In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

The January insurrection shocked a nation. It didn’t shock prochoice advocates.

For outside observers, the attempt to overturn American democracy on 6 January might come as an eye-opening surprise. But for anyone who’s paid attention to the news or cracked open a newspaper, it was the natural conclusion to the decades-long mainstreaming of American extremism and its normalisation of both violent rhetoric and violent action. Its contempt for reality and basic facts is built on a bedrock of lies, conspiracy theories, and threats of terror against its political opponents.

But long before lies, conspiracies and terrorism came together in that very public January attempt to overturn a democratic election, American extremists honed their playbook for successful violence and politics through the anti-choice movement. Long before American extremists weaponised lies and alternative facts to delegitimise everything from vaccines to facemasks to election results, they devoted years to perfecting their strategies and terrorism through their anti-choice attacks on women’s rights.

I’m not talking about the fact that so many anti-choice leaders and convicted terrorists participated in the January insurrection. Everyone’s already heard the jokes about how anti-choice superstar Abby Johnson spoke at the Capitol insurrection, before later turning around and claiming it was organised by antifa once she realised the legal consequences. You likely wouldn’t be surprised if you knew convicted clinic bomber John Brockhoeft also participated in the insurrection, just months after shaking hands with anti-choice leaders in Ohio – the same leaders who claim their movement opposes violence. Let’s face it, picking on these idiots is low-hanging fruit.

Nor am I talking about the role of the anti-choice movement in providing the blueprint for radicalising half of America to oppose not just abortion but masks, medical experts, and democracy itself. Sure, we know that decades of demonising medicine and government alike laid the groundwork for American conservatives to believe the pandemic is a myth and masks are a socialist plot. From there, we saw the anti-choice playbook redeployed in service of radicalising Americans, through lies and conspiracy theories, to believe coastal elites are using vaccines and antifa to secretly declare war on white people, take away their guns, and steal an election.

But as we think back to the armed militias and white supremacists who stormed the Capitol, waving Confederate flags that 400,000 Union soldiers gave their lives to keep out of Washington for 160 years, one may believe the anti-choice movement’s playbook of radicalisation and terrorism gave birth to the racist militias that stormed the Capitol.

That is not correct. Racist militias were the ones that gave birth to the modern anti-choice movement. The movement did not recruit militias to turn its violent rhetoric into violent action. Militias birthed the modern anti-choice movement through their paranoia that Jews and immigrants would soon supplant America’s white Christian identity.

In the 1980s, white extremists like the KKK began developing wanted posters for abortion providers, publicising their personal details and encouraging their assassination. The anti-choice movement quickly adopted and popularised this tactic. As multiple abortion providers died as a result, militias like the White Aryan Resistance organised rallies in support of the killers, claiming such killings “protected Aryan women and children”. When Operation Rescue popularised the use of protests to threaten and intimidate patients and providers alike, it recruited enthusiastic protesters from white nationalist groups like the American Front.

Perhaps today’s anti-choice movement knows that associating with the same violent militants that it claims to denounce is a bad look. If so, the movement hasn’t shown much evidence that it’s ashamed. Cheryl Sullenger was convicted in 1987 of attempting to bomb a clinic on the West Coast. She now serves as Operation Rescue’s senior vice president. Previously she served as senior policy analyst, where she provided information that assisted Scott Roeder in his assassination of Dr George Tiller. Most recently, anti-choice extremists like Derrick Evans have begun openly deploying the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia opposed to racial equality, to provide armed “protection” for anti-choice extremists.

The anti-choice movement has devoted half a century to perfecting its playbook for radicalising violent rhetoric into radical violence. Because most of its victims have been marginalised women and the medical professionals trying to help them, society has been able to ignore the anti-choice movement’s escalation from attacking women to defying democracy itself. Police and even presidents sneered at the concerns of prochoice advocates who warned that far-right radicals were fuelling anti-choice terrorism and anti-government militias alike. In January, we saw how our failure to acknowledge those canaries in the coal mine led to an attempt by armed white supremacists to overthrow our democracy.

On 20 January, Joe Biden became the first President to acknowledge white supremacy in his inaugural address, promising to tackle it with the full force of his federal government. But our fight against American extremism will outlast Joe’s presidency. The forces that literally overran our democracy have had half a century to mainstream themselves from the fringes into the White House itself. For prochoice advocates, their work has become more than fighting for reproductive rights. It is now about protecting our nation.

On Modern Feminism in Late 2019

I’m sure most of us here are onboard with the idea that women are people, deserving of rights.

My own background is in reproductive healthcare, so I can see how women’s health and women’s rights go hand in hand like Michelle and Barack. But even if I didn’t have a degree in healthcare (and student debt to prove it), you don’t need to be a stable genius to see the link between human health and human rights. In a world with 195 nation-states, not a single nation that fares poorly in women’s rights have ever fared well in women’s health.

In fact, a lack of women’s rights is the most reliable predictor of failures in societal wellbeing. For instance, I doubt anyone is surprised to know that Indiana, one of the worst states in America for women’s equal pay, also has one of the highest rates of maternal death and infant mortality in 2019. I doubt anyone is shocked that Indiana experienced one of the worst outbreaks of HIV in the past decade under then-Governor Mike Pence, a misogynist who brags of denying opportunities to female staff for religious reasons.

