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Recording American History

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RECORDING AMERICAN HISTORY

Historians will remember (assuming the DeVos Department of Education does not create an alternative reality) that America’s public policy was once at least loosely based on objective facts. Members of Congress were allowed to ask questions and read legislation before they voted — maybe even improve the legislation. It would have been unthinkable to scribble down a bill affecting the health of tens of millions of people and slip it through a committee at 4:30 in the morning.

Private citizens and nonprofit groups had input and even testified before Congress. There were public comment periods, and Senators didn’t run away from constituents at town hall meetings. There was a differentiation between facts and opinions. There was a public record and there were cost estimates.

All this information was committed to a written “record,” a noun derived from Old French circa 1300, meaning memory, statement, or report.

Factual written records can help us learn from our mistakes and hold people accountable, but they can be troublesome for some who would rather that certain things be forgotten, such as the hearing record where incoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied and said that he had not talked to the Russians before the election. 

The Devolution of Recorded Truth

In the 1800s, as technology advanced, the noun “record” also came to mean “a disk on which sounds or images have been recorded,” such as real and true photos of two inauguration crowds of vastly different proportions.

Or recordings of an imaginary wiretap.

In 1883, we find the word being used in reference to “a best or highest achievement,” for instance the number of people at your rallies or the size of your electoral college margin or your TV ratings or how big your hands are or how high your wall will be or the number of women you have grabbed by the crotch or the breast.

Records used to be measured and based on reality, but now they are established by random tweet.

The verb form of “record” is older, from 12th century Old French, and it means “to repeat, reiterate, recite, rehearse, get by heart,” as in White House spokespeople reiterating that, for-heaven’s-sake-what-is-wrong-with-you-people, the president didn’t mean what he said literally, which has now morphed into “The President believes what he said.” Period.

They know that one by heart.

Restoration of the Record

Interestingly, the original Latin source of the verb “record” might provide America a way out of its current moral and ethical crisis. The verb “record” comes directly from the Latin word “recordari” which means to “remember, call to mind, think over, be mindful of.” The roots of this word come from re (restore) and cor (genitive cordis: the heart).

Restore the heart.

Can we remember and be mindful of our roots as a generous, open-hearted immigrant nation — stained though we’ve been by genocide and slavery — and restore the heart of America?

I pray that the record will show that we did.

Today’s word prompt: record

A Sad but Beautiful Personal Story of Japanese “Internment”

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A Sad but Beautiful Personal Story of Japanese “Internment”

This is Part Two of the story that I posted this morning, Executive Order Imprisons 110,000 People. I wanted to share this lovely remembrance that a reader wrote in response to the version I posted in my Daily Kos Diary.

This is from a Daily Kos member who calls himself HarpBoyAK, a “long-time Juneau, Alaska political and environmental activist.”

My community was incensed that their good citizens of Japanese ancestry were being deported.  They implored the Federal Government to let their beloved laundry owner and workers, their favorite cafe owner and workers, and many other Japanese workers stay.  They knew these good, honest, hardworking people, and did not want them to leave.

So much so that when the valedictorian of the Juneau High School class of 1942 (my uncle’s class) held their commencement, the school painted one of the wooden folding chairs black and put it in John Tanaka’s place in the front row of the class (he had been awarded his diploma 2 months earlier when his family was sent to Minadoka, Idaho in early March).

John Tanaka went on to enlist in the 442nd Regiment and fought in the Italian campaign where the “Go For Broke” unit had one of WWII’s highest casualty rates.  Unlike many other communities on the West Coast, Alaska’s capital city took care to preserve the properties and businesses of our fellow citizens and helped them get back on their feet when they returned after the war.  John worked summers in his family’s restaurant while he attended college and medical school.

2 years ago, we dedicated a bronze copy of that folding chair placed in the park next door to that school as a memorial to those who were deported, and to remind us that it should never happen again.

Never again will we allow people to be imprisoned for who they are.  Never Again.  NEVER AGAIN.

EmptyChair.jpg

For more information and the full story of the Empty Chair, see The Empty Chair Project blog.

Another reader of my Daily Kos blog pointed out that calling these “internment camps” is “whitewashing” what our country did. They were concentration camps, built with the intention of concentrating the “undesirables” in one place. Hence the quotation marks.

And in case you missed it, the trump people are already citing these concentration camps as a legal precedent for their planned incarceration of immigrants (despite the fact that President Reagan issued an official apology for our World War II actions and paid each victim $20,000). The man currently occupying the Oval Office says he may or may not have supported the Japanese camps.

Executive Order Imprisons 110,000 People!

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EXECUTIVE ORDER IMPRISONS 110,000 PEOPLE!

On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any and all people “as deemed necessary or desirable” away from “military areas.” Pearl Harbor had been bombed ten weeks before.

The military decided that the entire West Coast was a military area. It also happened to be where most Japanese Americans lived. So off they went. A few months later, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans had been “relocated” (imprisoned) in internment camps built by the U.S. military. Sixty-two percent of them were American citizens. They lived in those prison camps for two and a half years. Then the “evacuees” were allowed to return to their homes . . . if they were still there.

