A little over a year ago the citizens of the United States were strongly encouraged to vote for the Biden/Harris ticket. It was them or 45. What choice did we really have? In all honesty, none.
Fast forward a year. It is common to see letters to the editor, guest columns in newspapers, blog writings, and postings across the social media spectrum pronouncing how Build Back Better and other Biden initiatives are going to save us. Save us from what I’m not sure. This is incredibly disheartening because we cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into a false belief that this is a good thing. Because it is not. When policy/systems help parts of a society while intentionally harming others it is nothing short of moral bankruptcy. When the administration/government/ country/corporations that keep an inhumane, evil, and corrupt power structure and system in place than we cannot support a facet of the so called solution even if it makes our lives a tiny bit better. We can’t. It’s wrong. And that is what is happening.
Right now, December 2021, the Biden/Harris administration has in place more inhumane, corrupt immigration policies than the previous administration. And that is saying something. Yet, many who despised that previous man and all those he surrounded himself with are praising Biden and accepting these horrific actions. Why? Because he says them in a gentler/kinder way? We cannot again be lulled by that and allow ourselves to become complaisant to that dishonest image.
Under the previous administration, MPP (Migrant Protection Protocal/Remain in Mexico) was created and the harm it caused and continues to cause is far reaching and overwhelming. Then Biden became president and undid it. We rejoiced. That celebration was short lived as a Texas court said it needed to be reinstated. So we eagerly cast blame to the court. But yet Biden has expanded this policy to include the entire Western Hemisphere, far more that 45’s net captured. In the last days of the previous administration the population numbers in detention were the lowest they had been in a very long time. Covid played a part in that. Biden pledged that he would close private detention prisons yet he is creating new contracts. It appears he needs to fill those emptied beds so that the private detention companies, who support him and his party can increase the profits their stockholders benefit from. And the promise to end border wall construction? Well it’s still happening, in both old and new places.
So, is Biden better? Well it’s better than seeing and hearing that disgusting human 24/7 but that’s not saying much. If we think Joe Biden is a good man because nice photos are taken of him and his wife looking at pretty candles and Christmas decorations then we have fallen into the hands of the media. Not fake news per say but increasingly more powerful corporate media. We want so much to believe that good won. But good men do not harm other humans, especially humans that are so incredibly vulnerable. Good societies do not harm other humans, especially humans that are so incredibly vulnerable. Period. So Build Back Better is really a disheartening policy designed to placate the masses and encourage them to turn away from the pain caused by those harming others while giving us crumbs. It’s wrong. If the party running the country isn’t working to right the harms caused by centuries of ongoing structural white supremacy and all the pain and harm that has caused and continues to cause, well then it isn’t a party we should be proud of. It is clear that the systems in place in this country are in place to make some select people richer. That’s it. All the systems, structures, policies support that. Joe Biden and the power structure and leaders of the Democratic Party support that. They benefit from that. It goes without saying that the GOP is even more corrupt.
While we take time to relish the lights of this holiday season take time to shine light onto the darkness being caused. As difficult as it is, let us not turn away from the harms caused by the ongoing policies of this administration and those before it.
As we live our lives on the brink of authoritarianism and all that entails it becomes more and more clear that we must do the small daily actions that keep us mentally and physically healthy. We will not be able to continue the important work if we don’t.
It’s been a long few years, with Covid adding a layer of challenges to our mental health. Mine surely has struggled. Immensely. The last time I felt this lost, scared, anxious, and depressed was when I was a young child after the death of my brother. Those emotions lasted my entire childhood and well into my adulthood. There were other issues as well but that loss triggered many unhealthy feelings. It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered relief in the form of a loosely rolled joint. Fifty years later we understand the medicinal effects of that plant and thankfully it is legal in many states.
But the feelings of hopelessness and fear have returned and are fueled by the octane of hate, racism, and greed. Choosing to live life stoned is not an option at this stage of the game so what are we to do?
Three years ago I ended my teaching career. A friend and colleague told me to be ready, that it would take a while to settle in. Boy was she right. She told me it took her mum 5 years to settle into retirement. That sounded long to me. Now I see that she is probably spot on. I have not settled in. Thinking about this the other day I realized that it would of course take years. Ending a life that identified you is a bit more difficult that expected. At least for me. Now add the events we are living through and it is clear we need relief. Recently I had a long conversation with a teacher friend. She explained the mental health struggles of the staff and students are blatantly obvious. She said it is sad to witness and experience. It makes perfect sense. They are teaching and learning through a perfect storm and I assume they are not getting the support they need.
