Wednesday
Jun192019

Up and Running

Look, it’s not like we were using the place for anything.

Yes, I’m talking about Fort Sill, a 150-year-old military base in Oklahoma that was once the site of an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Think about that prestigious history. Throwing people into hellish camps to rot, in direct violation of their civil and human rights, based on nothing more than blatant racism and xenophobic terror — yeah, there’s a serious contender for America’s finest hour. 

Well, the good news is that Fort Sill now has another shot at glory. Because the Trump Administration will now detain 1,400 migrant children there, to be held indefinitely.

What’s that?

No, I don’t believe that the Trump Administration is trying to be darkly comedic or the slightest bit ironic. For starters, those traits are far beyond the capacity of sociopaths. But also, they are doing this because our beleaguered bureaucrats are running out of room for migrant children at government shelters. 

You see, “apprehensions of children at the border are already nearing record numbers.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection released data that showed a 74% increase over last year. Several children have died while in U.S. custody, but that wasn’t quite horrific for our president, so recently, the administration “cut funding for classes, recreation and legal aid at detention centers holding minors,” and for an extra dash of horror, “37 children were locked in vans for up to 39 hours in the parking lot of a detention center in Texas.”

Progressives say that all this is “snowballing proof of a racist, lawless administration.” But conservative defenders say… well… they really have no defense other than to shout that the “illegals” brought this on themselves and that Obama’s policies were a thousand billion times worse, so nah-nah-nah. 

One would think that undocumented immigration, near record lows just a few years ago, would not be straining the U.S. government so much. But of course, the president’s heartless and incoherent policies have not only failed to curtail undocumented immigration. His bumbling threats and bizarre proclamations have actually backfired and made the problem much worse.

Among the most terrifying aspects of this fiasco — and really, there are myriad terrifying aspects to choose from — is that there is no end game to this catastrophic maelstrom of incompetence and hatred.  

That’s because “Trump has made it clear that he wants to stifle all non-white immigration, period.” As such, it is a never-ending project, and the “mass arrests, iceboxes and dog cages are part of an explicitly nationalist project to put the country under the control of the right kind of white people.”

So let’s go ahead and be honest about this project, which is nothing less than a “growing system of American concentration camps.”

In fact, our good friend Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said as much, pointing out that the Trump administration’s detention facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border are “exactly like concentration camps.” The GOP, predictably, has come for her head.

But as many historians have pointed out, “things can be concentration camps without being Dachau or Auschwitz.” The detention centers that have sprung up are the natural results of  “the rhetoric that Trump deploys to justify the system and his unconstitutional power grabs.” Eventually, the rise of these camps creates “a self-fulfilling prophecy or a positive feedback loop that just keeps radicalizing the treatment as the policy itself becomes radicalizing."

No, it’s not genocide. But the drive to dehumanize is the same. 

And if you don’t believe me, perhaps you should ask some of those aforementioned Japanese Americans who got locked up decades ago. Recently, many “former World War II detainees, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s, along with their friends, families and descendants, [joined] the protesters calling attention to all immigrants being subjected to mass incarceration today.”

The use of Fort Sill in particular has angered many who believe that “our country is once again incarcerating children in facilities used previously to incarcerate Japanese Americans,” and that this tactic “is like a gut punch to the Japanese American community, many of whom continue to feel the effects of the inter-generational trauma inflicted from their families' incarceration experiences.”  

Furthermore, the Japanese American Citizens League has stated that “the damage being done to these children is immoral.”

But hey, who are you going to believe on this subject? The people who went through the hellish camps and their descendants, or a pampered billionaire with a history of racist statements and his xenophobic friends?

It’s a stumper.

By the way, Fort Sill did serve another function during World War II. The base was also used to hold German prisoners of war (or as the Trump Administration refers to them, some of the good people on both sides).

Of course, we no longer put Nazis into camps. Now we let them run immigration policy. 

Am I exaggerating? Well, in Trump’s America, I’m not sure that’s possible anymore.

 

Wednesday
Jun122019

If There Is a World Worth Saving

You are familiar, no doubt, with the following phrase: Youth is wasted on the young.

We never state the reverse, which is that experience is wasted on the old.

But the last few years have taught us that old people (i.e., Baby Boomers) are not particularly wise, despite their head start on the rest of us. We’ve learned that Baby Boomers are more than the largest, loudest, most self-absorbed generation in history, with a penchant to claim everything for themselves in a narcissistic orgy of materialism and shallowness that has pinned every successive generation under the rock of their arrogance and delusion.

No, they are also out to destroy the world.

