One year later

A year ago today my cat Buddy died in my arms.  Not a day has gone by that I’ve not thought about him.  I wrote one piece that day with some quick thoughts about what he meant.  The next thing I wrote, one month later, talks in greater detail about the kind of cat he was.

I miss him.  Nothing more needs to be said.  Every pet owner (hopefully) has that one pet that for some reason clicks better than any other.  That was my Buddy.

Today, please spend extra time with your beloved pet.  I guarantee you won’t regret it.

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Update (it’s been a while)

I’ve been trying to get a job with a law firm and in academia and have been spending most of my free time doing that.  The job hunt has made it quite a while since I last updated what’s happening in my cat world.  Be that as it may, here’s what I hope will be a quick note about the cats.

First, the bad news: Chet has left.  I have no idea what happened to him, where he is, or if he’s even alive.  Something scared him when I went out to feed him sometime in October or so and he fled.  He came back, but wanted nothing to do with me other than the food.  I had to put the bowls down and leave before he’d approach.  Then he’d show up every few days and, finally, he just stopped coming around.

He and Spook didn’t get along and it turns out Spook was the aggressor.  All Chet wanted was food and a place to sleep.  Spook wanted the entire territory and Spook won.  At one point, when Chet hadn’t shown up for a couple of weeks, Spook had mostly calmed down and all was well in the world.  Then Spook started living up to his name again, and prowling around the outside of the house, like he’d seen or heard something.  I went out with him and, lo and behold, when I shined a flashlight in the direction Spook was glowering, there was Chet.  When I called to Chet, he ran.  And I haven’t seen him since.

I hope someone caught him and, if he/she didn’t bring him into their house, at least brought him to an animal shelter where he could get treated (we have no kill shelters here, so unless he was really sick and/or injured, he would’ve been taken in).

Now the good news: Spook has adopted us.  He started sleeping in the car, then on my couch, and ultimately on my lap and bed.  He’s a demanding, needy little thing; he craves attention.  He pretty much has the run of the house, gets regular feedings, and has warm, soft bedding to sleep on.

He’s also a really picky eater; one day he’ll eat the canned food we give him and the next day he snubs it – food from the very same can.  We’ve found no rhyme or reason behind his gastronomic choices.  He also varies his general tastes in food.  He’s gone for nothing but fish for a couple weeks then would only eat meat and poultry.

Makes it hard to buy food . . .

Another thing I’ve learned about him is that unfortunately, as with most cats, he likes the computer and has a tendency to stand on it while I’m working.  A couple of times, he stood on the computer when I had Word open. When I went back to the document, I found things like ‘zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’ on the documents.

Good thing I proofread.

Despite those minor irritants, he’s a really sweet cat.  He’s got a soft, kittenish voice and (as much as cats will) listens to me when I tell him what to do (or, more often, not to do).  He’s pretty patient, too.

The most interesting thing is that he’s decided the time from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM is our time.  If I’m writing (work product, email, letters, cover letter, resume, whatever) he’ll come in, poke around and get in my way until I shut down the computer.  He knows we’ll wind up laying on the bed together when he sees “the box” close.  Then he gets excited and starts trying to get into my lap.

At night, he’ll knock my bedroom door open and jump onto my bed.  He makes a soft mewl at me and lays between my calves.  Then – and I’m not exaggerating – he’ll walk right up my torso (including my crotch) and stand on my chest looking into my face and purring.  I pet him for a minute or two, then he moves back between my calves, curls up, and sleeps (he’s a snorer).  A couple times, though, he’s tried to sleep on my chest.

So, all that said, it’s safe to say that Spook is now a part of the family.  I suspect I’ll have many stories to tell in the future.

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Spook news

Spook, for the uninitiated, is one of the two ginger cats who’d turned up at my house at roughly the same time.  Spook was the younger of the two and was ultimately the one who didn’t want to stick around.  I had Buddy so that was okay, but the little guy was cute as most young cats are and I worried about him.

He’d show up every day for a couple of weeks, then we wouldn’t see him for several days.  Sometimes it was due to storms; other times, he’d disappear because Buddy had chased him, he’d gotten chased by some neighbor kids, or the dogs got after him pretty good.  Being a small and pretty submissive cat, he’s easy pickings for pretty much anything bigger.

