The Road To Hell

There is no excuse for the current policy at the US border with Mexico. It was indeed changed by the current administration in April, regardless of how Trump tries do deny responsibility. His Attorney General and Homeland Security Secretary don’t run from it.

But while there is no excuse for this policy, it is important to note that it is not particularly different from the horrors that our immigration laws have inflicted for at least a generation, if not longer. It is indeed an attempt to fully enforce existing law, a series of laws never fully put into place because they do indeed violate basic human rights. Never enforced, that is, until now.

The current violations of decency and due process highlight a dance that the US has long had with human rights violations. When the music stops it is long past time for us to review not just this policy but every aspect of immigration and border control.

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Epidemic of Lies

This piece is from 2011.  Was I naive or prophetic?

According to author James Stewart, lying is a national crisis.  This undermines “the ideals of fair play, integrity, and trust to which people of goodwill everywhere aspire,” according to the author, and he’s made a good career out of speaking on this topic.  His book “Tangled Webs” is selling well.

But is lying worse than it ever has been, as Steward insists?  I think so, but at a slightly different depth than he has plumbed.

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Inspiration

This summer re-run is from six years ago.  Way back then, I actually thought we could confront the narcissism that has been taking over our culture.  Silly me. 

The tidbits of popular inspiration roll through twitter and facebook in a nearly constant stream.  You want your stuff retweeted or shared through the networks?  Come up with a bit of folk enlightenment, maybe put it into a jpg pic as a “meme” (horrible mis-use of that word!).  Keep it simple – a quick saying or maybe a set of “tips” devoid of heavy philosophy that could wear down a bizzy day.  It could be a Bible verse or a simple admonishment to be a more decent person.

There’s nothing wrong with this sort of stuff, and it probably has been present throughout the history of human interaction.  But the volume and popularity of these sorts of things leads me to wonder if there isn’t a hunger for spirituality and connection that is missing from the ordinary grind of the day.  There appears to be a missing presence in the moment, a sense that ghosts float past our conscience whispering a calling to be a better part of the world.

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Appeasement

When Neville Chamberlain returned from the Munich Conference with Adolf Hitler in September 1938, he believed he had an answer to his primary question. “What does Mr. Hitler want?” was on the mind of the Prime Minister going into the meeting, and it colored all of the proceedings.

The perception was that Germany was wronged in the Versailles Treaty and that Hitler, as the leader, was simply acting in his own nation’s interest. Chamberlain completely neglected the growing body of evidence that Hitler was indeed a psychopath who had his own interests in mind and was simply using Germany as a tool.

Diplomacy is always complicated, but with such people it is even moreso. More than seeking the right answers, it often becomes critical to ask the right questions in the first place.

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Illegal Orders

Otto Ohlendorf stood tall in the courtroom in Nuremburg. His demeaner was as cold and unflinching as always during his trial for crimes against humanity. He easily recounted every detail of the murder of nearly a million people under his watch. After all, his conscience was relatively clear. “Befehl ist Befehl,” he told the court, “Orders are orders.”

More roundly translated, this has come to us as the famous “I was just following orders” defense. It didn’t work for Ohlendorf. He was convicted and hung for his crimes.

Workers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) today may feel that they are simply doing their job, that they are simply following orders. However, in the process of doing so they are violating the terms of the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, which as a signed treaty is also a violation of US law.

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The Real Enemy

The big summit is on after all. Trump will meet his most feared adversary face to face in an attempt to avert war.

No, not Kim Jong-Un. Those two are practically buddies, what with the same ambitions to be emperor and all. I’m talking about the G7 Summit where Trump has to meet his only real enemies – leaders of actual democracies.

This goes especially for the enemy next door, Canada. Now that Washington has taken their most prized possession, the Stanley Cup, you know that they are out for revenge. You can see it in the cold, murderous eyes of Justin Trudeau.

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The Good Inside

This piece originally ran in 2016.

If you have a healthy news diet, you can easily be forgiven for thinking everything is going to Hell. Then again, that doesn’t seem too healthy. Perhaps “No news is good news” has a resonance far beyond the original intent of the folk saying.

Is there good in the world? Of course there is. People are helping each other and just being decent all the time. Yet in a world always closer together it seems as though there is a shortage of good things everywhere.

The difference, I believe, is what lies just outside of human scale. The world comes to us through machinery – ripped of context, stripped of humanity. It’s up to all of us to provide some context with our own empathy and judgment. Seeing good in the world is indeed about unplugging our brains from the noise and reveling in a good time with friends, a quiet moment alone, or even an hour passed in a patch of clover.

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