But let’s think beyond Midwest enclaves like Indiana, beyond the immorality of thugs like Pence. Let’s think of the reluctant social justice warriors like Kathleen O’Donnell. She served in the National Guard and then tried living with her wife in Montana, only to be told by her landlord, “Oh, I don’t rent to your kind here”. Then she was terminated from her job at a car company for being gay. If that sounds familiar, it’s because her case is now before the Trump Supreme Court, which will decide if firing LGBT employees is constitutional.

I’m sure Kathleen will get a completely fair hearing – just like Marie Gallagher, whose school in New York completely ignored her sexual assault on campus. Not even her family knew, until last year a news crew filmed her confronting Senator Jeff Flake over his vote for Predator Kavanaugh. You may remember she said to his face, “I was sexually assaulted, and nobody believed me. I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they should just stay quiet, because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them.”

That, of course, is what the male Senator did. Fun fact: As of 2018, one-third of men on the Supreme Court are now alleged sex criminals.

Ultimately, the impact of state-sanctioned violence extends beyond American women. This summer, Yazmin Juarez testified before Congress about how the Trump administration detained her 1-year-old daughter and left her to die from an infection she contracted in her lungs. As Yazmin recounted to Congress, “Vinimos a Estados Unidos – we came to America, where I hoped to build a better, safer life for my daughter… Unfortunately, I watched my baby girl die, slowly and painfully.”

Look, these women I’ve mentioned have never met. They have nothing in common, except for the human desire to build a better future. In fact, I imagine none of them expected to face the assaults on their dignity that they’ve endured since the aftermath of 2016. Whether it was the Department of Education repealing Obama-era protections for campus rape survivors, or Predator Trump authorising businesses to deny birth control to women, I think all of us expected more from a society that styles itself as a beacon for human rights and justice.

Now these women and their allies find themselves with targets on their backs, not for what they’ve done but for what they’re not. They’re not straight, white males. They don’t have Confederate statues erected in their honour. They don’t have dirt to offer on the President’s opponents. In the American government’s eyes in 2019, they’re nothing. In the words of the President, “These aren’t people. These are animals.

That’s the bad news for women. The good news is that these women have allies. Those allies are each other.

They might not know each other. Yet the movements that inspire them recognise the intersectionality between their struggles. I remember in the mid-2010s as Title IX activists across America pushed the Obama administration to hold over 500 universities accountable for their coverups and mishandling of campus rape. You and I watched as that energy evolved into the #MeToo movement, holding powerful men accountable for crimes they perpetrated against women for decades. Today we watch as women candidates prepare to fight their way into future elected office, in 2020.

Our strength as activists arises from the knowledge that our struggle is shared. We know we cannot speak of injustice against one marginalised group without speaking of how it threatens the wellbeing of others. As reproductive rights activists in 2019, for instance, we know the right to birth control is meaningless if someone can’t earn enough to afford birth control, or if she’s fearful of violence from a partner who opposes birth control, or if her boss threatens to fire her for accessing birth control.

Everyone knows a woman who lacks workplace protections is less able to close the pay gap with her male colleagues, or to alleviate her student debt, or to leave an abusive partner. We know that women of colour face greater burdens around economic and reproductive health than white women. And we know that when poor, marginalised girls are ensnared in emergencies like hurricanes and homelessness, they face the most disproportionate disruptions to everything from their contraceptive access to their safety from sexual assault.

Sometimes local friends ask what the feminist groups with which I pal around do in the community. What we do is hardly ground-breaking. We unite allies. We educate colleagues on issues. Some weeks our meetings are simply a bunch of us in the sitting room of a retired grandmother, one who remembers the days before Roe v. Wade or Griswold v. Connecticut, as we strategize over effective ways to make one’s voice heard. Above all, we seek to discover who else is willing to fight alongside us.

The things that make the most difference don’t require millions of supporters wearing red hats or waving tiki torches. They simply require those of us who stand with women to be more dedicated than those who want women to suffer. An administration that traffics in exclusion and appoints predators will inevitably falter before a feminist movement which rethinks itself constantly to include those whose backgrounds might be different but whose objectives are the same: To bring equity and opportunity to all.

Kavanaugh for SCOTUS: So how fucked are we?

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh smiles at Donald Trump at the press conference announcing his nomination.
That is the smile of someone who’s really excited about the opportunity to screw you over. (Photo credit Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement, and Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to take his place on the Supreme Court. This isn’t a small deal — despite being personally right-leaning, Kennedy has tended to be the moderate swing vote for some of the more contentious cases that have come before the court. (Abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and affirmative action have all had his signature on them.) In replacing him with Kavanaugh, Trump nails down a solid conservative majority to enshrine his agenda into law and gives us our first-ever Supreme Court Justice Brett.

So what does that mean for us?

Reproductive rights

Kavanaugh hasn’t really spoken explicitly about Roe v. Wade, but what he has said says a lot about his position. He’s praised late Chief Justice William Rehnquist for, among other things, “stemming the general tide of freewheeling judicial creation of unenumerated rights” (Kavanaugh’s words) that led to the ruling in Roe. During his time on the bench, he ruled against an undocumented 17-year-old who discovered while she was in a shelter that she was pregnant, and who wanted to terminate her pregnancy — luckily, the D.C. Circuit Court reversed his ruling before she passed Texas’s 20-week limit. In his dissent, Kavanaugh said that “the Government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life.”

