Letters for the week of November 13, 2019

Disbelieve truth

According to a Monmouth poll, 60 percent of Republicans don’t believe Trump mentioned Biden in his Ukrainian phone call.
Are 60 percent of Republicans illiterate and earless? Seems like a pretty big number but it must be so, as there is no other reasonable explanation.
I’m not name-calling—we leave that to the President—just concerned about my compatriots and their appalling lack of ears.

—Jean Corrigan, Bellingham

Anyone remember a United States?

I am reminded of the conversations that occurred shortly after the last presidential election that asked us to look for the commonality that unites us rather than what divides us.
As an open question, I am wondering if that is a good strategy these days.
At a certain point there is a division between what is sensible, sustainable and nurtures rather than destroys.
If someone were to break into your home and attack your family, would you invite them to sit at your table to search for common ground? Is the attack on our environment a threat to your family that will destroy our planet or is there still wiggle room? If someone tore your children away from you are you that open to a conversation going in reverse to look for what unites us?
I offer it as an open question because I do not have the answer, but I think we are passing some important off-ramps and we will not be able to get back on the road unless we individually say “enough is enough” and make a stand for what we believe to protect our environment and the decent people that are not treated with dignity and respect.

—Bert Rotter, Bellingham

Least of us defines the best of us

Humanitarianism goes on trial this week in Arizona.
On Nov. 12, Dr. Scott Warren, a volunteer medical provider with No More Deaths (NMD), one of several Samaritan groups in the Sonoran Desert north and south of the U.S.-Mexico border, re-enters court to face charges of harboring people who are in the United States without authorization. An earlier trial for attending to two persons who had sought shelter in a building used by NMD ended in ended in a hung jury, with eight jurors favoring acquittal.
The current administration is pressing forward, even though over 80 percent of people—including 70 percent of Republicans—do not believe that giving water or first aid to undocumented migrants should be criminalized. This accords with its determined and wholescale assault on rights, laws and civility that our country—whatever its shortcomings—has long committed to respecting.
Being humane is core to being human. Embedded in genomic and moral codes, it motivates ethical and spiritual commitments of Dr. Warren and people universally. Humanitarianism shaped responsiveness to Central Americans during the genocidal 1980s, and is vital for immigrants and refugees displaced today. It is fundamental especially in deserts, where providing water to people crossing through harsh conditions is life-giving, especially when they are suffering or fleeing violence and threats to their very survival.
Prevention through deterrence, felonization of unauthorized entry, separating families, and efforts to rescind deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status (TPS) portend even harsher enforcement. Plans for a total ban on refugee admissions, like racialized exclusions that already reject entire categories of people, ensure even more deaths.
Pay attention. Raise your voice against unconscionable policies. Practice care and compassion. These sources of common strengths and unity are crucial for the challenges we face as members of one human species.

—James Loucky, Bellingham

Lost Causes

Last week, Ted Van Dyk wrote an impassioned defense of George Pickett. Ted, however, needs some fact-checking. 
I don’t take issue with Ted’s explanation of Pickett’s personal history, and am grateful for both Ted’s service in the Civil Rights movement and his effort in clarifying Pickett’s personal history. 
What’s my main sticking point with Ted? His perpetuation, conscious or not, of the Confederate Lost Cause history of the Civil War. That is, the rewriting of history that the United Daughters of the Confederacy (and many others) did to whitewash the racist foundation of the Confederacy.
Ted writes, in speaking of the Civil War, “Until midway in the war, in fact, it was not about slavery….” saying that the Confederacy saw themselves primarily as resisting imposed tyranny. Though he does admit that slavery was a “cornerstone issue,” he relegates it merely second to states’ rights.
On that, I say B.S.
But why is this issue important in the argument over poor old Pickett and his little bridge? Because the symbols of the confederacy and the history we tell about them help to inform our beliefs around racism and the ugly history of slavery.
Ted is able to see the bridge as historical, but White Nationalists are emboldened by these symbols and the lie of the Lost Cause.
The Civil War wasn’t about slavery and racism from the very beginning? South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, and Georgia all talk about slavery in the Articles of Secession. Here’s a charming sample from Mississippi: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.” 
Or, how about Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens kindly explaining the point of the confederacy: “that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition.” And, if that weren’t enough… “our new government is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” 
A government “based” on slavery. Yes, ma’am. Stephens made this cute Christian speech before the start of the war. 
Ted makes the strange and unfounded claim that the civil rights leaders of the ’60s would have “scoffed and perhaps even laughed” at the efforts to remove Confederate monuments.
Go read the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy.”
Don’t mock efforts by our current civil rights leaders to fight white supremacy. America’s racism is not water under the bridge, as it were, but still holding us up. Let’s build new bridges.
With a final bit of irony, I find it appropriate to end with good ol’ Robert E. Lee himself, commander of the Confederate States Army, who also opposed the raising of confederate monuments. He advised, “not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife.”
Good advice, Bob, good advice.

—Matthew Stuckey, Bellingham

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