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Thursday, February 1, 2018

(Backup) The Sad State of our Union

Because it’s often difficult to fairly critique something when you haven’t heard it first hand, I decided to torture myself and actually watch the State of the Union. It’s no secret that this president drives me absolutely nuts every time he opens his mouth so it required some effort to give him my precious time. It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me well that I found his speech lacking in vision and inspiration, filled with half-truths and outright lies that will appeal to his base and leave people hungry for more of the same. Now, to be fair, if he does indeed engage in criminal justice reform, if he brings down the price of prescription drugs, I can get behind those initiatives. But I’m gonna go out on a limb here and simply say that a year from now, I have serious doubts that either of those things will be checked off his to do list. This is what dismays me with politics. Feed the base with baseless claims knowing that people who support him will simply take it as gospel truth and continue to spew the racist rhetoric that has been such a hallmark of this administration. America first has some dubious history behind it. We must not forget what this has lead us to in the past. 

Now, I realize that one makes the claim that someone is racist that gets people’s ire up. So let me explain how I’ve come to this conclusion based on what I heard and saw in the SOTU. It’s clear that he values white American citizens over all others. 
Trump’s plan for immigration reform is laced with bargaining chips. He is basically saying that he will only say yes to the DACA dreamers if we slam the door shut to all who follow. He told outright lies regarding the visa lottery and chain immigration. His quote: “The third pillar ends the visa lottery — a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of our people.” The truth: The visa lottery program provides 50,000 immigrant visas to people from countries with low immigration rates to the United States. An 18-page guide from the State Department says applicants must have a high school education or two years of work experience in the past five years that requires “two years of training or experience.” The applicant must undergo a medical exam and cannot have a criminal record. Visa winners are then subjected to a lengthy background check that can last for months. 
His quote: “Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.” The truth: Immigrants who obtain green cards or citizenship can petition to bring in their relatives. But that doesn’t automatically allow entry into the United States. Anyone applying for residency must undergo national security and criminal background checks. The federal government also places annual caps on the number of immigrants’ married children and adult siblings who can sponsor for a visa. The system is badly backlogged; as of Nov. 1, more than 3.9 million peoplewere waiting in line. Some siblings of immigrants who in 2004 petitioned for a visa to come to the United States were just this month starting to have their claims processed. 
For me, granting the DACA dreamers either citizenship or green cards should not be held hostage to other issues and 90% of Americans feel the same way. They were brought here as children, by no fault of their own and have figured out life here. If they have no criminal record and show proof of thriving and contributing, why in the world would we want to destroy the trajectory of their lives by continuing to hold them hostage to a broken system? The fear that drives an amnesty is that it will fuel others to bring their kids in illegally. That’s a separate issue. Deal with DACA on its own merits. Do the right thing without holding it hostage to other immigration reforms that may or may not stem the flow of illegals immigration.
Over and over again Trump talked about America first. This is perhaps the most disturbing thing for me. And where I have deep theological issues with the conservative Evangelical support for this president. Our gospel is not one of America first. It is one that values all of God’s children equally, globally. As Trump talks of immigration reform and DACA, he only lifts up examples of gang members, while refusing to tout the myriad success stories of kids and families that have struggled through ridiculous obstacles to build a solid life here. Of course, we should control our border a bit better but at the same time, we shouldn’t assume that a wall or discriminatory practices will ensure that. When Trump says that Americans are dreamers too it fails to acknowledge the ways in which American citizens are also drug users and abusers, domestically violent, serial sexual harassers, white collar thieves, etc. Trump needs to stop insinuating that most of the crime in this country comes from illegal immigrants. It is just not that simple or clear. And I propose that if we granted those who live and work here illegally amnesty, the quality of their lives would rise and their contribution to a better society would increase even more. Trump said a lot of infammatory things about immigrants. If you are a supporter, do some fact checking before you get behind his very biased and slanted view of things.
Speaking of a slanted view, his claims about tax reform and unemployment are also highly nuanced.  His quote: “We enacted the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history.” The truth: Mr. Trump won’t stop making this claim, even though zero evidence supports it. Tax cuts signed by President Ronald Reagan were larger as a share of the economy and in terms of their effects on federal revenues. The recently passed tax bill appears to rank 12th in American history, as a share of the economy. Look, I don’t blame any sitting president for taking credit for the economy when things are good but we have to be discerning when it comes to these realities. There is no way that in a year’s time Trump’s administration can be responsible for the wild growth in the stock market, the low unemployment among African Americans (it’s proven that the trend was already in place when he took office and has just continued), and wage increases, which are in fact increasing at a lower rate than they were at the end of Obama’s second term. Look, bottom line, Trump exaggerates EVERYTHING. It’s always the best, the most, the grandest, and the greatest with him and frankly, it’s causes lots of eye rolling at this point. It’s just so easy to shoot holes in what he says. So it’s not just a repeal of Obamacare, it’s a repeal of the core of the disastrous Obamacare...also false but also hurtful to those for whom Obamacare has been a lifeline of insurance, me included. It has its problems but it is not carte blanche disastrous. 
For me, this SOTU points to what I’ve been feeling for a very long time. I think the current Republican Party is mean. I think they are selfish, self-serving, money grubbing, white supremicist seeking individual gain who don’t really hide it very well. How in the world parts of the Christian church can get behind this is baffling to me. I don’t care if people are rich, but why do they have to be so rich that they squash those below them? I’m quite sure that there is very little money trickling down even with stock portfolios blooming and companies showing huge earnings on the year. I’ve long said you can live on 9 million dollars as easily as you can live on 10 million and a million reallocated dollars for those less fortunate would go a long way. But unfortunately, we get our money, we keep our money. We don’t give it away. And individual giving can never support the kind of social programs and helps that a collective effort can produce anyway. 
The state of our union makes me very sad and leaves me quite dismayed. Right now, America is selfish. We are not the shining city on a hill that Reagan called us to be. We are a money grabbing, kick your way to the top, discriminate and disparage people of color and those who are less fortunate, and less privileged for the sake of comfort at the top. That Trump continues to feed this base, both rich and poor, of people who like his rhetoric and are willing to be fed a pack of lies in order to confirm in their minds what they want to hear is very sad to me. There’s just so little honest, sane engagement in this day and age. It’s a very different America I’ve come back to this time and I definitely do not want this America to be first. It is not good for our world and it does not honor the God I love and serve.