There are major life events that shape us and they need to be named and legitimized. Recently for me it was retirement, selling our home that we raised our children in, moving away from friends, Covid, increasing climate chaos, awareness of blatant racism, the rise of authoritarianism, and the large physical distance from my kids. Damn that’s a lot. Minimizing these events because they are not “bad enough” caused another layer of harm on my mental health. Throw in raising a family, I imagine, would add to that struggle. Trying to be brave and strong for everything that needs a brave and strong response, I have learned, is impossible. Especially if we are not taking care of ourselves. This is why our mental health care is important and that includes leaning on our communities. Something Covid makes difficult.
So what are we to do? Remember to breathe. Deeply breathe when struggling. This has more power than we may think. Revisiting the things we use to enjoy such as creating art, music, dance, nature, writing. For me, renewing my daily yoga stretches has helped immensely. We unpacked our turn table and 40+ years worth of albums (vinyl) and as I listen to them I am transported to a time when listening to music of my choice was central in my life. In other words, it feels good. Walking outside on trails always helps. We have a new dog with quite a few special needs. Being reactive around other dogs has made walking in beautiful places challenging but we manage to find spaces that feel good to be in and which work for her.
So dear friends, take care of yourself. You are loved. You are needed. And by golly you are important.
As the world watches the airlifts out of Afghanistan with baited breath and follows the calls for resettlement of thousands of refugees in U.S. cities, we collectively turn our attention away from another humanitarian crisis, the one along the U.S./Mexico border. Helping those fleeing harm from Afghanistan is the right thing to do. How can anyone watch the videos of what is happening at the airport or listen to the pleas from the women educators and not see that? Thankfully, the citizens of the United States are rallying to welcome them, as we should. What is confusing to me is how we struggle to mobilize the same empathy towards our neighbors arriving at our southern border. They too are fleeing the same level of violence and poverty. But yet we look away or worse.
While it is critical, even if overlooked and under reported, that we see the similarities that these two catastrophes have in common; it is even more important that we respond with humanity. While the United States has a harmful history in both of these regions, we are at a point where we can choose to take a new path by aiding those fleeing harm. To do this the United States must set up a true immigration plan that will show the world how it’s done, rather than a continuation of the decades long knee-jerk reaction that is occurring now. This is no small task as it goes against patterns of centuries of actions that are contrary to what we can do should we decide to do it. While my head reminds me of our history, I remain hopeful that we will wake up from the nightmare of who we have been for so very long and choose to see and respond to the possibilities before us. This visualization is not an easy one but it is critical to keep us from devolving into an abyss of hopelessness.
Many who are in places of power choose to call what is happening along the southern border a crisis. Many others say that is the wrong term to use. But it should be clear that what is a crisis is our country’s immigration policies. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are living in a new time and our outdated, inhumane, and racist immigration policies need to become a thing of the past. We are at what many forecast to be the early stages of massive human climate migrations. How is the world, more accurately, the Global North, going to handle this? Are we going to build walls around our countries while we witness our southern neighbors perish? The United States is in a unique position and we need to decide if we are going to respond as the leader we consider ourselves to be.
I live in a rural state. A few years back we received hundreds of refugees. We set up humanitarian housing and aid. With little to no notice. It wasn’t grand. It wasn’t the best. But it was a response that came from wanting to help those who so desperately needed it. Our intent mattered. Along the southern border there are many humanitarian organizations who give everything to help those who have crossed and who have somehow, miraculously, not been swept up into our shameful detention/prison system. So how did/do they do it? As I said, intent matters. First and foremost, not one of these efforts which provide humanitarian aid operate with profits in mind. Second, they do not come from a militarized mentality of treating those they encounter as criminals. They are refugees and asylum seekers.They are destitute and desperate. They are in danger, have been severely traumatized, and need help and are treated as such. Our country’s first response should be to demilitarize the border. Yet, we are doing the exact opposite. Our second response should be to put in place an infrastructure along the border which administers the necessary aid with warmth and dignity and then gets those with sponsors and family to them as soon as it can be done. We need to provide citizenship to those who want it. Yes, all of them. We need porous borders. There I said it. Borders are bullshit. They provide reasons to cause harm to fellow human beings and need to go.
