Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

“The Crying Babies Doesn’t Look Good Politically”

A couple of weekends ago, as part of my church musician work, I helped wrangle a pack of Sunday School kids as they stood up at the front of the church sanctuary and sang a couple of songs they’d been working on. I smiled and sang along with them and encouraged them to try to remember the words. I was reminded, strongly, of my experience with teaching public-school music to packs of kindergarten kids nearly a decade ago. I got back up to speed really, really fast. I was reminded, strongly, of just what kind of backflips can go into working with kids that small … never mind teaching them; just helping them be comfortable in new situations, doing unfamiliar things, for the first time.

That Sunday, in church, there were kids as old as sixth grade, and as young as pre-school. Some of them walked to the front steps of the church; some of them toddled, led by Mom or Dad. Some of them stood straight and smiled. Some of them were inclined to wander off (so we gently guided them back to the steps). Some of them threw their heads back and sang lustily, just like the United Methodist Hymnal suggests; some of the kids mouthed the words a split-second after they heard the rest of the group sing them.

Some of them I’ve known all their lives; some of them I haven’t known very long at all. Some of them were from families who had come to our church pretty recently; some of them had been part of our church family for a very long time (relatively). Some of them looked totally at ease with standing up in front of the congregation and singing. Some of them looked more than a little bewildered, because they don’t often stand up in front of the congregation and have everybody lookin’ at ’em.

I remember being more than a little bewildered — pretty freaked out, really — the first time my mom delivered pre-school-age me to a Sunday School classroom in the church where our family were members, a building where I’d spent plenty of time, a building where I already recognized plenty of people. I was more than a little nervous that she was going away … even though she’d always picked me back up from whatever classroom she’d delivered me to, in my life to that point. Intellectually (at age 4?), I knew she always would. But in that moment, the parallel instinctive separation-anxiety wiring kicked right in, and I got really really freaked out.

This morning I tried to imagine myself taken away from my mom, and parked in a “tender age shelter”.

This morning I tried to imagine any of the kindergarten kids that I taught, or all of them, parked in a “tender age shelter”.

This morning I tried to imagine any of our Sunday School kids, or all of them, parked in a “tender age shelter”.

This morning I tried to imagine my niece and nephew, when they were toddlers, or infants, parked in a “tender age shelter”.

Oh, hell no.

My mind recoiled at the prospect.

Someone’s mind didn’t, though.

 

People in our government, working for our government, representing us by doing so … have acquired the kind of cognitive dissonance that allows them to not merely consider that prospect in the abstract and not retch, but to actually create and implement and enforce an immigration-control policy that takes toddlers and infants away from parents (who are seeking asylum from places that are dangerous enough that they want to remove their children to keep them safe) … and chucks ’em into a holding pen. (Or, as has been postulated by people who are putting one and one together and getting at least two, in the case of all the girls that no one can find, chucks ’em into an even worse place.)

There are monsters running our government.

There is only one remedy for this.

There are members of our elected government –- members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives –- who support this policy wholeheartedly. There are those who are remaining mealy-mouthed or dead-silent in the service of political expedience, political ideology, and political campaign contributions. In a meeting with the Congressional majority yesterday, the Short-Fingered Vulgarian who currently occupies the Oval Office reportedly declared, “The crying babies doesn’t look good politically.”

There are, astoundingly, plenty of elected officials who refuse to condemn taking babies from parents and parking them in “tender age shelters” — should we call them detention playpens? – no, we should cut the delicate-sensibility-preserving bull-pucky and call them baby jails, because that’s what they are …

We must identify them. Mark them. Tag them.

And vote the bastards out.

And thereby send a message to them and to anybody who supports them. Big sign in the window: “Congress inside. Only humans need apply.”

It’s long past time to stop “trying to understand” any of these people. Because there is no way for a compassionate person to understand this. The cognitive dissonance-fueled gap between “pro-life” and “pro-family”, “family values”, “What-Would-Jesus-Do?” … and THIS … is too vast to bridge.

 

It’s time to stop pulling punches. With respect to Mrs. Obama, who had the right idea … nonetheless it’s time to stop “going high when they go low”. If it isn’t time to take to the streets on this, it’s awfully damn close.

In November, remember this moment … even along with all the other moments, the Parklands and Pulses, the Pruitts and Princes, the “thoughts and prayers” and rage-Tweeting … remember this moment, when the Republican Congressional majority entirely failed to access some basic humanity and call this policy what it is: domestic terrorism.

In November, flood the polling places with so many people voting to rid our government of these conscience-less, soul-less ghouls that no amount of Putin-driven Russian bot farms and Kremlin election-machinery-hacking will remotely matter.

November.

Remember.

Remember the people who are okay with traumatizing infants and toddlers, who are okay with scarring them for life, on purpose.

Remember these domestic terrorists.

Remember these monsters.

And vanquish them.

Advertisements

June 20, 2018 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Children in Cages

Children in cages?

In cages?

Not in playpens.

Not in cribs.

Not in rooms.

Children in cages.

High-school-aged children.

Middle-school-aged children.

Grade-school-aged kids.

Toddlers.

Toddlers and infants.

Infants in cages.

In cages.

 

Is anyone changing any of their dirty diapers?

Is anyone drying the tears that guaranteed are being shed?

Is anyone talking to them?

Is anyone feeding them?

While they’re in cages?

Children in cages.

If your state or local child-protection agencies find children in cages in your home, they take the children to somewhere safe, where they’ll be better cared for. And they’ll haul you in front of some magistrate or other authority who will hold you accountable.

Who’s coming to take the federal government employees and haul them in front of some kind of accountability?

Who are all those federal government employees, who didn’t invent the policy that takes children away from asylum-seeking migrants who themselves are awaiting immigration hearings and processing (which takes several weeks at least), but who are carrying it out anyway?

Who are all those federal government employees, who for whatever reason have decided to stay on the job anyway, even though their job is currently awful and inhuman?

(“I was just following orders” was proven, as recently as 75 years ago, to be not a valid reason. “I need to keep hold of this job so I can feed my family” is hardly a better reason, and might even be more hypocritical. Your family isn’t living in cages.)

Who are all the federal government people who crafted and created and instituted and ordered the policy to be carried out?

Who are these people who decided that it was okay to house children, some as young as two years old, in cages?

Children in cages.

In cages.

 

I’m going to suggest that “both sides” do not do this.

This is a policy that was invented after January 2017.

There are plenty of immigration control policies that were invented before that which deserve serious critique. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as a federal agency was invented after 9/11, with all the haste and desperately PR-driven inspiration that implies. There are plenty of immigration policies that were continued during the previous presidential administration, and yes, we would be justified in demanding to know why that was.

But this policy, the policy of separating children from their parents and putting them in cages, was created by the current administration*.

They’re putting children in cages. And leaving them there indefinitely. They’re effectively abandoning children. And they think that’s fine.

Why do they think that?

They think that, because the majority of those kids come from families that are poor, and are brown.

And poor and brown children aren’t as important, aren’t as worthy, aren’t as human as kids who aren’t poor or brown.

That’s what they think. That’s what that side thinks.

This is nothing that the current platform of the Congressional minority party lays out.

This is, rather, symbolic of nearly everything that the current platform of the Congressional majority party, and the party that currently controls the federal executive branch of government, supports.

Both sides don’t do this.

One side does this.

The side that is currently in power.

Ryan and McConnell, implicitly, do this.

Sessions, implicitly, does this.

Pence, implicitly, does this.

Trump, implicitly, does this.

Only one way to fix this: come out in utter, overwhelming droves in November, and vote during the midterm elections in such a way that the people who think this policy is fine … are GONE.

Candidates need to campaign on many issues, but perhaps none more striking than this: would you vote for someone who thinks it’s okay to put children in cages? Or would you prefer to vote for someone who thinks it’s awful, and inhumane, and inhuman, to put children in cages?

Children in cages.

In cages.

June 7, 2018 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Damn It, Al

He had a wickedly spot-on Johnny Carson impersonation, among others, and his acting skills might arguably be termed “towering”. One of my favorite YouTube videos has been the episode of “Inside the Actors Studio” in which he was charming and illuminating.

If you asked me, “do you admire Kevin Spacey?” I would say, “yeah, I guess I do.”

He has been accused by multiple people of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Kevin.