You see, the Baby Boomers would like credit for civil rights marches and the sexual revolution and Led Zeppelin. But really, their final legacy will likely be their fervent, almost fanatical embrace of Donald Trump (who was born in 1946 — the ultimate Baby Boomer year). Support for Trump among Baby Boomers is consistently over 50 percent, the only age group in which a majority approve of his performance.

Ergo, it is Baby Boomers, far more than other Americans, who support stuffing children into cages, cutting off people’s healthcare, kowtowing to vicious dictators, denying the very existence of climate change, and so on.

Does any of that sound like wisdom to you?

Now, because I’m member of Generation X, I am too filled with cynicism and disdain to offer any constructive solutions that aren’t subtly ironic. So I will leave saving the world to the millennials.

I know it’s fashionable to pile on that generation. Hey, I’ve done it a few times myself (like when I roll my eyes over their incessant need to be with their friends at all times, even on their damn honeymoons).

But I admire the millennialwillingness to question American norms. For example, old people shout, “Work hard!” And millennialask, “Why should I slave away at a shitty job just to make more money for rich people and drown in the ocean of my student debt?” 

That, my friend, is an excellent question.

In any case, another reason that I respect millennial— and why you should be rooting for them — is because they are the ones who will truly make America great again.

You see what I did there? Got all ironic on you. Hey, you were warned.

Here’s my point:A recent study has shown that, to phrase it bluntly, “young people are staying liberal, and conservatives are dying off.”

Yes, conventional wisdom held “that young people would naturally grow more conservative as they age, or that their Democratic loyalties were an idiosyncratic response to Barack Obama’s unique personal appeal.” But in truth, younger voters are “wildly more liberal than older ones. The youngest voters have nearly five times as many voters with liberal views than with conservative views.”  

Baby Boomers, in general, are “conservative, white, and Republican, and the youngest voters are the most liberal, racially diverse, and Democratic.” Keep in mind that there is “absolutely no sign the dynamic is abating during the Trump years. If anything, it is accelerating.”

Another survey shows that 57 percent of millennials “call themselves consistently liberal or mostly liberalOnly 12 percent call themselves consistently conservative or mostly conservative.”

I’m pretty sure that if a political party can count on the future votes of just 12 percent of a generation, it will not be a major political party for much longer.

Today’s generation gap “is not based just on temporary intellectual postures. It is based on concrete, lived experience that is never going to go away.” Young people despise Trump and his xenophobic appeals to an overwhelmingly white America that is unlike their culture — an environment that would exclude them, their friends, and their families. Hell, a full 63 percent of young people say the president is a straight-up racist. 

OK, so young people aren’t abandoning their progressive ideals as they grow up. What does that mean? 

In the short term, say the next presidential election, it means that Baby Boomers and older generations are expected to account for less than 40% of eligible voters. Most eligible voters in 2020 will be younger, and less likely to clamor for, say, imprisoning women for having abortions.

In the longer term, it means that “Republicans are living on borrowed time,” and that the attempt to “suppress voting among poorer and nonwhite voters (who tend to be younger and also more progressive) should be seen for what it is: A last-gasp effort to extend older and whiter generations’ disproportionate power in a country becoming more secular, more diverse and more progressive.”

As we all know by now, “many conservatives supported Trump precisely because they were panicked about this trend. So far, Trump is merely accelerating the demise they feared.”

So I guess we can all rest easy, because the nightmare of Trumpism is bound to implode due the unstoppable, irreversible power of demographic change.

Well, except for all the federal judges and Supreme Court justices who will be placed into lifetime appointments, where they will have the ability to make rulings right out of the 1950s until well into the 2040s. And then there’s the long-lasting economic damage that the Republicans have already set in motion, and the grievous injuries that Trump has unleashed on our institutions and norms. And then there is climate change, where the ability to enact meaningful change is being thwarted by old people who deny basic science and will not live long enough to suffer the horrific consequences.

In fact, an alarming new study says that there is a distinct chance that human civilization will start to collapse by 2050. That’s just 31 years away.

Of course, if humanity does get pushed to the brink of extinction, and there are any centenarian Baby Boomers left, I’m sure they will look around at the devastation, deny responsibility for their cataclysmic decisions, and just blame someone younger. 

That’s kind of their thing.

Friday
Jun072019

The Great Regression

What do measles, anti-abortion laws, and overt racism all have in common?

Actually, not much except for this: All three were thought to be eradicated decades ago.

But now, as I’m sure you’ve heard, these three social maladies have made a roaring comeback. Really, when it comes to catching contagious diseases, treating women like cattle, and screaming at ethnic minorities in public, well, it might as well be 1965.