So what would this look like? I have heard people ask, “How would we take in all the people? Where will they live?” Well, let’s think about that. The Unites States has a population of over 330 million people. Would another million really matter? I don’t think so. We also are coming from an assumption that everyone wants to come to the United States. We lose sight of the notion that people really don’t want to leave their homes. They are forced to flee. Our foreign policy matters. If our country prides itself on innovation we need to decide this is worthy of our creativity and work ethic to make it right. Imagine if we became the beacon, illuminating how it can be done.
Below are two links. The first one, while made a few years ago, is sadly still incredibly relevant. The second is an example of how it can be.
Please, watch the video and read the article. Then call your representatives in congress and demand they prioritize humane immigration policies be written and put in place. As always, WWJD?
Undoing a lifetime of “education” is not an easy task. For the past three plus years I, and many others who feel deceived over the lies we have been fed our entire lives, are re-educating ourselves. It has taken an immense amount of reading US history and US foreign involvement as well as listening to a wide variety of podcasts and interviews, and visiting places not normally visited, to come to the clear conclusion that I was a lifelong recipient of history and current events through the eyes of the victors. That I was mis-educated or more accurately put, I, my generation as well as generations before and after, were/are subjects of overt propaganda. I do not say this easily or lightly but rather with great sadness and anger.
Sure when I was a kid there was Vietnam so I should have known. But communism! We couldn’t let those commies take us over and create yet another country of Handmaids. How perfectly crafted by those with power that we equate an economic system with a political one. And how ironic that we are willing to give our country over to a republican authoritarian but we can’t consider the economic benefits of socialism. I remember reading about the Berrigan Brothers, the Black Panthers, Jane Fonda and that they all were “bad” players causing chaos in our great country. As I got older I joined what was presented as “the other side” by voting for Democrats, because we all knew they were the party for the people. But I was also a hardworking minion who tried to get an education and keep a roof over my head without needing help from others. The past few years I have looked back at my ignorance and apathy and initially chalked it up to the incredible effort it took to get that education, to pay bills, and then to raise a family. I never questioned white supremacy and the benefits I received because of it. I never really took time to wonder if I was being fed lies. Why would I? I knew that I was lucky to live in the greatest country on Earth. I cringe as I type this.
Until I became aware of the recent inhumane treatment of individuals and families arriving at our southern border seeking safety, I sadly and with great embarrassment and shame admit that I didn’t pay proper attention to what our government and country was doing. I totally and thoroughly accepted that we were the greatest country to live in and we were the greatest because we were the most moral. I again, with embarrassment and shame, believed that our advanced morality led us to have the largest military force on the planet so we could carry out our moral obligations. I am not kidding. I believed this. 100% believed it. I was carefully raised to believe it, at home, at school, at church, at friends’s homes.
The first real crack in this belief system came during the Clinton term. I was in graduate school and teaching kindergartners. I had time to listen to the car radio while driving several times a week back and forth to classes which were well over an hour away. It was hearing about Rwanda and the genocide that began my questioning. Witnessing the lack of response from our country I began to wonder why. Why, if we are the greatest moral leader of all time would we not help? Then came Bosnia and I waited for us to march in and save the day. That day never came. And as confused as I was, I sadly went back to my life, letting our government off the hook, again. A few years later I was teaching middle schoolers science and social studies. Now that is a sad testament to our public education system because while I had a masters degree in science education, I knew nothing of history. By the time I settled into my new teaching position it was “Columbus Day”. To prepare for a social studies lesson, I read an article in an education journal on this. For the first time in my life I read about the real Columbus. I was in my mid forties. I can remember it like it was yesterday. My two kids were in bed, lights were low and the house was quiet and I silently read and then wept as I read about the genocide to the native peoples that this man, his crew, and the countries that supported him unleashed on the “new world”. I still fill up with rage and grief when I think about this. I chose not to teach about him. I just couldn’t bring myself to it. Another lost opportunity. Time went on. Bush and Obama came and went and I kept my nose to the grind stone like a good little democrat and capitalist worker. I didn’t question. God, I regret that.
Then came what may actually be the best thing to happen to this country. I say this with incredible hesitation because of the amount of evil unleashed on millions who suffered and continue to suffer from his reign; trump. But this evil excuse of a guy single handedly opened my eyes and those of many people to the real country we live in. During this time I retired and for the first time in 50 years, I had time. Time to stop. Time to read and pay attention and not worry about providing for a family. That one event, retirement and the jumping off the carousel of life in a job, allowed me time. Capitalism is incredibly successful in taking time away from us. And in doing so taking our power away as well. I have come to the conclusion that it is part of the plan.
