Wednesday, August 15, 2018
One of the great political myths is that Republicans are more supportive of America's military and veterans than Democrats. In reality, its the opposite with the GOP and Trump Hell bent to slash funding for everything ranging from Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security to veterans health care benefits - calls all the more urgent give the Trump/GOP $1.5 trillion tax cut give away to the very wealthy and large corporations. Average working Americans and veterans simply do not count in today's GOP. Yes, one hears Republicans bloviating about "supporting our troops" and waiving the flag and bashing "unpatriotic" NFL players, but where the rubber hits the road, their actions do not reflect the talking points they toss out. As the saying goes, talk is cheap. Actions are what count. As a piece in New York Magazine notes, a Trump/GOP effort is underway to cut veterans health care benefits under the guise of addressing the ballooning budget deficit - the deficit that is ballooning in no small part due to the Trump/GOP tax cuts - cuts that have not trickled down in any significant way to working Americans or small businesses. Sadly, rather than "do their homework" and discover the truth, many Republican "friends" simply allow themselves to be taken in by GOP ruses and fail to ferret out the facts. Here are highlights on the threat to veterans benefits:
Last year, the Trump administration insisted that its regressive tax cuts were so important, it was worth adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt to ensure their passage. Now, the White House is warning Congress that the United States cannot afford to add $1.6 billion to the deficit to expand health-care options for veterans.
In a letter Monday, the Trump administration demanded that lawmakers fund a popular veterans’ health-care program — which allows former troops to spend public funds on private doctors and hospitals — with cuts to other parts of the budget. Democrats, and some top Senate Republicans, prefer to raise the current caps on discretionary spending instead.
The case for the latter option is straightforward. Congressional spending falls into two categories: mandatory (funding for programs like Social Security, which increases automatically as more Americans qualify for benefits) and discretionary (spending that Congress must actively renew). When Congress passed its omnibus budget bill back in March, the private veterans’ health-care program was on the mandatory side of the ledger. Thus, although lawmakers knew that federal spending on the program was going to increase, they didn’t have to account for its cost when setting a discretionary budget.
But last month, president Trump signed a law that reorganized veterans’ health care, and shifted funding for the private program into the discretionary column. This did not significantly increase the overall cost of domestic spending — but it did lift the price tag on the discretionary budget above previously set caps. Which is to say: It produced a budget shortfall that wasn’t a product of changes in fiscal reality, so much as in accounting practices.
Relitigating funding levels for various domestic programs — which Congress had found consensus on just months ago — is not a fight that most lawmakers want to have.
And it’s hard to see why the White House does. The administration’s desire to repent for its sins against fiscal responsibility is understandable enough (even if their gesture is roughly akin to a serial arsonist buying a single brownie from a local fire department’s bake sale). But why they would want to center their performance of deficit hawkery on the issue of veterans’ health care is baffling.
Yes, their official position is that the program must be funded with reductions in other appropriations. But the administration has already established that it believes corporate tax cuts are so important, they’re worth enacting at any fiscal cost. Given that context, it shouldn’t be difficult for Democrats to paint the White House’s current hard line on deficits as a tacit admission that it sees caring for America’s retired troops as less important than increasing corporate America’s allowance.
With a family member still dealing with the consequences of injuries suffered in Afghanistan, I know that these veterans' benefits are crucial. Sadly, flag waving Republicans and the foul individual in the White House do not - or perhaps they simply do not care about "little people" - people like veterans.
Throughout history one of the tools of autocrats and those seeking to commit genocide has been to dehumanize those disliked or inconveniently in the way o,f grandiose plans is to depict them as "other" and less than human. America has a great deal of experience with this effort in its past, ranging from dehumanizing Native Americans as "savages" and heathens" to consistently dehumanizing blacks subjected to slavery as being "less intelligent" and "brutes" or worse, including the myth that black males sought to sexually violate white women. More recently, American Christofascists have employed similar tactics against gays and have even gone so far as to recycle Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda and merely replace the word "Jews" with "gays" or "homosexuals." Muslims have been similarly targeted and depicted as would be terrorists. Donald Trump has taken this dehumanization campaign to new heights, getting pointers no doubt from some of the Christofascists to whom he has sold his soul (assuming, of course, he has one). Kathleen Parker is on point - and off the GOP reservation - in a column condemning Trump's dehumanization efforts. Here are highlights:
No sooner had I ordered the 2011 book “Less Than Human” for a late-summer read than
PresidentTrump called Omarosa Manigault Newman a “dog” and a “lowlife.” Those two slurs fit nicely into author David Livingstone Smith’s philosophical study of man’s capacity to inflict cruelty by first dehumanizing the “other.”
