The Borders of Decency

I’ve been reading about the U.S. immigrant situation and the separation of children from their parents for the last two weeks. My response, from the safety of my own study, has been to sign petitions, send money to the ACLU, write testy letters to my own representatives which, in a purplish-blue state, involves preaching to the choir in some cases. It’s not enough.

canstockphoto46338616I believe the inhumane immigration policy enacted by this administration is the Japanese internment camp of our time. It will be our national shame for years to come. While we’ve already replaced our human rights high horse with a jackass on the world stage, I fear our grandchildren will ask “What did you do when they started putting the children in tent camps and warehousing them in a vacant Walmart?”

It is, unquestionably, an issue of morality. Not biblical morality, which is as whimsical and cruel as the humans who brandish it. Not legal morality, which seems to be enforced in varying degrees based on your skin color, financial means, or just who happens to be in charge at the moment. But the morality of decent humans who understand the difference between right and wrong. The morality of humans who have experienced love and separation and grief and fear. The morality of humans who understand that there should be no borders on decency.

canstockphoto2055140I believe that our government is being run by the worst of the worst now – white collar criminals with deliberate ignorance and venality as their guiding policy. Attorney General Sessions is a spiteful person who uses religion to underwrite his malevolence. President Trump is a malicious narcissist who is corrupt to the stupidest degree. The evidence is in. Rich and powerful people aren’t always rich and powerful because they are smart. It is because they are often amoral and weaselly and believe the rules don’t apply to them, moral or otherwise.

Immigration policy and surrounding issues are complicated. The policy of separating children from their parents is not. The process of warehousing thousands of children on U.S. property is not. I have no patience with the vicious people who say that humans attempting to come into the U.S. are criminals, especially the many asylum-seekers. Seeking asylum at our borders is NOT a crime. Treating people as automatic criminals, traumatizing their children, and setting up situations that will be rife with abuse, mishaps, and fatalities is bad policy.

I’ve read defense of this policy and it always comes down to well, they broke the rules and deserved to be punished. To the malevolent vipers who think this is just desserts, I’m sure you’re the ones who also say, “my parents used corporal punishment growing up and I turned out alright”. Um, no, you didn’t. You got the decency beat out of you.

The other argument is that it is a deterrent. This supports the wave of nationalist sentiment that somehow immigrants are what – taking jobs? You mean the jobs that remain unfilled, because there are Americans who think they’ll get a job based on 1950s criteria (you know, pasty white and possibly with a penis) and don’t bother with education, training, or moving to where the jobs are. Those jobs? Not to mention the jobs that are based on dying industries. Pure and utter bullshit.

canstockphoto21191952And the value of whiteness. Look, as quickly as we’re destroying the environment and the ozone layer, melanin-gifted people are going to be the ones who survive. Pasty white people will have to live in underground tunnels, evolve some night vision, and hope that brown people don’t decide to play whack-a-mole on our asses every time we pop our heads above ground, because we’ll deserve it. Whiteness will eventually disappear and those of us who remain will be that special albino exhibit at the zoo. Get over it. We have no inherent value because of our lack of skin color.

We know the president is using these children at the border as a bargaining chip to get his Lego wall built. We know that he wants to build that wall, not because he is remotely concerned with immigration issues. He needs red meat for his base. Every word and action from this person has indicated a need for affirmation, adoring crowds, and unquestioning loyalty. He is a bad person, a likely criminal, and all his jokes about wanting to rule like a dictator are not jokes. This thin-skinned man has no sense of honor and he is not funny.

I wrote after the election that this was an opportunity to become heroes – to match every evil action and word with more compassion, empathy, and courage. I flailed a lot, feeling the outrage spikes until they became so numerous and frequent that they stopped moving at all. I have not become a hero. I have not exercised enough courage. I am still a rather complacent middle class lump. It’s not enough.

canstockphoto57450382It’s exhausting watching consumer and environmental protections being dismantled, education being denigrated, staring slack-jawed as government representatives blatantly and repeatedly lie. Listening to the racists and misogynists preach atop the rocks they used to live under, the Luddites in Congress talking about Facebook and net neutrality, the marginalized being recast as criminals, the press being attacked. It’s damned exhausting. And there seems to be no end in sight.

It’s time to re-calibrate. I’ve joined and donated to organizations over the last three years in response not only to this corrosive administration, but as a necessary antidote to privilege in the face of the suffering of others. I’ve signed petitions. I’ve written, called, and emailed congressional representatives. I’ve curated and paid for my news. I’ve taken a more active role in my community. It’s not enough.

So it’s time to come up with a bigger game plan – time to give my anger more form and shape and rhetorical fire. It’s time to ignore the shit show that is our national political life, shake off the distractions of meme-parrots and conspiracy freaks and get down to business.