Wow. Isn’t that shocking? I’m so glad nothing like that could ever happen in America today.

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Emotive Weekend Entertainment: Historic Election Nights We Have Known

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If you are a political junkie as I am, the link below will be all you need to keep you occupied for a good chunk of time. You might want to go through it more than once. I already have.

I remember every one of these nights as if they were just last year, and each memory contains either ebullient joy or devastation.

In 1980, I was on my way home from night school to watch the election returns with my roomies. We were expecting a long night. It was 8:15 when I stopped at the liquor store for champagne. The TV was on, and John Chancellor was announcing that Ronald Reagan had won in a landslide. Just like that. Half the country hadn’t even voted yet. I sat down on a chair and wept.

Of course, Bush vs. Gore in 2000 was the worst. It stretched our nation almost to its breaking point. It still makes me nauseated when I remember the moment the Supreme Court said, “Stop counting the ballots.” The level of shock I felt was on a par with September 11. My country, shaken to its core. This can’t happen here! Don’t count the votes? Don’t count the votes?

But keep scrolling through the article and you will come to 2008. You can watch us elect our first African-American president all over again. And again. And again. With tears streaming down your face as you watch thousands and thousands of people of every race and ethnicity rejoicing together in Chicago, New York, Atlanta and beyond. Oh, for that kind of energy in progressive America again!

Another wave of nostalgia may hit you when you see real TV newscasters. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Intelligent people who try to report actual news in an unbiased manner without letting their personalities take the stage. Talk about history!

It Might Be OK

Watching these videos one after the other, you may also get just the slightest sense that “it’s going to be OK,” as we stand at the precipice of what is, I believe, the most important election in our history. We are getting awfully close to our last chance to keep climate change from wiping out a million or so species — but maybe the human one will survive a while longer, and maybe America will.

Hillary has a decent chance of defeating the Orange Menace. And even if Trump gets elected, hopefully we’ll get a Democratic Senate to protect the Supreme Court and limit the domestic damage, and maybe someone in his family can keep him from starting a nuclear war. The rest of the world will just have to wait four years while he tanks bigly, and then America will be back.

We are resilient, we are strong. We’re just, well, kind of schizophrenic: red or blue, black or white, pro-choice or pro-life. I don’t know how we heal this rift of the heart.

I will be in prayer this weekend. I suggest you join me, no matter what your view of prayer might be. Can’t hurt, right? Meantime, check out this awesome article from the Washington Post.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/11/04/what-time-will-this-election-finally-be-over/?wpisrc=nl_evening&wpmm=1

Border as Politics

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BORDER AS POLITICS

A legal immigrant being harassed by the U.S. government, threatened with deportation . . . because his music threatened their political aims. Sounds like a nightmare from a Donald Trump presidency, doesn’t it? Good guess, but it’s Richard Nixon.

A lot has been written about the comparative mental states of Trump and Nixon, and I’m not going to go there. I am still trying to take a Trump break, difficult as it is. So this morning instead of reading and obsessing about his latest tweets and insults, I checked out a historical site (website, not tourist attraction) and found this:

“On this day in 1975, a New York State Supreme Court judge reverses a deportation order for John Lennon, allowing him to remain legally in his adoptive home of New York City.”

What? I had completely forgotten about this. Turns out that Nixon was worried about Lennon’s influence over young people, in particular 18-to-20-year-olds who were about to vote for the first time in the 1972 presidential election. Lennon was outspoken in his opposition to the Vietnam War and after moving to New York City had begun hanging out with people who were anathema to Nixon, people like civil rights and anti-war protesters Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.

A Presidential Enemies List

Nixon had the FBI investigate Lennon, and although no wrongdoing was uncovered, the case was sent to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which began deportation proceedings against John and his wife, Yoko Ono based on a 1968 marijuana charge in England.

During Watergate, it was revealed that Nixon maintained an active “enemies list,” the purpose of which, according the White House Counsel’s Office, was to “screw” Nixon’s political enemies through tax audits, litigation, prosecution, and manipulation of federal grants and contracts. On the list were politicians, actors, authors, and journalists, among others.

Newscaster Walter Cronkite later said, “I suppose if you were going to list your enemies and decide who is most dangerous, if I were Nixon, I would put Lennon up near the top.”

John Lennon & Yoko Ono Face Deportation

John Lennon & Yoko Ono Face Deportation

This American Dream

The U.S. vs. John Lennon was in the courts for more than four years. Finally on this day in 1975, the deportation order was reversed and John received a green card within a year.

Judge Irving Kaufman wrote that “The courts will not condone selective deportation based upon secret political grounds . . . Lennon’s four-year battle to remain in our country is testimony to his faith in this American dream.”

I still have faith in this American dream. Let’s not elect another paranoid, authoritarian man with an enemies list who is temperamentally unfit for the job of President of the United States.

