Friday, June 29, 2018
Some sets of words just don't make any sense when strung together. "Redundant feathered doorknobs." "Democratic airborne hypotheses." But the set of three words that I heard yesterday, which really shouldn't make sense strung together, are despairingly familiar. "Another mass shooting" has occurred, this one at the Annapolis Capital Gazette, the newspaper where Life Afloat first started 11 years ago. (The name "Life Afloat" itself was coined by one of the murdered journalists, community news reporter Wendi Winters.)
I'm a writer and I deal in words. I'm supposed to have words, but I have none.
The sordid details involve a guy who sued the paper because he didn't like the story they wrote about him. He lost the suit because the judge decided that what the paper had written was true. It portrayed the guy in a negative light, because he had done negative things. He had been convicted of stalking/harassing a woman he had gone to school with. The day after he lost, he brought a gun and shot up the newsroom.
Newspapers do not have a duty to write only pleasant things about people and events. You don't have to like what they say about you, as long as it is accurate. Newspapers have a duty to inform and educate, to tell the truth to the very best of their ability. To make a democracy work, voters need knowledge, information on which to base their voting decisions. That's also why we have free public libraries -- going all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, who understood that democracies can only function with educated citizens.
Skip the "thoughts and prayers," thanx. Here's what I ask instead. Find a newspaper that you can believe in, one that hires actual journalists to tell you actual facts, truth without spin or agenda. Buy a subscription, support them and quit looking for ways to circumvent their paywall. Second, vote. This November, every November. No excuses.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
|Statue of Liberty, my view from the helm of El Galeon last summer|
Virtually all of my El Galeon shipmates have photos or selfies with the Statue of Liberty in the background as we came into New York harbor last summer. Not me, I was at the helm at the time, so that's my view above. And I reminisced that exactly 100 years previously my grandmother would have had a similar view as she entered New York harbor by boat as I was -- except she and her family were fleeing World War I Russia when she was a young teenager.
But our current political immigration crisis has me wondering whether we deserve this graceful lady any more. I can't even fathom my former "friends" who aren't horrified.
One of my friends on the political right asked where I thought we go from here. Obviously I'm not setting policy in this administration but here's what I wish would happen:
- (1). Reunite these many families immediately, with journalistic access to provide some transparency. That's been frighteningly lacking, so far. (I'd try to hide it too, if I were doing what this administration is doing.)
- (2). Increase resources for Immigration so they can quickly vet people and distinguish legitimate asylum seekers from druggies and bad guys. No reason for people to be in bureaucratic limbo for months or years. And we wouldn't have, or need, the DREAM act any more because kids wouldn't grow up here without legal status.
- (3). Make sure that businesses have support for vetting job applicants before they hire knowing their potential employee is legally permitted to be here and work here (and local government agencies have confidence that they are providing assistance to the right people as well). (Maybe more resources for Social Security so they can prove id numbers quickly?) Then stomp hard on any business found to hire people who are not here legally and pay "under the table." Right now there are too many complaints by businesses of how hard it is to get verification, and penalties are so minor that if they do hire (and often take advantage of) illegal workers, those penalties are just a cost of doing business. So many people are here as asylum seekers, like my grandmother was, rather than looking for work though, so this would be as much about quelling the rhetoric as about fixing a real problem.
- (4). We need longer term conversation about the big picture. Like much of the developed world, our population is graying and declining in number as citizens have fewer or no kids. Our present birth rate is not enough to replace the aging population. Only 2 ways out as I see it, maintain our numbers from within or from outside. From within, would be finding out why people are having fewer kids. For some it's a choice but for others, well, I think parenting in the US right now is a giant game of gotcha. Everyone's looking and judging what should be personal choices like breast feeding. It's isolating and exhausting. Spend too much time with your kid and you're a helicopter parent, give them some independence and CPS is called because you dared let your 10 year old walk down the block to a friend's house alone. (Sorry, a personal soap box of mine.) For others it's just too expensive; we could do with better parental leave policies, affordable child care, and other supportive social programs. Or, we maintain our numbers by bringing in immigrants. That's what has happened so far, and why we haven't seen the kind of problems that Japan (for example) has had with population decline. I guess there's a third source, we could just build lots of robots. Somehow though we need to get the next generation of workers from somewhere. Just my thoughts about what to do from here, to continue to be worthy of this symbol.
|Lately I've been fearing we're living through the sunset of our democracy. Posted below is Emma Lazarus' sonnet on the base of the Statue of Liberty.|
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "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!"
