Father’s Day 2018


american family brunchAll over America, happy families are waking up to a warm and fuzzy Father’s Day 2018. Little boys and girls are presenting their sleepy daddies with home made offerings made from bits of pasta, lashings of glitter and scraps of wood,  while they all look forward to a yummy family brunch, a good American style feed of  eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit and more, all washed down with buckets of freshly squeezed juice and pots of good, strong coffee.

But in the tent cities ordered by president Trump, there are babies and children, ripped from the arms of their mothers, and in one case literally ripped from the breast of the mother feeding them, the mother then handcuffed for resisting … waking up to another day of forced incarceration and prison food.

2 year old immigrantAlong America’s border, thousands of kids are waking up in migrant detention centers, that operate as de facto federal prisons with similar restrictions. In Texas, about 1500 young boys, aged from 10 to 17 years old, are padlocked behind the concrete blocks of a former Wal-Mart, spending 22 of 24 hours a day inside, wrapped in Mylar blankets and sleeping five to a room in rooms meant to hold no more than four. The prison has received a variance from the state because of overcrowding, because that’s how a totalitarian state deals with the reality of the horror of housing children they’ve kidnapped from their parents – by making ‘variances’.

Nationwide, there are detention facilities operating at 95% capacity, overflowing with the 11,000 children being held.

In some of these camps, babies and children, separated from their parents, and even from their siblings, are treated like prisoners. Can you possibly imagine adding that denial of comfort, a stunningly cruel addition to already brutal rules that must have been thought up by the American version of Ilsa the She Witch of the SS? These children are even denied – again, with rules put into place by their vicious caretakers –  the comfort of a touch or a hug.

american gestapoThe human consequences of Trump’s earlier executive orders have become increasingly clear.

I’m not gonna pull punches on this incredible abuse of human rights. If you’ve ever wondered what you would have done had you been alive and aware during the rise of Nazi Germany,  you’re actually doing it right now.  That’s how serious this situation is, for not only immigrants and refugees, but America itself.

What the Trump administration has wrought, what they’re doing to systematically separate parents and children who enter the country illegally, has been done in America before. It happened to African slaves, and to Native Americans. America is no innocent, no stranger to gross cruelty. That callous disdain is, in some ways, the very definition of America, a country that can always find a group of people to dehumanize and brutalize.

immigrant detainees 2014You may have seen a photo, taken in 2014, of two young unaccompanied minors sleeping on the floor in a detention centre during the Obama administration. The photo was first presented as being a consequence of the new policy, but in fact, was later used to claim that the former administration was just as bad on how immigrant children were being handled. This worked really well for the ‘what about-ers‘ who claimed that same policy is the one now being enforced under the Trump administration.

They are lying. Trump is lying when he blames the Dems for family separation at the southern border. The actual culprit and impetus for all of this ugliness is a Department of Justice memorandum issued on April 6, 2018. At that time, Jeff Sessions announced that, from that day on, all ‘improper entry by an alien’ would be prosecuted with zero tolerance.

“This zero-tolerance policy shall supersede any existing policies” puts the onus squarely on the current administration.

keep waving that fucking flagA simple phone call from Trump to the Department of Homeland Security could change the situation. But that’s not gonna happen. Because … here’s the thing .. Trump, Sessions, and their base LOVE this new policy. They are wetting themselves in glee over this punishment of the vulnerable, and finding Bible verses to shore up their ‘right’ to do so. They LOVE it. They just don’t want to take responsibility for it.

Jeff Sessions unleashed his murderous shock and awe attack on immigrants in furtherance of the vile policies that whipped up the Trump base during the election. Their appetite for inflicting pain on those seeking refuge is voracious, seemingly limitless.

In the last few months, Session has been trying to curb even legal immigration: lowering refugee admissions, targeting H1-B visas for skilled foreign workers; introducing more restrictions and red tape for other classes of entry permits  and now, cracking down on the accepted rules of asylum – THAT AMERICANS HELPED TO WRITE AFTER THE ATROCITIES OF THE HOLOCAUST -potentially reducing claims by the thousands by deciding that victims of domestic and gang violence are not eligible for protection.

