Losing Our Republic

Democracy will die slowly. We still feel relatively free and that illusion will persist day after day until one day the illusion will evaporate into a dismal reality. Our Republic is dying and it will one day dawn on Americans that they have lost something very great. They have lost a limb, a lung, a heart, a leg.

We are losing our freedom to speak everyday but in such a freaky way, such a 1984-doublespeak way, that it continues to seem that we can still say what we wish. But the truth is that regardless of what truth we think we are expressing, someone holds a different truth ‘to be self-evident’. If all speech is cancelled out by another’s speech, there actually is no free speech, just babbling. Government doesn’t have to use muscle to shut down a newspaper.  It doesn’t have to turn off news channels that defy it. We will kill our own media by starving it. One of the cornerstones of a dictatorship (or a monarchy) will have been accomplished without giving those who have lost something any one key event to point to as the exact moment when the freedom to speak was trumped by the fact that there is no longer any such thing as a lie. Twisting our brains into thought pretzels, gaslighting, playing games with logic, these are the tricks that nullify free speech.

Speech is so key to a democracy that losing this right will basically mean that our founders tried but did not protect us well enough. Even as the ability to make a cogent argument that will resonate disappears our Second Amendment rights to carry a gun expand. It is fairly easy to see that the cocksure and primed-for-violence GOP base might have difficulty sticking to using words, however killer their name-calling might be, and decide that a few people need their brains blown out. Trump’s base are far better at activism than the rest of us are. They are absolutely loyal and cannot be swayed by any logic at all. The rest of us are wrong and that is that. These people feel that they have always been the straightest and truest Americans and they have been shafted (although most of them are quite comfortably middle class) and Donald is their deliverer. They fight so viciously for their absolute right to own any and every gun they wish to own and there is a frightening edge to their insistence. If anyone could be pushed over the edge it is those who Trump has empowered, however unreal that power actually is. They are empowered to herd the rest of us into camps or split the nation into factions and those of us who are not Trumpers, it seems, will just look on in astonishment because we are not yet radical enough to feel like an avenging army – and setting our government back to rights will be misinterpreted as a liberal takeover of America.

Trump’s base, by enabling an all-powerful Chief Executive, are actually destroying the very freedoms they think they are defending. They accuse those of us who cannot pledge our loyalty to Trump of being the ones who are corrupt and they honestly believe that all people are so tainted that our government is irredeemable. They do not realize that they have been turned into instruments of the corporations and the wealthy. They were betrayed by their corporatist overlords and yet they defend Capitalism as the all-American institution that saves them from (horror of horrors) socialism or communism. Since socialism and communism have now been defined as using any tax dollars on social programs or benefits, the capitalists have achieved their main end of turning Americans loose to sink or swim in a transitional age, which many are unequipped to stay afloat in. Small government means that the corporations have totally won; we will subsidize businesses that no longer feel they hold any stake in America because their families live elsewhere. Trumpers believe they are treasured by their tainted leader; they are actually the tools of their own destruction.

When we emerged (were ejected) from the Industrial Age we lost our footing. The world became less predictable, less comprehensible. The belief that if you took care of your employer they would take care of you disappeared, poof, when manufacturing moved South and then basically out of America. The information age is too abstract to offer stability for the entire nation. Stuff happens in clouds, for heaven’s sake. Most of us are not prepared to see what happens in the digital world as real. It is all toys, games, virtual reality. Most of us cannot make a living in this digital world. We are set adrift. Education becomes the key to holding a good job. And yet educated people are denigrated. If you don’t know and understand a technology that requires certain engineering types of skills you are limited to service jobs – long hours with low pay, or having to have several ‘gigs’ to make ends meet. Since you are not a billionaire you have no importance in the world that you find yourself in. Jobs in alternative energies could provide the kinds of jobs people used to seek, jobs that offer stability, but those corporations do not see a way to make their profits without continuing to use fossil fuels. So our Trumpers fight for fossil fuels and they do not accept that alternative energies might give them back their footing, take them out of the clouds and ground them again. Oddly enough, speaking of being grounded, if space travel were to become a viable field for business, good jobs along the whole spectrum from physical to mental would multiply and “ground” us once again.

It just does not look like our American democracy/republic will survive this unsettling transitional age as we flounder about to save our planet from overpopulation, from climate change, from social and political uncertainty. We are in the midst of a massive anxiety attack which may turn out to be overblown, but could also be totally justified by what is going on around us. Some of us want a father figure, a tough-love father figure, who insists that he will use economic prosperity and geographic isolation, the importation of geniuses, and the end of social support systems to keep America, if not the American people, afloat. Our Trumpers, our beloved sisters, brothers, neighbors do not realize that idolizing one man, turning him into your savior, is the way you lose everything. Now we will not only have lost our lifestyle security, we will have lost our national security. We will be subjects, serfs, and I can even foresee a day that anyone who cannot be productive will be expendable. But I cannot convince those who disagree that this is where we are headed.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Take Back Our Republic

Immigration Policy Crisis in America

 

 

No doubt there are many Americans who resent recent waves of immigrants because they worry that they will begin to feel like strangers in their own land. Since immigrant groups tend to form communities of folks from their parent nations, since they have struggles that they hold in common such as finding employment, learning a new language and new customs, there is comfort in struggling together. Assimilation always takes time. The problems immigrants must deal with in a new land are multiplied when they are in that land without having gone through the proper channels. They may only be able to find employment with fellow immigrants who came before them, or employment that pays under the table and offers no security or benefits. They need to keep a low profile so that they will not draw attention to their status. These factors and more (economic and geographic) tend to keep new immigrants separated from middle class white Americans. Since new immigrants do not get to mingle with very many suburban Americans the groups fear each other and put up defenses against what they may feel are existential threats.

This has been true as each new wave of immigrants settled in America driven by challenges in their home nations to find more economic security or freedom. People did not welcome Chinese immigrants or Japanese immigrants, Italian, German, or Irish immigrants. And there was never a question that these folks would change the language or the “complexion” of America. Recent waves from Spanish-speaking countries and tropical nations with folks with more pigmentation are forcing Americans to face the fact that we might have to learn more than one language and accept an American that looks more like the melting pot that we have always claimed to be.

There is another aspect to this and it is that these “new” arrivals are competing with already established Americans for jobs opportunities that are more limited than in the past and that people believe the government is giving out benefits to these folks paid for by our tax dollars. Even worse, Americans feel that people who are here without permissions are also partaking of benefits even as our government is threatening to cut or do away with them altogether. People worry that the pie is being cut into too many pieces and people are standing in line who have no right to a piece of the pie at all.

But coexisting with what we do and say and feel are the ideals we treasure as Americans and that we praise ourselves with when we are feeling patriotic. We still hold to the plaque on the Statue of Liberty which classifies us among the most humanitarian of nations, with a compassionate heart for the suffering people living in nations that seem not as blessed as ours (the war torn, the poor, the starving, those struck by disaster).

We cannot be both champions of human rights and white nationalists. I hear people trying to disown the words on the Liberty plaque. I hear people applauding a campaign to roust immigrants who have been here for years and send them home to uncertain fates. I feel the parallel to the Nazi round-up of Jewish people which we now find abhorrent. We always told ourselves in our American hearts that we could never hunt people down and take away their belongings and eventually their lives. But it is happening right now all over America in the early morning hours when ICE agents raid 7-Elevens to haul away people working without documents or in the late-night hours when they arrest someone out for a walk and some father just never comes home to his family who wait and suffer.

I know that the world is chaotic. I know that there are those who like to terrorize us and plant fear in our hearts. I know that right now most of these terrorists happen to be from Muslim or Middle Eastern nations, nations that have been destabilized by us and our allies, nations where ancient animosities have been set free to be pursued again in modern times. This sets the stakes of immigration even higher. A nation has a right to have rules about immigration.

We have had terrorist attacks on American soil, starting with the horrific attacks on 9/11. I understand the urge to safety, to expel recent immigrants without documents from our shores, to build walls. I see Europe paying a price for their humanitarian decisions, although not as all-encompassing as we might fear. Are we as brave as the Brits or the French, are we as defiant in the face of mayhem? I believe we are? Europe is not threatening to build a wall or send people back to war and death.

Our President is feeding our fears. He is feeding our resentments. He is promising to keep us safe from terrorists and people of color and bring to our shores only the best and the brightest people provided they are Europeans (why would these folks want to come here?). What will the American people settle for? Do they insist on sending everyone who entered without documentation or overstayed their documents home? Do they insist on the wall? Do they insist on sending home the children who came here in all innocence and to whom promises were made? Do we send home people we promised to give Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to (Salvadorans, Haitians)? How do we rip them from their lives now? They are embedded in our culture. They have businesses, jobs, children in schools. Do we really say “out, get out”? How do we square this with our consciences? How do we square this with our American ideals? Will the damage to the world’s image of America be temporary or permanent? How will we like being a global social pariah? Isn’t this kind of safety and identity protection cowardice? Won’t we eventually pay a price? Isn’t it better to throw our future in with the rest of the planet instead of trying to wall ourselves off in a world full of planes and drones?

