Monday, June 18, 2018


I’m old enough to remember all the hype at the turn of the century—Y2K—when, with the flip of a switch at 11:59 on December 31, 1999, all of civilization as we knew it was supposed to instantly crumble when clocks, computers, and other date-reliant mechanisms would suddenly quit working. I was at a concert off the grid in Florida then, and I remember calling my dad from my Nokia cell phone early in the morning on January 1. 

“Is the world still turning? What happened?” I asked. Nothing, of course, was the answer.

I’ve thought of Y2K often in relation to the specter of creeping authoritarianism and disregard for constitutional norms that we're seeing with the Trump administration, and ask myself if it’s possible people are “overreacting.” But, as the writer Virginia Heffernan said recently on Twitter, she cannot identify a time in history when a population has “overreacted" to corruption and kakistocracy on this scale.

I don’t actually think America is the next “Nazi Germany,” if only because—and this is Trump’s saving grace—the man's mercurial self-absorption and lack of coherent ideology hopefully foreclose the kind of cold, calculated extermination efforts we saw there and in other genocides. Which is not to say that irreparable damage cannot be and is not currently being done to people who are not you or me.

And this is critical, I think. I’m seriously disturbed by my so-called “friends” on social media who are defending the family separation policy: 

“These people are breaking the law!” No they’re not, many are seeking legal asylum, or being intentionally prevented from doing so through legal means. And anyway, Jim Crow and slavery were once “the law” too.

“But kids and parents don’t get to stay together in America when parents go to jail!” American kids and parents aren’t separated from each other by armed agents, without a trial, with no assurance of reunification, with no idea when they will ever see each other again, and "lost" to unknown persons. 

“But it’s the law, and prior administrations did it!” No, it’s not the law, and no, prior administrations did not have a “zero tolerance” border policy that led to family separations. Also, of course, the United States has a looooooong and ignoble history of forcibly separating families of color.

I almost can’t blame my "friends" for being misinformed, though I pity their lack of compassion amid a lot of professed piety and religiosity, might I add. Part of the difficulty of living in this time is the confusing, conflicting, and endless stream of information we get 24/7 from sources ranging from downright insane to generally credible. That makes it very hard to get to the bottom of what the “truth” is, and that, of course, is one of the tools used by propagandists to confuse the public.

The point is, I know three things for a fact: (1) A lot of VERY wrong things are happening in this country right now, mostly to people of color; (2) Only but for the Grace of God do none of these very wrong things directly affect me right now; and (3) IDGAF what I have to do to make it stop.

Geoff says I should focus on local things, stuff here in Juneau. Well, I do that, I serve on the AWARE board and do pro bono cases locally, among other service and volunteer work where I can. But now I’m committed to ending this family separation policy and working on immigration issues because, to paraphrase the Martin Niemoller poem, first they come for "them", and no one says anything; then they come for you, and no one is left to help.

I’m partnering with people in Alaska who do immigration work right now to see what I can do remotely until the winter when, if help is still needed, I plan to travel to the Southwest and lend whatever elbow grease I can to this issue.

Maybe I and other fortunate people will be able to say “no big deal, this was just Y2Kray,” but for lots of human beings, this administration is already the totally un-American humanitarian disaster it’s been hyped up to be.

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