Trump’s personal template is familiar. He likes someone, then doesn’t, then reduces the object of his scorn to something less than human. The mononymously known Omarosa, whose friendship with Trump began when she appeared on “The Apprentice,” was fired last year from her job as a White House aide.
During the past few days, she has released secretly taped recordings of her firing as well as a later conversation with Trump, published a tell-all account of her time in the White House and told MSNBC’s Chris Matthewsthat she’s willing to cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.
All things considered, it sounds as if Trump and Omarosa may deserve each other. . . . Whatever her motivations, Omarosa seems set on exposing Trump as a racist. (Congratulations, Omarosa, you’re the last to know. He’s also a misogynist.) Trump may not be an n-word-hurling racist, though Omarosa claims to know of a tape from his reality-show days when he used the term. (Trump denies having used the epithet. But his pattern of speaking about African Americans, among others not of his race or ethnicity, suggests that racism taints his mental processes.)
It’s fair to say that most whites who are racist usually don’t think they are. This is because they don’t use the n-word or actively seek to bring harm to nonwhites. But racism is a pernicious, passive plague. You don’t have to burn crosses in people’s yards. All you have to do is see African Americans (or Asians or Latinos) in stereotypically demeaning ways. Thus, when Trump became angry with Omarosa, he didn’t say she was a disgruntled former employee — or make some other dismissively neutral comment.
Directing such vitriol toward any woman is repellent. But what makes the [Trump's]
president’sremarks especially repugnant is that they were aimed at a minority woman and followed a spate of similar insults targeting African Americans: He recently said that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has a low IQ, “somewhere in the mid-60s.” In a twofer on Aug. 3, he attacked both CNN anchor Don Lemon and Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, tweeting: “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”
It’s a simple matter of fact that certain insults have greater or lesser impact when applied to particular individuals or groups of people. Comparing Mitt Romney or Stephen K. Bannon to a dog, as Trump previously did, obviously isn’t the same as calling a black woman a dog. Questioning the intelligence of African Americans is especially blistering.
He’s the president of the United States andshould be able to muzzle his schoolyard impulses. He should also know that dehumanization — or “othering,” to use current vernacular — leads to marginalization, which can lead to cruelty (say, separating young migrant children from their parents), which can lead to far worse.
As Smith explains in his book, it’s much easier to hurt, maim or kill another when you no longer see them as quite human. World history’s catalogue of atrocities confirms this. Which is why no one living today should be comfortable with the language of dehumanization, no matter how relatively minor the degree.
Sadly, the core of Trump's base, in my opinion, are just as racist as he is. True, most don't burn crosses in the yards of blacks, but they go along - some enthusiastically - with Trump's racism and misogyny.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Today the much anticipated grand jury report into six of the eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania was finally released and it was damning. Sex abuse crimes against at least 1000 some victims - many belief the true numbers is in to the thousands - by over 300 priests were systematically covered up by bishops who maintained secret archives and files that thankfully were subpoenaed by the grand jury. Over 500,000 church documents were reviewed that showed the clear and deliberate cover ups of crimes against children and youths. Not surprisingly, its the same pattern that was seen in the Archdiocese of Boston, dioceses after diocese in Ireland, across dioceses in Australia and Chile and pretty much everywhere across the globe.
Yet what are Catholic bishops lamenting? Certainly not the victims of large scale sex abuse crimes. Rather, as my Google search agent revealed, in Costa Rica, the Catholic News Agency is reporting on Catholic bishops are decrying that country's ruling legalizing same sex civil marriage. Per the Indianapolis Star, Roncalli High School in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, is obsessed with firing a long time guidance counselor after it was discovered she is married to a woman. Meanwhile, The Guardian is reporting that a LGBT Catholic group has been denied permission for a vendor stall at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, which Pope Francis is attending on August 25th.
