Hands Off My PBS and NPR: Why We Still Need Public Broadcasting

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Established by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has ensured universal access to non-commercial, high quality content, and telecommunications services. And does so by distributing more than 70% of its funding to more than 1,300 locally owned public radio and television stations along with the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. The CPB is part of our nation’s commitment to ensuring culture, learning, and the arts are available to all Americans.

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This cartoon from the Indianapolis Star shows Trump slashing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from the federal budget. And here we see horrified Sesame Street muppets look on.

This March, President Cheetohead unveiled his federal budget plan proposing to ax the federal funding from several government programs, including the CPB. The reason? According to Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, “When you start looking at places that we reduce spending, one of the questions we asked was can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs? The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” His justification to cut public broadcasting in order to increase defense spending by $54 billion makes absolutely no sense. The CPB receives about an annual $485 million from the federal government, consisting of about .00006% of the federal budget. By contrast, annual US defense spending is about $500-$600 billion, consisting of half the federal budget at least (estimated). Yet, Mulvaney also has the audacity and the stupidity to state that we can’t ask a West Virginia coal miner or a Detroit single mom whether we can keep funding public broadcasting programs. It’s like he thinks that public broadcasting plays no role in ordinary Americans’ day to day lives. Does he have any idea parents and children are a key demographic for shows like Sesame Street? Or that PBS Kids is the only educational resource for 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents can’t afford sending them to preschool? And that local public stations may be the only source of free local news and programming in many rural areas? Or when West Virginia’s governor proposed cutting state funding to its public media from its budget, only to change his mind afterwards? Besides, it only costs the average American $1.35 each year for it. People have paid more for overdue library books for God’s sake. And given PBS and NPR’s penchant to air quality program that have been on for years, I consider it an investment well spent. Thus, I think asking single moms and coal miners to pay for public broadcasting is fairly reasonable. Of course, I may be a little biased since I watch PBS on a regular basis because I’d rather watch intellectually stimulating shows than meaningless crap. And I will defend PBS and NPR with my life. But don’t take my word for it since 73% of all Americans oppose cutting federal funding for the CPB including 83% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans.

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On May 1, 1969, Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood would testify before a US Senate committee to defend funding for public broadcasting. His words about how his show benefits young kids still echoes today. Since he’s from Latrobe and his show was based in WQED Pittsburgh, he holds a special place in my area as a local legend.

Critics of public broadcasting often view NPR as a liberal media hotbed and PBS as an obsolete relic of a bygone age. Republicans in particular, don’t think that the federal government should support public broadcasting even if it’s funding represents a miniscule fraction of the federal budget. They believe that we should let the market decide whether it wants science, arts, or music. Besides, if you want quality educational and cultural programming, then cable should be quite sufficient since you have whole channels devoted to education and culture. Or so they say. However, Americans should view their public broadcasting system as a national treasure since it provides a vital public service for local communities as well as the nation. As a media outlet, public broadcasting provides educational and high quality programming for all Americans. Without it, the United States would be a far worse off place. So much that disgraced four-star general Stanley McChrystal called cutting public media for increased military spending, “a false choice.” Nevertheless, American taxpayers pay only a small investment in public broadcasting that pays out big dividends in a way that’s indispensable to society. And as McChrystal said, it should be pitted against the spending more in improving our military. Not to mention, many viewers would miss out on all the intellectual and educational richness public media has to offer. Thus, if Trump should kill public broadcasting, America loses. Because public broadcasting is part of what makes America great. To eliminate federal funding for the CPB would be catastrophic to public broadcasting, especially where local stations rely on CPB funds. And I give you the following reasons why federal funding for PBS and NPR is worth protecting.

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A lot of these educational cable networks may have started off with high quality programming. But they later degenerated into airing crap in order to appeal to a larger 18-34 audience and sponsors. As you can see from these charts, it tells you what The Science Channel, National Geographic Channel, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel air nowadays.

Most attempts at providing quality educational and cultural programming to cable television have failed.– Out of all the cable stations providing quality educational and cultural programming, only Turner Classic Movies and the Smithsonian Channel continue to do so 24/7. Other channels like National Geographic and the Weather Channel can also have educational content. But they can also feature a lot of crap. Nevertheless, there was a time when cable had a real chance of replacing PBS, but that was back in the early days. We should remember that the Discovery Channel, A&E, The History Channel, and TLC were created to provide such programming. A&E stood for Arts and Entertainment as well as used to show content relating to arts, dance, theater, history, literature, and nature. TLC once stood for The Learning Channel which used to feature science and nature documentaries and was co-owned by NASA. The Discovery Channel also featured science programming while the History Channel broadcasted documentaries on history. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, conservatives could use networks like TLC, A&E, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel, to argue that we don’t need PBS anymore. Nowadays, try to argue that point and all you get is a room full of obnoxious laughter. Today you will find that A&E is best known for airing Duck Dynasty, Dog, the Bounty Hunter, and Love Prison. TLC’s programming centers around trashy reality shows exploiting toddler beauty pageants, obese people, people who need therapy, and families who don’t mind putting children in the spotlight. The Discovery Channel may still have Shark Week but they feature reality shows like Amish Mafia and Naked and Afraid. As for the History Channel, well, basically they’ve devoted timeslots to reality shows as well as programming featuring pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. PBS, meanwhile, still shows the same type of programming throughout its existence at the same quality. So why did these cable networks departed so far from their original programming concepts while PBS didn’t? Mostly because these cable networks are for-profit businesses that exist to make money. Many times a cable channel’s management might add shows they feel that a larger audience wants to see, leading to additional profits. And by producing irrelevant or low-quality programming, they can increase their ratings to a target audience, increase viewership, and increase revenues. This is a process known as Network Decay or Channel Drift. The degree of channel drift may vary with some nonconforming programming retaining some degree of association with the channel’s original purpose like Pawn Stars on the History Channel. Yet, other programming may have no association whatsoever such as whatever you see on TLC. PBS, by contrast, primarily exists to provide programming of social benefit to their viewers that may not be commercially viable to the mass market like public affairs shows, documentaries, and educational shows. Many have been on the air for years, if not decades. In fact, one of the principles of public broadcasting is to provide coverage for interests for which there are missing or small markets. Quality educational and cultural programming would usually fit the bill. PBS’s non-profit status allows them to do so while not being obligated to appeal to the lowest common denominator, advertisers, or profits. Furthermore, PBS relies on government and private funding sources because it strives for the kind of independence in order to fulfill its educational and cultural mission to the public.

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In 2013, WNET New York released a series of ads of fake reality shows both on posters and in commercials. This was at a time when reality shows were very popular. Nevertheless, Bayou Eskimos is probably as realistic as Duck Dynasty or Amish Mafia. But since a lot of cable networks many thought would replace PBS now have hours of reality shows, I think it shows a lot about our culture.

Just because a TV show is commercially viable, doesn’t mean it’s good.– As much as I hate reality shows, I have to concede that networks find them particularly attractive. They’re relatively cheap to produce than a scripted series as well as is often said to be more authentic and engaging to viewers. Reality shows were very popular among audiences during my adolescence with the primary demographic being teenagers and young adults. Sponsors like them since they provide an opportunity for product placement, giving more time to market their products. However, reality shows aren’t quality entertainment as well as be rather exploitative and offensive regardless of popularity. Nor do they reflect “reality” as we know it since such shows use a lot of behind the scenes trickery. Yet, popular reality shows seldom ever get cancelled. Nevertheless, we need to understand that popularity among the masses doesn’t translate into quality. As a writer who enjoys old movies, I understand this concept incredibly well. Not every bestseller becomes a literary classic. And not every box office hit will be held as a cinematic masterpiece. Trash culture has always existed whether it be porn, penny dreadfuls, pulp novels, exploitation films, B-movies, and reality shows. Each generation has its own form of mindless entertainment. Nevertheless, the fact channels like A&E, TLC, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel switched from their educational programming to sleazy entertainment demonstrates how some good quality shows aren’t always commercially viable. Many of the shows PBS airs like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, NOVA, Nature, and others wouldn’t have a chance on other channels. Nor would they be able to otherwise compete what’s available on other channels if it weren’t for PBS. For example, when Fred Rogers addressed the US Senate in 1969, he’d say that he knew his haircut decision could excite kids once he was in front of them. But he also knew it would be hard to compete for their attention as on-screen violence and special effects became ever more present outside public media. He also talked about how watching two men working through their emotions is much more important, relevant, and dramatic than guns firing. Cable channels may air marketable content but it doesn’t mean such shows are good.

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While the federal government provides some of the CPB’s funding, most of it comes from private along with state and local government sources. And it is because public broadcasting receives money from a variety of public and private sources that it’s able to air quality programming and exist as an independent non-profit entity.

Public broadcasting is not beholden to anyone but its mission and its viewership.– While public broadcasters may receive some funding from state and local governments, most financial support comes from underwriting from foundations and businesses ranging from small shops to corporations, along with audience contributions via pledge drives. They may rely on advertisers, but not to the same degree as commercial broadcasters or at all. Nor are they owned or operated by the government either. Rather many owned by non-profit groups affiliated with a local school district, a college, a non-profit organization, or by state or local government agencies. Stations receiving CPB funds must meet certain requirements such as the maintenance or provision of open meetings, open financial records, a community advisory board, equal employment opportunity, and lists of donors and political activities. And most of PBS’s national programming is produced by member stations, particularly WPGH Boston, WNET New York, and WETA Washington providing most of them. Though my local PBS station WQED Pittsburgh produced the iconic Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. NPR also broadcasts content from national providers like Public Radio International or American Public Radio. Yet, they also can air from other stations as well. For instance, the celebrated “Car Talk” was produced by WBUR-FM Boston while Minnesota Public Radio brings “A Prairie Home Companion.” Nevertheless, PBS is a great station for those who would rather teach lessons and enrich minds than make money. As long as it’s quality programming benefitting the public, PBS doesn’t care much about ratings as it does about access and viewers like you.

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Though kid shows exist on commercial networks, they often don’t alleviate parents’ and teachers’ worries since they may show violence, teach terrible lessons, and advertise junk food. PBS shows like Sesame Street have a great reputation since they aim to put kids’ interests first. And the fact parents and young children enjoy this show so much over the years has made it one of the most beloved on TV.

What’s good for the market isn’t always what people want.– Despite what public media opponents may say, there is a demand for educational and cultural programming no matter how small that may be. While networks like A&E, TLC, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel weren’t as commercially viable while airing such programs, they did have an audience. When they embarked on the long road through network decay, that audience abandoned them. Nevertheless, a classic example of this is in children’s programming. Though commercial networks often air kid shows as well, parents and teachers have often expressed concern on what children watch on them. The fact cartoons can depict violence while sponsors air ads possibly promoting unhealthy eating habits doesn’t help. But above all parents and teachers worry whether kids are learning the right lessons from the stuff they watch. By contrast, PBS’s educational mission and commercial free programming earns a lot of trust from parents and teachers in regards to children’s TV in preparing them for lifelong learning. Not to mention, public broadcasting often puts kids’ best interests first. Of course, most of their kids’ programming aims for young children. But in a way it makes sense, since early childhood is a very vulnerable age where fostering a lifelong love of learning is vital. And a lot of them aren’t yet in school. Besides, most of PBS’s adult shows are usually appropriate for children anyway. Schools frequently show a lot of PBS documentaries and the network’s website often features lesson plans to go with them. After all, airing shows like Nova, Nature, and the occasional Ken Burns documentary should inspire kids to value learning and make a difference. PBS and NPR also provide news coverage from local events to international affairs and with as little bias as possible. Public radio stations even feature music like jazz, classical, and indie music you might not find on other radio channels. We should also account that PBS currently ranks #6 among all broadcast and cable networks for primetime household ratings, is watched by 82% of American households, and a monthly audience of over 95 million.

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This is a diagram of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s operating budget from 2014. As you can see most of it goes to supporting local TV and radio stations. Many of these are in impoverished rural areas and serve as the only source for local news and other services.

Local NPR and PBS affiliates put local audiences first.– As of 2015, PBS maintains current memberships of 354 stations across encompassing 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 4 US possessions. This gives PBS the distinction as the only TV broadcaster in the United States, commercial or non-commercial with station partners in every US state. By contrast, none of the 5 major commercial broadcast networks has affiliates in certain states where PBS has members with the most significant example being New Jersey. PBS’s estimated reach is 93.74% of all US households (or 292,926,047 Americans with at least one set). Along with national programming like Nova, Nature, Frontline, and Antiques Roadshow, local PBS stations also air a lot of locally produced content they probably wouldn’t see anywhere else. My local PBS station WQED Pittsburgh has aired locally produced documentaries, cooking shows, and film shorts. WQED has also hosted local forums on local issues as well as debates in important statewide election races. In rural areas, local PBS stations serve an important role in their communities that larger state and even national outlets can’t replace. For these residents, their PBS station might be the only place to see their county fair or their neighbors talking about their WWII service. They may also support local initiatives regarding education, adult literacy, and workplace development. In some areas, their public broadcast station might be the only source of news, entertainment, and emergency broadcast service available. And a lot of their poorer residents can’t even afford cable. Since many of these areas don’t have wealthy members like Pittsburgh’s WQED and WESA do, their rural stations rely on government funding for support. Even in the most conservative areas of the country, people usually have high esteem for their public broadcast stations which they might see as a neighbor or friend. And these stations often benefit their communities tremendously.

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From its debut in 1975, the PBS NewsHour has earned a reputation for excellence in its in-depth coverage on issues and current events. And it’s one of PBS most popular shows as one of the closest to a truly objective news source on the media landscape.

More people trust PBS and NPR than most government and media institutions. – In a nation where public trust in American institutions are on the decline such as the government and the media, PBS and NPR have consistently ranked as among the most trusted. Sure your local PBS and NPR stations won’t cover local sports, weather, and crime, but their commitment to viewers, listeners, and their mission has considerably helped their reputation. Not to mention, both PBS and NPR are among the only media outlets to have high public trust among Americans across all demographics as well as the political spectrum. Though both PBS and NPR have been criticized for showing liberal bias, most can at least name something they like about either. For instance, whenever conservatives criticize PBS and NPR, it usually has more with their national news content than anything. Though it’s not all they do. And there are plenty of conservatives who might think NPR is liberal but would certainly riot if you did anything to their public radio station. Parents and teachers trust PBS have consistently rated PBS as the #1 educational media brand for kids under 18 in the nation for very good reason. Hell, the American Academy of Pediatrics pointed to PBS Kids as a leading resource for educational programming. After all, PBS Kids puts greater emphasis on quality over quantity. As for news, PBS has highly acclaimed programs like the News Hour and Frontline. NPR is currently the most trusted news source in the nation with an audience that doesn’t just consist of white college educated liberals. Furthermore, PBS and NPR have been the only media outlets reporting on climate change during the 2016 election. PBS’s news programming has won 14 News and Documentary Emmys in 2016 which is more than any other organization. And Frontline took 7, which is more than any other individual series.

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PBS plays an especially critical role in educating young children, particularly those in low-income families unable to afford preschool. Without it, there would be no way for many children to prepare for kindergarten.

PBS is highly committed educating all children, especially those most at risk. – As a public station, PBS strives to make sure all Americans have access to free, evidence-based, high quality, and educational programming. Nowhere is their mission more important than in their kid shows that they added the PBS Kids channel available for everyone. As a result, PBS Kids reaches more young children and more kids from low-income families than any other children’s TV network. On air, PBS Kids attracts higher proportions of minority and low-income homes. Whereas more than 2/3 of children from 2-8 watch PBS. Not only that, but PBS also provides over 120,000 Pre-K-12 digital resources along with more than 1.8 million users with registered access to PBS Learning Media. Recent studies confirm that 9 out of 10 parents use PBS Kids resources for school preparedness while three-quarters say their kid engages in more positive behavior and higher critical thinking skills after engaging with the network. PBS Kids programming provides a vital service in school readiness to more than half of America’s 3-4 year-olds who don’t have the opportunity to attend preschool. For these children, PBS Kids is the only source of educational media content supporting school readiness which could boost their long-term educational opportunities. Such PBS Kids content supports a whole child ecosystem addressing core needs such as social-emotional learning, math, engineering, literacy, and science. And early childhood education is absolutely crucial in life that PBS understands. For older children, PBS and member stations have partnered for the “American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen” initiative. This program brings public media together with key community stakeholders to help students stay on the path to on-time high school graduation and future success. This partnership consist of PBS stations in over 30 states partnered with more than 1,400 community leaders, local organizations, and schools to help students succeed from Pre-K to high school graduation and beyond. Not to mention, PBS Learning Media includes content from award winning shows like Nova, Nature, American Experience, and Frontline that educators and parents could access at any time. PBS’s commitment to educating children of all ages has made the network absolutely essential.

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Cutting funding for PBS and NPR won’t free up a lot of money for military spending. But a United States without public broadcasting wouldn’t be a nice place to live. PBS and NPR have informed, educated, and inspired people as well s made our nation smarter, stronger, and safer. There are so many stories from viewers on how public media has made a positive impact in their lives. The fact Trump and his swamp cronies are willing to eliminate the CPB really illustrates how he values American greatness and values. Like not at all.

Public broadcasting creates makes Americans better citizens. – Though providing early childhood education and molding young children to be intellectually curious, empathetic, and prepared for school and life, it’s only one of the ways PBS enriches people’s lives. Unlike commercial TV stations, PBS treats its viewers as citizens instead of simply consumers as well as promote education, public trust in institutions, and civil discourse. Public broadcasting makes our country smarter, stronger, and safer. PBS and NPR both can inform, educate, and inspire people. And they both push us into elevating us and our sights. They both also encourage us to think and understand as well as bring us together. Today trust among Americans and for many national institutions is at its lowest in generations. Stereotyping, prejudice, and anti-intellectualism have proliferated that the US has elected a narcissistic sociopath as president who thinks little of America and embodies the country at its worst. Since PBS is ranked #1 in public trust, it can help build connections between different groups of people as well as promote a civil society. And we should note that most Americans oppose cutting federal funding for public television. Still, if Congress and Trump eliminate CPB funding, America would be a much more inhospitable place since PBS and NPR have played an essential role in millions of Americans’ everyday lives as well as benefited our country in so many ways. Even Fred Rogers realized this back in 1969 that he testified before Congress to defend PBS funding when Nixon wanted to cut it. More than ever we need a media outlets that value people over profits as well as enrich our lives. $1.35 a year is a small price to pay. Besides, the fact Trump is willing to cut PBS and NPR funding means he doesn’t value what’s great about America.

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Please Don’t Build This Stupid Border Wall

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“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively — I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” – Donald Trump, during his presidential campaign.

One of President Pussygrabber’s signature campaign promises is to build a huge wall at the US-Mexican Border to deter undocumented immigration which has attracted a lot of support from his supporters. Now that he’s president despite most Americans’ fears and embarrassment, he has a chance to make this border wall a reality. Now I know that many Americans aren’t very cool with undocumented immigration and think a large border wall is a good idea. After all, people apparently think that large physical barriers can keep people from accessing certain places. As of now, there are about 300 companies bidding on it. However, having the border wall in any sense would be a notoriously stupid idea that would waste billions of American taxpayer money. In fact, it would be an utter catastrophe. There is absolutely no evidence that it will be beneficial to anyone. Not to mention, it’s very likely that it’ll inflict tons of needless damage. Common sense alone should tell us that building a wall along the US-Mexican border is an inherently dumb idea. Besides, the reason why so many Americans want a wall built has more to do with racism and xenophobia. My advice to them fearing diversification is suck it up. Minorities just want to live their lives in peace. So if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. Nevertheless, a wall may make these Americans feel safer even if it won’t. But that doesn’t building an incredibly expensive wall to ease their cultural and demographic anxieties because it won’t. Here I list the reasons why we shouldn’t build that stupid wall Trump wants.

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I remember from reading about Asian history in college how Chinese Emperor Qi Shi Huang declared he’d build a big beautiful wall to keep the barbarian hordes out. And that Mongolia was going to pay for it. Well, it did eventually when Kublai Khan took over China. So I guess the Great Wall of China didn’t really do its job.

  1. It Won’t Work– This totally obvious in that whenever there’s a border wall, people will always find a way to get past it. It doesn’t keep people out or in. Because they’re merely obstacles that delay people from their destinations. The Great Wall of China didn’t stop the country from being taken over by foreign invaders like the Mongols and the Manchurians who established dynasties lasting for several decades. At least the Great Wall of China’s main asset is its cultural and historical significance as well as the money it generates from tourists. The Berlin Wall surely didn’t keep East Germans from trying to get over it during the Cold War even with heavy security. Because living under an authoritarian Communist regime with little regard for human life pretty much sucks. If you want to know whether Trump’s wall will keep undocumented immigrants, cartels, and so-called deviants out, you can just think of all the ways they can circumvent it, if desperate enough. They can climb over it. They can dig a tunnel under it. They can take a plane and fly over it. Or they can go around it by boat either along the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico. Just look at the map on the last one. Oh, and border barriers have a tendency to frequently fail.
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Most estimates on how much Trump’s wall is going to cost usually range between $21-$25 billion at least. However, as time passes, we should expect it to be more expensive. Kind of like having Trump as president and just as useless. Seriously, what the fuck, Trump voters? However, Mexico would still pay for it, right? Sorry, but that’s not going to happen.

