God Buys Himself A Billboard

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Now hear this: God loves gays. God loves gays so much he’s going to put up a billboard in Topeka, Kansas, to make sure the Westboro Baptist Church gets that message. It seems there have been some communication problems between Heaven and the Westboros in the recent past, and God thinks this billboard will keep them in the loop of modern Christian thought going forward.

westThough his likeness and quotable quotes have appeared in direct ad campaigns throughout the world, as far as I can determine, the God Loves Gays billboard will be the first direct ad buy by God himself. Since the Westboro members most often communicate by signs and placards, a large, colorful billboard in their home town will ensure God’s message of gay love will be seen and understood by the group.

Fans and followers of God, both gay and straight, have acclaimed God’s new plan to confront the Westboro Church directly. Said one of the volunteers working to make the billboard a reality:

“God is tired of having hate-speech put into his mouth by bigots.”

Many are hoping God will go even further in his billboard campaign, perhaps erecting one to inform Pat Robertson the reason he sends hurricanes is to show his displeasure for the way the Robertson Christians pass judgement on gays. Or one to remind Justice Roberts that gay people who desperately want to marry are dying with their dreams unfulfilled, waiting for the court to either rule or lift the stays on marriage equality.

One humorous side note concerning God’s decision to erect a God Loves Gays billboard? Heaven has been run for an eternity on the currency of empathy and selfless acts. God’s surprise order means project directors are suddenly scrambling to raise cash – although one unconfirmed rumor says Harvey Milk was so excited about the billboard that he offered to melt down his golden halo for start-up money.

billbFortunately, Heaven’s representatives have found another way to raise funds – an Indiegogo campaign. As of this morning, they had raised almost $60,000, that’s $10,000 more than their goal. It’s enough for the Topeka billboard, which they hope to have up in October. The rest will go to The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to the at-risk LGBT youth God has been so worried about lately.

Now if the Westboros will only let God’s message of love sink in…

Heaven did not immediately reply to our inquiry asking whether God might consider a defamation lawsuit, or even a traditional plague of boils if the billboard doesn’t succeed in adjusting the attitude of the Westboro Church members.

You can watch the God Loves Gays campaign video below:

Photo from YouTube

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Immigration And The Religious Freedom Exemption

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Think Progress posted
a great piece a couple weeks ago about a church in Tucson that has given “sanctuary” to an undocumented immigrant. Tiny Southside Presbyterian Church in Tuscon, Arizona, (photo above) took in a woman named Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto, (photo left) who was scheduled to be deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE) August 8.  

rosarobles-and-family-spotlightRosa has been living in the U.S. since 1999. Her husband and two sons are also undocumented, but it is only Rosa who is being deported. (I’m guessing the way it works is immigration deports one parent hoping the rest of the family will self-deport?)

This is the second time this year Southside has given “sanctuary” to an undocumented immigrant. Last May, the church protected a man named Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, who has lived here for fourteen years. Daniel was pulled over for a smoking tailpipe, and fell victim to Arizona’s “papers please” law that allows law enforcement to inquire into the immigration status of anyone they suspect might be in the state illegally. He was detained and scheduled to be sent back to Mexico.

danielDaniel (photo right) spent a month at Southside while members kept up a 24-hour vigil with him in the church. Church members lobbied the media and politicians on Daniel’s behalf. They found him legal advisers. In the end, Southside prevailed. ICE granted Daniel a one-year stay of his deportation order. Alison Harrington, the church’s pastor said the church is hoping for a similar happy ending for Rosa, telling reporters: 

“The beautiful thing about offering sanctuary is that we can actually do something. We have the ability to stop a family from being torn apart.”

Rev. Harrington has ambitions beyond sheltering one or two immigrants. She is trying to reactivate the Sanctuary Movement from 1980s, when Ronald Reagan faced an influx of Central American war refugees looking for asylum.

