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Week's End Thoughts & Reflections, June 16, 2018

'Resist' is too passive. We’ve got to focus and build a progress and a movement going forward. —Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, quoted by Edward-Isaac Dovere, 'The Baton Got Dropped': Obama Alums Run to Finish What He Started, Politico, June 12, 2018

This week's Resist Trump Tuesday meet-up took to the soapbox with a message about "Trump's policy of ethnic cleansing—waging war on immigrant communities by deporting law-abiding people, criminalizing the act of seeking asylum, separating families and detaining and traumatizing children."

Indivisible Oregon Soapbox

"Ethnic cleansing" and "waging war" are highly charged terms I might have steered clear of so as not to provide an opening for unproductive debate about whether the regime's actions really qualify as ethnic cleansing. But that is a minor point in the context of brutal policies that leave many of us spluttering as we search for words adequate to our righteous outrage.

Senator Wyden’s Field Representative for Multnomah County, Grace Stratton, was well prepared and well spoken as she updated the group on the senator's position and efforts related to immigration issues, listened to comments, and took questions. It is always nice to find such a talented, capable, and impressive person on our side.

A teacher from eastern Oregon on summer vacation made the trek to Portland to check out the meet-up and relate his experiences in a school whose student population is about half white and half Latino. The Latinos are mostly Mexican, with a few Guatemalans. He told the story of a fourth-grade boy and his father who came from Guatemala about four months ago, just before the new policy of family separation was implemented. They came because in his village the boy was at risk of being abducted and forced to become a child soldier. His mother and sister stayed behind because it is the boys who face this particular risk. The boy is bright and eager, learning English and assimilating into his new environment. This would not have happened if the father had delayed fleeing Guatemala to protect his son.

A woman shared an anecdote she heard from a Beaverton bus driver who witnessed a 9-year-old boy on his bicycle seized by ICE agents who wanted to use the boy, born in this country, as bait to entrap and arrest his undocumented parents.

Thawing ICE: A Mindful Walk for Immigrant Justice is a monthly demonstration at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building sponsored by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice. I heard about the event at a Resist Trump Tuesday meet-up and checked it out on Thursday.

More than 300 people of all ages, including children with their parents, particpated in a silent, mindful protest against ICE actions, with focus on the practice of family separation. The gathering was marked by a quiet but palpable sense of moral outrage. I was happy to see that no young hotheads showed up to disrupt the protest. Just us old hotheads, and we do not move quickly enough anymore to cause much disruption.

I overheard people talking among themselves, saying that this is how it began in Nazi Germany. Once, not too long ago, I would have put this kind of talk down as hyperbole and a distraction from serious issues. Now I am not so sure about that.

I distinguish between ICE agents doing their job and Congress, the president, and the attorney general, who are responsible for the laws, policies, and regulations that lay out the parameters of that job. There comes a time though when individual responsibility comes into play even when "just doing one's job." Exactly where that point lies is not always clear-cut. Reasonable people can come to different conclusions in particular circumstances. Here I draw my line. It is not okay to use the abuse of children to deter their parents. It is not okay to use the abuse of children as a bargaining chip in the legislative process.

The Thawing ICE demonstration is another modest way to take a stand. By itself it may be a small matter, but these things can have a cumulative effect in conjunction with other actions. We have to hold to hope and faith and keep at it even when our actions seem to have no discernible impact. The alternative, silence, is an abdication of moral responsibility.

The demonstration takes place on the second Thursday of each month. The ICE building keeps a low profile, pretty much incognito, at 4310 SW Macadam, a few blocks south of OHSU's South Waterfront campus. No signage identifies the building except for the street number in small lettering at eye level on the NW corner. At what appears to be the entrance the only sign reads "No Smoking Within 25 Feet."