But even with all the reading etc, the reality of our country still didn’t come to me until I stood at a child concentration camp in the swamps of south Florida. A concentration camp that our country set up, ran, paid for, and supported. A concentration camp where people, including leaders in our government, made lots and lots of money off of. Something deep and raw rose in me as I stood watching the children of other mothers being kept prisoners in this godforsaken camp. I struggled with the realization that we so easily took children away from their families and kept them in this dangerous place. My re-education had much more urgency. It turns out we’ve used this strategy many times in our country’s history. This revolting action began when Columbus set foot on this beautiful and rich continent and showed itself again and again throughout the centuries. After a few trips to the Texas/Mexico southern border to see for myself what was happening and to help those living and working there, I kept asking how such a moral world leader, the great U.S.of A. could send such obviously traumatized people away. Only one answer can explain this; we are not the country I was taught we were. But it wasn’t until I began to read about U.S. policy of the past 100+ years in Central America that the curtain was thoroughly pulled back and our history and our purpose were clear as day. And as I researched, I found that Central America wasn’t the only place we “injected” powers that would provide us the economic riches that we felt we required while wiping out the innocent peoples who tried to live and raise their families on the land we so desperately wanted. It was then I learned that the unthinkable policies put on steroids by trump and his disgusting sidekicks were ones of deterrence that began under Clinton. Yes, the guy who played Fleetwood Mac at his inauguration, telling us a new day was coming, designed some of the most inhumane racist border policies in place today. They were militarized and ramped up by Bush and Obama and I realized it did not matter one bit which party was in power because they both are beholden to the real power of our country, the corporate powers. Especially the power of oil. Under trump this was put on full display for the world to see. Well, in all honesty and reality, for many, especially younger people with internet savvy, it was visible way before him.
Like many others, when Covid came along I had even more time to read and research.The world was shut down. My son was in Vietnam and couldn’t leave. I wanted to learn more about this far away place that was so generously housing my son. Again, I was brought to tears by what we did. How could we do such unimaginable violence to such beautiful people, to such a beautiful country? To people just trying to live like you and me, raising their family. They did nothing to harm us. Nothing. Many lived in such extreme poverty. While I do remember seeing this war on TV as a kid, I was told it was necessary to “save” the Vietnamese people from the dangers of Communism. Now I know what a load of crap that was and like everywhere else we find ourselves uninvited, it was/is for one reason only, global economic superiority. I literally got sick to my stomach.
So here I sit. Finishing the book pictured above, watching helicopters leaving Kabul full of people with fear and exhaustion etched on their faces. Faces of those we violated with 20 years of incredible violence while U.S. companies profited. As I watch this I continue to read about more traumatized people who are still sent back across a border they have every right to cross. Back to lands from which they ran. And I ask, “Why?” I think of something Clinton said that rings true for everything that determines our actions, “It’s the economy stupid.” It clearly doesn’t matter if it’s a Republican or a Democrat. So why do we act like it does?
When you get time, which depending on your life situation you may or may not be granted, read the above book. It’s long, and it touches on many time periods during the history of this country that are difficult to read. But if you want to know the truth, because with truth comes power, give it a read. The depth isn’t there but it is eye opening and gives you many time periods to research more. The labor movement, the strikes, and the attempted rise of socialism during the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century are something I want to read more about. Something else that becomes very clear is that those leaders who history lessons taught us were good men, were not so great. Always, always, the economy and the protection of the richest corporations were the underlying reason for any “good” they did. As I stressed with my children and the children I taught, intent matters. Think Mt. Rushmore. Research each of those guys. Right from colonization, “western expansion”, slavery, the New Deal, to the policies being put forward today, it’s about giving the masses just enough so they don’t revolt. Well you know what I’m beginning to think? Revolt! Rise up against the powers that imprison us with poverty, environmental degradation, militarization of everything, racism, and prisons. Like the many time periods that were full of strife before us, we must go on record as saying, “Enough, this is wrong and we won’t be silent anymore.” And then begin the process of righting the wrongs. So many wrongs. Only then, will we begin to become the great country we proclaim to be. I hope I live long enough to witness this.
The southern border is a sad place. I think about the stories I have been told about when it was a place where families crossed freely for celebrations, parties, dining, and shopping. Not that long ago, I am told. But then the US decided to militarize it. We all know that the military industrial complex is real and it’s deadly and a disgusting example of immoral U.S. imperialism that has been and continues to be touted around the world.
