The Talking Dog

December 23, 2018, Happy Festivus

Happy Festivus, everyone. As I always do, I express my hope that your own Festivus pole has been taken out of the garage, and that you are adequately warmed up for your feats of strength and have duly annotated your list of grievances for airing.

I am not even going to start sharing my own this year. They are likely similar to your own list of grievances, and presumably start and largely end with the abuser of a certain Twitter account. Honestly.

I have mostly said my piece in earlier posts this year (and given the paucity of posts as I have devoted efforts to helping my friend Donald J. Putin (n/k/a Individual One Putin) on twitter and to trying to assist asylum seekers (who are often held in immigration detention facilities) as well as recent immigrants and, you know, try to hold down my responsible-sounding day job and my duties as husband, father, etc., keep up that marathon streak, assuming my ankle ever recovers so I can climb on to the roof and my urban garden, etc., etc.

That said, we are coming to a lot of "nearing the end" points: the efficacy of American capitalism, the American empire, American democracy, the American dream, the American experiment... do you see a theme? We were, of course, never remotely as good as the internal propaganda inflicted on us suggested that we were, but, you know, we were certainly prosperous and people from everywhere legitimately wanted to come here. Now, of course, the people coming here come from the periphery of our own empire, which has long ceased paying for itself, where they are fleeing death squads meant to prop up local strong men trying to stay in our favor (by helping to maintain the USA-favorable terms by which American business deals with them), at the very moment, of course, that we are trying to keep them out in the parochial interest of that twitter abuser (and his racist supporters). Not that an insane low-wage swing labor force benefits the people here, other than, you know, to perform labor that they won't (usually for reasons of endlessly low wages and awful working conditions) but, you know... COME ON!

Nothing too specific. Media continues to pretend that everything is just fine and will go on exactly as it did before. Even as tens of millions of Americans have been flushed down the toilet of the last recession, losing their homes and jobs and pretty much everything, while Big Finance took over their houses and rented them back to them (at a slight premium), or is holding them vacant on spec. My point is simply that nothing is normal, nothing is good, and it is ending in front of us. Yes, I hope to wake up one morning and hear that President Pelosi has just been sworn in, but I am not holding my breath. See above re: the end of American democracy and the American experiment.

Being the only country on Earth that refuses to provide mandatory paid child-birth leave (completely unfair: Swaziland, Lesotho and Papua new Guinea also don't provide paid maternity leave) honestly, should tell you EVERYTHING, even as more and more states try to ban abortion at the very moment they maximize the cruelty on women (and children). I could go on with other "American exceptionalism," such as being the only country to insist that its citizens owe it tax for income generated anywhere in the world (Eritrea taxes ex-pats too, but at a whopping 2%). Just an "amuse bouche" of ways American exceptionalism FUCKS AMERICANS.

Best country that ever existed, best country that ever existed. Keep saying that or Tinkerbell will die.

OK; obviously, as a citizen of this country who just does not see how the hell to get out of it,and who recognizes that, in my particular circumstances as an American Jew, as a historical matter if nothing else, I am still probably better off here than almost anywhere else in the world, I will just have to continue to fight on to try to improve the place. [I should note that we had gone through over 240 years as a republic until President You Know Who unleashed his racist minions to give America its first bona fide pogrom, directed btw, at HIAS, an organization I happen to volunteer for.] And I can only urge the rest of you to try to do the same: fight on.

The idea of America is worth the trouble (even if the reality... might be something else).
Happy Festivus. This will take quite a feat of strength to hold it together. But together, maybe we can get it done.

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December 1, 2018, Freedom, gratitude, etc.

First of all, birthday greetings to the Loquacious Pup! She is a little older than this blog, but not as much as you think. She is growing up into quite the young lady.

Last evening, through the group under whose auspices I visit other men held in our nation's hospitable immigration detention facilities, I had the opportunity of transporting a gentleman from an unnamed African country from immigration detention in New Jersey to a transitional housing arrangement in Manhattan. Unsurprisingly, after nearly 8 months in the custody of an ICE contractor, a day or so after winning his asylum case before an immigration judge, he was unceremoniously ushered out a side door of the private jail in a warehouse district near Newark Airport. I was told to have a coat for him, as it was unlikely he had one (and dead certain he wouldn't be provided one). And he was in shirt sleeves in the 30-something degree chill.

And so, we'll call him "R," got his first taste of freedom since his arrival at JFK last April by crossing a dark street, and putting on the coat and hat I provided him and getting in my car. I drove him for his first freedom meal, appropriately enough at a McDonald's (people who regularly visited him told me that he had lost around 6 sizes since his detention). Mostly, he expressed his awe at seeing things live that he had seen on t.v., or otherwise, at the thought that he was suddenly a free man again. (His release had been delayed a day by "paperwork," so he had good reason for suspicion.)

Like most people in immigration custody, he entered legally on a proper visa, but, in his case, was detained at a port of entry on suspicion of desiring to stay here. He requested asylum, and after over 7 months in detention, thanks presumably to excellent pro bono lawyering, obtained it. Most, of course, aren't so lucky. But for that time, this man who had done nothing but escape an African country where he reasonably feared persecution, was the prisoner of our nation for most of this year.

And so, after his quarter pounder and 10-piece McNuggets and fries and a medium Coke, and a brief traffic tie up on the NJ turnpike, we approached the Holland tunnel, where I could point out the N.Y.S. skyline and the Statue of Liberty, which, as I noted in my usual sardonic attempt at wit, he was seeing from behind, which really seemed appropriate given what he had just gone through. I offered to divert to Times Square, but he said he just wanted to get to his next stop, a facility run by a religious order that hosts a lot of refugees and asylum seekers. And so, with the gods of parking karma cooperating with a space across the street, I helped him shlep his bags upstairs (the bags he brought from Africa on what he assumed would be a visit here not involving a long jail stay), and he let his new circumstance sink in. We unsuccessfully tried his wife on the whatsapp application, but left the phone number of where he was staying.

Apparently, others had already donated stuff for him that was waiting, as were several notes from people who would provide him the services necessary to transition to American life as a legally recognized refugee. He noted that it would be very unlikely that he would get much sleep last night, a sentiment I seconded (and btw, I found it very difficult to sleep after this experience either).

The majority of people seeking asylum in the U.S. are, of course, denied it, though not necessarily because they are not entitled to it. It's just a long, painful process, often involving long times in detention. And having an attorney, and a good attorney, makes a huge difference.

In any event, there are still people who believe in this country and what it has to offer. They could teach the rest of us a thing or two.

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