He was probably the first actor whose skills I recognized as great acting, in the first non-animated movie that I ever saw end-to-end that didn’t have spaceships and zap guns in it – the movie “Tootsie”, which had a lot to say about how people are treated solely based on what they look like. A decade later, he had a large hand in making me interested in the Peter Pan story, as he tore into the role of Captain Hook. Far too late in my life, I got “All the President’s Men” out of the local library, watched it, and belatedly understood how much more important he was in that film than his acting partner, some guy named Redford or something.

If you asked me, “do you admire Dustin Hoffman?” I would say, “yeah, I do.”

He has been accused by a 1985-TV-movie-set intern of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Dustin.

He became a United States Senator after having a respectable career as a comic performer and writer.  After having been seen exclusively as someone for whom the joke was the thing, he developed a reputation in the halls of government as someone who had a ferocious command of facts and knowledge as they applied to policy decisions and committee-hearing interrogation. For the first several years of his Senate career, he focused firmly on being a statesman and not an entertainer – on being serious and not making jokes.  Only recently has he begun to infuse his Senatorial activity with his remarkable sense of humor.

If you asked me, “do you admire Al Franken?” I would say, “yes, particularly in the last decade.”

He has been accused by a USO-tour entertainment colleague of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Al.

He played a groundbreaking role – for all of that role’s in-the-background, supporting-cast qualities – as an Asian starship helmsman in a 1960s television series heralded for its forward-thinking philosophy about who people are and how they should be seen and treated (in a time when that philosophy was not, um, on full display in this country). He subsequently became an outspoken and effective advocate for the LGBT community, and his Twitter feed was regularly full of wise and witty commentary on current events.

If you asked me, “do you admire George Takei?” I would say, “HELL yeah, I do.”

He has been accused by a former actor and male model of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, George.

It’s easy for me to look over at people like Donald Trump, like former Judge Roy Moore, like Harvey Weinstein, who don’t represent the core beliefs and/or the basic standards of decent behavior that I like to think I uphold and that I like to think I espouse and demonstrate. It’s easy to hurl invective at people who seem to instead espouse a pattern, a history, of awful behavior.

That’s easy.

Especially when they claim in public that they are good, upright, morally and ethically sturdy people, and then allegations arise that challenge those claims.

Fish in a barrel.

It’s something else when people whom I have admired, or might even have liked had I known them personally (based upon nothing but their public persona and public statements, so who knows what you’re really getting, but they seemed like fine humans) … seem not to represent the core beliefs and/or the basic standards of decent behavior that I like to think I uphold and that I like to think I espouse and demonstrate.

That’s not as easy.

I freely admit: a portion of my otherwise evolved brain is desperate to give the benefit of the doubt to Kevin, and Dustin, and Al, and George … and John Edwards, and Anthony Weiner. Why? Because I had thought they were okay, and I would rather not know that they weren’t. Whether it was a pattern or just a singular moment of misbehavior in their lives.

I mean, nobody’s perfect.

But this whole sexual misconduct thing … especially when it occurs so obviously in the context of men exercising their power over others … even if it’s one single occurrence, that’s one occurrence too many to count as perfection. No – that’s one occurrence too many, period. They were young, they were foolish, they were this, that, the other, all the excuses in the world …

No. They did a horrible thing that any well-adjusted person – any PERSON – should understand is wrong.

My disappointment is not the most important result of all these allegations and revelations and such. At least not on a global scale. My disappointment will not make the front page of the New York Times. There will be no charities established for the support and treatment of my disappointment.

It is, however, an opportunity for me to check in with my ability to be fair.

Bill O’Reilly did what? What a miserable thing to do to another human being, which was done by a guy who also harbors political beliefs that I don’t agree with. He should pay the price, face the consequences, and if he loses his career and livelihood, well, good.

See? Easy.

Al Franken did what? Can’t be. What a great Senator he’s been for Minnesota, and what an entertaining performer he was on Saturday Night Live, and…

No…:

Al Franken did what? What a miserable thing to do to another human being, which was done by a guy who also harbors political beliefs that I do agree with. He should pay the price, face the consequences, and if he loses his career and livelihood, well, good.

Not easy.

Life is complicated.

I didn’t want to have to wrestle with yet another complication.

It’s probably good for me, in the long run, if I want to continue to claim I’m a fair-minded and principled person, to go ahead and wrestle with it.

Sexual misconduct is wrong. No matter who’s doing it.

Damn it, Al.

November 18, 2017 Posted by | celebrity, current events, Famous Persons, news | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment