Elizabeth Warren Speech: Muslim Ban is About Religious Tests

Image result for women's march protest

Click this link to watch Elizabeth Warren’s speech about the executive order this weekend. Some highlights:

“President Trump’s order has nothing to do with security. …This order is not about terrorist threats. This order is about religious tests. And the United States does not impose religious tests, period.”

To understand what’s actually in the executive order, check out John Green’s video.

This executive order, to put it bluntly, serves to bolster the far-right extremists who feel threatened by the presence of religious others. It’s an entirely fear-based move, and there is no reason to believe it will do anything real to improve safety in this country. What it will do, though, is separate families and keep refugees from getting back on their feet.

We must fight this. Call your representatives and urge them to fight the executive order. Click here to find out who to call and how.

I called the representatives for my area and had 3 different experiences. One had nobody in the office at the time (it was after business hours) but allowed me to leave a voicemail. Another had a full inbox, so I jotted down their number to call again. A third actually still had someone in the office even though I called around 6:15 PM, and he assured me that my representative had put out a statement against the executive order and even called it what it is: religious discrimination and a ban on Muslims. I highly recommend that you write down your thoughts before calling so that you are ready to speak your point clearly. This really helped me not freeze up too, since I don’t exactly make this kind of phone call every day. I don’t really have the time to protest right now, but I can make a few phone calls and you probably can too. I especially urge you to call if you live in a red state. Let me know how it goes if you do!

Also, if you attended any of the many protests of the past few weeks or even called about a different issue, I’d love to hear about it too. The one thing keeping me going is seeing the strong reactions of people nationwide. We won’t stand idly by while the president legislates harmfully. To everyone from the protesters to the lawyers working for free to help people affected by this executive order, thank you for fighting for the true spirit of the United States.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Advertisements

Processing the 2016 Election: I’m Not Going Anywhere

Woman Holding Us Flag during Daytime

I had a post lined up for this weekend that had nothing to do with the US Presidential election, but then the unthinkable happened: Donald Trump won, not by popular vote, but because the US presidential elections still use the electoral college to choose who will be president. Regardless of who you voted for, there’s no denying that this system is deeply flawed.

For those of you who aren’t sure what the electoral college is or why this is crazyballs, read this paragraph and click the links. If you get nothing else from this post, understand that the electoral college is an actual group of people who vote for the president at a later date on behalf of everyone else, and who don’t always have to vote for the person their state already chose via popular vote. It’s not a one-elector-per-state situation either. The number of electors per state is awarded based on population size. But  wait, there’s more! The electoral votes are not really dispersed evenly by population, because a minimum number of electoral votes (3) is given to small states that, if it was all really awarded proportionally to population, might only get one or two, taking some votes away from densely populated states. Even states that have more cows than people get at least 3 electoral votes.  The system is undemocratic, making individual votes in densely populated states count less than votes in sparsely populated ones. If you live in California, your vote doesn’t count as much as a vote from someone in Wyoming, and really, neither of those hypothetical voters’ votes go directly to electing the president because of the electoral college. The electoral college hasn’t voted yet, but as far as I am aware, they have never gone rogue and changed the outcome of the election, although individuals in the electoral college can and do (sometimes) vote differently than they are expected to.

As I write this, we are in the weird limbo between the popular vote that took place on November 8th, awarding more not-yet-placed electoral votes to Trump than to Hillary, and the actual final voting of the electoral college that takes place on December 19th. Historically speaking, there is no reason to believe that Hillary will be selected over Trump, even though this is technically possible. It would take an unprecedented number of electors going rogue. His electoral lead is too large thanks to the number of states that he won, despite the fact that he actually lost the nationwide popular vote.

The results of this election shocked many. I live in a blue, east coast state. My friends and colleagues are definitely in a state of fear and uncertainty, and I’ve seen a lot of joking posts about moving to Canada that were going around the internet pre-election turn serious now that it’s over. My friends aren’t the only ones doing this either. Canada’s immigration website crashed on November 8th.

I completely understand wanting to leave if it’s a matter of safety or a matter of protecting your rights. I’m a woman, and I’m afraid of a Republican controlled US government overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark supreme court decision that legalized abortion in my country. But you know what? I have a job, and I could probably scrape together the cash to travel somewhere to get an abortion if I absolutely had to. Many women can’t.

Minorities face poverty at greater rates than others. Many of them have way more reasons to fear a Republican-controlled US government than I do, and would have a more difficult time leaving the country if it became necessary. If people like me–liberals who can probably survive 4 years of Trump–leave the country right now, then there will be fewer people to vote in support of those minorities. To say no to a Trump reelection, and to vote for more progressive representatives at a local level who will fight Trump on our behalf.

