Archive for the ‘Manzanar’ Tag

Tears And Fears   1 comment

Coping In The Age of Goo
February 1, 2017


Do you recall the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail? A classic Monty Python comedy.  Loosely—very loosely—incorporating King Arthur, the Round Table, quests, and death. In 10th Century England there was a plague upon the land. (Note: not the 14th century as history records but the 10th as Monty Python records.) So many people were dying that “dead collectors” went through the streets telling good citizens to bring out their dead. One unfortunate citizen’s body was in the process of being collected by the dead collector when the citizen asserts “I’m not dead.” A debate proceeds but after being hit in the head with a club, the “citizen” is now, well, dead.

A few months ago I fully anticipated that by February I would, at the very least, be near the end of channeling Elisabeth Kübler Ross. Her classic model on how we deal with grief is well known: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Understanding these stages is supposed to help us get through the process of dying and death (in that order). Whether it’s our own mortality or that of a family member or friend, we all can relate to Ross’s conclusions. The good news from the stages is that ultimately we all hope to arrive at acceptance. The night of November 8th I went to bed in what I’d describe as something other than denial, but I was clearly aware of what news the Wednesday morning papers would bring. It’s been a little like that for some people since November 9th.

Acceptance arrived, and I spent a couple of months waiting for the pivot. You know, it was to be that moment when Trump, our recently elected Great Orange Overlord (GOO) would come down to earth and govern. Unfortunately, GOO turned out to be unable or unwilling to pivot, and he spent late January issuing edicts. While many of his executive orders got my attention, it was one in particular that struck a nerve: “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”. Essentially GOO was following through on his promise to treat Muslims differently than everyone else. And amazingly by design or rank ignorance he managed to do this on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day in which GOO omitted mentioning the slaughter of Jews. One university professor, Daniel Drezner of Tufts, was so incensed by the order and the timing that he let fly an amazing Tweet:


“Dear @POTUS: on Holocaust Remembrance Day my synagogue told me the Syrian refugee family we’re sponsoring is not coming. Go fuck yourself.”


Drezner later apologized for the closing three-word expression of disfavor, but doubled down on his feelings about the policy. The New York Times offered this: “That [Trump’s executive] order, breathtaking in scope and inflammatory in tone, was issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day spoke of the president’s callousness and indifference to history, to America’s deepest lessons about its own values.” From this side of America we are left to wonder if this latest order is GOO’s stalking horse for a laundry list of people, countries, groups, and religions with whom he and his administration disagree. After all, GOO has one prominent supporter suggesting the United States begin registering Muslims, while another thought the WWII Japanese internment camps were “a good precedent”. Think about it; zealous supporters offer Manzanar as a good idea, a good precedent.

In 1988 a seven-year effort to start a family became a reality for us. Our daughter has been amazing. She’s worked as hard as can be to carve a place in society and this month began a new chapter by changing careers, going to work for a tech-related company in San Francisco. I treasure every moment we’ve had and I hope we have many, many more. But it was the rhetoric of GOO and his close associates that made me wonder just what can be next? Our decision to start a family was not surprising—lots of other people have done it, really—but any journey that takes seven years to succeed, as ours did, sort of focuses the mind. Like Star Trek’s character Mr. Spock, a Vulcan who mates only once every seven years, anticipation and success can be a long process.

     Caitie was born on February 7, 1988, and it was an event that I was not able to attend. For that matter, neither was my wife. Caitie was born in Korea. After

chsb seven years of paperwork, interviews, and waiting, we were matched with this wonderful baby who happened to be born in Seoul. In short, my feeling to this day is that it was like winning the lottery. Only better. We flew to Korea, spent three days in Seoul, and returned with our baby on September 2, 1988. As I once said to friends of mine when their first child was born in 1976, ‘the three of you are now one.’ And now so were we.

