Tag Archives: Donald Trump

355. Quotations

As I was listening to Trump’s address to the Coast Guard graduates, and his overnight tweets, I was reminded of another voice from years ago. Let me offer all three, side by side.

No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.
          Trump speaking to Coast Guard graduates.

and also . . .

This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American History.
          Trump tweet.

Setting aside the sound of Andrew Johnson rolling in his grave, let’s hear Robert Heinlein talking about one of his characters:

He had to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.

Yep. That sounds about right.

352. A Modern Maverick

The old TV show Maverick has been on local channels lately. It was one of my favorite programs when I was twelve years old, but I’ve pretty much outgrown it. I don’t watch the reruns, but they started me thinking about an American archetype — the lovable con man.

There are a lot of them in literature, and a lot more moving among us in our everyday lives. You know him, weird Uncle Bob who always has a beer in his hand but never buys drinks. Or Uncle Jim who thinks it is wonderful that you are planting trees in your mother’s yard, and drives home to get his favorite shovel, but never comes back.

What all these slick dealers have in common is that they are funny, charming, and it is almost impossible to stay mad at them. They’ll steal your beer, or steal your heart, or steal your money, and leave you laughing at how easy you were to take.

In the movie version of Maverick, he says, “There is no more deeply moving religious experience, than cheating on a cheater.” Cute, but in point of fact, Bret and Bart and Beau cheated everybody. It doesn’t matter though, because they were charming.

There were others before Maverick. Starbuck, in The Rain Maker, teaches Lizzie that she is beautiful, but she marries her home town swain. Good thing. If she had run off with Starbuck, it would not have ended well.

Harold Hill, in The Music Man, made a career of separating suckers from their money. He was charming and slick and thinks faster than the locals. When he falls in love with the librarian, it changes his attitude. She reforms him. Okay, fine, but for me that doesn’t saves the movie; the line that saves the movie is when he tells Winthrop, “I always think there’s a band.”

See, he didn’t mean it. He thinks he’s giving something back. He’s a good Joe at heart.

If a con man believes his own lies, does that make us forgive him? In the movies it frequently does. But what if a real Marian the librarian married a real Harold Hill. We would probably find her later with eight kids, hungry and living on skid row, after Harold Hill moved on. I like the movie version better.

Does our charming American con man believe his own lies? Does he even know himself where the truth is? Does it matter to him? Does it matter to us?

If he is slick enough, and fast enough, and plausible enough — if he can tell one lie to cover another until we get lost in the shell game — there is no limit to how far he can go.

He could even become President.

330. Dred Scott Rides Again

The issue at hand is constitutionality v. right and wrong.

My respect for the constitution is profound, but terrible things have been done in the name of constitutionality. Some of them are being done right now. (see yesterday’s post)

There is no question of the constitutionality of the move to deport undocumented immigrants, but a great deal of question as to its wisdom and its morality. Trump’s motives are unknowable and irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if he thinks he is saving America from an enemy within, or if he just jumped on an issue to provide a path the white house. The real question is — should it happen.

History has lessons for us on this issue. The constitution allowed Chinese immigrants to be deemed unfit for citizenship. The same was true of Japanese immigrants. Chinese were, eventually and quite constitutionally, denied entry into the US altogether simply for being Chinese. (see 306. White Men Only)

Andrew Jackson used his constitutional powers to make treaties in his removal of the southern Indian tribes. He also used trickery and deceit, but that is politics. American Indians living a settled life in agricultural villages, whose ancestors had been in America since before Columbus was a gleam in his father’s eye, were led by trickery and force to sign away their lands and were removed from the United States by military force, all quite constitutionally through the Indian Removal Act of 1930. (see 247. The People’s President)

Let’s turn the calendar forward from Indian removal to 1857. This was the era of the Missouri Compromise, which allowed new northern states to enter the union as non-slave states, while new southern states entered the union as slave states.

Dred Scott was born a slave in Virginia. His owner took him to Illinois and later to what is now Minnesota. Later, he was returned to Missouri where he eventually sued for his freedom based on his long residence in free states. The litigations passed through multiple trials, which Scott sometimes won and sometimes lost, and finally made it to the U. S. Supreme Court as Dred Scott v. Sandford.

