Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Clothes Don't Always Define You

So an interesting juxtaposition occurred on my social media feed recent.  First a story about Emma Watson and a photo essay in Vanity Fair.   One of the photos, you can see a great deal of the flesh the makes up her breasts.  And if you look very hard and you imagine a little, maybe, just maybe, you will see her nipple.  This has led some to question her feminism, with the idea that the she is flaunting her sexuality for attention and also playing a Disney princess in an upcoming movie.  The next item is that from a right wing writer who shows a picture of a burkha, calls if a hijab, and talks about the oppression of women in Muslim countries and that those women can't come here to US in those outfits which is the point of the meme, to attack Muslim immigration.  

So in the course of two screen inches I see people complaining about how women are dressed and why they are wrong.  Well that of course got me to thinking about what that says about women's bodies.

For Watson the series of photos, very artful and stunning, included one in a business suit complete with pocket square and another in a Victorian neck ruff, among many others.  The copy talked about her successful way of going from child-star, to UN ambassador, to quiet activist.  It starts with her leaving books of poetry around a subway station as she is a huge advocate of reading literature.  To question Watson's feminism seems to cut out one slice of the essay and make it disqualifying.  Why do some feel the feminists can't also be sexual?  Why is it that so many fear strong women who assert a sexual image as well as one of autonomy and choice.  The very nature of feminism is choice and should make room for those who choose the see-through top and those who choose the ruff.  For me feminism always appeared to be the idea that women should be in-charge of their own destiny, be it how they dress, the work they do, or who they share their body with.  The fight of the feminist was against any establishment that tried to stop them in engaging the the choice that suited them  I am a man so maybe I am walking out on thin ice, but I would think, having read the Vanity Fair piece, that anyone critical of Watson's choice doesn't understand the art of the shoot nor the way she was able to transform the character in the story to dovetail with her personal sensibilities and ideals.  The concern about her exposure of anatomy is silly.

As for the burkha poster, well one must consider the source.  But there is something to work with here.  But I have to say if oppression of women is the issue you have with Islamic countries then we are on the same side.  Only I see the problem differently.  Wearing a burkha or hijab by choice is not oppression.  It could be that it is all you ever knew, or it could be that you like the idea of wearing something that is a symbol of piety, modesty and security.  If it is the law that you must than yes that is a form of oppression.  But there are very few places that women are forced to, and it is not simply an Islamic issue.  It is more an Arabic cultural practice.  To paint all Muslims with the broad brush of oppression is bigoted and simply silly.  The Muslim world has elected women to the highest offices in their lands, including Pakistan, a country carved out for a Muslim majority population and Indonesia the largest Muslim country by population.  While it is true that women are treated poorly and as secondary in some more radical versions of Islam, I the vast majority of Muslim women have freedom that we assume we have in the United States.  But when I look at how women in positions of authority in this country, be it government, board rooms or clergy, I think we have a lot to learn.  It you are truly outraged by oppression of women, I know that the National Organization for Women is fighting hard for women's rights every day and they could use your support.  But if your outrage is because you are afraid that a woman who wears a head covering or overly modest clothing  might some how destabilize our Western Democracy well I think you can ask a nun, Mennonite, Amish or Orthodox Jewish woman and see what she says.

As a culture I think we spend way too much time thinking about who owns the bodies of the women we see all the time.  Twitter is ripe with attacks on what female celebrities, even the most minor ones, wear to awards shows, but also to In and Out Burger.  My guess John Legend could wear the same suit to every award show and no one would notice, if Chrissy Teigen did that it would be breaking news.  Secretary Hillary Clinton's new haircut caused a firestorm in some circles.  While President Clinton's ugly ties hardly ever get a mention.  Let's take a breath.  Here is the thing.  Some women like to show off their bodies, some like to take great pleasure in themselves and be public about it.  Some women like being modest and will hide their bodies from all but their intimate  partner's eyes. For some it is a person choice, for others a religious requirement.  Either way it is not for us to say what is right or wrong.

