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Many conservatives, especially the more conservative and extremists among conservatives, like to think of themselves as lone wolves.  They decry the “nanny state” and proudly state that they can stand on their own feet.  Often they claim that they do not need government or society or civilization since they know how to survive on their own.

So, I thought it might be enlightening to find out about lone wolves in real life, and then see if that sheds light on the more extreme claims of these conservatives.

A lone wolf in the American mythos is a noble beast, strong and capable of forging without others. However, the reality of the lone wolf is substantially different than the myth – just as is these conservatives’ claims.

Wolves are pack animals, social animals. It is part of how they survive. A lone wolf is typically one that is pushed out by the dominant wolves of the pack. Usually they are young, just reaching sexual maturity between 1 and 2 years of age. Often they are the runts, the sick ones.  Sometimes they are older wolves who can no longer fend with the pack and keep up with it.

Either way, this is not usually some noble decision on the part of the individual wolf, but a role forced upon it.  Not quite the image these conservatives have in mind.

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Further, these lone wolves usually have a hard time surviving without the help and protection of the pack. They typically forage for hundreds of miles trying to avoid the other wolf packs’ territory, or try to haunt the edges of those boundaries. They limit their howling so as not to attract the attention of the wolf packs.

Again, not quite the image these conservatives have in mind.

Lone wolves have more difficulties in finding and getting food, especially the larger game that the pack usually attacks together, a pack that is no longer his or hers. They have to move carefully for fear of attack. And, they have a harder time finding a mate. And, even when they do, isolated from the pack as they are, their lives are usually shorter and harder.

Which is why, sometimes, these lone wolves manage to find themselves a new pack to become a part of.

I find this difference between the myth and the reality of the lone wolf of interest because it so closely parallels the failure in thinking of these conservatives who espouse this ideal.  This idea that they can do it alone and stand tall and brave, and do not need government nor society nor civilization.

Of course, doing so involves driving off in a vehicle whose reliability and safety has been created by government and built by a factory, which involves a civilization.  That’s not even considering the gasoline used to fuel the vehicle, made by companies subsidized by government and whose interests are protected by government.  And the business that creates this gas does so through technology, much of which was created by government funded science, and all of it dependent up on civilization.

So, no driving off in the sunset then for these people if they truly wish to stand on their own.

And no walking on the roads or sidewalks since they too are the work of governments both large and small.

No groceries either, no food whose safety is protected by government agencies, and who had a role in the farmers growing of the food and the safe transport of their efforts to grocery stores across the US.  Hunt and fish and grow your own lone wolf.  Even in the depths of winter.

Oh, the gun that you are using – give it up. It was produced by factories, as was the gunpowder used in the bullets, and the bullets themselves.  Factories are civilization.  The ability of factories to safely produce this product is the courtesy of government. As is the safe transportation of all goods across state lines and from overseas to here.  Take up knapping if you really want to stand on your own without the help of society or civilization.

Oh again,, and speaking of safety, give up thinking you are a fierce lone wolf who can take on all people with the thirty or forty guns strapped to your waist and back and the dozen of knives strapped to your legs. Since you are now a lone wolf society no longer protects you and your family. Neither law enforcement nor the judicial system.

Yes, you may well be able take out a few. But consider this, once the word goes out that even if the police were standing next to you, they would do nothing to stop them from attacking, from raping, from robbing you and yours. No court will find them guilty, no jail time short or long for them.  Anyone can do anything to you and your family with no consequences to them from society and government, cause, you are, after all, the Lone Wolf.

And we haven’t even discussed medicine, and doctors.

Now this lovely myth no longer sounds so lovely.

The reality is that our species survived due to two things – our high intelligence, and our high socialization. Without either our species fails. We can argue about the best way to create a society, but to think that we can survive and thrive on our own without society is ignorant at best. And when used to promote policies, it a dangerous ignorance impacting all of society and our survival.

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Often America is called a melting pot, a place where people from different countries come with different languages, beliefs, and customs and are then made into one people.

However I don’t see this.   And don’t think I would care for what I saw if I did see it.

I don’t see this because in traveling through my home city, through America, in reading my local paper and listening to those friends and acquaintances at work, I can see that we are not melted into one people.