Scott lost. Chief Justice Taney stated that any person descended from Africans, whether slave or free, is not a citizen of the United States, according to the constitution. He further stated that the government could not confer either freedom or citizenship to non-whites, and the Missouri compromise could not exclude slavery from the northern territories.

All this in the name of the constitution. It brought anger, the election of Lincoln, and the civil war.

At the end of the Civil War, the 14th amendment stated that “all persons born or naturalized in the Unites States .  . . are citizens.”  That did nothing to help the Chinese and later Japanese who came to this country, but could not be naturalized because they weren’t white. (again, see 306. White Men Only)

And it does nothing for the Mexican-Americans who came to America illegally because the laws made it impossible to come in legally. If you read yesterday’s post, and if you followed the link and actually looked at the Permanent Residence application form, you know this to be true. If we native born Americans were required to positively answer all the questions on that form, three-quarters of us would have to leave the country.

I respect the Constitution, but I don’t respect those who misuse it. Trickery and deceit gave Andrew Jackson his way, but this is not 1830, and it should not happen again.

329. Green Card Blues

Just before Christmas, I wrote a post from the viewpoint of a little Mexican girl, born in the US, whose parents were about to be deported. I received a comment suggesting that the problem was caused by Mexicans breaking the law. I posted that comment because everyone has a right to his opinion.

Why don’t Mexican immigrants just follow the law? I’m no expert, so I did a bit of research. Here is what it says on the Homeland Security website.

Because more people want a green card than there are visas available, not everyone who wants a green card can get one immediately. Therefore, some people have to wait in line until a visa is available. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) gives out 140,000 employment-based visas each year. . . . Currently, about 234,000 people have employment-based adjustment of status (green card) applications pending in the United States and are waiting to get a visa.

And from the site of the North American Immigration Law Group

Each application must also be supported by evidence that the alien will not become a public charge.

That suggests the applicant has to already have an employee, or has to be rich.

According to information scattered through half a dozen websites, the wait for a visa can easily take up to nine months. I can’t credit this to an official source, so call it a strong rumor.

Okay, let’s say you have a visa? That gets you over the border, but to stay, you have to apply for permanent residence. So what does that application look like? Here are some excerpts; you can download a PDF if you want to look at the whole thing.

List your present and past membership in or affiliation with every organization, association, fund, foundation, party, club, society, or similar group in the United States or in other places since your 16th birthday. Include any military service in this part. If none, write “None.” Include the name of each organization, location, nature, and dates of membership. If additional space is needed, attach a separate sheet of paper.

Have you received public assistance in the United States from any source, including the U.S. Government or any State, county, city, or municipality (other than emergency medical treatment), or are you likely to receive public assistance in the future?

Have you EVER been a member of, or in any way affiliated with, the Communist Party or any other totalitarian party?

Have you EVER received any type of military, paramilitary, or weapons training? 

These are a few of the most egregious questions found in five tightly packed pages of questions. It looks a bit like an IRS tax form on steroids.

If you were a Mexican doctor or businessman facing this document, you would set down for a hour with your lawyer and all would be well. But what if you were an uneducated, non-English-speaking farm worker?

Trump wants to build a wall. There is already a wall, built of paper, keeping poor and uneducated Mexicans from legally entering the US, and sending them across the border illegally to find work to feed their families.

This post is only a first look at a process full of complications and permutations. I’ve followed the paper trail as far as I care to. Knowing the full story of any government program would take a lifetime, and I have other things to do. But I have one more question to ask:

Is the system set up this way to turn Mexican laborers into virtual slaves, afraid to speak up from fear of the INS? No one can answer with certainty. But we can suspect, and I do.

327. The Lone Hero

bks275-1

                         A note before we start  ——

     Yesterday, someone searched on the sub-title of this blog (be not ashamed . . .) but my software doesn’t tell me who. For your information, unknown and curious person, I explained my relationship to this poem on the last day of 2015, and included a copy of the poem the same day.

     And now to our regularly scheduled business ——

===============

In my youth, before Star Trek and Star Wars and computer generated effects, the typical movie hero was a cowboy, riding into town alone, beholden to no one, ready to stand or fall on his own.

