The Refugee Ban of 2017

​On January 27th, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order instructing a travel ban into the United States from seven countries with Muslim majority populations. Specifically, there is a 120 day freeze on all refugees inbound, an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and a 90 day hold on citizen traveling regardless of purpose from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Following the issuance of the order were detainments, interrogations and in many cases, the turnaround of immigrants and refugees already properly vetted to come into the country.

Once upon a time, no one could tell anyone they could come or go: people simply landed and there they were. It’s how the first immigrants did it when they came from Europe and that’s how it was done for years. People arrived, set up shop on tracts of pristine lands full of life, and they saw that it was good. When the first immigrants landed, they quickly realized they were not alone. Yet the first Americans, Native Americans did not ask for identification or proof of a vetting process. There were no ports of entry and no ID checkpoints. These people lived off the land and showed great respect for it. They maintained balance between their needs and the needs of the world around them. They cared for each other in living color and accepted one another regardless of their differences inside and out. And they most certainly did not institute a ban on people coming into the New World.

Much later in our history, other campaigns of prejudice and segregation have been waged against groups of people for varying reasons. African Americans brought here as slaves were freed yet systematically denied basic rights for over a hundred years. The Chinese were denied entry to the United States after the California Gold Rush. People throughout the history of the United States have been denied the right to vote, the right to marry, and the chance to begin anew here in America. In the worst of times, millions have killed and died in horrible ways in war. Humans have shot, stabbed, burned, poisoned, gassed and exploded each other in the name of God and country because people thought it right to do so. In the name of fear and under the guise of security, people have been marshalled and corralled into pens and reservations. The one group tramples on the rights of another. In other occasions, people have fled their nations for lack of food, opportunities and security. The United States once took in these cold and hungry quite willingly. We’ve allowed others to visit temporarily for leisurely travel and others for schooling. My father was included in the latter group.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the United States has been in a state of heightened ignorance and security unmatched since the days of Japanese-American internment during World War II and the Red Scare. Digital and warrantless surveillance of the citizen is an idea more and more people accept as a form of lesser evil. Unfortunately because of ethnicities and religions of the 9/11 hijackers, terrorism has been largely associated Islam. Thus our president has banned citizens from seven nations where Muslims are the majority, never mind there have been no terrorist attacks carried out by citizens of these countries in the last thirty years. The 9/11 hijackers were from Saud Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Eygpt and Lebanon and none of those were refugees. They were visa holders, vetted and allowed to come into the country for one reason or another. The New York Times reports that of the Jihadist style attacks since 9/11, none of the perpetrators were from the seven countries, and none were refugees. More than half were born in the US and the half of those who weren’t were naturalized US Citizens. Conversely, we don’t consider the majority of mass shooting events which have occurred across the country to be acts of terrorism. Few of those shooting involved immigrants of any sort. The trafficking of drugs and human beings for use as sex slaves is also apparently less important than stopping the flow of migrants.

The persons now denied entry into the United Stated have good reasons for trying to escape their countries. Some seek the freedom to practice the religion or sexual preference of their choice. To remain in Iran as a LGBTQ is a potential death sentence. Somalian refugees hope to escape the rampant war and extreme poverty ravaging their country. Libya’s refugees are fleeing war and insurgency. Iraq refugees are fleeing war, insurgency and persecution. Sudanese refugees are fleeing the war in their country. Refugees from Yemen and Syria are also fleeing violence from their respective civil wars. It can be said that the refugees of Iraq are directly the fault of United States interference. While good was done by deposing Saddam Hussein, there was no plan to implement “the peaceful transition of power” we so treasure here over there. We’ve spent at least billions of dollars rebuilding a country we spent billions of dollars destroying. This doesn’t begin to touch on the cost in human lives, both American and Iraqi, military and civilian. It’s taken many blood soaked years to get the Iraq Forces up to fighting condition through training and cooperation. Syrian refugees can also be seen as our fault via proxy war against Russia played out through the Assad Government versus Syrian rebels. Because of US and Russian interference, neighborhoods have been held under siege, hospitals have been bombed, and people have died not only in the crossfire, but from starvation and dehydration. Refugees are desperate people merely looking to live and contribute. They could do so here in the United States before this executive order. Now we have officially turned a blind eye to their suffering, we have deprived them access, we’ve deprived them their fighting chance. We’ve deprived them hope of survival.