In June 1989 we sat in the Los Angeles chambers of Judge C. Bernard Kaufman, and he made our adoption final. A year later we were once again in downtown Los Angeles. This time it was at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and where, along with a thousand or so of our closest friends, we were to participate in a ceremony making a lot of people in that hall citizens of the United States. The room was absolutely colorful. There were whites, Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics. Too many countries, and too many stories to list, but the common thread was someone in each group was about to receive American Citizenship. That morning there were plenty of flags, kind words, and a collective singing of the National Anthem (and it wasn’t even a ball game.) There were a thousand people saying the pledge of Allegiance, along with the recorded voice of Country star Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless The USA”. Not a dry eye in the house, including mine.

And here we are almost three decades later. It feels like recalling that convention-hall camaraderie today is more important than ever. In 1990 we were all as one at the Citizenship swearing-in ceremony. It was  a kind of tent revival meeting, with everyone hugging strangers, shaking hands, singing together, celebrating for ourselves and for all of those who came before us. So when our leaders begin to register, arrest, intern, and deport people based on family name, skin color, birth country, or religion, we must speak up. This is not what constitutes making America great again. When GOO attempts to turn the clock back a century or two, to some time in America’s past, we must all be aware and engaged. Forget the stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Save those for bad news from the doctor. What we need now is everyone to stand up for everyone else. No exceptions. This country has a constitution, and a history of tolerance. Last month 200-300 people were marching in downtown Gualala, California as part of the post-inaugural Womens March, and it was a genuinely beautiful sight. On that day millions of people reminded us that it is not the time stay in the house and hibernate. Now is the time to pay close attention and let our government hear why the policies of GOO have nothing to do with greatness.

 David Steffen
© 2017 David Steffen

November 22, 2011: Welcome to Manzanar   3 comments

November 25, 2011

Symbolism from the Self Righteous

The latest in the “My Balls and/or Ovaries are Bigger Than Yours” tournament (aka Republican Presidential Candidates Debate) turned out to be a less than Train Wreck episode on, of all dates on the November calendar, November 22.  I can only assume that the Republican Party, CNN, and the American Enterprise Institute didn’t choose November 22 for the debate as a way of commemorating the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Whether in life or death, Kennedy was never a respected or revered figure to the American political right. Ironically, his good looks, personal wealth, and his now legendary service during World War II didn’t help his standing with the GOP. Or the John Birch Society. Or the really crazy right (suggesting their is a really crazy right to the right of the Birchers.) Nevertheless, it was on the 22nd that the pretenders to the throne met in Washington, D.C. The two important moments of the evening came from former Senator Rick Santorum, and of course, “expect anything to come out of his mouth”, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (although Representative Michelle Bachmann earned a mention.) Let’s take Mr. Gingrich first.

I can only assume that a memo gets circulated before every debate so that all of the participants know the talking-points by heart. Notes from the Tea Party, Republican National Committee, John Birchers, Grover Norquist, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck: “Immigration”, “invade (fill in the blank)”, “cut taxes”, “cut spending”, “stop abortion”, “kill public radio”, etc. Apparently Newt missed the memo, as the debate transcript in the Washington Post suggests:

If you’re [an illegal immigrant] here — if you’ve come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home. period. If you’ve been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out.

This is an interesting position and completely antithetical to the authors of the “memo”. A seemingly thoughtful, rational, almost personal point of view, i.e., not rehearsed to appeal to the majority of the voters. The idea of forcibly removing 12 million men, women, and children is anti-social, anti-Christian (added here since most of these candidates have consistently pandered to a Christian voter bloc, and since Gingrich said “you belong to a local church), economically or logistically impractical, possibly fraught with one or more legalities that might move millions of these people into the courts pending a ruling, instead of on a bus, train, or plane headed south. (I say “south” since most of the vitriol is aimed at Mexicans and other Latin Americans, and not illegal Europeans or Asians, although Haitians and other black Caribbeans apparently fit the GOP model.) I might applaud Gingrich if I wasn’t completely convinced this was just another calculated remark in a lifetime of calculated remarks.

Representative Michelle Bachmann, who I saw too much of when I lived in Minnesota, offered the following response to Gingrich: “Well, I don’t agree that you would make 11 million workers legal, because that, in effect, is amnesty. And I also don’t agree that you would give the DREAM Act on a federal level. And those are two things that I believe that the speaker had been for, and he can speak for himself.” Try not to spend too much time analyzing the disjointed syntax. Her bottom line is that she wants to ship every last Mexican to Mexico.