What we can say is that if there is a place where girls and women are:

  • Not given and education so informed choices are impossible 
  • By law seen as property of male relatives or husband
  • By law not afforded the same opportunities as men
  • By law or circumstance force to conceive children or engage in sexual acts against their will
  • Seen as less than fully human. 

then we should stand up for them and fight for their civil rights.  We should all live in a culture where women's rights are seen as human rights and that their existence is seen as the positive it is.  Arguing of what Emma Watson wore in one photo or fearing a culture where women cover their hair or their full body doesn't promote women's rights or dignity.  It is silliness.  (Silliness I apparently chose to write about) It should stop.  Don't get me started on the deluge of articles about what women over 50 shouldn't wear.  Oh and of course I will need someone to explain yoga pants to me some day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

An Open Letter to Our President

Dear President Trump,
Yesterday, February 27, 2017, another rash of bomb threats were called into Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and other Jewish organizations around the country.  These calls that have been going on for weeks are targeting mainly the JCCs and often in communities with small Jewish populations. While many of these organizations are the heart of their Jewish communities, and the reason that they are a chosen target, you should know that JCCs also are the heart of the diverse neighborhoods they tend to be in.  JCCs house preschool programs who have a wide diversity of faiths and cultures represented among their children.  Children who are learning to get along with others who are different have had to go out, sometimes in the cold, snow and rain, to seek a safe place to wait until law enforcement could clear the building of any danger.  JCCs also have programs during the day for elderly people, looking to keep active, people in retirement have a place to go to continue to learn and explore new things, teach each other from their own expertise and and just social in a space designed to welcome all.  JCCs provide adult education classes, giving many people to expand their knowledge base on topics as far ranging as Understanding Talmud, to needlepoint.  JCCs house Jewish agencies, some of which provide housing and food security for people in their cities and neighbors without regard to race, religion and culture.  JCCs are gathering spaces for all kinds of community activities from Earth Day celebrations in conjunction with local government and utilities, to hosting local artists' work and political forums.  All this a membership provides a place to work out, get a personal trainer, play pick up games, and swim.  JCCs reflect the diversity you would find in the country as a whole as membership ranging in diversity across many factors, race, religion, culture and socio-economic.  At a JCC you would expect to run into a kippah wearing Orthodox Jew but you can also run into a woman with a Hijab, a priest playing racket ball and hear atheists arguing philosophy in a classroom.  Yes, as a Jew, the Jewish Community Center is a place that I connect with, but I have visited several of the centers that have been called recently and I can tell you that you don't have to be Jewish to be feel at home at a JCC.  It is America in the best sense of the ideal.  But let's be clear, the calls are coming in because of antisemitism.  The calls are happening because hate seems to be in fashion again.  I ask that you help make it less so.

There is a lot I could say right now, and many people I know will have ideas of what you can do but I ask you to do something fairly simple.  Mr. President, come visit some of these places.  Visit the JCCs in Springfield, MA, Tucson, AZ, Nashville, TN and my own in Indianapolis, IN.  It would be a great photo op for you and you can talk to the people who work their every day, meet with the families who see the JCC as a place of community where they work out, where their kids have a place to go after-school, where they may learn to paint from a local artist and hear a speaker that might not ever put these cities on their itineraries.   Walk through and shake the hands of the people who now have a visceral reaction when the phone rings with an unknown number.  Let them know you are there for them.  Then get the FBI to make these acts of terror a priority.  Imagine if these calls were coming to banks, do you think we wouldn't have a suspect by now?  You have the power to help stamp down this rise in terrorizing phone calls and perhaps prevent this from becoming worse.  I know the Jewish community didn't vote for you in large numbers, but now you are our President and you have the responsibility.  You say you love the Jewish people and want to continue our strong relationship with Israel and that is great.  We applaud anything that will help Israel be safe.  (We can talk later about how best to that,)  But American Jews are being targeted and the terror being evoked is effecting a much larger cross section of the the people you have sworn to protect.  This should not be partisan.  This is your job.  While I applaud the JCCs of the country for being efficient and organized about dealing with these kinds of threats, I wish they didn't have to be.  I wish I never had to see an email telling me what is happening.  I wish that people would see all cultures as a valuable part of the tapestry that is our great nation.  But alas people don't.  I am one voice, who might reach a few hundred people, but you sir you have the biggest megaphone in the world.  Help us be safe, help continue to provide communities around the country with a place to expanded knowledge and understanding, enjoy art and culture and get a little healthier at the same time.  I ask you this as a Jew, as a father, and as a American,  I know if you call the JCCs will respond.  They will welcome you as they do so many and  you will shine a light on why they are valuable to us all.