When he first turned up at the house, he wasn’t wearing a collar.  Then a couple days later, he wore one and a couple days after that he had a tag with a phone number and the name “Tigger.”  The collar turned up on him about the same time as one showed up on Buddy (before Buddy adopted me), so we assumed one of the neighbors caught both of them and stuck collars on them.  Who that might have been remains a mystery to this day.  Regardless, Spook’s collar (and tag) disappeared and no collar ever appeared on him again.

I called him “Spook” because everything scared – spooked – him.  Being talked to, touched, cars driving by, dogs barking, kids laughing/screaming, noise from the TV, everything.  And that’s what we stuck with.  Again, he didn’t stick around, so it was just a handle to refer to to differentiate between him and Buddy.  What, I’m going to say ‘the small orange cat’ so as to not confuse him with Buddy?

Regardless of why he’d disappear, we’d worry: is he okay?  Did the coyotes (foxes, hawks and/or eagles, raccoons, dogs, other cats) get him?  Where does he go when he’s not here or coming by?  And how, when it’s been raining pretty heavily, does he come here clean and dry?  Shouldn’t a stray cat, exposed to the elements, be soaking wet?

We got some answers to these questions – and others.

One of our neighbors came by and asked us to take care of their cat while they went on vacation.  Oh? You have a cat?  The last pet they’d had was a gray tabby that had died some 20 years before; her husband swore ‘no more pets!’ at that time and that, we thought, was that.

Yes, we have a cat.  He’s a small orange cat, has a white spot on his hindquarters.  His name’s Tigger.  He’s yours?  We call him Spook.  Well, his name is Tigger, she said.

She went on to explain that Spook, or Tigger, belonged to a family just around the corner from both of our houses.  The girls (four of them) had this cat and the father brought home a dog (a Viszla mix).  At first, the dog and Tigger got along but then the husband got another dog who chased Tigger and Tigger ran away.

He landed at the lady’s house.  The girls, on seeing Spook/Tigger would try to grab him and hold him (picture Lenny in Of Mice and Men) and he’d run off, hiding from the girls.  He’d run to the lady’s house, where he’d be safe from young, grasping hands, get food and enough attention to tide him over.  And, every once in a while, he’d meander over to our house and get some food, sleep on our couch or the car in the garage (often next to Buddy, which ticked Buddy off after a while but less so near the end), then dash off to the lady’s house again.

So the little bugger effectively has two homes where he gets fed, ours and the lady’s.  He no longer sleeps here, not since Buddy died.  But he comes by almost daily since we fed him during the lady’s vacation.  That means he gets 4 meals/day.  He sticks around whenever the other couple isn’t at home, waiting till their porchlight or bedroom lights come on – then he’s gone, not to come back till . . just before I go to bed, scrounging more food to tide him over till the next morning.

When it all starts again: eating an early breakfast here, then hieing himself off home to get his second breakfast.

Now we know Spook’s full story: he’s a semi-stray cat who fled tortuous children and landed where he gets more food and enough attention to keep himself happy.

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Another cat comes around Pt II

Back in February I wrote about a nasty little beast who started showing up around the house.  He scared Buddy and Spook, chased them both (treed Spook once and cornered Buddy by the patio door) and sprayed the backyard.  Dark eyed with black fur and stripes, he’s a small beast with spindly legs and a short, thin tail.  Because his face resembled a monkey I took to calling him Monkey.  I know, clever.  He’s also got a nasty gash on his neck.  I don’t know what it’s from or how long he’s had it.  I suspect he got it from a fight and it stays red, inflamed and unhealed because he keeps scratching it.

Anyway, I can’t turn cats away, especially when they seem to be starving.  In this case, it might be literal.  Until recently, he’s eaten everything we put out for him, telling me he’s not getting a lot of food on his own or elsewhere.  And since Buddy died, he’s been around a lot more (and not coincidentally, Spook hasn’t been) and at night even sleeps on an old ratty chair on the patio.

I recently stopped calling him Monkey because I noticed that he was actually a pretty polite little cat.  Both Buddy and Spook both demand(ed) food, and were/are slobs when eating, dropping food all over the place.  This one sits patiently on the grass waiting for one of us to notice him so we can feed him.  He also eats almost daintily, nary a drop falling out of his mouth or the bowl.  It’s like each morsel is precious to him and he almost savors each bite (cat as foodie).  Because he’s quiet and something of a gentleman I’ve taken to calling him Chet (after Chet Atkins, whose nickname was The Country Gentleman).

On top of all that, something changed, though.  It’s not that he’s worming his way into my life that much as he doesn’t really stick around after getting his food.  Nor is the fact that he actually started to cry at me when I talk to him (more a squawk, probably because he’s never had to use his vocal cords before).  We had some slight rain a couple weeks ago.  Overnight, he slept on the chair as per usual.  But that day, rather than stick around under shelter, he laid on the ground in the open, getting rained on.

That was more than a little sad.  Seeing a cat, which you’d think wouldn’t want to be out in the rain, sleeping in the rain is slightly jarring.  He may have known what he was doing, though, as the neck wound seemed a little less livid, and may have gotten cleaned by the rain.

But that isn’t what changed my attitude towards him.  He’s trusting me a little more, and doesn’t run off when I go out to feed him (he’d trot off and circle back to the food once I was gone.  Now he stands his ground, waits till I walk away, and then comes to the food bowls).  Anyone who’s ever had a cat start to trust you after being suspicious understands the satisfaction there is in that.  What changed was finding out that his skittishness is due to how he’s been treated by other “humans.”  This cat has been mistreated; how badly is anyone’s guess.

Turns out some kids who live around the block were yelling at him, and throwing things at Chet -rocks and their toys.  They’ve also thrown rocks at me and the house, so I kind of relate.  Age doesn’t excuse the behavior (the oldest is maybe 8 or 9), and not all kids throw things at animals or people.

The poor cat is not only fending for itself, scrounging food whenever and wherever he can, he’s also dodging rocks and balls and likely water, feet, brooms and who knows what all.  He sleeps in the dirt, even when it rains.  He’s quiet (except when fighting) and, to risk repeating myself, is unfailingly polite.  Knowing now how he’s been treated, I am starting to look at him differently.  I’d worked fairly hard at getting him to trust me.  That could’ve been completely destroyed by the kids throwing crap at him.  No one and nothing deserves to be abused.

There’s no great moral, no fun story here.  Just this: the cat’s struggling to survive.  And being mistreated makes him more sympathetic than he was before.  And so we have yet another mouth to feed regularly.

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Some thoughts, one month later

It’s been exactly 30 days since Buddy died in my arms.  As is hopefully understandable, it’s been really hard.  He’d truly become a part of my family and his sudden absence has been really painful.  So many things that I hadn’t expected to do so now trigger memories.  Even simply returning home.  When I’d come home, he’d usually come trotting over to greet me when I called.  I now catch myself announcing my presence when I get home from work, shopping, wherever.  I’d routinely do that and now have to consciously remember not to.

No one greets me anymore.

It took a couple weeks before I could sit on the couch where he and I used to share “our time.”

Then I read a single line from a book about pet death that made me start thinking about the sad memory when he died.  The book is a poem from the animal’s perspective.  This isn’t a recommendation for the book, though it’s gotten generally good reviews.  The single line I saw made me think about what Buddy would have wanted me to remember, were he human.

See, Buddy wasn’t a taciturn cat; he wasn’t cold and aloof.  He was a happy, friendly (if more than somewhat neurotic) cat.  I honestly think that if he knew I was upset about his dying he’d be upset.  Because his life wasn’t about anything than making others (and himself) happy.

He was happy to have found a home after he’d been abandoned.  The joy in his eyes as he stalked the place was unmistakable.  He actually liked his collar.  I think that, to him, it meant he belonged again.  Somebody cared enough to say ‘he’s loved and has a home.’  He really did too.

Never before have I had a cat that liked the collar.  My previous two cats both bucked and pitched a fuss when I tried to put one on them.  Cecil, my old tuxedo cat, as a matter of fact, tried so hard to get it off, he almost choked himself when he got his lower jaw underneath the collar and pulled at it.

