He should have picked up the pitchfork.

As of 12:01 January 20, 2017, we have a new president, Donald J. Trump; the most odious and oleaginous man to grace one’s imagination. How did he get here? How did we get here? It’s the actions and inactions of his predecessor Barack Obama.

“My administration,” the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

-Barack Obama.

This was all Obama had to say to the greedy bankers sat before him when they were trying to justify why they deserved such high salaries and bonuses after they stole everyone else’s money and homes and got a government bailout. This statement also summarized this whole presidency. That he is a do nothing fence sitter. He tried to govern from the center like a good liberal, appealing to the morals and good conscience of the intransigent Republican party. While the Republican party obstructed and sabotaged, instead of playing their game on their level and strike back with whatever powers being a president affords him; Obama followed the rules, which was to do nothing, and then tell the voters who voted for him ‘sorry, I tried. If you have any issues, take it up with the Republicans.’ In his first midterm elections, he lost the House majority by a wide margin and nearly lost the Senate. He went from having a supermajority on both chambers to losing the majority in one chamber and nearly losing the majority on the other.

So this pattern went on. Obama doing everything half assed, never putting forth the full effort, in the spirit of compromise and finding common ground with his political foes. His so-called signature but about to be repealed domestic legislation the Affordable Care Act is another fine example of fence sitting. Instead of insisting on Single Payer or nothing, he concocted this messy hodgepodge of commingling of private insurance companies with public funds. Instead of insisting insurance companies play ball or the government will go ahead with its own government backed healthcare initiative, he compromised again. Eight years later, the ACA is all but useless, premiums are not lower and people find out they don’t get to keep their doctors unless they pay out of pocket for them. I have personal testimony to this fact. And if someone asks him now about the failure of Obamacare, he’ll say he tried his best with what he had to work with at the time. Not good enough.

Awkwardly, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, not having been in office for even a year, he’s never brokered any peace treaties, the only thing he remotely did which resembled an act of peace was his speech at Cairo University in Egypt about unity between Muslims, Jews and Christians. And the first foreign interview he gave as president of United States was to the Arabic network Al Arabiya (which we know now to be an Al Qaeda mouthpiece advocating for the war in Syria) as a show of good faith to the Muslim world. These combined actions furthered inflamed the claim from the far right that he’s really a Muslim and not a Christian. After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, he’s gone on to bomb seven countries, all of them Muslim, all of them impoverished, brown and black. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “led from behind” – (what the fuck does that even mean?) along with NATO allies and destroyed Libya, now it’s a wasteland, a failed state, infiltrated and occupied by extremists. With Syria, he didn’t take a strong stance against against intervention except by saying “Assad needs to step aside” and by creating an arbitrary ‘red line’, but allowed Gulf mercenaries to send armed gangs to essentially invade Syria. The Gulf States provided the mercenaries and the US sold the weapons to the Gulf states. He gave himself a huge pat on the back when at the last minute he decided to not bomb Syrian army’s positions in Damascus because the evidence for the gas attack allegedly carried out by they Syrian army (the ‘red line’) was not solid and could have been a false flag by the rebels to induce the United States to bomb Syrian army’s positions. So, with less than 24 hours to spare, much to the ire of Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama called off the airstrikes. He’s learned from the lessons of Iraq and decided to let brown Arabic speaking people go to war with each other and topple undesirable regimes rather than US army invading another Muslim country in the Middle East again. This way, there is plausible deniability. And if it all goes sideways, the State Department can blame it on ‘sectarian conflict’. Obama’s one foreign policy winner is the nuclear deal struck with Iran. He did this against the opposition of the Republicans, Israel and various Israel lobbies, which goes to prove, if he really wanted to do something, he can get it done, even in the face of strong opposition. It wasn’t that Obama had warm and fuzzy feelings toward Tehran, but that risking a nuclear war with an oil rich Middle Eastern nation who has the support and backing of Russia isn’t smart foreign policy. Any policy which prevents going to war with Russia or any of its proxies is a good thing.

The biggest betrayal of Obama was towards the middle and working class Americans, the people that voted him into office, the people that supported him in spite of everything. The same people who are misty eyed at him leaving now. Obama bailed out the auto industry but not its workers. The workers were faced with either redundancy, forced early retirement at a fraction of the promised pension or accept lower wages and without union protection (we can’t afford it – he said). When Obama chose Wall Street over Main Street and let people lose their homes despite bailing out the banks who held their mortgages, he betrayed the people. He gave the banks a blank check and then told them to go help the people in need without any preconditions or consequences for not following through. The banks have no incentive nor fear of consequences for not saving people’s homes and they’ve got billions in free government bailout money at the same time. He did the same thing with Israel, he writes them a $38 billion dollar check and then says ‘now, be nice to the Palestinians, don’t shoot innocent civilians and don’t bomb them’. Under Obama the mass surveillance state started by Bush has expanded. When whistleblowers outed the NSA mass surveillance scheme, they were punished mercilessly. Guantanamo Bay prison is still open.  He did next to nothing against police brutality. Aside from offering words of condolence and platitudes, his open support for state sanctioned armed gangs is unwavering. If the issue of police brutality doesn’t hit home with him, then perhaps the accusation that he is detached, aloof and professorial isn’t too wide off the mark. Obama has been known to make good speeches at the right times to diffuse whatever overcharged emotions or events we are mired in, but they usually come after the horse has bolted. And reflecting back upon some of them, they sound downright patronizing and preaching. He deported millions of vulnerable undocumented immigrants back to poverty stricken and unsafe countries. Families are torn apart, lives ruined and disrupted, all to prove to Republicans that he’s tough on immigration. But to deflect from that, he granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children and without criminal records a path to citizenship. Obama did all of these things right under our noses and liberals are wiping away their tears as he leaves office today. Some even go so far as to declare Obama one of the best presidents this nation has ever had. That is unclear, what’s for sure is he is the first Black president United States has ever had and he can rest on that laurel. He’ll always be in the history books for that fact alone.

A combination of all of these actions and inactions angered and inflamed an already agitated nation. Worried about job security, the economy and how will anyone afford a decent standard of living anymore, the Democratic party offered the people Hillary Clinton – a neoliberal warmongering Wall Street and corporate shill, against the people’s choice of Bernie Sanders, who for all his shortcomings at least directly addressed the economic anxiety of the people (which the Clinton people turned it into a racist and sexist message as that’s only geared towards white working class men), where as Clinton babbled on and on about an esoteric form of equality which doesn’t address the income inequality and tough foreign policy. The Republican party had its own mayhem and disorder and they produced Donald Trump. Trump dumbed down the message and the American people by selling them a false bill of goods. Make America Great Again (again, what the fuck does that even mean). Trump will kick out the immigrants, build a wall on the southern border, he’ll bring jobs back (how he doesn’t say, employ them at his sleazy hotels?), and out of a better alternative, people fell for it hook, line and sinker. Trump didn’t win this election squarely and fairly, Hillary Clinton got three million more popular votes, but due to the archaic rules of the electoral college, Trump won the election. But the real story is about half of the eligible voters stayed home, couldn’t be arsed to vote. Hillary Clinton couldn’t do what Obama could, which is bring people to the polls, Obama had volunteers drive people to vote if they couldn’t get there on their own. So between the non-voters, third party voters, and the three million popular votes which didn’t count, we got Donald J. Trump as our next president. Liberalism has failed. Neoliberalism has failed. Capitalism has failed and morphed into fascism. Liberals won the cultural war but lost the political battle.

If Obama had only picked up the pitchfork instead of being the barrier to the pitchforks, even if that action failed and he turned out to only be a one term president, he would at least go down in history as not just the first Black president but also a president being on the side of the working people and not the powerful ruling elite.

Hannah Arendt and Free Inquiry

Hannah Arendt was a student of free inquiry. Her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil was an exercise in free inquiry, much to her own detriment. But it was only to her detriment because the results of her inquiry didn’t conform with the commonly accepted beliefs then (and perhaps now) about the Holocaust and how one views and discusses a Nazi war criminal. There is only pure condemnation of the person who committed these crimes, there is no allowance for attempting to understand the man behind the crimes, the reasons for committing the crimes, or nuances in their reasoning. They were monsters who sought to destroy the Jewish people and other undesirable people as deemed by the Nazis. In the biopic directed Margarethe von Trotta Hannah Arendt, in her final speech to her student she says “trying to understand is not the same as forgiveness”. She considers it her “responsibility to understand” and “reconcile the shocking mediocrity of the man with his staggering deeds.”

Seeking free inquiry and engaging in intellectual debate and trying to see an event in history from a different point of view is not the same as playing the devil’s advocate or in the case of Arendt, attempting to explain away or excuse the evils of the Nazi regime. If we don’t want history to repeat itself again, it’s not enough to pass legislation to ban fascist or neo-Nazi political parties, to ban inflammatory fascist or Nazi language in public, to ban Nazi worshipping; we need to find out how (not just why, we know why) a total moral collapse of a seemingly civil society took place in less than 10 years. Antisemitism isn’t new. Discrimination isn’t new. Racism isn’t new. Oppression of minorities isn’t new. All those things existed for millennia; but how did it go from something that exist as a fact of life to mass murder by the most grotesque of methods.

The knee jerk reaction to any Nazi criminal is that they are evil, they are monsters and no excuses can me made for their behaviors regardless of their personal circumstance; even if they had a gun to their head. Arendt resisted this urge, though a very legitimate urge and she wanted to find out more. Adolf Eichmann was in front of her in a Jerusalem courtroom. This was as close as she’ll ever get to a ‘Nuremberg Trial’ and this was the biggest Nazi criminal on the lam that was caught. It would be a terrible waste to not do an up close psychological autopsy of the person. So she inquired, and she let her free inquiry take her wherever she needed to go. What she found wasn’t spectacular, it was “banal” and that didn’t fit into the existing narrative about Nazi criminals.