Here is how this thing looks on a very personal level. This is the contents of an email I received from the local resistance which puts a face on the President’s immigration pogrom.

 

“Community Outreach & Defense urgently calls your attention, this week, to the work of the coalition’s Rapid Response Committee. The Rapid Response Committee exists to immediately respond to immigrant detentions in the city of Syracuse and to provide support to those who are facing possible deportation. Just days before Christmas, on December 21st, 2017, the Rapid Response Team responded to the detention of Workers’ Center member Hector Navarro, husband of Arely Tomas. Later that day, the family’s ongoing fundraising page was updated with the following statement:

“Today on December 21st, Arely’s husband Hector–father to their 3 kids, a worker, and longtime community member, was detained by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) outside of their home after taking Arely, to work. He was taken to and detained at the immigration office at 401 S. Salina Street (which is right behind Katko’s downtown office) this morning. The Syracuse Rapid Response Team and the Workers’ Center of CNY held a protest outside demanding Hector be freed and to speak out against this grave injustice. It is completely and utterly unconscionable that this barbaric and unjust immigration system will be keeping Hector away from his wife, Arely, and their three kids on Christmas. This is a double blow as their family has already been rocked by Arely’s fight against deportation as well. We have increased the fundraising goal as Hector and Arely’s family will now need funds to help cover rent, utilities, and other necessities for their family. Please show your solidarity with their family in this truly harrowing time.”

Hector is currently being held in immigrant detention in Batavia, NY.

There are three ways the broader coalition can amplify the work of Rapid Response and directly support Hector Navarro:

1) Please consider contributing to Arely’s fundraiser to pay for legal fees for herself and Hector, as well as for basic living expenses. You can donate to the fundraiser by clicking here. It is also possible to pay by cash or check made out to Arely Tomas, which can be dropped off at or mailed to WCCNY/Hector and Arely Fund at 2013 East Genesee St. Syracuse NY 13210.

2) At this Sunday’s full Coalition meeting, a letter will be circulating for folks to sign in support of Hector. For those of you who do not know Hector personally, here is some more background information about him and his family, written by Rebecca Fuentes, director of the Workers Center of Central New York:

“Hector has been a source of strength and support for Arely on her own immigration case. Both of them have complied with everything ICE has asked of them. Hector case was administratively closed on January 2017, so his detention was totally unexpected and devastating for their three US children who live in Syracuse and their two children who are in Guatemala. Hector has volunteer his time at the Workers Center in events like our yearly soccer tournament and workers rights trainings. He likes to play with his children and spend time with his family as much as possible. Hector does not have any criminal record. He has lived in Syracuse since 2009.”

3) If you know Hector or Arely personally, we are encouraging individuals to write your own letters of support if you have not done so already. We are trying to collect as many letters as possible so that we can show the judge that Hector is a cherished and vital member of our community and his family.

As a reminder, a key value shared by the members of the Community Outreach & Defense Committee is that those most directly affected by an issue are the ones that know the best solutions to that issue, and for that reason we must center and uplift the work done by immigrants to defend themselves and their community. The Rapid Response Team works closely with the Workers Center of Central New York and makes efforts to remain accountable to immigrant leadership. If you are interested in getting involved in the Rapid Response Committee, please email me at dragonettij2@gmail.com. We need all the help we can get.”  (Since this email asks for support I assume it is acceptable to repost it.)

 

What I don’t understand and can’t understand is why we must disrupt people who have already found a productive place in America, regardless of how they got here. This is a case where the treatment is worse than the disease. We’re doing this because some Americans are ticked off and jealous and because our white supremacist President wants to turn America lily white again, which is apparently what Make America Great Again (MAGA) means. We’re doing this even though 2/3 of Americans are vehemently opposed to it and ethically embarrassed by it. We’re doing this although it undoes all the shock and horror we felt when our troops liberated the concentration camps after World War II and we could no longer deny the genocide, the pure inhuman carnage.

If we cower behind a wall and empty our country of these people who have become our neighbors, or our employees, or our colleagues, and fellow students will we lose our collective soul?

This is a view from the cheap seats.