2. It’s Obscenely Expensive to Build and Maintain– Almost every cost estimate I looked at on Trump’s border wall has ranged from as low as $25 billion to as high as $2 trillion. But in any case, constructing and maintaining the wall will only get more expensive as time goes on. As John Oliver pointed out last March, as “maintenance costs will exceed the initial construction costs within seven years.” Of course, the construction costs would include the building materials, equipment, transportation, and labor. You also have to account for access to infrastructure, source locations for power and utilities, soil conditions, unplanned errors and omissions, regulatory requirements, and weather. With labor, you have to worry about morale and fatigue which can lead to absenteeism, turnover, and crew inefficiencies. Not to mention, in a project spanning great distance, you have to expect labor productivity loss due to continuous mobilization and demobilization such as moving labor, equipment, and materials from one area to another. You should also count for security since there will be activists protesting. In addition, construction megaprojects like Trump’s proposed wall usually go over budget 90% of the time. Once the wall’s built, then you need border patrol including agents on foot, vehicles, and horseback as well as various forms of video surveillance. Because without monitoring the wall wouldn’t be effective. Not that it will be anyway. Then there’s maintenance when it fails or is breach which will often happen adding billions more. But that’s all right because Trump promised that Mexico will pay for it. Though don’t bet on it.

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Despite that Cheetoface promised that Mexico will pay for the wall, former Mexican President Vincente Fox has made it perfectly clear it won’t. Why? Because Mexico sure as hell doesn’t want it, especially after Trump referred to Mexicans as criminals, drug mules, and rapists. So Trump voters who took into your Cheeto lord’s bullshit, the wall bill’s on you. Sorry.

3. Mexico Won’t Pay for It– Mexico knows that building a border wall between their country and US will only hurt their interests. Trump’s border wall has pissed off the Mexicans and soured US relations with the country that its president cancelled a meeting with President Cheetoface. Mexican politicians have even swore about not building it in English. And Mexico’s Catholic church has equated any Mexican building that wall to committing treason. Not to mention, the Mexican economy has shown signs of stress with bordering communities suffering much disruption since the first barriers went up in 2006, including environmental damage and increased business costs due to prolonged crossing times. We should also understand that during the 19th century, we took a lot of their northern territory that now consists of the American Southwest. Oh, and that Mexico is out 3rd largest trading partner. So no, contrary what Lord Cheeto said, Mexico won’t pay for the wall. Not now. Not ever. I am 100% sure that the costs of building and maintaining that stupid wall will fall to American taxpayers. So, Trump voters, you’ve been conned.

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This is a coati which lives along the US-Mexican border. It’s a Mexican raccoon. Like many animals living in one of the most biodiverse areas in the country as well as home to some of the continent’s most imperiled species. Since many of these animals depend on migration routes, border barriers already make their lives difficult. Trump’s wall could make their lives even worse as well as drive some of these species further to extinction. And I’m sure you don’t want to see this little guy go, right?

4. Environmental Issues– From the Pacific Ocean down to the mouth of the Rio Grande to the Gulf or Mexico, the US-Mexican borderlands encompass some of the nation’s most compelling landscapes as well as harbor some of our most imperiled species including jaguars, bighorn sheep, and Sonoran Pronghorn. Trump’s wall will divide ecosystems and block anything walking, crawling, or slithering in its path, further pushing these and many other species to toward extinction. Open borders are essential for these animals. A wall could isolate these populations, fragment and decimate wildlife habitats, and ultimately threaten one of the most biodiverse areas in the US. Trump’s executive order over the wall threaten to destroy cooperation between Border patrol and public servants who care for many of our public lands there, including national parks, national monuments, and national forests as well as numerous areas of state, local, and private land and preserves. Not to mention it would significantly increase border security damage in these fragile, diverse landscapes.

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By the way, if Trump has his way to build that stupid useless wall, you might have to say goodbye to such picturesque landscapes like this. I know it’s sad. But that’s the price we have to pay for a bunch of white people’s racism and xenophobia.

5. Legal and Community Challenges– We should understand that the US-Mexican border is home to a lot of communities which the wall’s construction will certainly cut through such as San Diego and Brownsville, Texas. But we should also acknowledge that much of the land along the Texas side is privately owned. Sure the federal government could use eminent domain to relegate the private land into public use. But that could result in disputes over compensation. Not to mention, we should account the fact that many of these landowners wouldn’t be happy to part with their land in any case. Texas landowners, in particular, have brought lawsuits against attempts to construct short sections of barriers on their lands during the rush to construction a decade ago. Additionally, borderlands residents have made it clear they don’t want Trump’s wall, particularly the Tohono O’odham Nation in Arizona, which has villages on both sides of the border and has frequently endured civil rights abuses under Border Patrol officials. And that borderlands residents have elected officials who don’t want Trump’s wall either. Furthermore, during the past 2 decades borderlands communities have put up with intensive militarization including thousands of Border Patrol agents and construction of checkpoints, encampments, surveillance towers and stadium lighting. Trump’s wall could further intensify this to the bane of communities. Not to mention, the wall could wreak havoc on businesses on both sides of the border. If not, then perhaps entire states and localities.

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Here’s a sign in California telling border crossers to, “Caution! Do not expose your life to the elements. It’s not worth it!” Nevertheless, despite what Trump says about undocumented immigration, no wall can deter desperate migrants from crossing the border. And many of them are now coming from violent regions of Central and South America.

6. Doesn’t Address Complexities of Undocumented Immigration– We should keep in mind that nearly half of undocumented immigrants in the US are those who overstay their visas. Sometimes their visa overstays may not altogether be their fault, especially if they applied for a renewal prior. At any rate, these people entered the country through legal channels so the border wall won’t affect them. Nor do many of them fit into the traditional undocumented immigrant stereotype, since a lot of them all over the world through air. As for border crosses, there have fewer Mexicans and more from Central and South America fleeing violence who don’t attempt to circumvent border patrol. But rather willingly go to entry points and seek asylum or other protections there. As John Oliver said building a wall to solve undocumented immigration, “like wearing a condom to protect from head lice. You could do that. But that’s not really how you keep the thing you’re worried about from happening.” Undocumented immigration from Mexico has been on the decline and most of our nation’s undocumented immigrants have been in the country for at least a decade. Most of the newer undocumented immigrants don’t live along the border but further north in states like Washington, New Jersey, Louisiana, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. If you want less undocumented immigrants from Mexico, your best bet is strengthening the Mexican economy. When Mexico’s economy does well, undocumented immigration declines. Besides, most Mexicans crossing the border usually intend to stay in Mexico and work in the booming manufacturing, healthcare, and education industries in the US. They have no intention of crossing the border. Also, thanks to deportation policies under the Bush and Obama administrations, US immigration courts are already overwhelmed. Renegotiating NAFTA and launching a Mexican trade war might only make things worse.

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Another big obstacle to Trump’s wall is geography. Here we have Big Bend National Park in Texas which has nearly 6,0000 ft elevation changes as well as temperatures of around 100 degrees during the spring and summer. Building a border wall here wouldn’t be easy and almost next to impossible. So I don’t think it’s worth trying, especially given the view.

7. It’s Practically Implausible– During the administration of George W. Bush, the US built about 700 long fence along the US-Mexican border. Not only did Bush’s fence was much more expensive than anyone anticipated, it was extremely challenging to building it. They had to build through people’s property, build around geography, as well as waive 36 laws including the Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Building a wall from 1,250-2,000 miles would face the same obstacles at least. Walls and barriers haven’t been constructed in the remaining areas because much of the borderlands are remote and physically imposing. We should that the US-Mexican Border stretches 2,000 miles which includes the Rio Grande and Big Bend National Park. So even if you don’t have to worry about building through San Diego, Brownsville, Texas, privately owned Texas border land, and more, you’d still have topographical constraints to erect any physical structure all the way across. For instance, Big Bend alone has almost 6,000 feet of elevation changes as well as dry and hot late spring and summer days often exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The Rio Grande twists and snakes through the region even more dramatically than the Mississippi so the wall in some locations would be miles from it and not follow the actual border. The river has also been dammed in several places and diverted to agriculture so it’s more of a series of different rivers than a single one. So a giant wall doesn’t seem remotely practical.

8. It Will Hurt Economies– Sure many working and middle class Americans like to blame immigrants and international trade for their economic woes. And I understand many of them prefer simple, concrete solutions like a stupid wall. However, building walls limiting mobility and trade are too simple a solution to a complex problem. Today’s economies are more linked by data, goods, and services exchanges than ever before. Workers even move between countries even with greater regulation than in the past. US economic inequality has less to do with foreigners taking American jobs and more to do with increased automation, decline in labor unions, decline in labor standards, increased deregulation, increased corporate power in almost every facet in American life, and the overall normalization of greed. For instance, income of the 1% has increased dramatically while lower and middle class wages have remained stagnant as the cost of living rises. As 1% incomes increase so does their power as well as their tendency to screw people over without consequence. In addition the mainstream media doesn’t even cover widespread labor abuses like wage theft, workplace endangerment, sexual harassment, employer intimidation, unlivable minimum wages, and other violations. No wall can change these facts. No wall can solve these problems. And I can guarantee that wall or no wall, Donald Trump will not fix them. Not because he’s a total idiot with no idea how the government functions. But because he’s benefitted from these problems along with prominent Republican donors who helped elect him and other conservative politicians. The fact Republicans and the rich have embraced fantastical notions of free-market wishful thinking that has absolutely no basis in reality to justify their anti-labor stances. And that long-standing racist attitudes and poor shaming have made many white voters eager to vote for these politicians who care nothing for them. Your best bet is overturning Citizens United, abolishing right to work laws, raising and indexing the minimum wage to at least $10-$15 an hour, real consequences for labor violators like jail time, and a social culture affirming that employee mistreatment is not okay.

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Cartels and smugglers can always adapt to border security measures if need be since they prefer to exploit checkpoint schedules over scattering their resources. And Trump’s wall certainly wouldn’t prevent narco tunnels like this one. Remember how I said it wouldn’t work?

9. It Will Not Protect Against Cartels– Despite that Trump thinks a wall could stop the flow of drugs and guns, evidence suggests otherwise. According to Politico, while the dozen or so official “ports of entry” on the border line are highly regulated and policed, cartels prefer to exploit their predictability and rationality than to scatter their resources across open desert and river expanses. Traffickers carefully study how security operates in each checkpoint so they can observe and instantly respond to weakness. One instance would be when inspections are relaxed in order to speed up traffic flows or when a corrupt inspection officer on duty turns a blind eye. They can also be clever in adjusting their behavior like smuggling weapon parts into Mexico instead of whole weapons. After all, you can more easily conceal parts that don’t contain identification numbers, making them harder to trace. Cartels can also factor and calculate losses through these checkpoints as well. And even on a bad say, cartels still would risk their shipments through checkpoints than put people and product through an unpredictable wilderness.

10. It Will Not Protect Against Terrorists– Trump has often proclaimed that building a wall across our Southern border will thwart terrorists despite that no terrorist has ever entered the country through crossing it. Even the Department of Homeland Security has long held that it has, “no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border.” In addition, we should remember that our 9/11 hijackers entered the US legally and since then 80% of those charged with or died while engaging in jihadist-related terrorist activities in the nation were either US citizens or permanent residents. Not to mention, native-born white men committed way more terror attacks on US soil than their jihadist counterparts in that same time span. These findings should indicate that most active US terrorists are homegrown. As for the terrorists who were foreign born, a list of 154 individuals who committed or plotted attacks in the US from 1975-2015 only yielded 1 Mexican.

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Support for Trump’s stupid, useless wall is mostly motivated by fear, racism, and xenophobia from white Americans seen here. It’s very clear that walls don’t work, don’t keep people safe, and don’t keep people out or in. So why do I have to pay for a stupid wall I don’t even want just to assuage white people’s anxieties of demographic change? Can’t they just suck it up, already?

11. It’s Un-American– According to Fast Company, Trump’s wall can amount to a spectacular land and resource giveaway, including ceding access the Rio Grande and its reservoirs for Mexico which won’t be good for American interests. Nor would it be great for the communities who depend on the Rio Grande for water. But what’s even more Un-American is that Trump’s wall idea mainly finds appeal among those who embrace repugnant ideologies like racism and xenophobia. And it’s mainly driven of irrational fears that have no basis in reality whatsoever. By sealing the Mexican border, the US would turn away asylum seekers from Central America. Many of them fleeing because of violence and persecution. Sending them back their home countries is basically a death sentence. Keeping these people out of the country won’t make it safer and goes against our values. And don’t get me started on mass deportations which I think are very cruel and tear families and communities apart.

12. It’s Unnecessary– As I wrote earlier, many border crossers at the US-Mexican border usually live in Mexico and work in the US. Now if big walls could keep out Immigrants, they could also keep some of them in, particularly these border commuters. Increased border security limits freedom of movement. Besides, if you look at some of the big walls throughout history and around the world today, it’s not clear why we actually need one. After all most of the big walls today were built for military and defensive reasons. I mean we’re not really at war with Mexico and haven’t been since before the American Civil War. That was mostly because we wanted some of Mexico’s lands. And the last time we had any southern border violence was during the Wilson administration. Today we have a pretty nice relationship with Mexico. And building a wall along the border only pisses them off. Besides border communities and ecosystems depend much more on freedom of movement between the US and Mexico and a wall would just hurt their interests. So there’s no reason why we should build this stupid, useless wall. It’s just a massive waste of money and nothing more.

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I can never think of a dumber Trump policy than building a border wall along the US-Mexican border. It’s useless, expensive as hell, unnecessary, and poses very negative consequences. And what’s fueling support for this barrier are fear inspired ideologies which shouldn’t be accepted by society anyway. As a taxpayer, I don’t feel that I should pay for stuff like that. So no wall, no way.

The Deadly Infectious Vaccine Myths Needing Eradicated

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I often do my best to avoid telling parents how to raise their children. However, since it’s come to my attention that more US states are loosening their vaccination exemptions. And today a growing number of parents are refusing to vaccinate their children which I think is extremely irresponsible and dangerous to public health. Many of these parents refuse to get their kids vaccinated because internet misinformation such as the idea that vaccines cause autism promoted by Jenny McCarthy. Yet, these falling immunization rates correspond with recent resurgences of vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2010, an outbreak in California 9,120 cases of whooping cough, more than any year since the whooping cough vaccine was introduced in the 1940s. 10 babies too young to be vaccinated for the disease died during the outbreak. In some outbreaks, some children have been left severely and permanently injured or disabled. The New England Journal of Medicine said that anti-vaxxer activities resulted in a high cost to society “including damage to individual and community well-being from outbreaks of previously controlled diseases, withdrawal of vaccine manufacturers from the market, compromising of national security (in the case of anthrax and smallpox vaccines), and lost productivity.” A 2011 journal described the vaccine-autism connection as, “perhaps the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years.” But despite that scientific studies have debunked the non-existent vaccine-autism link, hundreds of parents still believe in this fraudulent claim and don’t get their kids vaccinated, which continue to greatly damage public health.

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For all my readers on my blog and visitors, as a member of the autistic community, I sincerely plead with you not to listen to Jenny McCarthy. Sure she might have a child diagnosed with autism (or misdiagnosed), but she’s a prominent anti-vaxxer who promotes dangerous misinformation that have led to dangerous outbreaks as well as demonize a whole group of people. I may not be an expert in vaccines or autism. But I know a lot more about either than her. So listen to me instead.

I am on the autism spectrum. I have gone great lengths to avoid the subject of vaccines for as long as I could because I didn’t want people to see me as an autistic person. I didn’t want that fact to distract people from seeing me as the person I am who just happens to be autistic. Nor do I ever try to gain anything from except services I need so I can live independently from my parents someday. But since far too many people think the decision whether to get your kids vaccinated is like choosing whether you kid can have a puppy, I don’t see myself as having a choice. I may not be anywhere near as famous as Jenny McCarthy. But I consider myself more of an authority on autism than her since I am autistic though my experience doesn’t mirror everyone in the autistic community. And despite being diagnosed at 12, I’ve certainly had it long before receiving my shots like before birth. Personally, I see the anti-vaxxer idea of vaccines causing autism as resoundingly false and dangerous ideology that could lead to a public health crisis. I also find the frequently debunked autism-vaccine link deeply offensive and dehumanizing. I mean saying that vaccines cause autism is like saying that having autism is worse than contracting a potentially deadly communicable disease. Sorry, but as an autistic woman with a B.A. in history, it just doesn’t hold up for me. Have I had it hard living with autism, especially in getting a job and establishing social contacts? Yes, though I didn’t let it stop me from doing well in school and graduating from college or building up my blog and starting out as a writer. I may not be completely satisfied with my life right now and wish I had a better way to earn money than go on an exhaustive job search I see as a waste of time. But in some ways I have it better than a lot of other people in my age group. I have supportive parents and family members as well as a passion that gives me direction in life. Blogging on WordPress may not give me the money to pay my bills but at least I earn something from it and find the work more rewarding than trying to get a job.

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Here’s another anti-vaxxer who has no idea of how autism and vaccines work. Yes, I know he’s an entitled rich sociopath who regularly promotes conspiracy theories on his Twitter feed and lies all the time. But somehow the Conald managed to convince over 60 million Americans to elect him president (though he didn’t win the popular vote). I know he’s an utter embarrassment and I did what I could to not make this happen. I sincerely apologize.

Vaccines are a great pillar of modern medicine. Before vaccines, life was especially brutal for children with huge portions dying from diseases like measles, smallpox, whooping cough, or rubella, along with others. Today a single injection can completely prevent these ailments in a number of ways. Nevertheless, we should never forget how many deaths and illnesses vaccines have prevented and continue to do so. Vaccines have been so beneficial to society that it’s no wonder practically all jurisdictions make them mandatory. For parents, having one’s children vaccinated on schedule isn’t just a parental responsibility but also a community obligation. Not vaccinating your kids not only leaves them exposed to danger unprotected, but also other kids and adults who can’t be vaccinated. Now that we have an anti-vaxxer in the White House, a Health and Human Services Secretary who was once part of an organization that’s espoused anti-vaxxer views, and a bullshit anti-vaxxer documentary shown at a film festival, I feel that we must debunk the falsehoods as I have in this list.

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Here’s a poster with anti-vaxxer bullshit on how vaccines cause autism. Sorry, but just because vaccines and autism diagnostic rates have increased over the years doesn’t mean there’s a correlation between the two. Besides, autism was never an epidemic and its dramatic rise only indicates that it just happens to be far more common than we thought. Also, there are unvaccinated children who do have autism like those living in 3rd world countries.

  1. Vaccines cause autism.– Sorry, but that hypothesis has been completely discredited that 1997 Lancet article on the MMR vaccine by British surgeon Andrew Wakefield who now addressed as Mr. Wakefield these days. The Lancet eventually retracted that paper due to serious procedural errors, undisclosed financial conflicts, financial conflicts of interest, and ethical violations. Furthermore, no scientific study afterwards has found any link between vaccines and the likelihood developing autism. Oh, and the fact in 2011, a “vaccine court” ruled against over 5,000 families claiming vaccines caused their children’s autism. Though causes of autism remain a mystery, most scientists believe genetics are certainly involved and identified autistic symptoms in children well before receiving the MMR vaccine. Further research provides evidence that autism develops in utero well before the baby is born or receives vaccinations. At any rate, the most effective way to prevent your kid getting autism is avoiding sexual contact with an autistic adult. Even that’s not 100% effective due to congenital mutations, possibly environmental factors, higher paternal age, pregnancy-related conditions, and that there’s no foolproof way of knowing who’s autistic and who’s not. Hell, there’s a good chance you or someone you know might have autism and not even know it. Because while there’s been an increase of children being diagnosed with autism, there’s also been an increase in adults as well. Many times the adults are the kids’ parents who don’t find out until after their kid’s diagnosis. Also, more families are experiencing multiple members with autism than ever before. So if one kid has autism, there’s an extremely good chance their sibling will have it, too. This is especially if autistic child and their sibling are identical twins. So the cause of autism has many genetic paths sometimes through familial inheritance or congenital mutations. Let’s just say autism prevention isn’t worth it unless you either get yourself sterilized or try celibacy. If anything, it’s very likely that autism may be underdiagnosed in both kids and adults, especially among females, minorities, and the poor. As someone with autism, I find blaming vaccines for autism to be extremely offensive and irresponsible. It’s very clear that these anti-vaxxers don’t know a thing about autism and think it’s worse than having a child suffer and die from some communicable disease. Having autism wasn’t the worst thing that happened to me. But I concealed that fact for years from fellow classmates, friends, and students since I was diagnosed at 12 because I didn’t want to deal with the stigma and the fact I didn’t fit in with their idea of autism. A lot of the people I grew up with would find it almost impossible to believe that an autistic person could be substantially more intelligent and articulate than them. Yet, I also have my limitations such as sensitivity to loud noises and an inability to filter distractions which is a major reason why I still don’t have a driver’s license. While my social skills have drastically improved over the years thanks to a childhood of speech therapy at school and medications, many concepts of social interaction don’t come natural to me. And a lot of what I had to learn about social norms and communication I had to learn. When I was a little, I didn’t start talking until I was 4 years old and was a very hyperactive and curious toddler who’d often get into things I wasn’t supposed to. Oh, and I also exhibited obsessive and repetitive behaviors like lining my stuffed animals on the couch and giving them books to read. Nevertheless, it’s an integral part of who I am which I would never change though it doesn’t necessarily define me. But many anti-vaxxers and the general public don’t understand there are different recognized versions of autism along a spectrum so no two cases are the same. The rise in autism rates has more to do with the fact that scientists have redefine what constitutes it, which explains why I was diagnosed at 12 instead of 2 (though I had early intervention, medication, and speech therapy anyway). Because back in the early 1990s, autistic children were widely perceived as intellectually disabled while my toddler self could open child locks. So it was an ADHD diagnosis for me. But even when it was under the radar, I’ve always had it. There is no autism epidemic for it has always been there whether those with it have been diagnosed or not. Those autism rates don’t reflect on who has autism, they just indicate those known to have it. And most autistic people including myself don’t see their condition as a disease needing to be cured. Though they could use attention, support, and resources that all too often go to misguided efforts to find one devilish, monolithic cause of the alleged epidemic. So to say that vaccines cause autism is not only bad science that encourages parental irresponsibility, it also marginalizes people who live with a condition many people view as a disease that it’s not.
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This woman’s statement on Facebook really says a lot about what I think of anti-vaxxer parents. Having child with autism isn’t as bad as having a kid suffer from a deadly communicable disease people died from. Seriously, autism isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person.

2. Infant immune systems can’t handle so many vaccines.-In reality, infant immune systems are much more resilient than we give them credit for. Why? Because babies are exposed to countless bacteria and viruses every day. Besides, most vaccines usually contain a weakened or dead form of the bacteria or virus in order to train the immune system to fight it. And since many of these diseases contributed to high infant and child mortality rates in the past, today’s baby immune systems actually have it easy thanks to vaccines. Based on the number of antibodies present in the blood, a baby could theoretically respond to around 10,000 vaccines at one time. Even if all 14 scheduled vaccines were given at once, it would only use up slightly more than 0.1% of their immune capacity. So vaccinating infants won’t tax their immune system since their grandparents had to handle much worse at their age or older.

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Yes, I know a lot of babies get a lot of shots as you can see from this graph. However, unlike what anti-vaxxers think, giving your baby a bunch of vaccines will only use up a very tiny fraction of their immune capacity. Also, before vaccines, then how do you think their unvaccinated ancestors survived infancy? I mean the days of pre-modern medicine had a lot of high infant mortality rates because of these bad germs.

3. Natural immunity is better than vaccine-acquired immunity.– In some cases, natural immunity like catching the disease and getting sick results in a stronger immunity to the disease than vaccination. Unfortunately, the dangers of this approach far outweigh the benefits. Of course, you could acquire a natural immunity from chicken pox with few ill effects. But contracting diseases like measles on the other hand, chances are you’d face a 1 in 500 chance of death from your symptoms. By contrast, the chance of you having a severe allergic reaction to the MMR vaccine is less than 1 in a million. Besides, even if vaccines aren’t natural so is a lot of modern medicine. So I’ll take my chances and go with the vaccine over natural immunity from deadly diseases any day of the week.

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Another anti-vaxxer myth is that vaccines contain toxins like mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde. While it may contain some truth, they are only in very trace amounts that are well within the most stringent EPA safety guidelines or not at all.

4. Vaccines contain unsafe toxins.- People have concerns about formaldehyde, mercury, and aluminum in vaccines. While these chemicals are toxic in certain levels, FDA approved vaccines only use trace amounts if any. In fact, according to the FDA and CDC, our own metabolic systems produce formaldehyde at higher rates (10 times as much in fact). There’s no scientific evidence that low levels of this chemical, mercury, or aluminum are harmful. If you’re still worried, remember that childhood vaccines haven’t contained any mercury since 1999. And when they did, the mercury levels were well below the EPA’s most stringent public safety limits. So even if your kid received a vaccine containing thimerosal, the overwhelming majority of data supports a lack of association between the substance and neurological problems. And that children are exposed to mercury from many environmental sources that according to Dr. Margaret Rennels, “The reality that a lot of people seem to miss is that the largest source of organic mercury is the environment: the air we breathe, the water we drink and the fish we eat. That’s due to the burning of coal.” As for aluminum, babies get more of that from food even in the first 6 months whether be from breast-feeding or formula.

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While better sanitation, nutrition, personal hygiene habits, and antibiotics have helped decrease infections, they don’t explain the whole story. I’ll let this graph from The Wall Street Journal speak for itself. Or you can just ask a celebrity polio survivor (they do exist).

5. Better hygiene and sanitation are actually responsible for decreased infections, not vaccines.- Sure better hygiene and sanitation have helped reduce or eliminate infectious disease rates. But so have better nutrition and the development of antibiotics as well. However, when we isolate these factors and scrutinize infectious disease rates, vaccines’ role can’t be denied. Because many infections can still spread regardless of how clean we are. For instance, when the first measles vaccine came out in 1963, infection rates had held steady at 400,000 cases a year. Hygienic and sanitation didn’t change much during the following decade, but measles infections dropped dramatically with only 25,000 cases by 1970. Another example is Hib disease. According to the CDC, its incidence rate plummeted from 20,000 in 1990 to around 1,500 in 1993 after the vaccine was introduced.

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As you see from this rag of lies, anti-vaxxers like to go out of their way to show that vaccines aren’t worth the risk. However, while vaccines do cause severe allergic reactions, the overall incident rate is like 1 in 2 million. Perhaps you should worry about bigger dangers to your children like meteors or lightning strikes.

6. Vaccines aren’t worth the risk.– Children have been successfully vaccinated for decades that there has never been a single credible study linking vaccines to long term health conditions. As for immediate danger like allergic reactions or severe side effects, the incidence of death is so rare they can’t ever truly be calculated. For example, the CDC reported only one death attributable to a vaccine between 1990 and 1992. The overall incident rate of severe allergic reactions to vaccines is usually placed around one case for every 2 million injections. Besides, vaccines are tested in more children over a longer period of time than any other drug. And when introducing a new vaccine, the FDA requires pharmaceutical companies to prove their product doesn’t pose a threat when added to the existing vaccine schedule. There’s even as special database called the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) which can help scientists monitor vaccine safety and anyone can use the system to report a suspected side effect. And in many cases, the side effects reported are mostly coincidences and of the people who reported to VAERS about vaccines causing autism, 80% were personal injury lawyers. Not to mention, vaccine makers often take a cautious approach when writing their warning labels, listing all possible side effects even if they occur at the same rate in unvaccinated people. So your child is more likely to die from being struck by a meteor than from a vaccination.

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Here’s a chart on the types of vaccine denialists. There’s Autism Andy, Poisonous Pete, Loony Lucy, Hygenic Helen, and Naturalist Nancy. Each is an unreliable steaming pile of shit who shouldn’t be trusted.

7. Vaccines can infect children with the disease it’s trying to prevent.– Vaccines can cause mild symptoms resembling those from the disease they’re protecting against. It’s a common misconception is that these symptoms signal infection. In reality, in the less than small percentage of (less than 1 million cases) where symptoms do occur, the vaccine recipients are experiencing a body’s immune response to the vaccine, not the disease itself. There’s only one recorded instance in which the vaccine was shown to cause disease. This was the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), which is no longer used in the US. Since then, vaccines have been in safe use for decades and follow strict FDA regulations. Today, according to Kathryn Edwards, M.D., spokesperson for the National Network for Immunization Information, “Most vaccines we give today, such as meningitis and DTaP, contain killed vaccines—not live agents that could replicate.” Though there are some vaccines that do contain a live weakened virus to provoke an immune response such as the MMR and chicken pox immunizations.

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Here’s some more faces of vaccine denialism we’ll get to. There’s Libertarian Larry, Ruling Roger, Skeptical Sally, Prove-Me-Right Rita, Violet VAERS, and Everything Evelyn. Again, a bunch of wackjobs.

8. We don’t need to vaccinate because infection rates are already so low in the United States.- The fact infection rates are already so low in the US is because we’ve been vaccinating our kids for decades because the virus and bacteria responsible for these diseases don’t go away. Thanks to “herd immunity,” so long as a large majority of people are immunized in any population, even the unimmunized minority will be protected. With so many people resistant, an infectious disease will never get the chance to establish itself and spread. This is important because there will always be a portion of the population like infants, pregnant women, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems who can’t receive the vaccines. But if too many people don’t vaccinate themselves and their children, they contribute to collective danger and open up opportunities for viruses and bacteria to establish themselves and spread. Not to mention, since international travel is growing quickly, the CDC warn that even if a disease isn’t a threat to your country, it may be common elsewhere. If someone carries in a trip from abroad, an unvaccinated individual will be at far greater risk of getting sick if they’re exposed.

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Vaccines are very instrumental in the concept of “herd immunity.” This works when a large population gets vaccinated against a deadly virus, they can contain infectious individuals and protect those who can’t get vaccinated. If not enough people are unvaccinated, deadly diseases can come back. So for those who says as long as other kids get vaccinated that your kids don’t need to be, you totally do. Unless you’re Amish or live under a rock.

9. As long as other children are getting vaccinated, mine don’t need to be.- Sorry, but skipping your kid’s vaccinations puts your kids at greater risk for potentially life-threatening diseases. Besides, there’s the whole “herd immunity” thing you don’t understand in which according to Professor Thomas Saari, M.D., “The ability of immunizations to prevent the spread of infection depends on having a certain number of children immunized.” And the immunization level required to prevent most of these vaccinable diseases is very high. For instance, in order for the herd immunity to prevent measles from being spread from child to child, the 95% of kids have to be vaccinated against it. In 2003, the national vaccination rate in the US in children between 19-35 months was only about 80% despite that the number increases to the mid-90s when kids are starting school. Such rates may not be high enough to provide herd immunity, especially if exemptions from school vaccines are on the rise in some states. According to studies from Colorado where residents claim high numbers of vaccine exemptions for medical, personal or religious reasons, kids who aren’t immunized pose a greater risk for disease like 22 times to come down with measles.

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When enough parents listen to Jenny McCarthy instead of get their kids vaccinated like they’re supposed to, the disease causing agents weasle their way back and cause outbreaks with a vengeance. Look at the map of the 2015 measles outbreak from the CDC, people.

10. Now that major illnesses have largely disappeared, we really don’t need vaccines anymore.- That analogy is similar to what Republicans and libertarians say now that working conditions have improved, we no longer need unions and regulations. Or how some say now that the Civil Rights Movement did away with social discrimination, we no longer need civil rights protections on certain demographics. Or how some say that now that we have clean air and water thanks to the EPA, we no longer need environmental protections. Except you do because the propensity to commit such social injustice still lingers on as we know by the election of President Pussygrabber. The same logic applies to vaccines because despite relatively high vaccination rates in the US, many American communities still have outbreaks of diseases like measles and pertussis, a respiratory illness characterized by spasms of coughing that can last for weeks or even months. In 2003, 13 kids died from the infection. Unvaccinated children can also spread infection to vulnerable family members. According to Dr. Saari in Parenting Magazine, “Those children are more likely to give a disease to those who can’t fight it off, such as a six-month-old or a grandparent living at home.” One case is the incidence of whooping cough which has been increasing since the 1980s, and the CDC has recommended a pertussis booster shot for 11-year-olds because the risk of passing the disease to a vulnerable relative is so high. Also, if you remember reports about panics involving Zika and Ebola, diseases are spread by people from foreign countries who travel here. As Dr. Saari said, “Air travel has extended the range of diseases from countries where people aren’t immunized. We’re no more than one airplane ride from being exposed to many diseases.” Thus, if people aren’t vaccinated, these supposedly uncommon diseases can come back.

11. You shouldn’t give a vaccine to a child who has a cold.– You might think that a sick child would be more likely to have a bad reaction to a vaccine or that it might present and added burden to their immune systems if they’re fighting a cold. However, studies show that a mild illness doesn’t affect a child’s ability to react appropriately to the vaccine. As Dr. Rennels says, “Certainly if a child comes in with a fever of 102 and a rip-snorting ear infection, it’s not the best time for a vaccine. But a low-grade fever, mild respiratory infection or a little diarrhea shouldn’t be reasons to delay one, especially if the illness is on the way out.” Of course, vaccines can trigger side effects such as a fever and rash as well as soreness at the injection site, but these are rarely cause for alarm. The 5-in-1 Pediarix is more likely to cause a low fever than the individual shots are, but many moms say the fewer injections for their child, the better. But if your child has hives (which can indicate an allergic reaction), a fever of 105 degrees or higher, or convulsions, call your doctor right away.

12. I had chicken pox when I was a kid and it isn’t a big deal.– So did I and so did my sister. But my parents tried to get us vaccinated for it anyway before there was no longer any need to. Sure chicken pox may not be a big deal for most kids but on rare occasions, children can die from it. Before the vaccine was introduced, many children were hospitalized each year with serious complications, including pneumonia and dangerous skin infections. According to Dr. Rennels, “Chicken pox lesions can become infected with staph, including necrotizing fasciitis—the ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria.” Getting the chicken pox vaccine is especially important now that less of the virus is in circulation. And as Dr. Rennels adds, “Children who don’t get chicken pox or the vaccine are at risk of getting it as an adult, which is a much more serious illness.” Besides, I had a kid in my class who had chicken pox during our junior year in high school and he was out for days.

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Vaccines may not be 100% effective. But they’re effective enough that you won’t need get well gifts like these when you get the diseases vaccines are supposed to prevent.

13. Vaccines can provide 100 percent disease protection.- Vaccines may not be 100% effective (though the effect rate can range from 75-95% which still very good) and it’s possible you can be vaccinated against a disease and still get it. But if all children are vaccinated against an organism, it’s less likely to hang around. Again, we have herd immunity kicking in, which is why vaccinating an entire population is crucial. As Dr. Edwards says, “Not getting vaccinated is like failing to stop at a four-way stop. If three people get vaccinated but one doesn’t, the risk is not bad. But if two people don’t get vaccinated, the burden of risk is greater on everyone.”

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Some anti-vaxxer parents think it’s better to wait until their kids are older to get the vaccinations. However, the reason why vaccine schedules are designed the way they are is that small children are the most vulnerable to contracting them. Remember how historical times witnessed high infant mortality rates.

14. It’s best to wait until children are older before starting to give them vaccines.- The best time to get your kids vaccinated against the disease, is at the earliest possible moment they can get it. Immunization schedules are designed to protect the most vulnerable patients from disease. If you wait to give the vaccine, you might miss the window when a child is most vulnerable. We should also remember that many of these infectious diseases we vaccinated against have killed high numbers of infants and small children. So you get off the schedule, you put your child at risk. One instance in Wisconsin had 300 children under the age of 1 come down with whooping cough with 177 less than 6 months old. Half of these babies were hospitalized and 3 died. For a kid to die of whooping cough nowadays is criminal.

15. It’s safe to space out vaccinations.- Spacing out vaccines may actually cause children more distress. Sure kids don’t like getting several shots at once. But studies show that a child’s stress hormones peak after one shot while additional needlesticks doesn’t increase their distress. So it’s better to get several shots out of the way in one doctor’s visit than once a month. Besides, postponing shots leave babies at risk and none of the alternative schedules has been clinically tested. As Ari Brown says, “There is absolutely no research that says delaying certain shots is safer. Doctors who promote these schedules are simply guessing when to give which shots. What we know for certain is that delaying your child’s shots is playing Russian roulette.”

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When anti-vaxxers say that vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t that dangerous, they’re usually thinking about relatively less severe ones like chicken pox. This picture depicts a polio ward with kids being encased in iron lungs. Polio was a menace because it could kill or leave its victims permanently disabled. Dr. Salk’s discovery of the polio vaccine in the 1950s was seen as a medical miracle. Let that sink in.

16. Vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t that dangerous. – Sorry, but as a history major, I think anyone who believes this bullshit have absolutely no fucking idea. Sure they may have had chicken pox as a kid which is usually not very dangerous. But if you think that most vaccine-preventable diseases are like chicken pox, you’re a fucking moron. Vaccines have eliminated diseases that have once sickened, disabled, or killed hundreds of thousands of people. Because few young parents have encountered any of these diseases and possibly not know a thing about science or history, they don’t realize how dangerous they are. Whooping cough once sickened 300,000 people a year and killed 7,000 mostly young children. A better example would be polio which ravaged the country so much that when Dr. Jonas Salk discovered the vaccine and gave it away for free, he was seen as nothing less than a miracle worker. But before that, polio was a nightmare virus that parents and children feared because it was contagious disease that paralyzed and killed people. Surviving the disease could be a life changing experience leaving some permanently physically disabled to varying degrees while remember the fear and isolation. It crippled Franklin Delano Roosevelt that he nearly ended his political career over it, which could’ve shaped the US quite differently had he not ran for Governor of New York and later president during the Great Depression. Hell, we have plenty of celebrities who’ve survived polio and are still alive like Alan Alda, Donald Sutherland, Mia Farrow, Donovan, Joni Mitchell, Itzhak Perlman, Neil Young, and Sir Ken Robinson.

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This is US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1921, he came down with polio during vacation at Campobello that would leave him crippled from the waist down. He would be confined to wheelchair and walk with braces for the rest of his life. And he nearly ended his political career of this. Nevertheless, he’s an example what vaccine preventable diseases did to people.

17. Only sick people need flu shots and other vaccines.- As with herd immunity when healthy people get vaccinated, it can help protect the weak, including cancer patients, anyone with compromised immune systems, and newborns too young to get the shot. Because babies can’t begin common vaccinations until they’re 2 months old, they depend on those around them for disease protection whether they be family, hospital staff, or babysitters.

18. Vaccines contain tissue from aborted fetuses.- No they don’t. And even if they did, the National Catholic Bioethics Center has said that Catholics are, “morally free to use the vaccine, regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them. … It is important to note that descendant cells are not the cells of the aborted child. They never, themselves, formed a part of the victim’s body.” Anyway, fetal tissue has been used in the development of some vaccines like hepatitis A, chicken pox, and rabies. But the best example is in rubella during the 1960s since it involved isolating the virus from the tissue of fetuses whose mothers have had it. The women chose abortion due to concerns about birth defects caused by rubella which include deafness, heart disease, mental retardation, a devastating brain inflammation called encephalitis and pneumonia. Though in any case, the viruses were often purified before being used in vaccines and no human cells remain in the final shots given to children.

19. Vaccinated children can shed virus and infect others.- Only one vaccine has been known to do this which was the liquid OPV and it was one time. Even then children vaccinated with OPV could shed the virus through their feces and spread it to other kids who didn’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom. In the process, they could protect those kids against the virus. Doctors call this phenomenon, “contact immunity,” and it was a useful trait in the 1950s, when the country was ravaged by polio, because vaccinating one child against polio could help to indirectly vaccinate others. After polio had been eliminated in the US by 2000, American doctors stopped using the live virus and have resorted to killed polio vaccines from then on. No other vaccine has been known to shed so kids vaccinated against measles won’t spread the disease to other kids spreading the virus. In fact, measles can only spread when people are actually sick with the disease and showing symptoms.

20. Vaccines cause autoimmune disease.- According to Medscape, “The role of vaccination in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases (presumably by triggering autoimmunity) has long been a matter of debate. Although the cause of these diseases is still unclear, several factors, including genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and infectious diseases, may play a role. The relationship between vaccines and autoimmunity is still under study; however, no definitive evidence supporting a causative association exists to date. Most of the data linking vaccines with autoimmunity comes from case studies, which are considered to offer a low level of evidence. So far, no large epidemiologic studies have been conducted to provide us with relevant compelling clinical evidence. Given the nature and heterogeneity of autoimmune disorders, such studies are very difficult to be performed.”

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Here’s a good poster of why every kid should be vaccinated. And yes a lot of myths are listed on here. Yeah, it’s that simple.

21. Influenza is a harmless illness, so vaccination is unnecessary.- According to Medscape, “Although influenza is commonly considered to be a mild illness, this is certainly not always the case. Influenza is a large threat to public health, with three pandemics and millions of deaths from influenza in the 20th century. During the last pandemic period of the H1N1 virus (June 11, 2009 to August 1, 2010), 18,449 deaths were attributed to influenza, although the global death rate was certainly higher. Influenza can have serious complications, including severe pneumonia, and extrarespiratory complications, such as encephalopathy and myocarditis. In addition, a considerable number of deaths related to cardiac and pulmonary complications typically follow influenza epidemics. Particularly among the elderly, people with underlying medical conditions, and pregnant women, the risk for influenza-associated complications is higher and flu vaccination is strongly recommended.”