A friend from a border town called to tell me about what she is seeing and experiencing. It is the direct opposite of what many who are not on the border are saying. “Joe is a kind man,” many liberal Democrats say. “He will undo all trump did,” they say. “Give him time,” many others say. But we knew. Those along the border knew. Those who live in immigrant communities knew. Those of us who followed his history while in the Senate knew. So how do so many manage their thoughts and feelings if they believe he is a good man when we all witness him overseeing unkind and inhumane policies? Do we give him a pass? No we do not.
“But Joe is a good man,” they say.
This same friend, who works in a shelter in Mexico, told me she is very sick. “It’s stress,” she told me. “There is just so many coming back into Mexico. So many who are sick, scared, and traumatized. We are so overwhelmed. There are so many released from planes and buses that take them from one border town and drop them at this one because Mexico will take them back here. Some are from detention and they are sick. Many of them need hospitalization. It didn’t use to be like this. Even with MPP. The children coming out of US detention are hungry and dehydrated because they aren’t getting the food and water they need. The women are sick and in blood soaked pants because guards in detention aren’t giving them the needed sanitary supplies when they have their periods.” I need to say something and I need for you to understand this. That listening to this person sound so sad and so broken was heart-wrenching because she also happens to be one of the strongest women I know. So to hear this I know incredibly horrible things are happening for her to sound like this.
“But Joe is a good man,” they say.
I received a phone call on the same day from another friend who shared what it has been like for her while volunteering in a large detention center that holds over 2,000 “unaccompanied” children. We all know why the majority of these (20,000+) children are unaccompanied. Because the racist Title 42 policy that doesn’t allow people to enter the United States unless they are children says that they carry disease and that they are dirty. We have heard this before. What horrific events in history have occurred because those in charge said the people being targeted and harmed were sick with a contagious disease/insects or dirty? We have seen this before. The parents of these children are terrified of them living in cartel occupied Mexican cities or of being sent back to the violent countries they fled, so the parents make the incredibly difficult decision to send them across, alone. Can you imagine being in a place where you need to make that decision? We are forcing this on them. Family separations are continuing under the Biden presidency.
“But Joe is a good man,” they say.
Yesterday a friend who lives and volunteers on the Arizona border, told me that border wall construction resumed again. Another friend, an immigration attorney, told me that the Butterfly Center in TX just posted information about a neighbor/friend who just had her land seized by eminent domain for the wall. This occurred three months after Biden took office.
“But Joe is a good man,” they say.
While being on a Zoom today another friend explained to us about the torture that was done to deportees sent back to their African countries. Torture that was carried out by us. On humans who were just asking for safety from the violence in their home countries, which they fled.
“But Joe is a good man,” they say.
So back to the kinder, gentler president. Maybe he is. But maybe he’s not. Maybe it’s the system that is so deeply racist and money hungry and not him. Maybe not. Maybe the system is designed in a way that he really has little power. But, can that be true? Trump was in the same presidential position and he sure was able to muster the power to do huge things. We see Biden doing some pretty ambitious things. Many ae comparing him to FDR. He was a bigger than life president. Biden’s response to Covid (for USA) has been big. His infrastructure plan is a grand start. The Supreme Court and gun reform are ambitious too. These are all big things. So then the question must be asked, “If he can do those ambitious things, why does he not do this? Why not immigration reform?
“But Joe is a good man,” they say.
I am sure that for most Americans who do not live along the southern border or in an immigrant community, this is abstract and far removed from them. But it’s not far removed from us as a country. If we allow this to be far removed and we do not respond to this, then it shows us and the world that this is exactly who we are as a country. Under our watch, thousands of people are being harmed, right here, because of our … our what? Our inability to right the wrongs? Our inability to muster the desire to care? Our inability to see that we can have a “good guy” as president but that because of whatever forces are so deeply ingrained and in place he can’t do what he needs to do to right this? Is it our inability to think that maybe he and those he surrounded himself with really think this is how it needs to be in order to keep us – what- safe? Personally, I keep coming back to racism and greed for money. We are a country built on racism and it’s always been about following the money. The private contracts, the money being made off of detention and deportation (In the three months since Biden took office he has deported over 150,000 vulnerable people back to the violence they fled). What is that about? How does a good man (and the country he leads) live with this? What mental acrobatics does he and we have to do to make all this alright?
“But Joe is a good man,” they say.
Meanwhile Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is sending thousands of desperate, traumatized families, children, pregnant women, and men, who crossed into the US, right back to Mexico where they know no one and they are vulnerable to those who prey on them and hurt them. The officers do this under the orders of Title 42. Title 42 was implemented under trump but Biden refuses to rescind it. And at this same time, ICE is flying thousands of desperate, traumatized families, children, pregnant women, and men back to dangerous countries. All under the orders of Title 42.
“But Joe is a good man,” they say.
When I was at a shelter in Juarez I saw that those asking for asylum but were returned to Mexico didn’t have shoelaces. The woman I was with explained why they didn’t have any shoelaces. It was intentional. The CBP officers took them. That meant that when they were returned to Mexico, it was obvious to the cartels who they were. The cartels waited for them. They waited for the women, the children, the men, all of whom were exhausted, scared, and with nothing to call their own sent to a land they didn’t know. That action put a target on their backs. We are still doing this. Under Biden we are still doing this! Women told us about being in the Iceboxes. The CBP cages we’ve seen photos of that are kept at freezing temperatures. The cages where there are many more people in them than they are designed to hold. Where they sleep on the floor with those god awful mylar blankets and are given frozen burritos 3 times a day. Where their medicines are taken from them and their medical and sanitary needs are ignored. For obvious reasons, they dreaded being in those things. We are still doing it. Thousands are sent back to Mexico and aren’t even told where they are going. Those deported are flown back to violent countries or countries destroyed by US imperialism or climate disasters or all of the above. When they get there they think they are in the USA. The guards laugh at them and tell them they are not. We’ve seen photos of mothers breaking down after being told this news. We are still doing it. When trump was in power, we said it was the cruelty that separated him from his predecessors even though they did it too. The cruelty remains. We are still doing it. So how, someone please tell me how, Biden is different? How is he the “good guy”, the “kind man”? And Mayorkas? What about him, a son of an immigrant, yet this is all occurring under his watch. Have the CBP, BP, and ICE agents and their agencies gone rogue? Or is this how they are designed to operate?
“But Joe is a good man,” they say.
In solidarity we continue to work for a total dismantling of the immigration system and rebuild it in a way that is centered around keeping military and corporations out of the countries these people flee, as well as centering a humane welcoming when they arrive at our doorstep.
Tien was among 50 or so Vietnamese boarded on a flight to Vietnam. This wasn’t voluntarily. I don’t know Tien’s story except that he is the only one we have a name for. Someone who loves him tried to petition the state department not to take him away. Sadly she failed. He and the others are expected to land in Hanoi where they will presumably be whisked away and quarantined for 14 days. At least he will be fed and warm and allowed a place to sleep. But then what?
Since Joe Biden has become president he has overseen, and thus been responsible for, the deportation of over 26,000 human souls.
Let me repeat that:
Since Joe Biden has become president he has overseen, and thus been responsible for, the deportation of over 26,000 human souls.
I am so sorry Tien. I am so sorry to all those who our country has sent away from their families and to places they do not live. Under Obama, Deporter in Chief, we claimed we didn’t know. We didn’t know he was busy deporting 3,000,000 (some media sites such as CNN claim it to be closer to 5,000,000) people to countries of danger. Yet as a country, myself included, we remained silent to these horrific actions. Many of us even continue to idolize him (Obama) today. He is very handsome. He is incredibly articulate. He has a lovely looking family. But… But the country rose up when 45 crossed the line and separated families at the border. But wait, didn’t Obama separate 3,000,000 families? Every time someone was rounded up and sent to who knows where; wasn’t a family left behind grieving the separation?
Now we have Biden. The “kinder, gentler soul”. His lovely wife decorates the White House lawn with Valentine hearts. How lovely. Well, not really. Decorating with large hearts while breaking the hearts of 26,000 families is not, well it’s not OK. It’s not OK at all. It’s actually shameful and deceiving and dishonest.
I’m am so sorry Tien. I am so sorry to the families we have quietly turned away from because we didn’t know. I am so sorry to the families we continue to turn away, even though we know.
This post is dedicated to Karla. Thank you Karla for always (and I mean always) looking and seeing. No matter the time of day or night. And then reporting out, or greeting at the bus station or airport with a coffee to share.
In love and solidarity with all who work to end the racist, profit driven immigration system that is beyond cruel and broken.
Above are photos of just a few people who’s stories are not widely known by Americans, especially older white Americans (Click on the name under each person’s photo to go to an article about their life). They are the stories of those who spent part or all of their lives working for human rights. These are the stories I was never told. Purposefully, never told. Rather we, our country, centers and thus teaches us about the white wealthy imperialist voices as if they are the voices of history, the voices to learn and celebrate. This is how we keep capitalism and imperialism alive and strong. It’s deeply wrong, immoral, infuriating, and it took living half a century before I began to learn them.
While white Americans (and Europeans and Australians and Canadians) are in no way shape or form victims, I feel it is appropriate to share that the system that lied to us is also the system we benefited from. As the saying goes, “The winners are the ones who tell the history.” Their history. I have always wondered why my kids learned about the Revolutionary War over and over again during their years of schooling but never learned about World or US History of the 20th century. As the internet makes learning history and differing perspectives easier, many of us “boomers” are angered by what we are learning. Sadly though, it appears not enough of us are as angered as we should be. It’s so much easier to believe the lie than to confront that lie and the fact that you believed it most of your entire life.
Growing up, white middle class, I was taught and so I learned, that capitalism was the envy of the world. That socialism and communism were bad and that they were equivalent with authoritarianism and dictators who wanted to take freedoms away. Who’s freedoms? I never learned the words colonialism or imperialism or neoliberal. I went to Catholic schools and public schools. It didn’t really seem to matter. I won’t go into the blatant racism I was taught as well as the times I was taught to ignore it. Thankfully it didn’t take the internet for me to know how wrong they were and that experiencing them never felt right.
Years later, my quiet son grew up. He took to reading everything he could get his hands on about all the shit I was taught. It began when he was in 3rd grade and he was taught that women who have abortions kill their babies on purpose. Yes, he learned that in school. As we sat and talked about this incredibly difficult topic, he being a 9 year old and me being a teacher at that school, it became clear to him and me that the necessary depth of discussion to understand controversial topics were not given the time they needed. As he grew older and realized he wasn’t being taught the things he felt important, he took his education into his own hands. The internet, as well as a few good college professors adept at open and honest discussions and explorations, opened portals into other times, perspectives, opinions, countries, and beliefs. We have always had long conversations where I explained many things to him. But when he left home and began to explore on his own, it was him explaining to me. The things I learned from him, things that I was taught and he found to be untrue; well, it’s quite humbling to learn from your child the truths about the lies you were taught.
This brings us to the photos above of a few great people we never learned about. I left out the many we were lied about. If you don’t know them, take a minute to click on each name under their photo and read a little bit about them. If you find one to be interesting, read about the United States policies in their country at their time.
Here is the conclusion I have come to after the years of conversations with my son, years of reading online, and years of working to understand why we are so damn racist. My conclusion is that I was educated with propaganda that supported the belief that our country, the home of the free and the brave, was the greatest country to ever exist. That propaganda was all encompassing and purposefully left out facts. Many facts surrounding the horrid reality and history that our country was founded on stolen land. We carried out large scale genocides and enslavements of people, many, many people. But it didn’t just happen here, we spread this colonialism and imperialism around the world through our use of the largest military in the world. We were told the military was to keep us safe. I believed it. Then as I began to connect dots I wondered, why, if we were the best country on Earth, the country everyone envied, did we need so much military might to be safe? Safe from what? From whom? What we did not learn was that this military was in fact used to extract the natural resources from other countries. And if the leaders of those countries, such as those mentioned above, tried to protect their people and natural resources from our grab, well we would overthrow them, often via coups. We were taught that they committed human rights violations and that’s why we intervened. Wait, what? We are condemning other countries of human rights violations?! After our history of atrocities? And we are still doing it. This education was as far from the truth as could be. While our country was founded by rich, educated, white European guys with property and who could speak and write very well, they never intended the “for all” part. That was the biggest lie. So the fact that we began by stealing land from peoples who lived here, then through early colonialism, continued with westward “expansion”, and then expanded world wide by criminalizing those world leaders who had the insight and tenacity to nationalize their resources so their people, rather than our government backed corporations, could benefit from them. Well, here we are, understanding the lies we were taught.
Millions of folks are mobilized and working for change. The last administration did this. It taught us that democracy is fragile. That we need to work to create the economic and social justice changes we need. As the first week of the Biden administration shows us, we matter. Our voices matter. When we unite, stand strong, and raise our voices, we are heard. Maybe not right away. Maybe not quite how we want. But if we continue, we will be heard.
