I have run this story for Independence Day many times. I feel that this year the message is even more important.
The misunderstandings and suspicions melted away, as they always do, after a few litres of liquid bread that the Germans call “Bier”. Harald was very honest in his German way, a kind of honesty that was spelled out in long, silent pauses as much as words. “With all of these different people and cultures, what is it that makes you Americans?”
I swallowed my beer to give me time, and the perfect answer came to me:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Very few words carry the weight of “victim” in today’s world. Most of its power, however, comes from not being spoken directly. It is a term for a concept that must lurk in the shadows, a mugger ready to rob you or a secret that dare not be exposed, all in the name of social status.
It may seem strange for a middle-aged pale male of great privilege to write about the word victim. But that is actually the point in the end. Many people just like me have assumed the trappings of victimhood and attempt to use it as an armor in battle, Joan of Arc style. How did this come about, and how does it work?
More to the point, why on earth does this work?
There isn’t any actual crisis in immigration. If that sentence surprises or infuriates, you’re probably paying far too much attention to the news. The situation which has the entire nation worked into a frenzy was entirely made up for political purposes.
It’s not exactly clear why, either. While Trump aid and Politischertacitischerführer Steven Miller thinks that opposing immigration is a huge winner for Trump, surveys show that Americans strongly favor immigration. It’s as if the nation knows in its guts that we are at or near full employment and there is indeed a net labor shortage. This furor might fire up the base and make sure they show up in November, but that is still a long way away
Nevermind all that. We have a crisis on our hands because for one dumb reason or another Trumplandia thought it would suit them. Let’s look at facts and see if there is something more calm and human that can and should be done.
You can dance, You can jive,
Having the time of your life.
Ooh, see that girl, watch that scene
Diggin’ the dancing queen.
– “Dancing Queen” (ABBA)
The dominant feature of the Trump administration is chaos. It is designed to entertain, to provoke, but primarily to keep everyone busy. And it is designed. Make no mistake about it, being a Drama Queen is a big part of the process of gaslighting.
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.
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.
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.