Yes, consider your safety. Of course. But leaving the country right now only fixes the problem for you. It does nothing for the people who are stuck here. I’m not saying it’s going to go well over the next four years, but if the people like me who can afford to stay stick around, we can make sure those four years don’t extend into eight.

Because Trump’s America isn’t the nation we know and love. Let’s remember to cherish our diversity. To keep welcoming immigrants, because our parents, grandparents, or great grandparents were just like them.

Happy thinking,

Nancy

Recognizing Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration

fence, macro, barbed wire

In light of the many events in the past few years that have brought police brutality and mass incarceration to the attention of the American public, I’d like to share my experiences with coming to the realization that these are indeed problems, and add my voice to the many that are discussing how we can address this. Too many people in my country are still denying these issues, saying black people are provoking the police, claiming that it’s just a few bad apples, or that black people are breaking the law more than white people. As with many things in life, there’s way more to this issue than meets the eye.

I’m a short white girl, so unsurprisingly, I have never experienced police brutality in my own life. I have, however, seen the results of police brutality and mass incarceration on a community I lived in, where I served as a volunteer throughout college.

I went to college in a city with a majority black population. A poor city where a good education is nearly impossible to attain. The city used to thrive, until the day came when its many factory jobs were outsourced to places where labor is cheap. As the jobs dried up, the people who could afford to leave packed their bags and moved somewhere better. Everyone else would stay on, getting jobs as janitors. As food service people. As cashiers at Walmart. Legitimate jobs to be sure, but jobs that usually cannot support a family, or even a single individual, without some other source of income. When those jobs failed to provide the people in that city with what they needed, they turned to other means.

I can’t fault someone as much for selling drugs when that’s the only valuable thing in their city. Yes, there are cruel people in the world, but crime isn’t always as simple as the Saturday morning cartoons I grew up watching. Sometimes people join gangs to have a family. To have support, or protection from violence. To feel like they belong somewhere, when nothing in their life feels like a home should. People die that way. People go to prison. But no one stops to address the route causes of these crimes.

When I was in college, I volunteered as a tutor at an after-school program near campus, helping local kids with their homework. While I was there, I watched a girl in second grade deal with the fact that her mother had just been arrested. She came in with tears in her eyes several weeks in a row, and the adults there had to take her aside to help her cope. She was a very bright child, with a reading level well above her grade level–so much so that even in her poor school district, she was being given more challenging reading assignments from 3rd and even 4th grade. I sometimes wonder where she is now. If all’s well with her, she’ll have finished 6th grade by now. Was she doing work for 7th or 8th that whole time last school year, or have the traumas of life in her city ripped the love of learning out of her? Her younger sister by a year or two had no idea what was happening at the time. Why mommy was gone. That was perhaps the saddest thing for the older sister, because in many ways I think she felt very alone through all this. Her sister was too young to understand what had happened.

Another day, when I was tutoring at the same place, a police siren went off in the distance, and one of the other children–not one of the aforementioned sisters, but yet another child–immediately started to cry. That was when the reality hit me. For some people, especially in cities like that one, the police aren’t the good guys who protect us. They take mommy and daddy away. And, as I would later learn, they beat or even kill parents in front of their children. A four year old was in the car when Philando Castile was shot and killed. Imagine the life that child may have going forward. It’s hard to focus on your school work when you’ve seen someone get killed right in front of your eyes in close quarters. Especially someone you know. A four year old shouldn’t be dealing with death, much less murder.

This is the reality for some people at a very early age, but if you’re white, and you’re growing up in a wealthy school district, this is not your reality. I didn’t attend public school, but my homeschooling community set up a field trip where we visited our local police station. The police joked with us, told us stories, and talked about crime fighting in a positive way. I looked up to the officers who spoke with us. It was one of my favorite “homeschool field trip” experiences. They showed us my town’s jail cells and jokingly let us walk in and pretend to be arrested. They showed us the restraint they use for unruly, dangerous arrests, and I didn’t imagine someone getting abused in it. I imagined the police using it to restrain someone who was a genuine danger to others. I had full and complete trust in the men in blue who protected my town, because they’d never given me a reason to think otherwise. But in the next state over, in the city where I went to college, there was probably a child walking into one such jail with a parent in tow, coming to bail out mom or dad after a routine traffic stop. The jail cells in my affluent town were empty the day we visited. I promise you, in some places, they are always full.

