Trumped Up ‘Crisis’ and Reality: Will It Just Go Away?

In an 1861 address delivered in Cleveland, Ohio, Abraham Lincoln said, “This crisis is altogether artificial. It has no foundation in fact. It can’t be argued up, and it can’t be argued down. Let it alone, and it will go down of itself.” Ah, well, tragically enough the crisis at that time did not “go down of itself,” but his words still sound very applicable to the present situation we face in our country.

Trump has created an artificial crisis at the southern border, all in order to build an unnecessary and (would-be) largely ineffectual wall. We discussed the proposed merits of building such a wall in a previous article, “To Build or Not to Build: Educate Thyself.” Looking at the raw facts, we found (I believe) that a wall all along our southern border with Mexico is simply unnecessary at best.

However, the President dragged out his same worn-out arguments, false claims, and misleading (mis)information in his address to the nation last night to hopefully convince the American people that we really do, indeed, face a “crisis” in illegal immigrants flooding into the U. S. from Mexico. As we showed in the above-cited article, and as plenty of media outlets, think tanks and other groups have reported, this is not true.

What is, perhaps, more disconcerting at this point, though, is the seeming intransigence of the Republican establishment. They seem determined at all costs, no matter the consequences, to follow Trump even should he lead them into the depths of hell itself … but why? It has been amply proven there is no crisis at the southern border, but if there is, does it make any sense to keep the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) largely shuttered in a continuing (non-sensical), partial government shutdown?

Think about it? If we were at war, would we expect the President and Congress to do something stupid to cripple our Armed Forces? Ha! would you lay off more than half your army smack dad in the middle of an armed conflict with another nation? Of course not, so it would only make sense for the Republicans ~ and particularly the Republicans, because they supposedly believe there is a crisis ~ to push to at least temporarily fund DHS … if not the other gov’t departments as well, but at least DHS!

Some other things to note regarding the curious Republican lemming-like devotion to Trump: 1) the President’s approval ratings have never been high, but now they’re hovering somewhere around 38 to 40%, 2) Most Americans believe, adamantly, that the continuing government shutdown is nonsensical, detrimental, and completely unnecessary, 3) a majority of Americans fault Trump for the government shutdown, as opposed to blaming Democrats, and 4) most Americans really don’t want a wall anyway!

So, what are these GOPers thinking? Especially Mitch “Turtlehead” McConnell? Do they imagine they’re gaining anything? Perhaps they’re just playing politics and protecting their positions of power… Maybe. But even though I’ve never claimed to be a political prophet, I fully expect two (or three) things to happen:

1) the Republicans will lose control of the Senate, which means, of course, that several GOPs will lose their bid for reelection, 2) Democrats will very easily maintain control of the House, and 3) if Trump even makes it to 2020, he will most assuredly not be reelected.

It would really be nice if this manufactured “crisis” would “go down of itself,” but that’s not going to happen. So … it seems Trump and his Republican cohorts will have to go down, and go down they surely will. Independents and moderate Republicans are more than tired and aggravated by this administration, and they’re growing impatient with Republican senators, especially, who refuse to exercise the duties of their office, all in blind adherence to POTUS. Time will tell … but that time is quickly drawing near.

 

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To Build or Not to Build: Educate Thyself

As controversy continues to swirl around Trump’s proposed border wall ~ THE Wall ~ along the U. S. — Mexican border, and with 1/4 of the government shutdown over the issue, including 800,000 federal employees now going without paychecks, it is perhaps a good idea to take a step back and look at some salient facts in considering whether or not building this proposed barrier would be a good idea or not. In fact, it’s always best to educate oneself on an issue before jumping to conclusions … as so many on both sides have been doing for more than two years now (at least).

So, what do we have to consider? First, a couple of practical facts:

The length of the U. S. — Mexican border is 3,145 kilometers, or 1,954 miles (take your pick! LOL)

The southern border extends across four U. S. states, including 24 counties, and traverses desert, mountains and rivers, including the 100,000 square mile Sonoran Desert, the hottest of all North American deserts, which extends along the Arizona border over into California, as well as most of Baja California and the western half of the state of Sonora, Mexico. 

Read more: https://www.desertusa.com/sonoran-desert.html#ixzz5bw911x00

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated the cost of a border wall at about $22 billion, and would take more than three years to complete, according to an article by Reuters based on the same DHS report.