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Most vaccines aren’t only safe for pregnant women, two are also recommended. One of these is the flu shot while the other is the TDaP vaccine taken in the third trimester. Not only does this protect the mother, but the baby, too. Which is great because many newborns can’t be vaccinated.

22. Vaccines shouldn’t be administered to pregnant women.- Most vaccines aren’t only safe during pregnancy, but highly recommended. Two vaccines are especially important such as the flu vaccine and the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) given between 27 and 36 weeks. According to Medscape, “Tetanus, pertussis, and influenza are diseases with potentially severe consequences for the child and/or the mother that can be prevented through vaccination. The vaccination of a pregnant woman against pertussis offers substantial protection of the newborn against this infection.” Medscape adds, “An evaluation of the available data suggests that vaccines containing inactivated microorganisms are safe for administration during any week of pregnancy. Influenza, in particular, can be very severe during pregnancy, thus it is recommended that pregnant women receive flu vaccination during flu season.” There has been no evidence that the flu vaccine has contributed to any congenital malformations. Same goes for any other vaccines.

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Many Anti-vaxxers think vaccinating their children should be a personal choice instead of mandatory, claiming that mandatory vaccinations violate their civil rights. Sure it’s only a personal decision if it only affects themselves. But unfortunately, with herd immunity involved, vaccines don’t work that way.

23. Mandatory vaccination violate civil rights.- Sorry, but this has no basis in reality. Massachusetts enacted the first mandatory vaccination law in the US in 1809. Nearly 100 years the Supreme Court ruled mandatory vaccination laws constitutional with the case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts. Though all states do offer medical exemptions. Nevertheless, parents need to be aware that if don’t vaccinate their kids, they’re putting them and their contacts at risk of serious disease. And unvaccinated children often have to stay home from school or daycare during outbreaks. Besides, what about those who can’t get vaccinated? Don’t they have a right to not contract a serious vaccine-preventable disease that won’t kill them? Don’t they have a right to herd immunity protection?

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VAERS is a reporting system on vaccine reactions from the US federal government. Anyone can report anything on it. Nevertheless, despite what Anti-Vaxxer testify, VAERS data doesn’t prove anything. Nevertheless, here’s a VAERS form.

24. VAERS data proves that vaccines are dangerous.- VAERS data actually can’t “prove” anything. On VAERS anyone can report anything as “no proof of causality is required” while only reports of special interests like hospitalizations are verified. Even when checked, many reports aren’t accurate while many include non-serious reactions. The number of reported to adverse events is usually influenced by publicity. Besides, VAERS just exists to properly detect early warning signals and to generate hypotheses. It’s not meant to inform people about vaccine since it’s more of a suggestion box open to the public.

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There’s an anti-vaxxer children’s book out there I had on one of my book cover posts called Melanie’s Marvelous Measles. Here are some other anti-vaxxer follow ups. Enjoy.

25. More people die from the vaccine than from measles.- For God’s sake, this is utter bullshit. In reality, according to the World Health Organization, measles kills 140,000 people a year globally while the measles vaccine saves 1 million lives annually. By contrast, there have only been 57 deaths due to measles vaccines filed through the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which is a no-fault system set up to compensate people injured by vaccines. The program doesn’t say how many of these claims are allowed. Nevertheless, while vaccines aren’t 100% safe, a person’s chance of dying from the vaccine are miniscule compared to their astronomical chance of being saved.

26. Existence of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program proves that vaccines are harmful.- Sure vaccines aren’t 100% safe as with any product since there are people who are allergic to it. However, vaccines are so safe that your chances of dying from one are less than being struck by a meteor. Nevertheless, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was launched in 1986 because vaccine makers were dropping out of the business out of fear of pricey lawsuits. Public health officials feared that the US would suffer a vaccine shortage. Nevertheless, under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, if people can prove they suffered an injury known to be caused by a vaccine, they could be compensated without having to prove the vaccine caused the problem. And it’s paid for by a tax on vaccines.

27. Foreigners, especially undocumented immigrants, are bringing measles to the US. – It’s true that measles was eliminated from the US in 2000 and that all outbreaks now begin with an imported case. But in 2014 which was the worst year for measles since 1994, 635 out of 644 cases involved US citizens. And out of them 77% were unvaccinated people. What’s happening is that unvaccinated Americans are going to countries where measles is more common and bringing the virus back. Unless they live in a community where many people aren’t vaccinated like Amish country, usually they don’t infect very many people. But when measles happens anywhere in the world, it can come here on a plane pretty quick. And it’s not coming over land borders because high vaccination rates in the Americas has eliminated measles there. Rather it’s more likely coming from Europe, Asia, and the Philippines.

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This Natural News graph shows the often debunked anti-vaxxer myth that Big Pharma profits from them. In reality, doctors, drug makers, and insurance companies actually lose money from vaccines since they’re so labor intensive. Also, you shouldn’t trust Natural News as a viable news site. Since it’s full of conspiracy theories like this one.

28. Doctors and insurance companies promote vaccination to drive profits.- Actually doctors and insurers don’t profit from vaccination in any way. Some insurers pay the cost of vaccination to prevent having to pay more later if a patient gets sick. And a 2009 study found that 1 out of 3 doctors actually lose money when giving vaccines. Also, big Pharma only makes 1.5% of their income on vaccines anyway and only 5 companies make 80% of them that there have been problems in vaccine supply and fact making them is so labor intensive.

29. The DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) and the polio vaccines cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). – There’s no evidence these vaccines cause SIDS. 90% of SIDS cases occur before the infant is 6 months old with the highest rates between 1 and 4 months of age. Unfortunately, this is the age group when children are scheduled to be vaccinated against DTaP and polio. The SIDS deaths are co-incidental to vaccination and would’ve occurred even if the child hadn’t been given the vaccines. This is especially if the infant didn’t sleep in a crib with proper bedding, wasn’t in a proper sleeping arrangement or position, or had parent who smokes. Not to mention, these vaccines have been linked to a 50% lower risk of SIDS.

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Some people may believe that one shot is enough protection. However, some vaccines take multiple doses since one shot isn’t enough like the whooping cough one you see here.

30. One vaccine in a series gives a child enough protection.- Getting the recommended dose of each recommended vaccine provides a child with the best protection possible. Depending on the vaccine, more than one dose is needed to build high enough immunity to prevent disease, boost immunity that fades over time, make sure people who did not get immunity from a first dose are protected, or protect against germs that change over time, like flu. Every vaccine dose is important because they all protect against infectious diseases that are threats today and can be especially serious for infants and very young children. Skipping vaccines puts children at risk for contracting the diseases, especially measles and pertussis. Thus, if the recommendations are for a series of shots, make sure your child receives all of them so they’re not left unprotected.

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Of course, nobody likes receiving a shot from the doctor, especially babies who are likely to scream and cry. However, while giving them a TDaP shot today might your little one cry, it’ll keep them from constantly screaming in agony from diphtheria later.

31. Shots are very painful to a baby. – Indeed they are but the pain is only momentary and not significant. Besides, studies show there are ways to minimizing the pain your baby feels such as being breastfed before or afterwards as well as being held and distracted by their parents. The doctor could even give the baby numbing cream or a sugar solution. Yet, even if you don’t resort to any of this, at worst a small prick of a needle will only cause enough pain that might instill a lifelong fear of shots. Yet, this is a small price for protecting them against a world of pain from the serious diseases the vaccine protects against.

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Contrary to anti-vaxxer logic, vaccines don’t weaken immune systems. If anything, they usually strengthen the immune system from diseases that can compromise it and leave people more vulnerable to other infections as well as serious health problems.

32. Vaccines weaken the immune system. – Vaccines usually contain a weakened if not dead form of the virus so they can train the immune system in to fighting them without causing infection. Natural infections on the other hand, can weaken the immune system by preventing some people from fighting off other viruses and bacteria easily. This happens most notably in children during a natural infection like chicken pox or measles. And the fact so many small children died of serious diseases before we had vaccines for them illustrates why we have them in the first place.

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While vaccinations aren’t 100% effective, they are certainly necessary as this graph certainly shows. And because of vaccines, these infectious disease rates have plummeted. But if at least 95% of the American public don’t receive their shots, these germs could infect with a vengeance. So yes, vaccines are necessary and if you haven’t already, vaccinate your kids.

33. Since most vaccines are not 100% effective, there’s really no need to get them. – Just because something doesn’t work 100% of the time doesn’t mean there’s no real need to have it, especially if it could save your life. For instance, wearing seatbelt may not guarantee my survival in a car crash. But I’d have to be an idiot not to wear one every time I ride in a car. Sure vaccines aren’t 100% effective but most have an 85-99% protection rate which makes it the best way to avoid these diseases. In addition, for some vaccine-preventable diseases, the serious of the disease may be less for someone who’s received the vaccine. And the more people who get the vaccine, the less likely the disease will be present in the community where it can spread to people unable to get the vaccine either due to being too young or having certain medical conditions. This is known as “herd immunity.” So yes, getting the vaccine is worth it.

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In recent years, the rate of nonmedical exemptions from vaccines has risen thanks to the rise of anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories. Along with that comes a higher prevalence of outbreaks pertaining to vaccine-preventable infections. And these endanger the most vulnerable such as newborn babies. We need to understand that vaccine shouldn’t be a choice most of the time.

34. More vaccinated people get the disease than the unvaccinated. – Yes, but that’s because vaccines aren’t 100% effective so it’s still possible to get the disease being vaccinated against. However, if you do get the disease, you’ll only suffer fewer complications and long term effects than those who are unprotected. For instance, with pertussis (whooping cough), severe complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (brain inflammation) occur almost exclusively in the unvaccinated. Both of these could either cause permanent damage in small children or kill them. However, the fact vaccines aren’t 100% effective don’t mean that they don’t work.

35. There are “hot lots” of vaccine that have been associated with more adverse events and deaths than others. Parents should find the numbers of these lots and not allow their children to receive vaccines from them.- This gets a lot of publicity but the concept of “hot lot” used in this context is wrong. This is based on the presumption that the more reports of adverse events a vaccine lot is associated with, the more dangerous the vaccine is in that lot. And that by consulting a list of reports per lot, a parent can identify which ones to avoid. According to WHO, this is misleading for 2 reasons. First, and adverse report following vaccination doesn’t mean that the vaccine caused the event. In fact, statistically, a certain number of serious illnesses, even deaths, can be expected to occur by chance alone among kids recently vaccinated. Besides, no scientific study has ever linked vaccines to any serious long-term health problems. Second, vaccine lots aren’t all the same with sizes varying from several hundred thousand to several million. According to WHO, “Naturally a larger lot or one that is in distribution for a longer period will be associated with more adverse events, simply by chance. Also, more coincidental deaths are associated with vaccines given in infancy than later in childhood, since the background death rates for children are highest during the first year of life. So knowing that lot A has been associated with x number of adverse events while lot B has been associated with y number would not necessarily say anything about the relative safety of the two lots, even if the vaccine did cause the event.”

36. Only children need vaccinations.- Look, I may not always get the flu shot every year even though I know I need it. But vaccine-preventable diseases continue to be a threat throughout our lives. According to the California Department of Public Health, “Adolescents need boosters for many childhood diseases, some college age students need protection from meningitis, adults need vaccines for shingles and pneumonia, and everyone needs the flu vaccine and, especially for those around infants, the pertussis vaccine.” We should also acknowledge that Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted polio as an adult in the 1920s. So while infants and young children are the most vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases, they can and have killed adults. Just look at history or old timey literature.

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Yeah, this pretty much sums up anti-vaxxers in a nutshell. Pretty much people with dangerous ideas. So if you’re skeptical about vaccinating your kids, just do it. Believe me, don’t listen to anti-vaxxer celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, Robert DeNiro, or Jim Carrey. Instead, listen to the medical community who know what they’re talking about. Sure some may be anti-vaxxers, but most of them aren’t.

Nazis and White Nationalists by Another Name: Why We Need to Talk About the Alt-Right

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Now I always try to respect other people’s opinions as best they can even if I don’t agree with them. And in this day in age, I have to put up with a lot of people in my life spouting crazy ideas that seem to contradict with all kinds of factual information such as climate change. However, there is a one kind of ideology in American society with a considerable political presence we shouldn’t tolerate under any circumstance. But now that Donald Trump is president, it’s a movement we can’t ignore for it’s one that poses a grave and present danger in our country as we speak. We need to talk about the Alt-Right.

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Make no mistake. The Alt-Right is a far-right set of extremist ideologies, individuals, and groups whose core belief that “white identity” is under siege by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League see the Alt-Right as a white nationalist hate movement for this reason. And the fact Trump has Alt-Righters on his team at the White House like Steve Bannon should trouble you.

Considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist ideology, the Alt-Right is a set of far-right ideologies, groups, and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. Known for heavy social media use and online memes, Alt-Righters reject mainstream American conservatism, skew young white men, and embrace white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value. The Alt-Right has no formal organization and it’s not clear whether it can be considered a movement while occupying on the extreme ideological fringes of American conservativism. Given the nebulous nature of anonymous online communities such as websites like 4chan and 8chan, we’re not entirely sure who these people are and what motivates them. We also don’t know how much people write on these sites is serious or is intended to stir trouble. However, what we do know is that alt-righters use websites like Twitter and Brietbart to convey their message, post offensive memes, as well as harass people who disagree with them. Legions of anonymous Twitter users have used the hashtag #AltRight to proliferate their ideas, sometimes successfully pushing them into the mainstream. But more importantly, we know that they comprise of Donald Trump’s most steadfast supporters as well as played a pivotal role in bringing him to power. Now that former Brietbart CEO Steve Bannon has a high position of influence in Trump’s White House have made the Alt Right a major political force. Regardless what your political beliefs are, the fact a major Alt-Righter now occupies a major position of power should scare you. It’s perfectly clear the Alt-Right is a hate movement as exemplified by its founder Richard Spencer who’s often been accused of centering it on white nationalism to whitewash overt racism, white supremacism, and Neo-Nazism as well as frequently quoted from Nazi propaganda and spoke critically of the Jewish people. And it’s even scarier that the Alt-Right isn’t the kind of white nationalist movement that wears white hoods or swastikas. But one that sells white supremacy by trying to appeal to mainstream youth through a radicalization process involving skilled manipulation and pop culture. In short, they tend to be today’s Nazis by another name.

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Mainstream conservatism always had a racist streak in America since our country was built on institutional racism. And the GOP doesn’t shy away from employing subtle racist rhetoric and stereotypes in their political campaigns such as this Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis in 1988. However, Republicans usually try to go to great pains not to look racist and love having minorities in their party so it can look diverse during convention time.

So where did the Alt-Right come from? It’s hard to say. Though the term was coined by leading alt-righter Richard Spencer while its members have a well-known online presence, its extremist white nationalist views have deep roots in American history because racism and nativism don’t really go away once they’re no longer acceptable. Nevertheless, mainstream American conservatism has always had a racist streak because our country was built on institutional racism as well as a suspicion on immigrants who don’t fit the WASP ideal. The Republican Party has often used racist dog whistles to win rural whites over for decades and have been very successful at it as you can see thanks to the Southern Strategy designed to convert Southern Democrats who left the party when LBJ signed a series of civil rights policies. And along with appealing to the Christian Right’s version of “traditional values,” racist dog whistles would continue to win more converts in the Rustbelt and the rest of white rural America ever since thanks to Reaganism and Fox News. However, while they often appeal to racist sensibilities in their rhetoric, it’s often in a subtle way that’s made to look somewhat acceptable toward white people who might not notice it. For instance, the “undeserving poor” usually pertain to poor black and Hispanic people. “Illegal immigrants” usually pertain to Hispanics, particularly Mexicans who are also seem to be poor border crossers to drop anchor babies in order to stay in the country. And “terrorists” usually refers to Islamic extremists in the Middle East who are often stereotyped as such. However, despite that mainstream conservatism has a lot of racist undertones, most white conservatives are only racist due to being from environments where almost everyone is like them and having limited exposure to diversity that much of what they believe about people seemingly different from them is shaped by what they see in the media. But these conservatives see no problem with people in those minorities aren’t poor, live like them, and embrace their message, mainstream conservatives accept them as model Americans. And they’re willing to grandstand them to prove that they’re not the racists you might think they are.

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The Alt-Right rejects mainstream conservatism mainly for not sufficiently supporting racism and anti-Semitism or don’t advocate for white people’s interests as a group. They often use the term “cuckservative” to castigate Republicans as unmanly white men who support globalism and liberal ideas as well as imply that they let black men sleep with their wives. And yes, the Alt-Right is full of white supremacists.

This is not the case with the Alt-Right. In fact, those identifying with the Alt-Right regard mainstream conservatives as weak and impotent, largely because they don’t sufficiently support racism and anti-Semitism or don’t advocate for white people’s interests as a group. They frequently disparage the conservative movement by using the derogatory term of “cuckservative” which is a combination of “conservative” and “cuckold.” And it’s a term mostly used to castigate Republican politicians they see as traitors to their people as well as selling out conservatives with their support for globalism and liberal ideas. It has a racist undertone implying that establishment conservatives are like unmanly white men who allow black men to sleep with their wives. Though not everyone who identifies with the Alt-Right is a white supremacist according to the Anti-Defamation League, the designation itself usually applies to white nationalism because most of them certainly are as “white identity” is central to what they all have in common. And however they define themselves, Alt-Righters reject egalitarianism, democracy, universalism, and multiculturalism.

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While the Alt-Right usually recruits its members with its large online presence, they may hold press conferences and other public events at Washington D.C. Here featured is National Policy Institute head Richard Spencer.

What’s even more troubling is that the Alt-Right movement is growing at an alarming rate due to including a number of white people espousing racist and anti-Semitic beliefs as well as a loud presence online. There are also a growing number of small white supremacist enterprises including think tanks like the National Policy Institute, online publications like Radix, Brietbart, American Renaissance, and The Right Stuff, and publishing houses like Washington Summit Publishers and Counter Currents Publishing. Most of what they produced are white supremacist and anti-Semitic literature as well as promote unsubstantiated conspiracy theories many of their members believe. And if Trump’s ascent to the presidency tells us, their political influence is on the rise. Outside the Internet, Richard Spencer reserves the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. at least twice a year for a coat-and-tie gathering of his followers who regularly use false names or refuse to identify themselves for fear of being labeled as racists. Topics and themes can vary. In 2015 it was, “Beyond Conservatism” and capitalized on the strength of the virulently racist “cuckservative” meme. In 2016, it was “Identity Politics” and mostly focused on Trump’s presidential campaign and its continued success with featured speakers addressing a different facet of Trump’s influence on politics and Americans culture which they saw as an implicit white backlash against present-day politics as well as Trump creating a political space where the Alt-Right to grow.

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The Alt-Right typically recruits its members online with a marketing strategy that avoids using the word race as well as conjure rebel and anti-establishment imagery that appeals to youth. For instance, its use of Pepe the Frog as a meme is among these.They also tend to talk about preserving European-American identity under the guise of multiculturalism. And thus begins the process of Alt-Right radicalization.

Since their agenda often seeks to insert white supremacy in conservative conversations that have largely deliberately excluded them in recent decades, they have a rather savvy media strategy behind them. For instance, the term Alt-Right is short for “Alternative Right” which is a conscious attempt by these people to stake out part of the conservative spectrum and claim they deserve a voice in conservative conversations. Though many argue their real objective is to challenge and dismantle mainstream conservatism as well as legitimize racism. The phrase “Alternative Right” explicitly avoids using the word “race” as well as conjures up rebel and anti-establishment figures which are often attractive to youth. Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos painted the movement as “born out of the youthful, subversive, underground edges of the internet,” and that the Neo-Nazis in its ranks are unrepresentative. They’re also likely to use terms like “culture” to substitute more lightning rod terms such as “race” or promote “Western Civilization” as a code word for white culture or identity. Alt-Righters don’t make explicit references to white nationalism that they may believe in, they’re more inclined to talk about preserving European-American identity under a guise of multiculturalism in order to recruit his followers. This orchestrates a path toward radicalization in which seemingly normal people are intoxicated with extremist ideology and possibly molded into terrorists. A lot of extremist groups have recruited their members by exploiting their vulnerabilities with narratives of strength and warmth as well as simultaneously emphasizing with those alienated and disaffected while also promising power and belonging through righteous violence against their so-called oppressors. You can easily see a demonstration of this radicalization process in the movie Fight Club.