Thank you for considering this request.

George Kelley

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Terror in Melbourne, Florida

Last night there was a terrorist attack in Melbourne, Florida, at the airport.  The victims were decorum and truth.  The United States integrity around the world and the first amendment to the US Constitution were severely injured.  There were about 9000 witnesses who cheered on as the perpetrator stood on podium and lobbed attack after attack on reality.

Last night Donald Trump, the President of the United States held a campaign rally one month into a four year term.  The rally, an attempt to feed his need for adulation after a week of chaos and losses at the White House, seemed to be designed to attack the media and any one who has been critical of President.  In the process he continues to set up the attempt to destroy the free press.  He basically said that people shouldn't believe the press but only him.  Senator John McCain, former Republican Presidential nominee in an interview said that this is how dictators get started.

During part of the rally, President Trump referenced a terrorist attack that happened in Sweden on Friday night.  Here is the problem, there wasn't one.  The Swedish government is now asking for the White House and the US government to clarify what he was talking about.  In fact a former prime minister of Sweden asked what the US President was smoking.  This is troubling because it appears that the reason for this falsehood was that Friday night the President watched Fox News and saw a segment about a man who is documenting violence in Sweden that is blamed on some immigrants.  It appears the segment had images from the propaganda film and President Trump thought it was live.  It wasn't cleared up almost 24 hours later.  That means the President of the United States believed for an entire day that a major terror attack occurred in major ally in Western Europe and didn't have the curiosity to explore facts about it, including what the US might do to help.  Think about that, he believed that there was a terror attack on the west and he didn't even call the country to simply say "hey what can we do to help".  But he brings it up at a rally to rile up the crowd to support his ban on Muslims coming to the country.  By the way, President Trump has not said anything about one of his admirers who actually committed a terror attack about 1 hour from the US border in Canada, and the only thing that might be stopping him is that he doesn't care because the victims were Muslims.

But if this was the only one of its kind we could say something about it being a simple mistake but members of his communication team have referenced at least two non-existent terror attacks.  This President has also lied, yes lied, about the size of his crowd at inauguration, voter fraud in the election, his electoral numbers and the very notion of how his White House is operating.  He doesn't seem to care if what he says is true because most of his lies are easily checked.  But he also doesn't seem to understand is the voice of the White House is a powerful thing, that it alters the way the world operates.  It causes militaries around the world to go on alert, changes markets and can change the environment of a place, an alliance or a conflict. But it also instills a sense of distrust in reality among his supporters.  Often facts are ignored by them if their dear leader tells them to believe him and not their lying eyes.   Trump's words were not bombs, but it can inflict terror on many.  When the White House and the President are simply going to make up lies and then just blurt them out they can cause far reaching damage.  No humans died in Melbourne, but we are seeing the mass killing of reality, values and the institutions that make our country for the people, all of them.  And that is terrifying.  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Radical Christian Trumpism

Earlier this week, Representative Sean Duffy of Wisconsin was asked about why in the list of terrorist attacks around the world from the Trump administration left off the attack on the mosque in Quebec, killing six men as they prayed.  Duffy said "there is a difference" between the type of terrorist attack at the mosque and those motivated by support for the militant group Islamic State, or ISIS.  "You don't have a group like ISIS or Al-Qaeda that's inspiring people around the world to take up arms and kill innocents," Duffy said.  I disagree.  There is a militant ideology that has been inspiring both terror attacks and actions in the United States.  It is Radical Christian Trumpism (RCT).  RTC inspired the attack on the mosque that Duffy simply brushes off as no big deal, because those influenced by RCT do not see Muslim lives as equal to who they see as real Americans.  RCT also has inspired various violent acts against individuals around the country.  There has been a rise in other forms of RCT inspired acts, almost 100 Jewish Community Centers in the US have received bomb scares, forcing little children out into the winter weather in some cases.  We also have seen people on video treating people of color, women wearing hijab, and others with vocal disrespect citing Trump's election as some kind of immunity from acceptable social behavior.  These are just a few of the signs of RCT infecting our nation.  The leader of this ideology is using the power he has to block fully vetted people from coming to the United States, because he sees them as not worthy of our great nation.  And he is being praised by leaders of the White Supremacist movements like David Duke.  RCT is an insidious ideology that is finding its way into many places.  One thing that it has done is make reality distorted.  From the number of people at the inauguration,  to claiming terror attacks that never happened, to suggesting that people said things they never have.  It also empowers weak leaders to attack a woman trying to drop knowledge on the Senate and question the existence and independence of the courts.  One very large (both in size and scope) radio host even suggested that the judiciary has no place in interpreting law if not mentioned in the law.  Seriously, that you can write judicial review out of the law.