We need to indict the officers responsible for these shootings. They need to be tried, and steps need to be taken to stop this from happening again. I have some ideas. I’m not the first person to say this, but I think it bears repeating:

  1. TRAINING. So many of these terrible scenarios could have been avoided if the police officers had been able to take control of the situation in a way that works on calming people down, not riling people up. It’s human nature to amp up your volume and increase your forcefulness in a stressful situation when you’re an authority figure, but people in a job like theirs need to realize this, and to know how to calm themselves and others. They also need to assess the situation realistically. Training should include teaching them to be sensitive to the different experiences of people of different backgrounds. Also, and this is a big one for me, they need training regarding how to handle mentally unstable people. When the police are called to help the mentally ill, it often doesn’t end well.
  2. Police should look like the communities they’re policing. A mostly black neighborhood with a mostly white police force is doing something wrong. The police should be invested in the communities they’re serving. They shouldn’t feel like the people they’re interacting with on a daily basis are part of an “other” outside group.
  3. We need to make it easier, not harder, for people to film the police. Police officers should wear body cameras, and there should never be any question of legality when it comes to filming the police. It’s beginning to seem like that’s the only way they’re being held accountable: the court of public opinion. That shouldn’t be the case though. We also need to take the next step once footage of a police officer misbehaving surfaces. They need to face reasonable consequences for the severity of the misdeed. I’m not saying every mistake they could make is worthy of termination or charges, but if you’re killing people on the job then yeah, I’d like to see both.
  4. We need to address mass incarceration, and the way in which the United States criminal justice system is being used to oppress minorities. I only wish I were imagining this, but unfortunately investigations of police forces known to be involved in cases of police brutality have turned up a widespread pattern of abuse and racial profiling. In other words, contrary to what we’d all like to believe, it’s not just a few bad apple cops. It’s often an entire police force. The roots of mass incarceration are three fold: the behavior of the people enforcing the law, the laws that are being written without regard for minorities, and the situations that lead people to choose crime in the first place. Poverty is a massive factor. With poverty comes a major deficit in opportunity. We need to address all of this, not just one part of it, if we want this issue to go away completely.
  5. We need to talk about race, but in a more nuanced way. Racism isn’t always overt. It’s not just people knowingly making judgments based on race. It’s not just about hiring discrimination, housing discrimination, wage discrimination, and dropping the N word around. It’s not just about lynchings, and people having a problem with biracial couples. It’s not just when people knowingly say or do cruel things because of someone’s race. Racism is in the assumptions we make unconsciously too, and those assumptions are some of the most pervasive ones because we tend to not notice them when they’re happening.

Even with all the things I just said, I am very aware that I HAVE RACIST TENDENCIES. I tense up when an unfamiliar black man walks by, far more so than with a large white man.  I shouldn’t be afraid of these people I’ve never met, but I am. I’m trying not to be this way. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard, but I do think that with time I can unlearn at least some of this negative conditioning. I think the first step to fixing a problem is realizing you have one. My hope is that others will come to the same realization and begin to take the steps to change.

If we want racism to end, we need to catch ourselves making that snide remark. We need to stop judging people who speak differently from us, whose hair is a little bit different, whose skin is a different color. We need to walk past the black man on the park bench calmly, comfortably, without clutching our purses in a panic. We need to recognize that unfortunately the police may not always handle an emergency involving diverse people very well, and if they fail to behave appropriately, we need to stand up for the people being abused. We need to find it in us to question authority when necessary, especially for those of us who are coming from a place of white privilege. It’s fucking tragic that I have to say it, but if they won’t listen to the black voices, the voices of the victims and their families, maybe they’ll listen to us.

If you have thoughts or experiences related to this issue, feel free to share them. Please be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking.

Nancy

Anti-Refugee Fear Mongering

The other day, my brother insisted that most Syrian refugees are young single males. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this claim, but it was my first time hearing it from a member of my family rather than an out-of-touch old man on conservative media. My father immediately agreed with my brother, insisting that he’d heard this too. So I went online and looked it up, because the internet is an incredible thing. Here’s what I found.

It’s barely true as of right this second that there are slightly more male refugees than female ones, at least registered in the countries for which we have statistics. Marital status is not indicated in the demographics I found, just age and sex, but I’m pretty confident that this is a solid source for this information.

This is a graph from the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) website, with statistics on Syrian refugees. Bear in mind, this source is 1) not affiliated with any American political party and 2) an orginazation that deals directly with the refugee crisis. You can see in the picture below that as of when I got this screenshot, they had updated the information here on July 20th.

