Life as an Extreme Sport

voter suppression and voter obligation – patriotism beyond July 4th

As many people know, last week Kris Kobach sent a letter to all 50 states asking for a lot of “publicly available” information about registered voters: “full names, addresses, dates of birth, political parties, the last four digits of their social security numbers, a list of the elections they voted in since 2006, information on any felony convictions, information on whether they were registered to vote in other states, their military status, and whether they lived overseas.”

Pence and Kobach both feel that this information all falls under publicly available, but multiple states disagree, saying that they wouldn’t, for example, ever give out any part of someone’s social security number or birth date. (Sensible, really, from a basic identity theft protections standpoint.) For this and a litany of other reasons, 44 of the 50 states have so far said no, nope, not happening, nice try, go away now. (I’m paraphrasing. Then again, Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” so I’m only very slightly paraphrasing.) However, a few states have said yes. And those residents have concerns. Concerns that are leading registered voters to opt for removing themselves as registered voters, essentially de-registering and successfully meeting the administration agenda of voter suppression.

The response to this has been the predictable “don’t play into their hands” approach, encouraging people to not de-register to vote if they live in states handing over any of the requested data to Kobach, and my knee-jerk reaction was to agree and retweet when I saw relevant posts (as well as again being grateful I live in Massachusetts).

But here’s the thing. The commission Kobach is vice-chair of, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, is a federal entity. This means that it’s subject to federal public records requirements, and the data will become public record the minute it’s sent in.1 And that, that changes things. A lot. It’s not just about identity theft; Do you really want your boss to be able to access your political party? How easily do you want someone to know where you live? Do you want someone to look up your voter record before deciding whether to accept you in to graduate school? 2

These might not seem like a huge deal if you’re someone who lives who you are on your sleeve; if you live in a liberal state where diversity of opinion is appreciated (even if people really wish you’d vote differently); if you’ve never been stalked. But for a lot of people, the threat – and that’s what this is, a threat (cuz that’s how voter suppression works) – of people finding out this information that we typically think of as personal and private is the sort of threat that demands action. And I don’t think it’s right, responsible, or compassionate to ignore that kind of panic-fueled motivation.

Instead, I think the right reaction is to listen to the people who feel that this means they have to de-register and remove themselves from registered voter lists. Instead of telling them not to because that’s what Trump & Co want, I think the thing to do is say: yes, absolutely you should protect yourself first and remove yourself from voter rolls. And at the very same time, you need to find out when the last day to legally register to vote is, in your state/county, and then you need to place reminders to yourself to re-register to vote by that day on your phone, computer, physical calendar, and any and everywhere else you’ll see it. Because your obligation, if you pull yourself off these rolls, to yourself, your county, and your country, is to put yourself right back on those voter rolls when it counts: when you can vote. Protecting yourself from the effects of their voter suppression attempts is fine and logical – so long as you don’t literally allow them to suppress your vote.

you don’t need to creatively edit Trump to highlight how awful he is

There is an image is going around today, & damn, it’s appealing. It sums up all the class of Obama, all the crass of Trump.

It’s also not quite accurate. Whomever made the image condensed quite a lot of Trump’s words to make him sound even more buffoonish by taking the extreme eye-roll bits and shoving them together; it’s indicated by the ellipses, but it’s a lot of text and tiny ellipses, and to shove everything together – well. It’s problematic.

Is it the truth? Kind of. Trump did say those things. But I imagine I could probably creatively edit Obama’s speeches to sound much more vacuous and self-important; imagine how the image would change if this text, from the same National Prayer Breakfast, was used:

Giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us together here this morning. Motorcading up here at the heart of D.C.’s rush hour, I suspect that not all the commuters were blessing me as they waited to get to work. But it’s for a good cause, haha! A National Prayer Brunch doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Obviously it’s not the same degree of eye-roll – but I also like Obama. I imagine for folks who didn’t, the idea of the president laughing about making people late to work so he could have breakfast wasn’t funny at all.

Mind, I’m not defending Trump – his speech was asinine and juvenile, full of his favorite topics: himself and revenge. It would be easy to make graphics side-by-siding the graceful humility of Obama with the vulgar vanity of Trump. But in doing so, we should be honest in our depictions: editing Trump to make him sound worse isn’t necessary, is dishonest, and it muddies the waters of effectiveness. He’s a horrible person as is, and needs no help proving it.

self-care and staying in your own lane

Normally, when we hear the phrase “stay in your own lane,” it’s a chastisement that you’re swimming outside the waters you know, and you need to get back into your area of expertise and let experts be experts without your meddling. It’s a phrase I’m guilty of using quite a bit when talking about the anti-bioethics sort that inhabit the harder sciences, and it’s in general a bit of a hard push back on folks who want to opine about everything regardless of pesky details like, I dunno, knowledge.

So Chris Geidner’s tweet about voluntarily staying in his lane of expertise is one worth highlighting, underscoring, and otherwise supporting:

Sometimes, staying in your own lane, your own area of expertise, isn’t one of “getting back” but knowing where to place your priorities and energies. And right now, in the current political climate, resistance fatigue, where people just roll their eyes at another protest, where you feel the weight of the world pressing heavier and harder because every day, hell, every hour, there’s another thing to resist and protest and pitch a fit against…. well, it’s a serious concern. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and you need to conserve your energy as much as you can – and one way to do that is staying in your own areas of expertise.

This doesn’t mean you don’t support everyone else, it just might mean you don’t have to organize every single act of resistance. Let other people stand up and take over, let them write the posts on topics they know best, let them be the speakers whose voices you amplify.

