Friday, October 14, 2016

Have you heard of the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952?

It was a surprise to me, thirteen years ago (and "surprised is quite an understatement), to receive death threats for having the audacity to question, in a public forum, the wisdom of attacking a country without just cause, on the basis of unproven claims of a threat (which turned out not to exist).

I was surprised, again, when I called the FBI detachment near the threatener's home in Cedartown, Georgia, and was told, "Mr. Auids, our country is at war, and we must all be willing to give up our freedoms for national security."   I was astonished at that response, and I told the young FBI agent that that was not how I understood my rights as an American.  "If young American men and American women are supposed to be dying to defend our liberty, then what kind of a coward would I be to give those liberties up, without hesitation, because of my fear?"  He did not understand.  Few people did, thirteen years ago.  

I was surprised, recently, to learn that Pierre Elliott Trudeau, prior to becoming Prime Minister of Canada in 1968, was blacklisted in the 1950's by the United States and prevented from entering that country because of a visit he had made to a conference in Moscow, and because he subscribed to a number of left-wing publications.  Trudeau was not considered a security risk; he was prevented from entering the country because of his beliefs.   It was his ideas that the US government was afraid of.  Think Stalinist Russia, the East German Stasi, or North Korea under Kim Jong-un.  

Trudeau was banned under the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 which, while sponsored by two Democrats, was strongly opposed, by President Harry Truman, whose veto of the bill was overridden.  The bill, which was designed, ostensibly, to remove racist discrimination from US immigration statutes, replaced race with ideology as a basis of discrimination, as a way of keeping Communist ideas out of the country. It was Americans' way of keeping ideas they feared out of the country.  Now, 60 years later, we're seeing fear driving calls for new immigration restrictions, based again on ideology.  I'm pretty darned confident that the majority of Americans will find their way back to the traditional values of the nation, but fear will often make people act in irrational, shameful ways. 

Truman's objection to the bill, which was designed to block immigration from Eastern European countries (Soviet bloc) was that it was unAmerican in its departure from the traditional American position of offering refuge to those who who were fleeing tyranny and oppression.  America was supposed to be a different, better, place.  Because fear of ideas was not an American trait.  

The McCarran-Walter Act is still on the books, although the provisions have been softened somewhat.  Restrictions based on political opinions for temporary immigration were revoked by the Immigration Act of 1990; however, those restrictions can still be applied to those seeking to permanently relocate to the United States.

In an appearance before a House of Representatives subcommittee held in 2005, author Larry McMurtry (who wrote Lonesome Dove), representing PEN America (a literary journal which advocates for the freedom of expression in journalism), said:

An objective look at the laws that govern the flow of people and information across our borders reveal some serious shortcomings in this regard. One of the most glaring examples of our failure to consistently and fully protect First Amendment rights is the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act whose ideological-exclusion provisions—still in effect for those who seek to reside here permanently—are an affront to all who cherish
the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and association. To a writer whose living depends upon the uninhibited interchange of ideas and experiences, these provisions are especially appalling.
January 3, 2005 
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and Administrative Justice of the House Judiciary Committee

For the record, after being banned from entering the United States, Pierre Elliot Trudeau appealed that ban and it was rescinded.

A word to the unwise. 
Torch every book. 
Char every page. 
Burn every word to ash. 
Ideas are incombustible. 
And therein lies your real fear.  
– Ellen Hopkins

It was an "unpology"

I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them.
Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize. I’ve traveled the country talking about change for America, but my travels have also changed me. I’ve spent time with grieving mothers who’ve lost their children, laid-off workers whose jobs have gone to other countries, and people from all walks of life who just want a better future. I have gotten to know the great people of our country, and I’ve been humbled by the faith they’ve placed in me. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down.
Let’s be honest — we’re living in the real world. This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re facing today. We are losing our jobs, we’re less safe than we were eight years ago, and Washington is totally broken. Hillary Clinton and her kind have run our country into the ground. 
I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims. We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.
– Donald Trump, Saturday, 8 October, 2016

This week, that "apology" was mentioned to me by several Canadian co-workers, most of whom wanted to know what I thought about (as a former American).  All agreed that it was not a true apology.  Canadians just know that; they recognize it as a denial of responsibility.  Donald Trump refused to accept responsibility for his own actions; he merely admitted that those actions were wrong (or, more accurately, stupid), but he certainly didn't apologize for anything HE had done; only saying he was sorry if someone else might've been offended.

So, I asked my co-workers, "What's that called?"  No one knew, although they knew very well that it was insincere, and it was worthless; they didn't know what to call it.  I said, "It's sort of like a back-handed (insincere) compliment, but that's not it ... I mean ... there has to be a name for that."

So, this morning, I took the time to find out what that's called.  It's popularly termed an "unpology" (as defined here).