The public discourse on the Holocaust is heavily policed, it was policed in the 1960s and it’s policed now. There are one set of accepted facts and discourse that is very black and white, the Nazis exterminated the Jews while the world watched and did nothing. The Nazis are to blame and the world did watch as this unfolded. But nothing in the world is black and white. The Nazis are fully responsible the this heinous crime they committed but they had help along the way. It’s not out of order to say while Nazis are fully responsible, but many people aided and abetted and looked the other way and some of those include Jewish people. The Judenrat may not know at the time that the ultimate demise of their fellow Jews they were deporting. But the existence of the Judenrat is a fact – and as Arendt points out in her Eichmann trial reporting, the Judenrat was not only in Germany, it was in almost every country. This is well documented. Arendt backed up most of her claims with sources from other experts – including the preeminent Holocaust expert Raul Hillberg. Even in the context of not blaming or shaming, merely questioning and analyzing, it’s not comfortable to discuss or even think about but by not thinking and talking about it, we forget the lessons.

Perhaps the most infuriating thing anyone can say when they are on trial for a crime is everything they did was “legal”, or that “I was following the orders of my superiors” (and that superior is almost always already dead). When Arendt talks about the ability to “think”, which is synonymous to claiming your personhood is suspended, great evil can happen. You don’t need to be a monster to commit horrible deeds, a little nobody like Adolf Eichmann – and there were millions of Eichmann’s in the Nazi Party can and will commit evil or allow great evil to happen.

The idea of what is legal vs. what is right is still highly relevant today. The recent spate of police killing unarmed black men were all legal in the eyes of the law. According to the law of the land, they acted in self defense, they did no wrong and they won’t be prosecuted. The worst that will ever happen to them is losing their jobs. But anyone who is thinking with half a brain knows that what they did was wrong, and the police definitely wasn’t “thinking” when they killed unarmed black men who posed no threat to their personal safety except in their prejudiced minds. Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning did what they believed to be the right thing and are now punished for it, especially Manning. What is right morally and ethically, which is exposing government crimes to its citizens has been deemed illegal, based on some bogus notion of ‘National Security’.

Dissenting opinion is and has always been heavily policed. Especially by those who call themselves Liberals. Another favorite pastime of Liberals is sliding in and out between what’s legal and what’s right. We are stuck at a juncture of what is free speech and how much free speech do we tolerate before it becomes inflammatory and unacceptable. Azealia Banks was banned from Twitter permanently as well as Milo Yiannopoulos, for directing his followers to racially abuse and troll the actress Leslie Jones. These two incongruent Twitter buddies were both banned for using racist, bigoted inflammatory language, but they weren’t banned until the corporate interests of Twitter was harmed. Both of these people have been trolling, racially abusing people for a long time, but they were trolling nobodies so no one cared enough to do much about it even if the abuse Tweets got reported. Banks was warned by Twitter a few times, that didn’t stop her, but when she unleashed her fury at a supposed slight by former One Directioner Zayn Malik and began racially abusing him and insulting his family, she was banned from Twitter. Prior to that she’d been verbally assaulting anyone who dared cross her mentions who she found displeasing in some way.Yiannopoulos gets his kicks out of trolling people, but one day he trolled the wrong target and he was banned from Twitter permanently. No one needs a Yiannopoulos on social media anywhere, he’s social media vermin, but he’s entitled to be one. Even in the interest of free speech, which includes trash speech, Twitter has behaved hypocritically, censoring when they felt the content will harm their bottom line.

The rise of right wing authoritarian governments popping up in places like Poland and Hungary; and their wholesale rejection and demonization of Syrian refugees as all being terrorists and how their religion and ‘way of life’ is incongruent with the ‘civilized’ West; the “banality of evil” is rearing its ugly head again. These governments have won elections, steered their electorate towards their way of thinking and believing, they have galvanized their police to be physically brutal with refugees . With the erecting of barbed wires along the open border Schengen Zone in the EU, it’s conjuring up lots of ugly images of the past.

With the US presidential election based on identity politics on one side and proto-fascism on the other, the policing of dissent is more prevalent than ever. Someone who refuses to vote for Hillary Clinton is tantamount to supporting Trump. Those who do not support Clinton are sexist, racist, anti-feminist and are coasting on their ‘privilege’ (whatever that means – Hillary Clinton is the most privileged woman I know). Those who don’t choose either one of the two awful presidential choices in front of us are betraying our democracy and process and allowing evil (Trump) to take over. Bernie Sanders will forever be blamed for daring to thwart the coronation of Hillary Clinton, he’ll be blamed for drawing supporters away from her, especially the sought after Millennial crowd. Sanders actions have been seen as sexist, therefore all of his supporters must be sexist, or anti-feminist, who would dare to risk losing the election to a fascist clown. All of these ‘critics’ do not see the irony of being undemocratic themselves as they are policing people how to publicly engage in discourse of a supposedly free presidential election. It’s not a wise strategy to shame or scare the voters into voting for you.