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The Alt-Right is notorious for its ruthless trolls who serve as orators and activists in the movement. Methods include inflammatory comments, doxing, and bombarding social media accounts with slur filled and photoshopped art. Though this statement on Brock Turner’s rape victim is incredibly offensive, this is just mild in their milieu. Because they can be downright hateful and often relentless as their victims suffer under their online harassment. Many Alt-Righters have been banned from social media for hate speech.

The Alt-Right is notorious for its ruthless trolls who serve as orators and activists to the movement. Brietbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos was instrumental in the online harassment campaign against women in the electronic gamer world known as Gamergate. Yiannopoulos was also banned from Twitter for inciting a racist pile-up on Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones. Let’s just say his reception at Berkeley was very well deserved despite now that he now has a book contract with Simon and Schuster. Other trolls have bombarded Twitter and e-mail accounts with slur filled and photoshopped art. There are also doxers who release personal information onto the Internet in order harass their victims. Though the Alt-Right didn’t invent these tactics, but the trolling during the 2016 election reached a sadistic pitch. Journalists opposing Trump received photos of themselves and sometimes their children dead or in gas chambers. This was especially the case if they were Jewish or had a Jewish surname with a signature punctuation marking Jewish names with “echoes” or triple parentheses like (((this))). Though the alt-right trolls may initially seem as annoying, they can be downright hateful and inflict a high degree of damage by issuing offensive slurs, threats, doxing, and other forms of intimidation. And they are often relentless as their victims suffer with a force they can’t argue with. At the same time they also stage propaganda campaigns organized around hashtags like #WhiteGenocide (referencing a myth that white people are being subjected to an orchestrated eradication campaign), #ISaluteWhitePeople, #BoycottStarWarsVII (in order to protest the black actor cast in a lead role), #NROrevolt (because the mainstream conservative National Review vehemently opposed Donald Trump in the GOP primary). Some Twitter accounts even depict hate symbols like swastikas and other Neo-Nazi insignia. It’s gotten so bad that several online outlets, including Twitter have suspended alt-right accounts while Reddit removed its alt-right page completely. Richard Spencer got kicked off of social media for hate speech.

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The Alt-Right sees Donald Trump as their hero due to railing against “political correctness,” Muslims, immigrants, Mexicans, Chinese, and others during his presidential campaign and were among his most enthusiastic supporters. Thanks to Trump, the Alt-Right was elevated into the mainstream and now has a key role in influencing national policy with Steve Bannon working at the White House. However, whether you’re Democrat or a Republican, Bannon’s place in the Trump administration should worry you.

As you may see, the Alt-Right sees Donald Trump as their hero since he regularly railed against “political correctness,” Muslims, immigrants, Mexicans, Chinese, and others during his presidential campaign. In return, they’ve worked hard to affix the Alt Right brand to Trump through hashtags and memes as well as become his most enthusiastic supporters. To their glee, Trump has had former Brietbart CEO Steve Bannon to run his campaign as well as be his chief counselor in the White House. Such actions have elevated the Alt-Right into a position of enormous power that they see Trump as a way to get their ideas out there. And the fact Trump cares more about his own delusional vanity and unfettered opportunism as well as his supporters’ loyalty more than concepts like ethics and common sense or decency makes him a perfect vessel indeed. It also helps that Trump managed to secure a presidential victory by calling the government corrupt, assailing the Republican establishment, flouting almost every rule of political etiquette racial or otherwise, and that he did little to put the public at ease with the matter. Now most Alt-Righters don’t see Trump as a rabid white nationalist, but his racist rhetoric has gotten them happily on board since he helps their cause in more ways they could ever dream of. He even has former Brietbart CEO Steve Bannon as one of his closest advisers, which should seriously worry you.

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Before he worked in Trump’s campaign, Steve Bannon was the CEO of Brietbart which he turned into the platform of the Alt-Right. Though he’s denied it’s racist, his white nationalist views often echo those of his devotees. As one of Trump’s closest advisers, he’s proven to be very influential in his campaign as well as in his presidency. And it poses a very serious problem since he is a very vile man.

Though Steve Bannon has denied that the Alt-Right is inherently racist, evidence says otherwise. His tenure at Brietbart itself transformed what once was a regular conservative website into the go-to platform for the Alt-Right plunging into the ugliest dregs of conservatism while praising white nationalist groups as an “eclectic mix of renegades.” In short, it was under Bannon that Brietbart became notorious for pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness while its comment section turned into a white supremacist meme maker cesspool. And it’s clear Bannon’s views often echo those of his devotees. He called Islam “a political ideology” and Sharia law “like Nazism, fascism, and communism.” On his Sirius XM radio show, he praised noted Islamophobe Pamela Geller whom he described as, “one of the leading experts in the country, if not the world,” on Islam. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative as an Anti-Muslim hate group. And he even endorsed House Speaker Paul Ryan’s primary challenger, businessman Paul Nehlen who floated the idea of deporting all Muslims from the US. On the front of minorities, Bannon credited now Attorney General Jeff Sessions with laying “this populist nationalist” groundwork. Sessions has suggested that civil rights advocacy groups were “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” and his racist views prevented his appointment to a federal judgeship in the 1980s. In a lengthy July post, Bannon attacked the “Left” for engaging in “a plot to take down America” by focusing on police shootings of African Americans. He went on arguing that the Dallas cops were killed by a “by a #BlackLivesMatter-type activist-turned-sniper.” He also accused the media of an Orwellian “bait-and-switch as reporters and their Democratic allies and mentors seek to twist the subject from topics they don’t like to discuss—murderers with evil motives—to topics they do like to discuss, such as gun control.” And he added, “[H]ere’s a thought: What if the people getting shot by the cops did things to deserve it? There are, after all, in this world, some people who are naturally aggressive and violent.” Since Bannon took over Brietbart the site took a rabidly anti-immigrant tone, often hyping reports of immigrant crimes with tabloid like headlines and attacking Republicans favoring immigration reform. Bannon is even a noted anti-Semite who refused to send his daughters to a certain private school because he thought too many Jews went there and were raised to be whiny brats. Former Brietbart editor Ben Shapiro received a torrent of anti-Semitic tweets after announcing the birth of his second child. One read, “Into the gas chamber with all 4 of you,” while another depicted his family as lampshades. Former Brietbart critic Bethany Mandel was harassed on Twitter for months being called names like, “slimy Jewess” and told that she deserved the oven. We should also note that Bannon has been married 3 times as well as been charged with domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness. And that his second wife only dropped the charges due to threats made by Bannon and his lawyer. Brietbart staffers who resisted its transformation into this pro-Trump, alt-right hub eventually resigned in protest with several jumping ship after then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski manhandled reporter Michelle Fields (with the site siding with Lewandowski and staffers being told not to question his account). Former staffers who called out Brietbart for their ugly ways received a shitload of retaliation. It should be noted that Bannon is a very bad guy who shouldn’t be in such a powerful position at the White House. And as far as the Alt-Right is concerned, Bannon is their man in the Trump administration, as vile he certainly is.

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As one of Trump’s most trusted advisers at the White House, Steve Bannon plays a key role in shaping his national policies that will hostile to immigrants and minorities. Bannon was certainly behind Trump’s Muslim ban as well as his counter-terrorism policy to focus only on Muslims. Not to mention, Bannon probably recommended Jeff Sessions as Attorney General since he admires the man.

So what does having Bannon in the White House mean for the United States under a Trump presidency? Well, since Bannon has Trump’s ear and has been elevated to his National Security Council, we can expect a presidency that will be hostile to minorities and immigrants. We shouldn’t be surprised that Bannon was behind the appointment of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions who’s a steadfast opponent of civil rights that he was denounced by Coretta Scott King during his federal judge hearing in the 1980s. Or that Bannon’s fingerprints were all over the Muslim travel ban executive order Trump signed a week into his term. Or that Bannon was a key adviser on Trump’s counter-terrorism policy that the government-run program Countering Violent Extremism will solely focus on Islamic terrorism while downgrading the scrutiny of right-wing radicals as well as sever ties with community groups and educational programs that counter-message violent ideologies. Not to mention, the Trump administration wants to build a massive border wall as wells as crack down on sanctuary cities who refuse to cooperate with ICE 100% of the time. Such measures aren’t what’s best for the US and won’t keep Americans safe. In fact, they may put risk putting more American lives in danger as well as trample on people’s rights in the process. Banning Muslim refugees from entering the country gives Islamic terror groups another reason to hate us as well as angers our Muslim allies in the international community. Having Sessions as US Attorney General will be a massive setback for civil rights that will make a Department of Justice one defending great injustices as far as minorities, immigrants, women, the poor, and LGBT communities are concerned. Not only that, but Sessions will let Trump use the DOJ as a political tool for the White House which will let him leverage the federal government’s major law enforcement arm for political gain. for immigration, well, Trump’s wall will certainly not keep undocumented immigrants out and will only amount to a massive waste of taxpayer money. Forcing municipalities to cooperate with ICE will deteriorate relations between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, lead to an increase of civil rights violations, make local governments pursue actions going against their interests, drain local resources and economies without reimbursements, and make localities increasingly vulnerable to liability costs.

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We should understand that a counter-terrorism policy focusing solely on Islamic terror is bad national security policy that won’t keep Americans safe. As of 2017, radical right-wing extremists have committed more attacks and killed more Americans than their jihadist counterparts. And they’ve been seen as a growing threat since the Bush Administration. The fact we have a white nationalist as Trump’s trusted adviser means that there will be no right-wing extremist terror policy in the next 4-8 years. Expect this domestic terrorist problem to get worst since Trump’s victory led to a spike in hate crimes.

However, it’s Trump’s Bannon-inspired terror policy that really worries me. Why? Because a terror policy focusing solely on Islamic terror is simply bad national security. And the fact it includes a Muslim ban only makes it worse. How do I know this? I may not be a national security expert, but I am aware that cultural profiling has never kept Americans safe from terrorism. Because the terrorists posing a bigger threat to America aren’t radical Muslims from the Middle East, but the homegrown white supremacist and anti-government militants of the radical right who may often seem like the guy next door. As of 2017, far right extremists have committed more attacks and killed more Americans than their jihadist extremist counterparts since 9/11. And they’ve been considered a growing threat by US intelligence agencies since the Bush administration while the FBI has reported that white supremacists have infiltrated American law enforcement. The fact we have a known white nationalist at Trump’s right hand means that there will be no radical right counter-terror policy anytime soon in the next 4-8 years. But ignoring the terror problem will not make it go away. In fact, if anything, you can expect our right wing terror problem to get worse since the Trump administration’s hostility toward minorities and immigrants might embolden these anti-government and white supremacist thugs to commit atrocities. This isn’t helped at all that there was a spike of hate crimes immediately following Trump’s election to the presidency while right-wing terror incidents continue to regularly unfold. Or that alt-right platforms like Brietbart may have inspired several radical right terror incidents. We know networks like Fox News had as well as sites like Alex Jones’s conspiracy theory-laden Infowars as well as the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer. And this isn’t helped that right-wing terrorism often gets little media attention in the national spotlight. But when a president decided to ignore the growing threat of right-wing extremist terror, it only bolsters and legitimizes violent white extremism which can make millions of Americans vulnerable to deadly terror attacks. To cut ties with community groups and educational programs working to rehabilitate extremists will not deter any extremism within their communities.

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The Alt-Right may not yet engage in violence as we know it, that doesn’t mean they don’t encourage it. Right-wing terror attacks are rarely orchestrated by lone wolves. Trump’s campaign and election victory have normalized hate and conspiracy theories fueling the Alt-Right into the mainstream and dramatically increasing its visibility. And its growing online presence in social media and increased radicalization shows a dangerous trend. Should the Alt-Right become a force of full-terrorism, don’t expect Trump’s White House to intervene.

Right-wing terror attacks are hardly incidents orchestrated by lone wolves. In fact, many of these so-called “lone wolf” terrorists had direct ties to white nationalist movements. Though the Alt-Right may yet not engage in violence as we know it, they do provide vindication for other radical right wing groups who also strongly support Trump and have committed violent acts against other Americans. Trump’s campaign and election victory has normalized the hate and conspiracy theories fueling the Alt-Right into the political mainstream and dramatically elevating its visibility. And as president with Bannon at his side, it’s very likely Trump will put some of their ideas into national action. Its growing online presence in social media shows that the white nationalist movement is increasing in size and radicalization indicates a much more dangerous trend. And with its vulnerable population, extremist ideology, and capacity for violence, the Alt-Right provides a breeding ground for terrorism. Communities infected by the Alt-Right are fertile ground where extremism can and has taken root. The Alt-Right isn’t going anywhere and as their numbers grow, they’ll seem increasingly inclined to violent rhetoric and radicalized ideology. And it will only be a matter of time before more charismatic and ruthless leaders replace the old order, harness this increased capacity for violence, and elevate the radicalized Alt-Right from a marginalized hate group of Internet trolls to a force of full-blown terrorism. If that happens within a very short time, don’t expect the Trump administration to do anything to address the problem other than label the infiltrators as mentally unstable lone wolves if the attacks receive widespread media attention. Trump has absolutely no interest in combating right-wing extremists as such measures would offend mainstream conservative sensibilities and alienate the radical right extremists who so enthusiastically and vocally supported him. When Trump announced he was to scale back efforts combating right-wing extremism, Daily Stormer editor Andrew Anglin responded, Donald Trump is setting us free. This is absolutely a signal of favor to us. We are not a threat to America, we are American patriots trying to save this country. It is also a slap in the face to the kikes of the SPLC and the ADL who pushed for us to be classified along with actual Islamic terrorists as a way to legally justify outrageous abuses against us by the federal government.” A site called Infostormer replied, “This measure would be the first step to us going fully mainstream, and beginning the process of entering the government in full-force without the fear of being attacked, financially-assailed, and intimidated into silence by the nefarious Jews.” These praises of white nationalist celebration aren’t what you’d want to hear about a president’s counter-terror policy.

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The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was the most devastating domestic terror attack in US history which killed 168 and injured over 600. Timothy McVeigh may have engineered this mass slaughter with Terry Nichols, he was deeply influenced by the white supremacist movement and the anti-government wing of the radical right. Now with right-wing extremism on the rise, if the US government doesn’t crack down on right-wing terror, expect another attack like this.

Right-wing and white supremacist terrorism has happened before in America and has killed people. On April 19, 1995, a 7,000-pound truck bomb made of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and nitromethane racing fuel and packed into 13 plastic barrels, ripped through the heart of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 and injuring over 600. In what was the deadliest terror incident in American history, this mass slaughter was engineered by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols who were steeped in radical right conspiracy theories and white-hot fury over Ruby Ridge and the Waco Siege. Well before Oklahoma City, McVeigh had already got the idea of using a truck bomb to blow up a government building from the infamous novel 1978 novel The Turner Diaries which depicts a violent revolution in the US leading to the overthrow of the federal government, nuclear war, and eventually a race war with Jews, gays, and non-whites exterminated. It has also become according to the Anti-Defamation League, “probably the most widely-read book among far-right extremists; many [of them] have cited it as the inspiration behind their terrorist organizing and activity” and has sold over 500,000 copies as of 2000. About a decade earlier, the book had also inspired Aryan Nations regular Robert Jay Matthews into forming The Order which received widespread attention for its role in the 1984 murder of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg. After Oklahoma City, because it was no longer sufficient for many right-wing terrorists to strike a political significant target and instead aimed for higher body counts. One of these terror plots was a 1997 attempt by three Klu Klux Klan members to bomb a natural gas plant outside Ft. Worth, Texas which would’ve killed as many as 30,000 people had the local Klan leader not gotten cold feet and contacted the FBI. The most recent of these plots was a 2016 attempt by a group called “The Crusaders” to blow up a housing complex that was home to Somali immigrants and a mosque. The fact the FBI reports that white supremacists and other domestic extremists maintain an active presence in US police departments and other law enforcement agencies is particularly troubling. State and local police as well as sheriff’s departments present ample opportunities for right-wing extremists looking to expand their power base. To have an Alt-Righter like Steve Bannon as a chief strategist to a president would be their idea of winning the jackpot. To have extremists in positions of power will only undermine counter-terror efforts as well as abuse their power to victimize the people they’re sworn to protect. In recent years, law enforcement links to right-wing extremist groups have only gotten a lot more troublesome. If the federal government doesn’t step in and crack down on right-wing extremism, we may very well experience another Oklahoma City or worse.

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In the early morning of January 31, 2017, a mosque in Victoria, Texas was destroyed by fire. The authorities ruled it as an arson and the suspect is still at large. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Islamophobia had a part to play since it’s very prominent in American society. In any case, ethnic and religious minority houses of worship tend to be prime targets for right-wing terrorists. If white conservatives continue to deny that right-wing extremism is a problem, then expect more scenes like this.

Nevertheless, while the Alt-Right may be a new to the right-wing extremism scene with its social media recruitment strategy, but their white nationalist beliefs and radicalization methods are not and have been embraced by right-wing extremists long before they were around. Downplaying the right-wing extremist threat won’t make it go away as well as put US national security significantly more at risk. For a president to have Alt-Righters as important advisers in his government only compromise US national security even further. In order to keep America safe from terrorists, our national security policies shouldn’t be about protecting white conservatives’ emotional security and making the Pentagon their safe space. When lives are at stake, we can’t ignore the reality of evil just to protect their tender illusions. Today discussing the threat of right-wing terrorism remains politically controversial that when the Department of Homeland Security addressed the issue in 2009, there was considerable conservative backlash. I know many white Americans don’t want to discuss it and some may even be personally insulted by the term “right-wing terrorism” or “right-wing extremism” and think it applies to them despite that there’s no reason they should be. But there comes a time when we have to tell the public what they don’t want to hear. Because ignoring the very real problem of right-wing extremist terror only exacerbates it, especially if millions of Americans vote for a man who’s refused to disassociate himself from his white supremacist supporters. The failure of right-leaning legislators, pundits, and intellectuals to take a clear stand against the Alt-Right along with other right-wing extremists for the benefit of all carries too high a price not only in American lives and national security, but also in our character since they pose an existential threat to our fundamental values such as pluralism, tolerance, and equality that form the basis of a liberal democracy. Americans can’t afford to keep right-wing extremism off-notice and if the White House doesn’t make it clear in opposing their kind of violence, then Trump’s lenience on right-wing terrorism further solidifies the administration as being on the side of white supremacy. Thus, it must be up to us American citizens to make that threat known and inspire political pressure because for millions of people’s lives and well-being may depend on it.

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A Primer on Sanctuary Cities in the United States

 

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Federal immigration officials often rely on local law enforcement to identify people who may be in violation of immigration laws. But some jurisdictions would refuse to turn over suspected undocumented immigrants to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The process goes as follows. Police arrest immigrants for reasons unrelated to their immigration status and are booked in local jails. There, their fingerprints are taken and eventually shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement which is required by law. ICE will ask officials to hold individuals if they’re in violation of immigration laws while ICE obtains a warrant. County and municipal policies dictate whether to comply, or release the individuals in question. Depending on local criteria, a sanctuary jurisdiction wouldn’t comply.

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Sanctuary cities have been a major topic in recent years and are mainly believed to be liberal metropolises that are riddled with crime. Conservatives often argue in favor of defunding them and they aren’t seen as popular. However, sanctuary communities have been on the rise and not for the reasons conservatives think.

In recent times, the topic of sanctuary cities has attracted a lot of attention since undocumented immigration is a very controversial subject almost everyone has an opinion about. And this issue has been pushed by Republicans who call sanctuary cities as a crime ridden hellholes that should be defunded in order to get with the program. Congressional Republicans have introduced bills targeting these places, while Republican governors and state legislators have enacted policies banning them. Either way, Republican politicians have campaigned against sanctuary cities during the 2016 election. And now newly President Cheeto Pussygrabber has signed an executive order directing the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to defund sanctuary jurisdictions refusing to comply with federal immigration law. Also, he issued the Department of Homeland Security to begin issuing public reports including, “a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.” However, a George Mason law professor argued that Mr. Raging Orange Rug Hair’s withholding of federal funding to these places would be unconstitutional: “Trump and future presidents could use [the executive order] to seriously undermine constitutional federalism by forcing dissenting cities and states to obey presidential dictates, even without authorization from Congress. The circumvention of Congress makes the order a threat to separation of powers, as well.” Nevertheless, sanctuary communities have been on the rise, especially in my home state of Pennsylvania where they now consist of half the state. And it’s likely that Pittsburgh may be on its way. Though that hasn’t stopped the State House from passing an anti-sanctuary bill mandating that these counties and municipalities honor ICE requests to hold a person in custody for at least 48 hours or else no state grants for law enforcement.

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Here is Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. In 2016, he distinguished himself as a high profile opponent of sanctuary cities and has proposed to defund these criminal hellholes. But in a sick twist of irony, one of these would be his home county of Lehigh which became the setting for a major case that made sanctuary communities much more popular in Pennsylvania.

So what are sanctuary cities? Are they really as horrible as they say? And why have they been on the rise in recent years? You might think these policies are designed to protect undocumented immigrants. But the reality is far more complicated than what most people even imagine. And they’re often so misunderstood. Perhaps I can show you an FAQ to answer your questions.

