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Archive for the ‘Bigotry’ Category

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.

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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.

7 REASONS WHY FAMILIES FLEE:

  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.

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Recently the library where I work finished installing new carpeting  as well as upgrading the building in other ways such as moving shelves around.  In that three month process we, myself and the other librarians, wound up moving the books numerous times; over here, over there, over here again, then over somewhere else.  In doing so I got to see in more detail how our books were organized.   And it got me thinking.

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Let me start those thoughts with what I encountered when moving the African American fiction.  While doing that move I came across a book that had not only the author but who it was edited by, which gave me pause.  I had never seen a book, a novel, which had an editor’s name attached to it also.  In looking at it I found that The Bondswoman’s Narrative, by Hannah Crafts, edited by Henry Louis Gates, is the first novel written by a black women slave.  It is the only novel by a fugitive slave woman.  And it was written sometime between 1853 and 1861.

My first thought was to ask why this was put in African American fiction.  I would think this would be something that people beyond just African Americans would enjoy.   While a novel and fiction, it was based closely upon events that the writer actually experienced as well as the experiences of other African American slaves.  Although very much a product of its times, it is fascinating reading, both intellectually and, more importantly, emotionally.

I am not going to review it here, other than to say that if you are interested in people, the effects of slavery on people, and the human condition, then this is a book you should read.  Just as the Diary of Anne Frank’s appeal goes far beyond Jews and being a Jew in Nazi Germany, so too does this book have a message beyond just being a black slave.

And that is why I wondered why it was buried under African American fiction, where its light could not shine for those who may need to read it the most.

Then I came across Toni Morrison.  The Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award winning writer. The Nobel Prize winner.  A writer who I greatly admire and whose works I have enjoyed.  Why is she in African American fiction and not among the broader category of novels?  As if what she wrote could only speak to African Americans and not to all of humanity.  As if writers have to be first and foremost categorized by the color of their skin rather than the quality and scope of their writings.  As if blacks and whites and Asians and Native Americans and Hispanics, as if people, do not have a shared core created by all of them being human.

Now, I know that there are reasons, and some good ones at that, for having a separate African American section.  But, I think those two books also show the limitations and problems that doing so creates.

There was one other categorical head scratcher for me that I think worth mentioning. That was when I found Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karina” when moving the Romance books.  I know that the plot contains some elements of romance, but come on… Anna Karina is considered to be one of the best novels ever written.  Would you classify Romeo and Juliet under Romance?

But, there it was, with a call number of ROM TOL on its spine.

My thoughts on this paralleled that of finding Morrison’s and Craft’s books in African American fiction, how limiting.  But in thinking about it I began to wonder.  Would more people be  willing to pick up and read Anna Karina in the category of Romance than they would if it were in the category of Classics?  Instead of limiting the potential readers of Anna Karina, could this categorization of it., instead, expand the number of readers?

If true, then Anna Karina being categorized as a romance would be a good thing in that it would expose this novel to more people.  With Toni Morrison and Craft though, the opposite is happening.  Not many people other than African Americans look at the African American section, limiting these books potential audience.

Which got me to wondering how best to balance these needs, categorizing works so that those who are interested in one area but not the others can still easily find works that interest them while, at the same time, providing those who are just looking without a fixed goal in mind, a chance to read something outside their norm.

The problem with the easy answer of not having categories is that categories are useful.  There is a reason they come about.  If I am in the mood for a Science Fiction book, I really do not want to spend time finding the science fiction novels amid all the mysteries, classics, African American novels,  mainstream novels, romance, westerns, and religious novels.

Besides, creating and dividing things, and people, into categories seems to be a basic human trait, one that is not going to be going away until humanity is gone too.

That being said, the real question then is not how to get rid of all categories, but rather how do we create and maintain categories?   How to do so with the recognition that, like life, there is considerable overlap from one category and another, that the same book can be categorized in many different ways, and that all categories share the trait of being novels.

For example, in the library, perhaps it would be better to have all novels grouped together, but have the call labels be color coded to designate African American, Romance, Classics, Science Fiction, Mysteries, etc.  Yes, people would browse looking for the color code of their interests, but in doing so they have a better chance of seeing something, seeing a novel or author, that they might not have ever noticed before.   Proximity creates opportunities for something new.

The downside of doing it this way though is that those who come in and want to read only mysteries are now going to have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries too, and in the process of using up precious time, you might not find that one mystery that would have made your year.  The upside is that they will have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries, and so perhaps come across a treasure that they never would have encountered otherwise.

To me, since we live in a world that offers only imperfect solutions to societal issues and problems, this trade off would be a good one.  We need to learn to re-categorize things in order to grow.  We need to also learn that there are few hard and fast categories.  Instead, categories, especially as they relate  to humans  are fluid and overlapping.

For fun, here are the links to two videos, video one and video two, that highlight the fluidity and overlapping nature of human categories.

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INTRO:

In the past we have had superheroes who flew, who possessed amazing strength, astounding agility, could stretch and duplicate.  Superman, Spiderman, Batman & Captain America were the heroes we read about in comic books, fantasy universes superimposed over our own real world.

Today though, we need a new hero.  One firmly rooted in reality and our world, because our foe is the politician who lives in a fantasy world, a fantasy world that he is trying to impose upon our own.  And, if successful, will usher in a time of pain and suffering upon the innocents, and will wreck this once great country.

His tool for accomplishing this goal?  The lie.  And, thus is born Truth Matters Person.  Unlike most prior superheroes, Truth Matters Person has no set age or sex or gender identity or race or religion.  Truth Matters Person consists of everyday people who look for and do not turn away from truth, and then are not afraid to tell that truth to all.

All of these stories contain only part of the truth, a necessity in order to achieve brevity.  However, at the end of each there will be links to the more complete truth.  Also, all words spoken by Trump in these stories are actual quotes from his tweets and his speeches.

Episode 1:   The Dangerous Hordes of Refugees

2ff1cd0ecda4a9a2b839be9fb4611b56“Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country. Who knows who they are – some could be ISIS. Is our president insane?”  “Refugees from Syria over 10k plus more coming. Lots young males, poorly vetted.”

No Donald.  The truth of the matter is that we do not take in many refugees at all asian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001compared to other countries.  Canada has taken in 32,400 for example.  And this is out of 4.9 million Syrian refugees.

Of those that the United States has taken in, 72% are either women or children under the age of 14.

22868475614_e0f545173a_bBut, but, but the vetting, there is no vetting.   “Altogether, under the Clinton plan, you’d be admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East with no system to vet them…”

I’m glad you brought that up Donald.  The truth of the matter is that we have an extremely asian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001thorough vetting system for refugees, more thorough than any other in the world.   It takes on average 18 to 24 months for a refugee to go through this process.

It starts with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees interviewing and checking refugees and deciding which ones should be forwarded to the US as a potential refugee for the United States.  From there, the refugee has to pass numerous interviews from several agencies, their biometric data collected and checked against several security and law enforcement data bases, more interviews, and more checks.  During this process the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department,  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,  Department of State, and the National Counterterrorism Center check their identity and backgrounds against several databases.

The link provided below by Natasha Hall, whose job was to vet these refugees, is an interesting read and highly recommended.  Often those countries that many are claiming do not have enough documentation –  such as Iraq and Syria –  do have more than enough to properly check people out.  And, if there is not enough documentation on a particular candidate, then that person does not get through.

Further, there are medical evaluations done, and towards the end of the process, the refugees have to attend a Cultural Orientation to teach them about practices and customs here in the United States.  By the way, once in, they are not just let loose.  Instead, various different agencies whose purpose is to help the refugee settle in and find jobs meet them and guide them during this initial period.

zap

c07c45_61a2c43deb564d6fa3857650cbe3858f.jpg_srz_1903_1269_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzWe “are letting tens of thousands of people come in from Syria and nobody knows who these people are and a lot of those people are ISIS.” “We have no idea who we are letting in. You’ve seen what happened.”

 

Donald, a lie does not become truth just because it is repeated.  I have already shown you that we do know who we are letting into our country.  And, the truth is, that we have seenasian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001 what has happened by letting these Syrian refugees in.   We save lives, and give people who are suffering and afraid and lost a chance to create a new home.

And despite the claims that these refugees are a burden on our economy, they have proven to be a benefit.  As the PBS article linked to at the bottom notes, they add to the labor market and add needed skills.  As the US News article notes, also linked to at the bottom, while Cleveland spent $4.8 million dollars settling refugees into their area, they wound up creating an economic benefit of $48 million dollars through increased demand for goods and services and because refugees start up new businesses that hire people.

As for the danger they pose, so far there have been no fatal attacks by any Syrian refugee in the United States.  As the Atlantic article notes, also linked to at the bottom,  over the last 40 years the United States has accepted 3.25 million refugees.  Only 20 of them have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorist acts in the United States.  Further, only three Americans have been killed in attacks by refugees, and these were by Cuban refugees during the 1970’s.