In May, nearly 90,000 Hondurans lost their protected status, when the Department of Homeland Security decreed that they’d had a long enough respite, and were now expected to return to their own war torn country.

border kids are they legalIn recent days, the Justice Department said that it would not defend the DACA program in a Texas lawsuit.

And people, who would normally consider themselves good, faithful loving Christians, are justifying all of this zenophobia on the grounds that the refugees and immigrants are entering the USA illegally.

Meanwhile, the House is frantically trying to pull together an immigration bill that will please and eventually will be passed by Emperor Trump, who has already said that he will not sign the bill into law. It’s really kind of moot, either way, since provisions of the new bill would not reunify families – in fact, it would make it even harder for children and families to be together, never mind find a path to legal citizenship. Trump wants just one thing, and he doesn’t care who has to suffer tor him to get that one thing. He will have his way, and dissenters will pay.

trump wall kidnapped childrenMeanwhile, the atrocities continue, and the real human price is being paid by those who prayed for a safe haven in the Promised Land of America – Home of the Free and the Brave.

Sessions claims that this ripping apart of families will be a deterrent to the refugees fleeing violence and crime. However, these immigrants have been walking from war torn nations for up to two months, and strangely, the means to receive that message is denied to them.

So they arrive in America, praying for sanctuary, and are instead punished.  

Sophies Choice 2018“When Muñoz and his family arrived at the border, they were taken by border patrol agents to a processing station, where they were informed they would be separated. Muñoz resisted, fiercely. “They had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands,” one agent told the Washington Post. Muñoz lost his three-year-old boy to the agents and was himself taken to the Starr County Jail.

The last time anyone saw Marco Antonio Muñoz alive, he was praying in the corner of his cell. A short time later, he was found in a pool of his own blood. Authorities ruled it a suicide. No one knows what has become of his three-year-old son. His father is gone forever.”

This is America. This is the America where kid’s trying to protect themselves from being killed in school shootings have to fight for themselves, because the adults have not only abdicated responsibility, they want to punish the children for protesting. People with the power to protect children, have instead chosen to protect guns.

This is America. This is where the right to force women to have babies whether they want them or can support them are not, is  upheld, while their legal right to have an abortion is not.  (all lives matter except yours little child.jpg)

I have to ask you, pro lifers, why do you care so much about an unborn child, an unfeeling fetus, but somehow can’t see the tears and pain being visited upon these living immigrants and refugees? Is there some reason that you need to ensure a multitude of babies and children upon whom you can vent your rage? Do you, like your president, feel a deep need to use innocent children as pawns, so that you can force your own beliefs upon other people? This is a Christian Taliban, engorged on their own religious rights, and unable to see any other humans’ rights.

Because let’s get one thing straight, once and for all. … The Republicans control every single branch of government, it is within their grasp to fix this .. they have chosen not to. Since none of the Republicans have the guts to speak up, and tell Trump that they will not stand for this horror, all of the repulsion the world is feeling at this atrocity lies firmly on Republicans shoulders.

trumplerTo it’s shame, the base of the Republican Party is now intrinsically entwined with every other regime that trampled human rights.

They are now represented by the likes of Ivanka Trump, who countered the release of photos of sobbing, terrified immigrant children with the release of a completely tone deaf romantic photo of herself with her own, pampered child, or Paul Ryan, who took the time to claim a happy Father’s Days for himself, while ignoring the reality of grieving, terrorized fathers killing themselves over the loss of their child. There is one America for the Republican party .. and nothing but pain and humiliation for everyone else.

Saddest of all, most Americans are not going to pay much attention to any atrocity aimed at people unlike themselves until the economy starts to tank. And that’s an incredibly sad and cynical truth the rest of the world needs to absorb.

Once there was an America that was the envy of the world. That America no longer exists.

 

 

Empathy and a God in Our Own Image


The holiday season is a good time to think about our interactions with other people. We really want to make our loved ones smile, so we’ll do as much as we can to please them. We search out gifts for giving that we think will delight our friends and acquaintances, hoping to strike that balance between spending too much or not enough. And, in the best case scenario, we find it in our hearts and pocketbooks to donate a little to those who have less than we do; some of us will do that because we think it’s right to share what we have with others, while some will do so because donations can be written off on next year’s taxes. Either way – our donations and caring will have some impact on those in need.

For most of us, that is all that the holidays require; a little thought for others, an attempt to ease some of the stress and strain that we humans navigate most days. Our songs and stories commemorate how we feel when we come together, in peace and joy, ‘heart to heart and hand in hand,” and lift the winter’s darkness for a short time.

lincoln empathyWe are driven by kindness and care, and empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings and emotions of others. The quality is usually strongest in children, who can be almost clairvoyant in their ability to feel the pain of others, either human or animal.  From a very early age, we can sense goodness and meanness in the intent of others, and even as babies, we instinctively dislike those who are cruel to others. Little children have yet to learn that most grownups are oblivious and indifferent to the feelings of animals. And many children, sadly, will grow up into adults who will, very often, be just as oblivious to the feelings of those who are different from themselves.

Different by virtue of skin colour, or gender, or by an accident of birth that sticks a silver spoon in one child’s mouth, and bitter alms in another. Children are born all over the planet, every minute of every day, but not every child will be welcomed by it’s family, or it’s people, or by those who hold power over the powerless.

So, here we are, with Christmas 2017 behind us. The days will get shorter now, and for many, the snow will fall far more than we’d like. The young, the old, the sick and the well – all of us will cope with good and bad events, to varying degrees, and with varying success.

The poor will suffer the most, since winter is hardest on those who live in inadequate housing, with uncertain heat, and even more uncertain nutrition. The middle class will struggle along, carrying the largest burden, since it is the middle class that invariably bears the cost of keeping society afloat. And the wealthy  … ah, the wealthy will have their own special burden, that of hiding their untold riches in ever more clever niches.

Inequality, already a societally crushing issue in the United States, was exacerbated last week when a group of old, mostly white, and mostly male Republicans forced through a bill looting the Treasury coffers, while enriching themselves and their donors. There is no other way to look at the tax scam perpetrated by the Trump administration than as the brutal rape of the American taxpayer, for the benefit of the wealthy.

tax scam 2017Every tax payer in America will suffer, and I say ‘every taxpayer’ because the wealthy were already well ahead of most Americans in the non-paying of taxes. Even as the rhetoric on American taxation being ‘the highest in the world’ (it’s not) crescendoed, the wealthy and corporations snickered up their sleeves, knowing that their trusty accountants and willing elected officials had long ago resolved that little problem. Very rarely do the tax bills of the 1% exceed 1% – it’s more likely that they’ll be coasting on credits from past corporate ‘losses,’ government grants, and well established tax havens in other countries.

The Republicans gathered to celebrate these cuts that were given to those who are currently sitting on trillions of dollars that they cannot be bothered to invest in their own employees and companies, and the corporations responded by cutting staff and automating the lowest paid jobs. And buying back their own stock. And giving themselves massive, million dollar bonuses.  Oh – and bemoaning a rise to minimum wage, as it would impact their bottom line.

trump tax ripoff

Meanwhile, the American people can look forward to death by a thousand tax cuts. There are cuts to pretty much everything necessary to live, not the American Dream, but a life not lived on the streets.

No sector of society has been left untouched. Health costs will soar, children will die from the loss of medication and treatments. The young, the old, the poor, the sick, small businesses, students, home owners, veterans, ‘dreamers,’ refugees and immigrants … all will pay the price for the corporations’ champagne dreams.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” says the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, but now, she’s beckoning them closer so that she can mug them, and then sell their blood and organs to the highest bidder.

The astonishing lack of empathy or fellowship shown in this tax scam is frightening. How do you explain to someone what it means to care about their fellow man? To care for their neighbour, not just because there’s something in it for them, but because their own laws say that all men are created equal?

