People Move, Things Change, Families Matter: Thinking through the issue of immigration

Given last week’s confusing stream of Trump-related immigration news and the candidate’s announcements that today he will both travel to Mexico to meet its president and give a major immigration policy speech in Arizona, I thought I’d offer my own thoughts on the issue.

It is, of course, a really tough one – one that seems to be ever-controversial, ever-divisive, and ever able to lose you friends and win you enemies. It can take misunderstandings, resentments, fears, frustrations, and economic and cultural insecurities and tie them up into tight, tricky knots.

Yet I think the issue is one that is especially worth pondering.

Read the rest at the Catholic Review.

The Space Between - People Move Things Change Families Matter - Thinking through the issue of immigration

On My Mind (Vol. 4)

This week’s round-up of my thoughts on political stuff, etc. includes Trump’s odd outreach to minorities, Hillary’s never-ending email saga, annoyance about the “burkini” kerfluffle, and… some less divisive stuff.

Apparently Donald Trump has been attempting to reach out to African Americans, though “attempting” might be a generous word for it. His statements have come across more like, “Black people, your lives are complete and total disasters, but HEY, I love you!”

What a novel idea: insult people in order to persuade them to vote for you.

Truly, though, I was flummoxed when I heard his remarks. How could he think such statements would be persuasive to black voters? It seemed to me that he wasn’t really trying to persuade them, but rather checking off a box on The Presidential Candidate’s To-Do List, which must include “reach out to minorities” right along with action items like “pretend you like babies” (whoops!) and “eat in folksy-looking diners.”

Or was he trying to persuade someone else? I heard a reporter (sorry – can’t remember who) suggest that Trump’s “outreach” to black voters might actually be aimed at suburban white women. And aahhh, yes – that made more sense. The white suburban mom demographic (and I speak from experience here) seems to be uncomfortable with Trump on a number of counts, but a big flashing neon one is his treatment of minorities. We don’t want to think of ourselves as racist, we don’t want to be associated with racists, and so we need assurances that our presidential candidates aren’t racist. I guess.

Read more at the Catholic Review.

The Space Between - On My Mind

 

Weighing the Politics of Death and Destruction

I can’t quite decide how I feel about one of the major themes of this year’s presidential election: Death and Destruction. That is, “Our country has been/is being/will be destroyed and we’re all going to DIE.”

Yes, that’s hyperbolic, but is it far off base?

Donald Trump’s rise was fueled to a large degree by people who think that President Obama or liberal politicians or establishment politicians in general have been running our country into the ground. In their telling, the great country we once knew is either dead and gone or on its way to becoming so.

On the other side of it, many Americans worry (and I confess to indulging in such worries myself) that Trump’s election could trigger the very destruction that his supporters see as already in motion.

Oh, and some of us are Very, Very worried that we’ll die at the hands of violent Islamic terrorists. Or violent criminals – especially the immigrant sort. Others of us are Very, Very worried that we’ll die at the hands of NRA-card-carrying, gun-toting fanatics.

Read the rest at the Catholic Review.

The Space Between - Weighing the Politics of Death and Destruction

Let’s Not Tell Ourselves That None Of This Matters

Last week I saw a meme on Facebook that said something to the effect of: The day after the election, your kids will still be your kids, your home will still be your home, the sun will still shine, and butterflies will still flit about fancifully.

Or something like that. I don’t remember who posted it, so I can’t find it to validate the accuracy of my impression. In any case, the meme was telling us, “Don’t worry; none of this matters anyway.”

To which my inner lobbyist was shouting, “No! This does matter! Elections have consequences! Governments do real things! And you have more power over them than you realize!”

I understand where the meme’s creator and the multitudes who share it are coming from. This election has shaken people. Ideologies are in flux, loyalties are shifting, and opinions that were once shushed are now voiced aloud. Some find the situation thrilling. Many find it disturbing.

For the latter camp, it’s tempting to treat this campaign, and indeed politics overall, as a television show that can be turned off. It’s a topic to be weeded out of a newsfeed, a fad to be ignored, something as disconnected from our real lives as Justin Bieber and the Kardashians.

Except it’s not.

