• Sheri Handel

The paradigm of American identity

It's been a while since I've addressed any messed-up paradigms here, but the most recent disclosures around tender-aged, under-aged, asylum-seeking immigrants of all kinds have prompted me to raise the paradigmatic question once again.


A question of national identity


As nearly everyone from the Florence Project, the ACLU, to RAICES, to those mothers and their babies at the NYC ICE offices fight to untangle the damage done by an administration gone absolutely soulless, we, as somewhat ordinary citizens struggle through . . . what? An identity crisis? An impending civil war?


We are confronted by those who are not only following a mad man and his minions down a path of moral, civil, and environmental destruction, but who seem increasingly less . . . tolerant of everyone not more or less like themselves.


We are beginning to confront one another in ways more divisive than I have experienced in my soon to be too many decades. It may be that we cannot accept one another until we embrace those huddled masses once more.


We are our own war zone

Today mainstream media can hardly be distinguished from social media because of the stories that must be told. The hyperbole is real. There are children sleeping in cages. There are men begging to stay in jail rather than be deported to their homelands.


Then there are the Nazis, the Klan, the constant lying by the president of these former united states, the mouthpieces trying to blame it on the Bible-- to rationalize a tyrannical agenda, and those who continue to support him under the guise of . . . I don't really know what anymore.


None of it seems to be in line with what was intended when the Articles of Confederation were adopted, or even that other document. You know, the Constitution?


The president did say he couldn't change a zero-tolerance immigration policy that he blamed on Obama; then he changed it. Politicians are detained for trying to enter detention centers to visit with children. Doctors trying to volunteer claim to be turned away for being "too qualified." What?


It's a war zone out there, and the battle is for decency. For many, it is for their lives.


Culture of cruelty

It doesn't begin and end with the separation of families. There's a culture of cruelty brewing wherein neighbors no longer recognize one another, and the nightly news is an endless series of reports on middle-aged white women harassing people of color with a new sense of . . . freedom?


There's a nasty backlash, too, against those who dare to speak out. The sheer vitriol that found its voice after Robert De Niro spoke his truth at the Tony's seemed out of proportion with his outburst, especially compared to the actual misdeeds of the object of his criticism. As do the attacks on Stephanie Wilkinson, who on behalf of the Red Hen, the restaurant she owns in rural Virginia, asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders and party to leave because, as she says:

This feels like the moment in our democracy when people when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.

This is where it gets tricky.


What's really at risk here?

In the cacophony of all the daily news briefings, you need to ask yourselves, what is really more important?


Question A

  1. Sarah Huckabee Sanders defending the detainment of babies?

  2. The owner of a restaurant in rural Virginia asking Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave?

  3. Babies being detained.

Question B

  1. Robert De Niro f-bombing the Tony Awards, resulting in a momentary bleeping out of the ceremonies for home viewers, a standing ovation for this wily provocateur, arguments between friends on Facebook, and a slew of articles across all media?

  2. Jeff Sessions incorrectly quoting the bible to justify the upholding of an inhuman and unconstitutional law?

  3. Sarah Huckabee Sanders incorrectly referring to the bible to justify the detainment of babies at the border?

  4. A zero-tolerance immigration policy that forcibly removes children from their mother's arms at the border, to which they arrived after days or weeks of travel, typically seeking asylum from horrific personal risk in their home countries?


A country that t'was is not so anymore . . . if it ever was

We had an admittedly shaky start as a country. Our very existence here is predicated on the contradiction of our having escaped the tyranny of the British only to inflict it on others, starting with those who were here before we even arrived.


Our history is littered with catastrophes in judgments of sovereignty and superiority.


Yet, at some point around 1787, we started to craft a plan for governance that would set the stage for a couple of hundred years of evolving, and yes, imperfect, democratic practice. Our inability to resolve the issue of slavery during the Constitutional Convention is a reflection of our character, a character flaw that persists to this day, the root cause of the policies keeping babies in cages on this side of the border.


And while immigration has been subject to the whim of history, we did, at many times, welcome those huddled masses, and that, too, seemed a part of the nation's fabric. We even developed a character trait for ourselves around it, extending the concept of the American dream to all those willing to work for it, no matter where they came from.

The crossroads at which we find ourselves today is one at which we need to define ourselves again, define our goals as, I hope, a democracy, and lay out the path for achieving those goals. The first place to start is with how we govern ourselves, particularly in how we choose our leadership.







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© 2017 by Sheri Handel