Dear America

What we saw happen today is what we call a purge. It's what dictators do to consolidate power, punish disloyalty, and intimidate future opposition. The Republican party has been dismantled and rebuilt as a party of personal loyalty to Trump. A man who pardons war criminals and human-rights violators and fires anyone who speaks up.

We are in dangerous times. Even a cursory study of history makes that clear. If you like his politics that's one thing; but replacing everyone in the government with people who are personally loyal and obedient to a person rather than the principles of democracy can only end badly.

Please take a moment to reflect on how you would truly feel if you watched these events and the party labels attached to the participants were reversed.

--

Crossposted from Facebook.

Dear Mitt Romney

Thank you.

I was very pleased to see that one Republican has the integrity to say "wrong is wrong". I was saddened to see that only one Republican has that integrity.

I'm sorry that you are already being, and will continue to be, attacked and insulted for standing for justice. I'm saddened that the people that rallied behind your candidacy in 2012 have now gone so far astray that they can no longer even see you as a member of the party.

Any political party that is loyal to a person instead of an ideology rooted in pluralism is a danger to this country.

Your vote, taken at an unpredictably high cost to yourself, will be remembered as a stand for justice, fairness, and democracy.

Stay strong. "Do what is right, let the consequence follow."

--

Crossposted from Facebook.

This is Nationalism

In 2012, I warned about the growing nationalist movement in the United States.

In 2016, I expressed my concern that then President-elect Trump's rhetoric would lead to nationalistic violence in our borders.

In 2018, I denounced Trump's exclamation that he's "absolutely a nationalist, and proud of it."

Today, we are seeing that violence play out across the country on a weekly basis.

A man shot and killed a bunch of people at a Wal-mart because of nationalism.
A man shot and killed a bunch of people at a garlic festival because of nationalism.
A man fractured a kid's skull at a fair because of nationalism.
This is just a selection of stories from a single week.

We are in the midst of a wave of nationalist terrorism.

It will get worse until the people spreading fear, anger, and hatred have their megaphones taken away. Afterward it will be a long process of deradicalizing the extremists.

It starts with changing the public rhetoric. And it needs to come from the top and not only in the immediate aftermath of terrorist attacks.

In his speech yesterday Trump said, "our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy." And I fully agree.

I would suggest to Trump that next time he has a rally in which his audience suggests "shoot them" as a "solution" to immigration that, instead of laughing it off (after the cheers subside), he immediately denounce the idea and make it clear to his audience that such an opinion is not welcomed, condoned, or tolerated at his events.

I would suggest to Trump that next time he has a rally in which his audience chants "Send her back" about a U.S. citizen and refugee of non-Caucasian descent that, instead of basking in the anger, he cut them off and make it clear to his audience that we have a right to express differences of opinion in this country whether we're born here, naturalized, or even just visiting; and shouldn't be threatened with exile for disagreeing.

I would suggest to Trump that next time one of his supporters murders a counter protestor that he not respond with "... but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides." People adhering to an ideology of white supremacy are, by definition, not "very fine people." They're abhorrent and need to be denounced. It needs to be made clear that their viewpoint is not accepted. It's not welcome. It's not condoned. It will not be tolerated.

If you're not sure what that looks like, you can look to Bernie Sanders as an example of how to do it. When a supporter of his opened fire on a Republican-congressmember baseball practice he responded with:

I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be — violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society, and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs counter to our most deeply held American values.

Bernie Sanders

So, instead of reading off the teleprompter about how "our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy," just start doing it yourself.

House Resolution 489

This. Entirely and utterly this.

Whereas the Founders conceived America as a haven of refuge for people fleeing from religious and political persecution, and Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison all emphasized that the Nation gained as it attracted new people in search of freedom and livelihood for their families;

Whereas the Declaration of Independence defined America as a covenant based on equality, the unalienable Rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and government by the consent of the people;

Whereas Benjamin Franklin said at the Constitutional convention, "When foreigners after looking about for some other Country in which they can obtain more happiness, give a preference to ours, it is a proof of attachment which ought to excite our confidence and affection";

Whereas President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists";

Whereas immigration of people from all over the Earth has defined every stage of American history and propelled our social, economic, political, scientific, cultural, artistic, and technological progress as a people, and all Americans, except for the descendants of Native people and enslaved African-Americans, are immigrants or descendants of immigrants;

Whereas the commitment to immigration and asylum has been not a partisan cause but a powerful national value that has infused the work of many Presidents;

Whereas American patriotism is defined not by race or ethnicity but by devotion to the Constitutional ideals of equality, liberty, inclusion, and democracy and by service to our communities and struggle for the common good;

