The cruelty at the heart of Trump regime policies toward the poor was the theme for this week's Resist Trump Tuesday meet-up at Senator Jeff Merkley's office in Portland. Discussion addressed the policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the border with Mexico and the woefully inadequate response to devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The group spoke to Senator Merkley’s State Director Jessica Stevens and intern Lucas Heilbroner.
A high point came during the segment when anyone present could offer a comment. A middle-aged man stepped forward from the back of the crowd. He introduced himself as a corrections officer for the State of Oregon and stressed that he spoke for himself only, not for the Department of Corrections. He told us that he deals with felons, murderers, rapists. Oregon law mandates that they all be allowed outside at least once a day to see the sky, even those in solitary confinement. Anyone who desires a tour of a prison facility can call the Department of Corrections and, after a brief background check to confirm they are not a felon, schedule a tour. The speaker grew impassioned as he asked how it is that immigrant children detained by the US government can be denied even these minimal standards of humane treatment and transparency that are required for the state's worst felons.
Tuesday's meet-up came on the heels of Senator Merkley's efforts to shed light on the regime's new policy aimed at deterring people from seeking asylum in the US by inflicting harm on their children. A 25-minute video of the senator's attempt to enter a detention center for child immigrants in Brownsville, Texas, went viral after it was posted on Facebook (2 million views since Sunday).
It was not your typical viral video—no cute puppies, no militarized police, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Not much happened. Senator Merkley patiently explained his concerns about regime policy and his office's attempts the previous week to schedule a visit. He politely asked an employee arriving at the facility for permission to enter and was turned down. Then he called the phone number posted at the door and politely asked a young woman to ask her supervisor to come to the door to speak to him. After a follow-up call a few minutes later, the police arrived and a supervisor came to the door.
The two young police officers called to the scene conducted themselves with professionalism and courtesy while professing ignorance about anything going on at the detention center. The supervisor stonewalled, saying all he could do was give Merkley the phone number for the ACF (Administration for Children & Families) Office of Public Affairs, which Merkley's office had contacted the previous week, whereupon the senator was asked to leave and did so while summing up what happened for the video.
Joan Walsh at The Nation spoke to Senator Merkley about Brownsville and about what he saw at a child-immigrant-processing center in McAllen, Texas, which he was allowed to visit (What Senator Jeff Merkley Saw at an Immigrant Detention Center for Children, June 6, 2018). Merkley's account is chilling:
I’ll tell you what was very difficult to see. One room had smaller cyclone fences—they look like the way you construct a dog kennel. They’re larger, but that’s the thought that comes to mind when you see them. Then they have these space blankets [light foil blankets], which is a very strange sight, to see kids using a space blanket as a cushion—but they don’t provide any cushion—or as a cover for privacy. There’re no mattresses in that section. I’ll tell you what was very difficult to see. One room had smaller cyclone fences—they look like the way you construct a dog kennel. They’re larger, but that’s the thought that comes to mind when you see them. Then they have these space blankets [light foil blankets], which is a very strange sight, to see kids using a space blanket as a cushion—but they don’t provide any cushion—or as a cover for privacy. There’re no mattresses in that section.
Of the family-separation policy he says bluntly:
The argument is if we deter families from seeking asylum, then they won’t take on this arduous journey, so they won’t be exposed to smugglers. They’re inflicting trauma on children, to influence parents. Who does that? What civilized society does that? What faith tradition in the world would inflict trauma on children to influence their parents?
How is it that such things are happening in this country? All we can do is try to speak up, try to shed light on these horrors perpetrated in our name, refuse to remain silent and allow these atrocities to be swept under the rug. And we should do something I would never advocate under anything approaching normal circumstances. We should vote for any Democrat who appears on the ballot for Congress, even the likes of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, whose ethical compass is calibrated to the same specifications as the president's, because we need every one of them to have a shot at Democratic majorities in the House and Senate that can provide some checks and balances on the executive.
White House visit fiasco. You probably heard about abrupt cancellation of a scheduled visit to the White House by the NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles. The president took the Eagles to task for disagreeing with his insistence "that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country." Eagles' safety Malcolm Jenkins responded that it is a lie to paint the players as "anti-American, anti-flag, and anti-military." Jenkins pointed out that not one Eagles player knelt during the national anthem last year. Once again I think of Samuel Johnson's adage that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
The president announced on Friday that he would not invite the winner of the NBA finals to visit the White House. LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors stated earlier in the week that their teams have no interest in a visit. James, Curry, and Warriors' coach Steve Kerr stand at the forefront of a host of professional athletes and coaches who have been articulate and outspoken critics of the president. These guys truly are role models.
Mitch McConnell's cancellation of the Senate's August recess is the Majority Leader's latest example of partisan hackmanship. The twofold aim is to pack the federal judiciary with as many hard-right judges as possible in the coming months in case the Republicans lose their majority in November and to hamper Democratic candidates in the fall campaign.
And now for some upbeat news, Portlandathon 2018. This year's Portland Marathon was canceled under cloud of scandal when it came to light that the former director illegally borrowed more than $865,000 from the nonprofit that operates the event.
On June 1 the Portland Business Journal reported that the fall marathon will take place after all, under the aegis of longtime Portland area race organizer Runwithpaula. Runwithpaula was founded by Portland runner Paula Harkin, who with her husband, Dave Harkin, owns and operates Portland Running Company, where I shop for running items that cannot wait for the birthday package or my next visit to Tulsa where I can pick them up from Trani at Tulsa Runner.
I welcome the news about Portlandathon even though I will not be running it myself. My marathon days may well be behind me. It will be okay if they are. I can still pound out a few miles and enjoy doing it. That is what matters. And if from time to time I still entertain a zany notion of lacing up the running shoes for 26.2, that probably can't do any harm.
Charlotte Gainsbourg on #MeToo:
I’m thinking about #MeToo and about whether extremity is needed for change, change that is very much needed. But I’ve also been thinking about the cost to people’s lives, whether lives should be destroyed with tweets and the like. Judgment has become too immediate. I feel that we need more distance – to go the old-fashioned way of trials when we’re judging people. (Interview by James McMahon, Charlotte Gainsbourg: 'Art shouldn't be censored,' The Guardian, June 9, 2018)
I am tempted to write, "me, too," but that might be politically incorrect and we wouldn't want that, so I'll just say, "yep."
Keep the faith.