What is a sanctuary city?

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When people think about sanctuary cities, they often think of San Francisco. However, sanctuary cities is kind of misnomer since sanctuary polices have been adopted by states as well as all kinds of municipalities. Sometimes this is through written policy while other times it’s through certain practices. These policies and practices differ throughout jurisdictions. However, just to be convenient we’re just going to define sanctuary jurisdictions as places who refuse to honor ICE detainers by themselves for whatever reason.

A sanctuary city is a jurisdiction that’s adopted a policy protecting undocumented immigrants by not prosecuting them for violating federal immigration laws in the country in which they’re now living. Such policy can be set out expressly in law (as in local ordinance) or observed only in practice (like a don’t ask, don’t tell policy). It generally applies to cities that don’t use municipal funds or resources to enforce nationally immigration laws and usually forbid police or municipal employees to inquire about a person’s immigration status. The designation has no precise legal meaning. Policies and practices differ throughout the country.

How many sanctuary cities are there?

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This map is from a study at Temple University in Philadelphia. It shows how each county in the state deals with ICE detainer requests. I should also like to point out that many of these sanctuary counties don’t like to be viewed as such and went for Trump in 2016. And they’re certainly not the places you think of when we talk about sanctuary cities.

According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, sanctuary policies limiting how much local police can cooperate with requests from federal authorities to hold immigrants in detention are present in 4 states, 39 cities, and 364 counties. These include almost every county in Colorado, Oregon, and New York as well as most of Florida as well as California, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut, and several major cities on the East Coast. And they’re not just limited to liberal and urban areas either. For instance, if you look at a map of Pennsylvania from a study at Temple, you’d notice that there are sanctuary policies in my home jurisdiction of Westmoreland County as well as in Fayette, Washington, Somerset, Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Erie, Blair, and Bedford as of 2017. And the ones I just described have only had sanctuary policies in their books since September. All of these counties went for Trump in 2016 and probably would rather see the undocumented living among them deported. Which is why local officials try to distance themselves from the loaded “sanctuary” label.

Are sanctuary cities legal?

It’s hard to say. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 has outlawed cities’ bans against municipal workers’ reporting people’s immigration status to federal authorities as well as established minor crimes as grounds for deportation. Its Section 287(g) allows state and local law enforcement personnel to enter into agreements with the federal government to be trained in immigration enforcement that would help them enforce immigration law. But it provides no general power for immigration enforcement by state and local authorities. However, such provision was only implemented by state and local authorities in California, Arizona, Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina as of 2006. Furthermore, 8 U.S. Code § 1373 states that “a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” Opponents state that the Justice Department requires that most federal grant money recipients certify their compliance to federal law, which sanctuary cities violate by not asking about, recording, or submitting their residents’ immigration status to the feds.

However, though federal officials usually have to rely on local police to help enforce federal immigration laws, the law doesn’t necessarily require local authorities to detain undocumented immigrants because their federal counterparts make a request. In fact, federal courts across the country have found complying with requests is usually voluntary. To back it up, supporters often cite the Tenth Amendment that according the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, prevents the, “federal government from coercing state or local governments to use their resources to enforce a federal regulatory program, like immigration.” Thus, Congress can’t force state or local governments to collect immigrant status information in order to share it with the Feds. And because these places never collected the data in the first place, they didn’t violate federal law. Some even believe enforcing immigration should only be left to the federal government and that local law enforcement should stay out of it. So let’s just say it’s a legal tossup at the moment.

Are sanctuary cities a new thing?

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Sanctuary cities have been in California for years thanks to the Sanctuary Movement. However, while many think that California metro areas adopt these policies due to liberal leanings, we also have to account for the fact that undocumented immigrants play a key role in the state’s economy and society, especially in low-income jobs. Not to mention, past instances have led authorities focus more on building relationships with immigrant communities in order to solve crimes. In other words, local law enforcement needs undocumented immigrants to be able to contact them without fear of deportation.

No. Los Angeles was the first to initiate a sanctuary city policy in 1979 to prevent police from inquiring about arrestees’ immigration status. The internal “Special Order 40” states: “Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. Officers shall not arrest nor book persons for violation of title 8, section 1325 of the United States Immigration code (Illegal Entry).” Certain other cities have followed suit during the 1980s and after. Though recent years have also contributing other jurisdictions to the same.

So when did sanctuary cities become a national issue?

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Sanctuary cities have become more of a high profile issue in recent years due to their reputation of harboring undocumented immigrants. And much of it has been opposition by Republicans who have no idea why jurisdictions would implement these policies in the first place. This especially apparent with Pat Toomey who opposes sanctuary polices while his home Lehigh County has adopted them. And for a very good reason.

The issue entered in the national spotlight with the 2008 GOP presidential primary when Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo ran on an anti-illegal immigration platform and specifically attacked sanctuary cities. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney also accused former mayor Rudy Giuliani of running New York City as one. Giuliani’s campaign returned the favor saying that Romney ran a sanctuary in the Governor’s mansion and that New York City isn’t a “haven” for undocumented immigrants.

Then there were reports of a series of crimes. In late June 2009, 3 undocumented immigrants were suspected of murdering a waitress in Albuquerque, New Mexico (one of whom was not deported despite being arrested for two prior DUI incidents). Then mayoral candidate Richard J. Berry decried the city’s sanctuary policy and vowed to eliminate it if elected. He defeated incumbent Mayor Martin Chavez that year.

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Kathryn Steinle’s murder by an undocumented immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez in 2015 had sparked a national debate about sanctuary cities. And it led to a piece of congressional legislation known as “Kate’s Law” which targeted undocumented immigrants with criminal records and multiple deportations. But as of 2017, no vote has been held.

In 2015, an undocumented immigrant with multiple deportations shot Kathryn Steinle dead in San Francisco which sparked controversy and political debate over its place as a sanctuary city. In addition, many Republican presidential candidates would blame the sanctuary city policy for Steinle’s murder and encourage the need for a secure border wall. Donald Trump would also use the incident to criticize Jeb Bush and as a rationale to deport undocumented immigrants in the US.

Meanwhile, Congress would author The Establishing Mandatory Minimums for Illegal Reentry Act of 2015 or Kate’s Law which would’ve amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to increase from two years to five years the maximum prison term for an alien who reenters after being denied admission, excluded, deported, or removed. It also would’ve established a 10-year maximum prison sentence for an alien reentering after being denied admission, excluded, deported, or removed on 3 or more prior occasions and 5-year mandatory minimum prison term for an alien who reenters after being removed following a conviction for an aggravated felony or following 2 or more prior convictions for illegal reentry.

Do sanctuary cities increase crime?

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Despite that conservatives have pointed out how sanctuary policies contribute to more crime, there is absolutely no evidence supporting that argument. However, there is evidence that might suggest that sanctuary policies might do the opposite.

According to a study by University of California at Riverside assistant professor Loren Collingwood, sanctuary policies don’t have any statistically meaningful effect on crime.

A study by associate professor Tommy K. Wong of the University of California, San Diego draws a different conclusion. “Crime is statistically significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties,” he wrote in a paper for the Center of American Progress. “Moreover, economies are stronger in sanctuary counties—from higher median household income, less poverty, and less reliance on public assistance to higher labor force participation, higher employment-to-population ratios, and lower unemployment.” The study evaluated sanctuary and non-sanctuary cities, “while controlling for differences in population, the foreign-born percentage of the population, and the percentage of the population that is Latino.”

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Local law enforcement in sanctuary jurisdictions often admit that they rely on undocumented immigrants to come forward and report crimes. The fact undocumented immigrants are more likely to be crime victims than anyone else and more afraid to contact the police shows why.

We should also account that local law enforcement officials favor sanctuary policies and have said they don’t want the job of enforcing federal immigration laws. In addition, they admit to relying on immigrants in their communities to come forward to report crimes. The fact undocumented immigrants are most likely to be crime victims and least likely to report crimes to the police illustrates why many police view sanctuary cities this way. Undocumented immigrants who don’t live in sanctuary jurisdictions are frequently discouraged from reporting crimes to police due to fears of deportation. And these deportation fears can limit law enforcement access to potential victims, witnesses, informants, and neighborhood advocates. Many police often say that honoring ICE detainer requirements could scare people away and don’t want law-abiding undocumented immigrants to be afraid to contact them in order to report a crime.

Do sanctuary city policies prevent police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities?

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Contrary to popular belief, while sanctuary policies may restrict police from cooperating with federal authorities, they don’t prevent it entirely. Most of the time, sanctuary policies restrict ICE cooperation with law enforcement on certain criteria. For instance, a sanctuary jurisdiction may refuse to honor ICE detainer requests because the individual warrant out against them or a criminal record to speak of. Or that the detainer isn’t backed up by a warrant from a judge.

Most sanctuary policies only limit police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities on undocumented immigrants with no criminal record to speak of. Let’s just say every jurisdiction is different but most of the time sanctuary policies specify that local authorities can’t hand over undocumented immigrants to ICE solely due to their immigration status, on minor crimes, or without any judicial warrant or court order. None of these protective policies prevent police from pursuing immigrants who commit felonies. According to a Department of Justice inspector general report, some jails in sanctuary areas only comply with a detainer request when the inmate has prior felony convictions, gang membership, or is on a terrorist watchlist. Others may reject every detainer request as well as refuse any kind of collaboration with ICE. In my home Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, county prison staff don’t accept ICE detainers unless they have a judicially authorized warrant or court order. Otherwise, the ICE detainer will be sent back to the agent. But while Westmoreland County said they’d inform ICE if a suspected undocumented immigrant is being released, most cooperation ends here. Washington County does the same thing as well as put the detainers on file for future reference. Meanwhile, Butler County’s sanctuary policy expressly forbids ICE agents from accessing the county jail or those in custody for investigative purpose. Butler also prohibits officials from using county resources to communicate with ICE regarding inmates. So whether sanctuary policies prevent local police from cooperating with ICE varies from jurisdiction.

Why would any place want to adopt sanctuary policies?

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If you want to understand why jurisdictions would adopt sanctuary policies, we should understand the Secure Communities program which was supposed to encourage federal, state, and local cooperation on deporting criminal undocumented immigrants. However, the Secure Communities program was riddled with problems, had unclear constitutionality, and resulted in incidents of abuse.

During the height of the country’s undocumented immigration challenges before the recession, law enforcement officials in some communities expressed concerns about releasing these inmates after they’ve serve time for state offenses. Some of these communities entered agreements to help federal authorities with immigration enforcement. These arrangements allowed local jails to house undocumented immigrants after they served time on state charges and bill the federal government for this service. Sometimes they passed these inmates to jails without any formal notice to family members, then into the immigration court system for an expedited removal hearing. A lot of times, people were returned to their home countries in weeks. By 2011, the Secure Communities program had been deporting more than 400,000 people per year and had over 1,210 jurisdictions participating.

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The Secure Communities program was often criticized for many of its inherent flaws such has lack of recognition of civil rights and due process as well as lack of transparency and oversight. Studies showed that most of the arrestees who were deported didn’t have any serious criminal record to speak of. There may be constitutional issues as well.

Critics often said the Secure Communities Program could generate a revenue stream for local prisons as well as violate international human rights accords. Many localities and states reported not being reimbursed for costs relating to their participation and saw the program as a strain on their resources. Civil liberties organizations called it a vehicle for cultural profiling. Some people couldn’t talk to their embassy officials from their countries or notify family members of their arrests, basically disappearing without explanation.More than one analysis of deportees and what happened during the process showed that most of these people were initially arrested for minor traffic violations, had no criminal records to speak of, or were low-level offenders who served their time. A 2011, Berkeley study showed that only 52% of Secure Communities arrestees were scheduled to have a hearing before a judge and out of those who had, only 24% were represented by an attorney. They also found that 88,000 families that included US citizens had a relative arrested under the program and that 3,600 of arrestees were US citizens. Immigrant advocates said the program deeply damaged already limited police trust in immigrant communities, making people afraid to call the cops or provide information, which these advocates saw as a threat to public safety. Thus, making these places harder to police. Also a number of court cases implied that the “detainer requests” might be unconstitutional and put cities in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Then there are have been reports that the Secure Communities program didn’t have clear complaint mechanisms as well as a lack of transparency and oversight.

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Ernesto Galarza was a part-time construction worker who was illegally held at the Lehigh County jail for 3 days pursuant of an ICE detainer without a warrant, court order, or an explanation. And the ICE detainer was issued because Allentown police suspected Galarza may be an undocumented immigrant. Even though he carried a state driver’s license and his Social Security card as well as told police he was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. His case sent a broad message that if local jurisdictions choose to honor ICE detainer requests, they’ll have to face the consequences if it’s against the wrong people. Such ruling has been a driving force for jurisdictions across Pennsylvania adopting sanctuary policies.

Then there’s the matter with ICE issuing detainer requests they use to gain custody of undocumented immigrants for deportation. Detainer requests aren’t supported by a finding of probable cause or court order. In other words, it’s someone could have an ICE detainer on them on mere suspicion of an undocumented immigration status which can result in being detained for more than 48 hours. So it’s no surprise that some legal experts have questioned these ICE detainers’ constitutionality. In November 2008, Allentown police arrested a part-time construction worker named Ernesto Galarza in a drug bust at his workplace on a drug offense of which he was found innocent. At the time of his arrest, Galarza showed his state driver’s license and Social Security Card from his wallet and told local officials he was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, which should’ve made his US citizenship obvious to law enforcement. However, because Galarza was Hispanic, the arresting officer was apparently unsure about his citizenship and called ICE. ICE issued a detainer asking prison officials to hold Galarza while ICE investigated his citizenship and immigration status. As a result, Galarza was illegally held in the Lehigh County Prison for 3 days past when he should’ve been released with no warrant, no court order, and no explanation. And it was all because of racial profiling among local law enforcement as well as ICE agents’ baseless assertion that he might be an undocumented immigrant from the Dominican Republic they were looking for. Galarza lost his part-time job because of this. In March 2014, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia found Lehigh County violated Galarza’s constitutional rights. Furthermore, the court ruled his detainer was only a request for help, not a binding order such as a federal warrant signed by a magistrate and that local governments have to pay damages for violating the rights of criminal suspects and jail inmates, not ICE. In other words, because Lehigh chose to honor the ICE detainer which resulted in a citizen’s wrongful imprisonment, it’s on them. After having to pay Galarza $95,000 in damages and attorney’s fees, the Lehigh County commissioners voted unanimously not to imprison people solely on ICE detainers against them. Other Pennsylvania counties followed suit figuring that it was safer to break federal immigration law than accidentally violate a citizen’s civil rights. Because if a local cop can get an ICE detainer against someone on merely suspecting their legal status, then it’s the federal immigration policy with the problem.

Do undocumented immigrants commit more crime than others?

To put it this way, absolutely not. Immigrants of all kinds are actually much less likely to commit crimes than native born citizens regardless of legal status. Not only that, the possibility of deportation usually gives immigrants a high incentive to obey the law. However, undocumented immigrants are far more likely to be crime victims because they’re least likely to report to the police due to threats of deportation. Now there may be some undocumented immigrants who are criminals, but the count’s not as high as 2-3 million. DHS estimates about 1.9 million while the Migration Policy Institute and Pew Research Center approximates 820,000 with some already incarcerated. Still, we should understand that undocumented crime is far less of a problem in localities than undocumented immigrants shunning contact with the police.

What about the shooting of Kathryn Steinle?

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The murder of Kathyrn Steinle is often used as a talking point for cracking down on sanctuary cities. Is San Francisco’s sanctuary policy at fault? To an extent. But despite being deported 5 times, Juan Lopez-Sanchez was a low-level drug offender who served his time. So prior to shooting Steinle with a stolen gun, there was very little reason he’d pose a danger upon his release.

I know this story is often used by sanctuary city opponents on how San Francisco’s refusal to honor a detainer for Juan Lopez-Sanchez requesting that they keep him until ICE agents arrived cost a young woman’s life. Sure Lopez-Sanchez was a convicted felon who’ve been deported 5 times. However, there’s a lot that’s misunderstood about this case. For one, Lopez-Sanchez wasn’t a violent criminal and his record mostly consisted of reentry violations and drug offense all of which he served time on. The only real danger he posed to society was endangering those who bought drugs from him. So at best he was a low-level offender who served his time. Also, multiple deportations aren’t unusual for undocumented immigrants even for those without criminal records. Not to mention, Lopez-Sanchez had been homeless since his release. Second, the reason San Francisco didn’t honor ICE’s request was because Lopez-Sanchez had no active warrant for his arrest upon his release as consistent with their sanctuary city policy upon his release from prison. Yet, while the sheriff’s failure to notify ICE about Lopez-Sanchez’s release may have cost Steinle’s life since he had no active arrest warrant, it doesn’t mean that San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy is solely at fault. And if it is, it could be easily remedied with placing rules requiring law enforcement to notify ICE on individuals with criminal history upon their release. Other sanctuary jurisdictions do that. Third, it’s very likely that Steinle’s death was an accident because Lopez-Sanchez had absolutely no idea who she was. And it’s very unlikely that he fired that stolen gun in order to kill her because he might’ve fired toward the ground before the bullet ricocheted from the pavement. Fourth, it’s very likely Steinle’s death was due to failures at the local, state, and federal levels. Sure San Francisco’s sanctuary policy may be partly to blame. Yet, the Bureau of Prisons could’ve also handed Lopez-Sanchez to ICE instead of San Francisco. Hell, they could’ve just turned him over to a California state penitentiary. Or pass laws requiring people to lock their guns before leaving them in a car. Or maybe put Lopez-Sanchez in a halfway house so he wouldn’t be shooting a gun in the street.

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The fact Lopez-Sanchez is an undocumented immigrant is only reason why Steinle’s death has generated such political outcry. However, had Lopez-Sanchez been a native-born US citizen, Steinle’s death would’ve been just as senseless and tragic. But nobody would blame it on San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy or that he should’ve been deported.

However, we should also note that prisons release crooks who go on to commit violent crimes all the time even for drug offenses like Lopez-Sanchez. Usually nobody says that such crimes could’ve been prevented had they been deported. Because most of these criminals were born in the United States. I’m sure the Bureau of Prisons has handed over US-born criminals to San Francisco authorities all the time as well as for crimes Lopez-Sanchez was charged with. It’s probably not unusual that San Francisco releases US-born prisoners without active warrants against them after they serve their time. And I’m certain it’s not unheard of for a US-born ex-con with a record like Lopez-Sanchez to kill someone shortly afterwards. Does any of that lead us to doubt whether our criminal justice system is too lenient? Sometimes. Yet, if Lopez-Sanchez was a native-born US citizen, would any politician blame San Francisco’s sanctuary policy and failure to deport him for Steinle’s death? No. Would Steinle’s murder have gotten the kind of attention it received? No. Because Lopez-Sanchez’s status as an undocumented immigrant is the sole reason why Steinle’s murder is so often used by immigration opponents to illustrate how sanctuary cities threaten public safety. But if Lopez-Sanchez wasn’t undocumented, he still would’ve posed just as much of a danger as any other violent criminal. And Steinle’s death would’ve been just as senseless and tragic even if covered just like any other murder case.

Why support sanctuary cities?

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Sanctuary jurisdictions have many reasons to implement the kind of policies they do. Sometimes it’s because undocumented immigrants contribute so much to their society. Sometimes it could be that police would rather build relationships with immigrant communities and solve crimes than enforce immigration law. And sometimes it might be due to the area having limited resources and bigger priorities, having bad experiences with ICE, and a desire to avoid legal entanglements.

Other than basic human decency and keeping families together, supporters argue that cities have bigger priorities and too few resources to handle immigration enforcement. Many local policymakers and law enforcement agencies say that immigration enforcement isn’t their responsibility and that cracking down on undocumented residents disrupts community relations and make it more difficult to do their jobs. Cops prefer to focus on routine incidents in their localities than check whether a suspect, victim, or witness is legally on US soil. Yet, supporters note that none of their protective policies in any way prevent local police from pursuing immigrants suspected of committing crimes. In places like California, it might also be due to the vital role undocumented immigrants play in its economy and society as well as their large Latino population. You can say the same for many major cities as well as areas of Colorado and Florida. Then there’s the fact a lot of these places have endured a lot of bad experiences when they did cooperate with ICE, particularly during the Secure Communities program. For the recent rise in sanctuary counties in Pennsylvania, it has less to do with favoring undocumented immigration and more to do with avoiding expensive litigation, having limited jail space, not getting paid honoring ICE detainers, and others. Because honoring ICE detainers and racial profiling in local law enforcement have led to US citizens being illegally detained as illustrated in the Galarza case in Senator Pat Toomey’s home in Lehigh County. And since detainer requests aren’t binding orders, these local governments are usually stuck with paying the most in damages over civil rights violations, which Lehigh didn’t want to repeat. In the case of Armstrong County, the federal government didn’t reimburse their costs at the desired rate when they did hold people for ICE as well as having a jail typically operating at capacity.