I am the citizen of a country that is being represented by the wealthy and deliberately ignorant. Cowards in Congress abound. Bad people have undue influence. Foreign intervention is being downplayed in favor of political expediency. Much of the citizenry prefers to be told what to think and is, like the denizens of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, bewitched by screens, prone to the doublespeak and nonsensical logic of inarticulate leadership.

canstockphoto20220453Where will it end? Are we as complacent as those who waited, only to see their neighbors carted off to camps or slaughtered by machetes, or forced into workhouses and labor camps? We are not as prescient as history will blame us for being. If we err, I’d rather be blamed for taking actions on the side of decency and good intention, and not serving the ego of a petty tyrant.


ACLU Petition

Women’s March Petition

Support the Keep Families Together Act, contact your senators.

Donations to Charities Helping Kids at the Border

“The Trump Administration’s separation of families at the border”, Vox, 06/15/18

“Here’s How You Can Fight Family Separation at the Border”, Slate, 06/15/18

Please review The Green Study Comment Policy. I will not provide a platform for false information, conspiracy theory, memes, or moral equivalency on this issue. Comments will be moderated.

38 thoughts on “The Borders of Decency

  1. Thanks Michelle. I have sat down many times over the past few weeks and tried to write something. Something that will convey my outrage and anguish while also contributing something. But my anger and anguish keep knotting my words into useless balls of rage. Spitting fire without substance. So thanks for giving my thoughts coherency. And for inspiring me to do better.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This is the least angry version I could come up with and it’s still pretty angry. I prefer to be a measured, thoughtful person, but I fear this approach is too slow for how quickly this country has downshifted to the lowest moral denominators. I don’t want to fall prey to being helpless and outraged all the time.

      Now that I’ve clearly enunciated what I feel about it, I have to come up with a personal plan of activism. That’s the real challenge. Fortunately there are a lot of resources. If each person did one or two things, statistically, that would carry a lot of power. I would encourage you to find that thing, no matter what it is. Anger without action can be toxic and depressing.

      Liked by 4 people

    1. It’s easy to see how we got here and just how much worse it can get. Bad policy, corrosive public discourse, wealth treated as a moral value, and a disconnect between politics and our humanity. But I believe there is a way forward and I know I’m not the only one trying to get there. It’s not hopeless and we have to rally ourselves repeatedly to make those calls, show up, and be clearheaded enough to not get gas-lighted.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. You are such a thoughtful and powerful writer. I so desperately want to see you writing for the NY Times, the New Yorker and the Atlantic.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You are not too amateurish and just about every journalist I read is angry. We’re all angry. As for cussing, I think I have you beat 😊

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Please submit this to the Washington Post or the New York Times. Your writing is gripping and has integrity. You just may be speaking for a great many people who, like me, are becoming demoralized and feeling helpless. I will write my Senator (Republican) but you need a bigger audience. I think this quote is directed towards you!
        “Many people feel powerless in our society, but if you can put 750 to 800 words together in cohesive and intelligent fashion, you can publish your views in the New York Times and influence millions of people, perhaps change the course of events and history. You only have one vote as a citizen, but with your words you can transform the world around you. It’s a very powerful tool.”
        Smith, Molly (2005). Live & Learn, VOl 4 # 3.
        I have graded hundreds of university assignments and your writing isn’t amateurish, and being angry does not disqualify you as a writer or from being published. Please, please, please take the chance (I say with tears in my eyes).

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. It is likely time that I start writing for a larger audience. In the case of this post – publications don’t want pieces that have been published anywhere else and a blog counts. But you and other commenters have encouraged me to write more and it has been on my mind – using the tools we are equipped with to try and make a difference. I need to practice what I preach!

          Thanks, too, for sharing that quote with me.


        2. I wonder if you could rewrite this piece enough to get the general message published. Besides I don’t think they would except “jackass” and a few other adjectives acceptable. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      3. I agree Fransiweinsten. Michelle, you are able to articulate things with conviction and keep it in context. I’d like to see you submitting some of this thoughtful commentary to the media outlets that she mentioned. There are many of us that share your feelings but so few of us who can express this well. Maybe it’s your calling.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I’ve always been resistant to the idea of a “calling”, because so many people who use that word, use it in service to religion or zealotry of any ilk. But if I were to assess what skills I have and how I can utilize them to make a difference, writing is on the list. Thanks for the encouragement, though – it’s funny how when I write angry, I get more of this kind of feedback.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. I think you are channeling our collective anger and putting it into words for us. I guess we like to feel like we aren’t alone in our frustration and you seem to be able to be pissed off and articulate at the same time!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. And on the other side of the ocean, Italy refuses a shipful of migrants a port, although some need medical treatment. Malta turns them away. Spain finally offers them a place to land, but what happens to the next ship, and the one after that? I can’t help thinking about the shipful of Jewish refugees who were turned away from port after port before World War II and finally returned to Germany. Where they died.