For example, “this the most severe year for measles in 25 years — and it's looking like we're even on track to break that record.” This is because many parents are scared of science and have opted not to vaccinate their children, a truly terrifying combination of ignorance, misanthropy and societal suicide that has been endorsed by the great scientist of our time, Mr. Donald Trump. 

As for Roe vs. Wade, many progressives figured that after nearly a half-century of stare decisisand settled law — and the progress that women have made toward gender equality in the interim — that there would be no way that conservatives could possibly yank away this constitutional right in a fit of blatant misogyny.

Let me tell you something. The hard right wing of the GOP will tell you when they have finally gone too far, and you will have no say in it (and also, their answer will always be, “We have not gone too far”).

That brings us to racism. Oh sure, the more wide-eyed among us thought that bigotry was dead around the time Obama got elected, and that we had entered a post-racial world… sorry, it’s hard for me to type that phrase without bursting into derisive, cackling laughter.

Regardless, most Americans agreed that racial prejudice still existed. But many of us believed that racism was so beaten down and socially unacceptable that we no longer had to worry about, say, a guy mowing a swastikainto his lawn for all his neighbors to see. And the very idea of thousands of neo-fascists marching through the streets chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans… that was just nuts. Never gonna happen — nope.

So why are we here? How are we here?

There is, of course, no all-encompassing answer. But we can look at one undeniable cause for America sliding into retrograde.

And that is because a certain mindset — making America great again — has been embraced by people who are too fearful, too overwhelmed to face the present day. And fetishizing a glorious past that never existed leaves a culture unprepared for the issues of the future. The yearning for a simpler time only leads to simplistic answers.

One of the prevailing attitudes of America’s bygone decades was blatant ignorance masquerading as charming naivety. With the rise of the internet, information is easier than ever to find. But when facts are too upsetting or truths are too difficult to face, many Americans deny their existence and whiplash toward the bad ideas of previous generations. And people start saying kids are better off without vaccinations, or that women shouldn’t get the right to choose, or that segregation isn’t so bad after all. All the decayed norms that were thought dead and buried long ago crawl out of the nation’s grave.

Perhaps this maddening lurching of one step forward, nine steps back will one day be viewed as a necessary stage of America’s evolution. However, even if we eventually look back on this time and sigh with relief that we made it through, I am positive about one thing:

Nobody — and I mean, nobody — is ever going to glamorize 2019.

Wednesday
May292019

Lo Siento Para Hablando en Español

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are walking down the street, and you pass two people having a private conversation. You overhear them, and to your shock and horror, they are not talking in English.

Do you immediately turn around to berate them for not speaking god’s favorite language? Do you seethe in anger that they are offending every decent American by speaking Mandarin or French or Klingon or whatever the hell that noise is (but let’s face it — it’s probably Spanish)? Or do you mind your own damn business and just keep walking, barely even noticing that non-English words had briefly buzzed around you?

Well, if you are a white conservative, the odds are about even that you’ll get pissed off. Yes, a new survey has found that 47 percent of white Republicans say it would bother them “some” or “a lot” to “hear people speak a language other than English  in a public place.” In contrast, just 18 percent of white Democrats say this would bug them.

Keep in mind that conservatives regularly accuse liberals of being “too sensitive.” A fair question is, what could be more hypersensitive than getting offended at total strangers having a private conversation, using rights that are constitutionally protected, performing actions that will not affect your life in even the smallest way?

Talk about fragile snowflakes.

In any case, the study also found that “among all racial groups, whites are most likely to be bothered hearing foreign languages.” More than one-third (34%) of white people clench their teeth if they overhear a “muchas gracias,” but only about one-quarter of African Americans (25%) and Asian Americans (24%) are similarly repulsed. Meanwhile, a mere 13% of Latinos get irked when people start jabbering in some foreign tongue.

Now, the good news is that a strong majority (70%) of Americans rated their level of unease at “not much” or “not at all” when it comes to hearing a different language. However, only about one-quarter of white Republicans (26%) fall into this category.

Clearly, this is a group that is very uncomfortable with different ethnicities and the changing makeup of America. Sure, we all knew that already, but the study puts some disturbing numbers on this commonly accepted idea.

For example, did you know that 37% of Republicans believe that “having a majority of the population made up of blacks, Asians, Hispanics and other racial minorities” would be bad for the country? And in case you’re wondering, yes, this is indeed the highest share among any demographic group surveyed.