Buddy loved his collar.  When I took it off once to comb him and didn’t put it on right away, he sulked.  I’m not kidding: he pouted and wouldn’t sit on me.  When I put it back on him, he rubbed my arm and stomach and curled up on my lap and went to sleep.

Rather than focus on his last day, I now try to remember those things.  I’m also trying to think about how he’d stretch his head to meet my hand when I went to pet him. He’d close his eyes and let me pet him, putting his head in my hand.  How he’d come when I made a certain sound, kind of a nick-nick sound when I clicked my tongue against my palate.  Or, if he was sitting in my lap, he’d curl his paw and/or knead me when making the same sound.  It was our sound, our sign to one another.  It comforted and reassured him and let him know it was all okay.

Another simple, pleasant memory is how he’d strut the place, with his tail straight up and seemingly smiling.  That was his normal demeanor: head erect, tail straight up.  Those who have cats know that means ‘I’m happy.’  That was his typical state.

He was so happy, full of joy.  That’s how he’d want me to remember him.

So while I’m sad at his passing, and not at all ready for taking on another cat (though Monkey is trying to worm his way in), I’m slowly moving away from the sad memories and on to the happier ones.

Because that’s what he’d want.

Again, my dear friend, thank you.

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Goodbye, my friend.

Buddy died in my arms today, at 7:20 AM.

I’m heartbroken.

I’ve had three cats in the last 30+ years.  He was by far the most congenial, best-tempered of the trio.

All he ever wanted was a warm lap and to be petted.

Hopefully I did enough for him on those scores.

He never seemed to get angry. He’d walk away when I bothered him too much.

Walking away when annoyed might be a good life lesson.

Thank you my friend, for everything.

I’ll miss you more than anyone will ever know.

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Another cat comes around.

I’ve been recounting stories of Buddy, a ginger cat who loves my lap and Spook, another ginger cat, who drops by whenever he gets hungry.  We now have a third cat who’s shown up.  Do they have a network or something?  Do they know who will feed them and tolerate their presence in the area?

Regardless, he is not a nice cat.

This one is a small black cat with white stripes, and also has dark colored eyes.  He has a piercing gaze that reminds me of how monkeys look when they’re trying to figure things out.  That’s why I’ve taken to calling him “Monkey.”

He first started slipping into the house when Buddy was off sunning himself (which Buddy hasn’t been able to do much with all the rain we’ve been getting).  That’s ironic as Buddy used to do that when we had Annie.  Because we knew nothing of this latest little beast to show up, we decided discretion being the better part and all that we’d put a bowl of food out for him so that he wouldn’t eat Buddy and Spook’s food: if he has a contagious disease, we don’t want him to spread it to the others.

As anyone who’s ever had anything to do with cats knows, once you start feeding a cat it basically becomes yours.  So he’s stuck around which does not please me.  Because, again, he’s not a nice cat.  Whenever he finishes eating – and he eats everything in the bowl whenever he comes by – he wanders off, spraying and marking the backyard.

It. reeks.

The yard hasn’t had a dominant, male cat spray in it for years.  Buddy doesn’t spray, nor does Spook.  I have to go back literally 15 years or longer with Cecil before I can say a cat’s sprayed in the yard.

That. Stuff. Reeks.

Back to the not nice evidence: he chased Spook up a neighbor’s tree and was about to take off after him up that same tree before I clapped my hands and chased Monkey off.  Spook ran in the opposite direction, not to be seen till the next day.

Monkey scares Buddy to such an extent that Buddy will literally not leave the house whenever Monkey’s nearby – and, because the little brat sprays whenever he’s nearby, we all know he’s around.  So Buddy is getting cranky because he can’t have his outdoor time.  Whenever Buddy sees Monkey, he’ll assume a watchful position, angled so that the little one won’t see him, until Monkey departs.

Spook, for his part, hides under chairs, behind the couch, or in the garage.  Spook won’t leave through the backdoor if he knows Monkey is there (wise given the tree incident): we have to open the front door.  And Spook RUNS out the door, presumably to keep from being attacked by Monkey.