The Wall is said to be necessary as an effective deterrent to illegal immigration. Here are some interesting facts about recent illegal immigration according to the Pew Research Center’s November 2018 article,5 Facts About Illegal Immigration in the U. S.Quoting straight from the source:

kidscrossborderThere were 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2016, representing 3.3% of the total U.S. population that year. The 2016 unauthorized immigrant total is a 13% decline from the peak of 12.2 million in 2007, when this group was 4% of the U.S. population.

The number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants (has) declined since 2007, (while) the total from other nations changed little.

The U.S. civilian workforce includes 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants, representing a decline since 2007.

A rising share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for more than a decade. About two-thirds (66%) of unauthorized immigrant adults in 2016 had been in the U.S. more than 10 years, compared with 41% in 2007. A declining share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for less than five years…

Would the Wall effectively reduce the inflow of illegal drugs? This from Politifact, also quoting a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, as well as the co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

“Traffickers have a variety of mechanisms at their disposal on how to overcome the wall,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Some of those tricks are outlined in a 2016 Drug Enforcement Administration report. Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations “remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States,” and their most common method of smuggling drugs remains vehicles legally coming through U.S. ports of entry. Illegal drugs are smuggled in concealed compartments in passenger vehicles or blended with legitimate goods in tractor trailers, the report said.

Smugglers also attempt to get drugs into the United States using catapults, drones, boats and tunnels. At least 225 tunnels were discovered on U.S. borders from 1990 to March 2016, according to the DEA.

“Traffickers have been very innovative in finding strategies to circumvent existing walls and border control thus far, and more of the same strategy (i.e. more of a wall) doesn’t offer much promise as a successful strategy,” said Rosalie Pacula, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

Also of some possible interest might be the sheer number of U. S. citizens involved in drug smuggling across the Mexican border (as compared with non-U. S. citizens.) The Daily Beast ran an article on this subject back in 2013, in which they rely upon reports and statistics from “an analysis of records obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting.”

Of at least equal importance is the possibility, or some claim reality, of terrorists crossing over the southern border into the U. S. Is this true? And would The Wall prevent them from infiltrating the country? The threat may be real. This from a January 2017 Christian Science Monitor article:

terrorist-640x480From November 2013 to July 2014, officials apprehended 143 individuals listed on the US terror watch list trying to cross the Mexico border and enter the US illegally, according to a confidential Texas Department of Public Safety report obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

And last summer, the US military’s Southern Command warned in an intelligence report that Muslim extremists were using existing migrant smuggling rings in Latin America to gain entry to the US across the Mexico border, according to an account in the Washington Free Beacon.

But significantly, in an interview with White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace pointedly contradicted the claim that terrorists are flooding in over the Mexican border, according to the New York Post:

“Special Interest Aliens are just people who come from countries that have ever produced a terrorist. They’re not terrorists themselves,” Wallace said to Sanders after showing a clip of (Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen) Nielsen’s remarks.

“And the State Department says that there is, quote, their words: ‘no credible evidence of any terrorist coming across the border from Mexico,’” he added.

The 2016 report referred to by Wallace states very clearly:

Counterterrorism cooperation between the Mexican and U.S. governments remained strong. There are no known international terrorist organizations operating in Mexico, no evidence that any terrorist group has targeted U.S. citizens in Mexican territory, and no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States.

Finally, it is worth noting that there are other proposals for combating illegal immigration, such as that made on Scientia Media back in 2010. This is merely one of many examples, but the point here is simple: The Wall is not the only possible solution to the problem of illegal immigration. 

The ‘Old Calendarists’ of America: The Dissection of an Influential Mentality

They are called “Old Calendarists” because they still use the ancient Julian (for Julius Caesar) calendar, and represent a small, though vocal, minority of Eastern Orthodox Christians. You see, some Eastern Orthodox churches simply refused to adopt the newer Gregorian calendar, which was a revision of the Julian made in the 16th century, because they saw the proposed adoption as a capitulation to the Roman papacy. So to this day, they continue using an outdated and inaccurate calendar in order to (ostensibly) maintain the purity of their faith. Weird, huh?

Well, more specifically, and admittedly more important, these churches have been adamantly opposed to revising the liturgical calendar of their churches, which was part and parcel of adopting the new Gregorian calendar, which was again modified in 1923 by the Serbian astronomer, Milutin Milanković. Now, you might justly wonder why in the world this should make any real difference. After all, wouldn’t you want to use a more accurate calendar? And, if you are an Orthodox Christian (as I am, by the way), couldn’t you continue celebrating all of the feasts and fasts of the year?

Why am I even mentioning this obscure subject, which doubtless interests hardly anyone, least of all my readers? It’s simply because it occurred to me, perhaps especially after reading a recent article by my friend J. D. Wills, that we have our own kind of “Old Calendarists” here in America. Call them “resisters” or “preservationists,” or what-have-you ~ although I resist applying the term “traditionalists” to this group ~ really they have much the same mentality as the Old Calendarists. Having grown up and lived most of my life in the deep South (i.e. the old Confederacy), I understand this.

There are some shared characteristics between the Old Calendarists of the East and resisting-preservationists in this country , including the deeply-rooted, felt-need to resist any and all changes that might be perceived as bowing to some opposing force, or group, even when that change is an overall good change or one that really has little affect on the truly important things of life. More than this, however, there is an unadulterated, hyper-conservative mentality that militates against change simply because it is change. This is the mentality that fueled “white flight” in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

There are other shared characteristics, though, of which the following few come to mind:

The need to preserve a pure history.

History can often be confusing, especially when one is seeking truth, that is, trying to discover “what really happened,” or the “way it really was.” Now, I’m not so cynical as to think it’s not possible to arrive at some good, solid conclusions where history is concerned, but I do know that it’s oftentimes … well, messy. You know, it’s not the elementary schoolbook version, but resisting-preservationists need their history to be clean, smooth, easy to grasp and understand. Why? Because it underpins everything else they believe and, thus, how they live out their lives. For example, though the Judeo-Christian faith was an important theological-philosophical influence in the founding of this country, the Founding Fathers were, nevertheless, a mixed bag when it came to religion. Many were deists and many more were, to put it bluntly, little more than nominal Christians. The Declaration of Independence was, at best, a deistic document, and the Constitution not at all religious in any sense of the word. Period. This is not to say the newly birthed United States was irreligious, only that the pristine pure narrative of this country being founded as a Christian nation is, at the very least, complex. In other words, there’s more to say on the subject, and when one delves into the founding documents, writings, recorded speeches and whatnot of that era, one soon discovers the difficulty in simply, almost glibly saying, “We were founded as a Christian nation.” And this is only one example, but it leads to another point…

The good ole days were the best days.

Not only is history supposed to be pure and simple, it also needs to be good, truly good, for the resisting-preservationist. This is the anchor-hold for Old Calendarists, both East and West (including this country, of course.) After all, if the good ole days were really not so good, then why try to preserve them or bring them back? Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly believe there is much ~ very much, in fact ~ to be deeply appreciated, and even in some cases revered, from the past. I abhor chronological arrogance; besides, as I said above, I’m an Eastern Orthodox Christian myself, so how in the world could I possibly despise the past??? That would be to despise my own salvation, as it were, and most especially my Lord Jesus, whom I love with a deep and abiding love and to whom I gladly cling in hope and joy. No, I’m not a despiser of the past, but neither am I a blind glorifier of some carefully selected past that I can use explicitly to justify my beliefs, perspectives and chosen lifestyle. For example, I’m proud to be an American, yet I feel no need whatsoever to “tidy up” the history of my great country. The resisting-preservationist, however, views the whole of his/her communal, or national, history as really and truly being the “good ole days,” when all things were as they should be and, consequently, s/he feels deeply compelled to return to those glory days … and even fight for that return.

If the good ole days were the best days, then these days are not.

In pining for the good ole days, it’s not difficult to understand how and why resisting-preservationists would look at the current scene rather gloomily. Looking back at the past nostalgically, they look at the present negatively. You’ve heard it, I’m sure: “Things just aren’t the way they used to be.” Right? Right. And so another narrative surfaces, one that casts a long, dark shadow over the whole world, and in this world the majority of the major players, if we might call them that, are held suspect. There is precious little talk about the very real freedoms we continue to enjoy in this country ~ including freedom of speech and religion ~ and very little mention of how modern technology has made our lives so much more convenient; hardly any thanksgiving for modern medicine and, comparatively speaking, good access to healthcare (which certainly needs to be improved, but…); very little talk about the relative safety we enjoy in this country, not to mention food and clothing and shelter. Only compare how billions of men, women, and children are forced to barely survive throughout the world and you would think there’s an awful lot for which to be grateful here in America … but for the resisting-preservationist, this contrasts too sharply, too vividly with his/her notion of the good ole days and the way things seem to be now. So, s/he must guard against too much light of reality penetrating into his/her preconceived notion of how the world, and nation, currently stand…

So build a wall or, better yet, a fortress.