Hell, more than half of Republicans (60%) believe that a majority nonwhite population will “weaken American customs and values.” Whew, it’s a good thing that it was “economic anxiety” that motivated Trump voters. Otherwise, I might start to think there was something racial  going on here.

Ahem.

Of course, there is more in the study that implies the GOP is not the place for ethnic minorities. For example, “Republicans also stood out in the survey for their skepticism of interracial marriage.”

In 2019, who the hell is “skeptical” of interracial marriage? And is this the message that the GOP wants to send to all those multiethnic Millennials 

The key point to remember is that a powerful trope of conservatives — one that is hammered home every minute on Fox News and relentless driven into the psyche of the nation — is that Republicans are the “real Americans,” and that their values represent mainstream thought. For example, certain right-wing commenters bemoan “radical” progressive ideas and mock the idea of diversity.

However, most Americans (57%) say it is “very good” that “the U.S. population is made up of people of many different races and ethnicities.” Just 39% of Republicans agree with that statement, meaning that they are the outliers when it comes to diversity.

So who is out of touch here? Who is outside the mainstream?

Hey, look at the numbers and do the math.

I’ll leave you with one final statistic: More than 20% of American residents speak a language other than English at home.

This means that, statistically, if five different people invite a white Republican to their place for dinner, there’s going to be a screaming argument in at least one of those houses. 

But hopefully, everybody will be shouting in English.

Wednesday
May222019

The Incredible Disappearing Wall

I recently received a manifesto (there is no other word to describe it) from a longtime reader who hates me.

Over the years, this reader has frequently sent emails calling me an idiot and/or a racist, with colorful phrases throw in that describe his feelings about Latinos in general.

In any case, he is — shockingly — a hardcore Trump supporter who has been clamoring for that fabled wall on our southern border, which his messiah promised back in 2016. But this same reader just wrote me to say that he is now completely against the wall and thinks constructing one would be a disaster for America. 

Has he seen the light and renounced his bigotry? Has he realized that the wall is nothing more than a moronic campaign slogan? Did my writing influence him to change his flawed thinking?

Ha… no.

My longtime pen pal has informed me that he’s uncovered the brilliant double-cross, long-con, super-duper reverse psychology that leftists have engineered. He says that liberals only claim to be opposed to the wall, when in actuality, they want it built. In his words, “the bloodthirsty socialists are going to seize power” after the last brick is put in. At that point, the wall will be a barrier to trap all good, decent Americans in the hellhole that leftists have inflicted on this nation. He just wanted to let me know that he’s on to this, and that “patriots are not going to support your plot to turn us into East Germany.”

Damn… we progressives almost had you there.

Now, besides illustrating the bottomless depths of paranoia that passes for conservative thought, my faithful reader has also shown that the wall — once a symbol of Trumpism — has turned into a farce of epic proportions and the biggest reason why the word “boondoggle” exists.

You see, we’ve already endured the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, ugly political fights over the power of executive orders and eminent domain, and a misguided reshuffling of our military’s priorities — all to serve the personal whims of a scatterbrained wannabe despot who has “the long-term decision-making ability of an empty chair.”

And still there is no wall.

Things have gotten so desperate that right-wing citizens are raising money to fund the wall themselves. As I’ve previously written, one group has collected $20 million, which is enough to build about a mile of Trump’s barrier. But even that pathetic scaling down of expectations doesn’t look like it’s going to happen because… well… um… the money cannot be accounted for. 

Apparently, $20 million has just gone missing, all by itself.

Yes, the founder of this delusional endeavor is “a prolific operator of hoax pages on Facebook, and money he raised in the past to help veterans’ programs in hospitals never actually went to those hospitals.”

And now, the proposed deadline for groundbreaking on the privately funded wall has come and gone. At this point, “Trump supporters who donated to the crowdfunding effort want to know where their money went.”

It’s a good question. Although an even better question is how could people be so consumed by bigotry that they would give their hard-earned cash to a guy with a shady past to fund a xenophobic project that would accomplish nothing? And as a follow-up, are they aware that, even if the money reappears and is applied to construction, “the vast majority of the border … exists on land owned by the federal government — land where private citizens cannot build their own walls”?

Oh well, at least their hearts are in the wrong place.

With such a cavalcade of corruption, incompetence, and stupidity coalescing around all things related to the wall, it is no wonder that my conspiracy-obsessed reader is now dismissing the barricade that he once so aggressively championed. He says it’s because he has uncovered a left-wing plot to commandeer the wall. But clearly, he just wants to distance himself from total failure. 

It’s hard to say definitively, and I’m not going to ask him to find out.

Because I don’t correspond with crazy people.

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