Feeling Ashamed

“That concentration camps [existed, and]…there [was] considerable difference[s] in the treatment of their inmates… [all were established by a] totalitarian regime…under the pretext of ‘national security’…[for the] unrestricted and arbitrary domination of [the] stateless and refugees.”

― Hannah Arendt

In the quote above, Hannah Arendt was speaking about the Nazi concentration camps throughout Europe during WWII. But it is apropos, vis-a-vis America’s immigration policies, today.

The Nazi “concentration” camps obviously differed as night is to day to our “internment” camps for our Japanese citizens in that war. And our “detention” camps today for illegal immigrants and asylum seekers are not in any way otherwise comparable, except in the intent and results in the use of concentration camps (in Germany’s case then) to remove, and (in our case today) to keep out, “undesirable” peoples from assimilation into the preferred society.

These “others” were then, as are they today, demonized as enemies to national security – as murderers, rapists, criminals of all stripes, burdens on society, even as “infesting” “animals” – falsely, through the use of propaganda to gain public support for the administration’s actions.

Trump and his ilk either knows no history or is merely indifferent to the lessons it teaches, which is allowing it to be repeated, albeit in smaller and less inhumane measure.

Our new immigration policy is tribalism, pure and simple. Read my post “Tribes Redux” (Dec. 1, 2016).

Trump has obviously forgotten his Irish ancestors who, in search of a better life, came here during Ireland’s potato famine.

And while they, at the time, were considered and treated as “other” and subject to the same false propaganda by the “preferred” society of that day, as he is doing to the would-be immigrants of today, they were nonetheless allowed entry and citizenship.

Because our past policies of inclusion (that made America that “shining beacon” for the world’s tired, poor, and oppressed) we still believed in.

Where would he be today if his immigrant forefathers had been put into a concentration camp upon arrival, then jailed as a criminal, only after to be sent back to Ireland?

One would think that he’d feel the humanitarian shame of the Nazi concentration camps or of our Japanese internment camps, or how children are being torn away from and separated from their parents in today’s immigration and asylum detention camps.

But maybe he doesn’t feel any shame.

I’ll close with my last statement in my post “Hypocrisy in America Today” (Feb. 16, 2017), about immigration:

“If things continue to go in the direction we are going, it will be hypocritical to claim we’re a ‘Christian nation’ (“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” – 1 John 3:17). I am not a prophet, I have no divine revelation, but I do worry about Jesus’ warning about punishment if America reneges on its promises and duty to our fellow man.”

– Bill

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“Illegal” Immigrant Children Get To Go To Camp!

“I married a woman who loves to camp, and I am what you would call “indoorsy”… My wife always brings up, “Camping’s a tradition in my family.” Hey, it was a tradition in everyone’s family ’til we came up with the house.“

– Jim Gaffigan

I am greatly fond of the Great Outdoors and enjoy driving through or even hiking through Mother Nature and all its beauty. I even enjoy sleeping there overnight – seeing stars by the billions (unlike the mere hundreds we city folk normally see, if we’re even that lucky), the smell of a campfire and pine trees…and all that goes with it.

But I’m no fan of tents – they are an ordeal to set up and take down, they leak when it rains, unless they’re huge there’s no room for cots or to even stand erect, sleeping bags are restrictive to movement in your sleep and either too hot or not warm enough, whatever is on the ground outside finds its way inside (dirt, plant debris and all the creepy-crawlers), and having to secure foodstuffs in a secure outdoor metal box to keep raccoons and bears at bay.

Maybe because I grew up in a non-camping family; my mother detested the idea and my father simply stated that he’d had all the camping outdoors – in the jungles of the Pacific during WWII, thank you very much – to last a lifetime. But I did my share of tent camping in the Boy Scouts. As a young boy it was fun. Then I grew up and it wasn’t so much.

Yet I married a woman whose family loved to tent camp. Who says opposites don’t attract?

