Flags and the 4th

Perhaps it was in this moment I happened upon the house, unremarkable but for a small American flag jutting out of its frame like a rhinoceros horn. I hesitated at the sight of the banner so close to my home and was suddenly wary. Weary. I saw the flag and without thinking thought it code: Patriot. MAGA. Make everything white again. Even with all I know about the history of Black people in this country, I’ve never been afraid of the flag. On this day, however, I felt how I feel when I see the Confederate flag: Unsafe. My breath shallowed. When did this happen? When did the sight of an American flag flying from a private residence become something that gave me pause? Perhaps it was the untrusted whiteness of my new neighborhood. Perhaps my reaction was a kind of PTSD, a result of that summer’s back-to-back televised police killings of unarmed Black men or the murders at Mother Emanuel the year before. Perhaps it was the ridiculous victory of Trump. I saw the flag and remembered what I had been warned time and again about “progressive” Atlanta: Drive thirty minutes outside of the perimeter in any direction and it’s a whole different story.

Source: Flag Code

While I share little of Marable’s life experience, I realized while reading her piece that I’ve developed a similar unsafe feeling about the flag. It’s not a voluntary thing – it’s something that has built up over two+ years of seeing American flags in photos of MAGA rallies & white nationalist marches but not so much at Black Lives Matter marches or pro-choice rallies. I’m sure you’ve also noticed the correlation between seeing an American flag emoji in someone’s Twitter bio next to the MAGA hashtag and the tendency of that person to act like a misogynist asshole. While it’s hardly a new thing, the aggressive, intolerant, nationalistic right has been particularly effective in visibly wrapping themselves in the flag lately. It’s great branding for them, but it’s not doing the flag any favors.

Source: How Do You Feel About the American Flag?

By giving everything they hold dear–or perhaps everything they can use as a tool of control–a flag and a pledge, Evangelical Christianity demanded the sort of unflinching and emotional loyalty that most Americans feel on the 4th of July. They saw how Americans proudly rally behind our flag and our Pledge, and knew they could recreate that sort of communal passion with their own.

I associate heartfelt patriotism with white nationalist Evangelical Christianity so much that I’m not even interested in learning how to practice patriotism anymore. In my mind, patriotism means stepping in line, exhibiting unyielding loyalty even in the face of fascism, and sacrificing myself on the altar of the Cause. I won’t do it. I can’t.

I understand viscerally how someone whose life trajectory led to the rejection of an abusive deity can feel compelled to give up not only on that deity, but also on the symbols and rituals associated with the nation that is so often conflated with the divine in Jesus Land, USA. I grew up with white Christian nationalism too. With ritual recitations of the pledges to the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible at the beginning of every day in my Christian elementary school, with elementary school talents shows that ended with Lee Greenwood sing-a-longs.

Because the patriotism that I grew up with was tied to authoritarian Christianity, the more I rejected that toxic Christianity, the more I became ambivalent at best about expressions of patriotism. Singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” is now nearly as awkward to me as singing, “Oh, You Can’t Get to Heaven.” To me now, as the American atmosphere grows ever more suffocating, it feels like the entire country is turning into a Christian school, turning into the oppressive and abusive evangelical milieu of my childhood, from which I have worked hard to escape. To many with less privilege than me (and, despite being queer, I have a lot), it must feel worse than that. Hate crimes are up as Trump and the Republican Party have emboldened their bigoted supporters to act on their hate and resentments; school shootings are more frequent occurrences than the weekly release of a new episode of your favorite TV show; police violence against African-Americans is rampant.

Source: Happy 4th? On the Complicated Problem of Patriotism in Conditions of Injustice – Not Your Mission Field


Letter to My Representatives on ICE, DACA, and White Supremacists in Law Enforcement

Arresting doctors, professors, combat vets, mothers, and children. Waiting outside schools to pick up parents and their kids. Coming to hospitals to deport the injured and sick—including small children with cerebral palsy. Stalking courthouses to collect women who are reporting domestic abuse. Intercepting ambulances. Surveilling and entering churches. Launching pre-dawn raids on 7-Elevens. Illegally seizing blogs. Committing identity fraud and wire fraud.

ICE is a white supremacist militia operating beyond decency, humanity, and constitutional restraint. Holocaust survivors are likening the culture and behavior of ICE to the SS. When CBP went on a hiring spree during the Bush administration, many white supremacists, Christo-fascists, and criminal opportunists joined. A former head of CBP’s internal affairs lamented publicly on the ethical problems of the agency during the Bush era.

That influx of haters is tame compared to what is happening with ICE now. White nationalists such as 3UP have been infiltrating law enforcement for decades. ICE has rolled out the welcome mat for them. Agents retaining some semblance of ethics are speaking out about the dangerous shift in culture.

Disband ICE. They are a new agency that never should have been. ICE is racist in inception, design, and implementation. What ICE does is neither necessary nor moral.

Down with ICE, up with DACA and dreamers. America overwhelmingly supports the protections offered by DACA. Represent us. We want dreamers, not armed bigots snatching people off the streets and breaking up families.


Letter to My Representatives on the Tax Bill

An estimated thirty-six million middle-class families face a tax hike under the GOP tax bill. Not so for corporations. Families get a hike while huge corporations get a massive giveaway.

The end of the SALT (State and Local Tax) deduction means we families will be paying taxes on the money we’re paying in taxes. Further, there will be cuts to firefighters, schools, roads, and libraries in our towns and states, especially in states that have higher SALT taxes in order to pay for these necessary services.

One-third of the corporate tax break goes to foreign investors. That break plus the end of SALT is a transfer from blue states, in particular, to the transnational economic elite. A permanently lower tax rate on overseas operations & profits than on U.S. operations & profits plus new loopholes will encourage even more offshoring.

So, families are punished and blue states are punished. Who else?

Students, ex-students, and teachers are punished. Students lose help paying off their loans. Teachers can’t deduct the significant costs of buying classroom supplies. Graduate students get taxed on their scholarships. Head Start, Pell Grant, and other programs receive cuts.

The end of SALT will pressure states to cut services, particularly education. We’ve seen this over and over in states that have obliterated their tax bases—Oklahoma, Iowa, Maine, and Kansas, notably.

Disabled people will also be punished. Health care costs will skyrocket. Families won’t be able to get a deduction for large out-of-pocket medical expenses. With the loss of the adoption tax credit, fewer disabled kids will find homes. Giant cuts to Medicaid & Medicare and repealing parts of ACA will kill people and drive disabled people from in-home care to more expensive—and very abusive—institutional care. The lives and futures of my children are on the line.

With a one trillion tax cut for corporations, 200 billion for wealthy heirs, and 300 billion for individuals, this plan enormously favors the richest. It brashly and unapologetically favors kleptocracy.

This plan is wildly unpopular in both parties. Voters in deep red states are rejecting slash-and-burn tax policy. Americans do not believe they will receive any benefit from these policies, quite the opposite. Our lifelong experience is one of wages remaining static as corporate profits soar to historic levels. This will be no different.

The GOP is betraying the people they are supposed to serve. This long con is the selling out of America. This bill straight up takes away our health care to give tax cuts to corporations, oligarchs, and kleptocrats. We are witnessing the systemic poisoning and dismantling of America by a party that has irredeemably given itself to kleptocracy, white supremacy, and Christofascism.