Morally, we have a responsibility to ease the suffering of others when and where we can. When we are responsible for said suffering, we are obligated to help if we can. Put simply, this means the refugee program and the scores of people in need should not suffer for the wanton acts of a very small few. This does not mean refugees should enter the United States without some indication of no ill intent. Vetting is a tool, neither perfect nor foolproof, and it doesn’t work at all if the perpetrator is outside of its scope, i.e. born in the USA. Rather the system that allows people to enter the United States by visa, obtain green cards and citizenship needs revision with the knowledge that even then, we will not catch everyone who means us harm. The best way to really discover terrorism is through knowledge. When we know a thing or a person, we know better when something is amiss. To know it, we need to understand it and gain perspective. If we manage possible exposure to terrorism like a disease, namely total quarantine from refugees entering the country, we’re not actually addressing terrorism with an effective response. It’s like applying a bandage to the wrong wound. We need to stop witch hunting targets of opportunity. We need to stop looking solely at people from Countries x through z, or at only Muslims, or people wearing head scarves, or skin color, or haircuts. Everyone entering the United States should be vetted by specifics beginning with who, what, when, where, why and how. This needs to be done with priority going to those suffering from circumstances which infringe on the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those requesting Visas can wait. 

Refugees cannot.

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The Refugee Ban of 2017

I Am Back.

I am back, though I cannot honestly tell you for how long I am back for, nor will I take this opportunity to tell you why I was gone in the first place. That story is perhaps for another time. What I will say is that I am back for one reason and one reason alone:

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As of this writing, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has endorsed Donald Trump while Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, at the behest of their campaign advisors have stooped to tag teaming against him at a debate. Trump, Rubio and Cruz are the GOP frontrunners, Dr. Ben Carson and someone someone Kasich are woefully in the dust and on the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders vie for their party’s nomination. To date, this is a race which has defied all expectations and all speculation from experts. This is a White House race which has the political establishment reeling, staggering haphazardly to regain footing while trying to understand why people are rallying behind nontraditional candidates. I think I have the answer.

People have speculated that Americans are sick to death of the political status quo. While I can’t speak for America, I can speak for me: I’ve been sick of politics for years. Posturing, promises, the right phrases and statements meant to sway coming from people who are and have been “public servants” for years. I look at the chaos in the Congress, most recently displayed by the controversy surrounding an unwillingness to entertain nomination hearings to replace Supreme Court Justice Scalia, and I can only think that these public servant candidates are only more of the same thing we’ve endured year after year.

1104toon_tolesThe political campaigns are also a subject of ire for me. Despite the money they’ve gathered, if you go any of the websites of the campaigner, you too can contribute with the click of a nifty donate button. I have the fortune of living in a state the candidates don’t need, so we are spared the constant barrage of political commercials that campaign money pays for. As this very moment, my state is cutting the budget to our school districts and university system while the campaigns continue to amass tons and tons of money in order to fly to and from and cram the message down the throat of the people. That doesn’t sit right with me and again, I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way.

There are two people who have resonated with me and if you look at the state of the campaign trail today, my two have really come down to one choice.

First, when Dr. Ben Carson came on the scene as a possible political candidate a couple of years ago, I thought it a fantastic idea. He spoke out against Obamacare in a time when no one really knew for sure what the law would do, but more importantly, he was a doctor in the field with some actual knowledge about getting medical care in America. A doctor speaking out against the status quo of medical insurance spoke volumes to me. I hoped he would have done better during the campaign but alas, he’s all but dead in my opinion.

