Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Are we going to be Americans, or not?

It put your money where your mouth is time, America.

If we're going to claim we embody all the virtue and values that we've harped on and on about in every campaign speech and every state-of-the-union address-

If we're going to live up to the image of ourselves we've painted, both literally and figuratively, on the walls of our schools-

If we're going to act like we have ANY business at all discussing how other nations should behave in a global setting-

-then we've got to stop this isolationist bullshit right fucking now.

This is our mess.

Daesh is a direct result of Bush administration policies. The Syrian refugee crisis is a result of a lot of things, but many of them are things the United States has played a very large role in, both directly and indirectly.

We are Americans god damn it.

If we're going to pretend we give a fuck about honor, decency and being a land of opportunity, then we damn well better had make sure that people are being offered security and opportunity by coming to our shores. 

If you want to pretend America is a christian country, well I'm pretty sure Jesus would have some choice things to say about people who refuse hospitality to those in need, especially so close to the celebration of his birthday.

If you want to pretend we are a nation of laws, well our constitution and federal laws lay out that state governors have no place saying who is or is not welcome, so they should probably shut the fuck up, or start crafting policies to help the people who come to their states thrive because they're coming like it or not. International laws that the US is a signatory to make it clear that we have an obligation to Syrian refugees.  If we are a people of our word, then we will honor those commitments.

There is absolutely no part of our stated ideology that says we only care about ourselves and refuse to protect and foster those in need of a home. That's not how we claim to roll.

The plaque at the foot of the statue of liberty does not say: Give me your upwardly mobile, Caucasian, entrepreneurs with excess capital yearning to invest.

It says:

...Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
And there is absolutely no interpretation of that verse that allows us to shut that door in the face of those who need us and call ourselves Americans.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

How to Retaliate

You want to take action that will frustrate the Paris attackers and harm their interests? Show them that they can't win?

Ok. Here's what you gotta do:

  • Embrace refugees with open arms, and do everything you can to see them healthy, happy and secure in a welcoming new home.
  • Refuse to see violence as an endemic trait of Islam, and view terrorist action as what it truly is, cynical, political, and tactical, not scriptural or spiritual.
  • Don't let the grief you feel over Paris blind you to Beirut, Bagdad, Palestine, and countless other people and places who deserve your concern and empathy. Prove that you don't need people to resemble you physically to recognize their humanity. Prove that kindness is not a limited resource.
  • Resist the impulse to rush to violent response when so little is known about who, what, where and when ANY kind of response military or otherwise, would be effective.
Violent radicals use violence as a way to enrage and radicalize the world. They want the world to embrace and operate on their simplistic, good-guys vs bad-guys ideology. They want to erase nuance and any 'greyzone' because they know they are in the minority.

If you split the world in half for them, you swell their ranks and you legitimize their view of you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A necessary clarification:

I am a migrant.

I have a home country, one that I am free to return to. I can and do maintain my citizenship and ties to my homeland while living my life in a different country.

I have come to this country of my own free will, and do so because of the opportunity my adoptive country presents my family. My country of residence is not obligated to take me in, and I am not obliged to come, but we have found it mutually advantageous for me to come and live here and we have made a legal agreement signified by the Visa stamp that is in my passport.

Living here, I have certain rights, and certain obligations to my new home. If I fail to abide by the laws of the land or the terms of the agreement, I can be fined or otherwise punished and/or deported.

This is ok. As a migrant I am voluntarily leaving my home country and coming to my new one in order to OBTAIN something.

Some illegal immigrants are also migrants. They don't have an agreement, and are obviously breaking at least one law of the land, but they still have rights, and they still have obligations to their host country.

I am NOT a refugee

This distinction is essential.

Refugees are not coming to new countries to get a better job, explore a culture they're interested in, or otherwise obtain something they want for themselves or their families.

They are ESCAPING.

When a person faces the threat of violence, oppression, or death -from political, criminal, or natural threats- in their home country and leaves that country to escape that threat, they are not a migrant, they are a refugee, and they are entitled to protection under international law.

They have a special status as seekers of asylum, and any law-abiding member of the modern international community that we live in has special obligations to them and their safety.

Refugees have these rights whether they enter a country legally or not, and any nation that wishes to call itself civilized is obligated to welcome and protect refugees, at least temporarily until they can helped to find a place where they will be able to live free of whatever threat drove them from their home.

Europe is not facing a migrant crisis. Do not use the word migrant. The people who are fleeing their homes and risking death a hundred different ways to make it to a place that can provide them safety aren't doing it because they'll have more money if they happen to survive. They aren't paying whatever they can to smugglers who take advantage of them and their desperation so they can explore a new culture, or start an interesting new career.

They are fleeing torture, oppression, and murder. They have decided that it is better to risk dying on the way to safety than to stay and risk dying every day that they do.

And the western governments, who hem and haw and try to use the word "migrant" instead of correctly calling these people refugees do so intentionally.

They know that to acknowledge them and their status as seekers of asylum would force them to accept their responsibilities to these people under international law. Or break those laws and do so as a blatant act of selfish xenophobia.

Choosing to play bureaucratic semantics in an effort to obscure your inhumane and illegal policies? That is the very face of evil to me.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Just quickly, while we party.

Pride has been awesome, and there are victories for progressives to celebrate, I absolutely don't want to rain on those parades.

But, I think it's worth paying attention to the fact that those victories most heavily impact the populations that most closely resemble the mainstream.

If marriage equality and other ways that gay and lesbian couples get to exist in parity with cis couples is where the focus stays, then this will not stand as a victory for queerness, but rather an invitation of a portion of the rainbow into the clubhouse of 'normalcy' leaving a whole bunch of people, many of whom need a lot more significant victories to help resolve life-or-death issues, out in the cold. And if you're an ally, and you balk at that, you're not really an ally you're a recruiter for the status quo.

This has to be a good start, not a war won.

Monday, April 6, 2015

I'd like to clear up a misunderstanding.

I've noticed that a lot of people defending 'religious freedom' bills characterize their aim as non-discriminatory, but rather a protection of businesses against discrimination. The idea being that  entrepreneurs should be free to run a business in a way that reflects their morals and beliefs, and that government and society at large has no right to trample their individuality by forcing them to serve customers who have made lifestyle choices that they take issue with.

This is a fundamentally flawed perspective of the situation.

You are free to run a business that reflects your ideals and values. No one can force a vegan restaurant to serve meat, or a steakhouse to add vegetarian options. A halal butcher is not required to stock bacon for those who want it. Christian restauranteurs can put bible verses on their food and conduct their business as they see fit.

These freedoms have never been under threat. Small business owners who wish to specialize in such a way as to appeal to a specific clientele are not being persecuted. There is no threat to religious freedom in business practice that it is in any need of protection from.

But, what about florists and bakers and pizza makers who see homosexuality as a sin and can't conscience supporting a lifestyle they see as sinful with their business? Why should they be forced to do something they believe is sinful?

The problem here is that people are seeing customers as a group of individuals, and 'the public' as the ocean they swim in. Operating from this perspective, a business should be able to cast their net to catch only the fish that suit them and throw back the ones they can't eat, right? There's always another fisherman who will take them, right?

But this is not what it means to be 'open to the public.'

The public is not the set from which your customers come. It is every customer, all the time, as though all people engaging in public life were a single, simultaneous entity. The public is black, white, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Married, Single, Divorced, Male, Female, Neuter, and every point on the LBGTQ spectrum all of the time, all at the same time. Thus, setting up a business where you say, we will not serve gays, or Muslims, or blacks etc. is like hanging a sign that says "No left hands will be served. Tonsils not welcome." It is nonsensical and stupid.

As a business, when you open your doors to The Public, you must be prepared to accept the public in every one of its states of being, but you are not required to tolerate all modes of behavior. When you look at the acceptable circumstances for refusing service, there is only once case where it is acceptable to refuse the public service because of who they are, rather than what they are doing, and that is because they are underage.

In all other cases -drunk customers, belligerent customers, smoking customers, naked customers, shoplifting customers, etc.- the public is being being refused service because of what it is doing, is still welcome in all instances where it is not doing those things.

If you wish to discriminate -and let's be clear, that is exactly what you're doing when you decide a particular part of the public is not welcome at your business- there is no reason to pretend that you are open to the public. The law in fact provides protection for just such a model. But to do so you cannot pretend that you are open to the public.

The Boy Scouts of America are able to refuse women, and homosexual members precisely because they are not open to the public. They are a private club with limited membership, and as such, they do get to pick and choose what individuals the provide their services to.

If you want to sell your pizzas only to people you think Jesus would approve of, that's fine. But you'd best be honest about it and have prospective customers sign a membership application with their delivery order, and you'd best have your organizational licensing configured appropriately.

And if that seems ridiculous to you, that's probably because it is.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I have said these things before

And I will continue to say them as often as required:

Torture is never necessary.

There is no legitimate military, criminal justice, or public safety goal that can possibly be achieved or supported by torture.

Torture undermines real security.

The best sources of information in counter-terrorism have always been informants of conscience.  A policy of employing torture deters such informants from coming forward both out of fear it may be employed against them and by making security forces and the states they represent less sympathetic.

Torture diminishes us as a people.

If we are not willing to hold ourselves to the standard of conduct that the international community has set as a bare minimum for participation, what justification do we have to insist those standards be upheld elsewhere?

The ends never justify the means, the means corrupt the ends.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I will not condemn the rioters in Ferguson.

I abhor violence, but I will not condemn violent protest in Ferguson, Missouri tonight.

I will not bemoan property damage. I will not decry the fires. I will not sanctimoniously quote Martin Luther King Jr. or try to re-frame the discussion with bullshit like #AllLivesMatter.

If you have watched the past 100 days you've seen people out in the streets, in T-shirts, then jackets, and now coats.

And you've seen police, in uniform, then vests, then riot gear, then tanks.

This verdict was a message from the powers that be to black youth. "We can and will kill you whenever and however we see fit, and we will not be held accountable to you." The police have declared that they have an exclusive license to use violence with impunity -and the state has endorsed that position.

You don't get to declare war on a people and then be scandalized when they fight back.