There are so many things about the current Republican administration that many of us have trouble believing could ever have happened. I recently heard the following on the Rachel Maddow Show. “He (the President) is eager to be seen as being I think as cruel as possible to immigrants”, which is at the heart of what we have been seeing. Following is the transcript of part of her show on 7/2/2019 during an interview with former HUD Secretary and 2020 presidential candidate, Julian Castro.
MADDOW: strategically, I wonder as you think about the prospect of becoming the Democratic nominee, running against Donald Trump, he is eager to be seen as being I think as cruel as possible to immigrants. I think he’s eager to be seen as acting against the interests of Latino voters, and certainly Democratic voters.
I wonder to the extent that you fight him on this stuff, and you’ve made it such a priority in your campaign so far, how much do you worry about playing on his turf and playing to an image that he likes for his base?
CASTRO: Number one, I don’t think we have any choice. He has a huge bullhorn, and so, he’s going to make this an issue. So I believe that we have to offer a compelling strong alternative.
Now, I’ve said that we can maintain border security, but what I’m betting is that there are enough people out there that know that we can do this a better way. And if he’s going to proceed with a dark heart of cruelty, then I want to proceed with a heart of compassion and common sense.
And I’ll tell you, about a year ago, I was at the Ursula Processing Center down in McAllen, Texas, on the border. I was there to join activists protesting the family separation policy. And as sad as the situation was with the little children that were inside that facility, what gave me hope was that the activists that were there, they were white, they were black, they were Asian-American, they were Latino.
In other words, it was people of all different backgrounds from throughout the country who were united with their compassion and their values, their belief in humanity and a common respect for these human beings, no matter the color of their skin or the fact that they’re not American. I’m betting on that, even as he bets on cruelty.The Rachel Maddow Show, 7/2/2019
The whole history of this country is based on the theft of land and killing and cultural genocide of people Native to this land, and the labor of enslaved people. Millions of people have been killed in conflicts with our country. We are the only nation to have used nuclear weapons. Today we have a multitude of egregious governmental policies. Structural racism is deeply embedded. I may well be naive, but it seems to me the people who did, and continue to do these things, at least believe what they are doing is right, or at least best for themselves. They believe in white privilege. The basis for their views may be very flawed, and covers the underlying problem of their fear of others. But I don’t think for the most part they delighted in doing harm just for the sake of being cruel.
Perhaps I’m wrong about the past. But I don’t think anyone can argue this administration routinely employs cruelty intentionally.
Fundamentally we are faced with a conflict of values. The question is how do we return to the values most of us hold? As Secretary Castro says above, “it was people of all different backgrounds from throughout the country who were united with their compassion and their values, their belief in humanity and a common respect for these human beings, no matter the color of their skin or the fact that they’re not American. I’m betting on that, even as he bets on cruelty.“
The problem is in the past we could have some influence on government policies by engaging with our Congressional representatives or publishing letters to the editor. They might not agree with us, but we could sometimes actually see what we said did affect laws and policies. 75 years ago Quakers established the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) to serve as a lobbying organization to promote Quaker values in government policies.
But for some time now Congress has become extremely partisan. Rather than have substantive debates about legislative issues, Democrats and Republicans each see winning their point of view and defeating the other party as the goal so most bills can only pass, often only be brought to a vote, it passage will be a win for the party in the majority.
Even the third branch of government, that used to be a check and balance, has been corrupted with ideological justices.
So here we are with no government checks and balances to control an administration that is destroying democratic norms and routinely employs intentional cruelty. What can we do?
The most recent example of people effectively making change is the Sunrise Movement, which is advocating for a Green New Deal, and that I’m a supporter of. Leaders that began Sunshine spent months studying the history of activism to see what was effective. They came to the conclusion that two things are necessary: people power and political power.
Thousands of young people of the Sunrise Movement went to Capitol Hill for direct actions. With the first 50 were arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience, and 150 were arrested during the second actions. But, because of that, climate change is FINALLY being discussed in Congress.
More recently, the Sunrise Movement has been demanding a presidential candidate debate solely about climate change, saying the brief responses about that in the first debate were completely inadequate. When the Democratic National Committee (DNC) refused, Sunrise Movement youth spent 60 hours in front of DNC headquarters, including sleeping there. That forced DNC Chairman Tom Perez to agree to put the idea up for a vote when the committee meets August 22nd. https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2019/07/03/sunrise-movement-and-the-democratic-national-committee/
Now Sunrise Members are going to go to their local Democratic party offices to pressure their local members to commit to voting for a climate-only debate when that comes up for a vote at the August meeting. The Sunrise Movement is very well organized, has very specific principles they follow, and has shown it can respond quickly, creatively and effectively to force attention on addressing climate chaos. Members of Sunrise had also worked hard to get out the vote for candidates that support their ideas in the last election, and were successful in getting most of their candidates elected, include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
My friend Lucy Duncan, who works for the American Friends Service Committee has written an excellent article about people of faith publicly putting their bodies on the line to affect change. Why I Got Arrested at the Border.
This is the model that has been shown to work despite the dysfunctional Congress, biased courts, and intentionally cruel Republican administration. People going to the streets, and building political power.