The Healing Cries of Outrage and Compassion

So much has happened in the last week or more. So much cruelty, so many lies. Yet, the hearts of many have awoken, have reached a point where mutual feeling and compassion has overcome fear or disbelief or inertia and has led so many to speak out. It feels like, or maybe I am just hoping, that the opposition to T is growing and will continue to grow.

 

T’s policy toward immigrants, of separating children from their parents so their pain will scare others away from our borders, is not only so inhumane and cruel I can barely stand to think about it, but ignorant in terms of the long range effects of this policy. If our borders are marked with red in the hearts of so many, then we, as a people and a nation, are marked with red, like targets. Like a cruel threat to eliminate. As an immoral nation. It is unbelievably costly in terms of human suffering. It is costly in terms of the money spent in building and staffing the prisons to hold the people, and providing judges to judge them, food to feed and doctors to care for them (and hopefully that will get such care).

 

And it is based on so many lies. As most of us know, and despite T’s statements and tweets to the contrary, undocumented immigrants from the south, and elsewhere, are less likely to commit a crime than US citizens. The border, despite T’s claims, has not been overrun by illegals, certainly not more than in past years.

 

T claims his policy is nothing new. President Obama supposedly did it. Democrats passed a law to do it. And he’s helpless to stop it. Congress must stop it. Then a few days later, he signs an executive order claiming to do just what he said he couldn’t do. Of course, the order, in effect, is almost as cruel as the policy it claims to end. It creates more chaos and does nothing to help re-unite parents with the children the government ripped away.

 

Of course, Obama did not have a policy of separating children from the parents of asylum seekers or immigrants as a way to scare away other immigrants. Of course, Democrats passed no law forcing T to separate children from parents.

 

Friends have cautioned me to look behind the headlines. Whenever T does something spectacularly awful, something else awful is hiding in the shadows, or something threatening to T is being hidden. It is painful to say this, but T is ripping children from their parents not only as a way to satisfy his political base and his own base instincts. He is hiding the fact he is ripping off social welfare and health care programs from most Americans as well as hiding his own possibly treasonous and criminal activities.

 

So, while many of us are focusing on the cruelty being done to immigrants, the GOP, on Tuesday, 6/19, quietly passed through a House committee a budget proposal that would fast track large cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as well as education and other programs that actually serve most Americans, all to finance continued tax cuts to the rich. This proposal is expected to pass the House—unless there is a public outcry.

 

On Thursday, they released a plan to reorganize the federal government, and cut programs like food stamps. It would combine the education and labor departments and give private industry a more direct role in the government. This could, for example, undermine the teaching of the humanities and redirect education to be totally concerned with one goal —providing labor to corporate interests. It could undermine the power of workers in general and the enforcement of civil rights in schools.

 

However, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort remains in jail, a judge ruled that the evidence seized by the FBI from his office can be used in his trial, and new evidence has been uncovered of Trump advisers like Roger Stone meeting with Russian agents.

 

What is heartening is the outcry. Millions of Americans are calling Congress, and as Rachel Maddow revealed in a story on Thursday, 6/21, lawyers are organizing to defend, pro bono, federal officials who refuse to “follow orders” on immigration.  Multiple states are suing the T administration to stop his immigration policy. And millions of dollars have been raised in just a few days to provide legal assistance to the parents and children separated at the border.

 

Even more, the number of people who are ready to enter politics to defend America from the racism, sexism, etc., criminality, greed, and shortsightedness that this administration represents has increased dramatically this year. Over the last week, I have attended a fundraiser and/or donated to two amazing people who are running for office. One is a friend, Michael Lausell, who is running for the New York Senate in district 58. The other, a former student and graduate from the Lehman Alternative Community School, Satya Rhodes-Conway, is running for Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin. And five people are competing in the Democratic primary in New York’s 23rd district to unseat T supporter Tom Reed. I have met and talked to two of the candidates at different political demonstrations and think both are worthy of my vote (Max Della Pia and Tracy Mitrano).

 

I just hope that all those who oppose and are outraged by this immigration policy, as well as the GOP tax policy, can keep in mind that our differences are less important than what we share ⎼ our humanity, and the drive to unseat T and his whole administration. To protect our environment and create a democratic government that works for and looks to promote the rights, freedom, education, and quality of life of the great majority of people in this nation.

 

**There is a New York primary on Tuesday, June 26th.

***And remember to make calls and speak up against this immigration policy and against cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in order to continue to finance tax cuts for the rich. On Saturday, June 30th, there will be demonstrations all over the nation to support immigrants. In Ithaca, the demonstration will be on the Commons, at 11:00 am.

Dads

We never fully understand anyone. Who we are and what we think of those around us can change in unanticipated ways. But, although everything changes, some things are so deep they sway but do not shift. This is especially true with parents, who can play such a major role in our lives.

 

My Dad died seven months ago and this will be the first year in memory that I could not wish him a good father’s day in person, or on the phone. I miss him greatly. When I was a child, I knew my Dad loved me, but he was gone more often than he was home. He was off working, sometimes even on weekends. As a child of the depression, and a responsible father, financial security was one of his primary concerns. We never had too much but always what we needed.

 

When I was a teenager, we often butted heads. It was a struggle, as it often is with teenagers and their parents. He could be moody and critical, but also accepting, kind and generous. In our home, arguing was a common form of discourse, even at the kitchen table, and especially about politics. I was against the war in Vietnam. He was for it. But we did eat dinner and talk together; we could argue, and still love each other.

