Where Is Our Compassion?

This past week, the Bully-In-Chief further divided Americans by ordering Homeland Security to wrench children from the arms of refugees seeking asylum. That such behavior is in violation of international laws and the US Constitution is less important than the fact it is in violation of the norms of human kindness and moral behavior.

It is stunning to me that the administration’s actions are considered controversial. Yet some people I know, some of whom I grew up with – people I know to be loving, caring individuals – support traumatizing children in order to deter immigration. I can only assume they don’t understand what led to the refugees seeking asylum and our nation’s role in helping to create their misery.

So, here’s a primer in the geopolitics of US immigration.

First, nearly half of the undocumented immigrants in our country did not cross our borders illegally. They came to the US on visas and overstayed their visas. No wall would have blocked them.

Second, most of the immigrants crossing our southern border are from three Central American nations – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – not, as Trump suggests, Mexico. To understand why, you need to look back to the 1800s when three US corporations controlled the land, transportation, and banana production in these countries. They also controlled their governments, installing puppets to ensure control of cheap labor.

Such arrangements were good for the corporations and the US. Not so good for the people of these so-called Banana Republics.

US political meddling continued through the 1980s when the Reagan administration offered arms and training to the Central American governments in order to put down rebellion. The Reagan support included the sale of arms to Iran in order to surreptitiously obtain funds to support government death squads (see Iran-Contra scandal). That led to a wave of refugees into the US. In Los Angeles, the Salvadoran refugees were bullied by gangs leading some Salvadorans to create the MS-13 gang. When MS-13 gang members were inevitably arrested and imprisoned, they became more violent. And, when we eventually released and deported them, we effectively exported their violence.

It is the violence created by MS-13 gang members in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, that has displaced Central Americans – mostly women and children – forcing them to seek asylum in the US.

Third, US policies have created crushing poverty in Central America. Corn production was an important part of their economies. But, after the implementation of CAFTA, US grain companies dumped large quantities of corn into Central America at prices that made it impossible for small, Central American farmers to compete. That inevitably forced them into bankruptcy and into the cities looking for jobs. The resulting poverty has been crushing.

Fourth, when the refugees arrived at our ports of entry to apply for asylum, they were forced to wait in long lines for days all the while trying to tend to their children. Some, having grown impatient, crossed the border elsewhere and turned themselves in to authorities. These are the people who were detained and had their children – some only a few months old – ripped from their arms.

They are not criminals, murders and rapists. They are not MS-13 gang members. They are desperate people – mothers, fathers and children. They are not just seeking a better life. They have left behind what little they had and came here hoping to survive. And, if we send them back, they are very likely to die.

Such treatment is not Republican, Democrat, American or Christian. It’s not even human.

Time To Extinguish Liberty’s Torch?

The European response – especially that of the Germans – to mass migration from the Middle East and Southwest Asia stands in stark contrast to the immigration policies of the US. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Germany had relatively little to do with events that led to the crisis. On the other hand, the refugee crisis is almost certainly a direct result of US misadventures in the Middle East – most notably the Bush-led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the US has steadfastly refused to help those who were dislocated as a result of our meddling. Likewise, many of our so-called allies in the region have refused to help.

This is not the first time we have turned our backs on those fleeing violence and poverty caused by our actions.

Just last summer, we saw thousands of women and children flood our southern border seeking refuge from the violence and poverty in Honduras and El Salvador – violence for which we bear much of the responsibility. And how did we greet the dispossessed? We herded them into makeshift prisons. Conservatives confronted their buses screaming obscenities and making it abundantly clear that they were not welcome here. If they had no families or relatives in the US, we sent them home to certain poverty and almost certain death.

This is how America welcomes immigrants today.

Where we once welcomed the tired, the poor, the streaming masses yearning to breathe free, we now turn them away. We vilify them and blame them for all of our nation’s ills. We treat them as something less than human. We call them names, order them to speak American, then hire them for all the jobs we consider too distasteful to do ourselves. We underpay them and cheat them. And we applaud people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio for arresting them.

This is America today. A political atmosphere driven by the “We’ve got ours. You can’t have yours” crowd; by the Trumps, the Palins, the McCains and the Cheneys. An America dominated by the loudest, most angry and most heavily armed; where a feeble and compliant press reports only the most sensational statements made by a group of boorish loud-mouths who have little compassion for the poor and disadvantaged. They may claim to be religious, but their only religion is money. And they refuse to share it.

Instead of seeing those who have suffered only because they were born in the wrong place and time, these arrogant buffoons see only “takers” – people they believe only come here to suckle off of the government teats.

Based on all of this, maybe it’s time to send Lady Liberty packing. Maybe we should send her back to Europe where she came from; a place where she will likely feel more at home.

Be Afraid Of The Children. Be Very Afraid!

A study by Darren Schreiber of the University of Exeter found that the brains of Democrats and Republicans are wired differently. The key characteristic that distinguished Republican brains is in the way they process risk, reward and fear. They are more likely to exhibit fear of any perceived threat…even of change.

You can see this in the way Teapublicans approach politics by creating scapegoats. Now that we’re approaching the mid-term congressional elections, Teapublican candidates have created yet another straw dog in order to fire up their base. In 2006, it was gay marriage, which was going to “destroy America” and make all other marriages irrelevant. In 2008, it was fear of Black Panthers, Muslims and sharia law. In 2010, it was “Obamacare death panels” and illegal immigrants who were “taking our jobs” and “living off welfare.” In 2012, it was the fear of voter fraud, welfare recipients, food stamps, Obamacare and Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.

This year, we’re supposed to fear a bunch of Central American refugee children who are attempting to escape the poverty and violence of their native countries. Ooooooo!

Yes, Teapublican candidates have turned these desperate waifs into frightening boogeymen for the election season. “They are disease-ridden invaders who will overwhelm our schools and infect our own children with hepatitis, tuberculosis, and dozens of other diseases,” they say. Some suggest that the children could be bringing ebola virus into the US. Some compare them to an invasion of Muslim extremists determined to destroy America. And, even more frightening, some Teapublicans claim that Obama has orchestrated this “invasion” in order to ensure that there will be more Democratic voters in the future.

With each election, leading up to the primaries, Teapublicans are fearful that a political opponent will outflank them to their right. As a result, they push more extreme views and generate more fear to fend off their opponents. Then, leading up to the general election, they run negative attack ads financed by billionaires to portray Democrats as tax and spend liberals who are weak on foreign policy and soft on immigration. They tell voters that Democrats are going to waste their money on “entitlements” for “welfare queens;” that Democrats will use your taxes to pay for abortions of white kids; that Democrats are socialists, communists, fascists and worse; that Democrats are going to take away your guns. So be afraid…very afraid.

Of course, all of this is amplified by Fox Noise Channel and the 92 percent of talk radio devoted to conservative fear and hate. The only question is will it work this time? There are far more Democrats and independents than Teapublicans. They can’t win on their own. So you can put an end to their fear-mongering. All you have to do is vote.