A Few Thoughts From The Bouncing Mind — Again

These are some of the thoughts that have run barefoot through my mind today …


Bigotry in all its forms is a result of ignorance.  We fear that which we do not or cannot understand. Unfortunately, some people are weak and can be easily convinced to fear almost anything.  Politicians play on that weakness, hence you have people who are scared of immigrants, scared of LGBTQ+ people, scared of anyone basically who does not act, look, and think as they do.  If you are uncomfortable about immigrants, talk to some of them, learn about their culture, try their foods – you won’t regret it. Our neighbors moved here several years ago from Iraq and spoke only about 10 words of English.  We communicated through some signing, some Google Translate, laughter and compassion, the language that knows no boundaries.  Today, they are our best friends – we have learned a bit of Arabic, they have learned a LOT of English and all 5 family members passed their citizenship tests in 2020.  We share meals, laughter and love – I wouldn’t trade that experience for all the money in the world!  If you are frightened by LGBTQ+ people, get to know a few, try to understand that who they choose to love really isn’t your business.  About half of my friends are LGBTQ+ and they have enriched my life, my understanding, in too many ways to count.  But you have to open your minds and your hearts to understand people of other cultures, views and beliefs … if you don’t, you are the one missing out!


Life is what you make of it.  A reader commented yesterday that life on earth is hell.  Well, admittedly things around the globe are in a dark place right now, but … I don’t think that makes it a hell on earth.  That just means we all need to do our part to change things.  If you don’t like the stack of dirty laundry piled up in the hallway, you can get off your arse and wash/dry/fold it, or you can spend an equal amount of time sitting around whining about it.  Your choice.  Don’t like the way the country is being run?  Then vote the bastards out and vote in people who are possessed of a conscience, who care about people over profit.  Don’t like the price of fuel?  Drive less.  Wait it out … it will stabilize.  If you want to lay blame, put the blame where it belongs – on the oil companies who are raking in record profits.  The best thing we the consumers can do, seriously, is to drive less, therefore buying less fuel.  Law of supply and demand … when the supply exceeds demand, when oil companies are selling less fuel, miraculously the price will drop.  Turn the thermostat down, turn some lights off, and stay home more!


Politicians are like prostitutes … they sell themselves to the highest bidder.  They’ll still take your paltry $20 contribution, but you won’t get a damn thing in exchange, for you cannot compete with the millions of dollars they receive from the rich dudes.  So, don’t waste your money … give instead to organizations that help feed hungry children or house the homeless.  Give to environmental groups that are working toward saving the future of the planet for our children and grandchildren.


Some of the unlikeliest candidates on the ballot this year are puppets.  Take, for instance, Herschel Walker.  Mr. Walker knows very little outside the sports arena, as he’s shown us nearly every time he’s opened his mouth.  He lies, he has no policies, no values, but is saying he stands for whatever his handlers, the puppetmasters, are telling him to say he stands for.  What would he do if he won a seat in the U.S. Senate?  He would vote in whatever way his handlers told him to.  A vote for Herschel Walker is actually a vote for Mitch McConnell who would ‘advise’ Mr. Walker how to act/dress/vote in every circumstance.  The same can likely be said for a host of others on the ballot with an ‘R’ next to their name.  Whatever happened to the day when candidates had some relevant education and experience?


And finally … let’s remember we’re all on this planet together.  We share the same resources, and what happens to one happens to us all.  “America First” is nothing but exclusionary trash talk.  We need all people in all countries to work together to solve the biggest problems facing us all:  the environment and world-wide poverty.  There is no “them vs us” — we’re all people.  People with flaws, but most of whom care about others enough to change the world, if only we stop allowing ourselves to be ‘led’ by religious leaders and politicians who have their own agendas.  Choose peace over hatred & violence.  Your grandchildren will one day thank you for it.