Kavanaugh said before he joined the D.C. Circuit Court, “If confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, I would follow Roe v. Wade faithfully and fully. That would be binding precedent of the court.” But he’s also said that the principle of stare decisis is not “absolute” — and, of course, as a member of the Supreme Court, he’d have the power to set precedent and not just follow it. And as a textualist and an originalist, he’s not a big fan of the “penumbra” of the 14th Amendment that supports a woman’s right to make medical decisions about her own body. So yeah, Roe v. Wade is toast, as are all the states that have unconstitutional abortion bans hanging out in the waiting room until that ruling is overturned.

Religious freedom

He’s against it. I mean, ostensibly, he’s all for it, but if you feel that religious freedom includes the freedom to not be religious, Kavanaugh has some bad news for you. He’s upheld opening prayer and invocation of God at government ceremonies, saying that “stripping government ceremonies of any references to God or religious expression … would, in effect, ‘establish’ atheism.” He’s spoken out in favor of conscience clauses and Hobby Lobby-esque contraception exceptions. And he’s praised Rehnquist for fighting the idea of “a strict wall of separation” between church and state. (Maybe they couldn’t get Mexico to pay for it.)

LGBTQ rights

Kavanaugh’s position on religious exceptions for birth control also opens the door to exceptions for anything else Christians find squicky. We’ve already seen what that looks like in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, so now we get to see what other discrimination can be visited against LGB people with the defense that that plate of nachos they just ordered was actually a work of art. (Transgender people, of course, already weren’t protected under federal discrimination laws outside of a few vague “Well, I guess it might be unconstitutional” legal rulings. It has yet to be considered by the Supreme Court, and now… just don’t hold your breath, is what I’m saying.) With numerous cases headed the Supreme Court’s way on everything from adoption to the rights of transgender students, he’s going to have lots of opportunities to systematically disassemble LGBT rights.

The most significant case directly affecting LGBT rights of late has been Ogberfell v. Hodges, enshrining the right to same-sex marriage. Justice Stare Decis-ish isn’t likely to be falling all over himself to uphold that right, if his religion is telling him that wedding cakes with two dudes on top make the baby Jesus cry. And that would take us right back to the days when medical decisions, inheritance, adoption, health insurance, and everything else that hinged on marital status was a craps shoot. #MAGA.

Gun control

Kavanaugh believes that the Second Amendment cements the people’s right to own semi-automatic rifles. He expressed this opinion in his dissent to a ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court upholding the District of Columbia’s ban on most of those rifles. “Semi-automatic rifles, like semi-automatic handguns, have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens for self-defense in the home, hunting, and other lawful uses,” he wrote. (Totally unrelated, but Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz was arraigned yesterday for gunning down 17 of his classmates with an AR-15. I don’t even know why I mentioned it here. Just came to mind.)

(Not for nothing, but is anyone else intrigued by the number of times his lousy opinion is expressed in the form of a dissent? It’s almost like his positions are consistently at odds with the rule of law under the Constitution and the interpretations of most of the jurists with whom he sits.)

Presidential powers

Kavanaugh hasn’t spoken out in favor of gamma radiation to give the president super powers (yet), so at least there’s that. He’s written that sitting presidents should be granted “a temporary deferral of civil suits and of criminal prosecutions and investigations,” which of course isn’t anything that our current president has to think about at the moment. (Kavanaugh also wrote that the president should be allowed to fire members of independent executive agencies without cause, and that he should be able to send troops into war without Congressional approval.)

I’m totally, totally sure this isn’t why Trump nominated him. And I’m totally sure the next 30 years or so will be a paradise of reasonable, reasoned jurisprudence from the highest court of the land. How fucked are we? NOT AT ALL. (Which is to say, entirely.)

Quick Hit: Debt-free, un-tatted virgins

I wouldn’t normally do this. I wouldn’t normally draw attention to the little-trafficked blog of some fundamentalist Christian mom who just wants to teach the world to walk in truth, and I implore you all not to travel over and start shit in her comments section. That said, any time I see a headline that I’m absolutely certain is from the Reductress, but then it isn’t, my only reaction can be an OH MY GOD, Y’ALL, LOOK AT THIS that can be heard across the whole Internet.

Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins Without Tattoos

It’s just so specific.

Do you know how much more attractive debt-free virgins (without tattoos) are to young men? Unfortunately, there are so few of these types of young women anymore because of the high costs of college (debt) and sexual promiscuity even within those in the church. As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to live in a way that is pleasing to Him because His ways are the best. He calls debt a burden and urges us to live lives of sexual purity.

Here’s why a college education kills a good Christian boy’s holy boner:

1. She’ll amass college debt. (“That isn’t right to bring into a marriage.”)

2. She’ll have to work to pay off her debt and use her degree instead of making babies.

3. She’ll learn bad behavior that her husband will have to spend years training out of her. (“Sadly, most young Christian women wouldn’t listen to their husbands since they’ve not been taught to live in submission to their husbands.”)