The Space Between -- Let's Not Tell Ourselves That None Of This Matters

Arguing Well on Facebook – Even About Politics

Well, friends, we are deep into that most wonderful of seasons, aren’t we? Election season. And we know what that means: half of our Facebook friends are volunteering their political opinions to the world while the other half are signing off until mid-November.

I kid a little, of course. It’s not as clear as all that. While some people are vociferous in their political opinions, others are completely mum on the subject. Some are cranky, some (few this year, it seems) are inspired, some (many?) are despondent. Some people seem to be unable to handle the heat and so have decided to get out of the kitchen. Some argue their points well; others have little to show for their efforts but annoyed or offended friends and family.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s okay for someone to be annoyed with me because they don’t like my politics. What’s not okay is for someone to be annoyed or offended or hurt by the way I’ve discussed my political opinions with them.

So I try really hard, especially during election season, to make sure I argue my points well. Here are thirteen (what a lucky number!) ways I do that:

Read the rest at the Catholic Review.

The Space Between - Arguing Well on Facebook Even About Politics

On My Mind (Vol. 3)

—1—

I’ve been following the Democratic National Convention this week just as I did the Republican National Convention the week before. (Much to the chagrin of my little children, who find “Grownups Standing and Talking,” as we call it, infinitely more boring than Paw Patrol and The Lion Guard.)

Comparing the two conventions, I have to say that the Democrats have done a better job of the thing. “Bernie or Bust” drama aside, the Democrats’ evening programs have seemed much more solid – packed with a strategic selection of speakers who have made coherent cases for their party’s platform and nominee. (I couldn’t help but feel that the organizers of the Republican National Convention felt compelled to take whomever they could get.)

I’m curious to see what kind of a bounce the convention will generate for Clinton. I think it’ll exceed Trump’s, but pretty much every prediction I’ve made so far about Trump has been wrong, so who knows?

—2—

All that said, I’ve heard a lot at the convention that that I disagree with. (No surprise, as I’m not a Democrat.) And I’m finding the Party’s persistence in advancing abortion on its (literal) national stage to be especially frustrating.

Read the rest (including thoughts on terrorism and the martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel) at the Catholic Review.

The Space Between - On My Mind 3

On My Mind (Vol. 2)

Yesterday morning I published a new post on the new blog, but then rushed my crew off to a fun day at the Maryland Science Center before I could post any links to it. We brought two teenage girl cousins with us, which I highly recommend to anyone considering taking four young children to a museum and waterfront and restaurant. Extra helpers for the win!

These Walls - On My Mind 2

Of course we came home late and then had to scramble to get the little ones to bed, and then of course I had to catch Mr. Donald J. (Why does he insist on that silly J?) Trump’s acceptance speech.

Ugh. Is this really what’s become of us?

(I probably shouldn’t write that, but then I suppose I’ve made my feelings toward Mr. Trump well enough known here already.)

Anyway! Before last night’s speech there were Wednesday night’s speeches (including Ted Cruz’s! So much intrigue!) and I wrote a blog post about them. Well, about them and the convention in general. And the downfall of the Republican Party. And Turkey. And the recent shootings of/by police officers.

So I hope you’ll take a look at it. Here’s an excerpt:

“Many say – and maybe they’re right – that Trump’s done so well because he’s been able to take advantage of white working class anger at such things. But he doesn’t deserve all the credit.

Because it’s not all about those conditions. I think the Republican Party has had an outsized role in its own disruption/decline/dismantling/demise/whatever this is. The Party’s leaders, egged on in recent years by the Tea Party, have made hay by saying that “Washington” was the problem.

Well, what did they think they were going to do when voters (understandably) decided that “Washington” includes Republicans too? And not just the old-school, committee chairman-type Republicans – the Tea Party types too. The Ted Cruzes.

A whole generation of Republican politicians has made promises they could not keep. They have conditioned the electorate to expect ever wilder promises, to reach toward ever more unattainable goals. It’s no surprise that they faltered when they were called out for not delivering what couldn’t be delivered in the first place.”

Head on over to the Catholic Review for the rest.

The Space Between - On My Mind 2

 

The Better, Impractical Choice

I’m over at my (new) blog today, expressing some frustration about presidential politics and pledging to not be part of the problem. (That is, to not vote for either major candidate.) It’s a perky little piece, I’ll tell you that!