Just within my own hometown city I see many different communities – Latin American, black, Asian, Muslim, Hindu, Irish, German, and more.  All with their own celebrated customs and foods, dress and religion.  Many with voices leavened with accents, pronunciations, and words from their ancestral country.

I see people with short hair, long hair, no hair; people in jeans and in suits, in saris and burqas, in hijabs and short skirts, in robes and shorts. I hear people speaking in different languages, eating different foods, going to different houses of worship, or none at all. I hear people expressing different thoughts and views.

A melting pot implies that these differences are melted out and that we are all then just one homogenous people.  But we are not.  Instead we are a diverse people.

 

And that is good.

 

It is our diversity that gives us new ideas and new ways of doing things.  It promotes innovation and an ability to adapt to a changing world.  It provides us with a pool in which we can dip in order to better understand the world.

It is our diversity that makes us interesting.  Different foods, different and wonderful customs and ways of life.  New words to use. Different ways of thinking and viewing the world.

Instead of a melting pot we are an orchestra.  And the music we create together, that is America.

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Manchester International Roots Orchestra

Strings over here, woodwinds there, and drums over to the right.  Lets add the sitars next to the harps, the mandolins and banjoes next to the piccolos.  And the hurdy gurdy accordion next to the piano.  The Kora and Kalimba playing next to the tin whistle and kuuchir.

And let each play the music that is dear to them.  Let each play what they believe it means to be an American.

Oh, there is a framework for the music, a score if you will.   It is the Constitution and a belief in freedom and liberty. And of human rights. But the score is a loose and largely improvised one, one that is made to promote and protect diversity, not uniformity.

Of course the ideal would be that together we create a music that is beautiful and harmonious.  The truth is though that often there are discordances in the music – tones and notes out of key with others.  Differing rhythms and scales. During the worse of times each instrument, each player seems to be playing his own tune without regards to the others, and a cacophony is created instead of music.

But out of that cacophony, eventually,  a new music is created, a new variation on a theme of America.

 

 

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This blog has been lurking around in the corners of my mind for quite a while now, ever since July 1, 2016 when I passed a church bulletin calling for all to come to its celebration of God and America. This sign bothered me for several reasons.  Of course, me being an atheist will probably cause most to figure out some of the reasons it bothered me. But only some. As for the rest, well, the rest I thought would be surprising and I hope interesting.

It bothered me because not only is such a mingling of church and state bad for the state, but it is just as bad for the church.

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Let me first say that this church, and the many others that I saw with a similar message, have every right to do so.  However, not everything that is legal and that people have a right to do is also wise. And in this blog I plan to discuss why it is not wise for a religion, in this case Christianity, to mix religion and nationalism. To do so, I will speak as if I were a much younger me, young enough to still be a Christian.

Let’s start with a question – what is the purpose of the Church?

Answer, to spread the good news of the Gospels, the news about Jesus and his redemptive death and resurrection.  The church was also meant to provide support and teaching to fellow Christians, and to those who come to its doors seeking. And the church was also meant to serve as a moral guide and conscience of people, of societies, of nations, of the world.

While spreading the news of the Gospels might be easier done when part of a government, as part of the inside group, it does so at the expense of corrupting the church, and of causing great pain and suffering to others outside of that church.

A church is not the state.  Nor is it meant to be.  It is not meant to be a supporter of the state, an auxiliary of the state, a co-ruler with the state.

A church is meant to be an outsider in regards to government.

Christianity was born an outsider.

Jesus was born an outsider with Mary being pregnant before being married

Jesus was born into and preached to a people who were outsiders, the Jews.

Jesus served the outsiders among the Jews; tax collectors, the lepers, the unclean, the sinners.

An outsider preaching to a people of outsiders, that is part of what gave Jesus’ message its power.   His message was not to the rich and powerful, although it was theirs for the taking should they choose to listen.  His message was to the poor and powerless.

His message was not how to create a civil society, how to govern a country or state or city.  His message was about God’s love for humanity and how best to receive and spread that love.  It was a message of hope, not political positions.

Jesus, as the outsider, accepted all, but did not change his message, his standards, nor himself for any.

Jesus changed the world.

From its birth to its early years, Christianity was a religion off outsiders looking in.  Often ridiculed, sometimes persecuted, they nonetheless still for the most part, held firm to their standards and beliefs.  And they grew.

