Thursday, April 27, 2017

100 days of resistance

After 100 days of Trump, I'm liking the people of this country. It turns out that a whole lot of us aren't willing to roll over and play dead because some of our fellow citizens put a cruel ignoramus in office by a tiny margin. We hold on to hope for a better future.

So we have resisted: women have marched; people have mobbed airports in defense of immigrants, Muslims, and refugees; Congresscritters can't come home without Indivisables getting in their faces; scientists and their friends have demonstrated; folks who demand to see the Kleptocrat-in-chief's tax records don't quit. And some of the frayed and fragile institutions of society and government -- courts, legislative hurdles, tireless lawyers, segments of the media -- have impeded the worst impulses of the Cheato and his GOPer friends.

Shock, awe, and instant autocracy seem averted. Instead we have ahead some number of years of steady assault on the lives and security of vulnerable people, mostly black and brown; of additional pollution and desecration of the only planet we've got; of theft of everything that isn't nailed down for the enjoyment of a tiny class of billionaires. Lovely prospect.

It appears to be the case that Trump has no substantive agenda greater than enriching himself and his clan. Nor has he any competence. He merely has prejudices and vendettas which empower more competent actors who do have a project: Making America White Again -- MAWA.

It goes almost without saying that this starts with an Attorney General telling polices departments to fire away with impunity. Recent history offers no reason to expect restraint unless we force restraint, locality by locality.

But also, there is an enormous amount that empowered thugs in ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) can do to make miserable the lives of racially profiled residents, many of them citizens. Presidents since Bill Clinton have gradually warmed to these unaccountable tools to such an extent that even under Obama, nearly 50 percent of federal criminal prosecutions were for illegal entry, reentry, and other immigration offenses. But that increase in enforcement was just about playing politics, trying to throw the nativists a bone by promising "border security." With a neo-Confederate Attorney General, this trend could become far worse. Sanctuary cities and a rapid response network can perhaps get in the way, but the law gives very little recourse to people caught up in the cruel farce of immigration proceedings.
And the GOPers in Congress might be able by legislation to restrict even legal immigration very substantially. There are impediments and we can make more of them. But most of us alive today are probably unaware that the United States rejected most immigrants and refugees (including people fleeing fascism) for decades after 1924, a pause in immigration that enabled earlier waves of newcomers from southern and eastern Europe to "become white," to make themselves "real Americans." The MAWAs would like to repeat that -- to simply keep out the black, brown and yellow hordes of their nightmares. Those of us with a happier vision can make this difficult, but this is a fight we need to be ready for.

And there is worse possible. If, like most of us, you've managed to push aside memories of our enduring gulag at Guantanamo, this could sneak up on you. George W. and the Dick loved this island prison for "War on Terror" prisoners because they hoped to keep them out of any judicial review. Eventually the Supreme Court said no, and Congress gave them the Military Commissions Act. This was license to create a novel, from the ground up, jerry-rigged pseudo-legal system just for non-citizen enemies. So far, this non-system has been unable to convict anyone of much of anything, including the proud self-confessed master mind of 9/11. Starting a legal edifice from scratch is impossible work, especially when torture and abuse are involved. Anyway, barely noticed in the law that legalized this perversion of legality, is that it limits the use of military tribunals to non-citizens -- and that means that 43 million people in the US, including green card holders and others in various immigration statuses, could be subject to these kangaroo courts, according to Department of Defense lawyer (that job can't last?), Michel Paradis.

... the Guantánamo tribunals are a separate and unequal justice system into which noncitizens have been segregated. That creates a precedent that endangers us all. ...

... for all the dark periods of bigotry and national danger in U.S. history, this is the first time that we have retreated from the constitutional commitment to equal justice under law that has governed this country since the end of slavery. In fact, in every previous use of military tribunals, including those used to try Nazis during the height of World War II, citizen war criminals were tried on equal terms with noncitizens. The only countries that made the distinction now being made in Guantánamo were Germany and Japan. ...

... The Guantánamo tribunals have become a laboratory for the bare minimum of due process that the public can be convinced to accept. Each aberration, each shortcut on the rules of evidence, on torture or on judicial independence becomes a precedent. ... The Guantánamo tribunals perpetuate a naïve prejudice that the rule of law is a luxury, a waste of time or a privilege belonging to “us” and not to “them.”

This is precisely the dream of the racist xenophobes currently occupying the executive branch of government. The injury they can do to people and law itself is both all too easy to envision and incalculable going forward.

We've had a better-than-expected 100 days -- but we can't ease up. Resist and protect much.
***
Back in 2009, I wrote an assessment of citizen response to President Obama's first 100 days which both holds up alright for its moment and seems to emerge from another universe.

1 comment:

Hattie said...

Really informative. You connect the dots, make the connections.

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