In California, and across the country, that problem just got worse.
I’m not talking about targeted hate crimes against immigrants, which have risen steadily and sometimes dramatically in recent years, (and I fear will continue to rise under this administration.) I’m talking about the crimes that affect all people most commonly. Theft, robbery, aggravated assault, rape, and domestic violence.
While the administration is attempting to paint these most recent raids on immigrant communities as targeted against criminals, the actual facts coming in describe multiple arrests of a much wider variety. This is striking widespread fear in a way that can only increase a person’s fear of going to the authorities for help if they are victimized.
One thing I have heard first hand from an immigrant here in the East Bay, is that people tend to assume that the government here will behave as it does in their home country, which may mean a fear physical violence or serious jail time is justified, if one doesn’t open the door to the authorities, or answer police’s question. The fact here in the U.S.A., at least for now, is that a person has a right not to speak, not to sign anything, and a right to refuse an unreasonable search, meaning he or she need not open their door if the officer does not have a specific warrant.
People are working hard to get the word out to immigrants with Know Your Rights (Conozco sus Derechos!) handouts and a “Red Card” that can be slipped under the door if the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) comes calling. The Red Card says “I do not wish to speak with you” and invokes the 5th amendment, and “I do not give you permission to enter my home based on my 4th amendment rights.”
But in the meantime, there are many who don’t know they have these rights, who were already living in fear, and are now truly terrified. And frankly, none of us know exactly to what lengths the administration will go with their “vetting.”
What we do know is that these targeted communities naturally include a mix of people. People with different statuses – here legally, here illegally, with green card, without. Even people within a family or household may have different statuses. For example, an Iranian couple on my neighborhood are now citizens, but their daughter has been waiting five months for a green card. The fear level in all immigrant communities is on the rise, but it is also on the rise in Gay communities, among women, and in Jewish communities as well. The Jewish school not far from where I live, like Jewish centers and schools across the country, has received bomb threats since the election, and why not? If I were an anti-Semite, I’d be feeling quite excited at the moment. I’d be aware the administration is full of “people like me” and that I may have their tacit consent for actions against minorities, gays, and immigrants as well. So add to people’s habitual fear of the government, the fear of what others will do empowered by a government that treats people this way, and you have terror.
So what’s happening to the administration itself?
One of the teachings from the discourses of the Buddha is that whatever one “keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.” Not unlike Proverbs, 32:7, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”
The thing that this administration speaks out against the most, and seems to be most in fear of, is terrorism. Well, less than one month into the administration, it’s not at all a stretch to say that the U.S. Government has become the terrorists.
But that isn’t an end to my concern here. I’ve felt a surge of anger and blame since the election. I’m simultaneously worried that my friends are despairing, and that they aren’t taking things seriously enough. I’m worried I’m taking it too seriously. I find it hard to concentrate, hard to get work done, hard to relax and take it easy. And sometimes I vent my frustration on others, with posts online. I don’t use all caps, and I try not to tell people what to do, exactly, but the number and severity of the kinds of things I’m sharing are pretty terrifying and become in themselves a kind of moralistic yelling.
So, what am I most afraid of right now? A loud-mouthed blow hard who’s always telling people he knows best.
And what do I become when I skim too many articles and share them all with MY opinion? A bit of a blow hard without much substance. So I’m going to be on guard. Not only against a government that is now genuinely terrorizing its citizenry, but against the human tendency to meet anger with anger, and against my particular tendency to dive too deep into the world of opinion and moral outrage. A tendency, by the way, that I’ve found over the years dampens my own creativity with inverse proportionality. In other words, the more I think I’m “right” the less I experience a sense of flow and purpose as an artist, and the less I feel connected to others, even those who agree with my opinions.
There is much work to be done in all of our communities at the moment, and I’m loathe to put another task on the table, but I believe it will take an effort on all our parts in these challenging times, not to become the thing we despise.