No sir, if you want me to be a happy camper in the woods, I require something more than a tent. Preferably a cabin with all the amenities. Or a proper camper with some semblance of comfort – off the ground to keep the creepies out, a sheeted bed, weatherproof, icebox and stove, and something I can just move with no hassle if the neighbors next to me vex me with their loud voices and/or boombox music, all night drinking party, or if they look like characters straight out of the movie “Deliverance”.

The only concession I’ll make sans cabin is having to use the public facilities – those reeking, grossly unsanitary cesspools that pass as “restrooms” – unless I can find a tree with privacy (for “#1”) or hold it (for “#2).

But that’s me and my take on tent camping. Maybe the thousands of children caught all by their lonesome, entering the US without an accompanying adult, will have a different take on it.

You see, it was just announced that, because there are so many of them (11,000+), the government hasn’t sufficient, proper shelters to place them in. So the White House is proposing to erect “tent cities” at various military bases in the state of Texas (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article213026379.html). It will prevent “vulnerable kids to fall into the hands of traffickers, officials said.” I would assume so, surrounded by a few thousand armed military.

And then there are those kids that accompany their parents (or other adult), all together seeking asylum. Current policy is to cull the children from the adults (https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/07/politics/illegal-immigration-border-prosecutions-families-separated/index.html) – “If you don’t want your child to be separated [from you], then don’t bring them across the border…” Separated indefinitely. No word on where they’ll be going. A shelter? A tent?

Still, the kiddies will probably be better off than their parents (if you can overlook their separation anxieties). Illegally crossing our borders is a crime that the government is now doubling-down on, punishment-wise, and jailing offenders rather than just sending them back home. Except, there aren’t enough jails to hold them. And those who arrive at the border seeking asylum? There aren’t enough detention centers.

So now it’s proposed to put the overflows of both in federal prisons pending adjudication of their status, if they’ll be sentenced to jail and then deported, granted asylum and entry, or denied entry and sent back to their country of origin (http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2018/06/08/immigrants-federal-prisons/).

What a conundrum. Illegal immigrants and asylum seekers. Both looking for a better life. Where do we draw the line, if a line is to be drawn?

On adults, it’s one thing. On children?

It gives a whole new meaning to camping.

Not in the Great Outdoors.

But in a military stockade.

– Bill

A Birthday Thought

“Do you count your birthdays with gratitude?”

― Horace

“Happy Birthday!” they say.
And, “Don’t you look good!”
I don’t know how I possibly could,
But I’ll accept it anyway.

Today, at three score and ten,
Looking in the mirror, I blink.
“Who the hell are you?” and I think,
“That’s not the face I knew back when!”

Sagging skin no longer tight,
Weather-worn, and with hair so gray
My looking good was so yesterday,
Now to me my visage is a fright.

But as bad as all that may be
I think to myself, “Looks better than dead,
I guess I do look pretty good, as they said,
So Happy Birthday to me!”

– Bill

Dealing With Another’s Problems

“There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.”

― John Green

This is going to be a hard, hard, piece to write. Because it involves emotions that are very hard to write about. Because when it involves someone close who is in trouble it is hard to know what to do, to understand what you can’t do, what you have to do.

Like when trying to save someone who is drowning. Or when someone is a drug addict or an alcoholic or mentally ill (all of which are analogous to drownings, I suppose).

I remember when I took my certification classes to be a lifeguard (my summer job for three summers in high school). I was taught, that when you see someone floundering and flailing in obvious distress, unable to swim and in danger of drowning, to extend a pole towards them for them to grasp onto, if it could be within their reach or, if not, to jump into the water with a life preserver (a ring or buoy of some sort) tied to a rope, swim out to near them and throw it to them, telling them to grab ahold and you would pull them to safety. BUT, if in their panic they couldn’t or wouldn’t, to never, ever, get close enough to them to where they could grab ahold of you – they’d climb over you, pushing you down underwater in their attempt to keep their head above water, or would hold you in an unbreakable adrenaline-fueled grip, causing them to take you under with them. Either way drowning you both. Instead, better to let them flounder and eventually go under and, once they’d lose consciousness, you could dive down and retrieve them, pull them to shore and revive them.

And, regardless of what happens, if anyone has to die, it must be them, not you.

The difference between someone who is drowning and is obviously fighting to stay alive and will readily accept any help offered and then learn to avoid a repeat experience, the alcoholic or drug addict – even if they admit they have a problem – will usually allow their addiction to control them so much so that, even if they’ve self-committed to a detox facility, all too often will relapse, and there is nothing one can do to save them from self-destruction.

The same can be said of someone suffering from a mental illness. Not an illness where suicidal or otherwise a danger to themselves or others, an illness where the person, recognizing their problem, continually asks for help yet doesn’t try to even try to do what’s suggested they do to better their circumstances, whether from a mental health professional or friend or family member.

Like alcoholism or drug addiction, mental illness is not something anyone other than the victim can do anything about. It is not just enough that they recognize they have a problem, they have to accept and use whatever help is offered. And sometimes, all too often, they don’t.

And that is a hard thing when that person is near and dear to you. Because, watching them suffer, and their refusing to listen or not trying to do what might help them, it causes you emotional and heartfelt pain.

But when they don’t try, regardless of what happens, if someone is to suffer as a result, it must be them, not you.

Like a lifeguard, all you can do is try to provide them with the means to survive. But unlike physically keeping a safe distance, here you must keep mentally and emotionally a safe distance – you cannot allow their drowning in their problem to cause you drowning with them.

You can only just stand close by, always offering support and all the while you keeping their mental problem from causing you some of your own.

And the only thing you can do, is hope, never giving up the hope they’ll not just hear your offered suggestions, but act on them as well.

That is a hard thing to do.

– Bill

A Study on Politics and the Brain

“Fear isn’t so difficult to understand. After all, weren’t we all frightened as children? Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It’s just a different wolf. This fright complex is rooted in every individual.”
― Alfred Hitchcock

And as Lemony Snicket said, “There are two kinds of fears: rational and irrational – or in simpler terms, fears that make sense and fears that don’t.”

When our fear – of that thing that could hurt us – is rational, it is smart to avoid it or fight it; when there is little or no chance that might hurt us, our fear of it is irrational. And all too often, our fears are just that – irrational, there’s no rational reason to be afraid. Sometimes, we are afraid of what might happen. Or we become afraid because we’re told we should be and, unless we know better, if it someone we want to believe deeply cares for us, we will be.

Every one of us is frightened by something, sometimes by many things. Sometimes, we feel frightened but don’t know why, we can’t put a finger on it, we just are, it is the unknown. Some of us are less frightened by things than are others. Why is that? As Hitchcock noted, fright is rooted in each of us. It’s in our heads.

Literally. Rooted in our brain. In the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, which is located deep within the temporal lobes of the brain and performs a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making and emotional responses.

What is interesting is that the size of the amygdala matters – the larger the amygdala, the more one is prone to fears (or at least to the emotional response to fears) – and that brain scans have shown political conservatives to have larger amygdala’s than political liberals.

A study by Yale University demonstrated that when conservatives believe themselves to be impervious to physical harm, “the Republicans became significantly more liberal — their positions on social attitudes were much more like the Democratic respondents. And on the issue of social change in general, the Republicans’ attitudes were now indistinguishable from the Democrats.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2017/11/22/at-yale-we-conducted-an-experiment-to-turn-conservatives-into-liberals-the-results-say-a-lot-about-our-political-divisions/?utm_term=.1f8af09c0744)

So it would seem that what drives political conservatives is fear that somehow they are in some kind of personal danger and, consequently, knee-jerk negatively react, emotionally, to social issues that they perceive (or are told) will hurt them.

And the Chief Republican politico know this and uses it:

• How dangerous minorities are (“Sadly, the overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by blacks and hispanics [sic] -a tough subject-must be discussed.” – Donald Trump).

• How illegal immigrants from Mexico are dangerous (“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re bringing [their] problems…drugs…crime. They’re rapists.” – Donald Trump).

Ye Gods! If all that is true, what sane, rational person couldn’t help but be frightened?

But none of it is.

The FBI says, of all adults arrested in 2012, 69.7 were white, 27.6 percent were black, and 2.7 percent were of other races. White individuals were arrested more often for violent crimes than individuals of any other race, accounting for 58.7 percent of those arrests. (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/43tabledatadecoverviewpdf).

The New York Times reports that, “several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/26/us/trump-illegal-immigrants-crime.html).

People don’t know the truth, so appeal to their enlarged amygdala and heightened emotional responses, keep ‘em frightened and we have the votes.

And just to be fair, the Yale study showed that liberals can become more conservative when physical harm is shown to be actual. But only for so long as the threat is real.

Fear and politics. It’s a mind game.

Conservatives, relax, things and people aren’t as bad as you think (or are being told).

But Liberals, sometimes it pays to be a little cautious and to go slower – not everything you want as for the good of all will be as good as you think – some get hurt in every good thing, sometimes the conservatives are (at least, partially) right.

Either way, it’s best for all to recognize when it’s appropriate to be frightened and when there’s no real need to be. And to know when we’re being played the fool.

– Bill

“That’s a terrible thing! But I can’t think about it now.”

“I’m a pessimist about man and our ability to not destroy the world of nature. I hope I’m wrong but without population control I don’t see how we can [avoid it]. People need space. Space comes at the cost of nature. It’s a downward spiral.”

– Nancy Hill

My post yesterday, “Welcome to the Anthropocene”, was a hard post to write. Just more bad news. So I appreciated the email response (above quote) to it because it inspired me to write this as a follow-up thought.

The facts I presented may be new news to some while old news to others but, like everything else these days that grabs our attention, most people will just shake their heads, and think or say, “That’s a terrible thing! Something should be done about it. But I can’t think about it right now, I’ve work to do, and later I’ve got dinner to make, get the laundry in, finish that presentation for the meeting tomorrow, and get to bed!”

Like Scarlett O’Hara (in Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind”), “I’ll think about it tomorrow…I’ll think of some way…After all, tomorrow is another day.”

But, in the morning, they’ll have forgotten all about it or will shove it to the side, too busy worrying about how to accomplish all that needs to get done today.

And then the day will come – as it always does – when they find themselves suddenly, personally, impacted by “that terrible thing” and wonder, “How could this happen, why didn’t someone speak out or actually do something about it before it got this bad?”

Blaming others when that “someone” – that didn’t speak out or actually get involved and do “something” – was themselves. Because they – and I include myself – got caught up in just getting through each new day.

Never realizing that one day there will be no tomorrow if something isn’t done today.

If you don’t care about where we are headed as a species and the harm we are causing to all other life forms and the Earth itself, then you can stop reading here, there’s nothing I or anyone else can say to you on the subject. (But don’t write me off as some kind of eco-kook and stop reading my posts if you’ve liked some others I’ve written about on other things, I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll also enjoy in the future.)

But if you do care and would like to actually do something but don’t know how or where to begin…

• Take five minutes out of your lunch hour today and send an email to whoever is your political representative: 1) tell them just how concerned you are, 2) ask them their position and what they’re doing about it, 3) ask them to respond to you meaningfully, and, 4) remind them, that as their constituent and as a voter, you will remember if they respond and what they say come election day.

• Skip the watching on tv tonight that sit-com re-run you’ve seen a dozen times and google a recommended highly rated non-profit wildlife or environmental organization, like the Sierra Club, or the World Wildlife Fund, or the Natural Resources Defense Council. There are others just as good. And just as a disclaimer, I have no position whatsoever with any of them nor receive any remuneration for mentioning them.

• Forego that $10 latte you were going to treat yourself with tomorrow and send a $10 check to whatever organization you pick. If you can spend that on a drink you don’t need and won’t miss, they can put it to better use.

That much anyone can do. Today. It’s not much as just one person, but when many do, it will change the future.

Before some future tomorrow when it’s too late for any one or many to speak out or do anything.

– Bill

Welcome To The Anthropocene

“When we think that we are automatically entitled to something, that is when we start walking all over others to get it.”

― Criss Jami

Watched a nature show about Africa the other night on the tele and – as I always am when I watch a wildlife show – I was in amazement at not just the beauty of the animals, but also at the variety and number of species. And the scenery was rather nice, too.

And it got me to thinking about life on this wet rock we call home. Did a little reading.

The number of “modern human beings” (Homo sapiens) on Earth has been comparatively small until very recently. Just 10,000 years ago (the “Dawn of Civilization” – farming and cities) there might have been no more than a few million people on the planet. Today there are 7.6 billion of us (and growing by about 800 million every year).

Overall, there are almost 1.6 million lifeforms on Earth today – vertebrates, invertebrates and plants. But unlike humans, who have grown in numbers, all other lifeforms are disappearing.

And there is a cause and effect relationship between the two. Whereas when mankind were hunter-gatherers and there was a symbiotic relationship with Nature, we intentionally (or not) decided to opt-out of that relationship and go it alone.

An interesting – and alarming – article I just read yesterday: “The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things…Yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants…” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/21/human-race-just-001-of-all-life-but-has-destroyed-over-80-of-wild-mammals-study?).

Little wonder that mankind has sometimes been referred to as a virulent virus or cancer on the Earth, wrecking havoc and leaving death it its wake.

Why, what justification could we use? A lot of people, I suppose, would use this: “God…said to [man], ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it…’ [emphasis mine]” (Genesis 1:28). Whether or not you accept that as a valid reason, it has been nonetheless so, mankind believes it is entitled to the Earth and has appropriated the Earth for its exclusive use, to the detriment and demise of almost all other living things.

We have virtually exterminated everything wild – today only just 4% of all animals are wild. “Poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet… 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs…”

Not to mention deforestation for farms and cities to feed and house our unchecked proliferate breeding – “Deforestation is clearing Earth’s forests on a massive scale…Forests [now only] cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area…The world’s rain forests could completely vanish in a hundred years at the current rate of deforestation.” (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/).

If it weren’t for zoos, and lawns and parks, and a few scattered state/national preserves with trees – and the odd nature show on Tv – most people in the industrialized nations wouldn’t have a clue about nature, what the Earth looked like and what was on it before we “civilized” it.

And as if what we’ve done to the animals and the forests of the Earth isn’t bad enough, to feed all our other voracious wants and needs since the early 1950s we’ve begun destroying the Earth, itself. Some scientists are now calling our modern era (Holocene) ended and another to have begun – The Anthropocene Epoch, denoting human activity as the dominate influence on climate and the environment (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/29/declare-anthropocene-epoch-experts-urge-geological-congress-human-impact-earth?).

Here in the US, the current Administration seems hell-bent to reverse progress in clean energy production (hydro, wind and solar) and return to pollution-causing coal burning and to expand off-shore oil drilling, and to undo established environmental policies and laws, because it is politically beholden to the interests and corporations that financed its election.

Fortunately, other world governments aren’t so benighted or so avaricious. Most 1st World nations are moving impressively forward (instead of backwards) to clean, renewable energy. Some other nations are now recognizing that Nature has the inherent, inviolate legal right to exist and despoilers can be held financially responsible (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/23/laws-slaves-nature-humans-rights-environment-amazon?).

One wonders, at some point in time-future, if there’ll be another Epoch by some other name.

Hopefully, but only if by some chance we haven’t destroyed ourselves by destroying the Earth.

We should learn from our feathered friends – you don’t foul one’s own nest.

– Bill