What can one expect in the wake of the release of the damning Pennsylvania grand jury report.? More crocodile tears and disingenuous apologies and lamentations of regret even as nothing is done to punish or remove from office the bishops and cardinals that engaged in the cover ups of sex crimes against children and youths. It is little wonder that younger generations are walking away from Catholicism in droves. And it is not just the younger generation (many of whom are not having their children baptized at all). Not long ago, the last member of my extended family who had remained a Catholic Church member walked away. Many older generations are leaving as well either out of disgust for the Hierarchy's moral bankruptcy or the Hierarchy's continued anti-gay and anti-contraception jihads. Here are excerpts from the Allentown Morning Call about the grand jury report:
A scathing grand jury report released Tuesday reveals accusations of sexual abuse against 301 priests — 37 from the Allentown Diocese — whose actions went unchecked for decades in dioceses across Pennsylvania, including Allentown.Instead of reporting pedophiles, dioceses routinely shuffled them from parish to parish, enabling them to prey upon new victims, the document shows. The statewide grand jury, launched by former Attorney General Kathleen Kane, spent two years on the most exhaustive investigation of the church taken on by a state. It covered allegations in the Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton dioceses, which collectively minister to more than 1.7 million Catholics.
Among those cited as enablers was Allentown’s bishop, Alfred Schlert, who played a role in the diocese’s handling of complaints when he was vicar general under Bishop Edward Cullen. Shapiro pointed out that Schlert was among those promoted in the years since he handled abuse allegations.
The 23 members of the grand jury took testimony from dozens of witnesses. But it was in the church’s own files — more than half a million pages of internal diocesan documents in “secret archives” — that the grand jury found the names of more than a thousand children who were victimized, most of them boys.
“We believe that the real number — of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward — is in the thousands,” the report noted.
Shapiro said the abuse was “systematically covered up by church officials in Pennsylvania and at the Vatican.” He said those officials weaponized the faith, using it against victims and to protect the institution at all cost.
Shapiro highlighted the case of the Rev. Thomas D. Skotek, who sexually assaulted a girl in the Scranton Diocese while he was pastor of St. Casimir in Freeland in the 1980s and then aided her in getting an abortion when she became pregnant. Bishop James C. Timlin, then head of the diocese, wrote a letter to Skotek informing him that he would be sent for treatment, adding: “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief. … Please be assured that I am most willing to do whatever I can to help.” That letter, Shapiro said, was in the diocese’s files.
Arthur Long, a Harrisburg Diocese priest at the time, admitted to a sexual relationship with four or five girls, telling a church official, “God wants us to express our love for each other in this way.”
And in graphic detail, Shapiro summarized an allegation against Monsignor Thomas Benestad, former pastor of Notre Dame of Bethlehem and St. Francis of Assisi in Allentown, who is accused of sexually abusing a boy for two years beginning when the child was 9 and taking catechism classes at St. Bernard's. A nun brought the boy to Benestad because he had worn shorts to class, which was against the rules. Benestad, the report says, told the boy to get on his knees and pray. The priest then forced the boy to perform oral sex on him. And afterward, washed the child’s mouth out with holy water, the report says. Benestad later retired and moved to Florida.
Among the most tragic cases was that of “Joey B,” who was so severely sexually assaulted by the Rev. Edward Graff in the Allentown Diocese that he injured his back and later became addicted to painkillers and overdosed. Before his death, Joey wrote, "Father Graff did more than rape me. He killed my potential.”
Shapiro said the investigation reveals that law enforcement as well as church officials failed to protect children. The “coverup,” he said, “was sophisticated.” There have been other reports about child sex abuse in the Catholic church, he said, but never on this scale.
"They claim to have changed their ways. They claim to have put appropriate safeguards in place," Shapiro said of the dioceses. "Statements are one thing. The proof of their claims will be if they support the grand jury recommendations."
Since the Vatican has proven itself incapable of enacting change and punishing bishops and cardinals involved in cover ups, three things will have to take place before any real change occurs in the sick priorities of the Vatican and Church hierarchy: (i) criminal prosecutions and imprisonment of guilty bishops and cardinals, (ii) a mass exodus of Church members, and (iii) massive declines in financial contributions to the Church, especially in America, one of the main financial supporters of the Vatican worldwide. The Catholic Church may be growing in poor and uneducated areas of Africa, but those regions do not have money to support the bloated Church bureaucracy. If you are Catholic and want to see meaningful change, walk away and stop writing checks to your local parish and diocesan appeals.Mitchell Garabedian, who represented many of the Boston victims and was featured in the movie “Spotlight,” said those who spoke up about being abused should be commended for having the courage to come forward. He added that the report, “lays out the standard blueprint of dishonesty, immorality, criminality and coverup of the Catholic Church which has been previously revealed in Boston and archdioceses and dioceses worldwide.” He called the Vatican “complicit in the coverup.”
|The thankfully retiring GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte - a blight on Virginia.|
Like Liberty University and Regent University, Congressman Bob Goodlatte is a blight on Virginia's image and reputation as newly progressive and up and coming state. If there is a wrong side on any issue, the always reactionary and partisan Mr. Goodlatte can be counted on to be on the wrong side of the issue. Thankfully, Goodlatte is retiring and will cease to be a blight on the Commonwealth. Whether or not Democrats can capture Goodlatte's west central Virginia 6th congressional district - gerrymandered, of course to favor Republicans - remains to be seen, but the public spat between Goodlatte and his son is a microcosm of the battle for Virginia's soul between the racist, ignorance embracing, backward looking rural areas and the progressive, forward looking urban areas. The irony is that while voters in rural areas whine against government handouts to those who are undeserving, these regions are in fact supported by the urban areas of Virginia (just as red states are the ones most on the federal dole). If one wants to know why rural Virginia has difficulty attracting new, progressive businesses, look no farther than its residents and their reactionary and bigoted beliefs. But back to Goodlatte. Over the weekend Goodlatte's own son donated the maximum allowable to the Democrat seeking to win his father's open seat. Here are article excerpts from a piece in Politico:
A high-ranking Republican lawmaker's son donated the "maximum amount" to a Democrat running to replace his father.Bobby Goodlatte, the son of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), made the surprise announcement on Twitter Sunday night. Goodlatte is retiring after 13 terms in Congress.
"I just gave the maximum allowed donation to Jennifer Lewis, a democrat running for my father's congressional seat. I've also gotten 5 other folks to commit to donate the max. 2018 is the year to flip districts — let's do this!" Bobby Goodlatte wrote on Twitter, where he describes himself as a product designer and angel investor based in San Francisco.
Lewis said she was surprised by Goodlatte’s public donation when she woke up Monday, calling it a “very exciting morning, to say the least.” The maximum individual donation is $2,700, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The Lewis campaign raised more than $15,000 in donations after Bobby Goodlatte announced his support, spokesman Josh Stanfield said.
Bobby Goodlatte plans to help out with the Lewis campaign heading into the November midterm elections, Lewis said. His donation has inspired others to follow suit and give money, though Lewis did not say how many donations her campaign had received Monday. Bobby Goodlatte did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Later in the day, Bobby Goodlatte laid into his father after news broke that FBI agent Peter Strzok had been fired.
"I’m deeply embarrassed that Peter Strzok’s career was ruined by my father’s political grandstanding. That committee hearing was a low point for Congress. Thank you for your service sir. You are a patriot," Bobby Goodlatte said in a tweet Monday afternoon. Strzok drew criticism from conservatives earlier this summer when an inspector general investigation unearthed text messages Strzok wrote that were critical of President Donald Trump.
Regardless of his son's criticism, Goodlatte’s district is a challenge for Democrats. Trump carried the central Virginia district with nearly 60 percent of the vote in 2016, and Mitt Romney did the same in the 2012 presidential election. Goodlatte received two-thirds of the vote that year.
Republican nominee Ben Cline starts with a base of support in the district after 16 years in the state House of Delegates. Cline had previously served as Goodlatte’s chief of staff. He has outraised Lewis more than 5-to-1 through June 30, the end of the most recent FEC reporting period. Cline’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Bobby Goodlatte's donation comes as Democrats across the country edge toward flipping the House and gaining a majority. Lewis beat three Democratic competitors in the state's primary election in June, grabbing 48 percent of the vote.
