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About Michelle Obama

I am not a fan. On the other hand, I am not sure identifying as a fan is much of a credential. Michelle Obama has a book out. Among all the literature I have weathered lately, I think that when it all settles down I might read her book. A commentator on cable called it “literature.”  I think I might try that.

I was disappointed in Woodward’s Fear. It was too recent. Too close to home. Too much what we live with day-to-day. Maybe a little too forgiving. Maybe not “a little.”

Michelle writes, as I understand it, as a mom and a wife. I think I can digest that. I celebrate this book. I am not a fan. She was my FLOTUS. Her story is history. I believe she has documented it responsibly.

Becoming is her story and ours. I understand that she is a talented writer. I know she is an icon. I think she knows how to handle her roles. I look forward to reading her story.

Image result for Becoming (book)

 

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A word about Mia Love

I have been trashed once or twice on Facebook. Among the most hurtful accusations was that I am a Republican. I have been a registered Democrat since 1968.

Donald Trump was way out of line today. His remarks about Mia Love were sexist, misogynistic, and untrue.

1. She has not lost, yet. That race remains undecided as I type.

2. His play on her name was crude and distasteful.

3. Any elected official should feel s/he can appeal to the sitting president for assistance in a hostage situation without her/himself being held political hostage to that president.

I do not agree with Mia Love on any of her policy positions. In fact, I disagree strongly. But she did not deserve to be spoken of as if her party affiliation somehow put her at Trump’s beck and call. In fact it was worse than sexist and misogynistic. There was a racist undertone.

Being a Republican does not make her his personal property. The 13th Amendment abolished that. I haven’t seen anyone speak up about this. So I will.

This race is still undecided. I hope McAdams prevails. Mia Love, however did not deserve the disrespect accorded her by the man who went on to insult members of the press for asking questions at the same event today and, further, revoked the press pass of one of them.

Whew! Not naming any names here nor citing any works. At a time when female fury is fulminating (sorry – I hate alliteration), how constructive is it to attack a fellow female (oops!) for her effort to contextualize it in her terms?

The problem in this ‘democratic’ culture is that not all voices are heard. Now, once again, silenced populations are mounting protests. No, this is not the first time. A new generation is awakening (i.e. becoming ‘woke‘).

Yes, there is a long history to know and absorb. There are many stories. I have mine, and many of my friends have theirs about the past 50 years. There exists a great deal of documentation of those years for all to read, and no new account need do a ‘review of literature‘ unless the work is a dissertation.

Young women have their experiences in the wake of our efforts. We did not get it done. We tried. I am heartened that younger voices with their own accounts of the past 10 or 20 years are speaking up. We all should be. We should encourage them and support their efforts.

Their experiences are not ours. What our culture needs is not to revisit the thousands of ways women could not advance and be heard. That is documented. We need to find the way that works. Finding the faults in our past failures helps in that discovery. There is plenty of history to read.

We need to move on and listen to the younger voices – their frustration and anger – and where that is taking them.  Sooner or later, we will invent the light bulb.

Image result for edison how many ways not to make a light bulb

 

I chose, instead of my regular profile pic on Facebook, to use a black dot for half a day on Sunday, 9/30/18. I did this as a display of solidarity with my sisters, a few of whom asked this of me and many of whom made the same choice.

Here is an example of the original message.

Longtime friends from the 2008 campaign sent this to me. I chose to participate.  On Facebook, profile pics are not rectangular, so we all had

  • black dots next to our names.

Nowhere was silence requested or even implied. It was strictly a visual display. Like many of my friends, I blacked out my profile pic for half a day and went on posting as usual.

Wow! OMG!

Let me say up front, I have #MeToo stories.  I might never share them for reasons that are mine. But I lived them. They are plural. They were scary, humiliating, and the men, I am convinced, thought they were doing nothing but taking advantage of a moment. Of a situation. It was all in fun. Their fun.

It did not make any sense to me when women were railing at me.

“I will never be silenced!”  – – – #MeNeither:  I am not silent now. Not today. Not ever. I just have a black profile pic today. No one asked me to be silent. I am not silent!

“I will never block my image.”  – – – Actually, your image is not a picture of you. It is a symbol, just like my black dot. So, yes, you have blocked your image, and that’s OK! Just please don’t act like my dot is somehow less eloquent than your logo is or is somehow suppressive. It is as much an expression as yours. Normally my profile pic shows my actual face.