And then came the great split. No, not the Catholic and the Protestant split. Nor the disagreements among Christians, which had been present since the beginning as can be seen in the arguments about the nature of Jesus and his relation to God.

No, the great split I am referring to concerns the split from being outsiders to becoming insiders. The conversion of Emperor Constantine transformed Christianity from being a religion of outsiders to being a religion of the insiders, of those with power and money. Or rather, one particular set of Christians became insiders.  As part of the bargain, with Constantine, they had to have a uniform set of beliefs.  So, one set modified some of their beliefs and won, the others became persecuted and died, along with the pagans.

As Paul Johnson wrote in his A History of Christianity:

How could the Christian Church, apparently quite willingly, accommodate this weird megalomaniac in its theocratic system? Was there a conscious bargain? Which side benefited most from this unseemly marriage between Church and State? Or, to put it another way, did the empire surrender to Christianity, or did Christianity prostitute itself to the empire?”

Now, instead of criticizing the government and society, Christianity and the government tyndale-martyrdom-resized-600were one, and actions against the government were also actions against Christianity, and actions against Christianity were also actions against the government.  Given this, how could most Christians criticize any government action, no matter how bad or how flawed?  How could any government allow any deviation from the established religion, no matter how well argued and supported?

They couldn’t

An attack on the religion supported by the state was an attack on the state, and an attack vc006367on the state was an attack on the religion.  Such was the root cause of most of the religious violence and persecution throughout the years; the Inquisition, the forced conversion and persecution of the Jews, Catholics vs. Protestants, Protestants vs. Puritans, Puritans vs. Quakers, and on and on and on.

In addition to the violence against people, was the violence done to beliefs and morals as Churches assumed stately power. Compromises with principles and beliefs were common, as were the flat out ignoring of such principles and beliefs.

This violence against people and against the teachings of Jesus and of God is probably why the first person to propose an absolute and total separation of church and state was a Puritan theologian and the founder of the Baptist Church in America – Roger Williams. And he lived up to that ideal when he founded the state of Rhode Island.

The United States was the first secular government in the world. Something that the writers of the Constitution did intentionally, and with great forethought.

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Their foresight and awareness of history is something lacking today by too many Americans, and is evidenced by so much more than just the signs I saw that inspired this blog.  This lack of forethought and awareness is seen whenever anyone:

  • Claims that the United States is a Christian country. And then advocates for laws to make it so – prayer in the schools, recognition of the Bible as the state book, etc.
  • Work to limit or take away the rights of those who are not the right sort of Christian or believer.
  • Tells Muslims to go home, even those who were born in the United States. And then tries to make it so.
  • Whenever permits are denied to religious groups due to their beliefs.
  • When President H. Bush commented that atheist could not be patriots due to not believing in God.
  • When Trump sends out a White House bulletin in which he states “America is a Nation of believers. As long as we have faith in each other, and trust in God, we will succeed!”

We, as a nation, as a people, have never been very good at remembering. But, today, that

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lack of memory, of awareness, seems stronger than ever.  The evangelical support forTrump shows how far too many Christians and Christian organizations, are willing to go in dealing with the devil in order to gain political power.  And how many of their values and morals, and how much of the teachings of Jesus they are willing to ignore or give up in their quest for political power.

 

I think that they need to go back and read the history of religion, and of what happens when it becomes part of the state.  Some Madison, or Jefferson, or several others would be good.  But, perhaps, it would be best if they rediscovered the writings and thought of Roger Williams.  Before they manage to harm not just people, but the Constitution that will allow such harm to, eventually, be redressed.

 

 

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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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While Obama was President I signed up to receive the White House Memo, a daily emailed news bulletin on items about President Obama’s activities and stances. I still get it now that Trump is President.  The other day, there was this little bit in it.

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“Today’s announcement of his “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce” returns the Federal government to its primary purpose, to provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty. “

So, Trump considers one of the primary purposes of the Federal government is to “promote the general Welfare”.

Wow, can’t tell that by his actions.

However, I am going to take him at his words and accept that he believes that what he is promoting is for the general welfare of the American people.  Hey, what can I say, I am just that sort of guy.

So, being that sort of guy, what does taking Trump at his word tell me about Trump.