“I truly believe we will win in November. We’ve been having these conversations with folks where, yes, you may have never voted for a Democrat before, but if you want health care for you and your kids, if you want a living wage for you and your kids, if you want income equality and affordable housing,” Lewis said. “These are the things people are talking about. We’re seeing very good success from canvassing.”
Goodlatte's office did not respond to a request for comment.
The 2018 midterm elections are some 80+ days away and Republicans are finding that the Trump/GOP tax cut is falling flat with their constituents who likely have seen little change in their take home pay - and may be in shock when they have to pay when they file their taxes in April, 2019 (small businesses are losing many deductions as well). Then there is Der Trumpenführer trade war and tariff wars with China and Europe disputes that will likely hit Trump voting counties hard as retaliatory tariffs are continued to be levied against America. Add to this rising health insurance premiums due to Trump/GOP sabotage of the Affordable Health Care Act and GOP proposals to slash Medicaid and Medicare benefits. Republicans have little to run on other than harping on anti-immigrant and racist talking points. Hence congressional Republicans need another foil to run against. The answer? Nancy Pelosi, the woman male Republicans love to hate. A column in the New York Times looks at this construct of a straw bogeyman by desperate and hypocrisy-filled Republicans. Here are excerpts:.
Normally, a party that gives away $2 trillion without worrying about where the money will come from can buy itself at least a few votes. But Donald Trump’s tax cut remains remarkably unpopular, and Republicans barely mention it on the campaign trail — in fact, Democrats are running against the tax cut more than Republicans are running on it.
Nor are Republicans talking much about Trump’s trade war, which also remains unpopular.
What, then, does the G.O.P. have to run on? It can hype the supposed menace from illegal immigrants — but that hasn’t been gaining much traction, either. Instead, Republicans’ attack ads have increasingly focused on one of their usual boogeymen — or, rather, a boogeywoman: Nancy Pelosi, the former and possibly future speaker of the House.
[I]t’s interesting to ask why she [Pelosi] gets so little credit with the news media, and hence with the general public, for her accomplishments. What has Pelosi achieved?
First, as House minority leader, she played a crucial role in turning back George W. Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security.
Then she was the key figure, arguably even more crucial than President Barack Obama, in passing the Affordable Care Act, which produced a spectacular fall in the number of uninsured Americans and has proved surprisingly robust even in the face of Trumpian sabotage. She helped enact financial reform, which has turned out to be more vulnerable to being undermined, but still helped stabilize the economy and protected many Americans from fraud.
Pelosi also helped pass the Obama stimulus plan, which economists overwhelmingly agree mitigated job losses from the financial crisis, as well as playing a role in laying the foundation for a green energy revolution.
It’s quite a record. Oh, and whenever you hear Republicans claim that Pelosi is some kind of wild-eyed leftist, ask yourself, what’s so radical about protecting retirement income, expanding health care and reining in runaway bankers?
It’s probably also worth noting that Pelosi has been untouched by allegations of personal scandal, which is amazing given the right’s ability to manufacture such allegations out of thin air.
[H]ow does Pelosi stack up against the four Republicans who have held the speaker’s position since the G.O.P. took control of the House in 1994?
Newt Gingrich was a blowhard who shut down the government in a failed attempt to blackmail Bill Clinton into cutting Medicare, then led the impeachment of Clinton over an affair even as he himself was cheating on his wife.
Dennis Hastert, we now know, had a history of molesting teenage boys. Personal behavior aside, the “Hastert rule,” under which Republicans could support only legislation approved by a majority of their own party, empowered extremists and made America less governable.
John Boehner didn’t do much except oppose everything Obama proposed, including measures that were crucial to dealing with the aftermath of the financial crisis.
And Paul Ryan, the current but departing speaker, is a flimflam man: a fake deficit hawk whose one legislative achievement is a budget-busting tax cut, a fake policy wonk whose budget proposals were always obvious smoke and mirrors, pretending to address the budget deficit but actually just redistributing income from the poor to the rich.