And then, there is Donald Trump. He’s a businessman, an entrepreneur and a television personality. He’s hit American politics like a hurricane. He’s left analysts and opponents both stammering in his wake.

He’s rich.
He’s loud.
He’s brash.
He’s unapologetic.

What can I say about him that hasn’t been said already?

How about this: he’s not a politician. The man is not a career politician, nor is Dr. Carson. They’ve not been seated in the chambers of the House of Representatives or guests of the Senate. They’re not cozy with the judiciary or with anyone in the Executive branch. Trump is definitely not a Democrat and the Republican Party establishment hates him. To the establishment, Donald Trump is an insurgent, an outsider, a usurper. He reminds me of me.

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While he and I do not share much in common (white, rich and old I am not), he is something I’ve not seen yet in my adult life. Donald Trump is the last candidate to resemble a real person than anyone else running for office. The politician candidates aka the rest of the contenders don’t make mistakes or misspeak: they make gaffes or faux pas. They have their prompts and catch phrases. They have their campaigns telling them what they should say or do next. They speak in “politically correct” fashion, a term and behavior which has trickled down so pervasively down into our lives, you can’t read a book or take a class without the chance of encountering a trigger warning. Trump is a walking, talking trigger warning, he’s not politically correct and I like that. Detractors will tell you he’s not always been successful, but to me, that only adds to his appeal. He’s had bankruptcies and failures, has been divorced and has been sued. Sort of like the rest of us outside of the political class. He says what’s on his mind and it’s raw. Unscripted. He makes mistakes, just like the rest of us. Ben Carson is just as real to me. It’s a pity he’s been practically done in by his own campaign.

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Who am I? I’m a father, a student, a husband and a veteran. I’m a not a democrat, or republican, I’m not a donor, or a lobbyist, or a Wall Streeter. I could care less about the Oscars, the Grammys, the Hugo, the Super Bowl or all the other nonsense American Media tells me I should care about. I don’t line the streets holding campaign signs for anyone: I don’t have the time nor the inclination. I work to put food on the table, gas in the tank and a roof over our heads: my wife works for the same goal as well. I’m a nobody, an outsider, an insurgent to American politics. Much like Donald Trump.

 

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This political race has woken me out of an 8 year slumber because it is decidedly not status quo. It’s been perplexing and confounding everyone who has versed themselves in the machinations of a broken political system. It’s been taken over from within and without, and I like that very much.

Something tells me I’m not the only one.

 

I Am Back.

Traveling Review: Mystic Seaport, the Museum of America and the Sea

In the town of Mystic (yes, the very same Mystic in Mystic Pizza starring Julia Roberts) Connecticut is the Museum of America and the Sea, or simply, the Mystic Seaport. Our original purpose of visiting this site was to see the Charles W. Morgan, the last surviving American wooden whaling ship. With that being said, there is a lot to be seen at this gem of a place.

The Mayflower II, replica of the original Mayflower
The Mayflower II, replica of the original Mayflower

First off, Mystic Seaport is a working restoration yard which routinely repairs and restores wooden vessels of all sorts, employing local men and women and versing them in the skills of a truly dying art. Docked at the seaport during our visit was the Mayflower II and the Sabino, a 1906 steamboat under restoration until 2016.

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Cutaway models of the Charles W. Morgan.
Cutaway models of the Charles W. Morgan.

On the gravel path to the shipyard is a long building holding the key components to the structure of a wooden ship, including the keel, ribs and frame as a lesson in how wooden ships are put together. Inside the shipyard itself is an a exhibit revisiting the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan, and using that restoration as the vessel to educate visitors on the tools of the restoration trade, the materials and types of woods used in shipbuilding, and the hazards to wooden ships to include weather, reefs, and wood-boring marine worms. The back drop to the exhibit are the sounds of power tools as Mystic shipwrights work on restoring the Sabino.

The Sabino under repair.
The Sabino under repair.

The Charles W. Morgan was open for viewing and proved to be a pretty impressive vessel in it’s own right. Add to this an extremely knowledgeable volunteer eager to school us in the history of American whaling and it made for a very cool experience.

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As with the USS Constitution, we happened to luck out and stumble on the seaworthy replica of the slave ship La Amistad, subject of the movie Amistad, berthed at the Seaport for the winter and shipping out the very same day for New London.

The Amistad
The Amistad

There’s more to Mystic Seaport than the ships though: the Seaport also runs the traditional shops and buildings dedicated to 19th century seafaring, to include a smithy, shipping agent’s office, and nautical instrument shop, to name a few of many. Mystic Seaport is another one of those places where visitors should dedicate at least three hours to see everything there is to see there.

Traveling Review: Mystic Seaport, the Museum of America and the Sea

Travel Review: the Norman Rockwell Museum

During the middle of our trip, my companions and I veered off the Revolutionary War path and stopped in Stockbridge, Massachusetts to partake in the Norman Rockwell Museum which bears works by the man it’s named after. If you don’t know who Norman Rockwell is, you may have seen his work on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post or at the very least, maybe this image in a history class:

“The Problem We All Live With,” a commentary on public school desegregation.

Norman Rockwell is an American artist defined by his works which have captured the state of the country for over half a century, a large portion of that work for the Post from 1916 to 1963. Originally, Mr. Rockwell worked with live models until photographs became available for him to use instead.

Rockwell’s take on Rosie the Riveter

The Museum itself is packed with artwork: canvases of works submitted for use as magazine covers, portraits, and a donated collection of the magazines themselves. Rockwell was inspired by J.C. Leyendecker, an amazing artist in his own right. We had the fortune of being at the museum while it hosts an exhibition of Leyendecker’s work as well.

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The museum is easily traversable, and unlike any other place we visited on our trip, had free wheelchairs and strollers for patron use. The lower floor had large photographs of Rockwell himself, as well as a viewing room for an informational video about his life.

20150427_150031It was not a bad place to visit, though I have to admit it was personally not one of my favorite parts of the trip. Still, the Rockwell Museum is an amazing collection of art and imagery and a testament to the creative skill of a great American artist.

Travel Review: the Norman Rockwell Museum

Inquisition Chapter Five

Coming off the tail end of my trip and back to the normal day to day, I’m continuing the writing momentum I’ve maintained thus far by continuing to work on my sci-fi story, “The Inquisition.” Here is a link to Chapter Five on Wattpad: I would love comments and input. Thanks for reading!

http://www.wattpad.com/126736219-the-inquisition-chapter-five?utm_source=web&utm_medium=email&utm_content=share_info&ref_id=54763880

Inquisition Chapter Five

Traveling Review: Boston Freedom Trail

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While there are several different versions of freedom walks and trails, I’m referring to the walk I took with the Freedom Trail Foundation‘s self guided audio tour. MP3 downloads and players are available for $15 USD, and takes you on a tour of 41 significant sites in Boston. Each location has its own track on the MP3 player, and includes commentary and input from subject matter expects and several notable Americans such as longtime Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy, among others. The player comes with headphones and runs off of the larger watch style batteries.

The tour begins at the visitor center on Tremont in the Boston Commons. From there you follow the typically red brick path from point to point. Each site has information placards which nicely complement the information on the audio tour and often nearby are other points of interest not on the tour. What’s nice about the self guided tours is you can take it as slow or as fast as you like, where with a tour guide, it’s hit or miss on the extra knowledge the guide may or my not have while you are definitely limited to his or her schedule. As such, we broke our tour down over two days.

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Personal Highlights: The cemetery containing the resting places of Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Samuel Adams among others.

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The site of the Boston Massacre:

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The Monument to the one of the first African-American Civil War units and the subject of the movie “Glory,” the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment:

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Bunker Hill:

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The USS Constitution (which went into dry dock the day after we visited, hence the lack of armament and rigging.

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The Constitution definitely made the Boston walk for me.

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In closing, if you have the time, go, with or without the guide or player. You’ll find something to enjoy both on and off the path. Thanks for reading.

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