For his part, Monkey is really leery of us humans.  He backs away from the bowl when we go to put food in it.  He watches our every move, making and keeping eye contact.  He’s really wary, trying to figure out whether we’re going to be kind or mean to him.  Since I’ve chased him off a couple times – the Spook/Tree incident and another time when he accosted Buddy who was minding his own business and sunning himself before Monkey came by – I’m questionable.

I must say I feel sorry for him.  I don’t know if he’s an abandoned pet as Buddy clearly was.  What I do know is that he’s been in some wars.  One side of his face is missing tufts of fur, which adds to his scary mien.  I don’t know if that’s due to fighting, though given his propensity to go after Buddy and Spook, I’d think that a fair guess; it could be disease, though.  I really don’t have any way to find out.  He’s skittish, leery, and wary.

This has me somewhat disconcerted.  Buddy and Spook have, to a degree, reached an uneasy peace.  They tolerate each other, though Buddy’s stalking Spook more (he’s chased Spook under a chair a couple times himself).  But there was more or less detente.  Monkey has thrown a, erm, wrench into things and upset the balance.  He may be sick and contagious.  He’s pretty nasty to the two cats who have taken over my home and life.  He sprays.  Last night, he slept on an old chair we have on the patio; there’s a towel on the chair which probably kept him warm and dry, and the chair is under a roof, keeping the elements off.  We’ll see if he continues to sleep there, though he pretty much stuck around all day today.

I just don’t know what to do.

So that’s where things stand in my cat life today.

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Patience, everyone.

As more and more information comes out about the current President and his administration’s ties to Russia, many people are becoming more anxious and wondering whether anything will happen.  By anything is usually meant impeachment, but sometimes includes Congressional inquires and hearings.  My personal belief is that, yes, at some point Congress will finally do something and act.  At some point, they will hold hearings looking into 45*’s relationship with Russia, whether Gen. Flynn improperly spoke with intelligence agents in Russia, what the substance of those conversations were, whether he did lie to the FBI (which it appears he did), and also 45*’s own ties and relationship to Russia.  Remember that he’s denied having anything to do with Russia, but does have business holdings there.  It’s an open question whether he’s borrowed money from Russian sources (it appears he has).  Also an open question is whether Russian intelligence agencies have information about 45* and, if so, what the substance of that information is.

I counsel patience in anticipating these hearings because history shows that investigations into presidential misconduct take a great deal of time.  Andrew Johnson, the first President impeached, was impeached for removing Secretary of War Edward Stanton. That’s an oversimplification, but will suffice for my purposes here.  He removed Stanton, who had essentially been granted life tenure by statute, in 1867.  Congress had long sought reasons to impeach Johnson and that proved to be the one that stuck.  The impeachment happened about a year later; it was not begun immediately after Stanton’s firing.

The next President who ran into serious problems that touched on the “high crimes and misdemeanors” requirement for impeachment was Richard Nixon.  The break-in at the Watergate Hotel – a colossally stupid incident that was amazing for the gross incompetence of the people involved – happened in June 1972.  Months of investigative reporting came out prior to Congressional hearings.  After even more public investigations, this time at the hands of Congress and its special prosecutors and with the assistance of the judiciary, Nixon was forced to resign.  He resigned in August, 1974.

Bill Clinton received oral sex in the Oval Office, lied about it, and was later impeached.  Yes, because he lied about a blowjob, he was impeached.  Regardless, we forget how long it took between the initial encounter between Monica Lewinsky and Clinton and the impeachment: the entire affair (no pun intended) ran between 1995 and 1998.  I’m omitting the whole Whitewater investigation which preceded (and overlapped) the Lewinsky matter; that would add more time to my timeline.  But, again, it was about three years from start to finish.

So I counsel patience if you hope for an investigation to happen and bear fruit.  I suspect it will be quite a while before anything happens.  The GOP has been longing to get rid of the New Deal  (specifically Social Security) and Great Society (specifically Medicare and Medicaid) programs for literally generations.  Add to that their obscene desire to demolish the Affordable Care Act, and they have little motivation to conduct investigations into possible espionage and treason at the highest governmental levels.