The Choice Is Ours

The events of the past few weeks have caused me to step back, try to look at the bigger picture, try to see what’s happening here.  A friend from the UK recently said he did not know what had brought this country to this pass, but that it needs to end.  I think we can all agree that it needs to end, but … what did bring us to this pass?  How did we become such a divided nation filled with racism and hatred, intolerance and threats of resolving our differences through violence?

I do know that the racism we thought had largely ended in the 1960s with civil rights laws and integrated schools, buses, diners, etc., had merely gone into hiding.  There came a point where it became politically incorrect to express racist views, and those who dared do so were shunned.  The feelings of superiority by some whites, though, never actually went away, they just festered under the surface.  So, did we come to this pass by electing a Black man as president, not once but twice?  I’ve often thought that was the start of where we find ourselves today.  But that is a simplistic answer, and the election of President Barack Obama, while it certainly plays a role in our current situation, cannot be the entire answer.

Part of the answer, I think, comes from the uber-capitalism that has enabled some to become multi-billionaires, while others stay awake nights trying to figure out how to pay the rent and put food on the table.  In the U.S., with as many millionaires and billionaires as we have, there is no excuse for any child to go to bed hungry at night … but they do.  Single mothers work 2-3 jobs trying to make ends meet, and it’s a daily struggle, while others live in such luxury that they never have to do anything they don’t wish to do.

But what’s really puzzling is why some of those very people who struggle to manage to pay the bills are some of the most die-hard supporters of a regime that nearly worships wealth.  Trump & Co have made no secret of the fact that they have cut taxes on the wealthy, rolled back environmental and safety regulations in order to increase the profits of those already rolling in dough.  And yet, nearly half of the people in this nation – people who work hard to feed their families – still support Trump & Co.  WHY?

Why?  Because they are convinced by his rhetoric that he is their ‘president’, that the things he does are helping them.  Why are they convinced?  Because they are taken in by his fist shaking and his gutter-snipe verbosity.  They believe him when he says he has done more for Black people than any president except Abraham Lincoln.  They believe him when he promises the tax cuts were to help them, even though there is no proof in that pudding.  He has convinced them that immigrants are harmful to our society, to our economy.  They have not yet come to understand that any benefit they have gained from his policies is but a crumb compared to the benefit to the corporate giants.

People in this country want simple solutions to complex problems.  Income disparity, healthcare, education, immigration … Trump offers off-the-cuff solutions to these issues.  Take immigration, for example.  Simple solution:  impose a travel ban on people from Muslim countries and build a wall on the southern border to keep out the “rapists and murderers”.  But this completely ignores the fact that Muslims are not terrorists and Mexicans are not rapists nor murderers.  It also ignores the fact that immigrants add much of value to our country.  They bring new ideas and add cultural diversity.  To deny immigrants entry, to vilify all immigrants, is to spread racism and prejudice throughout the nation.  Those who would wish for a homogenous white, Christian, male-dominated society seek a nation that I would never choose to live in, one that would soon stagnate for lack of innovation, lack of diversity and interest.

The people of this nation are more divided today than at any other time … I would venture to say that the ideological differences in the Civil War era were not as far apart as we are today.  How did we get here?  Perhaps by being a nation of people with too much freedom, too many ‘rights’.  We have become a nation of greed, of “me first”, as evidenced by the refusal of some to wear a mask when in a public venue, claiming that mask mandates violate their civil rights.  Never mind that they are putting not only themselves, but their families, friends and co-workers at risk by exerting their ‘rights’.

Joe Biden has promised to be the president of the people – all the people, not only democrats, not only white Christians, but every man, woman, and child in the country.  He has promised to try to heal the wounds of divisiveness that have festered for the past decade, and especially the last four years.  I fully believe he will try to do exactly that, but his success depends on us … We the People must be willing to work together, to put aside petty and irrelevant differences.  Are we willing to do that?  I wish I could answer in the affirmative, but it’s rather like a loaf of moldy bread.  If there are just a few little spots of mold, you can cut them off and the bread is still good.  But, there comes a point where there is more mold than bread and you might just as well throw it out and buy a new loaf.