RCT is an ideology that can infect many, but it should not be confused with Christianity.  We must stand with our Christian neighbors who are fighting alongside us as they fight the influence of this ideology on others.  It is a small but vocal minority.  They only use Christianity as a shield to bloc criticism, claiming victimization as Christians when they don't get their way.  This can be seen in how they react to decorated coffee cups, the words Happy Holidays and the existence of people who can be sexually and emotional aroused by someone of the same sex.  You need be aware that this is not most people who call themselves Christians, so be careful not to generalize.

To beat back this ideology we must use a few simple tactics.  Call out those who promote what are the sacraments of RCT, alternative facts.  Always bring reality, and document it.  They may be allergens to those with RCT influence, but over time reality will prevail.  Do not succumb to hate.  It is easy to hate people who look at humans and see something less than human.  It is an appropriate response.  But do it private and then fight the good fight.  Think of those civil rights leaders like John Lewis and MLK who acted putting love first.  Call your representatives and Senators and tell them how you feel about the role of RCT in policy.  Go to town hall meetings and other events.  Hold the media responsible for calling it out.  You should also inoculate your friends, children, and peers by making sure you don't go down the rabbit hole of social media, passing along untrue, rude and angry notes will only empower those infected with RCT.

It won't be easy to deal with people who can see reality that is right in front of them.  You will be tired.  But there are ways to find strength.  Think of Elizabeth Warren, "She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted". Think of 20 rabbis arrested to show support for the American value of taking in refugees. Think of the world-wide Women's March on January 21st. Think of airport protests that popped up so quickly.  Think of those Democrats in office who are standing up to the ideology.  And think of the Republicans who stand against it, Senators McCain and Graham who have been vocal for over a year. Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine who voted against Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, and the growing number of Republican pundits who are fighting back.  There are more of us.  We will win in the long run.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Why the Bowling Green Massacre is So Important.

In an interview with Chris Matthews, KellyAnne Conway, speaking on behalf of the  White House mentioned that the new immigration/Muslim ban was essential, because two refugees who turned out to be terrorists planned the Bowling Green Massacre.  Why Chris Matthews didn't ask her to clarify is beyond me and worth an entire post in and of itself, but there it was, a representative of the President of the United States, justifying a highly questionable and likely illegal ban with a fictional terror attack.  This would be mind numbing if we weren't already numbed by the fact that earlier in the week she had coined the Orwellian phrase "alternative facts".  At least the NBC News employee in that case called her out.  But this is a problem with this White House.  They traffic in what some call alternative facts and we simply call them lies.

Now the idea of a lying politician is a tried and true stereotype.  No one expects them to be fully honest.  But the idea is that they lie to you to get elected.  They say things like how much they will cut taxes, create jobs, etc.  But when in office and they fall short, their supporters often let it pass and their detractors make hay out of it and the pundits try to explain it away.  It is often difficult to catch a politician in a real lie because of that.  Some however do carry weight.  When George H.W. Bush said, "Read my lips, No New Taxes" and later raised taxes it was not a statement he didn't mean to keep, he just couldn't.  Same with Barrack Obama's "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor".  In both cases they truly did not expect the roll out of their policies to take such a different turn.  Maybe they should have, but that is for another story.  However with the current administration the lies are not about what they will accomplish.  (In fact the President has worked hard to try and keep a lot of the promises he made) It is lies about objective facts that are easily checked.  This is what is dangerous about what they are doing.

On the day after the inauguration, Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, gave a statement to the press and took no questions.  That statement was that President Trump had the largest inauguration crowd ever and punctuated with the final PERIOD.  This is simply not true regardless of how you count the numbers.  But there he was saying it after the President said it and news outlets pointed out the difference between 2009 and 2017.  (2009 was much bigger).  It should be noted that around the country, when Spicer was saying this, millions of mostly women were marching in opposition to the the new President's policies and attitude toward woman.  It was a deflection of sorts but it also showed the pettiness of the man who sits in what until last week was the most respected and powerful office in the world.  We knew President Trump was obsessed with his crowds leading up to the event when he tweeted about dress shops running out of dresses in DC (also not true) and other indications.  What was amazing was that right after taking over the @POTUS twitter account he posted an inaugural picture of the crowds.  They happen to be Obama's.  

While we can certain laugh at a man who is overly concerned about how big things related to him are there are certainly policy implications that we must be careful of, beyond simply not being able to trust him.  It was clear from the beginning that Trump had lost the popular vote by a stunning margin of almost 3 million votes.  The President, because of a right wing lunatic blogger, thinks that there were 3 million votes cast illegally.  There is zero evidence of this.  Again Sean Spicer tried to quote a study, did it badly, and the author had to correct him.  But now the President wants to spend millions to hunt down these dreaded 3 million voters who he says didn't vote for him.  This is insanity and could lead to legal voters being taken off voter rolls.  (It is time to note that some of the President's closest advisors and family are registered in two states which was one of the issues the President raised).  It is also fair to note that the only person who got caught voting illegally by voting more than once was a Trump voter.

These lies set a tone of distrust and sends us all scrambling for fact checkers every time the President speaks.  From the mundane to the serious he has told lie after lie of things that are not only easily checked but are so outrageous when you see them in print you can't believe what you are reading.

But here is the thing, the President has now demonized the referees of truth in our culture that they lack trust too.  The media has been a favorite foil for the President and he points out every time they get something wrong.  And the media does, sometimes to scoop the other or sometimes based on personal bias.  For example, many outlets first reported the recent attack on the mosque in Quebec was done by a man who had an Arabic name.  Turned out to be false.  So for the President that shows they are never right and Trump's supporters believe him.  They also believe websites that Trump has embraced.  Websites like the one formerly led by his chief strategist which is a comfort zone for While Supremacy and the work of Alex Jones, a man who believes that the Sandy Hook attack (a real massacre)  was faked and the children involved are still alive.  He also posted stories of a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton and John Podesta being run out of a Pizza place in DC, which led to a man coming and throwing shots there.

Bowling Green should be the last straw, it was a lie of either ignorance and repeating a story heard from a crazy blogger.  Conway has said that it was covered up.  Or it was the willful act of a deranged White House trying to justify a horrible policy with a fake crisis.  Either way Conway should have forfeited her job as a spokeperson for the President.  I am glad that CNN has said "no thanks" when she was offered to be on their air this weekend.

I don't expect my President to be always truthful with me.  Politics would require him or her to bend the truth on how successful a policy is or will be.  National security keeps a leader from revealing everything and cover stories have a place in explaining to the public parts of things when the whole is not ready for everyone to hear.  I get that.  But I expect a White House to speak in a voice of reality.  This one has not done so.  It is truly frightening because if the President of the United States is so easily rendered into the persona of someone having to tell everyone how great he is and that any set backs are the result of sabotage or conspiracy then he is not fit to govern.  Which is truly a problem, but if he is surrounded by people who buy into his little cult and encourage this behavior, we are at the brink of some serious problems.  Bowling Green is a massacre, it may be the end of reality.    

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Who Should Get In?

So I mentioned this in an earlier post but tomorrow morning the middle school students from all the synagogue schools and the local day school are gathering for our annual Community Holocaust Education Day.  This is the result of several months of planning between all the education directors and principals of the aforementioned schools.  It turns out that our theme is refugees.  The morning will start with students getting an overview of both US laws (not including President Trump's recent Executive Order) and the Jewish values that would inform someone in a decision to allow someone seeking refugee status into the United States.  They will then, in groups, be given three real cases with changed names, to debate and choose one they will argue for in front of some volunteer judges.  The judges, all local attorneys and court judges, will decide if the arguments were strong enough.  When all groups have gone we will reveal who the people are.  Some famous for a variety of reasons.  The students will also see a play about MS St. Louis.  A story of Jewish refugees turned away from the United States in 1939 to have many died at the hands of the Nazis.  By the way if you want to feel the reality of this I suggest you follow The St. Louis Manifest Twitter feed.