Syrian Refugee stats

I will admit that this data doesn’t seem to contain every country refugees are going to, and that it’s possible the demographics in one country are very different from the demographics here, however all in all I think this is a large enough record to conclude that it isn’t “mostly single young males” fleeing Syria, as some have been led to believe. As you can see, men do slightly outnumber women  in these demographics-by about 1% as of July 20th. But 1% is not really that statistically significant. If we’re going to make big claims based on a 1% difference, then I could just as easily say that because women in the 18-59 age range outnumber men in that age group by nearly 1%, the refugees have more mothers among than than single men. Neither statement is a reasonable conclusion to draw from these statistics though. It’s a conclusion someone’s jumped to using barely relevant statistics.

Additionally, there’s something off about the way conservatives are using the phrase “single  young men” in this context. The people putting out this idea keep using the phrase as a reason to be hostile towards refugees and ban them from western nations, so I get the feeling that they think young single males are just horrible human beings, or at least more likely to be horrible human beings. If that’s not a highly gendered sexist idea, I don’t know what is. It sounds like an extension of one of my least favorite gendered sayings: “boys will be boys,” which is often used to excuse men for being mischievous, lazy, or clueless because it’s “just how they are.” (Meanwhile, women are expected to whip some sense into them and teach them to have some manners and a work ethic.) If conservatives are basically stretching the statistics to suit them by attaching “single” to the young men demographic, then they’re implying that married men are more tame, more responsible, less dangerous.

Sure, people mature with age, but getting married, while a big commitment, doesn’t make you more responsible. You make yourself more responsible through the decisions you make. I feel bad for the wife of any man who thinks it’s her job to keep him in line.

There’s a lot of fear mongering being done by conservatives lately, especially about large groups of disadvantaged people. As disappointing as that is to see, what I find even more disappointing is the realization that it’s being spread by well-meaning people like the members of my family who are grossly misinformed. They don’t WANT to discriminate or be cruel, but the fear of this “other” is a pretty powerful thing and can lead to some pretty intense confirmation bias. I wish I knew how to change minds and bring people together so that they can have healthy dialogue about it. For now I’ll just post this chart and hope someone reads it and gives it some consideration.

Do you have any thoughts to share on the ideas in this post? Feel free to leave a comment.

All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

What Does “Never Forget 9/11” Really Mean?

An example of one of these “Never Forget 9/11” campaigns. Most of the ones I’ve seen in my area are just handwritten signs.

I was driving down a suburban road the other day and saw that someone had put up a spray-painted sign stating, “Never Forget 9/11.”

Beneath it, also in spray paint, they had written, “Blue Lives Matter.” (Facepalm.)

Their lawn is covered with miniature American flags.

From the combination of the two signs, I can discern their political affiliation is republican, though I could have guessed it well enough from the first sign, and from the bizarrely numerous American flags. Excessive patriotism is the realm of conservatives in my country. What I can’t guess, though, is what message they’re trying to send with the “Never Forget 9/11” sign.

9/11 will be in every comprehensive US history book. The children who are too young to remember it will be taught about it. There is no conspiracy to hide the event and its significance, at least that I’ve seen. True, eventually the people old enough to remember the actual day it happened will die, but that can’t be helped. It will live on in our schools. In our history classes. Our political science lectures. People will remember that terrifying moment in our nation’s history when our comfortable lives were interrupted by a terrible act of violence. But here’s the thing: it was a terrorist attack.

The goal of a terrorist attack is to make people afraid. To make people dwell on that fear. That’s why it’s called terrorism. I’m not saying we should forget 9/11, but do we really need to put up signs about it everywhere? Dwelling on it is letting the terrorists win. Letting them impact our lives all these years later.

The only circumstance in which I think one of these signs makes sense is if you had a loved one who was lost in the attacks that day. In that case, sure. It has a personal meaning to you. I get that. But wouldn’t a memorial to that individual be more personal than just a blanket reminder about an event we all remember anyway?

My fiance brought these signs up in conversation yesterday, and they make him scratch his head too. Between the two of us, the only political message we could come up with for the signs was pretty dark: “Remember who did this.” That makes this whole thing even worse. Now it’s a call to action. A call to be against a whole group of people. With a certain orange hairball inching closer and closer to the white house, I can’t help but wonder whether or not this kind of sign is a symptom of his xenophobic disease.

Am I reading into this too much? Am I so deep in my liberal brain that I can’t just see a sign and take it at face value? What do you think these signs are trying to say?

Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy