ICE’s Icy Response to Reports of (Space) Alien Crime

After the election, I was so hurt and dazed and upset that it was all I could do to push out one political blog post, an effort that sent me into hibernation the second I hit “publish.” My inner blogger has been clinging to a bit of driftwood, panting to catch her breath until now. The thing that finally pushed me back into the sea of writing was—what else?—someone else’s bad writing!

This time, it’s ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) writing poorly.

Let me rephrase that; the actual mechanics of ICE’s writing are fine. But the ideas expressed are seriously questionable.

You’ve all heard of the new VOICE hotline for victims of crimes committed by “illegal aliens”? I’m sure you also heard that people pranked the hotline with reports of illegal aliens. As in, E.T.-phone-home aliens.

Fusion.net recently covered the story, and ICE sent them an angry email defending VOICE and calling out the pranksters. I’m critiquing ICE’s email because I think it raises some important points about the nature of VOICE and how people feel about it.

From ICE:

I hope you won’t dignify this group with the attention they are seeking. But if you choose to do so…this group’s cheap publicity stunt is beyond the pale of legitimate public discourse.

ICE brings up an interesting question: what “attention” is “this group” seeking with their crank calls? First of all, what group? Weren’t the callers random citizens from around the U.S. and not an organized social club? This is not so much a concentrated organization looking for cheap publicity, but rather individual people all acting on something they naturally feel. Anger? Worry for immigrants? Frustration that seeks humor as an outlet?

Instead of pretending this was a “publicity stunt” (seriously ICE, no one thinks this was a publicity stunt), ICE would do well to consider why the creation of VOICE spurred so many otherwise-unconnected individuals to hit back.

Their actions seek to obstruct and do harm to crime victims; that’s objectively despicable regardless of one’s views on immigration policy.

Their actions seek to obstruct and harm crime victims?

How?

How is pranking a hotline an intentional strategy to make sure you harm other people who use that hotline? Maybe ICE meant, “This prank could eat up bandwidth on the hotline, and that will affect the people who need it most, so pranksters should think about that.” Even though I would still have qualms with that claim (more on that later), at least it would make more sense than claiming that a hotline prank is some kind of intentional and personal strike against crime victims.

Second, ICE and everyone else in this country know perfectly well the motive behind this prank. It wasn’t attention-seeking, and it wasn’t random individuals waking up one day and deciding to harm crime victims.

Pranksters lashed out at VOICE because they saw it as another piece in a political strategy designed to turn “immigrants” into a common enemy. Many people fear that the current administration has and will continue to demonize immigrants for its own gain. And with people like Steven Bannon afoot, who can blame folks for worrying?

Surely ICE must know that this was the motive of many pranksters. I’m sure you know that, too. Even if you disagree with those pranksters…even if you think that immigrants are dangerous (I do not) and even if you believe the VOICE service is needed…you would have to be living under a rock to not know that people resist VOICE because they see VOICE as calculated persecution against immigrants.

So no, ICE. No. What they are doing is not “objectively despicable.” It is reasonable to dislike an “immigrant crime hotline” created right after a political season in which politicians dangerously and unscrupulously used immigrants as a common enemy to garner votes.

Pretending you don’t know why VOICE’s opponents dislike it is, to borrow a phrase I recently overheard, “beyond the pale of legitimate public discourse.”

The VOICE Office provides information to citizens and non-citizens alike regardless of status, race, etc., whose loved ones have been killed or injured by removable aliens.

Okay. Why?

Is there a reason we need a special office to provide information to victims of crimes, over and above what law enforcement already does? Can victims of attack, or the families of murder victims, not get information or help from the police if the attacker was foreign? Regular law enforcement channels are sufficient to handle and distribute information on the vast majority of killings in the U.S., and I assume some of those crimes were committed by immigrants before this election season. Why did we coincidentally begin needing this special hotline at just the moment when a new administration needed a PR campaign to justify demonizing immigrants?

Many (including myself) suspect that VOICE is a PR move to make immigrant crime look like an epidemic, to bolster the power of the incoming administration.

This is at the heart of why people pranked VOICE, and again, ICE would do well to consider that instead of feigning ignorance about people’s feelings.

VOICE provides access to the same information you and other reporters are already able to obtain. Yet this group claims it’s somehow racist to give the same to victims of all races and nationalities? That is absurd.

^^ I don’t even understand what that means. Please use fewer word salads.

Further, openly obstructing and mocking victims

NO ONE IS ATTEMPTING TO OBSTRUCT OR MOCK VICTIMS, they are mocking this thinly-veiled attempt to make immigrants look dangerous. Stop pretending not to know what people’s real motives are!

crosses the line of legitimate public discourse. VOICE is a line for victims to obtain information.

Again, why can’t they get information the way you typically do when crimes are committed?

This group’s stunt is designed to harm victims. That is shameful.

What’s shameful is that you keep accusing people of one set of motives when we all know they have another set of motives, and you’re doing it to keep people from asking a really vital question: why does this new hotline have the look of a propaganda tool meant to sour us against immigrants?

You know what, ICE, I respect that you do a tough job, but you really dropped the hot dog on this one. The creation of VOICE has such a propaganda smell around it that you’re stooping below yourselves to defend it, let alone get sanctimonious about it.

And speaking of stooping too low, what’s this I hear about lying in wait at churches and other important public spaces to arrest undocumented individuals? What’s this I hear about cracking down on undocumented individuals who haven’t committed any type of crime? What’s this I hear about children getting sick and being unable to concentrate at school because they’re afraid their mom will be taken away when they get home? What’s this I hear about our brash leader wanting to publicize lists of immigrant crimes, all Gestapo-style? If we’re going to bring up shameful behavior, let’s start by asking whether we, as a society, should just follow whatever order comes from the top regardless if the orders are healthy, wise, or loving. Then we can talk about people making crank phone calls.

To wrap up: If you want information on a crime, go to the police. If you want insight into the true purpose of VOICE, take stock of the recent election and its “open season” attitude toward immigrants.

And furthermore, I’d like to report an orange alien in a toupee who I think may have stolen the password to a popular Twitter account. Stick that in your phone line and smoke it.

Proverbs 32: A husband of epic awesomeness, who can find?

A husband of epic awesomeness who can find?
He is worth far more than chocolate desserts.

His wife has full confidence in him
and sure enough, his grocery run lacks nothing that was on the list.

He brings her fun and compliments and love, not drama and neglect and disappointment,
all the days of his life.

He selects audio and video clips
and works eagerly on his recording software.

He is like the finest of musical entertainers,
providing joy to thousands of listeners through his Youtube channel.

He gets up while it is still night to get to work on time;
he provides a house, wise financial investments, and fun vacations to his family
and portions for the family’s long line of pets (who all tend to be on the chubby side).

He considers a 2012 Toyota Prius and buys it;
out of its gas savings he takes many road trip vacations.

He sets about his work vigorously,
his brain is strong for its tasks.

He sees how much his fans enjoy his music
and his computer does not turn off at night.

In his hand he holds the keyboard
he grasps a microphone with his fingers.

He opens his arms to friends and family
and helps people out with budgeting woes.

When it snows, he has no fear for his household,
because they bought the bread and milk last night and he is well-liked enough at work that he can work a day at home if the roads get bad.

He makes the bed about as often as his wife;
he is clothed in David Bowie T-shirts and jeans.

His wife is respected at their alma mater
where she takes her seat among the scholars.

He fulfills song requests
and supplies online shows with Bowie impersonations.

He is clothed with intelligence and wit,
and can laugh at the clown show that is the White House these days.

He speaks with wisdom
always ready to compromise, learn, change, and grow.

He watches over the dirty dishes and laundry of the household
and does not eat the bread of traditional gender role idleness.

His cat arises to call him the best playmate (and pin cushion) ever;
His wife also, and she praises him.

“Many guys think they’re all that,
but trust me, honey…you surpass them all.”

Flattery is deceptive; huge muscles eventually turn into fat; flowery promises often don’t materialize; and “good intentions” get you nowhere by themselves,
but a man who fears the Lord, creates beautiful music, acts on his words, embraces feminism, has a heart for others, and cooks better than I do, is to be married!

Honor him for all that he has done,
and subscribe to his Youtube channel!

What Has She Brought Us? Hope.

carrieIt’s hard to think of something to say about Carrie Fisher that hasn’t already been said. The woman was a powerhouse, and the internet rightly lit up with her praises the day of her passing.

She was a feisty soul who ate patriarchy on buttered toast for breakfast and cut sexist media standards off at the knees. She worked to take away the stigma of mental illness. She didn’t edit herself as a woman; her speeches and interviews are brash, hilarious, and honest.

And let’s not forget that she inspired several generations of female heroines in sci-fi and fantasy films.

I’ve said a lot about the role of Star Wars in my life, and I won’t repeat myself here, except to say that Carrie Fisher modeled strength through adversity during one of the most vulnerable moments of my life, and that is an unpayable debt.

So here’s my two cents in an internet flowing with Carrie Fisher love: it’s our responsibility to carry her work forward now.

In the year of Fisher’s death, Princess Leia appeared onscreen in a film about picking up and continuing the work of those who have gone before us. I can’t imagine a more apt message to those of us who loved her.

everyone is happyShe’s like our Ben Kenobi: gone too soon, at a moment where we feel we still need her. In reality, though, her strength and example are still with us, in every recorded interview and written book and onscreen moment as Princess Leia. And unlike Luke, who lamented, “I can’t do it, Ben…I can’t go on alone,” we aren’t alone. Those of us who loved Carrie Fisher have each other. We can band together to continue the efforts she started.

So whatever Carrie Fisher did for you, now do for someone else:

  • Talk openly about mental illness and correct people who think the subject is taboo.
  • Mock sexist media standards until their defenders feel like two-inch-tall morons. Live outside of those standards; they don’t apply to us unless we let them.
  • If you’re a woman, be outspoken and hilarious. If you’re a man, be outspoken and hilarious and support the outspoken, hilarious women in your life.
  • Set a standard for strength and perseverance. Notice and affirm others who embody strength and perseverance, even if they aren’t beautiful or popular or doing anything particularly spectacular.
  • If you’re an artist, create work about strong women.
  • If you wind up in a mess, take charge and rescue yourself and your companions.
  • If you had a steamy love affair with Harrison Ford during his prime, write a tell-all memoir.
  • (Seriously though, the normal pattern would be for the international male superstar to brag and “tell all” about bagging a hot 19-year-old who played a princess. Carrie Fisher completely turned that on its head and bragged about bagging the world’s most famous male heartthrob. Can you even?)

Be the Carrie Fisher you want to see in the world. Join hands with your sisters to smash patriarchy and stigma and stifling social norms. Tell your truth, and tell it loudly. Be funny. Be smart. Be compassionate. Go out drowning in moonlight, strangled by your own bra.

It’s up to us now.

carrie-forever

To Friends and Family I Love Who Voted Trump

I have quite a few friends, family members, and family-members-of-friends who have always been dear to me and who made different voting choices than I did during this election season. You voted for Trump, maybe because you were enthusiastic about him, or maybe because you just thought he was okay-ish—or maybe you really disliked him but really disliked Clinton more. There were lots of reasons, ranging from the economy to fears about terrorism to the Supreme Court nomination, that you voted as you did.

I’m coming to you with this letter (and feel free to call or message me later if you have questions or thoughts) not because we disagreed in our voting, but because there is an urgent matter that we agree on that I need to ask for your help about.

How do I know we agree about it? Because I know you. You are my friends and my family. I’m not writing this to an anonymous internet, but to you.

The issue that we agree about is this: cruelty and violence are wrong.

There’s been a lot of arguing over whether Trump, personally, is a racist or misogynist. The answers to this range from “He’s definitely a racist” to “He was using a racist platform just to get elected but doesn’t feel that way personally” to “He’s not racist at all and has been unfairly blamed.”

Many unsavory groups like the KKK supported him, and there has been a lot of arguing over whether Trump wanted that, or whether people are just blaming him for the actions of jerks whom he can’t control, such as David Duke.

I’m not here to answer these questions, because there’s something a little more urgent that we need to deal with right now. Whether Trump intended this, didn’t intend this, or is completely oblivious to it, the reality of today is that very bad people are feeling bolder about harassing, assaulting, and bullying members of minority groups, because Trump was elected. Many of them are directly mentioning Trump’s election in their attacks.

