Tag Archives: American ideals

Bless This “Deep State”

A favorite target of Trump defenders is the presumably nefarious “deep state”–the thousands of government workers that sane folks call bureaucrats (when they are being critical) or civil servants (when they are acknowledging their importance).

I teach in a school of public affairs, where a major focus is educating young people for that quaint thing we used to call public service. In addition to technical skills, we place considerable emphasis upon what I sometimes call the “constitutional ethic” and the rule of law–the behaviors citizens have a right to demand from those who serve a legitimate government.

It is belaboring the obvious to note that the Trump Administration doesn’t recognize the existence of ethics–constitutional or otherwise. However, many good people who do know the difference between right and wrong still work in that “deep state” that Republicans love to excoriate, and a group of them are suing to avoid having to carry out Trump’s inhumane border policies that. force asylum seekers to stay in Mexico or be put in jail here while awaiting hearings.

A group of asylum officers whose job is to administer policies like that have filed a brief in the case making a powerful and passionate case against a policy that they have to implement but they find morally unconscionable.

U.S. asylum officers slammed President Trump’s policy of forcing migrants to remain in Mexico while they await immigration hearings in the United States, urging a federal appeals court Wednesday to block the administration from continuing the program. The officers, who are directed to implement the policy, said it is threatening migrants’ lives and is “fundamentally contrary to the moral fabric of our Nation.”…

The lawsuit asserts that Trump’s policy goes against what has been America’s long-standing view that the country should welcome asylum seekers and refugees escaping persecution in their home countries. The United States has been seen as a safe haven ever since  the arrival of the Pilgrims in the 17th century. In the court pleadings, plaintiffs argue  that Trump’s policy “is compelling sworn officers to participate in the widespread violation of international and federal law” — “something that they did not sign up to do when they decided to become asylum and refugee officers for the United States government.”

“Asylum officers are duty bound to protect vulnerable asylum seekers from persecution,” the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1924, which represents 2,500 federal workers, including asylum officers, said in a 37-page court filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California. “They should not be forced to honor departmental directives that are fundamentally contrary to the moral fabric of our Nation and our international and domestic legal obligations.”

When Donald Trump became President (note I do not say “was elected” since I agree with Jimmy Carter), I had several messages from former students now working for the federal government. They were conflicted–should they stay, and try to protect the public interest, or leave for jobs in the private or non-profit sectors?

As I told each of them, that was a decision only they could make.

Those who decided to remain, however, stayed because they were determined to protect the rule of law and the integrity of public service at a time when those in power–and those supporting this lawless administration–sneer at such “high flown” concepts.

If the United States emerges from this shameful, corrupt and profoundly un-American episode in our national story, we will owe those “deep state” protectors of our ideals an enormous debt of gratitude.

Patriotism On This Fourth of July

I’m patriotic. We even have a flagpole at my house. Right now, however–in recognition of the fact that an embarrassing buffoon occupies and degrades the Oval Office–it is flying the flag of the City of Indianapolis.

Where is my America on this 4th of July, 2017?

At the federal level, my America isn’t functioning–although it is “performing.”

The New Yorker looked for “American Dignity on the 4th of July,” and (surprise!) found the White House lacking. The article began with an excerpt from the famous speech in which Frederick Douglass pointed to unrealized American ideals, considered Obama’s efforts to move the nation closer to its aspirations, then segued to the current occupant of the White House, who neither knows nor cares about such abstractions:

Donald Trump, who, in fairness, has noted that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job,” represents an entirely different tradition. He has no interest in the wholeness of reality. He descends from the lineage of the Know-Nothings, the doomsayers and the fabulists, the nativists and the hucksters. The thematic shift from Obama to Trump has been from “lifting as we climb” to “raising the drawbridge and bolting the door.” Trump may operate a twenty-first-century Twitter machine, but he is still a frontier-era drummer peddling snake oil, juniper tar, and Dr. Tabler’s Buckeye Pile Cure for profit from the back of a dusty wagon.

The article described the President’s vulgar and sexist tweets about the hosts of “Morning Joe,” and other examples of his constant debasement of the Oval Office, before concluding–a bit more optimistically  than many of us feel right now–

Frederick Douglass ended his Independence Day jeremiad in Rochester with steadfast optimism (“I do not despair of this country”). Read his closing lines, and what despair you might feel when listening to a President who abets ignorance, isolation, and cynicism is eased, at least somewhat. The “mental darkness” of earlier times is done, Douglass reminded his audience. “Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe.” There is yet hope for the “great principles” of the Declaration of Independence and “the genius of American Institutions.” There was reason for optimism then, as there is now. Donald Trump is not forever. Sometimes it just seems that way.

To paraphrase a favorite line from my grandmother: From the New Yorker’s mouth to God’s ears.

Meanwhile, polls tell us that international opinion of the U.S. is at an all-time low, that allies and enemies alike are appalled and repulsed by–and very worried about– the unstable man to whom we have entrusted the nuclear codes. Even Canada is pulling away.

They weren’t quite fighting words, but the recent speech by Canada’s foreign minister in Parliament revealed the growing chasm between the country and its powerful neighbor.

The minister, Chrystia Freeland, told the House of Commons last week that as the United States, under its new administration, “has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership,” Canada, like other countries, must “set our own clear and sovereign course.”

The question worrying genuine patriots on this 4th of July is whether, given our weakened democratic norms and compromised electoral and governing institutions, we can mount a successful Resistance, and reclaim our America.

Will We the People rally to the symbolism of Independence Day and reaffirm the importance of the ideals on which our nation was founded? Will we demand fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law? Or will we simply normalize the dishonorable behavior of this administration and the corruption of a Congress that has elevated party above country, and cease to be the America so many of us have believed in?

I’d like to fly my flag again.

Happy Fourth of July.