Heartlessness and Hate, Part 2

In Christian homeschool speech and debate, we were told that we were learning logic and critical thinking. What we learned was a kind of feigned intellectualism, one that behaves under the pretense that the most reasonable reaction to anything is no reaction at all. Almost without fail, the winning competitors were charismatic and attractive, smooth and composed. We were masters of taking literally that it’s possible to kill with kindness, and our interactions were icy, yet diplomatic. We were generally expected to make friends with our rivals, so we relied on a competitive environment to form friendships with other kids who were being raised in the same isolated conservative world.

For many of us, debate tournaments were the highlights of our lives. At the time, I thought it was the best it could get. I looked forward to being able to see the other competitors. I realize now that this is because it was my only social life. Well, there were other things, but that was usually VBS, AWANA, or another Christian-led event. In our other activities, I was usually the oldest one there and was expected to help with younger kids. That was true of Christian homeschool PE, music lessons, co-op, gymnastics, AWANA, and the horse vaulting day camp we did in the summer. In debate, I had friends who were closer to my age. We could discuss our interests through our speeches, as long as they were political and Christian enough. Tournaments meant a taste of freedom. Home life was something we didn’t talk to each other about – that was disrespectful to our parents. But it was a relief from being home with our families all the time.

Speech and debate were two distinct categories, which is why I refer to them separately. All involved performance, but with speech, the competition was based on rankings from multiple judges, rather than a win or loss between debaters. In this way, we were able to discuss even more controversially taboo subjects without the problem that debate presented: forcing the other team to take a position that fell outside the bounds of conservative views. For instance, I could not argue that abortion is evil in a debate round, but I saw dozens of speeches in the category of “persuasive” on exactly why and how abortion is evil. It makes me laugh now to realize the irony that we had a speech category called “persuasive,” but there was no direct conflict with an opponent in that event.

What did I learn from debate? I learned the art of bullshitting. I learned how to feign confidence about positions I personally knew the evidence was weak for. I learned how to pretend my points were stronger than they were. I learned how to find quotations both for and against a case from a single article which, when read as a whole, had observed multiple angles of a situation or topic. I learned how to make my words sound as convincing as possible, to win the favor of a judge or sometimes multiple judges.

It was all about the act, the performance of it all, the presentation. During our debate club meetings, we’d get stern lectures about how “the judges are always watching.” This meant we had to be on our best behavior. At all times we were expected to dress up like politicians. Many teenagers were shamed for changing into more comfortable clothing if they didn’t “break,” or advance beyond preliminary rounds. My parents never forced me to wear dresses, but I certainly wasn’t allowed to change out of my “tournament attire” until the tournament was officially over.

“Ballot parties” were basically a way for us to torture fast food workers. After the tournament, we were each given an orange envelope filled with our ballots. Every judge had filled out ballots with our speaker point scores, wins and losses in debate, and handwritten comments and critiques all over them. Even though the tournament was over, we were expected to study each judge’s notes late into the night. By then it was usually past 9 or 10 p.m., when most restaurants were closed, so we usually settled on McDonald’s. Dad liked to say that we were “helping with business” so they wouldn’t mind about being swarmed just before closing. As a small business owner, he didn’t really understand how big corporations didn’t pay their workers any better based on the number of customers there were to serve.

Describing ballot parties is a shameful thing. We’d show up, over a hundred teenagers and their parents, dressed mostly in fancy suits, and line up at the counter, totally overwhelming and taking over the McDonald’s. The workers’ eyes would get huge as we poured in, and inevitably someone would try to call in another employee to manage all the orders. We often ordered something small and gathered around every table and booth available, unpacking our ballots like they were Christmas presents. This was how we’d know which preliminary debate rounds we’d won and lost, a detail that wasn’t revealed during the tournament itself. Sometimes we read judges’ comments aloud to each other, in a serious or mocking tone, depending on the contents.

The obsession with being “above feelings” and to embrace facts, evidence, and logic is a patriarchal, white supremacist idea. It is part of toxic masculinity itself, because it says that any reaction to violence is not valid. “Appeal to emotion” is designated as a logical fallacy. If you get upset, you’re appealing to emotion. If you talk about how people are hurt, you’re appealing to emotion. The whole activity was designed to make us talk about complex political issues without being properly informed about them.

