The Legal Case Against Trump’s Muslim Ban

Let’s be clear: Donald J. Trump does not have the Constitutional power to enact the executive order he issued last Friday, banning citizens from seven countries from traveling to the United States and barring refugees for 120 days (and refugees from Syria indefinitely). To be fair, he’d (arguably) be technically in the clear if he had made an exception for green card holders, but he didn’t. The United States green card lottery program even has a page titled Permanent Residents Are Entitled to the Bill of Rights. They are also entitled to protection under all federal and state laws. Essentially, once they are granted permanent residence, they cannot be detained or deported simply because of their country of birth. Particularly when the basis for such a ban appears to be religious discrimination. Those who arrived in the United States on Friday evening were not detained and/or deported because of a crime, or a review of their visa/immigration paperwork. They were harassed because the Trump administration has decided to punish Muslims.

It is worth noting that Trump has insisted that his order is not a “Muslim ban”. His case would never stand up in a respectable court of law. Rudy Giuliani said in an interview with Fox News on Saturday that Trump originally asked him how to create a “Muslim ban” legally. Trump, himself, has said that he will prioritize Christian refugees (once the refugee ban is lifted). The text of the refugee ban declares that priority will be given to refugees who “identify with minority religions” in their country of origin. For those not keeping tally, in majority-Muslim countries, that means prioritizing Christians, while discriminating against Muslims. Not enough? Try this page from his own website: Donald J. Trump Statement on Preventing Muslim Immigration. He can try to claim it’s not religion-based, but renaming it doesn’t change what it is.

And it’s important to note that his claim that any of this is necessary doesn’t hold a drop of water. The terrorists who carried out 9/11 weren’t from any of the countries on the ban list. In fact, no one convicted for a terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11 has been, either. Furthermore, Trump’s justification for prioritizing Christian refugees is completely logically inconsistent with his own executive order. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday, he stated: “Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.” And yet the order bans all refugees from Syria indefinitely.

It’s also worth stating that Trump’s order is in direct violation of the Geneva Convention, which states that signatory countries (yes, the United States is one) may not discriminate against refugees solely on the basis of their nationality.

All of this, of course, does not even consider the sheer moral cowardice of, with no warning, blocking parents from reuniting with their children, immigrants eagerly anticipating their first day at a new job in the United States, or those who had finally completed the long and arduous process of applying for visas and residence. It does not touch on the inexcusable trauma inflicted on those who were detained for hours or days, without access to a lawyer or an understanding of what was happening to them. It does not address the deterioration of our international relationships or the fact the Donald Trump has single handedly given ISIS and other radical Muslim groups their best recruiting propaganda yet. All of that is just cruel and stupid.

But when we turn out to fight this, as we will continue to do, we must remember that the action Trump has taken is also illegal, and we are the ones standing up for the right side of the law.

Yes, Protests Matter. Even Now.

Today, in the aftermath of an inauguration speech characterized by the promise of isolationism and fear, over half a million protestors came together to march on Washington, D.C. Thousands more walked into the streets in other cities throughout the United States and around the world. Here’s why, even in the shadow of the Trump administration, those protests still matter.

asheville women's march

Image by Andy Gmitter

Donald Trump has made a career of being “tough”. He says what he thinks, he does what he wants, and he’s not about to get pushed around by a pathetic bunch of whiners. Today’s protest, no matter how massive, is unlikely to change any policy decisions he plans to implement in the next 99 days (although of course we all look forward to reading the 3:00 a.m. meltdown when he realizes more people turned out to protest than came to his inauguration). Similarly, the last eight years have demonstrated a new Republican strategy of politics as a zero-sum game; there is no longer room, it seems, for working together toward a greater good for all. It seems apparent, in fact, that any conversation between conservatives and liberals at this point in history is doomed due to the inability of either party to translate the language of the universe next door.

Given the disconnect, the partisanship, and the blatant callousness of our new President and his supporters, it is easy to dismiss today’s protests as a futile effort, perhaps good for morale but with no substantial effect on the future. But that completely misses a larger perspective, both in what the protests mean for today and in what they create for the future.

Don’t dismiss the importance of morale. Liberals woke up the day after the election with the dazed sense that the nightmare was now their waking life. The visceral fear that many of us felt, for ourselves, our loved ones, and for strangers we have never met, was overwhelming. And one foundation stone of that fear was the question of how it is even possible for so many people to vote for a man whose entire campaign was blatantly dedicated to bigotry and xenophobia. There is much needed comfort in seeing just how many people are willing to stand up against him and the principles he espouses. And yes, it’s bolstering to see a physical demonstration of the fact that they are the majority.

Protests draw more protestors. Recent studies have demonstrated an unexpected cause and effect related to protests: participating in a political action such as marches actually changes the beliefs and behavior of the participants. Someone who comes to a march with a friend, for example, but may not be particularly committed to the cause is much more likely to walk away from that action convinced of the veracity of the movement. And yes, that translates into further action and voting decisions.

Not all Republicans are so sure of their position (and a few are possibly even not evil). Though the newly installed President and his closest supporters may seem intractable, that is not necessarily the case for all Republican Congressmen…or their supporters. Several high ranking members of Congress have already begun questioning the demands of their leader, and there’s nothing like seeing half a million people blocking your way to work to make you question how you want to legislate. And it’s worth bearing in mind that not all Republican voters are comfortable with the new Commander-In-Chief, either. The massive turnout today is a powerful reminder that perhaps one’s party should not override one’s conscience.

This protest lays the groundwork for action to come. Coordinating protests on this scale requires systemic organization of everything from communications and outreach to permits and parking. Many different groups have been involved in bringing the Women’s March together, and as a result we now have a standing and viable system for the quick dissemination of information and calls to action. It is crucially important to understand that this protest, on the very first day of the new Presidency, is only the beginning. What matters more is what happens every day after today. Sustained and significant pressure will be required to convince larger swaths of legislators to hold fast against misguided or dangerous legislation. Protest actions must begin again and again, immediately after such legislation is introduced. We now have the essential systems in place to make sure that happens.

Time for a New Monster?

It has been a week since the election that will put Donald Trump in the White House. In that time, the news has been flooded by articles on how such a widely unpredicted result could have become manifest. Low black voter turnout, white women unexpectedly choosing Trump, the poor and the disenfranchised deciding this man will be their champion, ignorance, racism, misogyny, Islamophobia…all have done their rounds. And while we can debate their relative merit all day long, such an argument ignores the crucial point that all these individual “causes” have a common core: fear.

The article on how we counteract that fear is for another day, however. Today, let’s talk about how we embrace it. A vast majority of us are afraid, whether of our government or of the terrorists who may lurk in our midsts. And that’s nothing particularly new, but the sudden shift in our leadership promises to bring our fears sharply into focus. “Corrupt Government” doesn’t seem to cut it when you’re seriously discussing whether or not the new administration will build deportation camps or embrace torture as an interrogation technique. “Terrorism” fails to capture the sensation of finding swastikas scrawled over the walls of our cities. It’s a brave new world, and with it will surely come monsters.

As I discussed extensively quite a while back, the dominant monster of any era can reveal much about the fears of the culture which promotes it. A decade ago, the dominant monster was the vampire, seductive representative of the corporate culture threatening to drain us all dry. Since that time we have moved on through zombies, an obvious recognition of our own increasingly “brain dead” and pacified state, and the frightening rate at which the symptoms seemed to spread. We have been slowly losing our fascination with zombies, however, and so particularly now, in the aftermath of one of the most polarizing elections in American history, we are likely to choose a new demon to haunt our fevered dreams.

What will it be?

To answer that question, we must consider what we need in a monster, what fears and internal threats must it manifest in order to carry out its function? It seems likely that in the coming months we will require a monster that reflects our more base, more bestial traits as we are confronted with the human consequences of many of President Trump’s proposed policies. Nothing like babies howling as they are wrenched from the arms of their immigrant mothers or fathers breaking down on camera describing how, with the loss of state-subsidized insurance, he cannot treat his child for brain cancer to bring us face to face with the animalistic cruelty lurking in our lizard-brain. So my bet is on the return of the hybrids: werewolves, werecats, maybe some werebears if we’re lucky. There’s also a certain poetic satisfaction in imagining our own destruction by shapeshifter; consider it the Native Americans’ long-overdue revenge. The hybrids we are likely to bring upon ourselves in our upcoming fiction will be motivated neither by cold calculation (as were our vampires) or mindless hunger (as were the zombies), but by rage and the feverish desire to wreak destruction. It’s important to note, however, that while traditionally hybrids have only transformed to their powerful, animalistic aspect at night (and only on certain nights, at that), we can expect some reimagining in the new versions (after all, vampires weren’t always sexy). Our new monsters won’t be afraid to confront us in the daylight. In fact, they will prowl fearlessly down our mainstreets to confront us in our cafes and boutiques. They will enter our homes without knocking while we’re still sipping our morning coffee and do their worst. We will discover that silver bullets were always just a myth; these creatures have broken free of the moon’s influence and have no weakness against her metal. They are bigger than us, stronger than us, and beyond reason. Only by banding together do we stand a chance against them.

But therein lies the crux of any monster mythology: we create the embodiment of our fears, and eventually we create a way to defeat them. Vampires require a stake in the heart or a thorough dose of revealing and purifying sunshine. Zombies require utter destruction of the brain (or endless care and maintenance)…by those who can still think. And what will be the solution to our new, more fearsome than ever, race of hybrids? We can’t yet say what solutions we might find, but we can certainly predict that one of them will be to stick together and watch each other’s backs.

The Brass Heart

It was an impulse buy. Half a brass heart, sitting forlorn on a glass shelf in the thrift shop. Like the wedding gowns (and yet strangely unlike the cast off tuxedos), it whimpered of broken hearts and promises unkept. It was $5.99, an outrageous price for a cast off bit of brass jewelry, but, she told herself, a fine price for someone else’s dream.

Anna had never had a best friend, had never really wanted one until she was too old for the concept. Childhood had been a landscape of old trees and broken fence posts with bird nests inside. Of being sure she had made friends with the faeries, and then, suddenly, being not so sure, anymore. Which required gifts and impromptu rituals to reacquire their good grace, reassurances given in the shake of the leaves, the gust of the wind, the carving of a riverbank which clearly meant something. Continue reading

What Net Neutrality Is (and what it isn’t)

You’ve heard about Net Neutrality, but you don’t quite get it. Or you think you do, but your nerdy friends keep saying you don’t. Or you unfortunately arrived here because you searched for ascii porn, and have no idea how Net Neutrality is related. This one’s for you.

The Fast Explanation

Net Neutrality is the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. And by “equally” we mean that different kinds of information on the Internet should all be delivered to the the end user without any regard for what kind of information it is. You ask, you get, and no one is standing in the middle saying “Actually, that info you wanted isn’t important enough for you to get it quickly.” Everyone who makes content available on the Internet can have it accessible to whomever wishes to view it (sadly necessary disclaimer: this applies only to content that is otherwise legal in your country, state, and district). Everyone who wants to view content on the Internet can ask for it and get it at the same speed as any other content. Kind of like how when you pick up your phone to actually call someone (I know, who does that anymore, right?), you expect the call to be completed and the person on the other end to be able to respond in real time, no matter who you are calling. Equal, two-way access, no matter who you are calling. Continue reading

Growing Into Wonder

I hate surprises. It doesn’t matter whether they are good or bad, I prefer to know what is coming at me, so I can prepare myself to make the best of it or decide in advance whether fight or flight is the better option. I have known in advance what I was getting for my birthday since I was 12. I know that this would seem to indicate a stolid nature devoid of any sense of adventure, though I think few people would describe me that way. The thing about surprises is that they tend, in our complicated culture, to be the quick and dirty substitute for something far more meaningful and important: wonder.

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The Kali Principle

A great deal of emphasis is given in our stories to tales of magical creation. Wishes are granted, and the coveted item appears out of thin air. The birth of a child, in many religions, is the beginning of salvation. The creation of a building, or an artifact, or a concrete set of precepts is often the turning point where a tale of misery becomes a valuable lesson. As we go through our lives, working to live up to our own, personal, mythologies, we carry these lessons with us and aim to build and create that which will lead us to wisdom, happiness, and a sense of righteous fulfillment at the end of our time here.

Much less often is the power of death and destruction upheld as a step along this path. Usually, tales of death are only made meaningful when death is magically overcome, or serves the purpose of furthering a noble cause. Destruction is saved for the punishment of the guilty or as a catalyst for greater achievement. Something to be avoided at all costs, but if encountered, to be nobly borne and overcome. What we rarely hear are stories of the beauty and necessity of destruction as a meaningful, sacred thing in itself. The recognition that destruction is a crucial part of all our lives if we are to continue to grow, that death creates the fertile ground for new growth, seems to have been left behind with the harvest festivals and strange, heathen temples of the east. We are a people of creation and building; we never look back. We just continue to build up and out on the basis of what came before. But what if our foundation was built so long ago that the core is rotten? Can we continue to build external supports indefinitely, attempting to shore up that which wants to fall?

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Staring Into The Abyss

For some people, it is simply a culmination of small things, over the years, and it is impossible to pinpoint the one that tipped us over. However we get there, most people, sooner or later, find themselves staring into the abyss. It is a black, bottomless space, without any assurance that there is anything more real than this. You realize that everything you ever had to believe in, everything you counted on as a foundation, was an illusion. You realize that the symbols and trappings of your life are just that: symbols and trappings, nothing more. There is no guarantee that there is a reason, a pattern, a loving creator who will some day tell you why all this was necessary. There are no certainties that “it will all work out OK”, no promises that your loved ones will always be there, not even the comfort of thinking that you, at least, will always try to do the right thing. You are weak, the world is quite possibly a random collection of events, and you know with complete certainty that you are truly and finally alone.

How we deal with this experience has a great deal to do with the people we become. Continue reading