If you are too young to remember that fractious period, the U.S. was up to its CIA eyebrows instigating unrest in that part of the world, yet the Reagan administration labeled immigrants from Central America “economic refuges” and granted very few of them asylum. So a group of churches in the border states began offering them sanctuary. They made no secret of whom they harbored, daring law enforcement to raid a “house of God”, which police rarely did. (Although to raid or not to raid was a frequent plot line on the police dramas that were popular in that era.) That reluctance may hold true today. Rev. Harrington says she has a promise from local law enforcement that they will not enter the church looking for someone whose only crime is a customs violation.

Eventually, a kind of immigrant underground railroad formed across the U.S. which helped pressure congress into passing the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. By the way, the church that started the 1980s Sanctuary Movement? Southside Presbyterian. 

Southside has formed its sanctuary strategy around a 2011 memo by a former director of ICE, ordering staff to use “prosecutorial discretion” when deciding which cases to pursue. It tells agents to place a lower priority on the deportation of immigrants who have long-standing community ties, no criminal record, or have children. Southside plans to offer protection to immigrants who fit that criteria. But it occurred to me sanctuary churches are in a perfect position to make the “religious freedom” argument that worked so well for Hobby Lobby.

alisonRev. Harrington (photo left) made this statement in explanation of Southside’s decision to offer sanctuary to undocumented but otherwise upstanding immigrants:

“We seek to follow Christ who commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves and also to offer radical hospitality to those in need. The scriptures tell us to care for the widow and the orphan, and our immigration system creates widows and orphans every day … So we are standing by undocumented families and not allowing them to be torn apart.”

That sounds like a firmly held religious belief to me, does it not?

slider_churchAnd therein lies the dilemma for the Rush Limbaugh crowd who love, love, love the religious freedom exemption when it comes to gays and sexually active women. Are they going to love, love, love it if Southside succeeds in reviving the Sanctuary Movement and hundreds of immigrant families are sheltered inside Christian churches? Are they going to demand the government raid the churches and apprehend the “lawbreaking illegals” they have such contempt for? Or are they going to defend the principal that those with firmly held religious beliefs should be exempt from laws that offend them? 

Any predictions?

Today, the firmly held beliefs of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tuscon, Arizona are On Our Radar. 

 

Southside Photos are from Facebook
Loretos family photo is from Southside Church
Ruiz family photo is from Groundswell
Rev. Harrington’s photo is a screenshot from MSNBC

 

 

 

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The Politics Of Punishment

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This week, the death of James “Jim” Brady was announced for the second time. He was the career politician who was serving as Ronald Reagan’s press secretary when he was shot in the head during an assassination attempt on President Reagan. (Photo above) I wrote “the second time” because in their haste to get out the story, ABC News reported Jim Brady had died from his wounds back in 1981.

Happily, that report was in error, and Jim, although disabled, went on to live another 33 years. He and his wife, Sarah, went on to found the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, and the most comprehensive federal gun sanity law passed in half a century bears his name. One of my most exciting Twitter moments was exchanging tweets with Sarah Brady who reached out to say that she liked a piece I had written about mandatory gun insurance.

Say the name Jim Brady today, and people immediately think “gun control”. Say the name of the man who shot him, John Hinckley, people think “Jodi Foster.”

The story of John Hinckley Jr. deciding to shoot President Reagan because he thought it would endear him to the actress is part of the fabric of American history. But what you may not remember was what followed that not guilty by reason of insanity verdict. Congress was outraged. They couldn’t punish Hinckley, so they got out their pitchforks and torches and toughened the law regarding insanity pleas, something that didn’t seem important at all four years earlier when Harvey Milk’s assassin Dan White was found not guilty of murder using the famous “Twinkie” insanity defense. The law said Hinckley would be hospitalized until his doctors deem him cured, but lawmakers decided, in Hinckley’s case, congress would have to first agree to his release – making a mockery of that “blind justice, all equal under the law” promise America is supposed to ascribe to.

sarah_and_james_bradyNow, 33 years later, the passing of Jim Brady has threatened to ignite that congressional lynch mob mentality once again. His death has officially been ruled a homicide, the direct, though delayed, result of the bullet fired by John Hinckley in 1981. Already news outlets are barraging the the U.S. Attorney’s office with questions about whether they will now prosecute Hinckley for the murder of Jim Brady.