I don’t know how to open the eyes of those who cannot see the suffering in front of them, or who do see the suffering, but brush it away with impatience. The greed and detached cruelty of those who have the power to ease the misery of others, to elevate the standard of living for all, and yet fail to do so, is astounding.

The gleeful joy and unbelievable callousness exhibited by those who passed this bill is beyond me. I think it’s likely beyond even our fictional monsters. It took Scrooge three ghosts to understand his perfidy, but I think the Republicans cut back the ghost jobs last year, and replaced them with automation.

I’ve got mine, Jack,” they gloat. “Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps,” they say, neglecting to mention that the bootstraps and ladders they used to climb to power were pulled up behind them, and the door closed to those who might use those means to succeed in the future.

There are practical, and even self-serving reasons, to make sure that all of your people have health care, public education or access to higher education, and better paying jobs that enable the masses to buy the junk that corporations have made in cheaper lands. But even that doesn’t penetrate the scaly skins of the elected officials.

minimum-wage-graphic Ontario 2017Years of recession, of belt tightening, of cutting staff to the bone, have weakened respect for workers, and tested our own belief in the value of what we do. After all, if we had any importance, surely our jobs and wages would not be treated with such disdain and indifference! When we are no longer valued for what we bring to a company, when corporations would prefer to pay as little as they can get away with, rather than pay a minimum wage that would allow their workers to have a decent life, the very idea of the dignity of work loses meaning.

When we see hundreds or thousands of jobs cut, and the CEO rewarded with multi million dollar bonuses for his/her skill at excising these workers, we begin to see our lowly place in the big picture. We see that minimum wage is, indeed, the lowest amount a company can legally pay a worker, but that they’d gladly drop that amount by even more, or welcome slavery, if only it would come back into fashion and usage.

Minimum wage today buys less than it did in 1950. That’s why some households have two, or even three, family members, all desperately working as hard as they can, just to bring in enough to cover their basic survival needs. That house of cards shivers every time something unexpected happens – an accident, an illness, an unanticipated expense … or the cost of an education that might allow a family member to dream of a better job.

min wage earnersWhen I see the memes of the self-righteous, those who sneer at those who fill these jobs that pay only a minimum wage, I cringe. It chills me, especially when those jeers come from someone who grew up in a time when there WAS a more level playing field, more opportunities for advancement, or who came from a middle class family able to pay for the speaker to get a leg up in life.

Those people are often under the false impression that it is only the young and incompetent that work for such a low salary. They are very wrong. And even when it is shown to them that they are wrong, they will defend their position, trotting out sexist, racist, or xenophobic tropes to bolster their words.

I don’t know if such an ugly and pitiless state of mind comes from the mindset of a political party, the real and imagined fears of the unknown or unknowable that plagues some as they age, or just a sheer bloodymindedness and complete lack of empathy for anyone other than oneself. I don’t know – because it is unimaginable to me.

Worst of all, those who propound these horrors, ‘for the good of the economy,‘ most often profess  to be good Christians, following the Bible, manipulating and misquoting it’s words to defend their deeds.

golden rule empathyIn all religions, there is one rule above all others, and the only one that must be followed. It is always some variation on the Golden Rule … “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Somehow, the importance of that must have gotten lost in the conservative/right wing/Republicans’ bibles.

These people worship riches, not a God. They deify those who have amassed assets beyond any conceivable use, and spit upon those who have not been ‘blessed’ with wealth. And yet, they simultaneously and methodically put into place barriers prohibiting the vast majority of others of ever attaining a similar goal. It is inexplicable. Somewhere along the line, our justified laughter at the silly crassness of the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” morphed into an adulation at the altar of the Kardashians.  And it ain’t pretty, folks, it ain’t pretty at all. In fact – it’s nauseating.

Religions tell us that we were made in God’s image. That we are little God mini-me’s. It suits their purposes, because they can then mold our thinking to what works for the benefit of the religion, the church, and for those who profit from the preaching of the tenets of the faith. If we are just like God, we must be right and just. What we fear or hate is rational, as it is God’s own fear. We must love those that believe as we do, and hate those who believe differently. Carrot and stick – behave in the way we’ve outlined, and you get to go to Heaven. Misbehave, and it’s eternal damnation for you, buddy!

In reality, we create our Gods in our own image. We decide what a God should be, and it would seem that we’ve decided that’s he’s a pretty nasty creature, who demands absolute adoration, and will strike down all of ‘his’ children at the slightest indiscretion. He needs money, apparently, lots of money, to build fancy places of worship. This faux God insists that he is the arbiter of faiths, and that all who profess different beliefs are infidels, and must be converted, or murdered so that our religion is the only one worshiped.

What a vicious, reprehensible, ugly, vile, bugger some have chosen to represent the Almighty! Is this really how an all knowing, all seeing being, capable of creating the heavens and the earths would wish to be portrayed?

A benevolent God doesn’t hate poor people – in fact, they are his best beloved, along with children, the sick, the lame, the blind, and all of the others that elected governments prefer to throw under the bus, in order to curry favour with those who already have too much wealth and power.

rich need bigger needleGod DID hate those who wielded money and power like a weapon. Remember when he threw the money changers out of the Temple? Or that bit about the camel and the needle? Were you aware that the word “Gospel” literally means “Good News,” and that, at the time of this usage, had no religious feature, but instead meant ‘the forgiving of debt?’

An omniscient God doesn’t hate gay people, or refugees, or those with a different coloured skin or language. A compassionate God loves all mankind, not just a neat subsection of people exactly like Himself – or yourself.

A Vengeful God that spits out vindictive words and bile about ANY other human being is a false God, created in the image of the fallible and power hungry.  When the likes and dislikes of those imperfect humans are foisted onto a deity of your choice, the only religion that can be carved out is one that reflects our own prejudices and fears of ‘the other.”

empathy religion. JpgThe essence of empathy is an understanding that we are all equal, and all deserving of love and compassion. When empathy is removed from business and politics, we are on a slippery slope to the collapse of an Empire.

A nation is built upon the backs of ALL of it’s citizens, all of whom must have a place at the table. When the political administration in power only caters to the wealthy, they have forgotten that they serve at the pleasure of all of the people … and that their time in power is only temporary, and at the whim of those people.

This holiday season, the Republican party flaunted a lack of empathy and a slavish devotion to the upper class, all the while telling the middle class that they were giving them a ‘Christmas present.’  Those same smiling faces said that this year, you could once again say “Merry Christmas,” as though there had been some admonition against it while ‘the black man’ was president.  In truth, you could always say “Merry Christmas,” but after this tax scam, you just won’t be able to have one. strong people. jpg

The new year will reveal exactly how low they are willing to go in their abject fealty to these overlords. With luck, it will also open the eyes of those who’ve enabled their ugly, selfish, partisan goals, and lead us all to a world where fairness and democracy replace greed and apathy.

My wish is that 2018 be the year when we finally understand that ‘peace on earth, goodwill towards men’ was never meant to last for just a day, but rather, needs to be our goal, every day, every where, and for all people.

happy-new-year-quotes-2018

 

 

Hope Springs Eternal


For anything good to happen in your life, or indeed, in the world around you, you have to be open and willing to learn. You need to have hope, and the ability to trust. The greatest triumph of last week’s election is how Canadians came together to change what they could no longer tolerate. Our cynical apathy had to end, or the Canada we loved would be irreparably damaged. election ballot box

Of course, the true irony is that we came together positively for a negative reason: to oust Harper.

We live in a time of deep cynicism, where irony is viewed as intelligence. Only the clever, we believe, know that the world is a terrible place, and that it’s better to be wry than wide-eyed.

When I was a kid, I had a dream. I wanted to be a singer. I didn’t hunger for fame, I just wanted to sing. And I did, for many years. It was wonderful!

What wasn’t so wonderful was the cynicism disguised as righteous scepticism, which said that pursuing a career in the arts was unrealistic. Despite proven talent and a fierce hunger to follow my dream, I allowed myself to be shuffled off to secretarial school, so that I would have something to ‘fall back on,’ when my dreams were inevitably and cruelly crushed.