Friday's PBS Newshour included a piece about a visit to a small child detention center, Casa San Diego, in Southern California (What is life like for detained migrant children? An inside look at a government shelter). Casa San Diego houses abut sixty-five boys, making it one of the smaller detention centers. Conditions seem better than I would have expected, with educational and recreational activites and ten-minute, supervised phone calls allowed twice a week. About ten percent of of the boys currently there were separated from their families.

The Department of Health & Human Services rarely opens these facilities to the media or even US Senators, as Jeff Merkley learned, citing privacy concerns for the children. Jean Guerrero from KPBS reported that they were not allowed to do any audio or video recording and were not allowed to speak to children to get firsthand accounts of their experience. A clinician told the group, without providing many details, that the children were in many cases fleeing violence and show symptoms of trauma, some of it related to family separation.

Guerrero and Newshour national correspondent Amna Nawaz seemed careful not to speculate as to how typical this facility might be. Several questions that occur to me were left unanswered by the report. How representative is this facility? Is it perhaps a Potemkin showcase? Are privacy concerns being used to shield the program from oversight?

The Singapore Summit. The consensus seems to be the summit was light on substance. This PR photo op for dictator Kim and dictator-in-his-mind Trump is an upgrade on the saber-rattling and juvenile insults that came before. The PR campaign accompanying the summit is eerily reminiscent of commie Cold War propaganda that you might expect Republicans and Democrats alike to declare laughable.

Eighteen months into the Trump regime, my jaw still drops after a week in which the president disparages and insults European allies, calls the FBI scum, and showers a loathsome dictator with praise. On the one hand, maybe I should be used to it by now. On the other, no, we should never allow ourselves to become used to this.

The Inspector General's report. Lord knows I have not read the 500-page report. My takeaway based on reporting I have read is that it confirms what many of us already knew or suspected. Comey messed up. In his defense, he was in a "damned if he did, damned if he didn't" position. In the end his actions hurt Hillary Clinton and helped Donald Trump. I believe Comey contributed to her defeat, but blame is not his alone. The report found that FBI agents may have been biased against Trump but there is no evidence that bias affected the investigation, a key point that the president of course disputes.

One interesting revelation is that Loretta Lynch was furious at herself for allowing Bill Clinton onto her plane for that infamous meeting. The IG's account indicates she was uncomfortable with it from the get-go but too polite to tell him to buzz off as she later wished she had done. As for Clinton, he demonstrated yet again arrogance and narcissism that are off the charts. He has yet to look to himself for the contribution he made to his wife's defeat.

And then there is Hillary Clinton's silly tweet about Comey's use of personal email. She seems incapable of comprehending just how petty this makes her look. She and Bill were made for each other.

The IG's report includes evidence of anti-Clinton animus and bias on the part of senior officials in the FBI's New York office and leaks from that office to Rudy Guiliani, Devin Nunes, and the House Intelligence Committee but fails to address this in its findings (Josh Marshall, More Evidence of the Critical Failure of the IG Report, Talking Points Memo, June 16, 2018).

The latest batch of primaries highlight the grim stakes riding on the November midterm elections. As Dovere puts it in another Politico piece, "Put a blond combover on the elephant. Take down the pictures of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. It’s over. It’s Donald Trump’s GOP." ('This is the new Republican Party')

My original conception for these week's end posts was to have them consist of brief comments on topics from the past week, with politics and current affairs making up a small portion of the mix. Well, that has exactly worked out.

Two new writing projects. I am taking another stab at a piece of fiction titled Sketches from the Days and Nights of Charlotte, begun in 2008 and revised somewhat in 2011. Previous drafts all fell apart or blew up or something somewhere along the line. I have also begun typing up journal entries dating back to 1993. I do not know if anything of worth will come of either effort. I confess that it is somewhat interesting to read accounts from 1993, enduring more than a few cringe-inducing entries to indulge a perhaps silly curiosity. I have not been driven to burn the journal. Yet. As the president likes to say, we'll see what happens.

Keep the faith.

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