Looking at modern House speakers, then, Pelosi stands out as a giant among midgets. But you’d never know that from her media coverage.
While in office, Hastert was generally portrayed as a stolid embodiment of middle-American values. Ryan was for years the recipient of fawning media coverage, which lauded him as the ultimate serious, honest conservative long after his phoniness was obvious to anyone who paid attention. But Pelosi is typically referred to as “divisive.”
Her policy stances are far less at odds with public opinion than, say, Ryan’s attempts to privatize Medicare and slash its funding. So what makes her “divisive”? The fact that Republicans keep attacking her? That would happen to any Democrat.
Or maybe it’s just the fact that she’s a woman — a woman who happens to have been far better at her job than any man in recent memory.
Does all this mean that Pelosi should become speaker again if Democrats retake the House? Not necessarily: You can make an argument for a new face despite her extraordinary record.
But her achievements really have been remarkable. It’s a sad commentary on Republicans that they have nothing to run on except demonizing a politician whose track record makes them look pathetic. And it’s a sad commentary on the news media that so much reporting echoes these baseless attacks.
Monday, August 13, 2018
|Stephen Miller - who reminds me of Josef Goebbels - and Der Trumpenführer.|
One of the goals of this blog is to expose hypocrisy. Nowadays, thanks to the Republican Party and its "conservative Christian base," the Trump/Pence regime, and, of course, the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, there is almost an unlimited supply of material. Interestingly, Stephen Miller, seen by many as the guiding force behind Der Trumpenführer's anti-immigrant jihad - Mike Pence likely applauds it while pretending to "know nothing" - today finds himself being lambasted for his hypocrisy by his own uncle in a piece in Politico. Miller's uncle recounts the immigrant history of Miller's own family in America, which is hundreds of years shorter than that of many blacks and Hispanics, and calls Miller out as a foul hypocrite. Yet, Miller's hypocrisy is no less than that of many Trump supporters whose families came to America as immigrants far more recently than the ancestors of many of those whom they hate and deride. Here are highlights from the Politico piece (as you read the entire piece, think of similar hypocrites in your own social circles):
Let me tell you a story about Stephen Miller and chain migration. It begins at the turn of the 20th century, in a dirt-floor shack in the village of Antopol, a shtetl of subsistence farmers in what is now Belarus. Beset by violent anti-Jewish pogroms and forced childhood conscription in the Czar’s army, the patriarch of the shack, Wolf-Leib Glosser, fled a village where his forebears had lived for centuries and took his chances in America.He set foot on Ellis Island on January 7, 1903, with $8 to his name. Though fluent in Polish, Russian and Yiddish, he understood no English. An elder son, Nathan, soon followed. By street corner peddling and sweatshop toil, Wolf-Leib and Nathan sent enough money home to pay off debts and buy the immediate family’s passage to America in 1906. That group included young Sam Glosser, who with his family settled in the western Pennsylvania city of Johnstown, a booming coal and steel town that was a magnet for other hardworking immigrants. The Glosser family quickly progressed from selling goods from a horse and wagon to owning a haberdashery in Johnstown run by Nathan and Wolf-Leib to a chain of supermarkets and discount department stores run by my grandfather, Sam, and the next generation of Glossers, including my dad, Izzy.
In the span of some 80 years and five decades, this family emerged from poverty in a hostile country to become a prosperous, educated clan of merchants, scholars, professionals, and, most important, American citizens.
What does this classically American tale have to do with Stephen Miller? Well, Izzy Glosser is his maternal grandfather, and Stephen’s mother, Miriam, is my sister.
I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.
I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses— the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants — been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom.
The Glossers came to the U.S. just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the “America first” nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees. Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family likely would have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him.
True, Jews were excluded from many occupations, couldn’t buy homes in some towns, couldn’t join certain organizations or attend certain schools or universities, but life was good. As in past generations, there were hate mongers who regarded the most recent groups of poor immigrants as scum, rapists, gangsters, drunks and terrorists, but largely the Glosser family was left alone to live our lives and build the American dream. Children were born, synagogues founded, and we thrived. This was the miracle of America.
Acting for so long in the theater of right-wing politics, Stephen and Trump may have become numb to the resultant human tragedy and blind to the hypocrisy of their policy decisions. After all, Stephen’s is not the only family with a chain immigration story in the Trump administration. Trump's grandfather is reported to have been a German migrant on the run from military conscription to a new life in the United States, and his mother fled the poverty of rural Scotland for the economic possibilities of New York City. (Trump’s in-laws just became citizens on the strength of his wife’s own citizenship.)
These facts are important not only for their grim historical irony but because vulnerable people are being hurt. They are real people, not the ghoulish caricatures portrayed by Trump. . . . I meet these statistics one at a time through my volunteer service as a neuropsychologist for the Philadelphia affiliate of HIAS (formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), the global nonprofit that protects refugees and helped my family more than 100 years ago. I will share the story of one such man I have met in the hopes that my nephew might recognize elements of our shared heritage.
In the early 2000s, Joseph (not his real name) was conscripted at the age of 14 to be a soldier in Eritrea and sent to a remote desert military camp. Officers there discovered a Bible under his pillow which aroused their suspicion that he might belong to a foreign evangelical sect that would claim his loyalty and sap his will to fight. . . . “They smashed my face into the ground, tied my hands and feet together behind my back, stomped on me, and hung me from a tree by my bonds while they beat me with batons for the others to see.”
Joseph was tortured for 20 consecutive days before being taken to a military prison and crammed into a dark unventilated cell with 36 other men, little food and no proper hygiene. . . . When he was too weak to stand, he was taken to a civilian clinic where he was fed by the medical staff. Upon regaining his strength, he escaped to a nearby road where a sympathetic driver took him north through the night to a camp in Sudan where he joined other refugees. Joseph was on the first leg of a journey that would cover thousands of miles and almost 10 years.
Before Donald Trump had started his political ascent promulgating the false story that Barack Obama was a foreign-born Muslim, while my nephew, Stephen, was famously recovering from the hardships of his high school cafeteria in Santa Monica, Joseph was a child on his own in Sudan in fear of being deported back to Eritrea to face execution for desertion. He worked any job he could get, saved his money and made his way through Sudan.
He endured arrest and extortion in Libya. He returned to Sudan, then kept moving to Dubai, Brazil and eventually to a southern border crossing into Texas, where he sought asylum. In all of the countries he traveled through during his ordeal, he was vulnerable, exploited and his status was “illegal.” But in the United States, he had a chance to acquire the protection of a documented immigrant.
Today, at 30, Joseph lives in Pennsylvania and has a wife and child. He is a smart, warm, humble man of great character who is grateful for every day of his freedom and safety. . . . He hopes to become a citizen, return to work and make his contribution to America. His story, though unique in its particulars, is by no means unusual. I have met Central Americans fleeing corrupt governments, violence and criminal extortion; a Yemeni woman unable to return to her war-ravaged home country and fearing sexual mutilation if she goes back to her Saudi husband; and an escaped kidnap-bride from central Asia.
Trump wants to make us believe that these desperate migrants are an existential threat to the United States; the most powerful nation in world history and a nation made strong by immigrants. Trump and my nephew both know their immigrant and refugee roots. Yet, they repeat the insults and false accusations of earlier generations against these refugees to make them seem less than human.
Most damning is the administration's evident intent to make policy that specifically disadvantages people based on their ethnicity, country of origin and religion. No matter what opinion is held about immigration, any government that specifically enacts law or policy on that basis must be recognized as a threat to all of us. Laws bereft of justice are the gateway to tyranny. Today others may be the target, but tomorrow it might just as easily be you or me.
As free Americans, and descendants of immigrants and refugees, we have the obligation to exercise our conscience by voting for candidates who will stand up for our highest national values and not succumb to our lowest fears.
From time to time, all of us find ourselves in situations where we must choose between supporting good or supporting evil. Sadly, the Trump/Pence regime and its Republican enablers and sycophants now are the face of evil. If one is decent and moral, there is no option but to oppose their agenda and vote to defeat Republicans in order that a Democrat controlled Congress can blunt the worst of the Trump/Pence/Miller evil. If one choose to nonetheless vote Republican, than you deserve to be viewed by others with contempt and deemed a hypocrite.