College of Arts and Sciences (and a few things to fall back on).

In hindsight, I understand the worry and fear that hid behind the cautionary tales. I DID meet some unsavoury people, and there really were some nasty folks out there who wanted to take advantage of a naive innocent.

But what that distrust also did was stop me from potentially meeting good, honest people, who might have nurtured my talent and helped me to have a career. I’ll never know, as I took the path of least resistance for the next ten years before finally emerging from my cocoon of self-doubt.  give it a try

Faith, hope, love, warmth, loyalty … these are all traits we now consider naïve and passé.

I can remember exactly when cynicism entered into mainstream media – it was personified by Michael J. Fox, who played the character of Alex P. Keaton, in the sitcom Family Ties. He was seen as the voice of reason in a household headed by his two liberal parents, former hippies. The entire cast, actually, perfectly represented the clash of values emerging in the 80’s, as the hippies grew up and out of innocence, and Reagan began snipping away at the American Dream; it was conservatives vs liberals, with Mallory added in for laughs as a vacuous consumer who epitomized the “Greed is Good” principle.

Alex was portrayed as the level-headed voice of reason, able to see through the tricks of the world that his dozy, optimistic parents could not. Irony, cynicism, a general distrust of others’ motives, a world weary attitude light-years ahead of his actual age … this was the new intelligentsia in sitcom form.

cynicism is not wisdomBut cynicism is not intelligence; it’s a way to close one’s self off to new emotional or intellectual experiences, and to excuse missed opportunities. Cynics live a life of doom and gloom, where nothing ever changes, because “that’s just the way it is.” They have decided that it’s hopeless to even try for any sort of improvement, as any attempt is just a waste of time ending in abject failure. Cynics live a life of low-grade depression, their only joy resting in letting everyone else know that it’s useless to try, so why bother? Optimism, they’ll tell you, is a cruel joke, that only the young and foolish can enjoy.

Cynicism, disguised as bitter irony, has become the norm to many. Where a healthy dose of scepticism might suffice, we’re seeing instead a vicious distrust, kneejerk pessimism, and a feeling of captivity to a society ruled by materialism and corporate greed. A feeling of inevitability segues into passivity and apathy. We’re all flawed, we tell ourselves, some are just flawed on a larger scale. cheating on taxes lying pieces

This point of view is just as damaging as being over-optimistic. It is precisely what has allowed those forces to stealthily infiltrate society, as pessimists assure optimists that those with the money are always right, and will always win, so there’s no point in even trying. You begin to justify, in your mind, that abuses of authority are warranted by those somehow better than yourself by dint of money or power. You’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, and it no longer tastes so much like lies.

http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/10/08/opinion/it%E2%80%99s-not-harper-derangement-syndrome-it%E2%80%99s-stephen-stockholm-syndrome

Being cynical doesn’t require courage, it requires an egotistical belief that you, out of all humanity, have completely experienced the world, and have found it lacking. There is no room for the wisdom of the ages, for anecdotal tales of the power of love, for seeking out new ways of advancing mankind. Cynics don’t climb the highest mountains, or boldly go into unknown frontiers. cynicism does not require courage

Optimism, on the other hand, takes a great deal of courage. It requires jumping into life with both feet, aware of, but accepting of what may come your way. Your journey will be good and bad, painful at times, ecstatic at others. The ebb and flow of any life comes with no guarantees, other than that it will be an adventure, and that yours will be solely your own experience.

pissed in a sink lying piecesThe funny thing, though … or call it irony … is that within every cynic there is an innocent who’s been hurt by life. They are so sure that there’ s always a catch, that they are therefore the easiest to fool by a bona fide sociopath who’s figured out how to capitalize on the cynic’s very cynicism.

George Carlin once said that, “within every cynic there is a disappointed idealist,” and I believe that to be true. But what the cynic has most to beware is of treading a path so narrow and circumscribed that he finds himself with “nothing to look backward to with pride / And nothing to look forward to with hope.” –Robert Frost

(originally published Oct 25/15, DBAWIS – /bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/roxanne-tellier-hope-springs-eternal/)