I for one hope they let it go. Hinckley is now 58 years old. Though his doctors have certified he is no longer mentally ill or a danger to society, he remains in the mental hospital by the will of congress. A jury of his peers said he was insane at the time he committed the crime. To charge him all these years later, under laws changed because congress didn’t like the original trial verdict, wouldn’t seem like justice to me. It would seem like vengeance.

I was imagining what a Hinckley murder trial might look like when I had a eureka moment. We often characterize the differences between Republicans and Democrats as conservative and liberal, as the daddy party and the mommy party, or even as the party of freedom and the party of justice. We don’t often think of them this way, but at their core, the Democrats are a party that wants to use government to help people, and the Republicans are a party that wants to use government to punish them.

Think of all the major issues of the day. Immigration. Abortion. Marriage equality. Even health care. In every instance, the Republican policy response is punishment. No wonder Republicans don’t like government, they use it as an instrument of judgement.

The Democratic approach to immigration is to find a way to put the millions of undocumented people living and working here on the path to citizenship. Yes, it’s a policy that shows compassion to people who broke the law to come here, but absorbing them legally would be better for the country too. Millions of undocumented families are already part of local communities, and have been for years, often for decades. Their children are American in every way but on paper. It’s better for our country to have these immigrants paying taxes and buying insurance, but because it’s better for the immigrant families too, Republican policy makers can’t entertain that approach, even if it leaves the country broken. To Republicans “immigration policy” means “punish immigrants”.

The Democratic approach to abortion policy is to allow women to be in control of their own bodies, while reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies through sex-education and providing contraception. Republican policy is to punish women who want to end a pregnancy. Want a legal abortion? First the government is going to stick a probe in your vagina, and then have someone shame you for an hour. Then, after the probe and the slut-shaming, lawmakers are going to make you wait a day – because they say so. To Republicans, “abortion” policy means “punish abortion seekers”.

The Democrats have finally found the courage to back marriage equality, (thank you Joe Biden) and support ENDA. DADT is gone. DOMA has been eviscerated. Even the most anti-gay Republican can see they are losing the fight to keep gays in the closet. Their response has been predictable: if the courts say gays can marry, we’ll find another way to punish them. To that end, we are seeing a flurry of Republican “religious freedom” laws designed to make it legal to discriminate against gay people. The Republican policy on LGBT equality remains the same as always, to punish gay people for being born that way. 

The Democrats gave the country the imperfect Affordable Care Act, but their policy goal has long been to give more Americans access to health care. While it seems like a strange place for the Republicans to have a punishment policy, they do. Half the states have rejected extending Medicare coverage to their low income citizens. In Republican policy world, people who don’t earn enough money to afford health care insurance don’t deserve to have it. The Republican health care policy is to punish the people who need health care but can’t pay for it.

brady898_10204219877755341_2908375731952057979_nDemocrats think of the federal government as the way ordinary people come together to accomplish the things we can’t do alone. Republicans think of government as the powerful in Washington unreasonably demanding citizens help those who are undeserving. Therefore it is the Republican’s duty to punish those they judge as unworthy. Knowing this, it is my prediction that Democrats will consider the death of Jim Brady to be the end of his story. It is also my prediction that there will be Republicans who will soon clamor to punish John Hinckley some more.

Am I wrong?

Feature photo via Wikipedia


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Mike Peters – An Unlikely Hero In The War On Women

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The week has been filled with the kind of stories that suck up all the oxygen in the news world – Israel, the Ukraine and the House debacle over the border babies. With all that drama, you may have missed this great story out of Jackson, Mississippi, about how a mild mannered real estate entrepreneur became a folk hero in the War On Women.

Mississippi was ground zero in the abortion fight this week. The state is down to one clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and this week, it was literally under siege. The clinic has been operating out of compliance with a state law passed in April of 2012, which says abortion providers have to be certified OB-GYNs and have admitting privileges at a local hospital. A judge for the 5th Circuit granted them a temporary stay from those regulations, and last week, a three judge panel for that court heard a challenge to that decision.

As the court heard arguments, the clinic became a magnet for out of-state anti-women’s rights groups. Chief among them was Ohio’s Created Equal who bussed in their protesters along with their large photo displays of the unborn. (That’s two of the many photos they put along the sidewalk in the photo above.)

What the Westboro Church is to gay rights, Created Equal is to a woman’s right to choose. They seem to think of themselves as some kind of “men in black” tough guys with a fetus fetish. Remember this photo when you see them whining later in their own video. This from their Facebook page:

men_in_black

Not surprisingly, the anti-choice carpetbaggers brought out the clinic’s supporters. They call themselves the Pink House Defenders after the bright pink color the clinic was recently painted to call attention to itself – the last abortion provider left in the state of Mississippi. Led by local activist Derenda Hancock, (that’s Derenda in the hula hoop on the right) many of them are volunteers who escort patients into the clinic and try to shield them from harassment from aggressive protesters like those from Created Equal.

 hula

Notice the Pink House Defenders are all holding their signs – even the one on the ground. That is because there is an ordinance in Jackson that requires all protest signs be held. Created Equal conveniently leaves out that important fact when they tell their version of this story, but they are aware of it. Philip “Flip” Benham, former director of Operation Save America, told the Clarion-Ledger the group is frustrated with what they call “silly” city ordinances that do not allow signs to rest on the ground and police officers who stand watch and wait to arrest protesters that do not obey.

In fact, the anti-choice activists were so unhappy with the way Jackson police treated them and their gigantic fetus signs, they filed a harassment lawsuit against them. One of the complaints in that suit is that Jackson officers told protesters they could not put signs on public sidewalks but instead had to hold them at all times. That lawsuit seems to have led to a change in police orders, because last Thursday, for the first time, the police did not stop Created Equal from setting up their visual display.

ceNow, directly across the street from the pink clinic is a thriving retail center known as Fondren Corner, developed over the last ten years by Mike Peters, who rents retail space in an iconic blue building he owns and who manages many of the adjacent properties. Included in those retail establishments is Sneaky Beans coffee shop, Babalu Tacos & Tapas, and Rooster’s and Basil’s sandwich shop, the kind of places that don’t appreciate large photo of fetuses outside their dining room windows. To these businesses, the ordinance that keeps Created Equal’s fetus photos off the sidewalk is not “silly” at all.

I don’t pretend that Mike Peters was thinking about the rights and dignity of the women of Mississippi when he decided to move the five-foot display boards Created Equal set up across from Fondren Corner. I am sure he was thinking about the rights and sensibilities of his tenants and their customers. But whatever the reason, Mr. Peters took it upon himself to enforce the ordinance the police were (apparently) instructed to overlook. He remove the illegal signs. One by one, he picked them up and silently carried them past police and into the basement of his blue building.

mike p

“It was horrible.” Mr. Peters told the Jackson Free Press. “If they would have had little signs like most of the locals have now … we probably would have just let it ride, but these were horrible. Every 5 feet there was just another one, another one, another one.”

When they saw what Mr. Peters was doing, several of the business owners came out and helped him. Nathan Glen, owner of Rooster’s Fondren located directly across the street from the clinic was one of them. He called the Created Equal protesters “social terrorists”.

“We get the protest. I don’t mind the protesters,” Glen said. “But why should their civil rights come over mine? We’re actually paying taxes here. We live here. And they come in from out of Ohio and don’t abide by the laws we have.”

The Created Equal “men-in-black” protesters were beside themselves. They taped Mike Peters and his associates as they silently moved the display, but he refused to engage them. They nagged police officers to stop the thieves, but police just stood and watched as he carried the signs past them.

“I’m not mad at you,” Peters told the officer. “I know you’ve got to do whatever you’ve got to do. But I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”

Mr. Peters said he thinks police had orders from city hall not to interfere with the protester’s signs even though they were in violation of the local ordinance – and their protest permit to boot. As to why they didn’t stop him, Mr. Peters told reporters he thinks the police said to themselves:

“‘Well, why should we arrest him for doing this, and yet we’re letting them (the protesters) break the law too? That’s not right.'”

Mike Peters eventually returned the signs to the group, so they could pack them up and send them on to the next protest. (My guess would be Louisiana where they are hard at work trying to close down abortion providers there.) But his moment of civil disobedience should not go unnoticed or unlauded. Well played, sir. Well played.

You can watch our hero in action in the video below.

All Photos via Facebook

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IF YOU DON’T VOTE – A Campaign For All The Marbles

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There are roughly 100 days until we vote and I can’t remember when I have been less enthusiastic about an election. The pundits tell us the House of Representatives is already gone – gerrymandered out of contention by Republicans. In the next breath they tell us the prospects for hanging on to the Senate are shaky at best for Democrats. This is accepted wisdom on both sides of the aisle; as it is on Fox, CNN and MSNBC.

So, since campaign strategists all believe the same old campaigns run by the same old people in the same old way is a losing proposition for Democrats, what spectacular new campaign surprise do you think the national party has hatched to turn those predictions around? 

For half a century, liberals have been unable to turn out an energized midterm electorate. Not that they haven’t tried. That’s where Rock the Vote came from. Each and every election they have been successful at registering hundreds of thousands of new voters at college campuses and black churches and even military bases. But for all that effort, these new would-be voters never show up at the polls in anything close to the percentages of the older, whiter voters who reliably turn out for the Republicans.

So, since campaign strategists know the same old get-out-the-vote effort, run in same old way has always led to disappointment, what spectacular new get-out-the-vote surprise do you think Democrats have hatched to get a different result? 

I don’t think there is anything in the offing either. But there should be.

If Democrats believe they are going to lose the House going in, and if they think the voters they are registering aren’t going to show up, why stick with the game plan you predict will be a loser? They have 100 days. Do something different. Something unexpected. Something to get people talking.

Give people a reason to vote!

If I were running the Democratic National Party there would be a national election strategy. I’d call this year’s campaign: If You Don’t Vote, and every candidate, and every left leaning interest group would be asked to be part of it.

The campaign would start on Labor Day with a #IfYouDon’tVote Twitter hashtag and Facebook page, a YouTube account and website, all of which would appear at the exact same time that three different 15 second TV ads aired on the three broadcast networks’ evening newscasts. The ads have to be on the edge, something the Republicans are going to react to loudly. Since it’s Labor Day, I’d put Herman Cain’s picture superimposed over a Godfather’s Pizza logo. Then as he morphs into a young mother in a pizza-maker’s apron, with a babe in arms and another hanging onto her leg, I’d have this voiceover message:

One the the greatest things about being American is that anyone can succeed. But no one should be able to get rich by paying his employees a wage so low taxpayers have to provide her food assistance and health care. If you don’t vote, we can’t change this. 

Ad number two could be an older worker with his arm around his wife in front of a home with a For Sale sign and the voiceover:

Because of the banks. he lost his job, his pension, his house. And now congress has taken away his unemployment benefits. If you don’t vote, we can’t get them back. 

Ad number three could be a first-grade girl in pigtails with an empty lunch tray in front of her and the message:

Republicans will go to any lengths to keep women from exercising their right to choose, but once the baby is born, they oppose offering that child so much as a carton of milk. If you don’t vote, we can’t make sure hungry school children are fed.

The surprise of those ads alone should garner a lot of free airtime the following day. Republicans would be busy defending against the charges, so already they are off-stride, unprepared and have been taken out of their game plan. Republican candidates are now forced to either explain why Democrats are mischaracterizing their position, or to defend their party stances, and either soundbite is loser.

But those ads are just our opening salvo. Even as that dialogue is happening and the Republicans are squealing “Unfair!”, the If You Don’t Vote campaign is attacking elsewhere. 

Day Two, every Democratic House Candidate puts out one If You don’t Vote hardball ad in his local media market, striking at the weakest point of his opponent. Here in Michigan it might be:

“If you don’t vote, Terri Lynn Land  will turn pregnant women into unwilling incubators for the government.” 

Terri Lynn is not going to like how that ad frames her anti-choice stance, so she will very quickly be out on local TV news defending herself. That’s why it is important for her Dem opponent, and all the Dem opponents, to have a rebuttal ad already posted on their own website (and all the If You Don’t Vote outlets) with the proof of their charge: Here’s what she said. Here’s how she voted. Here’s a clip of her speech. There is now a very real probability some alert journalist is going to show her the rebuttal ad that she hasn’t yet seen, and ask her to comment off the cuff.

Because of this unprecedented national campaign strategy striking in all 50 states at the same moment, by day three, the news media is going to be speculating about If You Don’t Vote, giving it free airtime probably in every news block. Republicans will be off their game plan, which has always been the same for both parties: In the last two months, attack ad, attack ad, attack ad. But suddenly we would have Republicans playing “D”. Not a good posture for them, as they tend to come off as whiney. 

Day four, the issue groups begin to launch their attacks.

Mother’s Against Gun Violence:

If you don’t vote….children who could have been saved by a background check are going to be shot to death in their classrooms. 

Clean Water Action:

If you don’t vote….they are going to frack your well dry.

Freedom To Marry:

If you don’t vote…two parent gay families will not be allowed to both adopt their own children.

getoutthe_voteYou get the idea. Hundreds of left-leaning groups would post If You Don’t Vote issue ads on their own websites and upload them to the campaign sites. New ads – print, video, and news interviews of Americans who have been victimized by Republican policies telling their stories, would all be posted there where they are easy to find. New If You Don’t Vote ads need to come in without any let up, every day in September. 

In October 1, we choose a new slogan, maybe #WhyI’mVoting and every Democratic candidate for state office issues an ad using the new slogan about whatever local issue is on the front burner in that state. Hit them by surprise a second time where they aren’t expecting it. 

The attack has to be relentless so Republicans never recover their equilibrium. They might not like the way Dems frame the issue, but we’d be talking policy. Responding with the kind of of personal attack ads called for by the Republican campaign playbook would make them look evasive and petty.

Meanwhile, the congressional democrats will be throwing weekly issue protests on the Capitol steps, offering promises of the progress they would make if they only were able. The best issues would be the ones where Democrats now have the polling advantage but are blocked from passing legislation by the lobbying of minority groups. Immigration. Background checks. Equal Marriage. Expanding Medicaid. Living Wage. Choice. Separation of Church and State. Building Infrastructure. 

The Democrats in state legislatures would do the same in their districts and their state capitols inviting local interest groups to demonstrate about their issues. On the district level, might I suggest Dems use some of that wasted negative ad money to splurge on ice cream or hot dogs. Maybe cider and donuts near Halloween? When you invite people over to ask for a favor, you treat them like friends.  

Could nationalizing an off-year campaign overcome the Republican advantage? I don’t know, it’s never been tried, because politicians so rarely aim at anything more adventurous that eking out a 2 point win in their own districts. In the present political climate, even if those members win in the small picture, the big picture – a functioning congress – is still lost to the American people. A true win would be changing the makeup of the congress, and the only way to do that is to make unlikely voters interested enough, or maybe just hopeful enough that things could change, that they decide to give voting a try. 

If you already plan on losing, why bother playing the game? 

 

Feature Photo via Art of Dino Facebook

 

bio.jpgJean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.

Follow me on Twitter as @Uncucumbered or friend me on Facebook.

 

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The Child Refugee Crisis – A Compassionate Solution

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I came across that meme you see above while browsing tweets with the #immigration hashtag on Twitter this week. My first thought was: well, I have a small condo; I couldn’t take all of them, but I could take one. A girl would be better, because she could share sleeping space with my granddaughter Maddie. But yes, Veterans For Capitalism and The Constitution; send me a child, or even a child with her mother, and I will feed them, and clothe them, and educate the child, and unless they have major health problems I can’t afford, I will take care of their basic health care while they go through the INS process. 

I think that allows me to speak, right?

The more I thought about Americans volunteering to fostering a “border” child, the more the idea grew on me. So I asked my Facebook friends if they were given the chance to take in one of the unaccompanied minors, would they? After a week of seeing red-faced xenophobes screaming at school busses, I was heartened by the unequivocal “yeses”. One woman said she could take three or four. A newlywed gay friend said he and his partner were ready to tackle parenting. Another “yes” friend told us about how her family took in Vietnamese “boat children” after the war. If there are that many people from my little Facebook community ready to sponsor a child, I have to wonder how many others there are willing to step up?

Congress would never allow it to happen, of course. Republicans now see it as their civic duty to punish the border children as a means to discourage any more from coming. The “best interest of the child” will not be a factor in any legislation they pass. It doesn’t even matter that dispersing the border children into private homes would save them money. They’re now mired in the “billions for deportation but not one red cent for immigrant comfort” sublevel of humanity. No, congress is not going to help.

But I wonder if it might be a program Homeland Security could institute on their own?

I would like to open any temporary sponsorship program to kids of all ages, even to single mothers with their children, but I can already hear the right wing panicking that the adults will disappear into the ether the first time the sponsor goes for groceries. So, for the sake of discussion, let’s say Homeland Security limits the program to unaccompanied children under twelve. Foster families would have to pass a background check, but it wouldn’t have to be CIA level stuff. In most cases, a call to the police department where the sponsor lives, or in the case of a family, the school that their kids attend, is going to do it.

warehouseFor the child, a home with an American family with a bed and bathtub and a refrigerator is certainly a better situation than being warehoused on a defunct army base or loaded onto a bus where angry faces scream words they don’t understand. But there are advantages for the government too. Taxpayers would no longer have to pick up the tab for housing and feeding the sponsored kids while they wait for their day in court. Dispersed throughout the country, the kids would not be a burden on any one school system. It would also be easier to find an attorney willing to represent a border child pro-bono if that child was living in his own community. And a kid with his own attorney has a much better chance of having a good outcome than a child who shares the services of one beleaguered attorney representing hundreds of warehoused children.

The children lucky enough to find a home with an American family would have stability, but they would also have the advantage of a surrogate parent dedicated to their best interest. The foster family, and the child’s attorney would have the time and inclination INS doesn’t have, to track down American relatives, or get in contact with the child’s parent back home so he could be safely returned. Each child would have their own American champion. 

If we only had political leadership, we could handle this child refugee crisis with true compassion: President Obama could tweak the ACA to allow a sponsor’s insurance to cover routine care for the child they take in. President and Mrs. Obama could lead the way and make a symbolic gesture, inviting a little boy to live with them in the White House. Democrats who are lawyers serving in state legislatures could offer to defend, pro-bono, any border child who ends up in his district. It wouldn’t hurt for U.S. Senate and House Democrats to take in, or to represent, a border child either. Lay shame on the “compassionate conservative” crowd, and lead the way modeling how Americans should respond to children in need. 

I truly believe big-hearted Americans have the will to help – if only we had a way.

 

 

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Elisabeth Hasselbeck Says Meow

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I once had a friend who was a Navy corpsman. That’s what the Navy calls their medics. When America invaded Iraq, he was assigned to a Marine Unit, because for some reason, Marines don’t train their own medics. His name is Mike, but the Marines all called him “Doc”, which I am told is a sign of of respect and acceptance by the unit. The Marines considered him one of them, and from his emails, I always thought he liked the guys he served with.

When his year in Iraq was finished and he was back stateside, Mike was given some choices as to what his next assignment would be, and during a discussion of the pros and cons of each possibility, he made what I thought at the time was an odd statement. He said, he didn’t care where he went, as long as he didn’t have to serve with the Marines for another tour. He said, “Those motherf…ers are crazier than batshit.” Then he told me this story:

The unit Mike was with lost a man to an IED – an improvised explosive device – buried along the roadside. The Marines were understandably angry, and they wanted revenge, so they roused the people who lived in the nearby houses, and learned from them that the elderly woman who lived in the house closest to the blast had a grown son. The woman swore her son hadn’t lived there in twenty years, but he suddenly became their prime suspect and they were determined to find him. 