“If politicians are slippery, if they tell us only what we want to hear, if they refuse to offer real solutions, if they’re unwilling to work with those with whom they disagree – it’s because we have made them that way.

We reward negative campaigning. We punish compromise. We respond to sound bites. We expect ideological purity (i.e. You Must Think Exactly As I Do). We champion magic-wand political solutions. (How about I just say that I’ll “Make America Great Again” and wiggle my magic wand in the air, and it will be so! How about I make economic inequality just… disappear! How about I build a big wall at no cost and magically make it get rid of all the scary people? How about we pass a law that will – poof! – make people stop shooting each other?)

We have gotten ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. We have done this. We have made presidential campaigns into something that decent people cannot win.”

The Space Between - The Better Impractical Choice

Strangers in Our Own Land

The other night my husband and I were watching a Ken Burns documentary on the Dust Bowl. He was sitting at the kitchen table with the laptop open before him, giving the baby a bottle. I was supposedly washing dishes, but really wandering over to him every time an intriguing phrase or story caught my ear. Because I’ll tell you what: That thing was shocking.

When I’d thought of the Dust Bowl before, I’d simply thought of families escaping drought and poverty. I had no concept of immense walls of black dust racing across the plains, swallowing everything and everyone in their paths. I knew nothing of the buckets of dust that women would sweep from the insides of their homes, of how the dust enveloped people so completely that they were unable to see their hands in front of their faces, of how they’d grow ill (and many would die) from having their lungs coated with the stuff.

The documentary showed elderly people telling their stories of that horrible time and I thought to myself: These experiences are part of those people’s heritage. These must be the stories passed down to the people living in those places today. And I know nothing of them.

I know nothing of what it’s like to live in the west, on the plains, with farmland stretching for hundreds of miles in every direction. I don’t know how it feels to be held captive by the weather and her whims. I don’t know what it’s like to be a descendant of pioneers, to have stubborn resilience for a heritage.

Neither do I know what it’s like to be a child of immigrants or a great-great-grandchild of slaves. I don’t know what it’s like to be from mountains or shore or desert or city. I don’t know how it is to live in a factory town or a coal town or a fishing village, everyone’s livelihood depending on a tired, waning industry. I am out of my element visiting my husband’s family in the Midwest. I have felt similarly foreign in New England and the Deep South.

All I know – all I really know – is my corner of this land, my way of living.

So when I huff and puff and heave my chest in maddening wonder at Donald Trump’s ascendancy – when I bark an “I don’t understand these people!” – I’m right. I really don’t understand them. I have not lived their experiences. I have not shared their struggles. I have not felt their frustrations.

This is me coming to terms with that.

This is not me saying I think Donald Trump is an acceptable choice for the presidency. I continue to find him shameful in action and in word. I continue to disagree with those who support him. But I’m trying to recognize my own limitations in imagining the millions of individual histories that lead to his rise.

Because the next time I feel like grabbing Joe Trump Supporter by his shoulders and shaking him out of his dangerous delusion, I want to bestow some mercy instead.

There is so much we don’t understand about each other.

And if this election cycle is teaching us anything, maybe that should be it.

These Walls - Strangers in Our Own Land

#NeverTrump: It’s Not Enough to Not Be Hillary

Last night when I heard that Ted Cruz had suspended his presidential bid, I thought my heart would stop. I stood at the kitchen sink, motions suspended, heart feeling like it would slow to nothing.

I had not expected him to drop out. I didn’t even like Cruz, but I counted on him to be there until the end. I clung to the hope that he and Kasich could drive us to a contested convention, where surely the majority of Republicans who dislike Trump would finally triumph.

I thought somehow we would be saved. (INDIANA, YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO SAVE US!)

I’m numb as I consider the future of this race, and indeed this country. I’m disturbed to think of the millions who voted for Trump. I’m generally pretty respectful of those with whom I disagree, but this time I can’t muster it. I cannot respect those who would vote for a bullying, lying, irrational, ill-tempered, inconsistent, incoherent, outrageous showman. Or (for those who think Trump isn’t really as bad as he makes himself out to be) for one who plays that act in order to get votes. Donald Trump has pandered to our basest instincts, to our worst fears, to the darkest, most selfish parts of ourselves – and it has worked. For shame.

