Saturday, December 22, 2007

Politicians' Games

Today's About Face continued last week's discussion of immigration and why we, as veterans think it important to make a statement about the violence and hostility that characterizes much of our national discussion about immigration. You may recall that last week Dennis spoke out against politicians who use racial hatred to divide Americans. We had some interesting and sometimes disturbing responses that tell me not all our listeners heard what we said about hate.

John Henry said this in response.
First, let Dennis, Mark and John wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. A wonderful Happy Holiday for those not into the Christian aspect of the holiday. We love you all and wish you the best. Salude, Amor Y Paz.

Last week Dennis, Mark and I jumped into the immigration theme that is the top topic across this country. We received mixed emotions and comments from the listening audience. We plan to continue this debate this week, 22 December.
We are not discussing who is undocumented or who is documented. Who is coming across the border is not a major concern of ours. It is the hatred that is being generated and the profiling that is being used against a race of people in the United States. The police are beginning to use profiling in stopping people of Hispanic origin just as they did with the Middle Eastern after 9/11 and they did with the blacks. This practice is generating hate and violence against the Hispanic people. I could hear that sentiment in some of the listeners voices. So I am going to rant a little about this subject today!

Recently a young undocumented Mexican crossing the border gave up his chances for freedom when he came across a mother and son who had encountered an accident. The mother eventually died from the accident, in the arms of an immigrant, but the son survived thanks to the Mexican who came into our country illegally. Yet, in the paper, people here wanted him arrested, incarcerated , and handed the worst of punishments because he was Mexican. This is an excellent example of inhumanity. There seems to be no compassion in our hearts for our neighbors who are trying to find a better opportunity for their families. An opportunity that they seek in our rich country. Just as we did to the blacks, we are trying to generate hate and bigotry against our Hispanic neighbors. This is inhumane!

One of our listeners stated we should not be going after the undocumented but rather going after the government of Mexico, demanding they raise the standard of living and create better paying jobs for their citizens. She suggested that the United States and other wealthy countries should work together with Mexico and other improvised countries to help curtail the government corruption and bring about better paying jobs and fair labor practices. I tend to agree but I do not see that happening in the near future. I think it would be best addressed by the United Nations because I cannot see our government cooperating with others on this problem. Canada is accepting many of the fleeing immigrants from our country and giving them a living allowance plus housing for up to one year or until they get a job. Our country is targeting the immigrant and spewing hate and bigotry. That is inhumane!

One caller asked us to give one example of how the vigilantes are spreading hate and violence while protecting the border. I googled that subject and came up with examples of pistol whipping, stripping and beating, unlawful detention, name calling and many more. I did not find any examples of compassion. That is inhumane!
I also found evidence of the vigilantes being linked to the White Supremacist movement in the United States. That is not hard to find. It is hard to understand how people can be duped by fear and bigotry, by a few, into taking violent action against another race of people after we have spent decades of trying to improve our bigoted feelings of oppression and hate against the black race. What is wrong with us? Do we ever learn from our past mistakes? That is inhumane!

I know there are many who will not agree with me on this issue. We, the United States, are asking these undocumented to join the military and place their lives on line for a country who wishes to continue to spew hate and oppression against them. The first Hispanic who lost his life in Iraq was recruited off the streets of Mexico. Yet, recently, we sent an undocumented high school student, member of JROTC and an ambition to join the service, to his death in a hospital in Mexico because it might cost the wonderful citizens of this country a few dollars to help him. That my friends, is a case of heartlessness. They can die in a war for us but cannot get a break to improve their education, or get a chance to better their lives, or complete an honest day of work in our wealthy country without being subjected to hate and bigotry. That is inhumane! Has our country grown beyond compassion, caring, hope, and helping others in need? I hope not!

My response:
Listen up, people. This discussion is about fearmongering and deception. It’s not about stolen jobs, falling wages, changing culture or sacred property rights. Those issues only come up if you take your eye off the ball: the politicians’ Terror War against the American people. Last week Dennis expressed his dismay about politicians using hatred to turn people against one another. Period. He did not advocate or endorse any immigration policy. He only asked that violence and hatred against other human beings cease. As a combat veteran, he knows where that leads.

What Dennis spoke about is how the politicians terrorizing Americans to prevent US from discovering and acting in our common interest. It’s the politicians’ age-old game of divide and rule. Much of our so-called immigration debate is nothing more than this year’s version of the distortions that led this country to invade Iraq and pursue a disastrous military occupation. After five years of failed war, countless deaths and vast expenditures, the politicians needed a new distraction, something to divert Americans’ attention from their leaders’ complete failure as stewards of the public interest.

Immigrants are this season’s Beast, joining gays, militants, abortionists and that all-time favorite, the terrorist with his ticking time bomb. Immigrants are even better than terrorists for inciting fear. Immigrants, with and without legal documents, are everywhere in this country, visible to all the Americans who’ve seen good jobs move overseas and worry about their future, who see America at risk from the world. The Terrorists have only attacked a few times, overseas and not Americans, unless you count Iraqis in their homeland fighting foreign occupiers. But desperate Mexicans and other inhabitants of the Americas, seeking to escape dire circumstances in their homelands and earn a living where opportunity exists, are a constant reminder of the a dangerous world and the need for the Strong Daddy Protector. The swaggering figure in a flight suit who will somehow keep us all safe.

The politicians are only too happy to oblige our fears. They get votes and support for bigger budgets from Americans who are perpetually scared and uncertain. Our political leaders avoid the hard work of crafting real policy solutions to address difficult economic and social challenges. Divide and bamboozle works at any level, from George W. Bush and his sock puppets all the way down to the Joe Arpaio’s of this nation. Everybody and his dog has an opinion about immigrants and immigration, and far too much of that opinion is overtly and directly hostile to other human beings. Hatred is the evil spawn of our fear.

I grew up in the south during Jim Crow. I saw the hatred and violence. Later in life I saw learned how the capitalists, the banks and the white elites used racial division to keep blacks and poor whites from recognizing their common economic interests. Now we have a new underclass who are denied human rights and physically attacked so that the natural born native so-called Americans (who by the way, are not really native to this land) can somehow think they will be on the winning side of the increasing polarization of wealth created by economic and social policies that favor the few.

Politicians barking at immigrants will keep Americans from seeing their own economic peril until it’s too late. By then we’ll all have few good options, regardless of our legal status.

A permanent underclass is good only for the few who aren’t in danger of falling into it; nor is a permanent underclass good for the long term health of any society. Nor is increasing concentration of wealth. An economic system that creates a few winners and many more losers is inherently unstable, whether it be in a nation or the world. Karl Marx was right about that.

Immigration and economic relations among nations are national and international problems that requires effort, thought and goodwill from many national and international stakeholders. Exclusion, discrimination, hatred and violence are not even in the realm of solutions to economic displacement and its consequences. If you think undocumented immigration is a problem–and it is a significant economic and social challenge to America’s open society–then insist that Congress and the president do their job and create the required national and international solutions. Local laws, ordinances and restrictions aimed at any group are tragically beside the point and only serve to divide communities that should be seeking common interest.

But it all works for the politicians. They get elected. Their corporate buddies get rich and suppport the politicians , the rest of us get screwed. And some people become so scared that they must attack their fellow humans. That’s as foolish, pointless and just plain wrong as invading Iraq.

Callers today were very supportive. Maybe everybody else was already tuned out and we were preaching to the choir. Even so, I'm proud we took a stand in support of human dignity and brother and siserhood.