The Washington Post has a great fact checker piece on this here.
Here's a few additional facts from Michelle Martin, PhD Cal State Fullerton. She summarizes a lot of misinformation that is floating around about the issue; after each point is a link to the original article.
"There is so much misinformation out there about the Trump administration's new "zero tolerance" policy that requires criminal prosecution, which then warrants the separating of parents and children at the border. Before responding to a post defending this policy, please do your research...As a professor at a local Cal State, I research and write about these issues, so here, I'll make it easier for you:
Myth: This is not a new policy and was practiced under Obama and Clinton - FALSE. The policy to separate parents and children is new and was instituted on 4/6/2018. It was the brainchild of John Kelly and Stephen Miller to serve as a deterrent for undocumented immigration, approved by Trump, and adopted by Sessions. Prior administrations detained migrant families, but didn’t have a practice of forcibly separating parents from their children unless the adults were deemed unfit. link
Myth: This is the only way to deter undocumented immigration - FALSE. Annual trends show that arrests for undocumented entry are at a 46 year low, and undocumented crossings dropped in 2007, with a net loss (more people leaving than arriving). Deportations have increased steadily though (spiking in 1996 and more recently), because several laws that were passed since 1996 have made it legally more difficult to gain legal status for people already here, and thus increased their deportations (I address this later under the myth that it's the Democrats' fault). What we mostly have now are people crossing the border illegally because they've already been hired by a US company, or because they are seeking political asylum. Economic migrants come to this country because our country has kept the demand going. But again, many of these people impacted by Trump's "zero tolerance" policy appear to be political asylum-seekers. link
Myth: Most of the people coming across the border are just trying to take advantage of our country by taking our jobs - FALSE. Most of the parents who have been impacted by Trump's "zero tolerance" policy have presented themselves as political asylum-seekers at a U.S. port-of-entry, from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Rather than processing their claims, they have been taken into custody on the spot and had their children ripped from their arms. The ACLU alleges that this practice violates the Asylum Act, and the UN asserts that it violates the UN Treaty on the State of Refugees, one of the few treaties the US has ratified. This is an illegal act on the part of the United States government, not to mention morally and ethically reprehensible. link
Myth: We're a country that respects the Rule of Law, and if people break the law, this is what they get - FALSE. We are a country that has an above-ground system of immigration and an underground system. Our government (under both parties) has always been aware that US companies recruit workers in the poorest parts of Mexico for cheap labor, and ICE (and its predecessor INS) has looked the other way because this underground economy benefits our country to the tune of billions of dollars annually. Thus, even though the majority of people crossing the border now are asylum-seekers, those who are economic migrants (migrant workers) likely have been recruited here to do jobs Americans will not do. link
Myth: The children have to be separated from their parents because there parents must be arrested and it would be cruel to put children in jail with their parents - FALSE. First, in the case of economic migrants crossing the border illegally, criminal prosecution has not been the legal norm, and families have been kept together at all cost. Also, crossing the border without documentation is a typically a misdemeanor not requiring arrest, but rather a civil proceeding. Additionally, parents who have been detained have historically been detained with their children in ICE "family residential centers," again, for civil processing. The Trump administration's shift in policy is for political purposes only, not legal ones. See p. 18: link
Myth: We have rampant fraud in our asylum process the proof of which is the significant increase we have in the number of people applying for asylum. FALSE. The increase in asylum seekers is a direct result of the increase in civil conflict and violence across the globe. While some people may believe that we shouldn't allow any refugees into our country because "it's not our problem," neither our current asylum law, nor our ideological foundation as a country support such an isolationist approach. There is very little evidence to support Sessions' claim that abuse of our asylum-seeking policies is rampant. Also, what Sessions failed to mention is that the majority of asylum seekers are from China, not South of the border. Here is a very fair and balanced assessment of his statements: link