Due to our already extreme vetting system, refugees  pose no more danger to you and to the citizens of the US than any other citizen.  In fact, most of the attacks carried out by Muslims in the United States have been by permanent residents or native born citizens who had become radicalized.

The truth is, instead of being afraid of the refugees, we should be welcoming them.  Instead of turning the United States into a Fortress of Solitude and Isolation, we should live up to our reputation of welcoming the weary and embrace our common humanity.  We should be showing the world that we have the courage and decency to act upon our empathy for those in need instead of allowing overwrought fear to cause us to spread hatred and rejection.

Ka pow

And the Truth Shall Keep Us Free!

To learn more both for personal satisfaction and in order to better spread the truth, check out these links.

On the demographics of the Syrian refugees,

From Migration Policy

http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/syrian-refugees-united-states

From the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

http://www.unhcr.org/en-us

http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

Good article about Syrian refugees by US News

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2016-12-19/countries-hosting-the-highest-proportion-of-syrian-refugees

More information about our refugee vetting system.

Here is the article by Natasha Hall, the former immigration official whose job was to vet refugees.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/02/01/refugees-are-already-vigorously-vetted-i-know-because-i-vetted-them/?utm_term=.304f0cda8b00

From the US Department of State, the graphic at the bottom of the article provides a very good guide to the process.

https://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/admissions/

The New York Times provides a simpler version of the same graphic I mentioned above about the vetting process.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/29/us/refugee-vetting-process.html

And here is an article by a refugee who went through the process.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/i-went-through-americas-extreme-vetting-214703

On the dangers of refugees. 

Here is an Atlantic article about the “dangers’ of refugees.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-ban-terrorism/514361/

And one from CNN on the same subject.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/29/us/refugee-terrorism-trnd/

On the economic impact of refugees,

An article from US News

https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/09/15/would-syrian-refugees-be-an-economic-boon-or-burden

And from PBS

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/whats-the-economic-impact-of-refugees-in-america/

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With so many political posts lately I had thought to make this one about religion.  After all, a blog titled Bad Atheist should be discussing religion every now and again.  However, instead, I wrote another political post.   Why?  Because, as the saying goes, shit happens.   And that shit is Trump.

This week Trump started confirming my worst fears about him.  While it is hard to pick and choose which of his executive actions was the worse, since he has provided us with a full, rich smorgasbord  of terrible decisions and actions to choose from, I am going to talk about his latest one.  The one where he stopped and banned all migrants and refugees from seven countries from entering the United States, even those who hold permanent resident status.   These countries were supposedly picked due to their failed nature, terrorist activity, and violence.

This sudden and drastic action reeks of so many things – fear, hatred, ignorance.   This action, and Trump’s and his supporters justification for it make it seem as if there is no vetting of these travelers, as if we just say “yep, come on in” without doing any sort of check.   Trump and crew seem to believe that we have avoided a terrorist attack from the citizens of these countries due solely to the grace of God.

The reality is that we do check them, each and every one.   Some more than others.  But none are given a free pass to just come and go without any scrutiny.  And you know what?  It seems to work.

Consider this fact – a true fact and not an alternate one that Trump and his followers are so fond of – none of the attacks carried out in the United States were done by a citizen of these seven countries.  Not one.

Consider this fact too, none of the attacks carried out in the United States were done by Syrian refugees.

Finally, consider this fact, and it is one that Trump’s defenders are making a big to do about; all of these seven countries were identified by the Obama administration as posing special risks for visa status.  In other words, the situation within those countries are dire and rife with terrorism and violence.

And yet, with just the procedures we have now, none of its citizens who have traveled here, go to school here, work here, and live here have committed any attacks against the hnan_and_lian_fadi_kassar_5758bdbd2e3fc99559b93f42d7bf4d69-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000United States here.    Despite being from high risk countries.

Seems like pretty good evidence that we are doing something right.  And that sudden, drastic measures such as those Trump engaged in, are not necessary or needed.  Examining those procedures and tweaking them, possibly so.  Full out stop – no.

An analogy from my own background might be useful here.  If I have a productive piece of equipment that, although not giving me zero defects, does do well and whose defects are well below our goals, I am not going to shut it down to examine it in order to find ways to improve it.  Instead I will let it run while I look at improvements, or even replacement.