So no, I most definitely will not be voting for Trump in November.

“But, but… Hillary!” you might cry. “You don’t want Hillary to win, do you?”

No, of course I don’t. I do not like Hillary Clinton. I think she lacks integrity and I think she thinks that she can play by a different set of rules from the rest of us. I disagree with many of her policy positions (most especially when it comes to abortion) and I think she views people who are ideologically different from her – people like me – with disdain.

But I base my support (or opposition, as the case is here) of candidates on a number of measures, and not being Hillary Clinton is not one of them.

I want to agree with my candidate on the issues.

This is probably the most obvious thing to consider when choosing a candidate, but it can also be the hardest to achieve. Have I ever encountered a politician with whom I agree on everything? Doubtful. I subscribe to what you might call the Catholic platform: I’m staunchly pro-life, by which I mean I’m against abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty. But (and I really shouldn’t feel like I have to say “but” here) I’m also for programs and policies that help struggling people get ahead in life. Housing, health care, workforce issues – you name it – I think government has a role (a role, not the only role) to play in improving people’s lives. I also believe in recognizing the dignity and potential of all people via fair asylum and immigration policies (i.e. NOT A WALL) and just religious freedom protections.

I doubt that Donald Trump and I agree on any of those issues. (Though honestly it can be a little hard to tell, what with how scattered and nonsensical he is when describing where he stands.) When it comes to Hillary Clinton, ironically, I may actually agree with her on a few issues. Imagine that.

I want my candidate to have integrity.

If there’s one glaring thing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have in common, it’s probably their spectacular lack of integrity. Clinton’s got Benghazi and the phone hacking scandal (and years of more) under her belt; Trump’s got so much I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t trust either of them to act honorably in office. So unfortunately, the integrity measure is pretty much moot in this match-up.

I want my candidate to be capable.

Here’s somewhere I see a difference between the two candidates. Like her or loathe her, I think Clinton would be capable at governing. I realize that to some of her foes, Clinton’s potential for governing capably is just another reason to fear her, but I guess I think a functioning presidency would be better for the country than a sloppy, reckless, fumbling one. Sue me.

I want my candidate to be able to work with people with whom they disagree.

I know that in this election cycle, lots and lots of people want candidates who promise to go into office ready to “blow up Washington.” Well, count me boring or deluded or out-of-touch or something, but I expect elected officials to actually be able to work with other people to get things accomplished. We got into this mess by demonizing those with whom we disagree. Doing more of the same won’t get us out of it.

This is another measure on which both candidates are spectacularly bad. Trump belittles those who oppose him, he calls people names, he makes people who disagree with him out to be idiots, he even incites violence against them. And Clinton, well, her talk of wanting to be a president for all Americans is pretty much laughable. Hillary Clinton is one of the most divisive figures in modern political history. She’s not going to stop being divisive because she’s got Trump for an opponent. I’m sure she’ll be the same sort of “inclusive” president as Obama – she’ll be happy to work with you as long as you think she’s right.

#NeverTrump: It's Not Enough To Not Be Hillary - 1

How I’m feeling right now.

In sum, I cannot think of one compelling reason to vote for Donald Trump in November. I don’t agree with him and I have no confidence that the Republican label will magically make him fall in line. (He has campaigned exactly as he pleases, he’ll govern exactly as he pleases. I think pro-lifers, in particular, are deluding themselves to think he’ll be better than Clinton.) He lacks integrity. He is in all likelihood incapable of or unwilling to govern responsibly. He seems constitutionally unable to work with those with whom he disagrees. There’s nothing left. He ticks none of my boxes.

Moreover, Donald Trump is absurdly, outrageously awful. He makes a mockery of our electoral system and the values for which our country stands – the values for which I stand.

It’s not enough to not be Hillary.

So what am I going to do? Who will I vote for? I’ll either choose a third-party candidate or I’ll write one in. I happen to live in a state that will go for Hillary regardless, so I know that my vote against Trump but not for Hillary won’t somehow help him. But if I did live in a state where the competition was very tight, if I did think that choosing a third-party candidate would be helpful to Trump… I would vote for Clinton. I hate to say that. But I would do it. Our country is too important to dump into the lap of Trump.

#NeverTrump: It's Not Enough To Not Be Hillary