Take at least a day off, every week – yes, it’s hard to put everything away and be out of touch when you know bad shit is happening while your back is turned. Trust that other people will catch it while you’re gone, and be willing to hand off the protests when you come back, refreshed.

Your own self-care is now an act of resistance, especially as they seek to wear us all down. There’s nothing wrong with staying in your own lane, and utilizing the best skills, expertise, and resources you have, to make the most difference – especially if you’re high-fiving the folks in the lane next to you as you do it.

After 36 hours of chaos, a spot of calm in Boston

Self-care, with yes, a dose of privilege, demanded stepping away from the Internet on Sunday, and the continued infuriating and illegal actions of our temper-tantrum-tossing tangerine toddler. It was an exhausting 48 hours, and we just needed to spend time together – privilege, yes, because we can do that, but don’t mistake it, either, for the root fear driving it: the anger ifrit has shown that with a stroke of a pen, everything my husband and I know about our life could be overturned, and neither of us take that lightly. Neither of us take the hatred and threats to immigrants lightly, even while most people forget Nick is an immigrant – or try to excuse it with “oh but he’s Australian” when they mean “oh he’s white.”

That meant catching up some on the news this morning – while fighting off whatever the latest cold going around is, because apparently a university professor picks up about as many bugs as a preschool teacher. The news tells me that Boston continues to be awesome, the toddler’s team wouldn’t understand consistency if it bit them on the ass, and that the nation is still in chaos, but still standing (tho maybe listing heavily to one side).

Some lawyers are advising green card holders to fly through Logan International, in Boston, because of a Massachusetts judge’s seven-day restraining order on the executive action.

The ruling, which goes further than similar ones in New York and Virginia, prevents both the detention or removal of approved refugees and visa or green card holders from the seven affected nations.

Additionally, this order required Customs and Border Protection officials to notify international airlines that valid VISA holders (green cards, approved refugees, or valid VISA holders of any stripe) will not be detained or returned solely based on Trump’s orders, which in effect means that airlines need to let folks on the planes to get to Boston, which was still a major impedement with the New York and Virginia rulings.

Of course, the temper tantrum in the White House is growing – and they can’t manage to stay on message. I can’t imagine why folks are confused about what the fuck is going on at any given time, since not even the White House appears to know if the ruling applies to green card holders, with them saying yes on Saturday and no and yes on Sunday. Oh, okay then. THAT clears things up.

Based on the chaos, all I can say is this: if you are outside the country right now, and have a valid VISA or green card, make sure you are carrying copies of all current federal rulings before you head to your airport to fly back to the USA; try to fly in to an airport that is following the current stay on the executive action, and consider making that airport Logan International; be sure you’ve tagged someone in the USA as your travel buddy, who will keep an eye on litigation and court stays while you are in the air and out of touch, and who can contact lawyers on your behalf if there are problems when you land. Be sure your phone has charge, and that you let your travel buddy know when you are on the ground, before you head into customs and immigration. Make sure they have a plan – they know what immigration lawyer to contact if you don’t appear after a decided-upon period of time. (I’d go for three hours, but that’s just me and based on the reports people have given of “enhanced security screening.”) If there is a problem, demand to see an immigration judge. Do not sign any paperwork. Do not give up your passport, your green card, or any other paperwork if they ask you to relinquish it. Know who your lawyer is, be polite, and repetitive in asking to see them and the judge, should it come down to it. Hopefully it doesn’t, and you’re quickly through the airport and back where you belong.

And if you have a few minutes and you’re not involved directly in any of this, and have the luxury of being on the sidelines, contact your representatives to tell them how reprehensible this executive action is – how inhumane, how it’s a repetition of the horrors of what America did to Jewish folks in World War II, and how America should be better than the executive order implies. And maybe send a note of thanks to federal judge Allison Dale Burroughs, who wasn’t afraid to go where other judges didn’t, and made sure people had an avenue to get home.

Trump’s Telling Lies – Again. This Time, About Terrorists

On Friday, Trump signed an immoral (and almost certainly illegal) executive order titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” Section 1 states the purpose of this act:

The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans.

While signing the executive order, Trump said, “We only want to admit those who will support our country and love deeply our people…We will never forget the lessons of 9/11, nor the heroes who lost their lives at the Pentagon.”

Sadly for Trump, actions speak louder than words, and in this case, his actions show that in fact, he has already forgotten an origin lesson from 9/11: while the order is expected to freeze travel from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen,3 the 9/11 hijackers came from Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

None of those countries are expected to be subjected to Trump’s “extreme vetting measures.”

They are also the same Muslim-majority countries where Trump’s businesses either have interests or are pursuing them. Coincidental, I’m sure. Completely coincidental.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that Trump should extend his already-illegal, immoral, inhumane executive order to include Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. I am merely pointing out that the justification given for the ban is completely false – the seven countries banned are not responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, or any sort of massive terrorist export center. In fact, and again, as the FBI has been warning for years now, most terrorism in the United States is domestic terrorism, committed by Americans.

Yes, there is a terrorism threat in America – it’s coming from inside our borders, not out.

Edited at 8:55pm ET to add: Yes, I know that I included South Sudan in this image. At the time I made it, multiple news organizations were questioning whether they intended to ban South Sudan when discussing “Sudan.” The original list of seven – created by Obama – only included Sudan. But at least at 3am last night, when I was working on this map because I couldn’t sleep, multiple people thought Trump meant to include both Sudan and South Sudan, largely because he didn’t realize there WAS a South Sudan. As soon as anything official comes up, I’ll update accordingly.