“I am a domestic abuse survivor.” – – – So am I. And?

“It’s spam.”  – – –  Yes. All chain messages are spam, including the many forwarded to me telling me what a great _____ (fill in the blank) I am and please send this to 5 -10 great _____s, and “I hope I get one back.”  I never forward those, and I did not forward this one, but they make some people feel good.  Spam is spam. It is not an invasion by an enemy force. One woman’s spam is another woman’s adorable kitty video or bouquet of flowers.

When you say “I would never,” you don’t really know. You can say “I don’t think I would ever.” But you do not know for certain what you would or would not do in a variety of situations. You can say “I will not today.” That’s fine.  You did not, and I did. The choice does not make you better than me. My choice does not make me the enemy, impaired, less than. I’m not a spring chicken. I have been around.

I chose to go along with my black dot given the friends who sent the messages. I never expected to be raked across the coals. Apparently, I took the road less traveled by since most profile pics I saw on Sunday were not black dots. The ones that were, however, were among my oldest, strongest, fiercest, and most active campaign friends from all the way back in 2008.

Not one of them was silent for the day. That was not part of the program, and it is silly to think it was. You cannot display your profile pic by being silent. You must speak out. We did. So you saw something like this on Facebook.

  • I think X
  • I don’t. I think Y.
  • But look at this (link).
  • Oh, yes I see, but what about this? (link)
  • I don’t know. I have to check that out.

The social experiment did not fail. It showed that many do not trust social experiments introduced as this one was. I trusted the senders. Clearly, more context was necessary. I had the sense that this might have been started by some young activists who have yet to learn how to do this kind of social research. I decided to go along with it. They will continue to learn how to do this given the result.

I love social researchers. It was a nice try. I do not believe this was meant to divide although it appears that there is division. I like to encourage young people in attempts like this.

To the women so angered,  I understand your grievances. I am so sorry. Here is a story I can tell.

On my penultimate day of student teaching, my lovely, bright, hard-working students (ninth graders who had successfully trudged through Lord of the Flies and A Separate Peace – and LOVED them) got a contagious case of giggles while I was writing something on the board. They told me to come out from behind the desk, and I did. There was an adorable, tiny, gray tabby kitten sitting in the middle of the aisle. “He’s for YOU!” I continued teaching with the kitten in one hand. (That happened to me once more, accidentally,  later in my career. It’s oddly easy to deliver lessons while holding a tiny kitten.)

I took the kitten home. I was getting married in a few days. My future husband said absolutely not and my mom would not take it. I had to return the kitten to the kids. I was heartbroken.

I hope that adorable little kitten found a loving home. If he had stayed with me I am pretty sure my husband would have thrown him against the wall. To hurt me. Just as he ultimately threw me. Or down the stairs, as he also did when my paycheck was late.

There is more to the story, of course.

That is the story I can tell. I have others I cannot tell quite yet – or maybe never.

Yes, I am a survivor, and yes, I have been assaulted, and yes, and yes, and YES!

I was never and will not be silent. And YES. For one half day this was my Facebook profile pic.

I did not intend to hurt anyone with it. I meant it in solidarity. I am sorry if you misunderstood.

 

The Russian and Republican trolls sure know how to get under our skin.

A few of you have sent me private messages to let me know that a journalist Imani Gandy has been smearing me over at Twitter as a secret Republican operative. Yes, you read that right. As if we didn’t have enough to battle with the Trump supporters and their hate. In any case, my donation history is public. I have donated to Democrats- largely women candidates, but Democrats only – for decades. I have knocked on doors and made phone calls and hosted campaign events – again for Democrats. I am lifelong Democrat.
I also run The New Agenda, a national women’s organization that is inclusive for all women and advocates for more women in both parties (and in every other realm like the media and corporations etc). She has conflated articles I wrote defending women candidates for my personal politics in an effort weirdly to diminish me.
In any case, I wanted tohey mK clear the air. Sad that anyone is using their efforts to take down people on the same side, but there you have it.
And P.S. I did private message her to share this information, but was given a rude response.

It is impossible to find a more devoted and dedicated archivist of the 91 weeks (so far) of the Trump regime’s damages to our democracy than Amy Siskind, who selflessly publishes every week despite anything else going on in her personal life.

Here is her Medium account >>>> 

This is her website >>>>

This is her book >>>>

I know Amy feels attacked. I, too, have been attacked on social media. The hardest insult to shed is that Republican one. It hurts like nothing else.

So I am here letting Amy know that the Homegirls stand by her and her prodigious work that is recognized as unique in the field.

Don’t let the trolls and haters get you down, Amy. That is their specific objective. You are stronger and more motivated than they are. We know who they are. We know what they are trying to do.

Your work is important. That is why they are attacking you now and probably will in the future. Two words: Keep going!

The Troll Chronicles

This came to my attention. Beware the undertow! They will flash Hillary’s name and demand Hillary 2020. They are foreign agents out to help re-elect Trump by shattering the Democratic Party. Oh, and wait! Here’s the cherry on the sundae: when he wins, it will be her fault and our fault.

You know that Hungarian troll I talked about? Well I did not know this. Now I do.

Hungary is the central HQ for Russia’s European spy agency.

Here is an excerpt from her latest. It is illustrative of style and content.

“Did you know that they had worked together and hit it off before they both ran for office in 2008? In 2005 they worked as a team on environmental issues, such as lead poisoning, safe drinking water, and stricter EPA standards for lead hazard….”

1. The “Did you know…” fronting is straight out of the Russian troll book as exemplified by “Jenna Abrams” who fooled so many smart people.

2. I think we ALL know that both Hillary and Obama had run for office before 2008¹ or how and where would they have been working on these issues?


¹She U. S. Senate in 2000 and 2006. He Illinois State Senate 1996, 1998, 2002; U.S. Senate 2004.


Why are people still following and paying attention to this  – now I will say it  – Russian troll? Her content feed is straight from the Kremlin as the errors betray. She pretends to be American and for Hillary Clinton. She is not American. Her mission is to disrupt the Democratic party and suppress the vote in that party.

I have much more on this topic and this troll that I have hesitated to publish. This should be enough for now. Stay alert. Look for inconsistencies and errors. They are not simple errors. They are betrayals of ignorance by those who would subvert us.

This is Senator Warren’s eyewitness account of what she saw in the McAllen processing center. The words ‘processing center’ should set off bells and whistles.

Elizabeth Warren for Senate 2018
Sunday morning, I flew to McAllen, Texas to find out what’s really happening to immigrant families ripped apart by the Trump administration.

There’s one thing that’s very clear: The crisis at our border isn’t over.

I went straight from the airport to the McAllen Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center that is the epicenter of Donald Trump’s so-called “zero-tolerance” policy. This is where border patrol brings undocumented migrants for intake before they are either released, deported, turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or, in the case of unaccompanied or separated children, placed in the custody of Health and Human Services.

From the outside, the CBP processing center looks like any other warehouse on a commercial street lined with warehouses. There’s no clue about the horrors inside.

Click 'Display Images' to see this photo!

Before we could get in, CBP insisted we had to watch a government propaganda video. There’s no other way to describe it – it’s like a movie trailer. It was full of dramatic narration about the “illegals” crossing our border, complete with gory pictures about the threats that these immigrants bring to the United States, from gangs to skin rashes. The star of the show is CBP, which, according to the video, has done a great job driving down the numbers.

Then an employee described what we were about to see. “They have separate pods. I’ll call them pods. I don’t really know how they name them.” Clearly they had gotten the memo not to call them what they are: cages. Every question I asked them had a complicated answer that led to two more questions – even the simple question about how long people were held there. “Nobody is here longer than 24 hours.” “Well, maybe 24-48 hours.” “72 hours max.” And “no children are separated out.” “Well, except older children.”

The warehouse is enormous, with a solid concrete floor and a high roof. It is filled with cages. Cages for men. Cages for women. Cages for mamas with babies. Cages for girls. Cages for boys.

The stench – body odor and fear – hits the second the door is opened. The first cages are full of men. The chain link is about 12-15 feet high, and the men are tightly packed. I don’t think they could all lie down at the same time. There’s a toilet at the back of the cage behind a half-wall, but no place to shower or wash up. One man kept shouting, “A shower, please. Just a shower.”

I asked the men held in cage after cage where they were from. Nearly all of them were from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras.

Then I asked them how long they had been there – and the answers were all over the map, from a few days to nearly two weeks (72 hours max?). The CBP agents rushed to correct the detained men, claiming that their answers couldn’t be right. My immigration specialist on the trip who speaks fluent Spanish made sure the men understood that the question was, “How long have you been in the building?” Their answers didn’t change.

Cage after cage. Same questions, same answers.

Next we came into the area where the children were held. These cages were bigger with far more people. In the center of the cage, there’s a freestanding guard tower probably a story or story-and-a-half taller to look down over the children. The girls are held separately in their own large cage. The children told us that they had come to the United States with family and didn’t know where they had been taken. Eleven years old. Twelve. Locked in a cage with strangers. Many hadn’t talked to their mothers or fathers. They didn’t know where they were or what would happen to them next.

The children were quiet. Early afternoon, and they just sat. Some were on thin mats with foil blankets pulled over their heads. They had nothing – no books, no toys, no games. They looked shell shocked.

And then there were the large cages with women and small children. Women breast-feeding their young children.

When we went over to the mamas with babies, I asked them about why they had left their home countries. One young mother had a 4-year-old child. She said she had been threatened by the gangs in El Salvador. She had given a drink of water to a police officer, and the gang decided she must be in with the police. The longer she spoke, the more agitated she got – that she would never do that, that she understood the risk with the gangs, but that the gangs believed she did it. She sold everything she had and fled with her son to the United States.

One thing you won’t see much of in the CBP processing center? Fathers caged with their children. After pressing the CBP agents, they explained that men traveling with children are automatically released from the facility. They just don’t have the cages there to hold them. Women with small children, on the other hand, could be detained indefinitely. I pressed them on this again and again. The only answer: they claimed to be protecting “the safety of the mother and children.”

CBP said that fathers with children, pregnant women, mothers of children with special needs, and other “lucky ones” who are released from the processing center are sent over to Catholic Charities’ Humanitarian Respite Center for help. That was my next stop in McAllen. Sister Norma, her staff, and volunteers are truly doing God’s work. Catholic Charities provides food, a shower, clean clothes, and medicine to those who need it. The center tries to explain the complicated process to the people, and the volunteers help them get on a bus to a family member in the United States.

Click 'Display Images' to see this photo!

Sister Norma introduced me to a father and his teenage son from Honduras. The father said that a gang had been after his son, determined that the boy would join the gang. The only way for the boy to escape was to run. The man left his wife and four daughters in Honduras to bring his son to the United States. His only plan is to find work here to send money home to his family. His cousin lives in New Jersey, so CBP sent their paperwork to the local ICE center in New Jersey, and they would soon begin the long bus ride there.

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley provides a lifesaving service to people of all faiths and backgrounds, but with a humanitarian crisis in their backyard, they’re clearly stretched as thin as it gets. With more money and volunteers, they would gladly help more people.

I asked Sister Norma about the women and babies who were in indefinite detention. She said her group would open their arms and take care of them, get them cleaned up and fed and on a bus to a family member – if only ICE would release them.

“This is a moral issue. We are all part of this human family,” they say.

Next, I met with some of the legal experts on the frontlines of this crisis – lawyers from the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Border Rights Center of the Texas ACLU, and the federal public defenders.

Click 'Display Images' to see this photo!

I gave them a rundown of everything I’d seen so far in McAllen, particularly when it comes to reuniting parents and children, and they raised some of my worst fears,

  • The Trump administration may be “reunifying” families, but their definition of a family is only a parent and a child. If, for example, a 9-year-old crosses with an 18-year-old sister – or an aunt or uncle, or a grandparent, or anyone who isn’t the child’s documented legal guardian – they are not counted as a family and they will be separated.
  • Mothers and children may be considered “together” if they’re held in the same gigantic facility, even if they’re locked in separate cages with no access to one another. (In the world of CBP and ICE, that’s how the 10-year-old girls locked in a giant cage are “not separated” from their mothers who are in cages elsewhere in the facility.)
  • In the process of “reunifying” families, the government may possibly count a family as reunited by sending the child to a distant relative they’ve never met – not their parents. Some relatives may be unwilling to claim these children because it would be inviting ICE to investigate their own families.
  • Parents are so desperate to be reunited with their children that they may be trading in their legal right to asylum.
  • The system for tracking separated families is virtually unknown, if one exists at all. One expert worries that for some families, just a simple photo may be all the documentation that the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services have to reunite them. (I sincerely hope that’s not true.)

The longer the day went on, the more questions I had about how the Trump administration plans to fix the crisis they’ve created at the border. So my last stop of the day was at the Port Isabel Detention Center, about an hour east of McAllen. It’s one of the largest detention facilities in Texas.