Whereas President John F. Kennedy, whose family came to the United States from Ireland, stated in his 1958 book "A Nation of Immigrants" that "The contribution of immigrants can be seen in every aspect of our national life. We see it in religion, in politics, in business, in the arts, in education, even in athletics and entertainment. There is no part of our nation that has not been touched by our immigrant background. Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.";

Whereas President Ronald Reagan in his last speech as President conveyed "An observation about a country which I love";

Whereas as President Reagan observed, the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors, and it is the Statue of Liberty and its values that give us our great and special place in the world;

Whereas other countries may seek to compete with us, but in one vital area, as "a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws the people of the world, no country on Earth comes close";

Whereas it is the great life force of "each generation of new Americans that guarantees that America's triumph shall continue unsurpassed" through the 21st century and beyond and is part of the "magical, intoxicating power of America";

Whereas this is "one of the most important sources of America's greatness: we lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people — our strength — from every country and every corner of the world, and by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation";

Whereas "thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we're a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge", always leading the world to the next frontier;

Whereas this openness is vital to our future as a Nation, and "if we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost"; and

Whereas President Trump's racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color: Now, therefore, be it resolved, That the House of Representatives —

(1) believes that immigrants and their descendants have made America stronger, and that those who take the oath of citizenship are every bit as American as those whose families have lived in the United States for many generations;

(2) is committed to keeping America open to those lawfully seeking refuge and asylum from violence and oppression, and those who are willing to work hard to live the American Dream, no matter their race, ethnicity, faith, or country of origin; and

(3) condemns President Donald Trump's racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should "go back" to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as "invaders," and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants (or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants) do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/489/text

Proud Nationalist? Seriously?

Just over 6 years ago I wrote this post about my concerns of the rising tide of nationalism in the United States.

And then on Monday, Trump says, "All I want is for our country is to be treated well, to be treated with respect, so in that sense I'm absolutely a nationalist, and I'm proud of it."

Either he is a proud nationalist, which should be terrifying to anyone who has even cursorily studied early-to-mid 20th-century geopolitics (he certainly exhibits all the hallmarks).  Or he's an ignorant fool who doesn't understand why saying that is a dangerous precedent to set.

Of course, he tried to present a softer, gentler nationalism (be treated well, with respect).  I'm not sure if there's a term for the rhetorical device, but it allows "nationalism" to re-enter the language "safely" because proponents can now pretend it just means "be treated well and with respect."  But that's not what "nationalism" means.  Any pretense that nationalists just want respect will eventually drop and we'll end up closer and closer to actual nationalism.

Historically, to be openly espousing nationalism and embracing it is not a good thing.  If it continues unchecked it will lead to violence in our borders.  This has always been the end result of one group saying, "Our group is the best" which leads to "We deserve to have these things" which leads to "You aren't part of our group" which leads to you "So you don't deserve to have these things" which leads to "So we're going to take them from you."

Unfortunately, today we're passing by the "So you don't deserve to have these things" phase.  This is evident in policies that close U.S. borders to refugees, animosity about welfare programs, and attempts to stifle legal immigration.  And we're quickly tilting towards "So we're going to take them from you."  This is evident in the process of cutting taxes for the wealthy and then paying for it by cutting social programs for the poor as well as taking children from parents and indefinitely detaining them in camps.

With history as our guide, if left unchecked it will get worse.

If this is not a narrative you'd like to see played out, please vote for politicians who oppose this course.  We do have a chance in 13 days to send a message as a nation about what we stand for.  Many candidates are on ballots openly supporting this agenda of nationalism.  Don't let them win.

Update 10/24:

After I wrote this piece, there are news reports of explosives being sent to left-of-center politicians and media outlets.  I'm not going to claim the motives of the person(s) responsible, but I will say the identification of out-groups to label as enemies is fundamental to the nationalist agenda.

Hateful rhetoric towards these out-groups is amped up at every opportunity.  They're blamed for everything wrong in the lives of the followers.  And it's trivial for such rhetoric to become action.  The President's message (spoken and otherwise) to his followers in response to today's events will be crucial in shaping the behavioral norms in the nationalist camp.

And let me be abundantly clear:  When I say "Don't let them win" I mean vote against them, support their opponents, and encourage your friends to vote.

Update 2, 10/30:

NPR reports today that Trump thinks he can change citizenship laws with an executive order and deny children born on U.S. soil from being U.S. citizens.

This is nationalism at work.  This is "so you don't deserve these things" in action.

The next step will be to start casually suggesting that we should revoke the citizenship of anyone born in the U.S. by a mother who entered illegally.  Which will be "so we're going to take them from you."  We need to stop nationalism now before it gets wholly out of control.