Tony Perkins: Even Jesus had some goddamned limits


Dear Rebecca:

I give you Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, explaining the Trumpism of American Christians:

Evangelical Christians, says Perkins, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

What happened to turning the other cheek?, I ask.

“You know, you only have two cheeks,” Perkins says. “Look, Christianity is not all about being a welcome mat which people can just stomp their feet on.”

Yes, I remember well the verse:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.

 After that, Jesus said, punch the motherf**ker in the jaw.


The Trump Administration’s war on the poor


Dear Rebecca:

Yesterday I noted a House GOP proposal to criminalize poverty among undocumented migrants. Turns out that’s not the only trick Trumpistas have up their sleeves.


The Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed a rule that would make it legal for employers to pocket their workers’ tips, as long as they pay those workers at least the minimum wage. The proposed rule rescinds portions of longstanding DOL regulations that prohibit employers from taking tips. We estimate that if the rule is finalized, every year workers will lose $5.8 billion in tips, as tips are shifted from workers to employers. Of the $5.8 billion, nearly 80 percent—$4.6 billion—would be taken from women who are working in tipped jobs.

The one small bit of good news in this is that restaurant workers would be paid minimum wage — one reason that tipping is a moral imperative for some of us is that waiters and waitresses are often making $2 an hour without the tips; it’s up to customers to make the job even close to lucrative enough for waitstaff.

But everything else about the proposal is reprehensible. When I tip, it’s my intention that the money goes to my server; if they’ve made a deal to share tips behind the scenes with other grunt level workers, I’m fine with that. My intention is not to give additional money to the restaurant’s owner: That’s why I pay the bill.

The proposal is in some ways worse than it looks on the surface: The current minimum wage hasn’t been raised in 9 years; the purchasing power of the minimum wage peaked 50 years ago. One likely result of the proposal: Crappy-paying jobs will become, over time, even more crappy relative to the pace of inflation. The working poor will work even more poorly.

I often can see the rationale behind my conservative friends’ policy proposals, even when I disagree with them. This idea? No. I don’t think rank-and-file conservatives disdain poor people — many of them are working poor. But I think conservative leaders have an absolute disdain for he poor. (I’m probably being generous.) I don’t know how else to read this and the aforementioned immigration proposal.

It’s just picking on people who can’t afford to fight back. Shameful.

— Joel

The immorality of Trumpist immigration enforcement: Criminalizing poverty

Metal Prison Barbed Fence Wire Detention Jail

Dear Rebecca:

The good folks at Cato, a libertarian think tank, have an analysis of the Securing America’s Future (SAF) Act, a House GOP bill that “is a comprehensive immigration reform bill posing as a DACA fix.”

Here’s the horrific part:

The worst enforcement provision is criminalizing simply being in the United States without status or violating any aspect of civil immigration law (p. 170). This would turn millions of unauthorized immigrants into criminals overnight. It would also criminalize legal immigrants who fail to update their addresses, carry their green card with them at all times, or otherwise abide by the million inane regulations that Congress imposes on them. Take, for example, the status provided to Dreamers in this bill. It requires them to maintain an annual income of at least 125 percent of the poverty line (p. 396). If they fall below that level for 90 days—not only are they subject to deportation again—they would be criminals. This bill literally criminalizes poverty among Dreamers.

I honestly don’t care about the rationale for this measure; I don’t care to try and examine it even-handedly. Criminalizing poverty — even among immigrants — is immoral and wrong. It’s a policy that’s wrong on its face, and it has the added compounded sin of making it even more difficult for that immigrant ever to climb above the poverty level. If it’s not purely evil, it’s dumb. Either way, the anti-immigration crowd continues to show a dearth of humanity.


The immorality of Trumpist immigration enforcement


Dear Rebecca:

I’ve suggested before that Trumpist immigration enforcement might be an act of injustice far worse than the offense of illegal immigration. We have two more examples this week of why it might be so.

First, we have the story of Jorge Garcia, a Detroit man being deported after 30 years in the United States. He was brought to the United States when he was 10; his deportation separates him from his wife and two children, all of them U.S. citizens. Please, read his story.

Second, we have this atrocity:

US border patrol agents are routinely sabotaging water supplies left for migrants in the Arizona desert, condemning them to death, humanitarian groups have said.

Travellers attempting to cross into the US from Mexico regularly die of dehydration, as well as exposure to extreme heat or cold, so aid groups leave water bottles and emergency stocks such as blankets at points throughout the Sonoran desert.

A video released by the groups showed border patrol agents kicking over water bottles and pouring away their contents. A statement from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it was aware of the footage and that it was filmed around six years ago.

In the first case, a family is destroyed and disrupted — no doubt causing ripple effects in the community — because a man was born on one side of the border but, through circumstances not of his making, lived on this side of the border. As best I can tell, his actual presence in the country was doing nobody harm. Which means the greater harm is done by deporting him.

In the second case, people are being condemned to death and suffering to thwart the possibility of them being on the wrong side of the line.

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My friends in favor of immigration restrictions believe that a country has a right to make rules about who gets to come in and who doesn’t. They are correct. But that doesn’t make these kinds of enforcement actions moral. We’re condemning people to death for, in essence, not following bureaucratic rules. We’re destroying families whose only offense was actually committed by an older generation — unless, of course, you want to start making the case that 10-year-olds are in control of where older relatives take them.

That is wrong. It is a sin. It is a sin being carried out in our name.


Having it both ways on MLK Day

Dear Rebecca:

My friends at the Trumpist website AmGreatness are having a dilly of a day. First they published this:

On this day, which is no ordinary holiday for no ordinary man, let us speak a truth: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great American. He loved America, not because of the rightness of America, but because of the rights that were (and remain) so absolutely American: the right to protest for right, the right of freedom of assembly, the right of freedom of speech, the right of the freedom of the press.

He was a man of the Word, with a passion for upholding the true meaning of the words of one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. He countered physical force with soul force, because he knew—and it is a testament to the greatness of America—that he could awaken the goodness within the conscience of America.

They also published this:

The nation of immigrants concept is problematic in other ways. If this is the defining mark of the nation, the newcomer is the quintessential American, more American than actual Americans, in spite of his language, manners, and actual political ideas. By ignoring actual voters, a fetish is made of voting, even if the new American uses the procedures of self-government to impose substantive ends like sharia, socialism, or Satanism. The mere act of fleeing a bad place does not show they know or can adapt to the qualities that made this country a desirable place. Like locusts, they may simply be on the move, having destroyed their homelands—whether consciously or by accident—they may now destroy this place, and then move on to destroy another. (Emphasis added.)

This piece, one of the editors says, is one of the most important pieces ever published at AmGreatness. Ugh. It should tell you something about the dark, petty heart of the “Greatness agenda” that its soul is so small and selfish.

I won’t claim to know what MLK would’ve thought about immigrants and immigration. Suffice it to say: Under no circumstances would he have compared immigrants to locusts. He would’ve considered them children of God.


My only hope is that by praising Martin Luther King Jr., someday my friends will try to emulate his example a little more.

That’s all I can say, charitably, today.



Ellen Kroeker, on those ‘shithole’ countries

Immigration stock photo

Dear Rebecca:

I think you know my friend Ellen Kroeker: Like me, she’s a graduate of Tabor College. And I gather, from the stories she’s told me over coffee, that my own attempts at lefty rabble-rousing at the conservative Mennonite college may pale in comparison to hers. She’s a wonderful person to know.

She’s also got some strong opinions about President Trump’s “shithole countries” comment. I asked if I could share her thoughts here. She gave permission:

Regarding the person installed in the White House and his comments about immigrants from s..hole countries:

Part of my beloved family is African by birth. My Congolese brother-in-law has a PhD in public health.