Myth: The Democrats caused this, "it's their law." FALSE. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats caused this, the Trump administration did (although the Republicans could fix this today, and have refused). I believe what this myth refers to is the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which were both passed under Clinton in 1996. These laws essentially made unauthorized entry into the US a crime (typically a misdemeanor for first-time offenders), but under both Republicans and Democrats, these cases were handled through civil deportation proceedings, not a criminal proceeding, which did not require separation. And again, even in cases where detainment was required, families were always kept together in family residential centers, unless the parents were deemed unfit (as mentioned above). Thus, Trump's assertion that he hates this policy but has no choice but to separate the parents from their children, because the Democrats "gave us this law" is false and nothing more than propaganda designed to compel negotiation on bad policy. link https://www.independent.co.uk/…/trump-democrats-us-border-m…
Myth: The parents and children will be reunited shortly, once the parents' court cases are finalized. FALSE. Criminal court is a vastly different beast than civil court proceedings. Also, the children are being processed as unaccompanied minors ("unaccompanied alien children"), which typically means they are sent into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). Under normal circumstances when a child enters the country without his or her parent, ORR attempts to locate a family member within a few weeks, and the child is then released to a family member, or if a family member cannot be located, the child is placed in a residential center (anywhere in the country), or in some cases, foster care. Prior to Trump's new policy, ORR was operating at 95% capacity, and they simply cannot effectively manage the influx of 2000+ children, some as young as 4 months. Also, keep in mind, these are not unaccompanied minor children, they have parents. There is great legal ambiguity on how and even whether the parents will get their children back because we are in uncharted territory right now. According to the ACLU lawsuit (see below), there is currently no easy vehicle for reuniting parents with their children. Additionally, according to a May 2018 report, numerous cases of verbal, physical and sexual abuse were found to have occurred in these residential centers. link
Myth: This policy is legal. LIKELY FALSE. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on 5/6/18, and a recent court ruling denied the government's motion to dismiss the suit. The judge deciding the case stated that the Trump Administration policy is "brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency." The case is moving forward because it was deemed to have legal merit. link
= = = = =
And finally, context matters!! There's this:
Thursday, June 7, 2018
|D-Day, June 6, 1944; on the beaches at Normandy (photo in public domain)|
I love museums, and while I enjoy the Smithsonian or the Natural History museum or the Guggenheim, what really intrigues me are specialty museums and local museums. I love the stories that small towns tell about themselves, a way to see others the way they wish to be defined. So when I learned that the Navy Seal museum in Fort Pierce, FL was designed by ... a group of Seals, telling their own story, well, I just had to make sure we planned time for a visit.
I'm not sure what I was expecting; military museums tend to be a bit self-congratulatory, but this place was as extraordinary as the Seals themselves. It would have been so easy to dazzle visitors with examples of futuristic technology and grand missions, and that stuff was there. But really, it was a sidelight. The story they told wasn't about technology, it was about their people. The most important tool the Seals had, was their mental resolve, their spectacular physical conditioning, and a surprising humility.
That D-Day photo doesn't show the whole story. As if running ashore under fire, with all the heavy gear wasn't enough, gaining those beaches wasn't just mucking through sand. The beaches were fortified with nasty obstacles beneath the surface at high tide that would prevent ships from coming close, and trip unwary running soldiers. They were duplicated for training purposes here.
|No landing craft could approach the shore with these in the shallow tidal zone.|
|The plaque explaining the obstacles.|
The most important tool used to clear these obstacles was ... people. Slipping behind enemy lines to recon, wearing only swim fins and mask to plant plastic explosive on the obstacle structures. There's a statue that greets you at the entrance to the museum called "The Naked Warrior."
I was just in awe. The tools are enhancements, but only as good as the humans that wield them. We often say that the coolest part of adventuring is the people you meet. In cruising, as in with the Navy Seals, it's all about the people.