We are all immigrants through time and history

“Every day is a journey and the journey itself is Home”

(Matsuo Basho, Japanese Poet 1600’s)

There are approximately 11 million people living in the United States illegally. The question is not so much how did they get here but why did they get here and why historically have we offered these individuals a home.  We have invited many people to come to our country and serve in positions that we are unwilling to take.  I heard an Idaho Dairy farmer on public radio before the election say he was voting for Trump. The farmer employs illegal workers, Mexicans, who have been in Idaho working on his farm for many years.  When asked about Trump’s plans for deportation, the farmer explained that Trump wasn’t talking about removing his workers; Trump was talking about removing the criminals.

A Wall Street Journal  article, March 4th , 2017 entitled “Time Makes Migrants of Us All” argues that in a global economy rapid change means that at some point in time, even if we never travel afar we will feel foreign. This week, I was visiting with several older women who were discussing how difficult it is for them to keep their computers up to date and how stymied, frustrated and panicked they feel when their computer isn’t working.  My attorney recently had his office flooded by Idaho’s ongoing winter.  Removing the water and remodeling his office has totally disrupted his work flow.  My kids laugh at me when I refer to “The Google” or the snappychat (still a foreign entity to me but certainly a prime purchase on the stock market last week).

neanderthal
Neanderthals exterminated by interaction with humans.
If we take a longer historical view  and accept that we are all on life’s journey together than we are all immigrants forging our way forward towards a new future. We all came to American from somewhere.   I read an article this fall about the drama in our DNA. If we really analyze our DNA and look at human development through the ages,  human evolution is a scientific soap opera. The drama of human history revolves around climate waves of decimating cold and surging heat.  History includes killer romances. Humans and Neanderthals apparently had love affairs in which the human DNA proved toxic to the Neanderthals. Interbreeding proved a disaster for the Neanderthals who never recovered decimating the race in the course of millennium.  Humans went on to become stone tool makers, who were also artists (40,000 years ago).

We moved from hunting and gathering to farming in the Fertile Crescent, planting crops and domesticating animals. We learned to digest milk and metabolic fats. We got taller, developed lighter skin and eyes in the colder climates.  Leprosy and TB emerged and threatened us as did the plague and flu.  We are all carriers of this genetic history.  The fact that we are here means that our ancestors were survivors.  Among us today 2% of us have DNA that goes all the way back to those Neanderthals who we wiped out 50,000 years ago.  Their genes are still with us.

A rudimentary look at my own family tree suggests many opportunities for diversity. My son is a fifth generation Wyomingite.  My great grandfather moved to Wyoming territory as a miner. His tiny one-room mining cabin in the Snowy Mountains still isn’t accessible by road even in the summer.  Hard to believe that a mountain man living high in the Rockies by himself didn’t do some womanizing at some point in time.  He later became a railroader when the Union Pacific came through Wyoming, served on the first territorial legislature, and eventually killed himself.  No one ever said why.  His wife took to traveling all over the nation by train. My grandmother and grandfather were both highly educated for the time. Grandmother was one of the first classes of women to graduate from the University of Wyoming.  My grandfather held an engineering degree from the University of Michigan and served as Wyoming’s first Highway Engineer.  On the surface, our Wyoming lineage looks extremely homogenous, Caucasian builders of a new state but just like Thomas Jefferson’s family, I can’t swear there aren’t other branches that are more colorful than we are.

My dad’s family is even more likely to have a dramatic history.  He grew up in South Carolina on a plantation that was downsized by the time I was young. The big house remained but the land had been sold off and other houses built around it.  My grandmother still had “colored” help (her terminology in the early 1950’s).  I don’t think my grandmother ever learned to cook.  The history of long-term southern families is thwart with secret interracial mixing.  I can’t image that ours is not the same.   I have an adopted daughter from China and my sister has an adopted daughter of Mexican/Native American descent.  So if the historical roots of our tree are not diverse,   the new leaves are bright indeed.

When we as a country talk about sending people home, maybe we should first think about where our home is. I don’t mean our literal home but where did we come from in history.   Where would we be now if our ancestors had been sent home or couldn’t develop the genetic structure to continue forward?  Even in our life time, are we not all immigrants in the new global high tech world?  Have we not had to learn a new languages to dwell among the ever evolving technology.In this life time, have we not journeyed far from the party-line rotary dial telephones and manual typewriters to the new frontier virtual reality?

Is my home Ashtree Way, Boise,  Idaho, the United States, the world, the 21st century, or all of the above?

world

The Work in the New Year

world-of-christmasChristmas may be over but  the work of Christmas is just beginning; to help those who are most vulnerable.   One example  of need in our communities  is Flint, Michigan’s water problems. No public official in  Michigan was deliberately trying to poison children in Flint. There is no public enemy number 1;  rather we see a series of bad choices   and then a cover-up. “Administrative Evil”  is normal administrative professionals engaging  in evil acts without being aware that they are doing anything wrong (Adams, Balfor 2009). 

My poem “Flint (2014 ongoing) captures a real case of administrative evil in action.

Flint (2014 ongoing) by Julie Robinson

 WATER

purveyor of health

taken for granted

streams out of taps

into our mouths

circles down drains to

contaminated rivers

 WATER

cycles around

no filters in place

brackish, brown, stinky

budget reductions

a public disgrace

 WATER

none of it safe

flows through the body

poisons children

irreversible harm

WATER

restricted to bottles

apologies abound

costs unpredictable

 WATER

nature’s gift

public malfeasance

 WATER

vital, virulent

Water!

Summary of the Flint, Michigan Water Issue

My husband, a physician, frequently says the United States health system is more dependent on our high quality public health programs than on our abundant supplies of physicians and hospitals. One example of this is  drinking water from the tap.  If you have travelled in other countries where the water is undependable such as Mexico or China, you know what a gift it is to be able to drink water directly from the faucet in the U.S.  Of course, that is not true everywhere is the U.S.  The place that has received the most publicity for public health problems over the past few years is Flint, Michigan.  In Flint, a decision was made to move the drinking water to the Flint River in 2014.  This decision was made to allow time to build a pipeline to connect to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA). 

children in flint.jpg
Some children in Flint are still restricted to drinking bottled water.  High lead levels in the water may have impacted as many as 12,000 children.

 

Mayor Walling explained the decision as follows: ‘It’s regular, good, pure drinking water, and it’s right in our backyard… this is the first step in the right direction for Flint, and we take this monumental step forward in controlling the future of our community’s most precious resource.’ “

Rather than testing the water first to make sure the public was safe. The City chose to take a less expensive route of “waiting to see” what happens.

High lead levels started being documented in February 25, 2015. This information was deep-sixed by public authorities. By December 2015 as lead levels continued to climb, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency over the elevated lead levels in the city’s water. “I am requesting that all things be done necessary to address this state of emergency declaration, effective immediately,”

The water continued to be unsafe in Spring 2016. Both Presidential candidates Trump and Clinton and President Obama visited to symbolize their concern.  Concern is not corrective action!  By July nine public officials in Michigan had been charged with criminal offenses for the problems with Flint, Water.  These public officials were charged with misconduct and misuse of public funds.

By December 2016, four officials — two of Flint’s former emergency managers, who reported directly to the governor, and two water plant officials — were charged with felonies of false pretenses and conspiracy. They are accused of misleading the Michigan Department of Treasury into getting millions in bonds, and then misused the money to finance the construction of a new pipeline and force Flint’s drinking water source to be switched to the Flint River.

Today, filtered Flint water is safe to drink but not everyone, especially low income families, have access to working filters. The courts have ordered that these individuals be provided with bottled water.

A $170 million stopgap spending bill for repairing and upgrading the city of Flint’s water system and helping with healthcare costs was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 8, 2016.[8] The Senate approved it the next day.[9] $100 million of the bill is for infrastructure repairs, $50 million for healthcare costs, and $20 million to pay back loans related to the crisis.

 

water-in-fling-michigan
Flint Protesters

 

 

Dogs of Hell on Rampage in America

dog1The Dogs of Hell were trained Rottweilers, who escape a military compound and terrorized al small town in a cult movie of the same name (1982).  Replicating the actions of these fictional canines, the most racist, bigoted Americans have been unleashed by Trump’s unlikely Presidential win to terrorize people of color, the LBGT community and other vulnerable individuals.

Previously suppressed by societal norms and national leaders committed to inclusion and diversity, the day after the surprise win by Mr. Trump, these marauding dogs began shredding our fragile web of political correctness. The real face of the ugly American is now in full view. Apparently, I have been living in a fantasy world believing that we were slowly eradicating these attitudes but I have discovered to my chagrin that our progress in the area of inclusion is  an extremely fragile safety net loosely tethered by a web of civil rights laws, court decisions and public civility.

These Dogs have previously been muzzled by the broader community’s values. muzzled-dog The Dogs’ attacks after the recent election have taught me that bigotry is flourishing in this country in hidden places like  mold spores invisible to the naked eye, thriving in dark moist environments. The election provided the necessary well spring for an explosion of white backlash.

These dogs are even rampaging in Boise, Idaho. Last week, they wrote “Nigger!” as graffiti near our Black History Museum. My family was horrified when I used the “N” word at the dinner table describing the incident.  My daughter scolded me and said, “Never use that word again!” I would like to comply; but the only way to grasp the harshness of these attacks on the population they are intended to traumatize is to speak truth. The “N” word does not capture the abuse and rebuke inherent in this demoralizing word  scribbled in large letters in plain view for the sole purpose of causing pain.

The lone black female in the Idaho Senate, told me this graffiti is not an isolated incident. She described to me the experience of a two black children playing outside in Boise being accosted by white adults the day after the election and being told; “We can kill you and your parents, now.”

My sister tells of the Asian man she knows, born and raised in Caldwell, Idaho (a town of 50,000, 25 miles west of Boise) who has never experienced discrimination in Idaho. Last week a car driving by him, rolled down the window and an invisible male voice shouted, “Go back to where you came from!” The fact that this man would be returning to Caldwell would be amusing if it weren’t so horrifying.

These are just a few incidents from Idaho, a small, almost exclusively white, homogeneous state. We are generally pro guns but peace abiding. Imagine the power of this unfettered hate in larger cities with more diversity and opportunity to choose “We” versus”They”.kinghallgraffiti

post-truthThe Oxford Dictionary has named “post truth” as the 2016 word of the year. The word describes a culture in which an individual’s decisions are based on appearances, frequently generated by incorrect or deliberately false social media postings, not on facts.  I am fascinated and nauseated by our “post truth” world.  In our current political milieu, the Dogs of Hell can become vicious overlords of the most vulnerable. Made up stories of Muslim attacks lead to hatred of innocent neighbors.  Women wearing head coverings, symbols of respect for their religion, are suspect.

The trial of Dylann Roof is currently in the news. He is the white young man who joined a black Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Church, Charleston, South Carolina and ended up killing nine church members (2015).  He has been quoted as saying he, “wanted to ignite a race war.”  Roof’s actions resulted in public outcry, prayer vigils and persecutors seeking the death penalty.  He failed in his revolution.

Unlike Roof, if not restrained, the Dogs of Hell are capable of phenomenal harm to our constitutional rights. This election, we, the people, have unleashed violent forces of hatred in America.

As Christmas approaches, as Christains let us not just pray for peace on earth as if we are speaking of some distant land. We need to pray for peace in small town Idaho and other parts of America. We must actively engage our spiritual communities and push back the forces of hate which are spreading dark clouds of fear over our land.