The Department of Homeland Security had released some details on its plan to reunify families. The release noted that Port Isabel will be the “primary family reunification and removal center for adults in their custody.”

Let’s be clear: Port Isabel isn’t a reunification center. It’s a detention center. A prison.

Click 'Display Images' to see this photo!

There’s no ambiguity on this point. I met with the head of the facility. He said several times that they had no space for children, no way to care for them, and no plans to bring any children to his locked-down complex. When I pressed on what was the plan for reunification of children with their parents, he speculated that HHS (the Department of Health and Human Services) would take the children somewhere, but it certainly wasn’t going to be to his facility. When I asked how long HHS would take, he speculated that it would be weeks, but he said that was up to them. He had his job to do: He would hold these mothers and fathers until he received orders to send them somewhere else. Period.

So let me say it again. This is a prison – not a reunification center.

We toured the center. It is huge – multiple buildings isolated on a sun-baked expanse of land far from any town. We didn’t go to the men’s area, but the women are held in a large bunk-bed facility with a concrete outdoor exercise area. It’s locked, double-locked, and triple locked. Tall fences topped with razor wire are everywhere, each backed up by a second row of fences also topped with razor wire.

An ICE official brought in a group of nine detained mothers who had volunteered to speak to us. I don’t believe that ICE cherry-picked these women for the meeting, because everything they told me was horrifying.

Each mother told us her own story about crossing the border, being taken to a processing center, and the point that they were separated from their child or children. In every case, the government had lied to them about where their children were being taken. In every case, save one, no mother had spoken to her child in the days since the separation. And in every case, no mother knew where her child was.

At the time of separation, most of the mothers were told their children would be back. One woman had been held at “the icebox,” a center that has earned its nickname for being extremely cold. When the agent came to take her child, she was told that it was just too cold for the child in the center, and that they were just going to keep the child warm until she was transferred. That was mid-June. She hasn’t seen her child since.

One mother had been detained with her child. They were sleeping together on the floor of one of the cages, when, at 3:00am, the guards took her away. She last saw her 7-year-old son sleeping on the floor. She cried over and over, “I never got to say goodbye. I never got to say goodbye.” That was early-June, and she hasn’t seen him since.

Even though the CBP officials at the processing center told me that mothers with children that have special needs would be released, one of the mothers I spoke with had been separated from her special needs child. She talked about her child who doesn’t have properly formed legs and feet and walks with great difficulty. One of the mothers spoke of another mother in the facility who is very worried because her separated child is deaf and doesn’t speak at all.

The women I met were traumatized, weeping, and begging for help. They don’t understand what is happening to them – and they’re begging to be reunited with their kids.

Detainees can pay to make phone calls, but all of their possessions are taken from them at the processing center. The only way they can get money for a call is for someone to put money on their accounts. I asked if people or charities could donate money so that they’d be able to make phone calls to their family or lawyers, but they said no – a donor would need the individual ID number for every person detained at the center, and ICE obviously isn’t going to release that information.

Three young lawyers were at Port Isabel at the same time we were. The lawyers told us that their clients – the people they’ve spoken to in the detention center – have strong and credible cases for asylum. But the entire process for being granted asylum depends on one phone call with an immigration official where they make the case for why they should be allowed to stay. One of the first questions a mother will be asked is, “Have you been separated from a child?” For some of the women, just asking that question makes them fall apart and weep.

The lawyers are worried that these women are in such a fragile and fractured state, they’re in no shape to make the kind of detailed, credible case needed for themselves or their children. They had no chance in our system because they’ve lost their children and desperately want them back.

We stayed inside at Port Isabel for more than two hours – much longer than the 45 minutes we had been promised. When I finally went to bed that night, I thought about something the mothers had told me – something that will likely haunt me for a long time.

The mothers say that they can hear babies cry at night.

This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. This is about human beings. Children held in cages today. Babies scattered all over this country. And mamas who, in the dark of night, hear them cry.

I’m still working through everything I saw, but I wanted you to know the full story. The fight for these children and families isn’t over – not by a long shot.

Thanks for being a part of this,

Elizabeth

P.S. Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley’s Humanitarian Respite Center provides food, clothing, medicine, diapers, and other basic supplies for immigrant families released by Customs & Border Protection. They need our support to help more children and families. Please donate now to help their emergency relief efforts at the border.