You’re Angry at the Wrong People

It’s very common for xenophobic people to say something like, “Illegals are taking are jobs.” They don’t care if it’s true or not because truth is not the primary aim of the xenophobe or the racist. Their primary aim is to get people angry at undocumented immigrants and then let the hate do the heavy lifting. Lately, the same people that say things like these are also saying that the economy is so much better now than during the Obama Administration, with low unemployment and higher consumer confidence.

So, which is it? Either “illegals” are taking jobs, or there are more jobs than ever. Again, honesty and critical thinking are not the goals of those who would vilify and entire group of people for political gain. It’s a tried and true political maneuver by those without vision to find scapegoats and to play on the fears of the people.

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When you dig into the facts of undocumented immigrants and jobs, you find that the overwhelming majority of jobs done by undocumented immigrants are jobs that sit idle without them. According to the Brookings Institute:

“According to a comprehensive National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine analysis, immigration does not significantly impact the overall employment levels of most native–born workers. The impact of immigrant labor on the wages of native–born workers is also low. Immigrant labor does have some negative effects on the employment and wages of native–born high school dropouts, however, and also on prior immigrants, because all three groups compete for low–skilled jobs and the newest immigrants are often willing to work for less than their competition. To a large extent, however, undocumented workers often work the unpleasant, back–breaking jobs that native–born workers are not willing to do. Sectors with large numbers of undocumented workers include agriculture, construction, manufacturing, hospitality services, and seafood processing. The fish–cutting industry, for example, is unable to recruit a sufficient number of legal workers and therefore is overwhelmingly dependent on an undocumented workforce. Skinning, deboning, and cutting fish is a smelly, slimy, grimy, chilly, monotonous, and exacting job. Many workers rapidly develop carpal tunnel syndrome. It can be a dangerous job, with machinery for cutting off fish heads and deboning knives everywhere frequently leading to amputated fingers. The risk of infections from cuts and the bloody water used to wash fish is also substantial. Over the past ten years, multiple exposés have revealed that both in the United States and abroad, workers in the fishing and seafood processing industries, often undocumented in other countries also, are subjected to forced labor conditions, and sometimes treated like slaves.”

So I guess Trump wants to bring back slavery? Kind of? Yes?

What is really happening here is that you — my most conservative of friends — are angry at the wrong people. You’re angry at Juan and Ramón for traveling hundreds of miles under the most horrifying of conditions and getting a job as a slave instead of being angry at the fat, happy and rich dudes at the top of the financial food chain who play fast and loose with other people’s money. It was neither Juan nor Ramón, nor Juanita, who sold sub-prime loans to people with very bad credit to the point of crashing the economy in 2008. None of them had any say in Walmart recently firing hundreds and closing down stores all over the place.

Speaking of which, did you notice that the president congratulated himself for Walmart giving out bonuses under the guise that the recent tax plan allowed them to do so, but said nothing about Walmart continuing to sell a ton of stuff from not-America? Weird, huh?

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Yeah, okay. Not selling American is Walmart’s least of its problems.

Nah, man… You’re angry at the wrong people. Congress had a chance to fix immigration back during the Bush Administration, but they didn’t because they couldn’t come to terms on their differences and do something good for the country. Even after the Republican President had asked Congress to fix immigration, and the Democrats controlled both the Senate and the Housethey still couldn’t get it done. So here we are, ten years later, dealing with immigration again. But, yeah, get angry at Pedro and María and little Carlito.

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No, don’t get angry with Carlito.

And I’m also looking at you, my most liberal of friends. You’re all angry at Trump and his supporters, and you can’t fathom how people voted for him to get him elected. But you ignore the decades that people in the Rust Belt and Appalachia were ignored and even laughed at for wanting something to be done about their declining situation. “Those hillbillies,” you seemed to say. “Look at them not using their white privilege.”

“But, Ren, didn’t you also not fathom how people could possibly vote for a racist misogynist with a history of bad financial decisions?” you ask.

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And, like a big boy, I’ll admit that I was angry at the wrong people. Instead of being angry at the previous administration and the many different state administrations that misappropriated the funds during the recovery so that not everyone benefited, I was angry at people who, understandably, voted for a racist misogynist with a history of bad financial decisions. If you really think about it, the economic downturn and the recovery was the perfect opportunity for the Democrats to finish off the insurgency within the Republican Party and show that the Tea Party offshoot cult, er, branch of the Republican Party were really all nuts. Obama and friends and friends could have tried to pass legislation to benefit the poor and disadvantaged Americans who would eventually vote for Trump. Even if the Tea Partiers blocked such efforts, Hillary and friends and friends could have pointed to such efforts in 2016 and asked for more help in helping others.

But no. The economic recovery ended up leaving a ton of people behind, and they were not going to buy what any Democratic candidate was selling given how Obama didn’t work so well for them. Then you had Hillary Clinton, who wouldn’t let Trump hoist himself by his own petard, make one elitist misstep after another. However, in doing so, we got what can very well turn out to be the most ineffective and embarrassing president in history.

I mean, you know it’s bad when Trump makes you miss Bush 43, a president who took us into Iraq under false pretenses.

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Okay.

What the adults in the country need to do is to sit down and think hard about who — or what — is really at fault for “what is wrong with America.” Is it Hector and Esteban who traveled hundreds of miles at great peril to be treated as slaves? Is it gay and lesbian Americans who ask that they be treated as equals and not as lepers because of whom they happen to be attracted to? Is it Black Americans who ask that their people not be summarily executed by police during not-so-random traffic stops?

Or is it super-wealthy business executives who pay through the nose so that favorable legislation gets passed for them? Is it the college coach who gets paid millions while so many young men and women cannot afford higher education? Is it the drug dealer who sells opiates and other life-ending drugs to the most vulnerable? Or is it the “association” that fights hard for the rights of guns to be unsafe while mass shootings kill children and suicides pile up?

It’s okay to be angry, but it’s better to be angry at the right people.

Let Them Get Hoisted by Their Own Petard

There was a moment in the 2016 election when many, many people — myself included — were convinced that there was no way that Hillary Clinton could lose the election. It happened sometime after the first debate. Clinton even did a little dance about it:

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There was no way that the Orange Man-Child could mount a comeback and win, right? This was especially true (in our minds) after he admitted to groping women.

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Artist’s rendering of Trump grabbing… you know.

So what happened?

What happened was that Hillary Clinton and Friends (and Friends) decided to pile-on when it came to the missteps of the Great Orange One. They put out email after email and television spots, and everything else they could, to emphasize that the man-child was also a sexual predator and overall creepy guy. Then they took it one step further and decided to accuse everyone who thought of voting for him of being, well, “deplorable.”

To be honest, I’ve ended several personal and professional relationships with people who voted for El Anaranjado, but I’ve done so after the election and after they were unable to explain to me why they supported his xenophobic and homophobic proclamations. “Yeah, but her emails, though,” was more than just a joke in a meme. They actually said to me with a straight face that they could not vote for someone who mishandled emails like that. But they could somehow vote for a racist, sentient urinary tract infection? So I saved them the trouble of being conflicted and just cut them off.

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But I digress…

That whole strategy backfired because people like to take sides. We like to grab on to a team and be loyal to it. For a big section of Republicans, being called “deplorable” (and other names) only cemented their support. Like petulant children, they grabbed on to their candidate and decided to vote for him come hell (almost literally, if we keep playing games with North Korea) or high water (almost literally, given global climate change). Combine that with a low turnout of Democrats in critical areas of the Rust Belt, and we have what we have.

Now look at what happened in Alabama last month. There, Roy “16 and Under” Moore was the likely winner in state that has gone for the right-wing candidate for a long time. It doesn’t get redder than Alabama when it comes to politics. Only the urban and suburban bastions of Birmingham and Mobile were projected to go Blue, and that would not be enough. To win, Doug Jones would need a lot of votes to come out of the not-so-rural areas, and a lot more to come out of the rural ones… And for Republican voters to stay home.

So did Jones attack Moore for Moore’s sexual predation of young, teenage girls at malls? Nope. He stayed quiet and just rode the wave of disgust to its natural conclusion. The voters of Alabama were not going to put a predator in the Senate, and the Black voters of Alabama were going to vote against a very weird and racist dude with a small gun. And the Republicans who did vote for El Gato Moore? Many of them stayed home. They were not called names. They were not incensed by “The Liberals.” Jones just kind of stood back and let “U16” Moore’s own actions and words be his undoing.

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Fast-forward to this week, when an “explosive” new book about the Trump Presidency is being published. An excerpt of the book on the New York Magazine website has this interesting passage:

“On Friday, January 27 — only his eighth day in office — Trump signed an executive order issuing a sweeping exclusion of many Muslims from the United States. In his mania to seize the day, with almost no one in the federal government having seen it or even been aware of it, Bannon had succeeded in pushing through an executive order that overhauled U.S. immigration policy while bypassing the very agencies and personnel responsible for enforcing it.

The result was an emotional outpouring of horror and indignation from liberal media, terror in immigrant communities, tumultuous protests at major airports, confusion throughout the government, and, in the White House, an inundation of opprobrium from friends and family. What have you done? You have to undo this! You’re finished before you even start! But Bannon was satisfied. He could not have hoped to draw a more vivid line between Trump’s America and that of liberals. Almost the entire White House staff demanded to know: Why did we do this on a Friday, when it would hit the airports hardest and bring out the most protesters?

“Errr … that’s why,” said Bannon. “So the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.” That was the way to crush the liberals: Make them crazy and drag them to the left.”

My emphasis in bold.

This has been the strategy of Chief Troll Bannon and his troll army. They exist to push buttons and have people overreact to their provocations. Then, when people do react, these trolls quickly act like victims and point and say, “See? They’re nuts!” And this has been a favorite tactic of the anti-vaccine trolls as well.

One such troll we’ll call “The Kid” traveled to talks given by a prestigious vaccine scientist and pediatrician, asking some very idiotic questions and provoking organizers of those talks to act against the little troll. The Kid would then go on his blog and tell his followers of how he was victimized, and how he was not victimized because he was launching handgrenades of lies and misinformation… He told his followers that he was being victimized for being autistic, and — naturally — he was autistic because of vaccines.

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While I do love me some back-and-forth with anti-vaxxers and the like, I’m learning more and more not to play into their game. If I go at them and call them what they are (idiots), they’ll just play the victim and say that I’m victimizing them. When anyone does this to them on social media, they are quick to say that someone is making fun of their “damaged” children. In fact, that was the whole subject of an email to the Dean of Students at the school where I go. They accused me of using this blog to make fun of autistic children when I was clearly making fun of idiot antivaxxers.

So I hope that all this is a lesson to people who are planning to run for office in 2018. Yeah, it will be a referendum of sorts on the Trump Administration, but try to stick to the issues at hand. Hillary Lost because she didn’t really have a plan for the forgotten people of the Rust Belt and Appalachia, and the South. She didn’t have a plan for African Americans who are hit with the double whammy of institutional racism (which hardly went away during the Obama Administration) and poverty, though they both go hand-in-hand.

The candidates in 2018 need to go above and beyond “Trump Sucks!” to win. (Remember “Bush Sucks!” in 2004? Didn’t work, did it?) They need to explain to us that they have a better plan to deal with threats like North Korea, and that they will continue to promote policies that have led to the current gains in employment and consumer confidence. (Hint: It wasn’t Trump that helped with that. We’re riding a high of an economic recovery after the Great Recession.) Because, frankly, we know that the Great Orange Emperor is a big baby with fancy toys. We know he sees women as objects, and that he will turn against anyone who dares speak ill of him.

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We know all that. What we, the voters, really want to know is what the next Representative, Senator, and President will do to right the ship for everyone, not just people on one end or the other of the spectrum.

Enough divisiveness, is what I’m trying to say.

Confession: I would not have voted for Obama in 2008

In the fall of 2008, while I was out on the eastern shore of Maryland for work, I got the chance to catch one of the presidential debates between Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama. I wasn’t a citizen yet, so I would not be able to vote that November, but I definitely had my favorite to win: John McCain. You see, I had not swallowed the claims from the Left that a McCain presidency would mean another 4 years of George W. Bush policies. Anyone who really studies how Senator McCain operates on a political spectrum knows that he’s not that far to the Right.

Also, when McCain ran for the nomination back in the 2000 election cycle, he was the victim of a lot of dirty tricks from the republican establishment. When the attacks on September 11, 2001, happened, my boss at the time was glad that John McCain was not the President. “Missiles would have been flying,” he said. “Instead, Bush will take us into war with cooler heads.”

Yeah, that didn’t quite work out so well.