Unlike the moldy bread, we cannot simply throw out all the people of this nation and start over, so we have two choices:  we either learn the art of compromise, learn to embrace rather than eschew our cultural and ethnic diversity, learn to respect our fellow humans, else we will devolve into a nation of violence where it isn’t even safe to be on the streets.  We need to stop the petty bickering, need to accept that things won’t always go our way, need to learn to adapt to adversity.

It’s our choice what direction this country takes in the coming year, my friends.  Government can only do so much … the rest is up to us.  My New Year’s wish for us all is that we can build bridges instead of walls, offer friendship instead of hate, put away the guns and offer the proverbial carrot rather than the stick.  The choice is ours …

Then … And Now, 2020

Today, June 17th, marks the 135th anniversary of the arrival of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour.  I did a post similar to this one last year on this date (actually, a couple of days late), but this year my point is still valid and so I have updated it to reflect the differences between then and now.  The main difference this year is the issue of police brutality, and I have added some pictures to reflect this.

The statue arrived dismantled, in 350 individual pieces packed in more than 200 cases, and it would be October of the following year before it was fully re-assembled and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland.  The statue was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and came to symbolize freedom and democracy.

In 1892, Ellis Island opened as America’s chief immigration station, and for the next 62 years Lady Liberty, as the statue is nicknamed, stood watch over the more than 12 million immigrants who sailed into New York Harbor.

In 1903, a plaque inscribed with a sonnet titled “The New Colossus” by American poet Emma Lazarus, was placed on an interior wall of the pedestal.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Lazarus’ now-famous words, which include “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” became symbolic of America’s vision of itself as a land of opportunity for immigrants, a land where all people, regardless of race or religion, would be treated equally.

This is that vision today …

Officer Derek Chauvin with hands in pockets kneeling on George Floyd's neck

2-year-old immigrant girl crying as mother is arrested by ICE

Police shooting tear gas against protestors

Immigrant boy behind wire cage

Line of police advancing on protestors on Capitol Hill

kids in cages at the southern border

Police knock down 75-year-old man and walk by without stopping

barbed wire and immigrants lying in the dirt

white supremacists giving Nazi salute with huge swastika burningIt’s funny that the longer humans are on this earth, the more ‘developed’ our society becomes, the better educated we become, the less tolerant and compassionate we are.Statue of Liberty crying

 

 

🇬🇧 The Brexit Conundrum — Bee’s View

I was thrilled with the guest posts on Brexit from Roger, Colette, Frank and Gary, and thought that project had likely run its course for the moment, when my friend Bee asked if she could contribute a post.  I immediately jumped on that opportunity, for Bee’s perspective will, no doubt, be significantly different than the previous four.  You see, Bee is a German national who has been living in the UK for quite some time … not sure how long … and she fears being forced to leave and return to Germany when Brexit, deal or no-deal, is complete.  Bee’s post is heartfelt, and I think presents a side we haven’t seen before, so please take a few minutes to read her tale.  Thank you so much, dear Bee!


GoodreadsBeeYesterday, I read the views on Brexit from several of my fellow bloggers here on Jill’s blog. Thanks very much, Jill, for giving us the platform to express our experiences and views. All of their posts and many of the comments taught me a lot. But it felt that the view from an EU immigrant to the UK on Brexit was missing. So, I decided to give my pound’s worth of opinion too.

I am sorry, but this will be a bit messy because my mind is a jungle, and Brexit is very personal for me. For me, Brexit is not a theoretical mind game that might or might not bring me advantages of any sort. Brexit means in a worst-case scenario, the existence I have built here is going to be destroyed.

The worst-case scenario would be, I apply for “Settled Status” which allows EU citizens to stay in the UK with mostly the same rights as before, but were rejected. Currently, that means I would have to leave the UK within four weeks. We have a house with a mortgage and jobs here. How do you create a new life within four weeks?

Let’s assume we would go to my home country, Germany. Many think that because I am German I would get help from there but nope: for the last 12 years I have paid my taxes and social contributions here in Britain, so why should they give me anything? I am not sure if we could get any help from the UK, but chances are we would not.

Germany is, like the UK, interested in “useful” immigrants who can work, pay taxes and bring in skills that are needed. My husband has a back problem and at nearly 60 wants to settle down and not to start all over again. It is unlikely he would easily find a job in Germany or elsewhere. We also do not have a big bank account to cushion any decision we would have to make. He would go with me despite all, but he would leave his children and all security behind but what for? Because some people don’t believe the EU gives Britain any benefits?  So please bear with me if I am sarcastic, angry and very scared.

I read in some of the previous posts about Brexit that immigration isn’t the main reason for voting to leave. However, to me, this looks differently maybe because of where we live. Our home is Norfolk which is a rather rural county in the East of England. Most jobs are in agriculture and tourism unless you are in Norwich, the only city in Norfolk. Norwich has a university, a thriving tech industry and it probably doesn’t surprise you that Norwich mainly voted to remain while the rest of Norfolk mainly voted to leave.

Both tourism and agriculture are heavily dependent on seasonal EU workers. To those Norfolk residents, who do not have a job, it appears that EU workers “steal” the jobs they feel are theirs. Since the referendum, the influx of seasonal EU workers seems to have decreased though. But it doesn’t look like the vacancies are taken by jobless leave voters. They are simply not filled while farmers and restaurant owners say that they just can’t find staff that is qualified enough and/or is willing to work the necessary hours. The same goes for care staff, nurses and doctors by the way.

Leave voters I know, do say that immigration was a huge reason why they voted to leave. They mention how EU immigrants come with filled-in forms to get benefits while British people can’t get any. I have not researched how much any of this is true. However, I have tried to get benefits this August after nearly 1 1/2 years without a job. Imagine my surprise when I was told that I only qualified for 6 months of job seekers allowance. To get this my husband had to sign up as well even though he had a job. The British benefits system is complicated and has changed a lot in recent years that’s why it would go too far to explain that as well.

On top, I had to prove that I had the right to get any benefit in the UK. This entailed an interview with someone from the jobcentre where I had to bring all the proof I had that I didn’t spend all my time in Germany or elsewhere. I also needed to prove that I work and live here. I was told, I would need to tell them every time I moved within the UK, how often and when exactly I left to go on holiday and whatever else that person felt they needed to know to grant me the benefit. At that point, I gave up because I can hardly remember what I did last week, let alone remember when I went on holiday ten years ago. Also, my husband would not have to prove all this. Both of us were rather appalled that I would need to be investigated like this, especially as they have my social security number. They know what I earned and where I worked.

20190218_120157I also think they probably know better than I when I was abroad: There are only three ways to come and go from the UK: you fly, you use a ferry, or you use the channel train. In all occasions, you have to show your passport because Britain did not sign the Schengen agreement. You can travel without your passport being checked in European countries that have signed the Schengen agreement. Even when we went to Switzerland which isn’t in the European Union but has an agreement on travel and trade with the EU, we didn’t show our passports once at the Swiss border. However, we had to show them when we left and came back to Britain. So surely they know how often I left the UK?

What surprises me about the Brexit debate, in general, is the view most people seem to have about the EU. For most people, not only in the UK but also all over Europe, membership in the EU mainly seems to be a question of business and economy. However, one of the main reasons why the EU was founded after the second world war was Peace. Europe had seen wars between its countries for centuries, and it culminated in WWII. The founding fathers and mothers of the European Union had experienced the destruction and human cost this war had brought, so their aim was firstly peace, and secondly a thriving economy for all of us. In all this struggle of a changing world, we do forget how important peace is for our countries wellbeing.