Once they dismantle all those social safety nets, they may – just may – act.  At that point, 45* will have served his purpose: sweeping into office Republicans and distracting America from the demolition of the many programs mentioned above that people absolutely rely on.  I anticipate that to take until roughly the 2018 election season.  After the programs are gone – and make no mistake, they WILL be revoked – then the GOP will hold investigations.

The one fly in the ointment is Senator John McCain.  He is the last stalwart, anti-Russian in Congress (Lindsey Graham blows hot and cold, more cold than hot).  He has repeatedly stated his opposition to working closely with Russia and has called for investigations.  He may also be somewhat motivated because the great warrior that is 45* has repeatedly called McCain’s military and legislative service, as well as his rationale for wanting investigations, into question.  McCain may be the last hope for a relatively quick investigation beginning.  ETA: If he does do this, it may well be the most important patriotic act he’s done for his country – and he has done many well documented patriotic acts in the past.

That said, I wouldn’t expect much even from a motivated McCain: he, too, opposes all the social programs.  He is, after all, a Republican.  So if we’re pinning our hopes on McCain coming to America’s rescue and saving us from what increasingly appears to be at the very least a man with questionable judgment related to Russia, we may have a very long wait.

So hold on tight, America.  An investigation,and possibly impeachment, will happen.  It just won’t happen for a while yet.

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On the Muslim Ban

The Muslim Ban cannot go unchallenged.  We’ve lived through other bans and purges, were worse off for it, and later realized how wrong they were.  Let’s take a look at America’s racial history.  Apologies beforehand to any group I leave out; this is an overview and I’m not trying to slight anyone.  Please feel free to add to this rant.

What runs throughout the narrative is always opposition to what sociologists call “the other.”  The “other” is someone or a group who are not part of the ‘in’ group, party, or people.  An example is a high school clique the keeps out whoever those within the clique feel don’t quite measure up.

Any discussion of America’s racial history has to begin with slavery.  It’s not hyperbolic to say that tens of millions of people wrenched away from their families, homes, and country. Slavery was justified for many reasons, not the least of which was because  the enslaved were thought to not be human (that’s a refrain that comes up often in our racial history, btw).  This genocide lasted centuries and the after-effects are still felt today.  The Civil Rights Movement did much to help the plight of African-Americans, but has not resolved the issues that face the group – many of which issues may truthfully be traced back to slavery.

A non-exclusive list of laws aimed at black citizens: “Black Codes” (laws aimed at restricting rights of blacks); the Jim Crow laws; anti-miscegenation  laws; vagrancy laws aimed/targeted specifically at blacks; separate but equal partitioning; many, many more could be listed.  Many argue that laws today specifically target blacks such as the difference in penalties for various drug offenses, as well as disparate sentences given to blacks and whites convicted of the same crime.

At the same time as the Slave Economy was expanding, the country was growing due to European immigrants. But these immigrants were distinctly unwelcome and were vilified as murderers, thugs, criminals and derelicts. Most particularly this was aimed at those from Ireland and Scotland. Unsurprisingly, these immigrants weren’t seen as white. They were lesser than the Anglo-Europeans running the country and were limited as to jobs, housing, etc. Their acceptance was limited and didn’t really happen for decades.  The Irish and Scottish tended to stay to themselves to avoid the animus they faced everywhere outside of their own communities.

Around 1850 or so, more immigrants came from Western (Continental) Europe. These included people from Germany and Austria.  The prior immigrant groups were then accepted as white, but still lesser ‘quality’ than Anglos.  However, German and Austrian immigrants were considered black.  And, just as it did with slaves, that justified the prejudice the Germans and Austrians experienced: as ‘black,’ they were not fully human, considered criminal class, etc.

Even Scandinavian immigrants who came a little later experienced prejudice. Theirs was seemingly justified because of an ‘inability to learn English’ and/or speaking English with a pronounced accent.  And, yes, they too were thought less than human, criminals, etc. As I said earlier, you’ve no doubt noticed this is a recurring refrain.  As did the Irish, Scottish, Germans, and Austrians before them, the Scandinavians tended to live amongst other from their lands.  It is a means by which each group protects itself and its members against the prejudice experienced from the larger society.

Moving ahead a few more decades, immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe  started.  Russians, Poles, Jews from both countries (for Jews were never considered citizens of the countries in which they resided so were a separate immigrant category), and Italians came to the shore.  And, yes, once again, these groups were ostracized and considered subhuman.  The explanation/justification was that they too were criminals,  incapable of assimilating, etc.  And, as with the Irish, Germans, etc., before them none were considered “white.”  But by the time Russians, Italians, etc., entered the United States, these prior immigrant groups were now fully “white” and were even gaining acceptance as Americans, not Irish, etc., and were starting to accumulate wealth.

While Eastern Europeans were landing on Ellis Island in New York and other ports on the eastern seaboard, in the Western United States we had a large influx of immigrants from Asia, particularly China.  As had the European “trash” before them, the Chinese were not accepted by the people or government – except as hard laborers (building the railroad) and in what is now stereotypical “Asian businesses” such as laundries.  Asians were, like European immigrants of the period, not considered human because they were not “white” and spoke a different language.

In the midst of all this, the Supreme Court of the United States weighed in on a number of race-based cases.  The most infamous cases were Dred Scott, 60 U.S. 393 (1857) which held that slaves were not United States citizens and Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), which established the “separate but equal” facilities based on race.  In other words, both cases accepted racist state laws and codified racism in American society.

Moving forward a few decades into the 1930s, the world’s political situation started growing graver.  The world economy was very bad – the ’29 Stock Market Crash reflected the world’s economic instability – and people sought opportunity elsewhere.  But at the same time, war clouds loomed and crackdowns on ‘the other’ within many nations started.  The Germans started its crackdown on Jews and other ‘subhumans,’ the Soviet Union tried to purge itself of ‘enemies of the state.’  The common denominator in both were Jews and the intelligentsia.  Jews and the other ‘enemies of the state’ sought to emigrate to the United States and elsewhere.  They found most of the doors closed.

That’s because before the United States entered World War II, we limited Jewish immigration.  Many of  those turned away died in concentration camps.  The rationale was that Jews did not belong in the United States and were a threat to national security.  This was put forth by none less than the State Department, including the much vaunted George Kennan.

As might be expected from the foregoing, the anti-immigrant animus was not limited to Jews; anyone from countries at war were limited in coming in.  And even then, the animus extended to those already in the United States, those who were of Asian or German descent and/or naturalized citizens.  Ultimately, the United States interned Japanese and Japanese-Americans on our own soil, confiscating their homes, land, and property.  They were an obvious ‘other’ and, thus, a danger to security and the homeland.

In a series of cases, the United States Supreme Court later upheld the orders as constitutional, another point of shame in our land of laws.  Those cases were Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944); Hirabyashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943); and Yasui v. United States, 320 U.S. 115 (1943).  Long afterward, Black said Korematsu was the worst decision of his career.  Let me make this point absolutely clear: Korematsu has never been explicitly overruled/overturned.  Its precedent still stands, which sends chills down anyone’s spine when considering the current presidential regime.

Moving on in this long, inglorious history, the United States had another large immigration from Southeast Asia, most notably Vietnam.  Once again, the influx was opposed.  Despite knowing that the people fleeing Vietnam would be incarcerated at the least, quite possibly killed, the United States limited immigration – even of those who helped the troops while the United States was in-country.  Those who managed to get out of Vietnam were in camps in Thailand, sometimes for years (similar to what’s happening in Africa today).

Later in the late ’70s and into the 80s, the Refuseniks (Russian Jews who were denied exit visas) became a cause célèbre and yet immigration was again limited.  Those limits happened on both ends, the Soviet side and American side (though America did manage to let in many Refuseniks).  But it was right in keeping with America’s anti-immigrant history.

Lately, we’ve seen an embargo on refugees from African nations such as the Sudan and Somalia seeking asylum in the United States.  This immigration dilemma is in flux, yet the situation is grim.