When Obama was president many of us were so grateful. So full of hope. And because we saw him as we wanted to see him rather than how he was, we ignored things we shouldn’t have. His use of drones…we should have been in the streets yelling over this. His creation of family detention centers for immigrants and his deportation of 3,000,000 people…we should have been in the streets yelling over this. His bailout of Wall St. His lack of comprehensive climate initiatives. His big brother is watching. We should have been in the streets for them all. But we were lulled by his smooth talking, his grace and charm, his good looks, his intelligence, his love of his wife.
So now we know and now we do better. Whether it’s a monster in our White House or someone we admire. We must continue our work. To stay informed. To stay active. To not be lulled into complacency.
Thank you all the strong people who keep going. Keep working for the equality for all. I see you; even when you are exhausted, close to tears, sick of fast food. So thank you. Thank you for focusing on that short phrase, “…for all”.
Since the election I have experienced something that has surprised me. It shouldn’t be surprising since we, as a collective body, are recovering from 4 years of gaslighting, division, and hate. Add to that, a year of global sickness and death. We are all in a rough place right now. We are exhausted and emotionally bruised. But still the experiences surprised me.
Like a mobile that sets out to correct itself after a breeze we are re-balancing ourselves to a new dance under a new administration. While there is hope, there is clearly still an immense amount of work to be done. So we reposition ourselves to begin that work. But even with the amount of struggling we are each experiencing, shaming should not have a place in the work we do. Especially if we expose peace and justice. It’s simple, shaming causes the receiver harm. It is a form of violence. It is something we all have done at some point. If I reflect honestly on times in my past when I have done it, I feel immense sadness and those times fill me with deep regrets. Shaming often comes from a knee jerk defensive reaction and a strong emotion. But it is important that we notice it and call it out when we see it and/or experience it. Shaming is not a sign of a bad person. It is a sign of a struggling person. But left unchecked it can cause great harm. May we all work to reject this form of communication as we move forward with our work.
May we all continue to work and grow in peace, love, and acceptance,
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it. Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb
I look through my computer screen at a woman doing her best to raise her children. As we prepare for a Zoom tutoring session, I listen to her as she tells me her new working schedule. Nights, in a nursing home, during Covid. She comes home in the early morning hours after spending the night caring for the elders of others. She sleeps for a few hours and then takes over being the mother of several children who are home all day due to Covid. One is falling behind in his schoolwork. It’s common these days.
She looks tired but she smiles. The stress is obvious. I wonder if she experiences the cruel stares and comments so many like her do. I wonder how anyone could be cruel to her or afraid of her. She is a newly settled immigrant. She is from a western country in Africa. I don’t know her own personal story but knowing that she is a refugee from a country that is engulfed in civil war, I can imagine the horrors she has witnessed, experienced, and fled from. How is it possible to be so unkind to those who have suffered so much?
After the tutoring session with her oldest son is finished, I go online. I read an article by a local mainstream news source that my newly elected legislator refers to as fake news of the liberal left. The article is about an a man from Mexico, the country. He was recently arrested for being here, in the United States. The comments are full of hate, fear, and incredibly cruelty. Like our president, they do not see him as a person. He’s just another “illegal”, void of human qualities. Do we wonder why he is here? What did he run away from? Who does he send money back home to? Are they safe? Does he miss them? Do they miss him? Those who post such comments miss the reality that he is someone’s dad, son, brother, cousin. As I read the comments I think of this mother I am so honored to work with and the thousands like her. Doing work that many who post such comments would never do. Harvesting the food we eat. Slaughtering and preparing the meat we eat. Cleaning the homes we live in. Caring for the elderly we cannot or choose not to care for. Every family has a story. Including those seeking a safer, better life here. Why is that so hard to understand? It must be fear. Fear is so often the root of misunderstandings and prejudices and illogical thinking. Maybe it’s fear of not understanding those who look and sound different from what we are use to. Maybe it’s fear of losing power and control. I have heard some say that “they” will take our jobs. I don’t think those sharing their hate so publicly want to work in the fields, slaughterhouses, nursing homes, and hotels that so many of those seeking our safety work in.
This New Year may we all find the ability and desire to stop for a second and question our prejudices, for that is what these are. Listen to the stories being told, look at the people telling them, and see them, hear them, as the persons they are. May this be a new New Year. One filled with acceptance, empathy, and compassion.