And then there is Santorum, possibly, the true poster child for Iowa voters: white, conservative, and with an almost complete inability to appeal to anyone else. But his role on November 22nd was to have a standout performance. Not stand-up, mind you. Stand out.

First, he chose this forum to ressurect a memorable phrase from the Reagan years: “trickle down economics”. Here’s the theory: If the wealthy are taxed less, they’ll invest in factories, new businesses, expand employment, and in the end generate more revenue for the government by being all around good citizens. I prefer to think of this as the Republican’s “Less is More” theory. It doesn’t work. The wealthy take the extra wealth and add it to their existing wealth resulting in even more wealth for them. The theory sounds workable on first blush, but there seems to be a lack of credible data confirming it worked for Reagan or anyone since. Nevertheless, as with most Republican sound-bites, it sounds good until you start asking questions about the aforementioned missing data.  And the idea of trickle down is precisely what the top wealth-holders in America want. If they have to give up anything, let it only be a trickle.

Here’s Santorum’s thought(?) as he connects trickle down to  immigration:  “We do those things [said another way, we get rid of the illiterate, stupid, illegal immigrants and get more genius-level legal immigrants here], we’ll not only have the innovation, which I support, coming from legal—legal immigrants, but we’ll have that money trickle down to blue-collar workers and we can see that income mobility that a lot of people are right in that is not happening in America.”  Forget the fact the sentence is not a sentence, but rather it reads like Santorum’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.

But Santorum’s most aggregious moment was early on as he tied immigration and national security together with one nasty ribbon, and then advocated for ethnic and religious profiling of people in the United States to determine if they are terrorists. The moderator, Wolf Blitzer asked, “Senator Santorum, under certain circumstances in the past, you’ve supported profiling. Is that correct?” His answer? “I have.” Blitzer followed up a minute or so later with , “So just to be precise, is it ethnic profiling, religious profiling? Who would be profiled?”

Well, the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes. If you look at — I mean, obviously, it was — obviously, Muslims would be — would be someone you’d look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are — the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, as we’ve — by and large, as well as younger males. I mean, these are things that — not exclusively — but these are things that you profile to — to find your best — the most likely candidate.

To his credit, Ron Paul attempted to counter the callous Santorum with this: “And terrorism is a tactic. It isn’t a person. It isn’t a people. So this is a very careless use of words. What about this? Sacrifice liberties because there are terrorists? You’re the judge and the jury? No, they’re suspects.” But Santorum’s words were the red meat the GOP faithful wanted.

Ignore for a moment Santorum’s inability to easily string together a cohesive thought; his message is in there. Profile Muslims. And how do you know which people are Muslims and might actually be radical Muslims? Profile all of them. Round them up. Examine their religious beliefs, their homes, diet, dress, and friends. Yes, their friends are fair game. If a Muslim or a non-Muslim associates with a Muslim, well they should know better. One is a terrorist, two is a cell, three is a cabal, the logic might go. Santorum forgets we’ve done this before. A half-century ago we rounded up  more than 100,000 Japanese American citizens, took their homes and businesses, put them on trucks and busses, and moved them to concentration camps—relocation camps in the vernacular of the time, but concentration camps to be certain. Where will Senator Santorum build the Manzanar’s for Muslim Americans? New facilities, Guantanamo, or will he move the Muslims back to Tule Lake, Poston, and Gila River, to Leupp, Topaz, and Granada, to Heart Mountain, Minidoka, Rohwer, Jerome, Manzanar, and the others? The Senator, the candidates, the GOP, and all of us should remember Martin Niemöller’s poem. While there are differences of opinion on the exact words and groups used by Niemöller in the original text, the essence of his poem is this:

First they came for the communists,and I did not speak out– because I was not a communist; Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out– because I was not a socialist; Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out– because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me– and there was no one left to speak out for me.

David Steffen


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© David Steffen 2011

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