More and more I think of myself as a citizen of the world entitled to all of the human rights so eloquently declared by Thomas Paine in 1774 and adopted by the United Nations two centuries later. Nothing more. I also know that the exercise of those rights is only proper if I recognize the same rights in all others. The America that I love is that kind of nation.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

20 December 2007

The time around the Winter Solstice comes in a season fraught with iconic symbols, most prominently stars, candles and the festive lights. For me it is the time of the cold, dark winter sky. So it is only appropriate that yesterday I found an epiphany in that pre-dawn sky.

My balcony has an open view and I am up long before sunrise (not hard to do this time of year) so I always check out the morning sky. Here in Olympia, the result is often cloud and/or rain. Yesterday was different, it was crystal clear darkness shortly after moonset. Venus was bright, almost white, above the eastern horizon. Saturn was overhead, not quite halfway across the sky. Low in the west, red-orange Mars loomed so large that I mistook it for Jupiter. I was stunned. So rare here to get any view and then suddenly the sky opens I see into that sky in a way not possible from any large population center. For the first time in many years I looked into the deep sky and the universe from a place I call Home.

THAT, my friends, is an epiphany worth celebrating. In that celebration and in the spirit of the season, I wish you all much joy and wonder in the days to come.

Peace Always.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Richardson-Kucinich 08

Or maybe Kucinich-Richardson as long as Richardson has a broad portfolio like the current VP. I don't think Dennis would make a good figure head like W., though. What I like about these two is their combination of ideas and accomplishment. Bill Richardson has done just about everything in government and policy. Kucinich has championed progressive policy in an overwhelmingly right-wing Congress. Richardson and Kucinich share core values about progressive economic and social policy. Both represent working-class America. Cleveland and New Mexico. Together for America. I like that.

Of the two, Richardson seems more the can-do guy who tackles problems and runs projects. Using the current model of Executive administration, that would make him VP. Kucinich is a strong policy advocate and a man who refused to sell a community asset in return for, which might be more suitable for the president. I've seen and heard Kucinich and Richardson speak. In both cases I was impressed.

None of this makes any difference since few candidates run as a team. It may well be that Richardson and Kucinich dislike each other or their egos get in the way. Together they could command poll numbers in the high single digits. Still, ideas and accomplishment...that sounds like a great platform for an aspiring national executive. Kucinich and Richardson offer more possibility in that direction than I see in any other candidates.

I will post this endorsement widely so that any potential voters anywhere who care what I think can make a fully informed decision.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Word Dance

BushCheney's shell game of political non-accountbility is once again brought forth to bamboozle a gullible public. The NYT reports today of greater White House involvement in the destruction of the CIA "harsh interrogation tapes". True to form, though, everything is a bit vague and uncertain. We know Jose' Rodriguez actually gave the order for which he claims written legal advice; so far that document has not been verified. Besides, others also had a say. John Negroponte advised against destruction; other advise was less certain. In the end, it's a matter of interpretation and understanding, not entirely clear. Nobody's fault, really.

I find one great culprit in the quote, “There was an expectation on the part of those providing legal guidance that additional bases would be touched,” said one government official with knowledge of the matter. “That didn’t happen.” Whose expectation? What bases? "There was" is the most vague of passive constructions, indicating neither actor nor action. I learned early in my writing career that an informative sentence tells "who's kicking whom?", subject, verb, object. Clear and simple. Which, of course is why the phrase is so common in modern discourse: officials want to cover up while journalists can't quite tell. Just perfect for CheneyBush. No one ever is rally to blame. You know? Well, we do have Mister Rodriguez but he was acting in good faith and on the advice of legal staff. Time to move on.

Just like the distorted intelligence prior to invading Iraq, disbanding the Iraqi Army or firing the US attorneys. These things...well, there was a misunderstanding...These things happen. Let's move on.

If America believes these actions are consistent with the idea of accountable, representative government under law, the American Republic has accepted its first Caesar.

