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.

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

The Axis of Awful

Just this week:

Saturday 2/18:

Popular domestic programs could face budget cuts. Trump’s budget office has drafted a hit list of programs that could be eliminated or have their domestic spending trimmed. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, AmeriCorps, and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities are on that list. Most of the programs cost under $500 million annually, a pittance for a government that is projected to spend about $4 trillion this year. (via The New York Times)

Monday 2/20:

Trump to roll back Obama’s climate and water pollution rules through executive action. While both directives will take time to implement, they will send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production and economic activity even when those activities collide with some environmental safeguards. (via The Washington Post)

Republican health proposal would redirect money from poor to rich. The Republican plan would substantially cut funding for states in providing free insurance to low-income adults through Medicaid. And would change how tax credits are distributed by giving all Americans not covered through work the same flat credit by age, regardless of income. The draft proposal largely contains provisions that could be passed through a special budget process that requires only 50 Senate votes, and fulfills President Trump’s promise that the repeal and replacement of the law would take place “simultaneously.” (via The New York Times)

Tuesday 2/21:

Anne Frank Center criticizes Trump’s denouncement of anti-Semitism a “pathetic asterisk of condescension”. Trump refused to address a series of bomb threats against Jewish community centers when asked about the threats by a Jewish journalist last week. Trump cut the journalist off and said “I hate even the question.” The White House’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day also left out any mention of Jews. (via Talking Points Memo)

Wednesday 2/22:

The Trump administration plans to roll back protections for transgender students, reversing federal guidance that required the nation’s public schools to allow children to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identities. (via The Washington Post)

Thousands of emails show that the E.P.A. chief worked to battle environmental regulation as attorney general of Oklahoma. Scott Pruitt, now head of the Environmental Protection Agency, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities, and political groups to roll back environmental regulations.

Thursday 2/23:

Voter to @SenTomCotton: My husband is dying. We can’t afford health insurance. What kind of insurance do you have? https://t.co/iYFiZtwJ1F” (via CNN Twitter feed)

Today, Friday 2/24:

Republican lawmakers expect that their Obamacare replacement will result in fewer Americans covered by health insurance. The new plan would do away with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all Americans have health coverage or pay a fine, and replace it with rules that let people choose not to buy insurance, instead paying higher premiums or penalties if they need it later. The result would be fewer people covered. (via Bloomberg)

 

When does “amoral” become “immoral”?

The Toddler-in-Chief, and his pirate-band Cabinet, and the cowardly Republican Congressional majority that supports them all … they all represent the absolute worst of humanity: they display exactly no trace of actual humanity.

Instead, their policies and behaviors are full of selfishness, greed, utter lack of compassion, complete absence of empathy, and almost-recreational cruelty.

Their idea of fairness is preserving the rights of us rich straight white guys via the taking away of rights from anybody who doesn’t look or think or worship or love like we do. They got theirs; and screw the rest of y’all.

They seem to revel in activities that make miserable the lives of the most vulnerable people.

Even in previous corrupt administrations, at least there was a veneer of civilization. Not so, now. The brazenness is breathtaking: they’re corrupt and horrible … they know what it looks like … they don’t care how awful it looks … they Do. Not. Care.

We are truly in a kakistocracy: government by the worst people.

Resist, yes.

Reject, yes.

But also this: It’s long past time; but no time like the present. RISE UP.

RISE UP.

February 24, 2017 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sanction(s)

Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence invites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

     -Meryl Streep

 

Meryl Streep performed last night.

Instead of making a speech that thanked the organizers of the Golden Globe award ceremony for giving her a lifetime achievement award, the veteran actor made a speech that was, shall we say, not as narrowly focused on that – but which was fairly squarely focused on one individual.

From the Washington Post:

Streep accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award — basically a lifetime achievement award — but didn’t say much about her career. Instead, she spent the minutes allotted to her to speak critically of the current political climate and [Donald] Trump, although she did not mention the president-elect by name.

There was one performance this year that stunned me,” she said. “It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.”

Streep was referring to Trump’s remarks during the campaign, when he appeared to mock New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, which visibly limits the functioning of his joints.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” the actress said.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the idea that Streep referenced in that last paragraph. The capacity of a person, by their words or deeds, to give permission to someone (or someones) else to behave in a certain way. To give sanction to certain attitudes and actions.

Curious word, sanction. It’s one of those words that makes the English language both exasperating and glorious. Pointing in one direction, imposing sanctions on a country is punitive. Pointing in the other direction, giving sanction to a behavior is encouraging.

 

Sanction (sank’ • shun) [noun]

[1] a threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule. “A range of sanctions aimed at deterring insider abuse” … synonyms: penalty, punishment, deterrent

[2] official permission or approval for an action. “He appealed to the bishop for his sanction.” … synonyms: authorization, consent, leave, permission, authority, warrant, license, dispensation, assent, acquiescence, agreement, approval, approbation, endorsement, accreditation, ratification, validation, blessing, imprimatur

 

Over the last year and a half, we have witnessed the political rise of an entertainment figure. That rise has been, of course, propelled by that star’s words and actions.

These words and actions were unquestionably grounded in antagonism toward (to name but a few) religions, ethnic groups, women in general, and economic classes … and all this antagonism was accepted and embraced by the people who supported the man who said and did them.

The support and encouragement was reciprocal; a circular dance that revealed unsettling truths about the American population.

The political candidate said inflammatory things, did offensive things, and proposed cruel and mean policies; and a great majority of those activities involved the humiliation of individuals or groups of people.

(Khizr and Ghazala Khan. John McCain. Megyn Kelly. Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Alicia Machado. Katy Tur. Serge Kovaleski.)

His supporters heard and saw those words and deeds … agreed with them … urged them forward. His supporters seemed to feel that he confirmed for them that believing and saying and doing those things was okay – because he was rich and famous, or because he railed against “political correctness” just like they did, or for whatever other reason. He gave them sanction to behave the way they’d always wanted to behave. Badly – but now people couldn’t tell them that they were behaving badly. Or if people did, they had been given sanction to tell those people they were losers, and to f*** off.

So they voted for him.

And he won a primary. And then another. And then several others. And then he locked up his party’s Presidential nomination. And then he appeared to garner more Electoral College votes than anyone else.

And all the votes (and, at rallies, all the cheers and chants and adulation) of his supporters convinced him that he was right to say and do and believe and promote these words, deeds, ideas, notions, attitudes. At least partly, he was convinced of this because, for his entire life, he has seen success as being achievable through how many other people gave him compliments and adulation, and in what amounts.

His supporters gave him sanction to continue to be who he has always been, to act how he has always acted, to believe … well, to believe whatever he needs to say, in a particular moment, in order to convince people to like him and do what he wants them to. The art of the deal.

And around and around it has gone.

Sanction as an admonishing concept now appears not to affect him.

Or his supporters.

And we are now eleven days away from inaugurating as President of the United States (one of the world’s most influential positions of role modeling) that person – who rests on the clouds of adulation sent up by his supporters … themselves borne on the wings not of rational discernment but of his cult of personality … and that personality is, quite simply, one devoid of human empathy and therefore teeming with the ability to be unfeelingly cruel.

To allow Meryl Streep to reiterate:

[T]his instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” the actress said.

And here we are. Trump’s America.

 

[Ed. Note: Eleven days until we inaugurate a consciously cruel person, one who seems impervious to constructive criticism like, “hey – quit it. You’re embarrassing yourself”.

[RESIST. REJECT.]

January 9, 2017 Posted by | celebrity, current events, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment