This Is Who We Are

We were born in a 49-state America, which is kinda cool, although we didn’t really think about it until recently. You’d think there’d be some notice of 49-star babies, some passing human-interest piece on a slow news day, something exploring our sliver of a Unique Perspective, but that’s what you get when you’re wedged between Boomers and GenX. You get ignored.

Our perspective, as it happens, is that of growing up in America during the Sixties and Seventies, of JFK and RFK and MLK, of Vietnam and Nixon, of gas shortages and pollution. When nostalgia became pop culture, it was for happy days we had never known. Except in reruns.

And when America’s truths became known, we watched everyone run away from them as fast as they could.

Vietnam was a Bad War. We were the Bad Guys. This is something you can accept, growing up with it. You can also accept that the white kids on college deferments were sheer assholes to the poor schmucks who couldn’t buy their way out of it. We were too young to have a stake in Our Exceptional Nation’s Pride, but we were there for The Reckoning, which lasted until a hockey victory gave rise to chants of “USA! USA!” that continue to this day. That wasn’t patriotism, we could have told you, that was desperation. Which also has lasted to this day.

That was 1980. We were in college. A couple years before, there were protests on campus, students wearing sheets of paper over their faces. They were Iranian. They were protesting the Shah. The paper was to conceal their identities from Savak, the Shah’s secret police.

America had put the Shah in power in 1953. The CIA had helped create Savak. We, as a nation, were complicit in the oppression the students were protesting. We did it for oil.

And then the Shah was overthrown, diplomatic hostages were taken, Ted Koppel made his bones whipping the country into a nightly frenzy, USA-USA, and Ronald Reagan changed the subject.

It can be argued that Reagan was elected because Americans — well, white Americans — grew tired of hearing what assholes we were. We had something of a brief Truth & Reconciliation moment in the Seventies, but that hadn’t gone well. J. Edgar Hoover’s lifetime of misdeeds had been revealed, Frank Church‘s Senate Committee had exposed uncomfortable truths about CIA meddling in other nations. We, as a nation, had caused a lot of grief. Also, deaths.

We caused a lot of grief and death in the Eighties, too. In the midst of all the sadness and slaughter, Peggy Noonan put some words in her candidate’s mouth, poetic words, inspirational words, words that would help us ignore the things we had done and were doing as a nation, words that would help us turn away from truth:

America was a “shining city on a hill”.

It wasn’t true then, or now. It wasn’t true when JFK dropped the same John Winthrop line in 1960, a year after our 49-state birth, not with Jim Crow still the law of a substantial part of the land. It wasn’t true with Nixon’s dog-whistling Southern Strategy, it wasn’t true with Racism by Other Means being waged through the War on Crime and War on Drugs.

And it certainly isn’t true when we watch our children being slaughtered by weapons of mass destruction, and do nothing about it.

America is a shithole country. It’s been a shithole country since long before we were born. If you haven’t noticed, congratulations! You’re white. And male. Blessed be the fruit.

There’s a line that’s been going around the past week, a line of shock and disbelief, a line you hear accompanying reports of what we do to families — especially children — seeking asylum at our border:

“This is not who we are.”

This is certainly not who we believed we were, those of us who have enjoyed the luxury of living their lives in complete ignorance of what we do, what we’ve done, what we’ve always done, to people who are not us, not white, not male, not wealthy. We’ve turned our heads, looked away, preferred the sweet music to the discordant reality, preferred to yearn for a past that never was instead of working toward a future that can be better.

This is who we are. This is what we’ve done. We reward the people who do it for us. And then we act surprised when they do it.

29 comments:

8:48 pm • Saturday • June 16, 2018

I would like to think that, having learned something when no one in W’s administration paid a price worth mentioning, that this time we’ll fine, jail, or both – all of them. I remain slightly optimistic.

9:17 pm • Saturday • June 16, 2018

@blogenfreude: I am not aware that anything has been learned by anyone who didn’t already know it. “Look forward, not back” will be the centrist cry of the land if and when this passes.

Related: Remember all those weak financial reforms? Can’t have even that, can we?

9:31 pm • Saturday • June 16, 2018

Alas, firing squads are no longer an option for treason, but I want frog marches, orange jumpsuits, and long sentences in prisons that are not Club Fed. We will need to be in the streets.

11:08 pm • Saturday • June 16, 2018

@blogenfreude: If we’re going extrajudicial, heads on pikes make excellent gifts.

12:40 pm • Sunday • June 17, 2018

Americans are living on top of the rotting corpse of the civilization they built in the last century, and the corpse is starting to disintegrate. Our Western overlords pulled the plug on the comatose patient decades ago, took all the money, and ran off to Brazil with his spouse. We can only hope our overlords wake up and do something before the Rebublinazis finish selling what’s left to the Russian syndicate for science experiments.

8:24 pm • Sunday • June 17, 2018

@nojo: @nojo: no need to go outside the court system, but it would be nice to see an invigorated D party impeach a bunch of Trump judges for the crime of being illegitimate and stupid. Start with Gorsuch.

1:03 am • Monday • June 18, 2018

@blogenfreude: As Pareene just noted on Twitter, “John Yoo is currently the Emanuel S. Heller Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley”. Welcome to the System.

As far as invigorated Dems, well… It’s gonna have to be a generational change. Everything needs to be a generational change. Everyone in power today has proven themselves insufficient to the task.

4:16 pm • Monday • June 18, 2018

*This is not who those of us that believe in and practice America’s higher aspirations are.

7:12 pm • Monday • June 18, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Hey – how do activists get together without effin FB? Jesus. NWDC (opposing the ICE detention center in Tacoma), doesn’t seem to be doing anything. Looks like they have some court cases coming up, but that’s it. I’ve been calling my crazy ass rep Herrera (that’s right) – Beutler, and I’m going to keep calling, but what the fuck? How did people organize before FB? I grew up in a college neighborhood, so it was pretty easy to see what was up, but now that I live in Bumble Fuck, Jesus. Should I just go to San Ysidro?

7:34 pm • Monday • June 18, 2018

@JNOV: I check local activist websites, plus my burner email receives around 20 action emails a day.

Honestly, I don’t know what we can do that’ll be immediately effective, other than continue to donate munnie to Dem candidates in the hope of flipping CONgress and ending this nightmare.

12:24 am • Tuesday • June 19, 2018

@JNOV: @¡Andrew!: Families belong together protests on June 30 across the country

12:40 am • Tuesday • June 19, 2018

@SanFranLefty: Right on. Thanks! <3

11:18 am • Tuesday • June 19, 2018

Every time Der Trumpenführer is taken to task about something horrible he or his administration is doing, he presses back as a symbol to people in his base that he’s being attacked, and they must defend them. And they ignore the substantive issue — “our Dear Leader is getting attacked by them Fake News people” — and feel that they must dig in to defend this disaster upon humanity to the extreme end. He’s got a cult of personality going but not extensively, which explains why he gets along with Kim Jong Un; our Mango Mussolini is jealous of Kim’s.

9:58 pm • Tuesday • June 19, 2018

@nojo: I am aware of this in the extreme … and Addington landed well, as did so many of the Bush (W) sociopaths. They should have been driven from polite society.

11:21 pm • Tuesday • June 19, 2018

Three baby prisons. One more being readied. Surely, this is the straw…

11:32 pm • Tuesday • June 19, 2018

@JNOV: “Tender age shelters” as a phrase creeps me out. What a euphemism for “baby prison”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Socialists of America, DC Chapter, does us all proud by shaming Kirstjen Nielsen as she eats out at a Mexican (?!?!) restaurant in DC. I worked long enough in the restaurant industry to know that that bitch will never dine out on a spit-free or semen-free meal for the rest of her life. Nor should she.

10:49 am • Wednesday • June 20, 2018

@SanFranLefty: Good!

RAICES claims that children as young as five are going before immigration judges without legal representation, without their parents, and without someone acting in loco parentis. I find that hard to believe because I can’t wrap my head around the concept. They’re given some sort of class about what’s about to happen, but these children do not understand what’s happening.

We’re witnessing a crime against humanity on US soil. Here. Now. Right now.

2:24 pm • Wednesday • June 20, 2018

@JNOV: I’ve heard reports of unrepresented babies.

Also, these are administrative proceedings. These “judges” work for the Executive, not the Judiciary.

Meanwhile, there’s buzz that Trump won’t simply rescind baby-snatching, but do it in a way that violates an existing court order, forcing an implementation delay after the inevitable challenge — and then blame the courts.

Trump himself being too stupid to conceive this, I’m wondering whose bright idea it is.

8:49 pm • Wednesday • June 20, 2018

Meanwhile, the snatched kids won’t be returned to their families, because this is the shithole country we live in.

9:27 pm • Wednesday • June 20, 2018

@nojo: Yah – administrative and not criminal, so no right to an atty.

THEY ARE SENDING JAGs TO THE BORDER!

@SanFranLefty: Do you know A.L. from my class? I’m off FB.

9:27 pm • Wednesday • June 20, 2018

redacted

10:03 pm • Wednesday • June 20, 2018

@nojo: They are so fucked up. I bet they have no idea where the kids are.

11:08 pm • Wednesday • June 20, 2018

The regime also announced today that there’ll be a state visit to England this year, and He Who Must Not Be Named will meet Queen Elizabeth–oh , the REVULSION!!! I can’t believe her people would allow her to get dragged into this disgusting, disgraceful mess.

11:58 pm • Wednesday • June 20, 2018

@¡Andrew!: They finally figured out how to sneak him in the back door of the palace and avoid the loving crowds?

12:34 am • Thursday • June 21, 2018

@JNOV: Kids as young as 3. There was a network of nonprofits across the country (including RAICES) that try to provide representation for the kids, and it’s a complete hit-or-miss whether the groups can represent all of the kids.

@nojo: Yes, they’ve been blaming the Flores settlement agreement on unaccompanied minors from 1997 for the separation, and now say that they can’t keep families together without getting the federal court to vacate the settlement agreement, which you’ll be shocked to learn is a complete crock of shit.

12:50 am • Thursday • June 21, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Fake news. Hopefully.

@SanFranLefty: Today I was thinking about taking the WA bar. We have ~200 women being held at a federal prison at SeaTac – they’ve already been sentenced to time served. They’re just in a holding pattern. In prison.

We have an ICE detention center, I believe only for men, in Tacoma. I sent a few dollars to RAICES and Voto Latino. I wish I spoke Spanish. Northwest Immigrant Rights Project needs volunteers of all stripes, buuuut, I don’t speak Spanish.

This administration is SO fucked up that I probably should take the bar even if Pence is prez by the time I sit for it. Hell, Nancy Pelosi might be president in a couple of years. Evvverybody is going to jail.

12:56 am • Thursday • June 21, 2018

@SanFranLefty: Yeah. “Tender Age” sounds like a description of veal or lamb found on a menu. Yes. Our lost lambs have been led to slaughter.

1:12 am • Thursday • June 21, 2018

@JNOV: The New Yorker has a great interview with an attorney at the amazing Florence Project about working with “tender age” children:

“As far as the emotional aspect, working with tender-age children is difficult for our staff, and difficult on me as an attorney. We see children become more anxious and stressed the longer that they are away from their parents. When they first get to O.R.R., maybe they’re doing a little better, but as time progresses, we see behavioral issues. They are a little more emotional. They sometimes start crying. Sometimes they get nervous around older people. They just want to be able to be around other young children. So, for example, sometimes they’re in day care, and they get used to being around the day-care staff, and they don’t want to go with a case manager or anybody else who seems like they have authority.

“Our duty as attorneys is to represent the child’s express wishes. Sometimes, when they are really young, it’s difficult to ascertain those wishes, so we reach out to other professionals. But we try to get something from them. If they do want to be with their parent, we try to reunify them. If the child expresses that they have been abused—and we’ve had cases where the child says, ‘I don’t want to go back home’—we try to help them stay. But that’s very rare. If they are too young, we approach other professionals to make sure that we are really researching and getting all the information available.

“It is especially difficult with the younger children, because they can’t express as much. They say, ‘Mommy, Daddy,’ but they don’t know their parents’ names, or their phone numbers, as older children will. We spend a lot of time trying to find and communicate with the parents. We have an adult team, and they work in adult detention centers, so sometimes we try to find them that way. If they have had communication with a parent who says that they were separated from their children, we try to see if we can get information and ask questions from the parent as well. But that takes a lot of time. It is not an easy process. If the child is pre-verbal, we try to get documents to prove his or her identity, which is another challenge.

“We have had many kids who have been able to reunify with their families. It just takes time. What happens sometimes is that the parent has to be deported before the child. That is very heartbreaking. We try to help the child get back to their family as soon as possible. It does happen, but it doesn’t always happen that they leave at the same time.

“It is very emotional on me, and everyone else on staff. It is very hard to see very young children. When it first happened, of course we were not prepared; we have become better and better at doing this. We know that if we go see a very young child, it’s going to be upsetting. But we have to do it, and we want to make sure that they are safe, and able to go back home. I feel like if we don’t do this, who else is going to? As upsetting as it is, we have to do it.”

11:16 am • Thursday • June 21, 2018

@SanFranLefty: Remember Koko the gorilla who knew sign language? She has died. One of my memories from childhood is how gently she hugged a kitten. She loved that kitten. Did she call it her baby? Memory fails.

Koko had more empathy for a kitten than this administration and its collaborators have for children.

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