 

My Dad was staunchly moral. He always wanted me to do the right thing, even if that was not what I wanted to do. When I was in college, in Michigan, I attended many protests, including several against the war in Vietnam. Once, the editor of our college newspaper was arrested at a protest to secure for parents on welfare enough money to clothe their children. This led me, and about three hundred other students, to protest the arrest at the county municipal building. We, in turn, were arrested; police in riot gear dragged most of us out of the building. I watched my best friend on one side of me and a women with her daughter on the other being dragged out, but I was mysteriously left to walk out on my own. Snipers on the roofs of neighboring buildings shadowed the demonstration.

 

A picture of me leaving the building appeared in Life Magazine, and my Dad saw the photo before I could tell him about it. He got so angry he called and disinherited me. Two weeks later, he called again. He had researched the incident and decided I was right. He even said I had acted courageously.

 

That’s my Dad. He thought about the situation and changed his mind. He also changed his mind about the war in Vietnam and joined an organization of businessmen against it. He remained highly informed and thoughtful about politics for the rest of his life. During the disputes and discussions about healthcare over the last twenty years, my father presented the clearest analysis I ever heard of the waste in our health care system and the money that would be saved by a single payer system.

 

He lived a good life. He and my Mom, who he loved deeply, would often take trips to other countries. They would usually travel with friends or relatives. Several years after my Mom passed away, when he was 91 years old, he flew by himself to Athens, Greece, to meet his new girlfriend and take a cruise back to the US.

 

He had been a successful accountant and CFO of a large corporation, and up to the last year of his life, when he was closing in on 96 years of age, he continued to do his own tax returns. In fact, he felt a little sheepish about not doing them. The only reason he stopped, he said, was because he had moved to a new state. The laws were very different than those he knew, and he didn’t feel like extensively studying the tax codes. What stood out most from his work were the people he met and got to know. He was so touched that even 16 years after he finally retired, people he worked with still called and came to visit.

 

In June, 1969, I entered the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, West Africa. My parents didn’t really want me to be there. They were afraid of what might happen to me but recognized and supported my reasons for going. In late November, I was escorted from the country back to Washington, D. C. with a serious but not contagious illness. I was in no condition and didn’t have the time to inform anyone about what was happening.

 

After only a day or two, I insisted on returning to my parent’s home in Queens, New York, to surprise them. A friend drove me. It was late afternoon, so no one was there when I arrived. I didn’t have the key, but was able to get it from Selma, a neighbor. She insisted I call my mother right away, before she left work, so I wouldn’t shock her too deeply when she saw me. We weren’t able to find my Dad; no cell phones back then.

 

When my Dad came home, he parked the car in the driveway and went to the back door to enter the house. I got to the door first and opened it from the inside. When he saw me, he froze in obvious disbelief. “Is that you?” he said. “Yes,” I replied. My very rational Dad didn’t know what to do. He turned away and started to walk back to the car. Then he turned back. “Are you staying?’ “Yes.” “Good.” And he turned away again. It took him a few minutes to let me see his face and enter the house. I don’t think he wanted me to see him crying.

 

What remained throughout all these years was a love that I felt but didn’t always understand. My Dad loved absolutely. In our last real conversation, on the day before he went into the semi-coma that preceded his death, he was worried about how my brother and I would be when he was gone. He said to me, “You know, a father never stops worrying about his children.”

 

The world would be a much better place if more people could grow up with such absolute love and support. Who would I have been if I hadn’t had him as a Dad? He taught me that in the face of death, the only thing that helps is acting with love. He died at 96.5 years old.

When Will We Learn?

Listen to the news:  Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, Brooklyn. I feel like the universe is slapping me in the face, slapping all of us. “Look. Can you see? Can you feel?” Racism, yes, and so much more. Is this what happens when an economic system, and its political and justice system, is lopsided and only a small percentage of “We The People” control most of the wealth and power? I listen to the news and feel angry, and am heartened by protests. But I also recognize fear in myself. The biggest fear is that not enough people will hear what I hear.

 

Will people hear the questions being asked? Questions like: Will substantive change happen? Will the Grand Jury in Brooklyn indict the police in the Akai Gurley killing? Will the federal investigation into the death of Eric Garner lead to prosecutions? Will there ever be a trial for Darren Wilson? Will we as humans make the effort to create a more equitable nation and world?

 

Will we bother to educate ourselves, to better understand our own mental processes so we can understand the importance to all of us of justice and equity?

 

These events are part of the curriculum for our nation. The streets are texts for our classrooms. And I am not just speaking of current events classes but all classes. Science can study the neurobiology of compassion and attunement systems in the brain. Social studies and history can study the effects of greatly unequal wealth distribution. They can study systems of justice and how nations transform themselves—or fall. English classes can write stories of street experiences and read about people fighting injustice and persisting in the face of great challenges. Language classes can study the relationship between language and thought systems and the necessity for diverse perspectives in thinking critically. All classes can ask: Brown, Gurley, Garner, Rice—and Wilson: who are they? They are people who feel and think not much differently than you and I feel and think. To try to separate them from ourselves distorts the substance of our lives and makes us incapable of acting in a humane, well-considered manner. There is no justice without compassion and understanding, no understanding without empathy.

 

We all have to learn enough about how our brains work so we can understand how we can misunderstand ourselves and dehumanize others. I think most people believe in what is called “naïve realism.” We think the world is just as we see it. We can feel our own sensations but not (or rarely) those of others. So we think the red of the apple is all in the apple, the sound of a raindrop is all in the raindrop. We can’t understand why other people don’t like what we like. The person over there who I never look at is not as aware or valuable as I am. I am right and they are not seeing the situation correctly.

 

This study of how events on the streets speak to political, economic, and legal systems, and how they relate to the mind and our social-emotional nature, should be required in our schools.