Now, if the same machine were to malfunction and we had more defects than good product, or, even worse, someone were injured or killed, then yes, shut it down and fix it.

Our immigration system from these seven countries was working well, as evidenced by the fact that we had no terrorist attacks from anyone from these countries on our soil.  Agreed, some from those countries have engaged in terrorist acts in Europe, but Europe is not the United States and the dynamics and situations are different.  The situation in Europe is a cause to examine our system by using what is happening in Europe to see how it could be improved.  However, it is not cause to shut it all down to do so.  As I said, our immigration system for these seven countries so far has had zero defects.

Moving on, let me point out one other fact of interest.  Refugees are going to come from high risk countries with high levels of violence and terrorists.  If it were all nice and peaceful they would not have uprooted themselves from home and family and fled their country.  What this means it that in using the criteria of not allowing people in from high risk countries Trump effectively blocks entry to this country to those who need its safety the most.

So, what does this tell us about Trump and his administration?

That they are, tactfully speaking, not deep thinkers.   In fact, they are not thinkers at all – they do not analyze and try to understand the situation and system before making changes.  Instead, they are reactors.  They react and then try to justify, often with alternative facts and denial of actual facts.  Think of them as being the proverbial bull in a china shop, only with the ability to speak.

Next, they don’t care.  They do not care about the hardship that this imposes on people and families – on their livelihood, on their jobs, on their goals and plans.  They  don’t care that many of these people are in productive jobs in the United Sates and that their absence impacts American businesses. They don’t care that some of these people are engaging in important research that could have a potential impact on our medicines and healthcare.  They don’t care that their actions may even cost people their lives.  They don’t care.  They x_lon_syriaboy_170129-nbcnews-ux-1080-600reacted and damn , that felt good.  The rest – they don’t care.

Moving down the list of things we learned from Trump and his administration.  They don’t like to communicate. Nor do they like to coordinate.  A small group wrote this up without input from anyone.  The normal vetting of this executive order to ensure it does not violate laws and the Constitution, that it does what they want it to without unwanted complications and consequences, was not done.  But of course, Trump knows it all anyway and so doesn’t need to worry about that.  Which, come to think of it, is why he so often seems to live in a fantasy world.

This last trait, not vetting it (and isn’t that rather ironic), along with not communicating it in advance and planning on how to best implement it with those who are charged with actually implementing it contributed greatly to the chaos and uncertainty that followed.  That with, of course, the fact that this was a bad, very bad, hugely and bigly bad executive order.

A bad executive order done badly .    Trump and friends managed to get nothing right about this.

All for what?  National security?  To make out country safer?

This does not do that.  Not even a little bit.  In fact, it does the opposite.  It provides evidence for the radicals claim that the US is waging war on Islam and Muslims.  That our words about freedom of religion are nothing more than hollow hypocrisy.  Trump and company’s actions have the potential to increase the effectiveness of the terrorist’s recruitments efforts.

I know, I know.  Many of those supporters of Trump would pooh pooh my claims that Trump’s actions here actually help the terrorists and radicals rather than hurt them.  This despite the fact that the reasoning is sound and is supported by actual events.

There are currently several  Jihadist groups who are hailing Trump’s piece of ant-terrorist action.  One even said that Trump was “the best caller to Islam”. Why?  Because it shows that what the terrorists and radicals have been saying about the United States, that it is at war with Islam and has no true freedom of religion, are true.  It turns what had been their lies into truth.

Or consider the citizens in Iraq.  We, the United States, are working with them to defeat ISIS.  But we won’t let them in?  What message does that send – hello, we think you make fine cannon fodder but don’t really want to have anything else to do with you. Other than help you become good cannon fodder.

Even worse, the message this executive order sends to the American Muslim community is that the United States does not care about the ideals of religious freedom.  That Muslims are second class at best.  Especially when they consider that now Christians will get preferential treatment over all other refugees.

Which brings us to another question being asked – is this a ban on Muslims?  Trump did call for such a ban during his campaign.  Add to that former New York City mayor Giuliani stating during a Fox interview on Saturday that Trump had tasked him with finding some legal way to make a ban on Muslims happen.  Then add to the pot Trump’s order giving Christians priority.

While this is not conclusive, there is enough here to cause extremely justified suspicion that it is indeed a ban based on religious belief.  A ban on Muslims disguised… rather like how laws to discourage black voting back in the good old days were disguised as literacy tests.  And if somehow it is not, then it gives every appearance of being such with all the accompanying issues and problems that such a ban would create.  Including providing aid and comfort to the terrorists.