But the old woman wouldn’t give up her son. She continued to insist it could not have been him, and eventually the Marines grew tired of her refusal, and brought in a heavy vehicle that in my head looks like a bulldozer, but in real life probably didn’t. They told the woman, through an interpreter, that if she didn’t tell them where to find her son, they would tear down her house. Mike said he thought it was just a threat made to loosen her tongue, not something they would ever really do. 

The woman cried. She begged. Mike said at one point she got down on her knees in front of the Marines and pleaded, pressing her face to the hand of the lieutenant in charge. But she wouldn’t tell them where to find her son, so they did what they threatened. They tore her house down.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. 

The Marines took the rest of the villagers to an olive grove, where Mike said there were trees 100 years old. They brought in the heavy vehicle and told the Iraqis if they didn’t tell them who planted the IED that they would tear down the orchard. The villagers begged, just as the old woman had, on their knees. But they didn’t give up a name, so Marines tore down the trees. Mike said while they did it, they blasted Grateful Dead music so they didn’t have to hear the prayers of the villagers.

elizThere are very few people who can hear a story like that and think, on that particular day, the Marines were the good guys, but Elisabeth Hasselbeck would be one of them. Seven years ago, she attacked Rosie O’Donnell for trying to point out there are times the men and women we send to war do not act in an honorable way. Elisabeth turned Rosie’s remark about how our soldiers act like terrorists, into the accusation that Rose O’Donnell thinks all American soldiers are terrorists.

eliz_and_barbaraWe all know how that dust-up ended. Rosie left The View, and Elisabeth declared victory. Weeks of rehashing the “cat fight” followed, but there was never a serious discussion about the substance of the argument: the conduct of our soldiers. To Elisabeth, if Americans did it, it must be ok. She says things like: “Terrible things happen in war”, but never admits “our soldiers do terrible things in war, and she is ready to declare jihad on anyone, like Rosie, who offers any critique on the conduct of our armed forces. I wish I could ask Elisabeth how she would characterize the Marines who left the old woman sitting in the rubble of all her worldly possessions. On that day, in that moment, didn’t those Marines behave like terrorists against helpless civilians? 

This week, The View announced Rosie O’Donnell will be rejoining the program in the fall. To say Elisabeth reacted badly, would be an understatement. It’s been seven years; she has a new job hosting Fox and Friends, yet the news of Rosie’s return stung so badly she called into her show while on vacation just to trash Rosie, and immediately began her old line of attack saying:

“I know Rosie very well. We worked quite closely. Talk about not securing the border. Here in comes to ‘The View’ the very woman who spit in the face of our military…”

eliz_and_joyBut Elisabeth has a problem with her “Rosie hates our soldiers” accusation this time around. Rosie’s oldest son, Parker, is attending The Citadel. And the View-mates Elisabeth appeared with have refused to offer her any support. Joy Behar called her attack “below the belt” “nasty” and “hate-filled” on CNN. Whoopi Goldberg, who Elisabeth predicted would be fighting with Rosie for the soul of The View, took time in a Hot Topics segment to address the nastiness, putting her hands in the air like claws and saying “I’m not this way.” Whoopi didn’t mention Elisabeth by name, but her reference was clear. Whoopi said she’s not a fighter, she a debater, and whoever ends up around the View table will discuss things like “grown-ass women.” 

Rosie is returning in September, and there is nothing Elisabeth can do about it but meow. Rosie and Whoopi will be discussing Hot Topics like “grown-ass women” without Elisabeth. I’d like to suggest that one of those topics be the link between the “terroristic” things our troops did in Iraq and Afghanistan and the huge number of veteran suicides. For all Elisabeth’s good intentions, her head-in-the-sand attitude offers no help to them; it adds to their burden of guilt.

So welcome back Rosie! Perhaps the View crew can leave out a saucer of milk for Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

 

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