This link is a good place to start reading some of the many, many stories in the past few days of attackers who use Trump’s name to justify attacks on innocent citizens—non-white Americans, immigrants, women, and LGBT members, to name a few. You can find much more if you start reading and looking for other stories. The KKK recently announced a big party to celebrate Trump. Even in instances where attacks have not occurred yet, people are becoming so afraid that they are considering leaving the country, or are changing their daily behaviors to avoid trouble (one example of this is Muslim women who stop wearing their head scarves even though it’s part of their religious beliefs, because they fear being singled out).

Again, does Trump personally condone all this? I don’t know him, so I can’t say for sure. But whether he personally does or does not agree with these attacks and this fear, many attackers think he does, and they seem to believe that his election means they can threaten and attack others and get away with it.

And this is where you come in, my friends, because I already know you don’t believe in cruelty and assault. I know you wouldn’t want anyone to be treated the way the people in these stories are treated. I know because some of you have LGBT loved ones, and some of you reached out with sadness when I shared a Facebook status from a black man who was musing on the KKK’s support of Trump, and because some of you are people I grew up around who have demonstrated how you treat women and minorities.

So hear me: the increased hostilities against minorities are something that you and I have the power to deal with, and I’m hoping you’ll get on board with me about that.

There’s a lot of social peer pressure right now for Trump voters to ignore these attacks as outliers, to call them blown-out-of-proportion, or to believe they’ve been made up. I think people fear that if they admit people are assaulting minorities in Trump’s name, it will be like losing an argument against the Hillary supporters and political liberals. Or, they fear, we’ll be letting a biased media use scare tactics to pull the wool over our eyes.

I’m asking you not to give in to that peer pressure. Don’t believe that you will risk looking wrong or being a “bleeding heart” if you take these attacks seriously and recognize how frequently they are happening. Don’t believe that they are all inflated by a biased media, because frankly, it’s not the media reporting most of this—it’s everyday citizens. (That KKK story is the only media piece I’ve seen on the attacks; everything else I have seen since Wednesday morning has been real people reporting from Facebook and Twitter).

These attacks are happening on the street, in everyday situations, to people who are minding their own business. You and I are also on the street in everyday situations. We may run into an instance of harassment and have a chance to stop it. Or, we may have friends and loved ones who say mean or violent things against minorities, and we might have the chance to speak up and start changing their mind. Who knows—maybe your disagreement will make that person more hesitant to share their thoughts out loud, and then they won’t be fueling the anger and rage of their violent friends.

And here’s the important part: because you voted Trump, the people launching these attacks may listen to you more than they listen to me.

It would be easier for people to write me off when I stand up to this because they can just blame my angst about Clinton losing. But if someone who voted as they did were to speak up for the oppressed—at the dinner table, on Facebook, by intervening in harassment on the street—it will be harder for them to believe that Trump’s election means they can oppress people.

So what does this look like for you?

Maybe it looks like a really awkward comment at the Thanksgiving dinner table when a relative has made a blanket statement about needing to keep Muslims out: “Hey Aunt Joan, you know that I take terrorism seriously too. I hope our country will protect us from that. But if we start blaming that on all Muslims, we’re going to be blaming a lot of innocent people, too. I don’t want to hurt innocent people. Let’s talk about the vetting process, and talk about counter-terrorism, but not talk about ‘Muslims’ as one category, okay?”

Maybe it looks like saying, “You know, I have a friend who is transgender. She’s a really nice person, but right now she’s nervous about going out alone, even just to run errands. It makes me sad to imagine that a stranger might yell at her or get in her face; that would be awful.”

Maybe it looks like standing up to a sexist joke from your friend, for the first time ever, and saying, “Hey dude, seriously. Jokes about women aren’t funny to me. A lot of my friends/sisters are worried about being assaulted, and that is making me really sad for them; how is that funny?”

Maybe it looks like all of these people gently laughing at you, raising their eyebrows, and worrying that you’re going to “the other side,” the too-PC side—and maybe it looks like insisting to them, “No, we all know this is wrong, and we are being peer pressured into pretending it’s okay by some of our political friends, and I won’t pretend anymore.”

Maybe it looks like lurking on social media for a few days, taking in the stories of people who are different from you, and then telling those stories to other friends and family who don’t believe how serious things have gotten. Maybe it looks like actively taking to your blog or Facebook to write about what’s happening and say, “I recognize that this is happening and I am telling you that this is not what the next presidency should be about, and this is not how any of us should ever behave, toward anyone, for any reason.”

Maybe it means you stop an assault. Maybe it means you openly cry, in front of friends or family, when you see that someone has spray-painted, “Black lives don’t matter, and neither does their vote” in public.

Whatever you do, don’t say “I and my friends who voted Trump aren’t racist, so his candidacy isn’t about that. Why are people so afraid of him?” Like it or not, intentionally or not, Trump getting elected has resulted in some dangerous people feeling entitled to attack others. Even if the mathematical majority of Trump voters don’t want to attack minorities, even a fraction of Trump voters being violent has huge implications for the safety of our society, and we need to recognize that.

Yes, you and I both know that you don’t go around hating anyone—and that is exactly why you need to speak up when you see hate. That is exactly why you, as a Trump voter, need to say, “I see stories of fear and assault. This is not okay. This should never happen. I will hold others accountable to stop.”

So here’s the next part of the equation. This is the more difficult part to write, especially to people that I love. But if I don’t “go there” I don’t think I can keep my intellectual integrity.

Right now, there are a lot of minorities asking very hard questions of Trump supporters. They are pointing out that you had enough information to know that his candidacy was encouraging awful, violent people. They are saying that we all had enough information to know that a Trump victory would make violent, dangerous people bolder.

I have personally heard people from disadvantaged groups asking hard questions. They say, “Yes, there were reasons to vote for Trump other than racism, like the economy and such. But how were any of those reasons more important than my immediate safety?”

Understand that I am reporting what I have personally heard others asking.

These accusations probably hurt you, because you don’t want anyone to get hurt. You don’t like being blamed for actions you yourself would never do. Neither do I; neither does anyone! However, those questions and accusations are poignant and worth pondering. It hurts to examine things like that, but those things are serious enough that they sort of demand reflection—right?

Let me tell you a story about myself.

You probably know that I’m big into feminism (you don’t have to agree with feminism to understand this metaphor, I promise). I read about it, write about it, and examine how it intersects with my faith. Several years ago, I became aware of the fact that minority women are often ignored—or outright dismissed and victimized—by mainstream feminism. Mainstream feminism often focuses on white, middle-class women, and those women can be pretty elitist when we want to be.

For a long time I ignored all this. It was too painful. Feminism—the system that I believed in and loved—could be oppressive and harmful? But feminism was about throwing off oppression! How could I be expected to take something that gave me so much joy and enthusiasm and recognize that it could be used for exclusion and harm, too?

I still haven’t resolved this tension, but I keep looking at it. I look at it painfully, and realize that the comfortable white feminism that I am so content with will have to be traded in for a feminism that’s more inclusive. That is a frustrating process, because it puts me into circles where I am not an expert, and it forces me to ask why I have been lazily complicit in oppression sometimes.

Maybe comparing feminism to who we vote for is a clumsy metaphor, but I think there’s a common message. Sometimes people will accuse you of being part of something that hurt them. You will think that’s unfair, especially if it’s something you really believed in. But it is your responsibility to look at that accusation anyway, determine how much it might be true, and then own it. I’ve done that. It sucks.

It is completely necessary to being human, though.

I don’t pretend to know what each of you will end up thinking about your vote for Donald Trump in five, ten, fifteen years. But I am asking you, with as much humility and love I can muster as your friend, to consider the words of the people who feel like they’ve been hurt by it—even though I know, and you know, that you did not mean harm when you cast that vote. Saying you had good intentions is not the end of your answer to someone’s pain; it is only the beginning of an answer that will hopefully take more time and reflection.

I don’t know how else to say any of this, so I will end with a plea for you to hear me, if you’re my friend. I need—no, people far more disadvantaged than me need—for you to join me in unequivocally calling out and condemning attacks again minority groups. I need you to openly say that these acts of fear against our fellow man are wrong and must stop. I need you to help change other people’s minds, even when it’s awkward, and I need you to step in right away if you see something scary happening in public.

These are beliefs and actions that should not be controversial to any of you. I know you. I know your heart and what you believe. But my greatest fear is that you won’t join me.

Your friend, your family, the redhead you watched grow up, the daughter and granddaughter of people you respect and the wife of someone you love,

Rachel Elizabeth