An unpology can be recognized by what it contains that you will never find in a sincere, genuine apology:

  • Lots of I-statements that aren’t "I'm sorry" 
  • The word "if," as in, "if you were offended."
  • Deflection of blame
  • Excuses cantering on the apologizer, e.g. "I was hurt and lashed out."
  • The apologizer's desired outcome, e.g, "I hope we can all move on."
  • A change of subject following the apology

See which of those you can find in Donald Trump unpology.  Oh, you just gotta love that last paragraph, such an obvious attempt at deflection of guilt.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What are "natural rights" ?

The discussion Americans should be having, the discussion that is truly relevant to their decline as a nation, is not about laws or governments, but about what Americans truly believe.  Do they even know anymore? Is it what they espouse in their founding documents, but betray every day, around the world?

Americans face a crisis of "courage," unable to find the necessary moral courage to stand for their principles, resolutely, in the face of fear.  They folded so suddenly, seemingly instantly, when threatened, it was truly shameful. One of the most basic belief of all Americans, a foundational belief of the nation, is that our rights, our freedoms, are "inalienable human rights."   They are 1) Rights possessed by all human beings, 2) Rights granted by God (if you are a believer), not granted to us by men or governments, but inherent at birth, they are "natural rights," and because of that, 3) Rights that cannot be denied us by men or their governments; they cannot be legislated away – not by a vote of Congress, not by the consensus of our neighbours, not even by agreement of all Americans but one.

It is true that we grant ourselves our freedoms in our laws and we protect them in our courts; but more importantly, we protect and defend our freedoms when we exercise them, and guard them when we insist that those freedoms be granted to others, even those with whom we strongly disagree.

We defend our own rights, liberties, and dignity when we protect the rights of those who we may not even feel deserve them, especially those who are powerless to defend themselves.  Americans: remember?  Canadians: remember?

Three years ago, when Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to remind Americans of that, when he said, in an open letter addressed to all the people of the United States of America: 

I disagree with a case US President Obama made on American exceptionalism,
stating that the United States' policy "is what makes America different. It's what
makes us exceptional." It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see
themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and
small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those
still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different,
but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created
us equal.

God created us equal?  In what sense do you think he meant that?  I'll tell you, because I was reared in that belief: we all possess certain natural rights, and that belief is essential to America.  Or was. And that's the point I'm trying to make; that a firm belief in the principle of natural rights is essential to the American nation; and has been since its founding.  By violating that principle, in a number of places around the world, Americans aren't merely guilty of violating the rights of others, or of violating international laws that exist to protect those rights; American are guilty of betraying themselves.  Profoundly.

Or, as President Putin said, in his letter, "Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan 'you're either with us or against us'."

Read President Putin's brief letter, if you haven't.  The media spin on it was total propaganda.  Read it for yourself; it's not long; it's not complicated.  And it's very relevant to Americans today:

President Putin made a direct appeal to "natural rights", on which the United States was founded.  What are natural rights?  They are the rights of every human being, from birth; they are not granted by governments or by men; but are inherent to all human beings; endowed by their creator, if you have a religious faith.  It is only in the possession of these natural rights that we can be considered "equal."  And the preservation of these rights is the duty of all governments.  It is only in the abridgement of these rights that nations can set themselves up as superior or "exceptional" in the world. It is only in defending the rights of others that nations truly rise to a higher standard; one that actually deserves the description of "leadership.'

Inclusive Freedom. Expansive Freedom. That is the Canadian idea of Liberty.

The idea that the liberty of all is enhanced when new freedoms are granted to
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, March 9, 2015
In a speech delivered at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Many Canadians have a different view of America in WWII

Until I immigrated to Canada in 2005, I had a completely untarnished view of American goodness in WWII.  All Americans all know the accepted (American) version of that war: the US baled out Europe in its hour of greatest need, and simultaneously defeated the Japanese who attacked the US without provocation.  I always thought the 2nd World War was America's last "good war."  Boy, was I ever wrong about that.

It was in coming to Canada that I began to understand there are other facets to the story ... many Canadians I've asked are convinced that Pearl Harbor was "allowed" to happen by Churchill and FDR (though neither anticipated an attack of the magnitude of Dec 7, 1941), which is not viewed as a completely bad thing (many hold that it was necessary to permit the attack on Pearl Harbor in order to draw the US into the war).  That surprised me, because I always thought (from my American indoctrination) that Pearl Harbor was an unprovoked "sneak" attack that caught everyone completely by surprise.  Only "crazy conspiracy theorists" believed otherwise.

It is commonly accepted by Canadians that the US was late to enter both world wars, and both times for very selfish reasons that had nothing to do with "saving the world" from fascist rule.  It had more to do with establishing America as a world power, which has always been viewed as a mixed blessing; no doubt Canada has benefited greatly from the world power status of its southern neighbor, but when that neighbor starts to act in a dangerous manner; Canada should look after its own interests first ... after all, the US does exactly that, looks out, first and foremost, for its own interests.

And that's where I believe the world view divides from the US view ... the US isn't seen by most other nations (not anymore) as a benign power, using its power and wealth for the good of all, and with no greater purpose than the promotion of freedom, democracy and national self-determination abroad.  It’s sheer folly to believe that anymore.