My father, an immigrant from a war-torn country, was not allowed to come to the United States because he was from a disregarded country (though now, the fact that he had been born in Russia might make him special to the president. )

Thank you, Canada, for giving the kid who saw a beheaded body when he was 4, saw people hung when he was 8, whose father disappeared when he was about 8, whose brother was taken prisoner and nearly died in prison, whose nephew starved to death, thank you, Canada, for not being afraid of an 11 year old and giving him, as well as his brothers, sisters, mother, and tiny niece Mary, refuge in North America. My grandfather, who arrived in North America two years earlier and was allowed into the US was later allowed to bring the youngest kids into the States.

This immigrant family has given this country social workers, nurses, doctors, preachers, teachers, farmers, journalists, writers, policewoman, computer specialists, linguists, truck driver, real estate salesman, antique dealer, banker, video marketer, architect….I’m sure I’m leaving out someone. Mothers and fathers who have raised children to be kind, to be decent, to care about social justice, to serve the poor and the suffering. We are the very fiber of this country. And those who are yet to come from other countries will also be part of the fiber of a country that creates and heals, not this distorted vision of hate and white supremacy that the current person staining the president’s house is promoting.

Gil just finished reading aloud the McCullough biography of John Adams, whose blessing on the White House is engraved on a fireplace there (in the dining room, I think). “…May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” That it is not so, and so blatantly not so at this time, saddens me.

Many American Mennonites can trace their heritage back only a generation or two to the first American generation of their family. We should all be saddened by the president’s comments.


An open letter to my Trump-loving friends, regarding those ‘shithole’ countries and conservative racism

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Technically, he’s white.

Dear Rebecca:

If you don’t mind, I’m going to address this letter to my Trump-loving Republican friends.


Dear Trump-loving Republican friends:

I know we’ve had our differences lately. And I write you feeling some anger about something that happened today. So let me preface this by saying I have your best interests at heart.

This is what your — our — president said today.

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to two people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met Wednesday.

Lest we read the (barely) subtext of those remarks too deeply, let’s look at the pattern:

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Listen, friends.

I know you hate being called racists.

I know you think that liberals get away with racism because they’re better at shouting about it. You’re not always wrong.

I know some of you think liberal complaints about conservative racism are unfair, a “chump’s game” designed for tactical advantage. You’re sometimes wrong about this, but again — not always.

I know that some of you will disagree with this, but: In an effort to find common ground, I’ve tried to restrain my own knee-jerk reactions. I try not to assume that disagreements regarding race makes anybody in the conversation a racist.

But folks: This president. The president you gave us.

He’s racist.

If he’s not racist, he’s so cavalier about racism that he doesn’t care if he appears racist. The damage to our country’s values is done either way.

There’s no way around this: If you continue to support this president, it’s not mean or out-of-bounds for other observers to conclude that you’re ok supporting a racist.

And if you’re ok supporting a racist for the highest office in the land, well, it might not be entirely fair, but it’s probably to be expected that people are going to draw conclusions about your character as well.

Your reasons for supporting Trump may not be racist. Maybe you’re sick of an economy leaving you behind and are glad somebody broke out of the neoliberal consensus that dominated both major parties. Maybe you’re anti-abortion and wanted the conservative judges Trump promised to elect. Maybe there’s something else.

But at this point, whatever your reasons for supporting him, even if you don’t feel racist — well, you’re OK enough with his racism to let it slide.

It may not feel like a big deal. Maybe it seems like it doesn’t really affect you. It may not affect many people you know.

But it affects a lot of people, who rightfully fear their government is not in the business of protecting their rights. And it strikes to the heart of the values many of us believe are important to this country.

I myself will make no assumptions about whether you’re racist, or have that in your heart. But at this point: Trump has demonstrated who he is. If you support him anyway, well, that’s up to you. But your complaints about being called racist — as though it’s worse than being racist — are going to seem ever more hollow going forward.

I hope you can find a conservative who can represent you without the racism. Really. There’s plenty of other stuff we can argue about. This doesn’t have to be it.

I wish you well.

Sincerely, Joel