Review: Separated – Inside an American Tragedy

By now, we’re all familiar with kids in cages, yes? In fact, it’s been part of our national consciousness for quite some time now – long enough for it to have faded from mind with all the other things happening in the world. But for those families, and for those children – it will never fade from mind. Jacob Soboroff is one of the excellent reporters who helped to make sure the public knew what was happening. His book will, hopefully, help to bring this tragedy back around to our collective consciousness so that it actually STOPS happening – and never happens again.

Soboroff makes very clear that he was chasing another, completely different border story when the Trump administration began to seriously consider taking kids from their parents as a deterrent policy. He *also* makes very clear that, while President Obama’s administration considered the same policy? They decided NOT to go ahead with it. But by late 2016, as election season was ramping up, the Border Patrol began doing it anyway. Then came Trump.

He weaves the timeline through the beginning of the murmurs about separation, before he even knew about it, all the way through to now – when so many of the cast of characters are still involved in the Trump administration – and are botching the COVID crisis, just as they did the migrant one. He makes it clear as well – there is plenty of blame to go around. The Obama administration, in attempting to handle the crisis, opened the door to this – and Trump walked right on through.

This is a story that haunts those who reported it, who dealt with it, and who lived it. It’s ALSO a story that should haunt the rest of us, because this IS STILL HAPPENING. As he says in his author’s note: “Since the summer of 2017, the Trump administration has taken at least 5,556 kids from their parents. But still today, nobody knows for sure exactly how many families have been separated.[emphasis mine]”. The Border Patrol didn’t even bother to keep accurate records – and there are some children who are now orphans, when they should not be, because their parents were sent back without them.

Ultimately, this is a story of an administration willing to do anything – regardless of the morality, the ethics, or the damage – to make good on an impossible campaign promise. Anything, that is, except to do what actually worked – while the separations were at their peak, this administration was also canceling the aid to Central America that was funding programs that worked to help fix the migration crisis.

This is *also* a story of those rare folks who saw what was happening and tried to prevent it. When it became clear prevention was not possible, they did everything they could to try and ameliorate the damage. Unfortunately, the odds were stacked against them, and so we learn about Juan and his son Jose – two migrants who were running to escape with their lives from a drug cartel, and ended up in the United States just as the separation policy really took hold. Their stories are threaded throughout the book, as we see the system that failed them in all its ugliness. A system that continues to this day – one that we must NOT forget, and must hold accountable for the torture of so many people.

Bernie, Biden, & trump

I didn’t write a blog post yesterday – some days with this chaos in the world are harder than others, and finding anything I feel like I have much to say about can be…a challenge. But then – a thing happened, and more things happened, and I’m super irritated with people now. I mean, that tends to be my default these days, BUT. This is an irritation about a thing that has great ramifications for me, my family, my city, my state, MY COUNTRY. Yep. The election.

So Bernie Sanders has officially withdrawn in the Democratic race. That pretty much leaves Joe Biden as the nominee. I mean, there’s no one serious left. Sure, you could vote for Capt. Crunch, or the Tooth Fairy, but I’m not sure that’ll get you anywhere? Or, like some did last time, you could write in a dead gorilla, but again – not really any help there.

Here’s the problem. We’ve got far too many people who have decided that they simply WILL NOT vote for Joe Biden. They don’t like trump, but they won’t vote for Biden. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW DAMN PRIVILEGED (and snotty) THAT MAKES YOU SOUND?! Whether we like Biden or not, right now, WE. NEED. HIM. We have no other viable options left. It will be either trump or Biden that walks away the winner on election day – no one else. But guess what? Maybe stop looking at trump and Biden, and start looking at the possible EFFECTS of another trump presidency vs. a Biden one.

  1. I love RBG. Seriously. That woman is a BAD ASS. *However*, having said that, I don’t think she’s gonna make it another 4 years. And have we considered whether she even WANTS to? And it’s not just her! A justice could literally keel over at any moment, and do we want trump replacing them? Look where THAT got us. Truthfully – we’re voting less for President, and more for the Supreme Court, and for all the lower courts that trump and the GOP have been working (successfully, I might add) to stuff with conservatives. If you have to? PICTURE RBG when you vote for Biden. Because that’s what you’re doing anyway.
  2. I suppose, with everything going on, it’s…easy?…to forget that THERE ARE KIDS IN CAGES. STILL. And honestly, with everything going on, who knows how many of them have died a very sad death because they’re crammed in like sardines and if they caught COVID, they have nowhere to go? It seems silly to ask this, but…do you LIKE kids in cages? Because there will only be *more* of them if trump wins again.
  3. Speaking of COVID…it’s pretty well established that trump did literally EVERYTHING wrong when it comes to trying to handle this pandemic. And we’re paying the price in terms of friends, family, loved ones DEAD. I doubt that we will get through this without everyone knowing *someone* who died from COVID. And here’s the thing – this could happen again!! Do we *really* want trump doing this again? I mean…seriously?
  4. Women’s rights. Trans rights. Dreamer’s rights. SO MANY RIGHTS that are either on shaky ground, or have already been dismantled to at least some degree. It’s pretty frightening when a book that *used* to be a dystopian tale set sometime in the future has BECOME THE NOW. Trans rights have been trampled into the dust. Dreamer’s rights are on a damn fault-line that could go at any time. But, I mean…you do you?
  5. “But he did this thing and it was terrible”. Ok, there may be some valid points here. But the two biggest arguments I keep seeing are related to a) I don’t want a rapist in the White House, and b) ANITA HILL. Ok, well, here’s my response to a) – THERE’S ALREADY A RAPIST IN THE WHITE HOUSE. Who stands *credibly* accused of raping *many* women. Who has raped our institutions of their talent and knowledge. Who has raped our country of it’s money whenever humanly possible. Who has raped our democratic processes – AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO. I don’t know whether Biden did this thing or not. I question it, since he’s been vetted 6 ways to Sunday as VP. BUT. Even if he did – as much as it pains me to say it – his actions as President will *still* be LIGHT YEARS better than trump. (PS. Anyone who gives me shit about saying trump raped our institutions, etc. because it demeans women or whatever – go to hell. I’m a rape survivor. And it’s absolutely appropriate when talking about trump and what he has wrought.). As for b) – I don’t know about you folks, but I’ve changed a hell of a lot in my time. I am not the same person I was 26 years ago. I’ve matured. I’ve gotten kinder, more understanding. I’ve learned much more about black, white, and gray areas. I’m more patient, and I like to learn. I’m willing to learn to do and be better. I’d venture to say that these things would hold true for most people. We do not live in a vacuum. Nor a time capsule. People change from day to day, let alone year to year. And, again – even if he was the exact same person as he was 26 years ago? HE’S STILL BETTER THAN tRUMP. (Also? Anita Hill is actually voting for Biden. So…there’s that.)

Look. I get it. People hate “settling” for something, or feeling like they have no choice *but* to settle. But there is idealism, and there is reality, and somewhere the two have to meet. Idealism is where the candidate you believe in with all your heart gets the nomination and does amazing things. Unfortunately, we *all* can’t have our perfect candidate. Nor do we have a perfect democracy. But the one we have is super important, and it’s on ALL OF US who believe in what it stands for to work to keep it. And sometimes, that means voting for the candidate that has better policies – even marginally – than the other person…and then WORKING OUR ASSES OFF to hold that person accountable to what we believe is important. THAT is democracy. It’s *not* “protest voting”, or writing in some ridiculous “candidate”, or voting third party. Because that ISN’T democracy. That’s showing your privilege in that the future won’t affect you as much as it absolutely will others. It’s showing that you can’t play nice with others, even when actual lives are LITERALLY at stake. When our *country* may be at stake.

There’s a school of thought that says “they have to EARN my vote”. But I often think it’s actually the other way around. They get your vote because they’re the better candidate, and then you remind them – repeatedly, if necessary – that they are only in office BECAUSE of you. Make them earn that vote, and *keep* earning it. Hold their feet to the fire with the power of your collective voices. At that point, we’re upholding the ideals of this country. At that point, we’re working to make those changes we’re so hellbent on seeing. And at that point, we become *true* citizens of a democracy.

Asshats Are Not Welcome Here

Guys. I am infuriated and appalled and disgusted. The other day was the Daytona 500, a race I don’t generally watch, but which my husband did for years. He was a *huge* NASCAR fan when we first met, and he couldn’t understand why I typically had a book out. Circles, dude. They go in circles. Unless you’re invested in the individual racers – which I wasn’t – it can be SUPER boring. I know there are a bazillion people who disagree with me, and please don’t @ me – I’m thrilled that people have a thing they love, but…it’s just not something I do.

ANYWAY. What got me so upset is that, at the end of the race, there was a HORRIFIC crash. Ryan Newman’s car hit the wall, flipped, was hit by another car on his driver side, and crossed the finish line upside down and on fire. Like I said, I’m not typically a NASCAR watcher, but…it looked bad. *Really* bad. So, as with so many others – I scrolled through social media, trying to find out if he was going to be ok. I knew he had a family, and was devastated for them – I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a racer’s wife. I could not do it. I couldn’t.

As I was scrolling, I started seeing something AWFUL in my twitter feed. People who were saying that this happened because of a “Trump curse” and that it was his fault that Newman crashed, and so on. Here’s the thing – I *detest* Trump with every fiber of my being, the horrible way he’s treated people is completely unacceptable to me. Stiffing contractors, making fun of people, blocking aid that got people *killed* – nope. Can’t stand him or the policies he pushes. But here’s the *other* thing – anyone claiming that he had some responsibility for that accident? IS AN ASSHOLE. I may not like the guy or what he stands for, but putting the blame for this crash on his shoulders is ridiculous and ALSO unacceptable. If I wouldn’t tolerate it from him, I’m sure as hell not going to tolerate it from anyone else.

Is this really what we’ve become? Yes, I saw so many others trying to uplift his family, and asking for thoughts and prayers. But in what world is it ok to level this accusation on ANYONE? And don’t lay out the “that’s what democrats do” BS on me, either – I *am* a democrat. I, and so many others, stand on the platform that hate is not ok, whether it’s coming from the White House, or over the interwebs. And of course, I got crap from a few people (NOT dems) for saying something about it – it was Trump fans, actually. Which was…weird. There was one gentleman, though – his profile is a MAGA 2020 hat, so…there’s that – who tweeted this to me:

Thank you, sir. May more of us find this spirit in our hearts over the coming months, and realize that we truly ARE more alike than we are different.

Also: As I was typing this, a brief statement was given that Newman is in critical condition, but that the doctors don’t expect any of his injuries to be life-threatening. For him, for his family and his crew, for his friends and ALL his loved ones – I am thankful. I wish him well in his recovery.

Review: A Very Stable Genius

A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America by Philip Rucker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Trump administration is a Carousel of Chaos. Trump tweets a thing, the news orgs pick it up, his staff scrambles to control it, or spin it, or lie about it – whatever the case may be. It’s exhausting and frustrating and more than a little bit nuts. Trying to keep track of the last 3 years of this is wearying – which is why I’m glad Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig did all the hard work for us. And did it well.

The book is extremely readable, and lays everything out on the table. And they do it in true journalistic style – I was honestly surprised to find that a few times I felt sympathy that surprised me. It is obvious that they spoke to A LOT of people, because the accounts given are as complete as one could get without having actually been in the room. This is one of those books where we know the basic story, but filling in the blanks is more surprising, infuriating, and helpful than we could have guessed.

The scene at the Pentagon made me grit my teeth in anger (I’m former military, and my husband retired from the service. However, anyone who “supports the troops” should find it unacceptable.). The whole thing about the Kurds made my physically ill. But the overall theme here is the casual carelessness with which Trump runs his administration. The ignorance of why there are processes, and the disdain with which he views everyone around him. It’s not unknown, but seeing it here so starkly written, with conversations and pieces that were previously still hidden, is eye-opening and – frankly – terrifying.

This is a book that is required reading. It will be an important piece of the historical puzzle about this administration, and we should all understand where we stand as a country.

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