It seems like it must be a passage of adulthood, a rite that no one wants to pass but everyone eventually does, that one of authors becoming people, people flawed and awful. For some of us, that rite of passage is picking up beloved books of childhood comfort and realizing just how horribly racist they are, and that no amount of the warmth from Polgara’s kitchen can change the fundamental bedrock of racism that forms the faults and seams of the stories.
For others, the stories remain beloved comforts, heavy and warm and rich with the scent of a fresh bound book slowly worn by the repeated readings, the track of the digital scrolling past on a thin electronic tether to the most wonderful libraries. For those people, the rite of passage is different, worse and better, because what changes isn’t the story but the author, who reveals that they weren’t the person who wrote the beauty that comforted, consoled, and inspired you. But in some ways, you’re lucky. The text? It no longer belongs to the author; it’s your love that sustains it, that breathes life into it, that forms the bonds between people with that shared passion and love. You can take it and make it what you want and will; you never have to give the author another cent, never have to support them, never have to acknowledge them, and you can still have the beautiful, inspirational people living within the boundaries of that book binding, digital or otherwise.
You might have to let them go; it might be the only way you can handle the taint of the author, to turn away forever. But it’s a choice. You can keep the characters, and get rid of the author. They began living beyond the author when you began reading, when your mind gave them form. They are embodied by your imagination, your passion, your love.
It’s not just gods that are made real by your belief in them.
Oh for the love of – there’s a news story going around saying that the University of Manchester Student Union “banned” clapping, because it’d disruptive for speakers and can cause issues for students with sensory issues, and told students to instead use “jazz hands” to convey applause, like sign language!
So in other words, the University of Manchester Student Union asked students to applaud, and folks who’ve never chatted with a deaf person or been exposed to a signed language assume jazz hands is just the same as sign language, because it…involves hands?
Ah yes. Because they are so similar. (They are not similar at all.)
I mean, if you want to talk about language constructing the world and Othering, here you go; you couldn’t ask for a better example. Because at best, the media coverage of this SHOULD read “clapping out, clapping in at university – student union encourages silent applause” or somesuch to be accurate, but they went for the evocative and absolutely incorrect, Busby Berkeley frill of “jazz hands” instead. So think about it: what does BBC or ITV or anyone else GAIN from characterizing a move towards a silent applause as “jazz hands” rather than “signed applause” or “silent clapping”? It’s about how we construct worlds – and exclude people. Jazz hands and spirit fingers are punchlines, often literally. So what does that say about the writers’ view of signed languages? (Here’s a hint: nothing good.)
Ableism isn’t always about access, it’s also about environment. Using someone’s native (signed) language as a punchline, delivered while simultaneously deriding the needs of students who can experience sensory overload and the thoughtfulness of students thinking about how to make their spaces more inclusive of multiple needs and languages, is a pretty special level of “hey, you’re being a jackass.”
Science, in the old sense, has almost ceased to exist. In Newspeak there is no word for ‘Science’. The empirical method of thought, on which all the scientific achievements of the past were founded, is opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc.
-George Orwell, 1984
Late in the day Friday, the Washington Post reported on the Trump Administration’s latest attempt to “make Oceania great again:” a list of seven words and phrases that the CDC is not allowed to use in any official documents being created for the next year’s budget. These words are:
Oh. Is that all? I mean, we wouldn’t want the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention having anything their budget about evidence-based or science-based medicine, right? Heaven forbid, who knows where that could lead? Do you study vulnerable medical populations? Apparently not according to the CDC. Are you transgender? Nothing for your health in the budget – you can’t be mentioned, you see.
Oh sure, some people will say that this merely means that the CDC must be “creative” when writing their budget request, but as Emily Nagoski noted on Twitter this morning, similar biases and bans were faced by the gay community – researchers had to say “same sex” instead of “homosexual” in order to have a chance of securing funding. No one thought that was right; it colored funding requests and constrained research.
This is much worse.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, speaking to STAT News on Saturday, tried to downplay the already vocal pushback on the ban. Of course, if you actually read what he said,… “The assertion that HHS has ‘banned words’ is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process,” [Matt] Lloyd, from HHS, said in a statement to STAT. “HHS will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.”
Not only Lloyd he not deny that there was a banned word list, but he himself did not actually say two of the banned phrases, instead talking around them. Lloyd could have easily said “HHS will continue to use the best science-based evidence available…” or to say that “HHS strongly encourages the use of evidence-based data…” And yet.
The words we use drive funding, manage expectations, even constrain who we think about and include. This ban is nothing more than an assault on reproductive rights, equality, and quite literally, diversity.
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).
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.
So hey, how about these last 7 days, eh? Have we figured out how to stop this ride? No? Not yet? Cuz we really, really need to – our tangerine toddler can’t write worth a damn, and it’s starting to cause some problems.
Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security. (a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.
Waitwhat – suspend, immediately, the Visa Waiver Program? The VWP is an agreement between the US and 35-odd other countries that lets their citizens travel to the USA for 90 days or less without first securing a VISA, provided they meet a list of requirements. This facilitates travel and tourism, minimizes US costs in other countries, and is generally a nice thing – especially for those of us who have ex-pat spouses and family we adore in other countries.
Suspending this would be catastrophic, and Section 8 seems pretty clear – all nonimmigrants must undergo an in-person interview, pursuant to section 222 of the INA, 8 USC 1222, unless that’s waived by something like the VISA Waiver Program. The language seems pretty clear that “all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview” – those statutory exceptions are listed in section 222 of the INA, but are your basic consular/diplomatic type things. Certainly, they’re not “travel tourists!”
Except, there’s also an Interview Waiver Program, which has been completely scrubbed from the main State Department website, but you can still see (as of 3am Saturday the 28th of January – oh hey, gong xi fa cai) on the State Department’s Indonesian website. They talk about an interview waiver program, which is essentially the VISA Waiver Program, but for countries who are not officially designated VWP countries:
Many Indonesians who wish to renew their visas may qualify for the interview waiver program which allows for visa renewal without an interview. If qualified, applicants only need to pay the visa application fee, fill out the visa application form, print out a Drop-Box Confirmation Letter, and drop off documents at the RPX Document Drop-off Location any weekday between 10am and 3pm. Qualified applicants do not need to appear at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta or the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya for an interview.
Okay, that maybe clears – hang on. The “additional resources” page (see picture) is just redirecting folks to the VWP page. So basically, the IWP is just the VWP (and note that if you can find any US government web page that talks about an interview waiver program separate from the VISA Waiver Program, they refer to it as a IWP; the “VISA” bit isn’t included, perhaps in an effort to eliminate the confusion going on right now.)
Australian and New Zealand newspapers are running with two stories: that this does and does not affect their citizens (as both countries are designated VWP participants). So what does this mean? Does the VWP still exist? Is this VISA Interview Waiver Program different?
I think the answer to all is “…who knows.”
Given that search results still pull up an Interview Waiver Program, and there are still results live on country-specific State Department websites, it seems safe to say that, cloudy and awful language aside, the intent of Section 8 of the horrid human rights fail of an executive order is attempting to stop interview-free travel for trustworthy citizens of non-VWP designated countries. But as we all know, the problem with “intent” is that you can have Intent A and still end up with Effect B; in this instance, I see nothing in Section 8 that says by “ensuring compliance with INA,” they mean “ensuring compliance by nonimmigrants from all countries except VWP participants.” Do you?
Now, add to that and keep in mind that admission into the USA – even if you’re from a VWP-participating country – is completely up to the customs and immigration agent you’re talking to, and their understanding of the law, and you can see why people are freaking out. The executive order is unclear, appears to be smooshing together two separate VISA-waiving programs, and reiterates that all nonimmigrants must have valid VISAs to enter the USA.
So what’s going to happen when someone tries to enter the US with a VWP, now?
I’d like to say business as usual, they’ll be admitted, no problems – but I can’t. All I can say is, if you’re from a VWP-participating country and have plans to visit America, call your consular office first thing Monday morning and see what they say. Follow their advice, ask if they have an updates email service, and check back with them frequently. Make sure your documents are all on the up-and-up for travel, be polite to agents you’re dealing with when entering the USA, and hope that clarification comes sooner rather than later (or that the entire thing is just dropped – the order itself is illegal seven ways to Sunday, not that that’s stopped our tiny-handed kleptocrat).
With thanks to Jeremy Youde for pointing out the second SBS tourism article and helping me think through the issue.
Thanks to modern society, we’re all Frankenstein’s monster. None of us fit.