4. She’ll miss her baby window. (“I will never understand how women prefer careers over having precious babies.”)

5. She won’t learn how to do lady-tasks like cooking and gardening. (“Young women learn nothing about biblical womanhood or what it takes to run a home when they go to college.”)

5. And she’ll basically just be a horrible person. “It’s far from what God calls women to be and do: it teaches them to be independent, loud, and immodest instead of having meek and quiet spirits.”

(She doesn’t specify why tattoos are such abominations, but I’m assuming they just naturally appear after a woman leaves the Biblical protection of her father’s house.)

Obviously, I’m such a lost cause that The Boy hasn’t even bothered trying to reeducate me. Now I’ll never be able to have the kids I already have no intention of having.

Again: Please do not try to start something with this woman who is hardly the Ann Coulter of Christian anti-feminists. (And boy howdy, does she hate her some feminism.) Just marvel at this very, very specific list of reasons you’re going to die single, or just married to your female partner without a man to teach you the correct way to act.

Fundamentalist Trump worship

Photo of Trump at a rally in Arizona, smiling and holding a hand to his ear to better here the screams of his supporters
Praise Trump, from whom all blessings flow. (Photo credit Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

In my senior year of high school, our beloved Humanities teacher took us through a process establishing that Elvis worship and University of Alabama football are both religions. It was a fun exercise as part of a (thoroughly secular) unit about religious studies, but also… I mean, y’all… Have you ever been to a UA football game?

[Hrmph]teen years later, though, the sanctity of The King and The Tide have been overshadowed by the sanctity of The Donald. And going by an outline similar to the one from that class lo so many years ago, it might be argued that Trumpism isn’t just a figurative cult — it could be a literal one.

To be clear, not every Trump supporter is a full-on fundamentalist. I’ll even say that most Trump supporters aren’t Trump fundies. (In before #notallTrumpsupporters.) But the true believers of Trumpism truly believe truly (and they’re not shy about saying so). Here’s what we’re working with:

1. Belief in supernatural beings

This, of course, is one of the biggest differentiators between a religion and a fandom (which is why the ghosts of Elvis and prayers to Bear Bryant would make the cut). In Trump’s case, few have claimed that he’s actually a god, but a lot of godlike powers have been attributed to him. The ability to revive the economy with punitive tariffs, to revive the coal industry while killing it to save the steel industry, to rescue America’s benighted Everymen through the magic of trickle-down economics — that’s nothing if not supernatural. And while we’ve seen no proof that he’s actually achieved these things, we’ve also seen no proof that bushes can talk and people can rise from the dead, so that’s not a disqualifier.

2. Sacred vs. profane objects, places, and times

No observance is more sacred to the hard-core Trumpist than the campaign rallies that have never abated, going uninterrupted from the 2016 campaign to the 2020 campaign so Trump never lacks for people telling him how awesome he is. They wear their sacred MAGA hats, surround him with adulation, and unquestioningly accept his every word, no matter how completely ridiculous it is. Sometimes, a prominent minister will lead a prayer before Trump’s grand entrance, and if y’all Christians aren’t uncomfortable with your religion basically being used as an opening act for a a night of evangelical Trumpism, you’re deeper in it than I’d thought.

3. Ritual acts focused on sacred objects, places, and times

You can’t have a religious service without some good chants, and Trump rallies have more than their fair share. Adherents rebuke the Enemy with chants of “Lock her up,” scold blasphemers with “CNN sucks” and “Go home, Jim” (aimed at CNN’s Jim Acosta), and of course praise Trump’s greatness with “Build that wall” and “Nobel” and, naturally, “Trump!” They put on their “Trump That Bitch” (begone, Satan!) garb and red “MAGA” head coverings to come together and literally praise his name.

4. Moral code with supernatural origins

Many Trump supporters claim that even though Trump exhibits some truly despicable behavior, regular people know they’re not supposed to act the same way. That’s belied by the behavior of his supporters and underlings. See Sarah Sanders and Kellyanne Conway blatantly lying at the behest of the compulsive liar in the Oval Office. See schoolchildren screaming Trump’s favorite racist epithets at their fellow students. See “very fine people” feeling empowered to march with tiki torches and white-power chants. Hell, see government officials putting toddlers in cages because of an order from on high. Just like anti-choice activists would never scream at people on the street but are happy to do it outside abortion clinics because their religion tells them to, Trump supporters have been given permission by their supreme being to be just as horrible as he is.

5. Characteristically religious feelings

This can be harder to define — what is “characteristically religious?” — but Cline offers a sense of mystery, a sense of guilt, and adoration as examples. Adoration is clear at his rallies and any time a Trump supporter is given access to a news camera. (And that’s not to mention the nauseating praise his cabinet heaped upon him at that first creepy cabinet meeting, or toadies like Paul Ryan and Scott Pruitt and others who have literally given thanks to God — the Christian one — for giving us Trump.) There’s also a sense of mystery — we don’t know how he achieved such wondrous success in business, or how he heroically rescued the U.S. economy before his tax cuts had even taken effect, outside of his being generally awesome, but that’s enough. And you can frequently observe a sense of guilt in supporters who disagree with things he does (tear families apart, try to dismantle the ACA, publicly act like an asshole) but still feel obliged to maintain the same dedicated level of worship.

6. Prayer and other forms of communication

Outside of the standard chants at rallies, this is largely observable in the constant string of tweets aimed at Trump by his followers, as if he actually reads all of them (or any of them) and might respond or change his actions because of them. Supporters also frequently tweet at Donald Jr. and Ivanka, encouraging them to intercede with Trump on their behalf. (The only exception to this is the hosts of Fox & Friends, who are able to speak to Trump through his TV and get an actual response, which I guess kind of makes them prophets?)

7. A worldview and organization of one’s life based on the worldview

Even though Trump claims that his goal is to support his people, it’s actually the other way around — they support him unquestioningly, even as he consistently screws them over. They give tithes, attend services, and vote for the candidates he ordains. They pit themselves against heretics like the liberals, the socialists, and the coastal elites, because they know that theirs is a life of truth and that any message that threatens that is wickedness to be overcome.

8. A social group bound together by the above

#MAGA.

Blessed are the cheesemakers.

All of this is why his overall approval rating tends to hover at ’roundabout 40 percent, no matter what atrocious things he does, while his approval rating within the party stays in the mid-80s. It’s why his Evangelical Christian supporters twist themselves into knots trying to excuse his unashamedly un-Christlike behavior. Just as Catholics raked their own Pope across the coals for saying there isn’t a literal hell, questioning the Trump doctrine or the infallibility of His Orangeness (I tried for a Pope/POTUS pun there, and it just didn’t happen) is unfathomable for a true Trump believer. Don’t get me wrong — most Trump supporters are open to reason and can be convinced. But fundamentalist Trumpists can only be converted, and that in and of itself would take a miracle.

[h/t Austin Cline at ThoughtCo., whose list was entirely apolitical and used solely for reference, so don’t try to saddle him with any of this]

On incivility: “I work for a lying, bigoted aspiring dictator” isn’t a protected class

Screenshot from CNN coverage of Sarah Sanders delivering a press briefing, with chyron reading "Sarah Sanders says she was kicked out of restaurant because she works for Trump"
Sarah Sanders responded to a reporter’s question during the morning press briefing by confirming that yup, separating more than 2,000 children from their families is way civil.

Recently, White House mouthpiece Sarah Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, after committing the unforgivable offense of being White House mouthpiece Sarah Sanders. (Did I make that sound sarcastic? Because I meant it sincerely. What Sanders does is unforgivably offensive.)

Cry me a fucking river.

Business owners do, with some exceptions, have the right to refuse service to any customer for any reason. Those exceptions fall into the category of protected classes — people protected by law from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, etc. They can be denied service for other reasons — a bartender can refuse to serve a customer with a disability who’s extremely drunk, because that person is extremely drunk, not because they have a disability. That’s what made the Masterpiece Cakeshop case so controversial — the bakery was refusing service to the customers solely on the basis that said customers are gay, which the shop isn’t supposed to do (unless, as recently established, Jesus tells them not to).

But even the most generous interpretation of the law doesn’t offer those protections to people who work for the bigoted, ignorant, dishonest, egocentric steaming garbage pile that is our current president. So if the employees of the Red Hen agree that they don’t want to serve Sanders, they don’t have to. If administration employees can’t get laid without lying about who they work for, their potential paramours have every right to swipe left on someone who willingly enables Trump’s daily atrocities. Employers aren’t obliged to hire applicants who have demonstrated questionable moral and ethical standards. Sorry, kids, you stepped into this yourself.

Since Sanders’s Twitter whine (from her official White House Twitter account), of course, much of the conversation has been focused on the topic of manners and civility. Even if the restaurant can ask her to leave, people argue, they shouldn’t, because it’s rude. Even though the Trump camp has been eroding the very concept of civility from Day 1, we still have the responsibility to be civil, we have to rise above it, and yes, that’s true, arguably, but seriously, a person can only go so high for so long and honestly just fuck it.

Gaslighting the American people day after day from the podium in the White House briefing room, while maintaining a level tone and scolding reporters for perceived rudeness, is about as uncivil as they come, because not only is it dishonest and a violation of trust, it cloaks itself in a conscious air of civility. I’m going to lie to your fucking face, and if you take offense at it, I’m going to make you look like the rude one. At the risk of wandering into kindergarten logic: You started it, Sal. I’m happy to be civil to someone I disagree with, even disagree with vehemently, but once you reveal yourself to be an utter waste of skin, I owe you nothing. And marginalized people who are being systematically fucked over by your bullshit owe you less than nothing.

Working for the Trump administration is a choice. No one is required to do it. Your choices say something about your character, and Sanders’s choices, and the choices of her colleagues, are fucking reprehensible. Trump throws around racist rhetoric, tears families apart, praises brutal dictators, and unashamedly lies his ass off, and she stands up and proudly defends it. Taking Sarah Sanders aside on the patio and quietly asking her to leave is a champagne bucket with complimentary mani-pedi of civility compared to the shit she does on the daily.

