Tag: Anger

Incendiary Saturday: Religion and Immigration

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
– Constitution of the United States of America

Two posts in one day, you lucky darlings. But the news of the Executive Order issued by President Trump banning access to the country from several (Islamic) countries has broken and rather consumed our day here at SDS headquarters. He’s not calling it a #MuslimBan (though General Flynn’s son is, for what that’s worth)…but it’s a ban on Muslims. You know how we can tell? Because President Trump also directed that priority for immigration should be given to people from the Middle East…who are Christian. But let’s set that aside for a moment.

I’m not going to go into the minutia of whether or not the President excluded other “problematic” countries from this ban because he has active or prospective business holdings in them.

I’m not going to speculate on how much ammunition this will give to terrorist groups, some of whom have already apparently used the EO in recruiting efforts. Or how this might affect my brother and countless others currently serving in the armed forces.

I’m not going to touch the fact that this EO, steeped in racial tensions and fearmongering, was issued on Holocaust Memorial day.

Instead, I want to talk about some personal background, some legal realities, and the question of motive.

To recap.

On my father’s side, his mother was the daughter of immigrants from Slovakia. They were Roman Catholic at a time when Catholics and immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were viewed as suspect and fundamentally Un-American. My grandmother married a WASP from New York and bore three children, one of whom is my father who served most of my life in the US Air Force. One of my brothers has followed him into service.

On my mother’s side, I am descended from religious converts who came from Scotland and elsewhere to the deserts of the American West to join in a small and somewhat persecuted religious movement–Mormonism. This movement had an extermination order issued against them as a group at one point and were eventually driven out of what then constituted the boundaries of the country. My mother descends from this religious minority, now considered one of the most conservative and patriotic subsections of the country. My dad later converted to this faith and this heritage. I’ve left the former, but carry the latter with me always.

That’s my immigrant and religious minority legacy. Why do I repeat this? Because I’m not special. Most Americans have some kind of story like this in their background, this intertwining of minority and immigrant stories goes right back to our founding myths and has been our day-to-day lived reality for the better part of three centuries. Cracking down on immigrants, especially when you are using religion as part of your reasoning is fundamentally counter intuitive to our national history and story.

Years later, I’m now an immigrant in a Western nation at this very moment. I followed all the laws to legally enter this country and work here, and I have the paperwork to prove it. That is how international immigration and laws work. I’m lucky. I’m white, educated, English speaking, but I’m still an immigrant. My life is here and it is dependent on the goodwill of two governments. If I boarded a plane in the US and arrived in London only to be detained at the border because the Prime Minister had decided that in defiance of laws and regulations in two countries, my right to entry (again, documented in two countries) was suddenly invalidated, I have no idea where I’d be. Catatonic in a corner perhaps. Propublica estimates that up to half a million people are potentially in this situation now. The Washington Post is reporting that the language of the recent executive order that has brought this mess about also applies to people with dual nationalities…aka…citizens of the US. Huffinton Post reports ditto for Green Card holders. Representatives of the government under which I currently live are also reporting that they could not access the US under this EO, which doesn’t make me overly optimistic for continued operational goodwill across borders.

Why do I bring all this up? Because, like me, we are talking about people who have already passed multitudes of tests and requirements to gain access to the country.

There a lot of genuinely necessary conversation and work to do to create a safe, viable immigration network in the 21st century world. But do you know what really is pissing me off? It’s that the basis for this EO is due to fears and anxieties concerning illegal immigration and religious backgrounds. People who have the paperwork to get into this country have, in many cases, already passed a vetting process far more grueling than anyone currently being considered for a position in Mr. Trump’s cabinet! And freedom of worship was one of the first things the Founding Fathers enshrined.

And so, people who voted for this–including some of you who told me that these kinds of actions or bans would never come to fruition: do not tell me that the problem is illegal immigration, and then turn around and start detaining or denying entry first to those who already legally live and work in the US, including citizens. Do not tell me you consider the constitution sacrosanct but then impose a religious litmus test on entry in violation of the Bill of Rights. Do not cite the 9/11 attacks or recent lone wolf actors as a basis for this ban and then apply it to countries who citizens didn’t participate in those atrocities.

You’re either delusional about your motives, or you’re lying.

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Sing To Me, Muse, of the Rage of C. Smalldog…

“Get mad, then get over it.”
~ Colin Powell

This holiday season has been fraught and no mistake.  The weekend was a good chance to sort of recover from some personal stuff last week – many thanks to Margot whose Christmas present to me was a ticket to a concert that we went to together.  Christmas music is wonderfully soothing.

And I needed to be soothed because last week I was angry.  It’s not very Christmas-y but deal, kittens, holiday mirth will soon resume.

Anger-and-HealthI think anger is a hugely underrated emotion.  It’s something we’re supposed to tamp down, turn away from, or disavow.  I disagree.  Granted there is a difference between allowing yourself to feel anger and being consumed by it and that should be appreciated, but if you are a healthy, balanced person who is in control of yourself and your actions I say: go ahead, get angry.

I don’t mind feeling it.  I jokingly (but semi-seriously) refer to it as my “backup emotion” because when able to choose between feeling hurt or sad or angry, I will always pick the latter.  I don’t really get personally offended, but I do get angry.  Generally feeling it means I perceive that a wrong has been done within my sphere of influence, and feeling it usually motivates me to do something to try and either fix or ameliorate the wrong.

It has practical benefits as well.  The house is never so clean as it is after a particularly bad day at work.  My involvement in events and causes is ten times more stalwart when I’ve been personally angered by a behavior or policy.  I can cook a week’s worth of food in a couple of hours, to say nothing of a pile of baked goods, when properly hyped up on righteous indignation.  It’s invigorating, it’s energizing, it gets stuff done.

I admit I’m usually pretty well in control of myself.  I learned to control my anger as a teenager and change it from something that could be destructive into something constructive.  To use it as a motivator instead of a end of itself; it’s one of the best personal lessons I’ve ever learned.

The trouble with anger, at least as I’ve experienced it, is that it’s a fossil fuel: it can get you a long way, you can power a whole Industrial Revolution with it maybe, but it’s a finite resource.  Sooner or later, it’s not sustainable.  No healthy person can feel angry all of the time – it takes up way too much energy!  Oh, I’ve lasted months on it, but in the end it runs out, and if the thing that made you angry is still hovering around, meddling in your life, it can be really easy to feel exhausted, hounded, and generally just really disheartened.

And I’ve never really been able to get a grip on being disheartened, I’ve not learned to channel that into optimism or anything really useful.  It mostly congeals into sad, tight little ball of stress that I tuck down somewhere and try to get over.  Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes not.  Last week I managed a lot on anger, but I ended up disheartened pretty quickly and was surprised by how draining that was too.

Thank God for support teams, and no mistake!  Husband, parents, and good friend do a lot to make you take heart again.  Ultimately all anger burns itself out.  I’m now trying to learn, when I start feeling grim, to just outlive the bastards.

But I’m curious.  Does anyone else have a backup emotion, or something potentially bad that they have managed to harness for motivation?  Is it healthy for you personally?  Unhealthy, but it works?  How do you cope?