Those who engage in free inquiry must do so the ‘right’ way; which makes the ‘free’ part moot. And as soon as anyone steps on toes of another, swift apologies must come or else you would be labeled racist, sexist, anti-feminist, indulging in privilege and a whole bunch of other new lingo and terms I’ve yet to know their meaning. Hannah Arendt was called a self-hating Jew, at least that was a clear and direct “character assassination” to which she can clearly refute. How does one refute the charge that one is ‘coasting on privilege’ by simply supporting one candidate over another?

When a presidential campaign devolves into sex scandals. 

It only means two things when your enemies dig up dirt about your past, especially dirt which relates to extra-marital affairs. They are trying to embarrass you and your spouse if they are true and if they aren’t they are trying to rattle your cage and put you on the defensive to prove that you didn’t cheat on your spouse. Either way, it’s a desperate state of affairs. 

The only two viable candidates left in the Republican presidential race are now facing an existential fight to stay in the race. Currently Donald Trump is ahead but not ahead by as much as he would like. There are talks of a possible brokered or contested convention come summertime, which would mean, all of these primary results won’t mean anything. All those people who dragged themselves out to the polls on primary day have all just wasted their time. The delegates at the convention will choose their own presidential candidate for the general election, and it doesn’t even have to be someone who’s tossed their hat into the ring. Many rank and file Republicans are seriously considering this option as they’ve run out of all of them. The campaigns of their preferred candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush were really over before they began. The couldn’t control the Trump circus and now their backup candidate is the right-wing, gun toting nut case Ted Cruz, who apparently, has had five extramarital affairs. This man, by his own description, is a devout evangelical Christian. His father, Rafael Cruz is a well known mega-church evangelical preacher. Persons with these kinds of backgrounds just scream for this type of scandal. They are either closest crack smoking homosexuals who solicit rent-boys when they aren’t writing their next sermon (Ted Haggard) or they are philandering hot messes (Jim Baker). The kinds of mistresses evangelical people tend to go after are usually women who are considered improper and ‘sinful’ in their strict Christian upbringing: escorts, strippers, non-devout Christian women, atheist women and the like. And these scandals usually ends the same way as well, they get dressed up in their Sunday best, get in front of their congregation, a hysterical display of weeping, full of remorse with their wife and children all standing there, ready to forgive him. 

Many blog and column inches have been dedicated to the odiousness of Donald Trump and how he’s just an oversized oompa-loompa running for president with a few catch phrases and slogans without any meaning or substance. Ted Cruz, as a result, has been overlooked in his different brand of odiousness. This man is repugnant in his own way. Firstly, about his race and his country of birth:  he was born in Canada to a Cuban father and American mother. He is what we classify as ‘an American Citizen born abroad’, which according the constitution should disqualify him from running for president, if it doesn’t disqualify him, there should at least a review process to see if he is indeed eligible to run for president. After all that uproar about president Obama not being born in this country and therefore is not a legitimate president. The silence on the birther conspiracies surrounding Ted Cruz is just another manifestation of racism from the American right. About Ted Cruz’s race, for all intents and purposes, he is passing himself off as red blooded, gun toting, game hunting, bible thumping white male but just happens to have the last name Cruz, a most Hispanic last name if there ever were one. He isn’t Catholic as most Cubans are, he is a Baptist (like his father), like most Southern white people are. Though not as vehemently anti-immigrant as Donald Trump, he’s not a bastion of inclusiveness either. With his pale complexion and long thin hook nose, he has threw in his lot with the whites. He has espoused their causes and adopted them as his own (guns, bibles and hatred of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the above mentioned). Being mixed race myself, I find his actions totally disgusting and offensive on a personal level and wholly un-American on a professional level. He is every bit unfit to be president as Donald Trump.

Whether or not he had five extramarital affairs is beside the point and the least dangerous thing about Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz said he is a Christian first and American second. He has wild notions that the United States was founded on Christians values (it wasn’t), he is anti-women, anti Planned Parenthood and wants to repeal Obamacare, which for all of its shortcomings, has at least gotten 90% of people covered either with government subsidies or government sponsored health insurance programs. He wants to undo all that and kick the people who are currently on government sponsored health insurance off their plans to balance the budget. And when asked what would people do if they get sick and are uninsured? You pray to God, really – he said this. 

“There would be less cancer, less disease, and aids and diabetes in this country if people would simply pray. God blesses the righteous with good health and curses the immoral with sickness.” Ted Cruz – Speech to CPAC 2015

Cruz is also telling people to pray the gay away, he branded people with illnesses as immoral, because why else would they be sick. 

As a liberal, this is the greatest freak show on earth. I am not too enamoured with our front runner Hillary Clinton. I support Bernie Sanders (#FeelTheBern). The Republican Party has been on a self-destructive path ever since President Obama was elected in 2008. They are in an existential crisis and it’s caused some factions of the party to go completely ape-shit. A liberal erudite black man occupying the highest office in the land is just unfathomable to them. The fact that the country’s demographics are changing and by 2050 the US will no longer be a white majority country just scares them to death. The fact that black, brown, yellow and mixed raced people will fill the political and demographic landscape of this country is just too much for the right wing to bear. So, they are all acting crazy: writing bills on giving Chrisitan refugees priority over Muslim ones. Denying people born in America natural citizenship if their parents aren’t US citizens. States with Republican governors are refusing to sponsor refugees (which they’ve no authority to do, it’s a federal matter). Promising to build a wall when they know they can’t nor do have the authority to do so. In short, they’ve all gone bat shit crazy and it’s wonderful to watch. It’s the greatest show on earth. 

Catholic and Pro-Choice

I am a practicing Catholic. Being a Catholic is part of who I am. I subscribe to the Church’s message of hope, love, mercy, kindness and social justice. I like to think I try my best to practice these teachings in my daily interactions. And in the places where I’ve failed, I should try harder.

I also believe in the sanctity of life. I believe life begins at conception and ends with the last draw of natural breath. I believe life is the most precious thing and needs to be preserved, during any stage, at any age, with equal consideration to the health and wellbeing of all parties (mother and child). I am always moved to tears to see premature babies in the NICU, hooked up to tubes and machines, struggling for every breath, living in the incubator with the hope that they can exit this man-made cocoon and join its parents. It is equally moving to see mothers and fathers make the ultimate sacrifice for their children at the drop of a hat.

Life should be treated with the respect it deserves. And this includes people in which society has discarded: criminals, gangsters, serial rapists, child molesters, the scums of the earth, members of the LGBTQ community, poor and disenfranchised people, all of these people’s lives are important, not just unborn children and cute cuddly babies. The Catholic church deems all human life important regardless what they’ve done or who they’ve become. For the most hardened of criminals or people, as long as they still have breath in their body, there is a chance for reform and redemption. My confirmation priest worked with juvenile delinquents, he has personally seen people transform before him, with his quiet guidance, counsel and non-judgement, some people can and do change. When people change and when they know they’ve been forgiven, you can literally see a weight come off of their shoulders.

So, in a perfect world, where ideal circumstances always prevail, abortion should not have to happen. Forget about politics, the law, medical science or religion; in a perfect world, abortion does not need to happen. Period.

I am pro-choice. And I am Catholic.

I am not a simpleton. We do not live in a perfect world and circumstances are far from ideal for the majority of women in this world. Sometimes, a woman being with child, besides being an inconvenience due to circumstance, can be dangerous and perilous to her physical person. In parts of the world where young girls are trafficked and sold, where child bride practices are rampant, it can be unsafe, dangerous and perhaps deadly for a physically immature young girl to have a baby. A ten year old girl is not fit to have a child, the fact that she got pregnant doesn’t mean she’s physically ready and able to have a child. For people (such as Mike Huckabee) to believe just because she’s able to get pregnant (she was raped by her step-father), therefore, she must be physically fit to carry a child to term and deliver said baby from the hips of a ten year old child, is ignorance and misogyny of the first order. To disregard the human rights and wellbeing of a ten year old girl (also a child) in favor of her unborn child is barbarous and depraved.

Most mothers are willing to sacrifice themselves for their children (unborn or not). Mothers will endure untold physical pain and discomfort if that is what’s best for her unborn child. So, in cases where a decision needs to be made between  mother or unborn child, the focus of the medical team should be placed more on the mother and not the unborn child. The unborn child already has an advocate in its mother. The mother has no advocate.

So if a ten year old gets pregnant as a result of a rape, then an abortion needs to happen. If a child bride who was sold so her family won’t starve and her pregnancy is presenting mortal harm to her physical person, the pregnancy should be terminated if she wishes. If a pregnant woman is wheeled into the emergency room and she’s got uncontrollable bleeding and the only way to stop it is to terminate her pregnancy or deliver her child early, it should be done without hemming and hawing and deliberating about the ‘rights’ of the unborn child and consulting the lawyers and state laws (I am talking to you Texas). Of course, if the mother is conscious, it is to be done with her consent.

Most women in the world do not have the choice to become pregnant when they wish. They have very little to no control over their reproductive cycles. In third world and some developing countries, young girls and women are still routinely trafficked and sold. Many women are married against their wishes, sometimes when they are just children. Quality maternity care is often rare to non-existent in some parts of the world. Many women still risk their lives during labor and delivery. Safe and legal abortions needs to be readily available for all women, especially in times of medical emergencies. A medical emergency is when the mother is in physical danger and the only way to stop the emergency, when all other efforts have failed, is to terminate the pregnancy or early delivery of baby if she’s in later stages of her pregnancy. It is not what the church or a conservative pro-life doctor considers as a medical emergency.

I have been pregnant three times in my life, one resulted in a miscarriage, two healthy children were born and I am beyond blessed. What’s more, all three of my pregnancies were planned. I am one of the few lucky and privileged women where the possibility of getting an abortion did not factor into my childbearing years. Since I became an adult, I had the resources to be in full control of my reproductive cycle because I could always access contraceptives. What a woman does with her body is one of the most controversial debates which is still ongoing today. Just how much control should a woman have over her own body? When is permissible to override her decision about her body? (The answers are total control and never).

There is also an emotional aspect too. For every aborted child, there is a couple desperate to have a child of their own. For every woman who is suffering from infertility and has endured multiple painful miscarriages and failed fertility treatments, there is another teenage mother about to deliver her child or another woman about to give birth to yet another unplanned baby. For every woman (guilty as charged) who is complaining about the tedium, rigors and boredom of childrearing, there is another woman desperate for a baby of her own. The Universe works in mysterious ways in which we do not understand. Life is unfair, most people know and accept that, but when applied to sensitive issues such as pregnancy, childbearing, infertility and abortion, the lines get blurred.

Society, or patriarchal institutions rather, was always able to control women through our bodies. Pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing renders us vulnerable and totally dependent on the father of the children. More vulnerable than say an unmarried woman or a woman who’s passed her childbearing years. Childbearing and childrearing kept women chained and tied to their homes and and the inability to control how many children a woman wants to have makes that chain even more unbreakable. Women and their children are often derisively described as the ‘ball and chain’ of her husband, but the real ball and chain is the inability to control what happens to our bodies. Throughout history, until the invention and wide distribution and use of contraceptives, childbearing was a double edged sword. A woman must have children with her husband to maintain her position in society or at least in her social group, but if she has too many children, her health, wellbeing and family economics can be threatened. The key was always for women to be able to effectively control how many children she wants to have. Only this will shift the balance from men to women.

The one glaring in truth which the Catholic church and right-wing, misogynist conservatives refuse to acknowledge is having more children than you can support contributes to long term, entrenched, generational poverty. One way of reducing poverty everywhere, not just the developing and third world countries is to  make female contraceptives available and accessible to all women who wish to use it. This not political positioning, it’s not flouting religious dogma, it’s common sense. It’s basic math. When a family has more children than the parent or parents can support with their income, poverty arises and women bear most of the brunt of this poverty.

All life is precious. All life is deserving and worthy of having the basic necessities met. No one deserves to live in squalor and deprivation. No woman or young girl deserves to die due to a high risk pregnancy and nothing was done about it in the name of her ‘unborn child’. This is not valuing life, this is desecrating the life of a woman, a child, a mother (if she already has other children) or a future mother. Sometimes we are forced to make tough choices in life, we are forced to choose between no-good options and hope for the best. In the case of a mother and her unborn child, especially if the child is not yet viable outside of the uterus, the choice is obvious. You choose life. The life of the mother. Risking the life of a woman for the unborn child, especially when the baby is not yet viable, is devaluing and debasing the life of the mother.

The Silence of Asian Americans

Many in social and mainstream media have noticed the silence of Asian Americans in response to the killings of black people by the police. There are a few prominent voices but most are silent or they offer platitudes of regret at the loss of yet another black man to a brutal and racist institution known as the police force.

Many Asian Americans have pondered the reasons for this, but the most eloquent by far is Liz Lin, in a blog post titled ‘Why Asian Americans Might Not Talk About Ferguson’. Liz Lin, specifically, is Chinese American, so she represents the Chinese immigrant narrative and being a child of a Chinese immigrant, her analysis is pretty much right on the money. I could have taken these same words out of the mouth of  my relatives but with less tact and elegance:

[…] there are all the other cultural and social factors that influence how we respond to events like Ferguson.

For one, Asian cultures strongly value harmony and not creating conflict.  The American proverb says that the squeaky wheel gets the grease; the Japanese proverb says that the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. Thus, even in the face of controversial events, even when we ourselves are the victims of wrongdoing, many Asian Americans tend to remain silent.

This tendency is exacerbated by the fact that more than 90% of Asian Americans are immigrants or children of immigrants1 — people shaped by an immigrant mindset of keeping your head down and your mouth shut, even if the circumstances are terrible. Because you want to be welcomed and accepted here, and complaining usually creates the opposite response, even if those complaints are warranted.

Along with that immigrant mentality can come a need to survive at all costs — at least in my family.  My parents desperately wanted my brother and me to succeed in this country, and the only way to ensure that was for us to beat everyone else.  So they instilled in us a deep competitiveness, a need to be the best.  I grew up with a sense that I had to fight for my own success and not let other people or their problems drag me down, an attitude that haunts me still.

And then you have the anti-black sentiment that pervades Asian and Asian American communities. There are plenty of better-researched, better-written explanations for these attitudes, but in my experience, the human predisposition to stereotype and the fairly universal attitudes about light skin being superior to dark skin are exacerbated in cultures that are racially homogenous.

Her last point of ‘anti-black sentiment’ which ‘pervades Asian and Asian American communities’ is putting this ugly stain in Asian and Asian American communities very diplomatically. I am going to go out on a limb here and violate one of my own cardinal rules, which is to never generalize, even to make a point about the larger issue.