Even the word “beholden” seems old fashioned. Ancient. Outmoded — like the western hero himself. And to be fair, he never really existed. If you spend any time at all reading histories of the old west, you’ll find out that things were done by groups, not by lone heroes. When the Dalton gang tried to hold up two banks at once in Coffeyville, Kansas, it wasn’t a John Wayne figure standing tall in the street that stopped them. It was a dozen or so armed citizens that blew them out of the saddle from windows and doorways. Same story in Northfield, Minnesota when the James gang bit the dust.

I called them armed citizens. That sounds pretty good. Put them up on horses with Winchesters and send them as a posse after the bad guys. It still works — unless you are the one they are after. Call them vigilantes, and some people will start to feel uncomfortable, but not everyone. Call them a gang and people will start thinking about locking their doors.

Put them in white hoods. What do you think of them now?

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

The lone, self-sufficient individual or small family did exist. There were soddies on the Kansas prairie miles from the next settler. Or log cabins in the deep woods of Ohio and Indiana — back when Ohio and Indiana had deep woods. And there were the mountain men. You can’t get more independent than that — except that they moved across the prairie in companies, and only dispersed once they were in the mountains.

One thing is certain. The idea of the loner was always there.

I wrote my first book, a young adult novel called Spirit Deer, with the idea of the loner front and center. The young man Tim — he didn’t need a last name — got lost in the Sierras while deer hunting and found his way out without help despite innumerable trials and tribulations. You can still sell that kind of book (see Two Hands and a Knife), but they are becoming rare. Today’s YA novels seem to be about how to get along in the world.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It better fits the world today’s youth live in. The — ask a friend, seek companionship, don’t rock the boat, politically correct, do no harm, love yourself, make no judgments, everything is morally right as long as you don’t hurt someone’s feelings — world.

Granted, there is much good in these “civilized” changes, but whatever happened to standing up on your hind feet and saying, “I don’t agree. That’s not for me.” There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion different from the crowd.

No wonder Trump won.

He’s as fake as Rooster Cogburn, but he represents something Americans have come to miss. The cowboy hero, riding into town alone, beholden to no one, ready to stand or fall on his own.

There is one thing to remember though. When the smoke cleared and the sound of six guns faded at the end of that movie, half the town was dead in the street. That may work when you can leave the theatre and drive home to your secure suburban house. It doesn’t work so well when you have to pick up a shovel and go bury your dead.

The self-certain loner and the soft spoken conformer. As Kirk said to Spock, “The truth probably lies somewhere in between.”

306. White Men Only

Mostly, A Writing Life is a look at science fiction and writing in general. However, I am an American, and my country did something seventy-five years ago that needs to be remembered. See also Monday’s and Tuesday’s posts.

The Naturalization Act of 1790 stated that citizenship was available to “any alien, being a free white person”. That set the tone for the future. When the law was amended after the Civil War, it’s new iteration was taken to mean that Chinese were not eligible for citizenship.

Economic reality brought them to America anyway, where their children became citizens by birth, even though their parents could not be naturalized. The Chinese importance to the transcontinental railroad is well known. When the golden spike was driven, Chinese by the thousand were thrown out of work, and in the years that followed, downturns in the American economy were blamed on cheap Chinese labor. By 1882, Chinese were forbidden entry into the United States, a condition that continued until the 1940s.

In 1880, only 148 Japanese were living in the United States. Between 1885 and 1894, the need for cheap labor in Hawaii coupled with economic difficulties in Japan led 25,000 Japanese to emigrate to Hawaii. Many of those later moved on to the mainland.

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, particularly during the Alaskan gold rush, there was a need for cheap labor all over the American west. Chinese were prohibited from entering the US, but Japanese were not. The result was predictable; between 1901 and 1908, 127,000 Japanese entered the United States. Many entered the fishing industry. Many were skilled in a kind of small scale, intensive agriculture that was new to the United States. All came from a culture that emphasized the entrepreneurial spirit.

Like the Chinese before them, the Japanese immigrants were denied citizenship, but their children became citizens at birth.

Most of these Japanese settled in California, where they formed a tiny minority. By 1941, only a small minority of that minority were both native born and of voting age, leaving the Japanese politically voiceless.

Throughout the half century before Pearl Harbor, the Japanese, especially in California, were subject to virulent racism. Repeatedly, the California legislature made it illegal for Japanese to lease or own land, but these were poorly conceived laws that were universally evaded. Japanese children were segregated out of public education.

It is a familiar pattern. Most ethnic groups endured it when they first came to America – then used the same tactics against whoever came after them. Like hazing at West Point, it is a long-standing American tradition.