Well, looking just at his budget proposals, it tells me that Trump’s idea of promoting the general welfare of the American people consists of just one primary metric – money.  What is worse, it is a short sighted, immediate measure of money.  He has no concept of investing in the future, or of what the future costs of an action might be.  He only looks at the monetary bottom line right now, right at this moment in time.

Wow, no wonder he had so many bankruptcies.

Looking at his budget, you see several examples of this sort of thinking (and during his campaign it cropped up constantly, such as in his initial evaluation of NATO – although now, thanks to Trump of course, NATO has been made current and relevant).   For example, his budget regarding medical research and public health.  Trump proposes cutting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget by 20%.  Further, the Obamacare repeal, which Trump has taken up again, would reduce the CDC by 12%, and his budget rejiggers how it’s money is used in a way that will lower the amount again.

These organizations deal with such national issues as bioterrorism and large disease outbreaks. They also though deal with a host of both national local health issues in communities across the US, from diabetes and heart disease, to cancer and arthritis.

Diabetes, to mention just one area, is expected to affect about 1/3 of the US population by 2050.  That will be a huge cost on people and on businesses.  Cutting the research for ways to prevent and better treat or cure diabetes will save us money now, but cost us much much more in a few years.

Or maybe not even within a few years.  According to a 2016 study the NIH alone sends funds to over 2,600 institutions within the United States.  This creates more than 313,000 full and part time jobs.

So, what do you think is going to happen to those jobs if these organizations lose a significant piece of their funding?  Even worse, this money is used to buy equipment and supplies from various businesses.  What do you imagine is going to happen to jobs in those industries if these cuts go through?

How does Trump propose to make up those lost jobs?

How does Trump overlook that these programs are a direct benefit to the welfare of the American people?

Part of the answer is that Trump is not concerned with any impact other than money being spent right now.  What cutting these items will mean in the future, even near term future, is no concern of his.  What these cuts will to the lives  and health of millions of Americans is of no concern to him.  The money right now is all that he focuses on.

The same holds true with is actions in regards to our environment and to climate change.  A new study came out about the negative health effects that climate change is having on us in the United States already.  And this doesn’t even address the problems cities and coastal communities are having with the rising sea levels caused largely by climate change.

The same sort of thinking is seen throughout his budget and his actions.  Yes, there can be cuts, and keeping jobs should not be the primary interest in determining budgets.  But it should be a significant concern.  And there needs to be carefully thought out justifications for those cuts and an appreciation of the ramifications of those cuts, all of the ramifications and not just the money.  However, thinking is not one of Trump’s strengths.

But, there is more .

It is important to remember that the United States consists of over 318 million people.  So, which group of American’s welfare are we going to take care of?  With 318 million people, welfares are going to conflict.  Whose welfare a President chooses and how they go about it says a great deal about that President.

So, what about Trump then?  Whose welfares does he look after first?  And how does he fit priority with all the other welfares in this nation of ours?

I think Trump’s budget proposals start to give an idea of that.  But, just to build up the suspense, I am going to allow a little white space to accumulate while you think and ponder on this question – whose welfare is Trump going to look after above all others.  A hint:  it involves money…again.

OK, enough white space. In case you haven’t guessed, consider Trump’s executive order  halting the implementation of a rule that requires financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients.  Currently financial advisers do not have to, and often do not, act in the best interests of their clients.  Instead they often promote investments that will help them out whether those investments are best for their client or not.

So, it seems that Trump is most concerned with the welfare not of the common people, not the everyday citizen, not with those struggling, but, instead, with big business and investors.  The money people.

A look at his cabinet also reveals this to be true. This impression is further supported by a look at his cabinet and advisors.  With a few exceptions, business people with ties to the biggest businesses, and the wealthy seem to be his primary consideration in picking them, not their qualifications and knowledge of whatever they have been put in charge of, or of government and of how it works.

So, yes, Trump is concerned with the welfare of the American people.  But, his view of what the welfare consists of is a limited view, a pinched view focused solely on money and in the moment. It is almost a Scroogian sort of view, if Scrooge (pre-spirits of course) had also been an egotistical narcissist.  It is also a concern mainly with that population of the American people who are big businesses and who have money.

The rest of us can just go get screwed, which is what is happening right now,

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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.

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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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