Based on my experiences with Chinese immigrants and Asian Americans at large, including people in my family, they can be some of the most racist motherfuckers ever, especially towards black people. And if other non-Chinese people could understand Chinese, most would be appalled at what’s being said.

As children, we are told to stay away from the black kids, not just because they are black, but because they are usually the ‘bad kids’ at school who don’t get good grades and if we associate with the ‘bad kids’ at school, the teachers won’t like us and think we are bad too. This is what Liz Lin means by ‘not let other people or their problems drag me down’.

To Chinese, black people are an unfortunate race blighted by poverty, low education and criminality, everything the media (controlled by white supremacists) wants everyone to believe, and the Chinese have bought it lock, stock and barrel. On top of that, Chinese people are big believers of politics of respectability and so the situation is ripe for racism against blacks.  Because black people get in trouble with the police a lot, so we are to stay away from them so that we don’t get dragged down with them. While this may be true in some respects, most Chinese failed to investigate why black people are at the bottom of the social and economic heap and who and what has kept them there. They were more concerned with their own survival.

My aunt told me Confucius said we should make friends with people who are ‘better than us’ and to her that didn’t include black or brown people. First of all, Confucius didn’t say that, he said this:

If the Superior Man is not serious, then he will not inspire awe in others. If he is not learned, then he will not be on firm ground. He takes loyalty and good faith to be of primary importance, and has no friends who are not of equal (moral) caliber. When he makes a mistake, he doesn’t hesitate to correct it.

The Analects

What Confucius means by ‘better’ is someone who is morally superior, more virtuous and all around a better person than oneself, he was not referring to someone’s race or ethnicity. The ‘Superior Man’ Confucius refers to means people who strive to be morally superior, people who strive to be  better people everyday, not superior by social status.

Chinese culture inherently values education above everything else, it’s their tried and true method of upward mobility, not just in America but in their countries of origin as well. I was told from a young age, in order to get ahead, I needed to study, get good grades, get into college and get a good job. That’s it. And while we are in school nothing else matters but our studies. Not our friends, no boyfriends, no weekend trips with friends, no going to movies, no sleepovers at friends homes, we don’t even need to do chores, our sole existence is to study and get good grades. Like Liz Lin says, we are responsible for our own successes, no one is going to give us anything and anything which gets in the way of that is to be ignored, even at our own peril.

With my mother as the exception, since she was married to a white person her social circle was wider and she got to see what white people were really like up close and personal and she wasn’t too impressed most times. She thought white people and white culture was rather philistine, after all, she came from a culture which was almost 4000 years old. But her parents and siblings were racists of the Chinese variety. They were insular, paranoid and convinced the world (white world) was out to get them because of their unfamiliarity with American culture. This was especially true of my aunt and uncles. My grandparents came to the United States to retire and they were happy doing what retirees did and didn’t care too much about their surrounding demographics and the wider American culture.

They were well aware the system that is white supremacy. They also knew they will never be fully accepted by white people so they settle for second best, which is career and financial success, one of the few things white people can’t deny them. One of my uncles got his master’s degree at a prestigious California institution was working on his PhD before he decided to quit and get a job as an electrical engineer. This was the early 80s, he had a good job but all the white people were promoted over him and he was even made to train someone for a position that should have been his. This made him disillusioned and bitter and he took that bitterness out on me (as a white-presenting biracial woman, he knows I can get ahead with half of his talent). My other two uncles which didn’t achieve half the success of my uncle with the master’s degree and they toiled in lower income positions until their retirement. My aunt became a virtual social recluse (she’s been in this country for over 30 years and she’s got not one non-Chinese friend) as she was a school teacher in Taiwan and she wasn’t able to convert her teaching degree and continue teaching in the US. All of my uncles and aunt had something in common, unfamiliarity with the culture that is white supremacy and not having to social tools to successfully navigate it.

They also lacked the confidence that is required to be successful in white corporate America. They were brought up in a system which was totally different to how American children are brought up. They were brought up in typical Chinese-Confucian tradition, to respect authority, obey teachers, follow orders and to not speak your mind until you’ve earned your right or position to do so, basically when they become adults. Creativity and originality was not encouraged in primary and secondary education, their education system was geared towards them taking standardized test regulated by the government to determine if they can reach the next level of education. American children, especially Gen X, Y and Millennials, we are taught to be confident, to speak our mind and our opinion matters (even if that opinion is crap). As a child growing up, I distinctly recall my aunt and uncles being very annoyed with my opinionated nature and confidence in expressing my opinions, they were even more annoyed with my mom for not putting me in my place.

In my childhood, I heard so many disgusting racists things said about blacks and latinos by my family and it wasn’t just my immediate family. It was our extended families of in-laws, relatives and acquaintances. The racists comments were ubiquitous, they came up at the most random moments during the most routine things. I recall once seeing the singer Alicia Keys on TV, one of my favorite singers, my aunt said, very casually, ‘she’s not 100% black is she?’ I said, ‘no, she isn’t. She’s like me, she’s biracial, her mother is white and her father is black’. My aunt replied, ‘no wonder she’s prettier than the average black girl’ and for good measure, she said ‘and no, she isn’t like you, you are Chinese and white’.