    What have we become?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been following that story as well. The NIMBY policy is a popular one among humans. We have to learn to do what is right, not what is easy. Good governance is not easy. Good governmental policy is not easy. Integrating other populations and cultures is not easy. People are notoriously short-sighted and now that our leaders have become defiantly so, we’ve learned how incredibly vulnerable western nations are to nationalistic propaganda and hyperbole.

      Whatever we have become, I believe that we can decide to be something else.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Once again, well said, Michelle. It IS exhausting. And I believe that’s part of their strategy. Keep us angry, off-balance, confused, disbelieving, and disheartened; boggle our minds with lies a child could see through (but the obedient and venal base does not); point fingers at the innocent and claim to be doing God’s work. They’re counting on us to be exhausted and to either give up or be too tired to resist as they chip away at freedom, integrity, justice and all those other values they deem disposable. Fortunately, there seem to be enough of us that some can stand back and regroup or re-energize while others take the lead; and then those with a second wind will pick up the resistance. It’s not how I envisioned spending this phase of my life, but it may be the most important work we do. Thanks, as always.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. From a purely pragmatic perspective, the immigration issues have not only rallied Democrats, but moderate Republicans – Trump has made a critical mistake in his overt attempts to feed his racist base. Children are not a partisan issue and WILL impact the midterm elections, if he doesn’t pull a war out of his back pocket or suspend elections on the excuse that foreign interference needs to be investigated.

      He is a very stupid man, blundering through like the weak bully he is. We are, however, in deep jeopardy here, due to the inaction by Congress. They are more to blame than this idiot. Lots of calls to make today! I finally purchased a Bluetooth headset and I’ve got my script.

      This is important work – it is a test of character – for us, as citizens and as a country. It’s simply untenable to let this administration continue its destruction of human decency.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Living thousands of miles away from the USA, it is really weird to watch what is happening there. You have been so up front about “human rights”, “land of the free”, etc etc. USA policies globally are leaving wide open front doors for China and Russia to move in and move on. Other countries are going to have to get into strategies to deal with these two, and the USA is moving on out of the global picture. I can see it must be so frustrating to be a USA citizen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. American exceptionalism as a policy guide has done us in. We thought we were above the nationalist propaganda, yet in the course of one election, we have citizens screaming at us about what is un-American and unpatriotic in the very language that has justified human rights abuses throughout history.

      These may simply be growing pains or the beginning of the end. I’d like to believe, as MLK did, that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice, but we are taking too long to get there, which allows these angry, fearful people to take the stage and enact destructive policy.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. From the UK, we’ve watched so many of recent events in America, recent Trump speeches, with a mixture of horror and amusement. However, I can’t say we’ve done much better. We set a quota for child migrants we would “take”, and then never met it. The ones who did arrive here, a substantial number ended up disappearing into the system or disappearing entirely due to trafficker gangs. We all need more compassion and more outrage. I thought you articulated this beautifully, and I was glad to read such a sensible, human, moral view on the situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a part of me that thinks I have to “represent”, as in I want people to know that what they see in the news is not the only picture of the US. We are guilty of complacency, without which, this abhorrent putz of a human would not have taken the stage. On a positive note, it has knocked a lot of people out of a consumerist, self-involved stupor and enlivened our unions, teachers, civil rights organizations, and political ambitions in those who would have otherwise not gotten involved. This is good, but our timing has been delayed and we have a lot of work to do to first fight back the damage and to take back our governmental entities from the jaws of authoritarianism. Much work to do. Miles to go…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you so much, Michelle, for writing this. Like others who have commented, I was rendered speechless (but not permanently!) by this latest development. I re-blogged it as well. I also want to agree with those who said you should be writing for the Times or Post. You are a really good, thoughtful and brave writer.


    1. Thanks, Martha for your kind comment and for re-blogging this post. It appears the administration is doubling down on bad policy. I hope that we can stop this, rally decent Republicans to support the Keep Families Together Act and unite citizens with an iota of decency and common sense.


  8. I’ve found it far more effective to contact my congressional representatives, as well as convincing my friends and family and readers to do the same. I’ve also donated to organizations that work for human rights and donated my time and energy towards voters’ rights, to ensure that this is truly a representative democracy.

    And if I did write to Ms. Obama, I respect her enough to spell her first name correctly.

    Liked by 1 person

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