From the July-August 2018 issue of News & Letters
FIGHTING TRUMP’S ANTI-IMMIGRANT HYSTERIA
Scapegoating refugees is very personal to me. In 1937 my father and his family escaped likely death in Hitler’s Germany by fleeing to this country through Italy. Had they come two years later, on a different boat, the St. Louis, they would have been among the more than 900 German Jews refused asylum, first by Cuba (after massive anti-Semitic anti-immigration rallies) and then by the U.S. despite appeals to President Roosevelt, who was under pressure from an isolationist Congress. A few of those refugees were so desperate they attempted suicide onboard. Most of them were sent back to Europe. About a third were taken in by Britain; the remainder were taken in by France, Belgium and the Netherlands. When the Nazis overran those three countries, those refugees were trapped under the Nazi regime again and about half perished. Scapegoating and sending refugees back to certain violence and likely death is not a neutral act. It is political and moral cowardice and it is evil.
Donald Trump’s ongoing attack on immigrants prompted many Japanese Americans to speak out at marches and rallies in support of families fleeing horrid economic and security conditions in Latin America. (See “Millions denounce Trump’s heinous immigration abuses.”) Even those of us too young to have experienced the U.S. concentration camps (President Franklin Roosevelt’s terminology) know the consequences of government-sponsored ethnic targeting. At the very least it leads to contrived divisions within the community such as “loyal” and “disloyal.” A worst-case scenario is self-hatred in the form of violence, e.g., Black-on-Black crime, Brown-on-Brown crime. Trump’s policies, especially those that break families apart, encourage division as well as formation of gangs like the U.S.-originated MS-13.
My friend and I, both in the Medicare generation and battling health issues in addition to capitalism, couldn’t join the protests against Trump’s horrible policy of separating families at the border because of the extreme heat and humidity, even though two rallies in Detroit were planned. One was in Clark Park, the center of the Latino neighborhood, and one was planned for downtown amid tourists and upscale shops and restaurants. When the young organizer received responses from thousands on social media instead of the few hundred she expected, the city withdrew her permit, claiming they couldn’t guarantee crowd safety. This, when just the week before we heard the city bragging about the hundreds of thousands who came downtown for the fireworks, without incident. Despite the City, both rallies were well attended.
Susan Van Gelder
When I think about the walls on the Mexican-U.S. border, I start thinking about the Berlin Wall and its purpose, similar to Trump’s in reverse, and the fact that only good immigrants who work will be allowed into the country, and only if you are from certain countries like Norway, Germany, Sweden, Iceland, with the blonde hair and blue eyes, all that good stuff. Hell, why not just replace the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty with a sign, like the ones at Nazi death camps: “Arbeit Macht Frei!”
Black River Falls, Wisconsin
In the U.S., protests against Trump’s policies have been going on for several days. That is important to know. Here in Mexico very little is known of what is happening there, on the other side. Little is known about the emancipatory struggles and protests in the U.S.
I am a Lakota Sioux Native American. My ancestors were some of the greatest warriors before we were forced onto reservations. But our voices were never silenced. So, on behalf of Native Americans—the original Americans—refugees and immigrants, you are welcome. If you are not Indigenous, if you are an immigrant or refugee and need help, Mother Earth was meant for sharing because we are all brothers and sisters and this world isn’t getting any better. We welcome you in peace. Let’s make a change and repair life for everyone.
Indian Springs, Nev.
I say “Mic drop!” for the young Indian chess champion who, at great personal loss, said the hell with competing in Iran. She proclaimed: “I find the Iranian law of compulsory headscarf to be in direct violation of my basic human rights including my right to freedom of expression, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion….There is no place for an enforceable religious dress code in sports.” Nor, I would add, anywhere else. Just how sick are we all of men, governments, etc. telling women what they should or should not wear? If all those who went to Iran took Soumya Swaminathan’s stance, Iran would change their oppressive compulsory veiling laws.
It is so maniacal for Saudi prince bin Salman to round up and imprison activists who were advocating on behalf of women being able to drive a car. He labels them traitorous, not because liberalizing the driving law is a threat in itself—right now he is enacting exactly that policy—but because any shred of dissent is an affront to an absolute tyrant who sees something moral in getting his way at all times. This refraction of morality holds as its absolute basis that masses of people cannot think for themselves.
Irish women’s #hometovote campaign is inspiring! Maybe Irish women will even emerge from the repeal of the abortion ban with full citizenship rights in the country of their birth? We women in the U.S. are already living in a heavily policed state where our bodies are more regulated than banks!
If anti-abortionists are going to keep calling pro-choice people baby killers, then it’s time to start referring to them for what they are: people who would kill women.
Reproductive justice supporter
ATTACKS ON GAYS
If and when Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court, the 5-4 majority in favor of LGBT and women’s reproductive rights will be gone. The Court will be a 5-4 majority against LGBT, women, workers’ rights….Elections have consequences, people!
Socialist LGBT activist
If Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy—who wrote in his narrow majority opinion that LGBT people have equal dignity—stayed, I think there’d have been a chance future cases about LGBT rights, including rights versus so-called religious liberty, could have been decided in our favor. But now that Kennedy is leaving and a conservative likely seated, the Queer community could lose everything. The Queer community and our supporters must resist while we constantly state that we are for our total liberation. Let’s also push, push, push Democratic and Republican senators to block any Trump nominees to the Supreme Court until the November midterms are over. You know, a la the McConnell rule because this is a major election year.
Queer from Japan
SUPPORT RESTAURANT WORKERS
I was excited to participate in a meeting of restaurant workers at Judson Memorial Church in New York this spring because the faith community was supporting the “Fight for $15.” But I felt the speakers, mostly young priests, spoke in abstractions and pushed their own agendas, looking to beef up their sagging congregations. The solution promoted by the organizers was that workers should become entrepreneurs and open their own restaurants, rather than confront existing management. I don’t think a French name will change their conditions of labor.
New York City
SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES
Swords into Plowshares Peace Center & Gallery sponsored a community conversation in Detroit inspired by its exhibition “Guns: Artists Respond.” The Women’s Caucus for Art and Mothers Demand Action brought artists together with community representatives. The conversation was complex: the mostly older women present said things like “I grew up with guns, I like guns, and we have to do something about gun violence.” One of the artists reminded people that although the public actions and demonstrations during Freedom Summer, 1964, were non-violent, the young northern white activists and their host Black families wouldn’t have survived had those families not been known to own and use guns should it be necessary. The aim of “Guns: Artists Respond” and the community gathering “is to give artists a chance to express their views on gun violence and to offer an environment open to growth and understanding, especially because gun violence is experienced very differently in different Detroit communities.”
HUMAN RIGHTS STRUGGLES IN IRAQ…
There is another injustice being perpetrated in Iraq by those trying ISIS for war crimes and doing it in such an unprincipled way. (See “Inhuman Iraqi rush to judgment,” p. 8.) Not only are those being judged not experiencing justice, but even those who were victims of ISIS are not seeing justice. Yazidis, who certainly suffered horribly from ISIS, are not considered in these trials. An article in Al Monitor gives voice to a Yazidi woman, Hayat, who was enslaved by ISIS. It makes the point that to help women brutalized by violence, the perpetrators need to be punished. According to the article, what happened to the Yazidi is not considered in any of the trials in Iraq against ISIS. It is another way of making the Yazidi invisible. Iraq needs to concentrate on justice, not retaliation. On many levels these “trials,” these rushes to judgment, are wrong.
…AND IN RUSSIA
On July 3, activists and members of the coalition Democratic Petersburg were detained once again for wearing political buttons and distributing leaflets dedicated to the 64 Ukrainian political prisoners who are illegally being held in Russian prisons. Some prisoners, like Oleg Sentsov, are on a long hunger strike, and several actions have supported them. Detained on July 3 were Irina Bogdanovskaâ, Maria Koževatova, Olga Smirnova, Ilyas Éšfér, Vladimir Šipicyn.
St. Petersburg, Russia
ARTHUR GURSCH IN MEMORIAM
We mourn the passing of friend and fellow fighter Arthur Gursch on June 21 at age 72. His participation in a forum of the Chicago Local of News and Letters Committees on “Racism in Boystown” in 2011—with activists confronting fractures within the North Side Gay community over issues of race and class—was informed by more than 40 years battling for Gay Liberation and for revolution.
His personal history spanned the history of the modern movement for Gay Liberation, having joined the Gay Liberation Front in New York in 1970 in the immediate upsurge from the Stonewall Rebellion, and then joined the Gay Activists Alliance. He was pivotal to ACT-UP campaigns in both New York and Chicago against government inaction on HIV/AIDS. His primary organization at the end of his life was the Gay Liberation Network.
It is testimony to Art’s passion for the movement and his involvement in it that he checked himself out of his living facility over medical objections in order to take part in Pride Weekend and march in the Chicago Pride Parade. His commitment to freedom was greater than his self interest.