We’ve all heard the term “fortress mentality,” and that’s what it is, really. It’s literally erecting a mental fortress around one’s whole belief system, or perspective on life and the world. Let nothing out ~ or, in other words, let nothing of one’s particular ideological view go ~ and let nothing in, i.e. let no one else’s perspective creep into the fortress. And it helps immensely to have friends in this fortress, of course. As the old saying goes, “Misery loves company.” Naturally, too, it’s much easier for these “Old Calendarists” of America ~ the resisting-preservationists ~ to perpetuate their pure and simple history as the good ole days (the best days), as well as their dim view of the contemporary scene with the consequent need to return to the nostalgic past when they do so together in the greatest numbers they can muster. Well, community is great, and we all love to be with folks who share our interests and hobbies and whatnot. I imagine we even like to have at least some friends who share our values and perspectives on life and the world around us … but here’s precisely the point: Most of us, I truly believe, also appreciate other viewpoints and perspectives, even other faith-religions, just as we surely appreciate art, literature and music from different cultures, even when it may not particularly be our “cup of tea,” so to speak. In an open and ideologically liberal society, we’ve learned to value other people and other cultures along with what they offer without feeling threatened or as if we’ve somehow compromised our own dearly, deeply held beliefs. Not so the resisting-preservationist. Any outward show of appreciation for something or someone different is perceived as a sign of weakness and/or compromise. What’s really terribly insidious about this (among other things) is that many of these folks actually, secretly love what they pretend to detest. But since they are in a fortress with others of like mind and heart, they cannot “out” themselves. There is safety and security in their enclave, and this safety and security is simply not worth sacrificing … for anything.

Well, so much for brief observations! Though much more could be added, I’ll quit now by simply reiterating (or confessing) that I know of what I speak. I’ve been there. I’ve been party to the “Old Calendarists” of this country, the resisting-preservationists. Consequently, nothing I’ve written is offered in a mean spirit at all, nor do I imagine it will effect any great change. I just thought that, perhaps, some of my readers might want to better understand what has become an extremely influential mentality (of an abnormally influential minority) in the U. S. I hope I’ve managed to provide this. If not, I apologize. I’ll try better next time! God bless!

 

Falwell Jr.’s New Religion?

Did you hear? Evangelical “Christian” leader Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a recent interview that “Jesus never told Caesar how to run Rome. He went out of his way to say that’s the earthly kingdom, I’m about the heavenly kingdom…” Really? No, Jesus didn’t try to tell Caesar how to run Rome; neither did he condone the abject wickedness of Rome. But more importantly, when Christ taught his disciples to pray ~ what is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer ~ he specifically taught them to say, “… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Falwell also claimed, “There’s two kingdoms. There’s the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom. In the heavenly kingdom the responsibility is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. In the earthly kingdom, the responsibility is to choose leaders who will do what’s best for your country.” Presumably, then, doing what’s in the best interest of the country may include harming innocent people? In other words, the Golden Rule to do unto others what you would have them do unto you has no bearing, or should have no bearing, on national policy? Well, this evangelical “Christian” leader seems to think “that’s what Jesus thought, too.” 

Really? Jesus simply said things like, “if you’re one of my followers, then you will not act like others in the world, that is, lording it over each other, seeking power and wealth and prosperity… No. In fact, the ‘first’ among you will be the least … will be the servant of others, just like me.” I wonder what difference this might make if it were applied consistently by conservative, Bible-thumping, evangelical Christians, especially those who hold elected positions? Of course, if Falwell is right, then it doesn’t apply to public life. How he proposes separating the two is a bit of a mystery. How does one go about following the teachings of Jesus privately, in one’s “individual” life, without also following those teachings publicly and, where the Church (called the Body of Christ) is concerned, communally?

Ah! This is a good question, isn’t it? After all, an individual is elected to public office as an individual. It’s hard to see how s/he can stop being an individual. It’s also difficult to see how an individual can be completely amoral ~ moral or immoral, yes, but not completely amoral. But if that’s the tactic Falwell wants to take, then he’s really destroyed his own foundation, at least where an awful lot of his pet issues are concerned. For instance, upon what grounds does he continue to oppose abortion? Remember, by his own recently-admitted standard, he can’t quote the Bible, or anything religious; he must demonstrate how outlawing abortion would be “for the good of the country” without resorting to any religious or religious-type argument(s).