Peace is what the European Union mainly symbolises for me. To me, it is the guarantee that Europeans work together for peaceful and prosperous countries.  Yes, this Union of now 27 countries is far from perfect. But maybe it would be a good idea for European voters not to practice protest votes which result in getting people into the European parliament who are against everything EU? Surely if you vote for someone like Nigel Farage (who, by the way, had a German wife, and now has a French girl-friend, but campaigned against the EU for ages) to be your Member of European Parliament (MEP) you can’t be surprised that there are bad decisions made for your country on EU level?

Many European voters use the EU elections to vent frustration about many topics. But the EU-critical MEP’s they vote in, of course, do not do a fully constructive job. Most won’t make anything done in the EU look positive. So much of the anti-EU sentiment in any European country today might be non-existent if we only had MEP’s who are devoted European Unionists.  This is not a particularly British problem either. All European countries face anti-European tendencies, and I often said after the referendum: “If Germany had this referendum it would have gone the same way. German politicians are just not so stupid to do such a referendum.”

The EU certainly needs improvement, and most EU politicians are fully aware of it. However, they can’t get on with that job because the whole union is currently occupied with getting Brexit done. And the stakes are high on both sides. I recently read that Germany would lose about 100,000 jobs if the EU and Britain would not be able to strike a deal. That is a lot of jobs and can get any politician in trouble. But as far as I can see, most Germans think: “No matter the cost and no matter how flawed, the European Union is worth it!” And that seems to be the opinion of most Europeans outside of the UK.

I am fully aware that my points are just a tiny little part of the whole complex problem of Brexit and not very well researched or explained. To me, it is not only disenfranchised jobless voters who want to get rid of any immigrant, or lazy politicians who follow their agenda and not the good for the people who voted for them. Brexit is the expression of humans who feel that their life and their society does not offer them the possibility to live the best possible life. The reasons for this are many, and no one quite understands them, so many look for easy answers. In this case: “If only we could leave the EU all will be well”.

Unfortunately, easy answers never solve complex problems, and it hurts me to see the country I chose as my home and which I love, in this unholy mess, that might never be solved. It hurts me to see families, friends and communities so divided, so angry and so lost. But maybe this pain and division are necessary for us to become open for previously unthought solutions that let us live our best possible lives. I so very much hope for this!

*** Note to Readers:  Bee asked me to add the following information to her post:

I have lived in the UK since 2007 and have worked at the same company from the beginning until March 2018 when my mental health took a turn to the worst partly because of the insecurity of Brexit. Since September I am working in a new job.

It’s Time To SPEAK OUT!


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma-Lazarus

Emma Lazarus

The above is the text of Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus.  She wrote the poem in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, and in 1903, the poem was cast onto a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level.  For more than 100 years, those words have been symbolic of what this nation stands for.

Three days ago, on August 12th, this man …

Cuccinelli

Son of a Bitch, Ken Cuccinelli

… Ken Cuccinelli, with malice aforethought and in defiance of the very values that have heretofore defined this nation and its people, re-wrote a line in the poem.  Mr. Cuccinelli revised it to say …

“Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge …”

Mr. Ken Cuccinelli is, in the opinion of this writer, a Grade A Son of a Bitch.

He further claimed that the poem was intended only for European immigrants, not Middle Easterners, not Asians, and not Latinos.  I repeat … Mr. Ken Cuccinelli is a Son of a Bitch.

Trump-toonIt is against the laws of the land to change an author’s work without his or her permission.  Emma Lazarus died on November 19, 1887 and thus cannot give her permission for the changes Mr. Sonofabitch has proposed, nor do I believe she would give permission.  These changes are not in the spirit upon which this nation was founded.