Reasons to Come to New Hampshire

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There are so many reasons to come to New Hampshire in the fall. The subtle rose pink of the hydrangea bush that presides over my grandmother’s flower bed, which is mostly golden rod at present with a few late purple phlox here and there. The smell of browning yellow leaves piled up beneath the towering maples as I rustle through them on the way to the barn. The faintly orange-blushed and scarlet-tipped trees at the bottom of the field, promising to take my breath away in a week or two.

Beedie’s maples. Beedie’s barn. Beedie’s flowerbeds and fields. Funny how I still think of this whole place as belonging to my grandmother, gone lo these thirty years. (Writing in this old house brings out words like lo and lest.)

black and white quiet hills

There are ghosts here, most certainly. Beedie had a friendship of sorts with the one who haunts the attic — our whole family called him Andy, one of the early residents of the house who is now buried in the town graveyard.

Andy’s father Temple Baker bought the farm in 1862 for fifteen hundred dollars and had lived here less than a decade when a cow kicked him in the leg and he died. Andy and his siblings (except Fred, who died as a child) grew up in the house and carried on farming until the mid-twenties. Beedie always swore she heard Andy at night when she was alone, and she spoke to him openly.

I only heard him once, playing one long mournful note on the ancient pipe organ in the attic late at night. I just about peed my pants. That was nearly fifty years ago, and I’m still not entirely at ease in the attic.

I sense family spirits here almost constantly. But I don’t think of them as ghosts in the building, rather as sprits living inside me who become more real when I’m up here, if that makes any sense. My brother’s passing is too recent for me to allow him in — he’s still painfully real to me most of the time — but Beedie, Mom, Aunt Val, Cousin Averil, the uncles — they all belong to this house out of time. I am not alone.

Granite State Voters

Another reason to come to New Hampshire in the fall, especially every four years, is the presidential election. I like volunteering, even though the beleaguered citizens of the Granite State can get pretty grumpy as election day nears, after their phones have been rung and their doors have been knocked and their TVs have been inundated with political ads for weeks and weeks and weeks. 

Tomorrow I am making massive amounts of macaroni salad and marinated zucchini to drop off at the Democratic headquarters in town, where busloads of volunteers will be arriving from Massachusetts for the first of four weekends of door-knocking. I love the energy of election season.

Life Goes On

But I won’t get serious about volunteering for a while. I need downtime, writing time, reading time. This is the best reason for coming to New Hampshire. Tonight I’m joining my neighbors for outdoor pizza night at an organic farm up the road, and tomorrow I’ll be going to a free cello concert at a lovely stone church in town. Sunday I’ll attend the Quaker meeting in Putney Vermont. It’s the first Sunday of the month, so there will be a potluck. And I’ll stop to buy apples and a pumpkin at the farmer’s market on the way home.

Life is simpler here, even during the swirling insanity of the 2016 election.

Day 3 of my attempt at a month of daily blogging

Terror in Mexico, Hope in Paris

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TERROR IN MEXICO, HOPE IN PARIS

When the United Nations was founded seventy years ago, nobody but a science fiction writer could have imagined that human beings would one day threaten the very climate of the planet. Too ridiculous to think about. Yet seventy years later, the largest Pacific hurricane in the history of the hemisphere is roaring towards the coast of Mexico, set to claim the latest victims of climate disruption.

Larger, more frequent, and more intense storms – just as predicted. And, as it happens, 2015 is shaping up to be the hottest year in recorded history.

At the groundbreaking for the U.N. on October 24, 1945, U.S. President Harry Truman said that the challenges of the day were no longer “impersonal natural forces,” but human relationships. In the 21st century, the two have combined: human hubris and short-sighted greed have made natural forces very personal indeed. Just ask the victims of Katrina or Sandy.

Truman’s words that day are just as true today: “The real dangers confronting us today have their origins in outmoded habits of thought, in the inertia of human nature, and in the preoccupation with supposed national interests to the detriment of the common good.” He went on to say that the U.N. could promote “a spirit of reasonableness” that would address these challenges. He had hope, he said.

I want to have hope, I really do. It’s too late to stop Hurricane Patricia from slamming Mexico, but some scientists think we still have time, time for humanity to demonstrate “a spirit of reasonableness” and leave our great grandkids a habitable planet. I pray that’s so.

I don't have grandkids, but I have a nephew with kids and they are doing their part...

I don’t have grandkids, but I have a nephew with kids and they are doing their part…

At the end of November, world leaders will gather at a U.N. conference in Paris to – once again – discuss taking action to slow the climate crisis. Politics and corporate greed, much of it American, have colluded to stop meaningful U.N. action thus far. Secretary of State John Kerry says that this time, “failure is not an option.”

Except that it is. Corporate money talks.

For the love of God, and in honor of the Mexican people who will surely die in the storm tonight and in the flooding over the days to come (the only other category five storm ever to hit this area killed 1,800 people in 1959), can we please, please stop the madness?

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