The same goes for his opposition to homosexual rights. On what grounds can Falwell now continue to oppose homosexual marriage, for instance? Not on biblical/religious grounds … not anymore. Please note that I am not presently presenting my own perspectives on these issues; rather, I am simply wondering just how Falwell, as an evangelical “Christian” will continue to make his case on these, and other, issues without resorting to anything remotely religious. I may be wrong, of course, but I think it will be exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) for him to do so, but I also know he will keep on pounding the pulpit (literally!) against abortion, homosexuality, and a host of other issues. And he will do so without any qualm about the hypocrisy of it all.

Many things intrigue me about what the evangelical “Christian” community has become in recent years. But now Falwell is promoting an altogether new religion totally divorced from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. No wonder more and more Protestants are dropping the “evangelical” label, not wanting to be identified any longer with the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr. Oh! And isn’t it interesting that Jr.’s father, Jerry Falwell Sr., started the Moral Majority movement precisely to influence the government, all political discourse, and, indeed, the very course of the life of this nation. Wonder what daddy’s thinking about baby boy’s recent comments? But, then, all of this seems to me to be one very good reason not to listen to religious leaders’ commentaries and endorsements of politicians and policies. So maybe I kind of, sort of agree with Jr. in separating religion ~ at least institutionalized religion ~ from government and political discourse in general… I just wish he’d follow his own lead on this and separate himself!

(Everyone reading his remarks should also note, importantly, that Falwell Jr. heavily insinuated that following the teachings of Jesus would not be in the best interest of the country … only in the best interest of the individual. Wow!)

Toward Understanding and Harmony: One Way Forward

While looking back on previously published poetry for inclusion in (possibly) another printed collection, I ran across this one that seems appropriate, not only at the beginning of this New Year, but also for the current political climate here in the U. S.! (Who knows? Perhaps POTUS will read it and be transformed into something of a real human being! LOL) Ah, but here it is, from back in August of 2015:

So often it’s so easy to misunderstand and reprimand
When there’s really no reason for words out of season;
We assume and fume and leave no room for the benefit
Of doubt; never consider we may be wrong, agony prolong
So unnecessarily because we’ve failed to give charity
And beckon clarity for sake of peace instead of caprice
In broken harmony as we release anger and animosity
From paucity of heart; we can be so small when we should
Stand tall in character and integrity with better dignity;
And so much strife would fade in play of fife and flute
Of happier days and higher ways, in serenity and amenity;
Would not this be better than bitter rancor and soul canker?
Perhaps we begin with open ears to hear and eyes to see
In the other our true sister, brother, father, and mother
Rather than unsuspecting foe ready to deal death blow…
Oh, how suspicious we can be when we’re not free
To live and love without attrition of suspicion of ill-will!

There is a Storm Rising

There is a storm rising in the deep cauldron of the sea of humanity,
An untamed insanity, wailing louder and louder, like the wild child
Emerging from the jungle of irrationality to destroy all of banality,
To cannibalize civilization in the realization that it is but a carcass
Only to be eaten now in a free frenzied feast of half-starved beasts;
Woe be to the man of upper-clan, who but fans the flames of blame!
The storm rise is upon us, the size of which we cannot measure . . .
But there will be no pleasure, only pieces of what we now treasure

The Parting Song of Jakelin Caal

Tell me, please, do I look like an outlaw, criminal drug dealer or terrorist?

Did I make a fist in your face, or was I just a child needing to be kissed?

And did I even resist being taken into custody for your political reasons

In this season of xenophobia, when love of another is seen as high treason?

Did I mock you as you’ve mocked us, dear president, or did I merely cry

For water and bread with no more said to those who imprisoned me?

And can you not see how many more boys and girls want more than toys

At Christmas time this year ~ we just want to be safe and full of cheer…

But you didn’t even try, you let me die, and so now here I lie in state

For having taken the bait of an empty promise of safety in a land of plenty,

But do you even know as you string another bow, taking aim for fame?

Ah! But for me it’s okay now … for I am at peace … can you say the same?


You may read about this story reported by USA Today on 12/15/2018 or by NBC on 12/14/2018, which reads in part:

Before the group left Antelope Wells by bus to be transferred to a border station, Jakelin’s father reported that she was ill and vomiting. By the time she arrived at the border station an hour-and-a-half later, she was not breathing. She was revived twice by emergency workers and then transported by air to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she died of cardiac arrest with her father by her side.

Jakelin was severely dehydrated; however, officials say that migrants were given access to water at Antelope Wells…

The incident raises questions about CBP’s emergency procedures and the Trump administration’s policy of delaying immigrants at legal ports of entry, forcing them to decide between waiting for weeks to months in dangerous border towns or traveling through dangerous areas along the border.