Anyway, back in 2008, I also didn’t like the use of the phrase “redistribution of wealth.” It sounded very radical — and radically to the Left — to me. I was young, making relatively good money working at the lab and at the health department, and the idea of more taxes didn’t really appeal to me. I was still under the impression that I didn’t receive that much help from the government. Boy, was I ever wrong.

When I was a kid, mom and my siblings and I received food stamps. I was on food stamps through college, so I didn’t go hungry. I also received a Pell Grant and very low interest loans to go to college. And I got free healthcare from the university as well. All that money didn’t materialize out of thin air. In 2008, I had almost forgotten that wealth was redistributed so that I could make my own wealth.

The more I worked in public health, the more I realized that hyper-conservative ideas do more harm than good. (As do hyper-liberal ideas, by the way.) As the Republican Party was taken over by the Tea Party Conservatives, they declared a war on Brown people like me, especially immigrants like me. By the time I became a citizen and registered to vote, the Republican Party had left me altogether. My ideals began aligning more with the Democratic Party, though not entirely.

This change also happened from continuous exposure to my wife and her way of thinking. She is a very bright woman, and she had very good arguments to counter the more radical “right wing” arguments I had. Through great conversations throughout our relationship, she convinced me that there is nothing conservative about many of the weird policies that conservatives push.

For example, on abortion, conservatives want to ban abortion and punish women who undergo those abortions. But they don’t want to do anything else to prevent unplanned pregnancies. If they really wanted to prevent abortion, they would allow comprehensive, science-based sex education in schools. They would allow free and open access to contraceptives (not just the pill). And they would accept that sex between consenting partners — which is something 99.9999% of humanity will partake in at one point in their lives — is nothing to be feared or kept secret.

On taxes, I’m all for stopping wasteful spending. I don’t know anyone, on the Left or the Right, who is a reasonable person who doesn’t want that. We can’t waste our resources just because we can. We might not always be able to spend like we do. There have been and will continue to be economic recessions. So it is much better to be prepared and have the resources available for those “rainy days.” At the same time, a progressive tax plan allows the nation to get the money it needs from us while leaving us with enough money to survive.

For example, if I made $28,000 a year and was taxed at 10%, then I have $25,200 to live on. Now, take someone who makes $100,000 a year. If they are taxed at 10%, they will have to “get by” on $90,000. Even though we both get taxed at the same rate, they are left with over 3.5 times the money I have. This is where the weirdos come in and tell me that the person making $100k a year worked hard for it, and I’m sure they did. But there are millions of people making $28k a year who work even harder, so that’s not a good argument. I could make the same argument that the person making $100k gets tax incentives and rebates paid for by my 10% contribution more than anything I get paid for by theirs, like the tax reimbursement for homeowners or the tax-sheltered retirement fund.

Of course, you can’t tax people and corporations so much that they go to other countries to protect their cash. And you can’t scare people away from moving up to the next tax bracket, either. If making $30k a year in my hypothetical example meant moving up to a 12% tax, meaning I’d have $26,400 ($1,200 a year or $100 a month extra), I might not think that it’s really worth it to move up… Or I might try to do something — like getting paid “under the table” — to protect those extra $166 a month.

Tax plans need to be smart, progressive, and mindful of the needs of the people you’re taxing… Is what I’m trying to say. Just saying that “The Government” is going to “redistribute your wealth” is not a good strategy, so that’s where I kind of got scared of the Democratic plan, especially as I was seeing the beginning of the Great Recession happening. (A couple of friends at the lab where I worked were nearing retirement and saw their retirement accounts take huge hits, and that kind of scared me.)

Then there is the issue of immigration. Believe it or not, there was a time when Republicans were very reasonable on immigration:

Shortly after the election of George W. Bush, however, Republicans changed their tone radically and very openly to be against any and all immigration. Immigrants were the biggest problem when it came to crime and poverty, according to them. People who looked like me should be required to show proof of being in the United States legally before receiving the most basic of services, or when being pulled over for a simple traffic infraction. In Frederick County, Maryland, close to where I lived, the local police and sheriff were all-in when it came to “hunting down” illegal immigrants, so much so that they trampled on people’s rights. (Even if it resulted in a ton of money wasted on legal bills to the county.)

That was probably the last straw for me. Although I had registered as a Republican upon becoming a citizen and registering to vote, I was not going to be voting for a Republican candidate for a while, especially where I lived in Pennsylvania. In my congressional district, Representative Scott Perry has managed to be the perfect caricature of a science denialist and someone who takes advantage of every little crisis to make it about himself. According to him, we shouldn’t regulate pollution because God is a polluter. He also seems very scared of holding public town hall meetings. He mostly does “town halls” online, from his Washington office, and only with people who have the time to get online. Or he’ll have phone town halls, where you’re required to fully identify yourself and have your question screened. No uncomfortable questions go through.

Oh, and his sycophant followers get angry at me for not addressing Mr. Perry as “General” Perry since he is a general in the reserves. Sorry, dudes, I’m not in the military, and he is not acting as a general in the military when I ask for a redress of my grievances from him as my elected representative. The snowflakes who get offended at me calling him “Mr. Perry” are just going to have to deal with it.

So, here we are, one year into the empire, and the Republicans continue to distance themselves from me. Child health insurance programs have been de-funded. Americans in Puerto Rico were left on their own to die and suffer from diseases after Hurricane Maria. The new tax plan that’s being shoved through will raise my taxes instead of decreasing them. And don’t even get me started on how, under the guise of “less government,” they want to pass laws that intrude more and more in my life and the lives of my loved ones.

I’m sure glad the Emperor didn’t run back in 2008. We needed those eight years of Socialist Communist Kenyan Alien Illuminati Obama so that those of us who lived through them can have memories of how a President of The United States should behave.

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The Government Is You

I must have been four or five years old when I attended my first political rally. Dad worked for the state-owned mining company in charge of mining uranium. (Uranium which would be shipped to the United States for nuclear energy and atomic research and bombs.) He was a field worker, going out into different parts of Mexico to look for sources of uranium to mine. In the early 1980s, the company started to have problems keeping its obligations to its workers, so the workers went on strike.

I don’t remember much about the “mitin” in question. The only details I remember is sitting on dad’s shoulders and seeing a big crowd around me. Ahead of us, a man yells something into a bullhorn. Suddenly, everyone raises their fists in the air and begins chanting, “¡Este puño sí se ve!” (“This fist can be seen!”) They continue the chanting for a while, and then I join in with my little fist in the air. Upon seeing this, dad smiles and raises me higher so I can get my fist even higher in the air.

I had joined the rebellion.

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“¡Este sándwich sí se ve!”

After the company failed to meet the workers’ demands, the strikers succeeded in closing it all down. What was left of the company was privatized and eventually shuttered. You can see the old mines closed-up and abandoned back in my ancestral hometown. Such was the power of the people.

Things not always went well with political dissidents in Mexico, however. There were many times when my grandfather, father and uncles got in hot water with the authorities as they became political dissidents and activists with the National Action Party (PAN, in Spanish). They would go to polls to watch election proceedings and make sure the ruling party — the perfect dictatorship — wouldn’t stuff ballot boxes. If there were any shenanigans, they would make a lot of noise to get the people and the world to notice.

And noise they made.

Since the election back in November, I’ve had a number of close friends and family who “lost it” when they saw a misogynist, racist, authoritarian fraud get elected. They are convinced that these are the end times, and that we’re all collectively screwed. I take another stance. I think we’re going to be okay.

Yeah, alright, so some things may be lost and damaged with this new administration and Congress. There may even be times when people’s liberties will get trampled on. We might lose a freedom or two. You know what, though? We won’t stand for it. We’ll raise our fists and make them seen. The people in power will hear us either because we protest or because we come out and vote en masse in the next election.

We do not live in a Banana Republic.

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We’d look very fashionable if we did. (Banana Republic is a clothing store.)

Some of us will go a step further and financially support organizations that will do some of the tough work for us, like the ACLU or Anti Defamation League. Fewer of us will actually do stuff personally, like contacting our elected officials or attending their meetings to tell them how we really feel. (Rep. Scott Perry must absolutely love me by now, especially after I called his office to sarcastically thank him for allowing Zika to get out of control.) An even smaller subset will manage to get something done.

But it will get done.

As President Obama said, “We’re going to be okay.”

See, the government is very much you. I know that there are times when you feel disconnected, or that the people in power don’t see the world the way you see the world. That’s where you need to show them. You need to be their eyes and ears and make it known to them that you are watching. It is very healthy of people in a democracy to make the government be afraid of its citizens, not the other way around. (Never allow it to be the other way around.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I need to make this whole thing a better place for my future child (due this summer).