Not good

syria_prosfyges

Moving to another one of the interesting questions being asked – why these seven countries?  Yes, President Obama had them on a list.  But, it was not for the sort of actions Trump is engaging in.   Since Trump is busily doing everything he can to undo what President Obama has done, then why not add countries who have actually had some of their citizens attack us on our own soil?   Why not add Egypt and Saudi Arabia to the list?  Or Turkey?

Hmmm, let’s see.  Trump has significant business interests in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey.  He has none in Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

While not conclusive, it is suspicious.  Add to that the fact that he continues to refuse to release his tax returns and divest himself of his business holdings, or even put them in a blind trust, and I think we have a grand cause to investigate.  Is Trump trying to benefit, or at the very least, trying to protect, his business interests through the office of the Presidency without consideration on whether that is good for the United States or not.

Finally, despite all of this, the facts and the reasons, the protests and the pain it is causing to good people, I see many of his supporters still trying to justify this order and support these actions.  In reading some of the articles and in my discussions with them, some do it out of hatred of Muslims and Islam.  To those people I can only say go to hell cause we are not going to let you create one here in the United States.

Others though are doing so out of fear and ignorance.  To them I say, heal yourselves.  While your intentions may be good, ignorance and fear turn even the best of intentions into terrible actions.  They are the bricks used to line that road to hell.

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Finally, a short blog.  At least, shorter than the other two.

First and foremost:

dont-panic

Next:

2309

 

Now, big broad dramatic actions, while nice, are not necessary and are not what is going to turn things around.  It will be the actions of millions of people working on mundane and often boring tasks that will turn things around.  It will be the actions of millions of people donating time and money to organizations that work to protect our rights, our economy, our schools, our environment, our nation that will turn things around.  It will be us, the majority, who will turn things around.

National groups are nice, but look local too.  The Republican conservatives who support Trump control too many states, and that needs to change.

Write letters to your local paper, to your elected representatives at all levels from city to state to national.  This means be aware of what is happening both nationally and locally.  Join in local organizations that are working to improve the environment, poverty, homelessness, civil rights, and all of those things that are most in danger now.   If you are up to it, get involved in local boards on different subjects and problems.  Volunteer to testify on issues that most concern you – locally in city councils to testifying before state committees.

 

For myself, I have never registered as a Democrat or Republican, preferring to be considered an Independent.  And early one there were Republicans who I could and did vote for.  However, those have vanished over the years as the Republican Party became more radically conservative and radically right religious.

So, for the first time in my life, I will become a registered Democrat and work with the local party here in Beaumont.  There are other things I will be doing, and there are a great many groups and organizations that you could become a part of.  Here is just a short and not even remotely exhaustive list of them linked to their websites, in no particular order.

 

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Common Cause

National Center for Science Education

Texas Freedom Network –  for those living in Texas, this is a group I have worked with before and will become more active in now.

Planned Parenthood

Sierra Club

Friends of the Earth

National Organization for Women

League of Women Voters

American Civil Liberties Union

Southern Poverty Law Center

Center for Responsive Politics

Campaign Zero

Black Lives Matter

 

This is not a complete listing by far.  It barely scratches the surface in fact and doesn’t even cover all the areas of concern.  Look and find something that fits your interests and greatest concerns.

And, perhaps most important of all, remember we are all Americans.  We are all human.  Look at your neighbor, at your town, your city, your county, your parish, your state, and your country, and be aware of whatever threatens your neighbors well being whether it involves civil liberties and equal treatment under the law, the environment in which we all share, education or any of host of other areas that look like they may well be under attack during a Trump Presidency.

Because of this, of our shared humanity and identity as Americans, seriously consider even going beyond if things go badly.  If the Trump administration starts a registry for Muslims, register as Muslims.  If President Trump voids the Dream Act, write and call and protest – demonstrations and marches in solidarity with those who are most affected.  If you are white, go ahead and march in a Black Lives Matter protest.  If you are black, then demonstrate in support of that 18 year old American college student brought here from Mexico when she was 3 but being deported now, if you are an Atheist march with and in support of the American Muslims and the refugees.  Let your voice and presence be heard and seen in as many ways as possible.

Be aware and act.   And vote.  Vote in local elections.  In state elections.  And in National ones.  And, hopefully, we can blunt the damage that I fear is coming.  And in 2016 start to not only blunt but turn it around.

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