My uncle’s mother-in-law once regaled us with a story of how an unfortunate friend of hers, because of her need for a green card, married a black person to get the green card and fell pregnant and gave birth to the most unfortunate looking baby, and openly lamented why the baby looked so ‘black’ with the kinky hair and all. It never occurred to her that this may be a love match since the said friend got pregnant, it clearly wasn’t just a green card ‘arrangement’.

The prejudice isn’t just against people of the black race, it’s against people with darker skin as some Chinese (and Asians) have darker skin than others. Once I was accompanying a friend to visit with her former in-laws and they were watching those Chinese variety shows where celebrities come on to make an ass of themselves and promote whatever album, movie or TV series they are doing at the time and one of her former sister-in-laws said ‘who is that piece of coal standing next to the show host?’ The ‘piece of coal’ was a Chinese actress with darker skin color, and it is consider very very rude to say about someone even amongst Asians. My friend and I were in shock, not just at the obvious racism or in this case colorism, but the person saying was is no looker herself. The irony was not lost on us.

I disagree with Lin’s assertion which, “There are plenty of better-researched, better-written explanations for these attitudes, but in my experience, the human predisposition to stereotype and the fairly universal attitudes about light skin being superior to dark skin are exacerbated in cultures that are racially homogenous.” The Chinese at least, always revered people with whiter skin long before they’ve ever seen a Westerner. This is no secret. People with fair skin are always perceived as being prettier than they really are. There’s a saying in Chinese which roughly translates to ‘having fair skin will conceal 30% of one’s ugliness’. Many people (mostly westerners) attribute this to post-colonialism, because of French, Portuguese, English and Dutch colonization of parts of Asia, people with whiter skin are seen as prettier. This may be partially true, but long before colonization by the West in China, you have Tang Dynasty poets praising women with milky white skin and how being fair is a mark of beauty and virtue. Almost all the heroines in Chinese novels (old and new) is always a woman described as having jet black long hair paired with milky white skin. Most of the famous actresses in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and any other countries where Chinese people feature strongly, they are all fair skinned women. This is not a coincidence.

As awkward as this is to admit, my mother and I are recipients of undue adulation due to our natural whiteness. My mother is considered very fair for a Chinese woman, she is often thought to be biracial by other Chinese (she’s not, she’s just unusually fair for a Chinese), and I am ghostly white because of my Anglo-Irish heritage. My mother is a lovely woman, one of the loveliest women I know but it’s to do with her whole being, not just her whiteness. In Asian countries, the markets are flooded with skin whitening ungents and creams. I don’t even want to know what’s in them, anything that can bleach your skin from yellow undertone to white can’t be good for you in the long run.

I am no longer in contact with my uncles. Since the death of my grandparents, the glue which held my mother’s side of the family together, I felt I’ve nothing in common with them anymore. Their racist views disgusted me growing up. When I was old enough to articulate my disgust, they turned on me even more. I attributed to their lack of success in America more to their bad attitudes towards other people rather than racism (looking back this is quite unfair). Because they were unwilling to learn American ways they blamed their failures on racism, it was a cop out so they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions. I realize this is a terrifically snobbish thing to say and one one tinged with white privilege which I enjoy but their causal and blatant racism in the open, spoken in a language that most people don’t understand was too disgusting for me to have real sympathy for them.

So far, the racism which exists in Asian communities have been unchecked and overlooked by society at large because we are all obsessed with white privilege, white supremacy and racism and bias executed by white people. White supremacy and racism from white people is perceived as more serious and at times deadlier than racism and bias from other groups. But racism, bias and prejudice is not acceptable from any group against any group, even if the groups involved are minorities. While I disagree that academic and financial achievement by some Asian Americans have contributed to the racism, discrimination and degradation faced by blacks and latinos for their own lack of success; after all, in order to find academic and financial success in a white supremacist society, one has to partake and contribute to that system, whether they are Asians or not, so it’s not fair to level this charge only to Asians. But it is totally unacceptable some Asians are getting away with racism. Just because Asians are the victims of racism, ugly sterotyping, fettishization of women and mockery of traditional Asian facial features and accents, it’s not acceptable to mete out the same treatment to other minorities. Just because Asians aren’t the dominant power in American society, it does not make racism against others acceptable.

It is understandable to want to preserve what little privilege one has in the amoral and immoral morass that is white supremacy, but no one really got ahead by stepping on the head of another. We are better in solidarity than being divided.

I needed to learn that my only-out-for-myself attitude was ultimately not helpful for me or for anyone around me.  I needed to learn that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, as Martin Luther King said; that if one part of the body suffers, every part suffers (1 Corinthians 12.26); that ending injustice — all injustice — is a central part of what God wants to see in the world (Isaiah 58.6, Luke 4.18).

I needed to learn that some things are worth rocking the boat for — and that if I wasn’t proactive about fighting injustice, I was quietly perpetuating it.

Liz Lin