It shouldn’t be controversial to say that everyone deserves safety, shelter, nutrition, and healthcare. Humanity’s resources should be available to all who have need, regardless of their ability to convert their time into adequate profit to stay alive. This is clear to me now, but ten years ago, I was closed off to the realities of imperialism and racism, homelessness and hunger and poverty, and capitalism-based food and healthcare access. Simultaneously, I believed that I was engaging in reasoned thinking, logic, persuasion, and informed discussion of politics and philosophy.

Christian homeschool speech and debate is nothing more than bullshitting your way through being detached to human rights. Everything I learned from spending my time between the ages of 12 and 18 debating and performing speeches is something I’ve had to since question and unlearn. Many of my peers in the competitions will insist that we learned how to question through this activity, but I disagree. Those of us who did think critically were eventually ostracized for following logical conclusions. I had to recognize the basic fact that human rights are not up for debate. I don’t owe you a debate if you think otherwise.

Why Trump’s Executive Order Is Very Bad News

Big content warning for in-depth discussion of the recent executive order from President Trump on choosing to imprison families together instead of separating them. More links and context were added 7/2/18. If you have any updates on this developing story, please leave links in the comments and I will update accordingly.

I don’t feel that any coverage of yesterday’s executive order properly addresses the most alarming element of what it actually says. For context on the story leading up to this, however you can find good recaps here and here. To my surprise many of my (mostly Christian moderate liberals) Facebook friends were sharing the story excitedly, saying it was “a step in the right direction,” or a “tourniquet to stop the bleeding at least.” 

But when my man read the actual text, he pointed out something that I haven’t been able to shake since he said it to me last night. It orders that all illegal aliens are now committing a crime, rather than, well, whatever it was before. I seriously cannot find any clear literature on a national law (prior to the executive order of June 20, 2018) that declares illegally entering the country is a crime. What level of crime is it, exactly, to attempt to enter the country? Comparable to degrees of murder, theft, etc? All I can find out is that this was previously not a crime. The most recent sources on this are from 2013 and 2017, but they merely speculate on this question.

Okay, Trump is using big words to sound smart and keep the American public wrapped around his finger. The key words to pay attention to in section 1 are these: Rigorously enforce. Committed. Crime. Subject to fine or imprisonment. Detaining alien families together.

Here’s the first sentence (don’t worry, there are only six) (emphasis mine):

       “It is the policy of this Administration to rigorously enforce our immigration laws.

Hmm…I thought this was supposed to be about how we’re…not taking children from their parents and keeping them in cages anymore?

He starts with reinforcing the lie that ICE has merely been enforcing the law. Many conservatives I’ve interacted with online believe that Trump was simply continuing the same border detention actions as the Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations. His opening line is meant to calm everyone down. He’s still down to be a hardass to those bad, bad border-crossers. Victim blaming is exactly what the rich have always used to encourage bootlicking. Classic ‘Murica, but I get ahead of myself.

:cough: President Trump continues:

“Under our laws, the only legal way for an alien to enter this country is at a designated port of entry at an appropriate time.”

I would love to have more specifics here, but it’s Trump. I’ve had to pay tolls and cross borders and shit. White America thinks that’s all this is, not running for your life and stretching to feed and travel with your children to hopefully reach a safe place (because they can’t imagine it). America offers a place where these migrants can grapple with poverty under capitalism instead of war and terrorism that the US is largely to blame for, and whatever other reasons innocent people would seek sanctuary.

This is the part my boyfriend deserves credit for pointing out in Trump’s wording (emphasis and link added):

When an alien enters or attempts to enter the country anywhere else, that alien has committed at least the crime of improper entry and is subject to a fine or imprisonment under section 1325(a) of title 8, United States Code. This Administration will initiate proceedings to enforce this and other criminal provisions of the INA until and unless Congress directs otherwise.”

Congress has the opportunity to respond, but they most definitely won’t if voters are appeased by this law. When I read the text in that link, my heart rate went up. Imagine spending 5 years in prison, and having to rebuild your life afterward, because you got a marriage license to stay safe and alive.

Up next, the part we’ve all been waiting for! The bit where he says we’re not going to separate parents from children anymore! Let’s see what kind of harsh, choice words the Commander in Chief has for this atrocity against human rights. Here’s the second-to-last sentence of the Executive Order (the rest is definitions and details) (emphasis mine):

It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.