The United States has made its share of horrific mistakes, starting with the enslavement of Africans early on, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the rejection of the St. Louis carrying Jewish refugees, many of them who later died as a result, the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki … We ought to have learned from those mistakes, but instead, today we have a so-called president who wishes to make this a “white, Christian nation” by rejecting refugees fleeing violence and terror in their native lands.  He would build a wall to keep out Latinos from Central America, he would impose a ban on refugees from Middle-Eastern, predominantly Muslim countries, and he promotes and applauds racism and white supremacy on a near-daily basis.  This week, he implemented new ‘rules’ to deny citizenship to immigrants who are struggling financially and are being assisted by government programs such as rent subsidies, food stamps, and Medicaid.

What’s next, folks?  Think long and hard about this … Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, Andrew Wheeler, Steve Bannon, Ken Cuccinelli, and a boatload of others in the Trump administration are bigots to the nth degree.  They have no respect nor love for the principles on which this nation was founded, but their only concern is putting more wealth into the pockets of the already-wealthy at any and all costs to the people who are paying their way in the world.  We are increasingly pawns being moved about on a huge chessboard by people who have no heart, no values, nothing but a lust for money and a sense of entitlement.

Will we allow them to re-write history by re-writing the lines on the base of the Statue of Liberty?  If we do, then we should simply send that statue back to France, for we no longer deserve it.  If we do, then we have stopped being the United States of America as it has been envisioned throughout its relatively short history.  Perhaps in two years, it will be called the DSR – Divided States of Russia.

I began this post with the poem by Emma Lazarus.  I shall end it with yet another well-known poem, this one by Martin Niemöller …

Martin-Niemoller.jpg

Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

liberty cries

Trump’s Cruelties are Typical Of Hitler Figure/ 8/7/2019 ICE Raid Of Food Plants VS. Abused Workers

This, my friends, is what the U.S. has become … this is not the behaviour of a democratic republic, not the actions of the nation we once knew. Thank you, Gronda, for showing us what this nation has become: a cruel, inhumane, authoritarian regime.

Gronda Morin

Image result for PHOTOS US WORKERS PROTESTS OVER EMPLOYER ABUSES

@dutch163 Tweeted the following on 8/9/2019:
“The news is covering a story about children abandoned after their parents were rounded up… The story is way worse than that. Workers were rounded up by ICE because they won a lawsuit against Koch Foods for sexual harassment, discrimination, & abuse.”
7:32 AM · Aug 9, 2019
***

This is what happens when undocumented workers stand up against abuse by their employers. Please note who were not charged criminally or fined for having employed undocumented workers.

Can you believe that there are those in the republican President Donald Trump’s administration who are trying to sell the tale that there’s absolutely no connection between Mississippi food plants having lost a suit filed by workers and the scheduling on 8/7/2019 for ICE raids being executed on undocumented workers at these same plants, where children on their first day of school were traumatized as they figured…

View original post 1,069 more words

Voices Worth Hearing …

ObamaThere are many ways in which President Obama has earned my respect, one of which is the fact that though it must certainly be tempting, he almost never comments publicly about our current politics, the current state of this nation.  However, yesterday he endorsed and tweeted a letter written by 149 African Americans who served in his administration that called out President Trump for recent comments degrading four congresswomen of color, saying …

“I’ve always been proud of what this team accomplished during my administration. But more than what we did, I’m proud of how they’re continuing to fight for an America that’s better.”

The letter was initially published in The Washington Post yesterday.  And Michelle Obama, who, like her husband remains largely silent on the current state of affairs, rang in as well …

“What truly makes our country great is its diversity. I’ve seen that beauty in so many ways over the years. Whether we are born here or seek refuge here, there’s a place for us all. We must remember it’s not my America or your America. It’s our America.”

It is worth noting that both of the Obama’s comments were positive ones, not negative, not promoting hate, but rather encouraging humanity, compassion, inclusion rather than exclusion.  This is the difference, folks … think about it.

This letter is one that deserves to be read by every person in this nation, and I agree with it 100%.  In the interest of space, I did not publish the names and titles of the signatories, but you can find them by clicking on the above link to The Washington Post OpEd.