What, precisely, is “civility” supposed to look like in this case? Never speaking up when someone does something horrible? Continuing to patronize a company that sponsors a public figure who violates everything you hold dear? Serving a cheese plate to someone you find reprehensible? If I calmly write a blog post to criticize a woman who stands in front of the press to spew some of the most vile bullshit imaginable in defense of arguably the most vile president imaginable, am I really meant to just hold my tongue in the name of civility? (Is it because I use the F-word so much? I’ve been trying to cut back.)

I’m generally a polite person. I was raised right (and none of my current tendencies represent a failure on the part of Mama or Papa Caperton). Maybe I should be civil about this stuff, but there are a lot of things I should be doing. The dishwasher needs to be unloaded, and I think the cat just barfed on the carpet, but I’m sure I’ll eventually get around to coddling the feelings of a compassionless, detestable liar who’s been the recent victim of, gasp, rudeness. You’re on my GAF list, Sal, cross my heart.

Seriously, though, fuck Trump and everyone who chooses to work in his administration. You’re enabling a monster, you’re complicit in his monstrosity, and if I had a restaurant, I’d kick your ass out of it, too. I’m not going to burn a lot of calories wiping away tears for Sanders and Co. while [insert literally anything else that’s even mildly significant right now] is legitimately hurting people and damaging the fabric of our country.

The Trump administration is willfully terrorizing children

A mural on the wall of a child immigrant detention center with an image of Donald Trump, the White House, and the American flag, along with the words "Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war" in English and Spanish
Definitely not a creepy-ass thing to have taking up an entire wall in a child immigration detention center.*

The Trump administration is knowingly and intentionally terrorizing defenseless children.

Under their new “zero-tolerance” policy, every undocumented immigrant crossing the border is referred for prosecution, and their children are taken away from them, with no guarantee that they’ll ever see them again.

Officials from DHS, the Justice Department, and the White House shift the blame to the courts, the Democrats, the parents, whomever they can, but it’s the administration that’s doing it, and they’re doing it on purpose.

In one reported case, an infant was removed from her mother’s arms while she was breastfeeding and taken into DHS custody. The mother was handcuffed for resisting. Other parents say their children were taken off to get a shower and fresh clothes and never returned, and if you aren’t horrified by the image of children being taken from their parents, never be seen again, under the pretense of getting a nice shower, you’ve missed about 80 years of history, or you’re awful.

The kids are sent to overcrowded detention centers, five to a four-person room, with two hours (one “unstructured) of fresh air a day, not knowing when they’ll get to talk to their parents again, when they’ll get to see their parents again, when they’ll get to leave, where they’ll go when they do. The Trump administration is discussing plans to build “tent cities” on military bases to handle the unrelenting influx of separated children who won’t fit in the unused warehouses and former Walmart stores currently used as temporary (“temporary”) housing.

DHS won’t release a current count of children separated from their parents, but a Customs and Border Protection official told Congress that 658 children were taken just between May 6 and May 19. HHS is looking for space to house 1,000 to 5,000 additional kids in the near future. Kids. Children. Many of whom have witnessed or been subject to atrocities at home and are now sitting on a cot in an overcrowded Walmart with no idea of what’s going on.

There are laws, but this is not them

Republicans, of course, aren’t willing to attribute any of that to the Trump administration, because it’s objectively horrible. Paul Ryan recently blamed it on the Flores Agreement, saying that they “don’t want kids to be separated from their parents” but gosh, they just have no choice, the law is the law. Ted Cruz says that “even if we want to hold a family together, we are forbidden from doing so.” Are they ignorant, or flat-out lying? It sucks that it’s so hard to know.

The actual facts: The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement calls for unaccompanied minors to be released to family members or sponsors while their immigration case is underway. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 has them transferred to HHS custody instead, at which point a sponsor, usually a family member or family friend, is vetted and the kid is released into their care.

But remember that laws and policies regarding “unaccompanied minors” aren’t wholly transferrable to these recent situations because the minors aren’t unaccompanied when they arrive. Unaccompanied minors arrive at the border without a parent or legal guardian in the U.S. who can care for them. These kids arrive with their families, at which point DHS strips their accompaniment away. (In a previous post, I likened it to a cop bashing in your taillight and then giving you a ticket for a broken taillight.) Under previous administrations, families who arrived at the border would generally be held in family detention centers while immigration proceedings determined whether they would be deported or allowed to stay. Together. In 2015, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the 20-day limit applied to accompanied as well as unaccompanied minors. After three weeks, the kid(s) would be released — but almost always with their mother. Together.

With this new policy to prosecute every person who comes across the border undocumented, families aren’t put in family detention centers — the adults are put in regular detention centers, essentially jails, where kids aren’t allowed to go. That is the point at which the kids become “unaccompanied” and are handled by DHS as if they never had parents to begin with. That’s the point at which, depending on the outcome of their prosecution, parents might never see their kids again. It isn’t happening because of the Flores Agreement or the TVPRA or any “Democratic law” — it’s happening because of a Trump administration policy.

