back”.

First, let me say that the story was inaccurate.  Harvard was not having a separate ceremony for blacks.  Instead, a private group had set this up and were holding it some days after the Harvard graduation to allow blacks to attend both, which I imagine all or most did.  In addition this was not a black only event, all races could attend.  Here is what the organization’s, Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance, president Michael Huggins had to say about why they did this.

“It isn’t meant to replace the existing ceremony, but rather to add something that was missing.

“We really wanted an opportunity to give voice to the voiceless at Harvard. So many students identify with the African diaspora but don’t necessarily feel welcome as part of the larger community, and they don’t feel like their stories are being shared.”

So no, no segregation being brought back.

What is interesting is that even when I pointed this out, the conservative who posted this and some of his like minded friends argued that this was still wrong.  That it somehow cheapens the graduation.  That all should be happy with the one graduation without need for another and that what doing this does is encourage division and discord.  We should all be equal and colorblind.

Now I know that many people are going to say, what’s the problem with that?  Why have a separate ceremony? Why not be color blind and treat all equally?  And, this seemingly plausible argument based upon the premise of equality is also applied to hiring and voting and other such institutions and laws.

Rape Law Report_Banner_1440x315

My answer – nothing at all in regards to it being a good goal.  But to actually live it and act as if it is true only creates and sustains the racism still within our system.  The problem with this fine idea is that society – our governments, justice system, educational system, financial institutions, and businesses are not color blind.  All people are not treated equally regardless of color.

Conservatives use this ideal of equality  to argue against programs that benefit minorities, women, and the LGBTQ.   They use this ideal against those who protest inequality – Black Lives Matter and #MeToo.  They even use it to argue that those organizations that are for one group and not all are not only racist but promote racism and sexism and so forth.  The Black Caucus, the NAACP, NOW, and so forth are all racist and sexist organizations.

Their argument is that if these people would quit stirring the pot and agitating then the waters would still and everything would be all right.  They believe that there is no real problem with racism and sexism  in our institutions and society today.  Or, at least, one large enough to create such a fuss..

Consider the following though in regards to race.

  • When blacks were freed from slavery they were not given any money, any land, any possessions of their own, despite the fruit of their work having gone to their owners. In effect, they were freed only to too often become economic slaves with little difference from before.
  • That was followed by many long years of Jim Crow and KKK and voting restrictions and laws promoting whites but keeping down blacks. Laws that in their most blatant form existed until the 1970s.
  • The result of this, and more, was blacks were not, on average, able to accumulate land and wealth. Which meant they could not afford good school districts, good healthcare, good anything.  In effect they were not at the same starting point as whites on average.
  • Further, racism is still present in our society. It often takes the form of implicit biases, and so often easily not seen and ignored.  But nonetheless real.  As blacks know well.  As a look at the numbers show; any number – economic, educational, property, incarceration and arrests, etc.
  • Blacks get pulled over for driving while black.
  • They get followed more often in stores.
  • They get tossed out of stores for being black.
  • Resumes with obvious black names on them are turned down more often than the same resume is with a white name attached. Discrimination exists in hiring and firing, in grades, in getting loans, and on and on and on.

And this is only a few of the many inequalities in our society, inequalities that are ingrained in our society.  We have done the easy changes, the obvious ones, the in your face racism.  So much so that, even though it still exists, it is no longer thought polite to display in public.   But the implicit biases and institutional racism still exists.  It is just quieter in its expression, although its effects are just as damaging.   And this quietness of it is why dealing with it and finishing the job of creating a more just and equal society is so difficult now,   it is easy to deny and ignore.

Consider this idea of treating  everyone equal now a conservative kumbaya belief. However, this kumbaya is not real.  Current reality is not kumbaya.

We do not live in a world wherein justice is dispensed equally, where all have equal access to education and educational opportunities, where hiring and  firing and promotions are based solely on qualifications and accomplishments.

If you cannot admit or acknowledge the very real problems plaguing our country then these problems will fester, harming the lives of millions of Americans, until they explode.  The conservatives shout of equality and of the need to treat all the same now ignores the problem and is why, despite its seductive sound, it should be resisted.  Far from ending racism, it promotes it.