Then came Pearl Harbor. Unfounded fears of the Japanese led to Executive Order 9066, and in 1942 the American military moved 120,000 Americans from their homes and incarcerated them thousands of miles away in “relocation centers”. I call them Americans because they were either actual citizens or long time residents who intended to live out their lives in their new country, but were prevented from receiving citizenship because of their race.

Much is made of the harshness of the centers, but that is not the point. Tens of thousands of GIs lived in barracks identical to those that made up the relocation centers. There was one difference, however, that does matter. The GI barracks were not surrounded by barbed wire fences, with guard towers manned by soldiers with guns.

And those GIs who made it back from the war, returned to their homes. The homes, farms and businesses of the Japanese were largely taken by the neighbors who had sent them away.

* * * * * * * *

I said in the beginning that I would not shove conclusions down your throat. I will, however, leave you with this quotation from Personal Justice Denied, p. 28:

(Japanese relocation) is the bitter history of an original mistake, a failure of America’s faith in its citizens’ devotion to their country’s cause and their right to liberty, when there was no evidence or proof of wrongdoing.

For me, 2017 is beginning to look a lot like 1942. Decide for yourself.

304. Another Day In Infamy

Seventy-five years ago yesterday, FDR signed Executive Order 9066 which allowed the Army to remove tens of thousands of American citizens from their homes and place them in relocation camps. America has long recognized the error of this action. Now, more than ever, we need to look at how it came about – not only because of the anniversary, but because of what is happening in our country today.

First, however, an aside. This is not a reaction to Donald Trump and his travel ban or his planned expulsion of undocumented residents. I’ve been planning this series of posts for over a year. I announced them in early December (See 266. The Other War), and I would be writing the same series of posts if Donald Trump had never existed.

Nevertheless, these posts do shine a sidelight on his policies.  You can make the comparisons for yourself.

* * * * * * * *

Executive orders are neither good nor bad, as a class of action. They are just the way legislation gets fine tuned and enforced. There are times when a president oversteps his authority and gets slapped down by the courts. There are times when a president should act, but does not. It would be easy to find citizens who applauded Obama’s executive orders and hate Trump’s – and just as easy to find the reverse.

Every executive order has to be seen on its own merits, even executive orders by the same president. Although Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 will receive harsh criticism here, we should also remember his Executive Order 8802, which prohibited racial discrimination in the defense industry. There are very few full time villains, and probably no full time heroes. That’s why, in a democracy, we choose our leaders carefully, and watch them just as carefully after they are in office – no matter who they are.

* * * * * * * *

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. On December 8, America declared war. On December 12, FDR issued Executive Order 8972 which ordered military guards and patrols within the US to protect national defense areas. The justification was protection of America from domestic sabotage by internal enemies. That would also be the justification for Japanese removal.

On February 19, 1942, FDR issued an additional executive order, number 9066, toward the same end, but this time he called on the military to exclude “any or all persons” from areas of military importance, with wide discretion to decide who this meant and what constituted an area of military importance.

I have placed links to full versions of both orders at the bottom of this post. Here is a cut-down version of EO 9066, for those who don’t care to see the full text:

. . . by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War . . . to prescribe military areas . . . to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War . . . may impose in his discretion (and) to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary . . . I hereby further authorize and direct the Secretary of War . . . to take such other steps as he . . . may deem advisable to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable . . .

As you begin reading the full text, at first it seems to be an order to do things like keep spies off Navy bases. But then you come to the part which says that “such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary” will be provided, and it becomes clear what is really intended.

They called it exclusion, as in being excluded from a Navy base. Today it is called removal, because it was not a Navy base from which these unnamed people were being excluded. It was the entire west coast of the United States. And the people excluded from their homes, farms, and businesses were Japanese Americans.

I know people who have no problem with this, who say we were at war with Japan and who see all Japanese as one. I know some whose hatred of Japan has never died.

Facts don’t support them. The Japanese, who were not a threat, were incarcerated. The Germans, with whose Fatherland we were also at war, had shown massive support for Hitler, but they were not incarcerated. Why? The details of all this will come in the next two posts.

Executive order 8972 https://fas.org/irp/offdocs/eo/eo-8972.htm

Executive order 9066 https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=74&page=transcript