I am not sure how we will explain the recent issues around refugees. President Trump's attempt to limit people coming to the US from 7 countries, with a caveat that he is actually prioritizing Christians over Muslims for future immigration is something beyond what I ever thought I would need to explain to students.   The ISIS leadership is killing anyone who doesn't follow their ideology and perversion of Islam, including other Muslims. Yet some how the current administration doesn't see this and sees a potential terrorist in every Muslim from the Middle East.   What is worse is the cavalier attitude of the President and many in the Republican Party seem to have toward even those people have already gone through serious vetting in part because they are  people who helped the US war effort in Syria against ISIS at the risk of their own lives.   They have been cleared for entry in the US and  some were literally on planes enroute to come to US who are now detained. It has caused average Americans to rally at airports and teams of lawyers to help people with valid VISAs to simply get through clearance into the US.  What is also frightening in scope is that permanent residents of the US with Green Cards are not being allowed to return to the US in the chaos of this order.

This is not normal for our country in the last 70 years.  We had learned our lesson after we saw the tortured Jews in camps, heard the horrors of gas chambers and mass graves.  Our country stood up with many others to take in those fleeing later atrocities around the world.  We weren't always perfect but we had a plan.  Today it seems the new President is blocking people who not only come from troubled places but only apparently interested in blocking people of one faith.  What is interesting about the decision is that the countries he chose have not been the origin of anyone who attempted or committed a major terror attack on the United States.  While citing September 11th's attacks in his order, the President left off the country who produced the leader of the attack's operations, (Egypt) and the majority of the terrorists who carried it out (Saudi Arabia).  It may be worth noting that both he and his Secretary of State nominee have business interests in those countries.

Now someone will bring up that during the Obama Administration there was a temporary ban on refugees from Iraq coming to the United States.  That is true.  In early 2009 it was discovered that two men who were involved in attacks on US troops in Iraq come to the US under refugee rules.  A system that hadn't been fully worked out at the time.  The President stopped all refugee applications from Iraq so that efforts could be made to see who may have slipped through the vetting process as it existed.  This was not ideal, however it was a targeted program with the intent of making sure that we weren't vulnerable. In 2006,  Waad Ramadan Alwan was arrested in Iraq and confessed to being an insurgent, but was released.  He later applied and received refugee status only to be uncovered as a terrorist in Kentucky years later.  It was after that the Obama administration worked to tighten security around Iraqi refugees and made the process of seeking refugee status much harder.  I remember meeting Iraqi refugees in Jordan in 2010.  There was a man who desperately wanted to come to the United States and after we spoke for sometime the refugee worker told me that was never going to happen.  He had been found to be connected to Saddam's Baathist party and he was a low priority.  He probably hasn't left Jordan, and that is okay with me.  Being concerned about who might be coming in and finding a troubling past is what we should be doing.  But the President's blanket banning of people from several countries that are at war, including those people who helped our troops navigate the language and culture of those places, for no reason except you think they MIGHT be terrorist or become terrorists is insane and anti-American.

We have seen horrible terror attacks on the US in recent years.  The thing is that the San Bernardino and Orlando attacks were committed by two people born in the United States and radicalized here.  The wife of the San Bernardino shooter was a foreign national, but from Pakistan (not on the list) who lived in Saudi Arabia.  This attacks were in part inspired by the notion that America was at war with Islam, a common message coming from groups like ISIS to those living in the west.  A message that will be bolstered by this Executive Order as it will be seen by many in the Muslim world as an attack on all Muslims.  As countries like Jordan (who has suffered terrorist attacks in the past) and Israel, who you may have heard has a bit of touchy relationship with Arabs in general, take in refugees fleeing the horrors of Syria the United States is blocking people who have helped our troops and their elderly parents and wives and children.  All of whom have spent at least two years being vetted.  That is simply wrong and that is not the America I was taught in school, nor experienced my entire life.

