An Artist’s Reaction to Today’s Politics

“Art, an enduring record of man’s emotional response to his existence…the communication of emotion rather than of information.”— Peter Hurd, Artist1

It’s been a while since my last blog. Not so much because there was nothing to write about in the turbulent aftermath of Donald Trump’s election and subsequent inauguration as our President, but more because events have occurred so rapidly that it has been hard to stay up with them either intellectually or emotionally.  I have left it to others to put their words on paper (or computer or video) to describe and dissect the immediate events as they have occurred this past year. I think all of us, regardless of our political leanings, felt beset by the almost daily revelations of scandal, bigotry, racial slurs, personal attacks on individuals or entire groups (Democrats, Republicans, Muslims, Blacks, etc), abrupt changes in leadership and policy directions, “fake news”, lies and distortions, etc.—much of which has been fueled by incessant tweets and incendiary remarks by the President. I for one have felt helpless wondering what if anything I could do that would be more constructive in trying to participate in today’s political discourses and debate.

As an artist I have tried to find the answer in my art—to paraphrase Peter Hurd, by communicating emotion rather than simply information. With that in mind I am using this forum to present three recent pieces of my art that, hopefully, convey a sense of the emotions and concerns felt not only by myself but many of us that reside in the southern regions near our border with Mexico. Continue reading

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Lines in the Sand

Trump declaring victory on election night

Trump declaring victory on election night

Like many of us who supported Hillary Clinton, I am in a bit of shock that our country has chosen to elect a man so totally unqualified—morally, intellectually, and experientially—as Donald Trump. Yet the votes have been cast; and while he lost the popular vote by over a million votes, he won the electoral vote—the only one that counted. Despite early warnings of problems—the ever-growing and large, raucous Trump rallies; Russians all but indicted in hacking many of our national political organizations; the incessant drumbeat of Wikileaks’ releases of meaningless political insider emails; and a cowering FBI Director prematurely revealing the discovery of a “new trove of emails” ten days before the election that turned out to be mostly copies of already analyzed material—most of us were lulled by the pundits and pollsters who showed that Hillary would most certainly win, possibly by a landslide. Even the exit polls, run by the same media and pollsters, all but confirmed the certainty of Hillary’s success.

And then the votes actually started to be counted. The shock to more than half of us hit like a bomb; euphoria to the rest began to set in. Apparently, change, at whatever cost, driven by anger and hatred of those often left out of the political equations of the past, overpowered reason, deliberation and thoughtful governance proposed by Hillary.

What now? Continue reading

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Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses…

statue of liberty“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” is part of a poem by Emma Lazarus that is immortalized at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. My grandparents and hundreds of thousands of other immigrants fleeing from the oppressions and trials of their home countries in Europe and elsewhere first saw the Statue of Liberty as they looked for refuge and a new life in the US. In a conversation on immigration I recently asked a young college student if she were familiar with this quotation at the base of the Statue of Liberty. She looked at me blankly unaware or forgetful of what is such a large part of all of our families’ histories. That in fact we are all from a stock of immigrants (native Americans and African Americans excepted). That our strength and vitality as a nation has come from immigrants fleeing oppression going back to the Pilgrims to more recently, Vietnamese and Southeast Asians making their way to our shores. My young friend’s lack of understanding of this basic underpinning of our national heritage unfortunately is not unusual. Witness the recent uproar by public and private citizens with the arrival of more than 62,000 Central American children since October of last year, “illegally” crossing our border with Mexico and seeking asylum status. We fail to understand our history and further lack understanding of the meaning of the word “refugee” and the national and international laws which pertain to refugees here or elsewhere in the world. Continue reading

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Illegal Immigration–A Global Problem

Surge of undocumented children immigrants overwhelms border facilities

Surge of undocumented children immigrants overwhelms border facilities in Texas

Recent headlines in the U.S. have focused on a major influx of undocumented immigrants crossing our southern border with Mexico, many of them children either traveling alone or with single mothers seeking refuge. According to Homeland Security some 52,000 children have arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border since October of last year, most coming from Central American countries including Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, looking to escape the upsurge in violence and destitution threatening those countries. Some, apparently, are trying to take advantage of special treatment afforded children and families that cross the border illegally which they believe, mistakenly or otherwise, will allow them to stay. The paid “coyotes” smuggling them encourage this misinformation in promoting their services throughout the perilous journey from their home countries to the border. This is only the latest in the influx of undocumented (illegal) immigrants from the south that have looked to the U.S. for shelter from economic and/or violent social oppression in their homelands. While the details may vary, the problem of illegal immigration is not limited solely to the U.S., but is in fact a global problem that requires a far more comprehensive approach than we or any other nation is taking. Continue reading

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The Exceptional World of U.S. Prisons

Guest Contributor, Dr. Marshall Carter-Tripp provides some interesting perspective and important information considering our current prison system as it compares to such countries as Russia and Iran.  You may be surprised.

 America4796934n “Exceptionalism” is being celebrated by American politicians, who express amazement that the rest of the world doesn’t understand how exceptional we are.  Sadly, the rest of the world may well understand this, but from a different perspective than the one adopted by our politicians, and most of the news media. Continue reading

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War on Drugs–A Hundred Years War

This is the first of a three part series on illegal drugs and their impact on our society with a special emphasize on the US-Mexico border region, exploring how we got here, what are the economic and social impacts of our policies, and exploring alternatives to our current policies going forward.

“The farther you can look backward, the farther you can see forward”…Winston Churchill

Seized marijuana bales in Mexico

It’s said that the best definition of insanity is to repeat something over and over and expect a different result.  The war on drugs and our policies and laws regarding illegal drugs is a good example of this adage.  Since the passage of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act in 1932 more than eight decades ago, through the administrations of thirteen different Presidents, and the enactment of hundreds of new drug laws and regulations,  we appear no closer to resolving the long standing problems of drug abuse, addiction, related illegal criminal activities and staggering economic costs to our society.  Such criminal activities, often violent and leading to thousands of deaths annually not only here but abroad, have only continued to rise. The drug organizations/cartels behind them have grown stronger and more vicious even to the point today of threatening nation states (Columbia and Mexico) and, potentially, the national security of the United States itself.  Drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines are readily available and prevalent in our high schools and even elementary and junior high schools. This has occurred despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars annually, passage of ever more onerous drug laws (e.g., “Three Strikes and You’re Out”), and adding thousands to an ever growing army of law enforcement, border security and drug agents.  In order to understand a path forward to resolving this national and international scourge on our society, we need to look at how we got to where we are and what we might do differently than simply repeating the same thing over and over. Continue reading

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A Strangler Fig Grows on the Border

Predator Drone used in border surveillance–Photograph by Sean Hemmerle for The New York Times

It’s almost impossible not to be aware of the growing militarization of the US-Mexico border, despite the blasé attitude of most newspaper and television reporting. Even the awestruck accounts of the coming of drones to the US include notes about surveillance of ordinary citizens and privacy concerns expressed by civil liberties organizations. Everyone who drives from a border location east, west or north will pass through checkpoints – and in recent years a bristling array of cameras confronts you as you approach (or simply pass nearby, going towards the border rather than away). Difficult not to notice! What is all this about? Should we care? Continue reading

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