Terrorizing kids as a “deterrent”

“Don’t bring your kids, or we’ll traumatize them.” That’s the “deterrent.” That’s the reasoning of an abusive partner who wouldn’t have to hit you if you didn’t make him mad all the time. That’s a government willing to do this to kids, willing to separate them from their families and scare them and traumatize them. It doesn’t matter who can be “blamed” for it. The action itself is reprehensible.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has written letters to DHS begging them to stop doing it, calling it “inhumane.” Saying, “Many of these children are terrified, young, and are victims of or witnesses to violence themselves.” Saying, “Separation from the very parents who would provide them with love, stability, and reassurance only exacerbates children’s suffering.” DHS knows precisely how harmful this practice is to children, and they choose to do it anyway. They’ve knowingly inflicted this trauma on hundreds and hundreds of kids and are preparing to inflict it on thousands more. No blame-shifting or justification can change that.

“We do not have a policy to separate children from their parents. Our policy is, if you break the law we will prosecute you,” says DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “They are the ones who broke the law, they are the ones who endangered their own children on their trek,” says Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border,” he also says.

Note here that no one is denying that they’re doing this or that it’s horribly traumatizing to kids and parents. In fact, they’re tacitly reinforcing that it is horrible and traumatic — if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be functional as a deterrent. DHS is doing reprehensible shit knowingly and intentionally to achieve their purpose.

Oh, my God

In a fun and unexpected twist, Jeff Sessions came out Thursday and shifted the blame to… God.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government, because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”

Wow.

Wow.

(I wonder what God would say about that.)

(Well, there you go.)

There is so much there. What’s the worst part? The part where Paul is, of all the apostles in the Bible, undoubtedly the biggest asshole? The part where that particular verse has historically been used to defend slavery? How about the fact that the Bible is not and should not be used as an arbiter of public law and government activity? And then there’s the fact that it’s being used in this context to excuse the government’s policy of tearing families apart and imprisoning children who have usually come to the U.S. to escape some really horrible shit.

Yeah, let’s not overshadow that last part

The government’s policy is to tear families apart and imprison children who have usually come to the U.S. to escape some really horrible shit. They’re doing it on purpose. They’re doing it with full knowledge of how awful and traumatizing it is. They’re denying any culpability in it. They are terrorizing children to punish their parents. They are doing that. No matter who they’re trying to blame, no matter how they’re trying to justify it, they are doing that.

The Trump administration is knowingly and intentionally terrorizing defenseless children.

The Trump administration is knowingly and intentionally terrorizing defenseless children.

And in case you haven’t been keeping up with the news: The Trump administration is knowingly and intentionally terrorizing defenseless children.

*I was unaware that the original photo accompanying this post, showing children under Mylar blankets behind chain-link fences, was of a child immigrant detention center in 2014. I’ve changed it to a photo from a current detention center.

A note about depression

Image of a folded purple and turquoise ribbon representing suicide preventionTrigger warning: depression and suicide

In the past week, fashion designer Kate Spade and chef-turned-traveler Anthony Bourdain both died by suicide — and that’s on top of all the people we haven’t heard about because they’re not deemed newsworthy enough for the public to acknowledge their pain or their passing.

I don’t, and can’t, know what was going on in their head, how they felt or why they made the decision they did. That’s part of what makes these things so devastating — the not knowing, and the knowing that you’ll never know. But I do know what it’s like to have depression, and what it feels like to be on the edge of that kind of decision.

I don’t know that people who have never had depression can understand what it’s really like to be depressed. It’s not the same as sadness. It’s not situational. It’s a deep and certain knowledge that your world is horrible and will always be horrible, that other people are happy but you never will be, that something is wrong with you such that you don’t even deserve happiness and you probably aren’t capable of it anyway. That there isn’t any point in getting up off the floor, much less trying to live life.

“Cheer up, people care about you” or “do something nice for yourself” or “go for a run, you’ll feel better” doesn’t help, because depression tells you that people don’t really care about you, that you don’t deserve anything nice, and that nothing will make you feel better. Depression is a liar. And sometimes, loved ones and medical professionals can help break through the lies so a person can start healing. And sometimes, the lies are just too loud, or no one is there to help in the first place, and it feels like the only way out is a permanent one.

People say that suicide is selfish because you’re leaving behind so many people who will be devastated by your death. Imagine what it’s like to know that, to feel awful and guilty about that, but the despair is even more powerful. If you think it’s bad for you, imagine how they felt.

If you have a loved one with depression, don’t think they’re being hyperbolic or self indulgent. Don’t discard them for being a buzzkill. Don’t get mad at them if your attempts to boost them out of their funk are unsuccessful. They aren’t in a funk. They’re at the bottom of a pit, and unless you’ve been down there, you can’t possibly know what it’s like. Listen to them. Take their feelings seriously, because they’re real and they’re serious. Help them find help. Just be a light at the top of the pit and a ladder so they can know there’s a way out.

If you’re contemplating suicide or even just mulling over the concept of suicide, or if you know someone who is, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. There’s also an online chat, if that’s your thing.

Charlie Rose: Detestable Person to Other Detestable Person

Charlie Rose sits across a table from Louis CK against a black background, gesturing during an interview
“So then I thought you might shed a single, crystalline tear of sadness and shame. Can you cry on command?”

Charlie Rose has some balls on him, and we know this because several women have alleged they were forced to see them in person.

There have been questions about powerful, abusive men felled by #MeToo. How long is long enough for them to stay out of the public eye? Is there anything they can do to atone for the abuse they visited on comparatively powerless women?