As a country we are always learning.  We haven't always gotten it right from a moral stand point.  We began with having slavery as a staple of the economy of the south, we blocked women from voting and many other areas open to men, we abused imported workers, drove the Native population to the brink of extinction, and not so long ago rounded up people and put them in camps for simply being born of Japanese decent.  But each time we learned.  We saw our consequences and tried to do better. When President Obama was faced with a crisis he didn't didn't take a sledge hammer to the problem and ban all refugees, he formed a targeted response with the intent of making the system better.  President Trump is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist by banning the most vulnerable and least likely to to hurt our nation while ignoring the sources of previous terror attacks.  This is not about security, it is about ignorance, it is about hate and it is about a man who has no skills at being a real leader and hopes that if he throws enough tantrums that he will be admired by someone.

The fear and ignorance in the middle 20th century led to the US closing its door on Jews seeking to flee a tyrant that was certainly going to kill them.  The extent of that horror was found out way too late for 6 million Jews and 5 million others who died at the hands of the Nazi death machines.  There was enough blood for enough hands to never fully be clean because of it.  We are at a similar place now.  President Trump is fond of saying ISIS is chopping off heads in Syria and Iraq and that is true.  If today's order stands for any period of time, the President is sending them new heads to adorn their strongholds.  And Mr. President and your minions should know, that blood won't wash off even if using your gold plated fixtures.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What I Said This Morning to my Member of Congress

This is the letter I sent to my Congresswoman this morning.  It is part rant and part call to her better angels and actually stand up for America and not party.  

Dear Representative  Brooks,

It is clear that the President of the United States and the leader of your party is obsessed with the notion that he will always need bigger crowds and more votes than ever before to feel comfortable.  Reports are that he is outraged by the vote totals and further by the Women's Marches around the country last Saturday.  It is clear that this has led to him fully buying into both fake news stories about voter fraud and his own apparent conclusion that 3-5 million people voted illegally in the last election.  (Thus suggesting the popular vote total was erroneous.)  This is disturbing on many levels and want to see if you, as my representative, can do something about the ongoing lying coming from a podium with the White House seal on it. 

1.  The crowd for the inauguration was smaller than in 2009 and likely smaller than many other swearing in ceremonies in modern times.  That is fact.  The idea that the White House press secretary lied about that and blamed the media is not only troubling it is worthy of a dictator's minister of information, not an American Press Secretary.

2.  President Trump's continued harping, to members of Congressional leadership, of this voter fraud is clearly not something that will make the country great. (BTW we are great now and have been) It will make us look dysfunctional on the world stage.  That is dangerous to national security. 

3.  An investigation in voter fraud in 2016 will cost the tax payers a great deal of money and will in no way find any substantial voter fraud.  States Attorneys General have already weighed in on this.  Yes there is some voter fraud, mostly in the absentee ballot system or by a handful of people who vote outside where they live.  (did a republican in Indiana do that?) but in no way has been seen to sway an election. 

4.  In person voter fraud, for example, voting as a dead person, would have to occur on a massive level to have any impact on most elections.  If non-citizens are going to vote using false documentation which is the argument they open themselves up to a system that is built to catch them.  Why would someone who hides in the shadows of society do that?  To what purpose.

5.  Three million people is a large number and about 1% of the voting population in the Presidential elections.  Who is quietly organizing them?  How is this a secret?  If there are non-citizens voting they must be in collusion with many officials.  Is the President accusing the the Democratic party of being so smart they could organize this but so dumb they only did in a state they were going to win in any case unless Ronald Reagan came back from the dead? 

Rep Brooks, you are seen as a straight shooter by many Democrats that I respect.  I have been highly critical of you but this goes beyond party and frankly beyond politics.  This is about our nation, this is about the integrity of the United States.  I am not like you in  how you see the path to honoring our American values, but what I know is that you do want to honor them from your perspective.  This is not normal.  Please stand in the well of the House and say you will not vote to appropriate money for this snipe hunt.  If you have a specific concern then craft legislation that protects voting integrity without blocking legal voters from access to the polls. Indiana may have done that with its voter ID law.  I see no evidence of massive voter suppression here.  (I do see it in other states and the courts have as well).  But please, the GOP is looking for grown ups.  Be one.