Why oppose sanctuary cities?

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Opponents on sanctuary policies often argue that they undermine federal enforcement efforts and compromising public safety that leads to preventable crimes. But opponents often stereotype sanctuary jurisdictions as places that are riddled with crime and lawlessness. Rather than a place that might be similar to where they live.

Opponents argue that sanctuary policies encourage undocumented immigration, undermine federal enforcement efforts, and severely compromise public safety resulting in crimes that could’ve been avoided through deportation. Furthermore, they believe that sanctuary policies keep police from investigating, questioning, and arresting people who’ve broken federal immigration law.

Is there a moral basis for sanctuary cities?

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Though the legal basis of sanctuary policies may be in limbo, the moral basis is very much sound. I mean it should be a no brainer to keep families together as well as relieve law-abiding residents of deportation fears. Besides, sanctuary policies might be the best morally solution available at the moment.

Though the legal question of sanctuary cities can be debated, the moral question may not be the case. From what I know about undocumented immigrants, most of them came to this country illegal because the federal immigration system didn’t give them any legally viable options. Most of them have been in the US for at least 10 years while some came as children who grew up calling this country home. Many children who are US citizens and even American spouses. And despite entering illegally, most undocumented immigrants hold jobs, pay taxes, obey most of the laws, celebrate national holidays, and make contributions to society in ways most Americans don’t recognize. Furthermore, most undocumented immigrants come to the US for a better life than the one they left behind, not to commit crimes that endanger public safety. The fact federal immigration policy subjects their very presence as grounds for deportation has resulted in communities wary of law enforcement, thousands of broken families, and hundreds of kids in foster homes. And there is no good way for them to gain legal status or even citizenship. Ignoring an unjust federal immigration policy by providing a safe haven for these people may not be legal, but it’s probably the best moral solution available. But since President Cheeto Fuzz assumed office, you can forget the prospect of much needed comprehensive immigration reform for the next 4-8 years because that’s just not going to happen. In addition, the fact someone could get an ICE detainer against them because a police officer suspects their legal status has led to incidents of racial profiling and illegally holding American citizens in jail for over 48 hours with no warrant, no court order, and no explanation. In that case, refusing to hold individuals solely on an ICE detainer is morally reasonable. Then there’s the matter that municipalities don’t have the resources to handle immigration enforcement as well as bigger things to worry about. Local police would rather catch criminals than crack down on otherwise law-abiding residents who could help them. To cooperate with ICE may not be in their best interests and may lead local authorities to neglect their civic responsibilities to their constituents. So yes, enacting a sanctuary policy is probably the right thing to do.

Should sanctuary cities be punished for not complying with federal immigration policy?

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If you think sanctuary cities should be defunded because they’re crime ridden areas sheltering undocumented immigrants, you might want to check if you live in one and why. If you live in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, you should really reconsider because it’s a sanctuary county. I swear I didn’t make this up. Look it up.

No. Despite that sanctuary policies may or may not go against federal law, I don’t think penalizing them is a good idea. Now I do believe that states and localities should adhere to federal law in most cases, especially when it comes to policies involving healthcare, education, civil rights, environmental protection, labor standards, product standards, gun laws, and financial regulation. In many cases, I find that a lot of state and local governments don’t serve their constituents’ best interests, especially when it concerns women, minorities, and the poor. But I do make exceptions when I think federal policy may not be unjust, inadequate, and prone to a lot of abuse particularly when it comes to national policy dealing with undocumented immigrants. The fact states and localities have developed their own policies to dealing with ICE and undocumented immigrants illustrates how federal immigration policy badly needs reform which won’t happen anytime soon. States and localities instituting sanctuary policies have very good reasons to enact them. They may not always be about protecting undocumented immigrants living among them, especially since it’s not just liberal cities adopting these policies. Or in jurisdictions where sanctuary policies would have widespread support like in rural and suburban Pennsylvania.Thus, penalizing sanctuary jurisdictions won’t be a very good idea in any case because they’re clearly not the problem. Sanctuary policies are more like a flawed and necessary substitute to work around a broken immigration system that needed to be fixed a long time ago but hasn’t. The best deterrence would be to pass comprehensive immigration reform which opens a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as well as requiring ICE detainers be issued with warrants and court orders. Now that I think about it, perhaps instead of punishing sanctuary jurisdictions, maybe our politicians should spend time in them and learn about their policies and why they enact them. And perhaps put those policies into congressional legislation. We can start by making US Senator Pat Toomey spend his congressional recess at his Allentown home for he really needs to know why Lehigh County enacted the kind of sanctuary policy he’s so vigorously opposed as well as a lesson on Galarza v. Szalczyk. Nevertheless, if the US government can’t come up with a federal immigration policy this nation needs, then expect more state and local governments enacting their own ideas to make the best of a sticky situation.

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I end this post by bringing you a picture of the red covered bridge near where I live in the sanctuary jurisdiction of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Let it be known that sanctuary policies aren’t just limited to liberal urban enclaves like San Francisco. They can also exist in rural areas like this that don’t have a lot of liberals in them. Or a lot of people supporting sanctuary policies either. You can even live in a sanctuary jurisdiction and not even know it. Keep that in mind.

The Real Meaning of “America First” and Why It Matters

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For the love of God, please don’t use “America First” as a catchphrase. Seriously, that phrase doesn’t remotely mean what Trump, Republicans, and over 60 million voters think it means. Because it’s a saying with historical roots that evokes one of the ugliest chapters in American history.

Like most of the humanities, history is often an underrated subject that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Sure it may not lead to a lucrative career, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful or necessary. But historical knowledge is often essential when it comes to understanding our world and even ourselves, especially in the realm of politics and government. Though many people might think history class is a waste of time, they are sorely mistaken. To know history is an essential part of being a good citizen in any democratic society because whatever happens in the past doesn’t really go away. What happens in the past affects us in the present as well as becomes part of our heritage. By showing us how we came to be, history also tells us who we are and what we could be. Past events can give us answers on why things happened the way they did. And they can sometimes help us find solutions, especially on what not to do. Yet, though great moments in our history are worth remembering, there are also moments of great sin and shame we shouldn’t forget, especially if their impact persists to this day. Because it’s often said that those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it. Or at least make terrible decisions that might lead to history repeating itself. Those who don’t care to know about history and see no value in it are prone to disrespect the greater humanity. And if a historically illiterate person has political power, then they pose a serious danger to us all.

Even before Donald Trump became president, it’s very clear he doesn’t know much about American history nor does he see the value in knowing it. Sure his campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again” but the kind of past he’s referring to is one of nostalgia for a time in which the United States really wasn’t that great. Nor was it a time that most of us would want to live. At the same time, Trump embodies the absolute worst in our country’s past with his rhetoric of fear and division, his message of racism and xenophobia, his decades long history of corrupt business practices, his disregard for decency, his consummate lying, and his petty vindictiveness. His presidential victory was made possible by the fact Americans are embarrassingly ignorant in civics and history, as statistics widely support this claim. History will not look kindly on the Trump supporters who elected one of the most deplorable individuals of our time to the White House and will in time be deemed morally reprehensible and ultimately forced to explain themselves to their grandchildren. I know these words seem harsh and hard to swallow for many. But as a history major, I know far too well of what happens whenever people support leaders on the wrong side of history. It’s no question that Trump certainly is and that his presidency will be an absolute disaster. And there is no way I can sugar coat it.

Nevertheless, Donald Trump’s historical illiteracy and apathy can be better demonstrated than in his use of the phrase of “America First” that he used as a centerpiece in his campaign. At first, this saying may seem innocent on the surface. But what does “America First” mean exactly? According to Trump, “America First” is just a catchphrase for prioritizing American interests as in, “My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people, and American security, above all else. That will be the foundation of every decision that I will make. America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.” He likens it to an original slogan, telling David Sanger, “To me, America First is a brand-new modern term. I never related it to the past.” In many ways he wants to make it seem like it’s a patriotic affirmation like putting the US first above all else which certainly resonate to the over 60 million Americans who elected him president.

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Contrary to what Trump may say, the phrase “America First” has a long history. But it’s most identified with the America First Committee, a group that opposed US entry into World War II. Though it only lasted for about a year and a half, it was one of the biggest anti-war organizations in US history with members hailing from all walks of life. However, its failure to disown its ugliest supporters would forever poison its reputation.

However, contrary to what Trump may say, the phrase “America First” is actually not a brand-new modern term but one that dates all the way to the early 20th century. The phrase was originally a political slogan for Woodrow Wilson’s reelection campaign in 1915 to echo the isolationist policies he’d later abandon for good reason and is also the name of a credit union based in Utah.And William Randolph Hearst often used the phrase in the 1930s as a nationalistic enthusiasm for crushing the left by hyperbole in his anti-FDR crusade. But the term would become best associated with the America First Committee, an organization whose legacy remarks upon one of the ugliest chapters in modern American history. Originally established by a group of Yale Law students including Quaker Oats heir R. Douglas Stuart Jr., future president Gerald Ford, future Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver, and future US Supreme Court justice Potter Stuart, the America First Committee was the foremost non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into World War II. At its peak, it boasted over 800,000 paid members in 450 chapters and was one of the largest anti-war organizations in American history. It also claimed a lot of prominent members from all across the political spectrum and all walks of life. Some were millionaire financial backers like Henry Ford, General Robert E. Wood of Sears-Roebuck, meatpacker Jay Hormel, banker William J. Grace, Sterling Morton of Morton Salt, textile manufacturer William Regnery, publisher Joseph M. Patterson of the New York Daily News, and publishers Robert R. McCormick of the Chicago Tribune. Political supporters of the AFC included US Senate Democrats Burton K. Wheeler of Montana and David I. Walsh of Massachusetts, North Dakota Republican Senator Gerald P. Nye, and Socialist leader Norman Thomas. Another was Washington socialite Alice Roosevelt Longworth who was also a former president’s daughter, the then-current First Lady’s cousin, the then-president’s distant cousin, widow to a Speaker of the House, a former mistress and baby mama to a US Senator, and sister to a future Medal of Honor recipient. Oh, and her baby daddy Republican Senator William A. Borah of Idaho supported the AFC, too. The American First Committee even had celebrity allies such as novelist Sinclair Lewis, poet E. E. Cummings, Walt Disney, silent-screen icon and actress Lillian Gish, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, novelist Kathleen Norris, and most importantly famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. Future president John F. Kennedy and author Gore Vidal were also AFC members.

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Though hard to believe today, the reasons why many Americans didn’t want to fight Nazi Germany in 1940 are somewhat understandable. After all, many saw World War I as a meaningless bloodbath between imperialistic European powers that the US had no business in. And many thought the war in Europe at the time would be the same way.

Of course, you should know that Adolf Hitler had already invaded Poland by this point and posed a significant threat to European nations who stood in his way as Great Britain was experiencing its shittiest year of the war while France and Belgium fell to the Nazis. Oh, and a militarist Japan was causing all kinds of hell for Asian countries and/or European colonial possessions in the Pacific but their front won’t be the main focus for awhile. The standard rationale for the American First Committee was that the United States was protected by 2 oceans and its vast land mass, and that intervention in Europe would turn out no better than it had in WWI. While most Americans rooted for the Allies in 1940 (85% according to a Fortune poll), they didn’t want to do anything that would help them win either. After all, the US already did that in 1917 during World War I which strongly divided the American public and didn’t seem like a conflict the country should’ve gotten involved in. Yet, after the British found Germany trying to provoke a Mexican reconquista on the American southwest, maintaining neutrality was impossible. Then there’s the fact the US was home to so many European immigrants who didn’t want to support a country they didn’t like or be thoroughly demonized as the enemy. Not to mention, the US lost about 110,000 troops during this time, including 43,000 to the influenza pandemic and they were only in the war for a little more than a year while isolationism was such a powerful influence that the US Senate refused US entry into the League of Nations despite it being among Wilson’s Fourteen Points or at least on his terms. Though Gary Gerstle would prefer the term unilateralism in which the US should be free act in the world to preserve its own interests like it had in Latin America and the Pacific. And since WWI seems like a meaningless bloodbath provoked by an archduke assassination, well, you can see why Americans wouldn’t want to be entangled in another European conflict. Then there’s the fact Britain and France participated in imperialism with colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific which comes with the usual human rights violations.

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The America First Committee was often highly critical of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as opposed his Lend-Lease policy. On one hand, he did promise to uphold neutrality while attempting to maximize Allied support. But on the other hand, even when neutrality was popular most Americans wanted the Allies to win. FDR understood that the US would have to get involved in the war sooner or later.

Even before World War II kicked off with Hitler’s Polish invasion, most Americans demanded US neutrality on Europe that Congress passed a series of neutrality acts to keep the government from supporting either side. Though in practice, it was to keep FDR from corresponding with Winston Churchill and sending support to Britain. Because the Axis powers were widely disliked in the country, anyway.  Yet, though FDR promised to keep the US out of the war, he attempted to maximize support for the Allies on the side while skirting if not actually violating the principle of neutrality. The America First Committee profoundly distrusted him for this and harshly accused FDR of lying to the American people. Sure FDR probably acted dishonestly but to be fair, he understood that many of these Allied European nations were fighting for their lives. And he realized if Americans wanted the Allies to win, then the US government would have to help them. But the AFC criticized and opposed him at every step, especially when he decided to seek a third term and proposed Lend-Lease in early 1941 both of which most Americans supported anyway. Besides, though most Americans might not be happy with intervention, they’d be willing to so if US involvement was necessary to defeat fascism which only became increasingly apparent as 1941 went on particularly when Hitler stabbed Stalin in the back by invading Russia.

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Though America First often tried to brand itself as a mainstream anti-war organization, it included members whose views had more to do with their anti-Semitism, pro-fascism, xenophobia, and Nazi sympathies. Unfortunately, America First refused to disown these ugly elements and would later be defined by them as you see in this Dr. Seuss cartoon.

So where does the historical baggage come in? Because all you say about the American First Committee was that it was a bipartisan anti-war group opposing US entry into WWII for pretty justifiable reasons. However, not everyone in the America First Committee opposed US intervention over the catastrophes of World War I or in the name of general pacifism. Nor was it just a group for FDR haters either. Though the AFC was harshly critical toward him and many of his opponents joined up as a way of primarily attacking the guy for his New Deal. The AFC also included more than its fair share of people whose views had more to do with their anti-Semitism, pro-fascism, and xenophobia. Some members were even said to be Nazi sympathizers. Such facts weren’t helped from the fact that the AFC so staunchly wanted to preserve American neutrality even if it meant urging the government to be nice to Hitler. Nor that it counted prominent anti-Semites of the day among its ranks. Or that several prominent AFC members believed that old-fashioned democracy was in decline and that a modern, energetic fascism represented a The Wave of the Future as Anne Morrow Lindbergh titled her 1940 booklet. She even took her pro-fascist position one step further in her book by calling US sign a pact with Germany similar to Hitler’s Non-Aggression Treaty with Josef Stalin. Naturally, the Roosevelt administration attacked the book as “the bible of every American Nazi, Fascist, Bundist and Appeaser” and it was among the most despised books of the period. She also called Hitler “a very great man, like an inspired religious leader—and as such rather fanatical—but not scheming, not selfish, not greedy for power” in a letter. As America First tried to brand itself as a mainstream organization, the anti-Semitic attitudes and Nazi sympathies of some of its leaders and many of its members began to emerge. And their refusal to disown their ugliest supporters would be its fatal flaw. According to historian Susan Dunn in a CNN article from last April, “It had to remove from its executive committee not only the notoriously anti-Semitic Henry Ford but also Avery Brundage, the former chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee who had prevented two Jewish runners from the American track team in Berlin in 1936 from running in the finals of the 4×100 relay.” And America First’s anti-Semitic problems only became worse when Charles Lindbergh was recruited as their spokesman.

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The most famous face of America First was none other than famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, best known for his nonstop solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927. In 1940, he was a lauded as a national hero in the US. But in 1941, that was soon to change.

Now Charles Lindbergh was a natural choice to represent the America First Committee. For one, he was a major celebrity who was universally loved for his nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic. He was also relatively handsome and had a lovely family that would eventually include 5-6 children. Of course, his oldest child had already been kidnapped and murdered which was reported so exhaustively and sensationally by the press that it became known as “The Crime of the Century.” Second, he had no interest in exploiting his celebrity and was a very private man for very good reasons. Nor did he have higher ambitions of any kind, political or otherwise. Third, he came from the Midwest, which was home to the bulk of the AFC’s registered members and he was certainly one of the most famous celebrities from that area at the time. Fourth, he was no fan of FDR and had feuded with him for years which satisfied some of the haters. Fifth, he was a charismatic man whose words can sound just as good on paper as they would coming from his mouth. And finally, compared to a lot of celebrities at the time, he had a rather wholesome reputation. It’s no surprise that the famed aviator from Minnesota would become the AFC’s highest profile spokesman whose speeches were heard by hundreds of thousands within the movement and millions outside.

Hermann Göring with Charles Lindbergh. Library of Congress photo

During the mid to late 1930s, Charles Lindbergh visited Nazi Germany several times where he toured the Luftwaffe as well as hobnobbed with a bunch of high Nazi officials like Hermann Goering. Unfortunately, the place impressed him a little too much that despite condemning Krsitallanacht and seeing Hitler as a fanatic, he kind of came off as a Nazi sympathizer.

Yet, behind that boyish face, was a man with very whacked out political views though they were not unusual or socially unacceptable for the time among the American people. Lindbergh believed in eugenics as he expressed his ideal woman as having a keen intellect, good health and strong genes because “experience in breeding animals on our farm had taught me the importance of good heredity.” To be fair, he was raised at a time when eugenics was espoused across the political spectrum even though it led to some of the worst known human rights abuses known to man and was based on junk science. In the mid to late 1930s, Lindbergh made several trips to Nazi Germany to tour the Luftwaffe which made a great impression on him that he became convinced that no power in Europe or the US could defeat it. He believed that a war between Germany and the US would be bad and it would be especially for the “white race.” So much so that Lindbergh stated that he believed the survival of the white race was more important than the survival of European democracy. “We can have peace and security only so long as we band together to preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood, only so long as we guard ourselves against attack by foreign armies and dilution by foreign races,” he wrote in his infamous 1939 article for Reader’s Digest. It didn’t help that he publicly and privately spoke of Hitler in admiring terms as having “far more character and vision than I thought existed in the German leader who has been painted in so many different ways by the accounts in America and England. He is undoubtedly a great man.” As an ardent anticommunist, Lindbergh considered Russia a “semi-Asiatic” country and saw Communism as an ideology that would destroy the West’s “racial strength” and replace everyone of European descent with “a pressing sea of Yellow, Black, and Brown.” And if Lindbergh had to choose, he’d rather see the US allied with Nazi Germany than Soviet Russia. Oh, and he was an anti-Semite who subscribed to conspiracy theories. In his reaction to anti-Jewish pogrom Kristallnacht (which consisted of the Nazis destroying over 100 synagogues along with thousands of Jewish businesses while imprisoning thousands of Jews), Lindbergh wrote, “I do not understand these riots on the part of the Germans. It seems so contrary to their sense of order and intelligence. They have undoubtedly had a difficult ‘Jewish problem’, but why is it necessary to handle it so unreasonably?” Because Hitler wanted to do terrible stuff to the Jews, asshole. And it didn’t help that he received the Commander Cross of the Order of the German Eagle from Hermann Goering on Hitler’s behalf a few weeks before which caused controversy, which he refused to return. “It seems to me that the returning of decorations, which were given in times of peace and as a gesture of friendship, can have no constructive effect,” Lindbergh wrote making excuses for Nazi Germany. “If I were to return the German medal, it seems to me that it would be an unnecessary insult. Even if war develops between us, I can see no gain in indulging in a spitting contest before that war begins.” Yes, but it would’ve at least absolved him from suspicion. Because in 1941, Lindbergh resigned his Air Force commission as colonel at FDR’s demand after proposing that the US negotiate a neutrality pact with Germany during his testimony opposing the Lend-Lease bill before House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Robert E. Wood;Charles A. Lindbergh

On September 11, 1941, Charles Lindbergh would give a speech at an America First rally in Des Moines, Iowa. In it, he blamed the British, the Roosevelt administration, and American Jews for pushing the US into war with Europe. Guess which group he put on notice for pushing for war through their control of the media.