We are African Americans, we are patriots, and we refuse to sit idly by

We’ve heard this before. Go back where you came from. Go back to Africa. And now, “send her back.” Black and brown people in America don’t hear these chants in a vacuum; for many of us, we’ve felt their full force being shouted in our faces, whispered behind our backs, scrawled across lockers, or hurled at us online. They are part of a pattern in our country designed to denigrate us as well as keep us separate and afraid.

As 149 African Americans who served in the last administration, we witnessed firsthand the relentless attacks on the legitimacy of President Barack Obama and his family from our front-row seats to America’s first black presidency. Witnessing racism surge in our country, both during and after Obama’s service and ours, has been a shattering reality, to say the least. But it has also provided jet-fuel for our activism, especially in moments such as these.

We stand with congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, as well as all those currently under attack by President Trump, along with his supporters and his enablers, who feel deputized to decide who belongs here — and who does not. There is truly nothing more un-American than calling on fellow citizens to leave our country — by citing their immigrant roots, or ancestry, or their unwillingness to sit in quiet obedience while democracy is being undermined.

We are proud descendants of immigrants, refugees and the enslaved Africans who built this country while enduring the horrors of its original sin. We stand on the soil they tilled, and march in the streets they helped to pave. We are red-blooded Americans, we are patriots, and we have plenty to say about the direction this country is headed. We decry voter suppression. We demand equitable access to health care, housing, quality schools and employment. We welcome new Americans with dignity and open arms. And we will never stop fighting for the overhaul of a criminal-justice system with racist foundations.

We come from Minnesota and Michigan. The Bronx and Baton Rouge. Florida and Philadelphia. Cleveland and the Carolinas. Atlanta and Nevada. Oak-town and the Chi. We understand our role in this democracy, and respect the promise of a nation built by, for and of immigrants. We are part of that tradition, and have the strength to both respect our ancestors from faraway lands and the country we all call home.

Our love of country lives in these demands, and our commitment to use our voices and our energy to build a more perfect union. We refuse to sit idly by as racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia are wielded by the president and any elected official complicit in the poisoning of our democracy. We call on local, state and congressional officials, as well as presidential candidates to articulate their policies and strategies for moving us forward as a strong democracy, through a racial-equity lens that prioritizes people over profit. We will continue to support candidates for local, state and federal office who add more diverse representation to the dialogue and those who understand the importance of such diversity when policymaking here in our country and around the world. We ask all Americans to be a good neighbor by demonstrating anti-racist, environmentally friendly, and inclusive behavior toward everyone in your everyday interactions.

The statesman Frederick Douglass warned, “The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.” This nation has neither grappled with nor healed from the horrors of its origins. It is time to advance that healing process now through our justice, economic, health and political systems.

Expect to hear more from us. We plan to leave this country better than we found it. This is our home.

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Then … And Now

Two days ago, June 17th, marked the 134th anniversary of the arrival of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour.  The statue arrived dismantled, in 350 individual pieces packed in more than 200 cases, and it would be October of the following year before it was fully re-assembled and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland.  The statue was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and came to symbolize freedom and democracy.

In 1892, Ellis Island opened as America’s chief immigration station, and for the next 62 years Lady Liberty, as the statue is nicknamed, stood watch over the more than 12 million immigrants who sailed into New York Harbor.

In 1903, a plaque inscribed with a sonnet titled “The New Colossus” by American poet Emma Lazarus, was placed on an interior wall of the pedestal.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Lazarus’ now-famous words, which include “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” became symbolic of America’s vision of itself as a land of opportunity for immigrants.

This is that vision today …

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It’s funny that the longer humans are on this earth, the more ‘developed’ our society becomes, the better educated we become, the less tolerant and compassionate we are.

By the way, in case anyone is interested … today is World Refugee Day.  Ironic, isn’t it?

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A Man On Trial For Having A Heart …

Today, May 29th, begins the trial of Scott Warren in U.S. Court in Arizona.  Scott is a 36-year-old college geography instructor from Ajo, Arizona who was arrested in early 2018 and faces three felony charges.  If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.  What, you ask, did he do?  He gave food and water to people.