Hold the phone – so the solution is to now, rather than putting innocent children in cages, we’re going to put their parents in the cages with them?! This does absolutely nothing to remove these for-profit camps that the children have been placed in thus far, and simply says we’re keeping the families together now.

The expectation is that the American public will be pacified with the idea of labeling innocent, asylum-seeking children as criminals. After all, criminals deserve what they get in this country.

As per usual, the unclear text to appease the American people is buried in editorialization (as if writing their lie into an executive order makes it true somehow based on the constitutionality of previous actions). The last sentence of section 1 snidely blames Congress:
“It is unfortunate that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.”
Bernie Sanders has called Trump out for failing to clearly define deadlines and parameters for his plans, leaving these families vulnerable to indefinite imprisonment together. The leaders of the American people think that if they make us angry about something and then pretend to fix it, we’ll stay quiet and quickly move on to the next headline.

But the backlash was not exclusively about separating children from their parents. It (still) is about treating innocent, desperate people in an inhumane way. This executive order does not fix that.

A of all, Americans seem to be generally okay with the idea of separating abusive parents from vulnerable children, as demonstrated by the shock over several case of severe child abuse were unearthed earlier this year. B of all, children being taken from parents in various ways is a familiar thing to minorities all over the US, and this widespread outrage is a slap in the face for people who’ve already lost children to systemic violence in its many forms.

If you’re listening to the minorities who are actually affected by being separated under American law enforcement’s violent rule, you know that none of this is new. Children are suffering, it seems, in every corner of the American system. African-American children are the most likely to be victims of murder (10 times more likely to be fatally shot with a gun than white children) and suicide (twice as vulnerable as white children), the direct result of merciless systematic violence: These children are separated from parents who are targeted for mass imprisonment/poverty for their labor. Just 100 years after genocide under the Jackson administration, Native American children were snatched from their homes to be brainwashed by white “values” and “language.” To this day, indigenous people are left in a double bind: on the one hand, few resources are allocated to their education to compete in a westernized society. On the other, who would want to be educated in how to be like these violent colonizers who’ve taken so much from them? As for “immigrants” from central America, we pushed the borders of Texas back into Mexican territory over slavery, harming both indigenous and enslaved people of the southern present United States. ICE has been terrorizing migrant families for MONTHS and arresting parents when they come to pick their kids up from school, to far less outcry. Voices all over the internet have been speaking up to say this is how it has always been. This is the United States, from genocide to slavery to concentration camps or internment camps.

It’s not just the US that has been and is committing genocide. Aboriginal people have been the target of Euro-centric violence all around the world since before America was “discovered” by white people. In Australia, politicians pay lip service to making amends for genocidal action, but families are still being separated.

Imprisonment is the historically effective solution for dealing with marginalized and oppressed people in the US. The violence against these people to this day is the prosecution of so-called “criminals” after successfully defining them as such. Thanks to this new executive order, children under the age of 18 are expressly labeled as criminals, and punishable as such, by previously defined laws. And they will be imprisoned and prosecuted, along with their parents.

This is not a step forward. It is an appalling attempt to make the American people believe that imprisoning entire families indefinitely, and prosecuting them like criminals for possibly years, is humane. The cages are not going away – though they are apparently funding “shelters” that these people will not be permitted to leave until their cases are handled. This effectively means concentration camps are still in operation today.

I am not in any way saying it’s okay to separate parents from immigrant families and put their kids in cages – that needs to stop immediately, and apparently has. Others have done much more significant work than I in coming up with ways to help these families and children. Here is a comprehensive list of organizations that are working to provide resources at the many complex levels of the restoration process.

Imprisoning entire families together by the thousands is exactly what you get away with by defining all of them as criminals, regardless of age. As long as people “deserve” what they get, it’s fine. Prisoners deserve their punishments. Who cares if we give them a little work to do while they’re in there, and let their families and resources crumble under them while they’re imprisoned? Dead children tell no tales – and the children who get sold into slavery? Well, their parents shouldn’t have done the Bad Thing that’s Against The Law.

The American public has believed its government over and over again whenever it Otherizes a group by calling it criminal.

One of the original lies that Trump told to try and dodge responsibility for the policy of separating families was, “The kids aren’t criminals, and we can’t prosecute them like they are, so we have to take the parents away.”

The outcry has continuously been, “Stop separating families!”

And the answer was, “Okay, fine. We’ll imprison the children and prosecute them as well.”