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  • Benjamin Fife

Donald Trump and the Fear of the "Other"

"We don't have the best record when facing the Other." - C.D. Tavenor, Their Greatest Game


I used to be a regular consumer of the news. I liked to know what is going on in the world & be able to form my opinions about current events based on the information I found.

I still identify with most of that. Even as a "regular consumer of the news" to a degree, but I've backed off from NPR Daily to about every 2 weeks & I read the front page of a local paper at work & read the political cartoons.


So yesterday was one of my bi-weekly check ins with NPR. The reason I've backed off to bi-weekly is because it really doesn't matter how often I check in, there are appalling things being done across the planet, and often we in the US, or at least our elected leaders, are the instigators of some it.


I turned on the radio just in time to hear an update on President Trump's ongoing "Travel Ban," along with his targeting of a new, or in this case, old group of "illegals" for deportation. This new group he's instructed the Justice department to crack down on?



Hmong. Some 4500 Hmong immigrants from Laos. Most, if not all of these immigrants are here because they - and more often their parents - fought with the US more than 40 years ago in the Viet Namh war. When we fled the area, they were forced to evacuate with the US soldiers, as they were targeted by the communist governments they fled, and would still be today were they to be returned "home."

(More info on this story can be seen here: https://www.npr.org/2020/02/24/808071758/hmong-leaders-rally-against-trump-administration-deportation-push ).


40. Years. Laos is not their home, any more than I would identify Burley, Idaho as my home because I was born there. Their home is here. Their families are here.


The reason these people face deportation fall in 2 categories:


1 - Something just isn't right with their paperwork. Great. So due to nothing more than bureaucracy, Trump wants you to be forcibly removed from your family, job, and community, and send you into a potentially very hostile environment for you, where you could face 1- Persecution, 2- Imprisonment, or even 3- Death.


or


2 - At some point in their more than 40 year residence in the US, they were convicted of a crime. Some people (obviously Trump and the others pushing this policy) are convinced this should be enough to justify sending them back to a country nearly completely foreign to them where they could face 1,2 & 3 listed above.

Committing a crime should be something that you receive reasonable, ethical punishment for. Deportation to somewhere your life may be in danger constitutes cruel and unusual punishment if you ask me (and a good many judges on the bench).

Also - Something being "criminal" is not always the same thing as something being "wrong." (If you doubt, you can see some of the more absurd laws on the books in every state here: https://www.businessinsider.com/most-ridiculous-law-in-every-state-2014-2 .) Also, 1st generation immigrants are not going to be able to afford a decent defense attorney, yet another inequity. Most of these Hmong who have a criminal record have already served their time as well.

Another thing to take into account here - You know and undoubtedly associate with dozens of "criminals." You may not be aware of it, but for example, in the state of Idaho, 1 in every 9 adults has a felony on their record. More than 11% of the adult population! If Idaho were to deport every felon who was not a native of Idaho, guessing say 30% of the population are transplants from other states/countries, that would be 57,882 people we would need to deport. Dang all them Californian felons who are flooding our state anyway, right? or Utards (tongue in cheek - I phrase it this way pointedly in backlash to the use of words like "libtards" and the like).


We'd be deporting more than 3% of our population if we followed the logic of President Trump. Do you think that might affect our economy? Do you think that might affect people making a decision to move to Idaho? (Ok, I know my wife here would say GREAT there's too many people moving in as it is - but... anyway).


People who are here because we made their fatherland uninhabitable for them do not deserve this.

People who have fought alongside our soldiers, however whacked the cause may have been they were fighting for, do not deserve this.


I'm a firm believer that "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" expresses what was best about being American & can and still is what makes anyone truly HUMAN.


Trump started his "Travel Ban" with countries like Iraq. Where, make no mistake, most people fleeing Iraq are doing so in part because of our continual destabilization of the area, for the US dating back more than 50 years to when WE deposed the democratically elected government & helped to install a dictatorship. And if you go back another 50 years, it was Britain interfering.

Other countries on his banned-list include Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Venezuela, Yemen, and JUST ADDED: Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Tanzania.

Are these dangerous countries? Undoubtedly. THAT'S WHY THEY'RE FLEEING.


With his travel bans, and his myriad of other executive orders (every president for Decades has been consolidating power illegally here), Donald Trump has lowered the amount of refugees- not just immigrants, but people fleeing war, famine, disaster - people who NEED help - from in the last 30 years Peaking at about 180,000 refugees a year to maybe... hundreds. If that. His standing orders to those who oversee refugee admittance is to essentially cut off ALL refugees coming to the US.


Why is this a problem? The current Refugee status on the planet estimates 70 million refugees displaced from their homes & their countries, many living in exceedingly squalid & dangerous - even feral - refugee camps.


Not taking into account the amount of destabilization that has been directly caused by the US, ranging from continually providing arms to Saudi Arabia for their war in Yemen, to outright armed conflicts, to an unknowable amount of behind the scenes machinations... as I said, NOT taking that into account. If you just look at the population of the planet, and the population of the US, and based our "share of refugees strictly on that - The US should at least be responsible for 3.5 million of that 70 million. That's a big number, yes. We are the wealthiest nation on earth.

Because I really like numbers, I've crunched it down a little more - If you split the 3.5 million refugees evenly across all 50 states, you get 65,000 per state. That's essentially an Idaho Falls or size town for each state. Rhode Island might have an issue getting that many more people in, but Idaho? Wyoming? Texas?


What might THAT do for the economy? Build an entirely new city in each state essentially. How's that for Stimulating growth?

What might that do for diversity? We were once a melting pot. I've heard arguments again and again that "these new immigrants just don't integrate anymore."

Do you know who else that was said about? Hmong. Vietnamese. Germans. Scandinavians. Irish. Japanese. Mormons. Catholics. Russians. Polish. Italians. Mexicans.

If you're here, unless you're 100% Native indigenous tribes of North America, it WAS SAID about YOUR ancestors.


I will agree, it can be hard to understand the "other." The "other" is put down again and again. They are discriminated against because of the language they use, the accent they have, the clothes they wear, the food they eat, the way they smell, the way they shake hands, the way they believe in God, the way they don't believe in god. The way they have a polar opposite political viewpoint than you, be that Liberal or conservative, fascist or socialist, and on and on.


I've heard that there are scientific studies proving that people who natively speak a different language actually think differently. I don't doubt it, but it doesn't ever mean they're wrong & I'm right. Instead of focusing on how we see things differently, maybe we could try and see how we see things similarly. Maybe as Americans, we should be studying another language than English every once in a while. I knew a guy from Poland who was fluent in 17. Are his thoughts probably more diverse than mine? I'm sure.


Ultimately - Put yourself in their shoes.



So... Yellowstone erupts (with enough warning that Idaho can evacuate). I'm forced to flee to say... Iran of all places. I don't understand the culture. I have a much different belief system. The Iranian government, and some (definitely not all) of its people, HATE America and Americans. I don't speak the language. Would I want to go there? Probably not. What if I had no choice? What if you had no choice? Foreign policy debacles to natural disasters of the last 500 years have thrust decisions just like this on innocent people.



In case it's not apparent, I'm pretty passionate about this subject. A year ago, I narrated a very good book by Robert Dodge, Tempest-Tost: The Refugee Experience Through One Community's Prism. I quite literally begged to narrate it because of how strongly I feel about it. I've spent far more money promoting it than I have yet, or may ever, get for it, because I feel it is that important. It's not just in the US, it's everywhere. This seems to be the era of the xenophobe in some ways. The fear of the "other" and rejection of it does nothing for you as an individual, as a family, as a community, as a nation, as a people or a planet. Be the other Islam, or Republican, or Democrat, or Atheist, etc. We are on this planet together & we owe it to ourselves to help each other out where we can.

Would my hypothetical adoption of 65,000 refugees per state be expensive & fraught with bumps along the way? You bet. Of course.

But since when is something not worth doing just because it's hard?


If there is something you can do - Do it. Get to know your hispanic neighbor. Read the Q'aran. Volunteer. Write a letter to a lawmaker. Write a blogpost, even if only 3 other people may read it. Get out of your comfort zone and talk to someone with a much different viewpoint & try to understand them on a level that they know you want to understand them.


One thing I can do - I still have a stack of promo codes for Tempest-Tost. Somewhere in the proximity of 80 or so in the US & 95 or so if you're in the UK. I realize that non-fiction might not be your thing. Politics might not be your thing. There is not a word of this book that I disagreed with. I truly think everyone should read or listen to this book to get a better idea of what refugees go through, what has led us to where we are today, and a few things you might be able to do about it. The old "and who is my neighbor" comes to mind. Make a difference, even if its just for 1 person.


Email me, call, comment on this post, write, carrier pigeon, whatever etc if you want a free code to listen to it. I WANT you to listen to it, not so I can make money, but so you can learn some of the things I've learned & hopefully pass that on to someone else.


A couple warnings - This book is about the real life experiences of refugees. The stories are akin to listening to tales from the holocaust. Also, I had one reviewer who didn't like my performance because I try to use the accents of the refugees from their country. When I produced it, I spoke to the author about doing this. It is not my intention to mock anyone, but rather to help you get inside their heads and experience it from their perspective. I'm just a white guy from Idaho, and I know my accents aren't PERFECT. I did my best. These people have been through some exceedingly harrowing experiences.