Now, with the Muslim Ban, we’re embarking on the same kind of path as discussed above.  We are not just limiting immigration from countries, but outright denying the people an opportunity to come to the United States.  And solely because of their Muslim religion, for professing Christians from the Arab nations are free to come to this country.  The people seeking entry have gone through long vetting processes; it’s not as though they’re coming in the same day they apply for a visa.  Regardless, we’re seeing war refugees being denied entry – refugees who have no truck with Assad or the opposition and simply sought to live their lives in peace.  We’re seeing people who worked with American soldiers in Iraq as translators and in other ways, who fought side by side with our soldiers, detained due to the ban.  They’ve proven themselves trustworthy – and often at great risk to themselves and their families (they were/are sometimes seen as collaborators with the US occupying force).  We’re seeing people with visas, green cards, etc., et al., being denied reentry.  Please think on that a moment: these are people who have already been vetted, are living and working here, have become resident aliens and/or are students working on degrees in the United States – and they’re being denied the ability to return to the United States if they’ve been abroad visiting family or doing research.

I’ve no doubt history will negatively regard 45’s order. But we cannot wait for history’s vindication.  Hopefully, enough of us will stand up to this racism and say this isn’t us.  It took two constitutional amendments to overturn Dred Scott, XIII and XIV.  It wasn’t until 1954 with Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, that Plessy was overturned.  It takes a while, but America usually gets it right.  Let’s hope that holds true for the odious Muslim Ban executive order, and much sooner rather than later.

Because we’re better than this.



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I weep for my country

We’ve been subjected to the Supreme Leader, Cheeto, for six days now.  What he’s done, with the explicit support of other Republicans and tacit support from Democrats, is chilling.  Our country is becoming unrecognizable.

He’s reinstituted the so-called “Mexico City Policy,” which prohibits clinics both at home and abroad from discussing birth control and abortion.  This will effectively lead to more abortions, not fewer, worldwide.  This is not alarmist, but demonstrably, factually true.  It is also likely that it will make abortions more dangerous too.  Again, not being alarmist, just stating facts.  We’ve been through this before, but it’s disturbing that we have to fight this crap again.

Supreme Leader Cheeto signed another executive order prohibiting immigration from “terrorist nations.”  This also limits or prohibits Syrian refugees from entering the United States.  The language is eerily similar to that used in World War II to prohibit Jewish immigration when the nazi regime started firing up its ovens and camps (and, yes, much of American government was aware of it).

He also signed an order allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to resume.  This is worrisome from an environmental standpoint: it threatens water and land.  It is worrisome from a sovereignty standpoint: it crosses sacred lands of Native Americans.  It is worrisome because Supreme Leader Cheeto has financial ties to the pipeline, being an investor in the project.

He’s obsessed with the lie he perpetuates about voter fraud.  Make no mistake: it IS a LIE.  The reasons he rants about this are (a) he can’t accept that he didn’t win the popular vote and needs an excuse to salve his fragile ego; and (b) he and other Republicans want to restrict voting rights for millions.  It’s entirely possible that they may seek to enact a national voting identification program.  That will restrict voting even further, because the poor, young, elderly, and minorities do not have ready access to those things which will enable them to get the ID card – it’s happened at the state level and WILL happen at the federal level.

The Supreme Leader Cheeto and his band of Merry Minions are conducting a war on the press – a war, by the way, which is completely one sided.  The media is reporting Supreme Leader and Merry Minions, they don’t like the the reporting, and call the reports “fake news.”  Then Supreme Leader via Merry Minions declare they’ll give the country “alternative facts.”  Regardless, they seek to suppress the media who don’t play along.  They’ve already started a crackdown, arresting reporters who merely covered inaugural protests.  This is chilling.

I could go on and on.  These may not seem like much, but they change the way our country functions at its core.  We’re being ruled by executive order, more than we ever have previously – even under the Obama administration (which did not issue as many executive orders as Republicans would have anyone believe).  We are in danger of losing our democratic (small d) way of life.  We are moving towards more repression and suppression of rights.  Our media is under attack, our rights are slowly being repressed, environmental protections and personal freedoms are being disintegrated.  America is under siege.  We are changing and distinctly not for the better.

I will, to the best of my ability, resist because I weep for my country.

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