Charles Lindbergh’s political ideas on race, the Jewish people, and foreign policy might seem morally reprehensible and extreme today, but they were hardly fringe in the early 1940s and he had voiced them without serious public outcry at this point. If anything, resigning his Air Force commission may have worked in his favor as far as some non-interventionists were concerned. However, he would play a critical role in why “America First” has become the noxious slogan that continues to echo isolationist, defeatist, fascist, and anti-Semitic sentiments to this day. On September 11, 1941, Lindbergh would deliver a speech to a huge crowd during an America First rally in Des Moines, Iowa. In it, he identified forces pulling the US into the war as the British, the Roosevelt administration, and American Jews. And it’s what he said about the third group where he made his true thoughts known. At first, he expressed sympathy for the persecution the Jews in Germany suffered and remarked on how he understood why any American Jew would want to see the Nazi regime pay. But then he went on putting American Jews on notice, saying that America’s “tolerance” for them rested upon a fragile foundation but most somehow most still don’t seem to understand that and want the US to intervene in a war that would endanger everybody but especially them. Then Lindbergh let the Jews know what he really thought about them, “Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government.” In other words, Lindbergh saw American Jews constituting of a wealthy, influential, and conspiratorial foreign, “race” that controls “our” media and has infiltrated “our” political institutions. And that they were an internal alien out-group, hostile to “us.” In short, he blames the Jews for pushing the US into war and manipulating the narrative through the media. Such sentiment reeks classic anti-Semitism which had no basis in fact. Though Lindbergh claimed he wasn’t “attacking either the Jewish or the British people,” he went on saying, “that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war. We cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to be their own interests, but we also must look out for ours. We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.” So fighting an enemy that’s either bombing the shit out of you on a regular basis or persecuting (if not exterminating) people from your ethnoreligious group and possibly your loved ones from the old country aren’t American reasons? Also, their interests weren’t exactly based on “natural passions and prejudices of other peoples” either. Though Lindbergh uses such words to make British and Jewish seem like they want to drag the US into a needless war that could lead to its destruction.

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Charles Lindbergh’s Des Moines speech was met with public outrage from all over the country over his anti-Semitic and divisive remarks that he’d suffer a massive fall from grace. So much so that his hometown even took his name off their water tower. His now tarnished reputation would never fully recover.

Somewhere in his speech Lindbergh crossed a line because public reception was not kind to him or the American First Committee from this point on. Lindbergh was strongly and swiftly condemned for his anti-Semitic and divisive words. Reporting from Europe, New York Herald Tribune columnist Dorothy Thompson wrote, “I am absolutely certain that Lindbergh is pro-Nazi. I am absolutely certain that Lindbergh foresees a new party along Nazi lines.” The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “The voice is the voice of Lindbergh, but the words are the words of Hitler.” And those sentiments of outrage echoed widely among newspapers, columnists, politicians, and religious leaders. Interventionists opposed to America First created pamphlets indicating how Nazi Germany praised his efforts and included quotations like “Racial strength is vital; politics, a luxury.” The pamphlets also included pictures of Lindbergh and other American Firsters using the stiff-armed Bellamy Salute (a hand gesture described by Francis Bellamy to accompany his Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag that fell out of favor during the 1920s and 1930s because totalitarian regimes adopted salutes of similar form). Though the photos were taken at an angle not showing the flag, observers still found such gestures indistinguishable from the better known Heil Hitler. But Lindbergh’s detractors weren’t the only ones bashing him for his Des Moines speech. His fans who lionized him also had harsh words to say. The Des Moines Register called his speech, “so intemperate, so unfair, so dangerous in its implications that it cannot but turn many spadefuls in the digging of the grave of his influence in this country.” The anti-Roosevelt and non-interventionist loving Hearst papers condemned Lindbergh as “un-American.” His mother-in-law and sister-in-law publicly opposed his views while civic and corporate organizations cut all ties with him. Hell, his hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota took his name off their water tower. And I’m sure millions of kids probably took down their pictures of him that they put in the trash like he was a disgraced sports hero. In the public’s view, the once beloved aviator was now disgraced and his tarnished reputation would never fully recover.

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From that point on, the America First Committee would be associated with Nazi sympathies and anti-Semitism ever since. Soon even the more moderate isolationist cut ties with the organization before it disbanded after Pearl Harbor. Since then, almost no politician who’s wanted to draw close to America First as it remains a shameful stain on our history.

In turn the America First Committee was as TIME put it on a cover story, “touched the pitch of anti-Semitism, and its fingers were tarred.” Despite its protestations that it wasn’t an anti-Semitic group and that it was looking out for American Jewish interests, America First would become associated with such anti-Semitic rhetoric Lindbergh had voiced in that infamous speech in Des Moines. So much so that more moderate isolationists started dropping out and it acquired its very bad name and pernicious reputation. And after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor that December, the America First Committee disbanded since there was no possibility of isolation by that point. But echoes of “America First” have persisted in the years and decades since. Before Trump decided to make it a campaign slogan, Pat Buchanan used it for his presidential campaign to run in 2000 on the Reform ticket. Of course, Buchanan believes that World War II as an “unnecessary war.” In his book A Republic, Not an Empire: Reclaiming America’s Destiny, he’s depicted Lindbergh and other pre-war isolationists as American patriots smeared by interventionists during the months leading up to Pearl Harbor. And Buchanan suggests such backlash of Lindbergh highlights “the explosiveness of mixing ethnic politics with foreign policy.” He also campaigned against free trade. Ironically, it was Trump who seeking the Reform Party nomination at the time, called Buchanan “a Hitler lover.” So it’s possible he might know something about where “America First” came from even if he doesn’t care about the implications from employing it. Because Buchanan certainly does. But as far as political figures go, Buchanan is an exception since his views on history are outside mainstream conservatism. Since the 1940s, there has almost been no politician who’s wanted to draw close to America First.

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Then despite the highly negative historical connotations, why the hell does Trump keep using “America First” as a catchphrase? He’s said he likes the expression. But I think he likes how his supporters positively react to it as an innocent patriotic affirmation. Mostly because a lot of his supporters have absolutely no idea where “America First” came from or what it really means.

But why would Trump employ such a phrase like “America First” in his rhetoric despite that those words echoing such an ugly chapter in America’s recent past? Sure he may like the expression, but he may even enjoy more the kind of applause and provocation he gets from uttering those words by the very supporters who have absolutely no clue where that awful phrase came from nor care to find out. And he probably doesn’t care that such catchphrase makes some people hear disturbing echoes that the Anti-Defamation League has asked him to stop using “America First” and redirected fifty-six thousand dollars in donations from the Trump family to anti-bullying and anti-bias causes.  But Trump won’t stop saying that phrase anytime soon. Because to him, it’s a tremendously popular slogan that resonates with his economic nationalism. And he’s denied the phrase’s existence as a historical term whenever reporters have pointed it out for him. For instance, when asked whether he meant isolationism last April, Trump replied, “Not isolationist, I’m not isolationist, but I am ‘America First.’ So I like the expression. I’m ‘America First. We have been disrespected, mocked and ripped off for many, many years by people that were smarter, shrewder, tougher.” In some ways, it’s possible Trump wants “America First” to mean “we will not be ripped off anymore.” And since American historical consciousness doesn’t run deep, it’s possible that Trump supporters see “America First” as an innocent affirmation of patriotism that it’s not.

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It’s possible that Trump may believe his adoption of the phrase “America First” could supersede its past. However, I don’t think it’s possible not because of Trump. But mostly because such symbols and phrases with noxious connotations don’t usually change their meanings over time. And it’s a lesson I’ve surely learned when I argued for the Confederate Flag’s removal during the summer of 2015.

As NPR’s Ron Elving put it, “assuming he is aware of at least some of that history, Trump is demonstrating his confidence that his adoption of a phrase can supersede its past.” But is it even possible for him to shake off that phrase’s toxic past? The Atlantic states such endeavor could prove difficult especially since Trump’s inauguration speech offered little to no outreach to the millions of Americans who fear what his presidency may bring. However, I think this assumption is a bit too optimistic. I say this because many of those Trump supporters who see “America First” as an innocent patriotic affirmation also see the Confederate flag as a sacred emblem of their Southern heritage. In the summer of 2015, I wrote a post arguing why the flag should be removed due to being a symbol of white supremacy that’s been used to justify decades of subjugating, discrimination, and violence against black people, which apparently angered a lot of people who tried to tell me otherwise. The Confederate flag is often associated with very ugly chapter in American history in which a bunch of powerful white guys started a war after splitting off from the US in order to form a country where they can subjugate black people to a lifetime of involuntary servitude. It is very clear that many Southern whites still haven’t gotten over that the North won that war which outlawed slavery that they went to great lengths to make sure black people could never gain any social, economic, or political power. And despite the Civil Rights Movement and the election of Barack Obama, these people show no sign of stopping any time soon.

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In 2015, a group in Detroit, Michigan erected a billboard like this that was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League on grounds of anti-Semitism. As Heidi Budaj said, This particular sign goes a step further and raises an old anti-Semitic canard of dual loyalty, implying that Jews are not loyal to the country in which they live. Make no mistake that while many of the Jewish people in the United States support the state of Israel as a Jewish state, we are loyal Americans.” Of course, the use of “America First” is much more closer to its historical anti-Semitic roots. However, I’m not really sure if the group who put up this billboard knows what “America First” really means or even intends to incite anti-Semitism.

That being said, I think “American First” will continue to emanate how opposition to American entanglement in the world became polluted by anti-Semitism regardless of what Trump, his supporters, or Republicans may think. They may claim they don’t hate Jewish people nor embrace a 1940s isolationism. They may not be Nazi sympathizers or be soft on Hitler the way Charles Lindbergh was or how the America First Committee might’ve been. But however they use “America First” regardless of what meaning attached to it, none of their personal biases change that phrase’s toxic isolationist, defeatist, nationalistic, fascist, and anti-Semitic evocations. And just because such people don’t believe such stuff anymore doesn’t mean such interpretations go away. I also don’t think Trump helps his case by having a noted anti-Semite and white nationalist to write his speeches on his White House along with plenty of anti-Semitic supporters (i.e. white supremacists). As Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said, “For many Americans, the term ‘America First’ will always be associated with and tainted by this history.” Conservative editor of The Weekly Standard Bill Kristol would say the same adding on Twitter, “I’ll be unembarrassedly old-fashioned here: It is profoundly depressing and vulgar to hear an American president proclaim ‘America First.’” Greenblatt and Kristol may not always agree with everything, but when it comes to “America First,” both these men see such phrase evokes a shameful chapter in our history. And one Jewish woman wrote on Facebook, “That America First part brought me to tears and anyone who doesn’t understand why can unfriend me right now.” Despite what anyone would say, such connotations pertaining to “America First” still persist in the historical contexts, especially among American Jews. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon. So if you’re a proud patriot who wants to make America great, you should stop saying “America First” and not support politicians who use that as a catchphrase, especially if they have no idea to what it really means.

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The historical contexts of “America First” still exist in the minds of many Americans whether Jewish or Gentile this day and that’s unlikely to change. So if you want to show love to America, don’t use “America First” as your patriotic affirmation nor support politicians who use the term as a campaign slogan. Because it’s very likely they have no idea of its historical roots as to what it really means.

An Open Inaugural Letter to Donald Trump

Mr. Trump, when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for some lowly blogger like me to pinch my two cents in with this whole fiasco. During the 2016 election, I worked tirelessly to ensure that you’ll never become President of the United States once you became the GOP nominee. I wrote 3 blog posts citing how you’re such a despicable human being who screwed workers, investors, contractors, banks, and pretty much anyone who’d dared to challenge you or your precious brand. Of course, my efforts failed since you wouldn’t be president if they succeeded.

However, if you think I’m writing to you to offer an olive branch and let bygones be bygones, you are sorely mistaken. You may have won over the support of the Republican Party establishment, enough votes to ensure a victory in the Electoral College as well as people in my neighborhood, family, community, and state, etc. You may have the constitutional legitimacy to be President of the United States. You may have a business empire worth millions of dollars and a name known the world over. But none of that guarantees that I’ll ever kowtow and respect you or see you as my president. Because you don’t win my respect by simply being very rich or famous or being President of the United States. No, respect has to be earned. You lost that chance forever long before you ever ran for president, especially after you started promoting birther conspiracy theories. Though I thought you were nothing more than a joke just using birtherism to garner publicity. Yet, your shock jock mentality stopped being funny the moment you referred to Mexicans as criminals, rapists, and drug mules while your popularity increased. Now that I know of all your dirty dealings and many grievous sins, you absolutely disgust me. And the fact so many people voted for you despite your critical moral failings and lack of qualifications incenses me to no end as well as makes me feel ashamed of my country. And the fact you’re President of the United States doesn’t change the fact you’ve flunked basic tests of decency as the unrespectable man you are.

To see you as president makes me feel that Americans don’t seem to have any moral standards whatsoever in the candidates they elect. Now I don’t expect for my political candidates to be saints by any stretch of the imagination. But I do wish they abide by certain standards of human decency such as having some semblance of a conscience which you completely lack. From what I’ve read or seen of you, I know of no moment when you’ve never been unconditionally nice to anyone. Nor do I know any time when you’ve taken any responsibility for your actions, ever said you’re sorry, or even admitted you’re wrong without someone pitting you in a corner. Nor could I ever tell whenever you’re telling the truth or making a promise you intend to keep. But I do know of countless times when you stiffed employees and contractors out of their hard earned wages as well as cheated investors and left them holding the bag whenever your business ventures failed. I know of instances of you using litigation as an intimidation tactic or lashing out on Twitter whenever someone dared to mock, challenge, or speak out against you. I do know of times when you’ve praised brutal dictators as well as done business with them. And I know of times when you’ve done business with known criminals. I also remember times when you’ve clearly lied, made promises you never intended to keep, as well as went to great lengths to avoid taking any responsibility for the widespread harm you’ve caused so many people. I’m not just talking about all the terrible things you said you’d do to minorities during your presidential campaign or your tirades against critics wanting to hold you accountable. But also the people who’ve put all their time, effort, and sometimes even resources into your ventures so they’d succeed only to have you swindle them out of what they’re rightfully owed. Yet, you feel absolutely no remorse and don’t give a damn about the consequences if they don’t affect you. If they do, you just deny, sue, intimidate, or blame someone else for them. Because you think your wealth and status guarantee you special privileges that exempt you from following codes of conduct you don’t think should apply to you. And I know that every time you were in a position of power or trust, you’d usually abuse it to enrich yourself with no second thought. You’re such a thoroughly despicable human being with delusions of grandeur who’d rather not let his dirty laundry see the light of day. I have no capacity to respect you and no amount of money and power could ever change that.

You may have won over a large swath of white voters with your virulent screeds of racist and xenophobic dog whistles, appeals to a whitewashed nostalgia, flag-waving patriotic grandstanding, and countless promises of making America great again. However, I know all too well that you really don’t give a rat’s ass about your supporters who think the world of you unless they have a generous bank account or their name in lights. And I know as president, you will certainly betray the white working class voters who elected you if you haven’t already done so whether it be for yourself, the GOP establishment, the corporate elites of the 1%, or your cabinet of swamp cronies. I may not know the full extent of your politics but I know you aren’t a man of the people and don’t give a shit about the working man you’d only cater to with empty promises if he can give you what you want. Even if it means voting for a candidate who goes against the kind of sacred American values they hold dear and who brings out the worst of this country. But that doesn’t mean you’ll deliver since I’m fully aware that your white working class supporters have been conned by an elite con artist of the 1%. But you don’t fool me because I know exactly the kind of piece of shit you are. The media may call you a populist but your populism is nothing but a charade while your presidential campaign was all smoke and mirrors but no substantive policies. Contrary to what your supporters think of you, you’re not successful, strong, or fearless leader who deserves respect but a weak, cowardly fraud who wouldn’t have his wealth or the presidency if he wasn’t born into the 1% and had his daddy’s money bailing him out of trouble. And I wasn’t surprised when you broke your promise to drain the swamp because your extensive history shows that corruption runs to the very core to your identity. I know you will use the presidency screw the American people your own self-enrichment with little regard to laws, rules, or others. I know you will honor no loyalties and commitments and betray the office and government you’re sworn to uphold. Because I know you have no respect for America, its values, its constitution, or its people. And I know you have no respect for democracy or believe a government conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal. If anything, you certainly won’t fix what’s wrong with this country but make it worse for you’re part of the problem. Even if you are now the president, I see absolutely no reason why I should have any respect for you.

You may be the President of the United States as we speak. You may have the support of my relatives, friends, neighbors, community and fellow Pennsylvanians. But you can forget me addressing you as “Mr. President” and giving you a chance to lead or treating you with any kind of respect the office entails for the next 4-8 years even for the sake of unity or the country. Your supporters, the GOP, the media, and at least 60 million Americans may continually excuse and enable your appalling and despicable behavior no matter what you do. But I will not because not only do you go against everything I and America stand for, but you also constantly violate norms of ethical behavior which I still deem as unacceptable in a president. To unite behind you for the sake of the country will only give validation of racist, xenophobic, and misogynist and sexual predatory behavior as well as legitimized greed and authoritarianism as acceptable. To call my president would be to send a message it’s okay to bully, intimidate, incite violence, and lie to people in order to get what you want and not take responsibility for all the hurt you’ve caused. To recognize you as my country’s leader means being fine with a president who’s eagerly willing to violate my constitutional rights. To be willing to work with you shows I’m willing to live in your world of vanity, hate, recklessness, untruth, vindictiveness, and your disdain for democratic norms that will lead to national decline and suffering. And deferring any respect to you for the sake of the presidential office or national unity will only give legitimacy to everything about America I despise. As president, you don’t deserve being recognized as worthy of the respect the office entails because you’re still an unrespectable man who’s nothing but a disgrace to the nation whose principles he doesn’t represent. Having you as president doesn’t make America great again and never will since you’re nothing but a repulsive sociopathic demagogue who puts the dignity of the presidential office in jeopardy. Your election shatters my faith in the American people beyond recognition as well as the people I know and love. To accept you as my president is to give my stamp of approval of your character and behavior which I won’t tolerate as well as abandon the kind of moral values I won’t desert.

Now I may still respect my country, pay taxes, and observe its laws just like any citizen. But I will not do so out of respect for you or the policies which I so vehemently oppose. Though I will exercise civil disobedience if any of your policies infringe on my civil rights or liberties or those of my fellow Americans. I will fight for the welfare of all Americans including those who elected you since I care about and respect them much more than you ever will. And I vow to resist you in order to keep you from destroying this great nation any further even if it means calling for your impeachment and removal from office. For I think those calling for your assassination are way too kind and out of their minds. As long as you’re in office, I refuse to recognize you as an authority figure. I refuse to give you any benefit of legitimacy that you don’t deserve. I refuse to normalize, excuse, and normalize whatever you say and do because I see your presidency as a disaster of American democracy and think you set a terrible example to children. You may be president, but you are not my leader and you don’t represent me or my values because you aren’t worthy of my respect let alone admiration. And as long as you’re president, I will not cooperate with you, I will not bow down to you, and I will not obey you. You may complain if you wish but you can go fuck yourself by the pussy and go straight to hell for all I care. While only God knows what’s redeemable in one’s heart and soul, I deny you the right to take away my rights or those of others, especially if they can’t defend themselves. Because I still believe in basic human decency as well as the notions of liberty, equality, and the common good that have made this country great. I will not submit to a presidential authority who rejects the Constitution as well as its underlying principles of democratic self-government and individual rights. I will not comply with a president who uses the mass media to lie, insult, to strip individuals of their dignity, to commit the grossest falsehoods against religious and national groups, as well as encourage persecution, torture, and violence. I will not get behind a leader who actively campaigns against any notion of sexual, religious, or racial equality, embraces a form of self-serving capitalism with no conscience, and threatens those opposing him with the unchecked power of the state. Because even as president, you have absolutely no right to strip minorities of equal status and protections or throw away a democratic future of posterity. And God be damned if I let it happen in my lifetime. I know what may be in other people’s hearts or minds today, but as for me, you will never be my president and I hope your term of office goes down in flames.

So instead of wishing you well and congratulations on your presidency, all I have to say to you is go to hell and fuck you. Because if you can’t respect democracy and American values or exercise any form of decency, then I see no reason to treat you with the utmost disrespect and contempt befitting of a public figure so worthy of being so strongly despised by the American public. You’re a piece of pussy grabbing human garbage who represents everything about America I hate. To see you as president gives me nothing but shame. So even if over 60 million Americans consented to you screwing them, doesn’t mean you have a right to fuck with me. Because you absolutely don’t, not now, not ever. And if you do in any way, which I’m sure you will, I will not let you get away with it and make sure your life becomes a living hell. And if you shall come to my area for any reason, fuck off. So goddamn you and everything you stand for since you’re nothing but garbage to me. Your con man’s words have no value to me since you’re a pathological liar who only tells your supporters what they want to hear while shamelessly robbing them blind with no second thought. To me, you’ll always be an outright fraud who belongs in jail instead of the White House. If reading this post inflames you to the point you’re tweeting nasty shit about me because I don’t give you the kind of respect you feel entitled to, remember that I owe you nothing. And if you’re not happy with me attacking your brand or so-called good name, then perhaps you can shove it up your ass you seem to talk out of. You can do whatever you want with me but all I have to say is screw you for I don’t care what you think of me. So you might as well go fuck yourself as your presidency fucks up the country.