Destroying the tapes tells me one thing: The CIA was afraid of what they had done. On that basis alone, I conclude they knew their actions well illegal under US law and treaty obligations. They wanted to HIDE those actions. Which makes me wonder why they taped the interrogations in the first place. Hell, you'd think the CIA would remember that tapes destroyed Richard Nixon. At any rate, the CIA knew it had a "ticking time bomb" (a delicious irony in itself) on it's hands and wanted to defuse it.

As for the ticking time bombs that require harsh interrogation in order to save lives, the jury is still out.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Effective Tourniquet

Jim Yeager predicted "victory" in Iraq long ago.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Convenient Targets

This past Saturday on About Face, my co-host, Dennis, ranted about the demonization of illegal immigrants by politicians. Immigration is not exactly a veterans’ issue but we don’t strictly our discussions to those issues. Dennis’ point was that politicians are attacking immigrants to further their own careers and organizational budgets. Nothing new here; demonizing others is a longstanding tactic that often works. It plays to our basic fear and insecurity. In this case, we are made to think that our jobs and culture is at risk and that only (fill in politician’s name here) can protect us. Immigration is a big issue in Arizona since most illegal immigrants pass through Arizona at some point in their journey. Needless to say, the discussion turned lively with callers challenging Dennis’ perspective, asserting that the United States must protect its borders, economy and culture from a Mexican onslaught.

The responses largely missed Dennis’ point–dehumanization and the cynical use of the issue by politicians. Clearly, the growth of large undocumented underclass is bad for America. This underclass is largely unprotected, has few alternatives and is willing to work for less than native born Americans, much like the Irish, Italian and Chinese who came to the United States in the 19th Century. Like their immigrant predecessors, Mexicans and other Latin Americans come to the United States in a desperate attempt to support themselves and their families. They cannot do so in their home countries and resort to mankind’s oldest remedy: move on to greater opportunity even at the cost of personal hardship. As a nation of immigrants, America should have learned by now that the long term result of immigration is a stronger, more diverse and vibrant nation. Apparently not, since the populace responds so eagerly to the politicians who decry immigration and demonize the immigrants.

My take on the whole thing is that demonizing immigrants attacks the symptoms rather than the cause, which is a world economic system that favors corporations over people, that favors profit over social progress. In the process, people are turned away their traditional means of living and left to sink or swim as best they can. And swim they do, all the way to the nearest opportunity, which for Mexicans is the United States. Demonizing immigrants conveniently ignores the real perpetrators, corporations seeking to find the lowest costs and exploiters who take advantage of a group with few legal rights and a precarious legal status. Demonizing immigrants strips them of their humanity, thereby making them targets for our hatred and fear and deflecting attention from the real culprits.

Where this issue resonates with me is in the similarity to the dehumanization necessary to attack and kill others that is the sine qua non of military culture. Killing others is wrong, we all know that. Yet our country often asks its soldiers to do just that. To do so, we have to think of the adversary as something other than human–a fucking gook or raghead, or wetback--a threat to be eliminated. Once we make that transition, we can kill. It’s that simple. Killing is wrong, so we just alter our perspective to remove our targets’ humanity and open up our big guns on them. The bullets can be real, they can be public policy or just individual animosity. Whatever their nature they are aimed at the weakest among us and usually fired by the least advantaged and most fearful of us.

As long as Mexicans cannot support themselves and their families in their home country, they will come north. It’s as inevitable as gravity. That’s why an effective policy must deal with the economics that prevent Mexicans from earning a living in Mexico. And the issue is not just limited to Mexico which is just one society displaced by the global economy. Wherever people are dispossessed, they will try and move toward opportunity. Americans should know that. The concept is part of our national myth but apparently, it only applies to white-skinned people.

Throughout most of human history, migration has been the key to opportunity. The rise of the modern nation-state eliminated that opportunity by drawing lines and creating borders to prevent migration. If you look at the Earth from outer space, however, you don’t see any lines, only a single planet in the vastness of space. We are, in fact, a single population: the human race. We spent the past few centuries ignoring that fact. In the 21st century we ignore that fact at our peril.