Thursday, June 21, 2018

Raising Holy Hell

In democratic societies, we educate children so that they will learn the values, habits, and skills they will need to be good citizens; so that they are capable of undertaking their role as citizens in a self-governing society. That is the ideal, at least, and one that I seek to fulfill as a preschool teacher. There is a good debate to be had about whether or not the United States is a democratic society, and we unquestionably fall short at times, but whatever the case most of us still place a high value on democracy, both as it is embodied in our Constitution as well as in how we live our day-to-day lives.

Yesterday, the President, after weeks of claiming that his hands were tied, that the law required him to separate the children from their asylum-seeking parents and put them in concentration camps, signed an executive order, ending the policy with the stroke of a pen. He had this power all along, just as the cruel policy itself was his and his alone. This is an admission that he and his entire administration has been, and continues to lie to the American people, inflicting irreparable and unforgivable abuse on children. The good news about the executive order is that children will, for the time being at least, be allowed to remain with their parents. It is a win for these kids no mater what, even if this dark period in American history is far from over.

We can all take a moment this morning to acknowledge that we made this happen. One of the skills required of full citizenship is to raise holy hell and we have done just that. It was our emails, phone calls, social media rants, and street protests that made this happen. We may not have them on the run, but we have knocked the forces of evil off balance. We have made them flinch, we have backed them down, and made them afraid. We have proven that we are legion, a force to be reckoned with, we the people.

But let's not get lost in patting ourselves on the back. Like I said, this is far from over. It seems that the administration now plans to basically imprison entire families, not for crimes, but for coming to our nation's border to seek asylum, a perfectly legal act. And even if there are some who have crossed the border illegally, this is still not a crime under US law, but rather a misdemeanor, which is why past administrations have cited them, set hearing dates, then released them until their cases could be considered, the way one does with misdemeanors like writing bad checks or disorderly conduct. And while kids will get to stay with their parents, children will still be imprisoned in our name; these will still be concentration camps.

The current law, as detailed in a court agreement referred to as the Flores settlement (the very law the President lied about tying his hands) only allows them to hold children for a maximum of 20 days, after which they must be released. Government lawyers are apparently going to court in an effort to have that changed so they can imprison these families indefinitely, but from what I've been reading, they are not likely to be successful. My take on this is that the executive order, as imprecise as it is, is designed simply to create breathing room for the administration, to allow them to catch their breath after the holy hell we've raised. We cannot give them breathing room! From where I sit, the next front line is to demand that the 2,500 children who have already been stolen from their parents be returned. These children have already been brain damaged, and it is getting worse with each passing day. Please don't let up. These kids need us.

They cannot enact their evil policy without the help of corporations. Here is a partial list, including emails and phone numbers of companies known to be collaborating. This is an effective way to raise holy hell. Yesterday, American Airlines announced it will not continue transporting these children. Apparently, United Airlines and Southwest have joined them.

There has been a lot of misinformation (and flat-out lies) being spread about this. Here is fact-checking by the ACLU that addresses most of the major lies being told. Despite knowing better, I have found myself trying to persuade people that they are wrong, but they seem to be immune from facts, calling everything I say "fake news." We don't engage in these debates on social media in order to persuade the people with whom we are debating, we do it to inform and persuade the third-parties who are reading along: fact-checking does persuade the undecided.

There are a huge number of street protests happening every day all across the country, especially in places where there are ICE facilities. A national day of protest is being organized for June 30. Let's put our feet in the street for these kids.

There are also opportunities to make financial donations, including the ACLU who are fighting for these children in the courts. You might also want to consider this group: they have raised over $15 million to date and the number is growing by the minute.

And finally, of course, continue to call your representatives, even if they are already on our side and raising holy hell of their own. Let them know you want them to keep going: don't let them catch their breath either. And if your representatives are still siding with the President, it is even more important to continue to hammer them with your moral outrage. This is what has knocked them back. This is sometimes how things must work in a democracy.

No one ever said that democracy would be quick or easy, but it only works when we the people step up to the responsibilities and challenges of self-governance. As the grandfather of progressive education wrote, "Democracy has to be born anew with each generation, and education is its midwife." Those of us who work with young children, whether teachers, parents, or grandparents, are the midwives of democracy, and part of that is to raise holy hell. So let's keep raising it!

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