I don’t have any substantive opinion on that, but I can say that a show hosted by one of them featuring interviews with the rest of them is not the way to go. But Rose has apparently decided it’s time to pave his own road to redemption. (Or whatever.) (Side note: Rose has reportedly been hanging out with Sean Penn and Woody Allen, so there’s that, too. Future guests, perhaps?)

You have to give him credit for swinging for the fences. (Note: You do not have to do that.) It’s like if he was all, “Can I borrow your car?” and you said no, and then he said, “Can I steal your car, sell it for drug money, buy a bunch of cocaine, cut it with caustic chemicals, sell it in your neighborhood, and then blame it all on you?” Not just still no, Charlie, but extra no.

I’m not saying redemption isn’t possible, even for serious offenders. (Up to a point. Fuck you, Harvey Weinstein.) But that’s up to the offended, not the offended. Your comeback is not your call. You don’t get to self-rehab or assign yourself a penalty, like a criminal sentencing himself to community service in the tasting room at Ben & Jerry’s. “I’ve decided I’m going to have my very own TV show again, but it’s okay, because I’ll be talking about how gosh-darn sorry I am about harassing as many as 27 women over the course of three decades. And rehabbing other men who have decided that they feel like returning to the limelight.”

It’s a bold move, Charlie, but it’s one that makes you look like more of a shit rather than less. And that’s all that matters.

Lost (“lost”?) children and families torn apart at the border

Woman holds a handmade protest sign reading "Protect Immigrant Families"
There are pretty much no photos of immigrant children that aren’t completely exploitive. It’s pretty heartbreaking.

One of the biggest stories currently under discussion is the Department of Health and Human Services allegedly losing track of nearly 1,500 immigrant children placed with host families. In many cases, the story is that the Trump administration has separated those 1,500 children from their families at the U.S. border and lost track of them.

As in most complicated situations like this, there’s some stuff there that’s right, and stuff there that’s wrong, and stuff there that’s conflated with other stuff. On Twitter, attorney Josie Duffy Rice sorts out the details and provides insight on what the hell is actually happening with all of those kids.

(I will, of course, encourage you to take it all with a grain of salt, because while Rice is an attorney who works in criminal justice [verified], she says her comments are backed by friends of hers who are immigration attorneys [unverifiable], but a lot of the information provided is independently verifiable [verifiable]. So on Feministe’s Plausibility Scale, this thread gets a 4: Sounds Legit.)

Rice’s Twitter thread (and other sources) essentially divides the children in question into two distinct categories:

1. Children placed with families by ORR

These children actually did come into the country as unaccompanied minors and were thus put in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The ORR’s job is to find (and vet) a home for those minors (immediate family, extended family, or someone with whom the child has an existing relationship, or else they stay in a shelter under ORR’s care), at which point they are no longer under the authority of ORR. ORR doesn’t continue to track them because that’s not within their purview. (And if you think about it, “and then the immigrant was relentlessly monitored by the Trump administration” isn’t a sentence that should make anyone comfortable.) Once a child has been placed, if any abuse or other bad acting occurs, it’s handled through local agencies like any other child abuse, because the children are essentially treated like any other children.

It was discovered in 2014 that ORR had released eight children to a child trafficker instead of family members. As a result of that, ORR tightened their restrictions for confirming the identity family members approved to accept unaccompanied minors.

So when HHS recently called around to check up on the children, they weren’t able to get in touch with 1,475 families, so those kids were declared lost (or “lost track of,” at least), even though it could have just been an out-of-date phone number or a person who just didn’t want to answer the phone for HHS. (Again: say “and then the immigrant was relentlessly monitored by the Trump administration” without cringing.)

(For a differing view, see Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission and an expert on immigration detention. For a non-differing view, see The New York Times and Quartz.)

2. Children separated from their parents under Trump’s new policy and declared unaccompanied

These children aren’t unaccompanied in the traditional sense — they arrive accompanied, and then ICE rips away their accompaniment and says, “Gosh, looks unaccompanied to me!” It’s like the immigration version of a cop pulling you over, smashing your taillight, and then giving you a ticket for a taillight violation. Except instead of a traffic ticket, this is actual children torn from their parents and traumatized at the border because ICE thinks immigrant children are just a tool for punishing their parents.

According to the ORR, more than 700 children have been separated at the border, including more than 100 under age 4. While HHS swears it isn’t done as a deterrent, then-DHS Secretary John Kelly said in March of 2017, “In order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network, I am considering exactly that.” And the Trump administration recently announced that it will be ramping up prosecutions and separating children from their families.

Once a child has entered the shelter system, there is no firm process to determine whether they have been separated from someone who was legitimately their parent, or for reuniting parents and children who had been mistakenly separated, said a Border Patrol official, who was not authorized to discuss the agency’s policies publicly.

So that’s cool.

Now, who else opposes Trump’s horrible policy separating children from their parents at the border?

{*their)

tl;dr

“Lost” children: maybe a little, arguably not so much. Forcibly removing children from their parents at the border as a deterrent, potentially never to be reunited again: heartbreakingly yes. Hey, I said we’d provide nuance and detail on this topic. I never said it wouldn’t be entirely awful.