Scott works with a group I’ve written about before called No More Deaths or No Mas Muertes.  I will let him tell you his story which was published in The Washington Post yesterday …

Scott-Warren.jpgAfter a dangerous journey across Mexico and a difficult crossing through the Arizona desert, someone told Jose and Kristian that they might find water and food at a place in Ajo called the Barn. The Barn is a gathering place for humanitarian volunteers like me, and there the two young men were able to eat, rest and get medical attention. As the two were preparing to leave, the Border Patrol arrested them. Agents also handcuffed and arrested me, for — in the agency’s words — having provided the two migrants with “food, water, clean clothes and beds.”

Jose and Kristian were detained for several weeks, deposed by the government as material witnesses in its case against me and then deported back to the countries from which they had fled for their lives. This week, the government will try me for human smuggling. If convicted, I may be imprisoned for up to 20 years.

In the Sonoran Desert, the temperature can reach 120 degrees during the day and plummet at night. Water is scarce. Tighter border policies have forced migrants into harsher and more remote territory, and many who attempt to traverse this landscape don’t survive. Along what’s become known as the Ajo corridor, dozens of bodies are found each year; many more are assumed to be undiscovered.

Local residents and volunteers organize hikes into this desert to offer humanitarian aid. We haul jugs of water and buckets filled with canned food, socks, electrolytes and basic first-aid supplies to a few sites along the mountain and canyon paths. Other times, we get a report that someone has gone missing, and our mission becomes search and rescue — or, more often, to recover the bodies and bones of those who have died.

Over the years, humanitarian groups and local residents navigated a coexistence with the Border Patrol. We would meet with agents and inform them of how and where we worked. At times, the Border Patrol sought to cultivate a closer relationship. “Glad you’re out here today,” I remember an agent telling me once. “People really need water.” In a town as small as Ajo, we’re all neighbors, and everybody’s kids go to the same school. Whether it was in the grocery store or out in the field, it was commonplace for residents and volunteers to run into Border Patrol agents and talk.

Those kinds of encounters are rare these days. Government authorities have cracked down on humanitarian aid: denying permits to enter the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, and kicking over and slashing water jugs. They are also aggressively prosecuting volunteers. Several No More Deaths volunteers have faced possible imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000 on federal misdemeanor charges from 2017 including entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and “abandonment of property” — leaving water and cans of beans for migrants. (I face similar misdemeanor charges of “abandonment of property.”)

My case in particular may set a dangerous precedent, as the government expands its definitions of “transportation” and “harboring.” The smuggling and harboring laws have always been applied selectively: with aggressive prosecutions of “criminal” networks but leniency for big agriculture and other politically powerful industries that employ scores of undocumented laborers. Now, the law may be applied to not only humanitarian aid workers but also to the millions of mixed-status families in the United States. Take, for instance, a family in which one member is undocumented and another member, who is a citizen, is buying the groceries and paying the rent. Would the government call that harboring? If this family were driving to a picnic in the park, would the government call that illegal transportation? Though this possibility would have seemed far-fetched a few years ago, it has become frighteningly real.

The Trump administration’s policies — warehousing asylees, separating families, caging children — seek to impose hardship and cruelty. For this strategy to work, it must also stamp out kindness.

To me, the question that emerges from all of this is not whether the prosecution will have a chilling effect on my community and its sense of compassion. The question is whether the government will take seriously its humanitarian obligations to the migrants and refugees who arrive at the border.

In Ajo, my community has provided food and water to those traveling through the desert for decades — for generations. Whatever happens with my trial, the next day, someone will walk in from the desert and knock on someone’s door, and the person who answers will respond to the needs of that traveler. If they are thirsty, we will offer them water; we will not ask for documents beforehand. The government should not make that a crime.

He is right … helping others should not be a crime.  What have we become?