Tag Archives: Muslim Ban

Playing to an Audience

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I haven’t seen Green Book yet. I work, I study, and I have Red Dead Redemption 2 on my PS4. Time is at a premium. Just yesterday, I finished watching the R. Kelly documentary series, a few days after everyone was talking about it. So yeah, I’m often late or find myself catching up on things. Anyway, I was ready to watch the Green Book sometime this upcoming weekend when I learned that the Green Book’s celebrated writer, Nick Vallelonga, supported Donald Trump’s infamous 9/11 lie that he remembers seeing Muslims celebrate on the rooftops of New York when they saw the Twin Towers in flames. This is a lie that he floated around to rally support from his racist base as well as to justify his Muslim Ban. Nick Vallelonga on Twitter supported Trump’s claims, saying that he too saw Muslims celebrating on New York rooftops.

After the Golden Globes and people discovering his questionable tweet, Nick Vallelonga has deleted his account. His PR representative, as of this moment, has said that since the account was deleted, there is not much to say about it. Why do people pretend that things on the Internet don’t stay on the Internet forever?

The film is about the unlikely friendship between a black jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and an Italian-American bouncer turned driver, Frank Vallelonga, Nick Vallelonga’s father. It’s the story of life during segregation and it has received acclaim, especially due to the performance of Mahershala Ali who portrayed Don Shirley. With Ali being a Muslim, I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must be for him to have worked on film with someone who is obviously prejudiced against Muslims. It’s already controversial with many of Shirley’s living relatives contested many details of the film, saying that the friendship between the two main characters is fictional and that scenes were created to play up black stereotypes. With the writer appearing to be a bigot, it would seem that the Shirley’s accusation that the makers of the film were more interested in making money than anything is growing to be more accurate.

This is not the first time I’ve seen someone change their politics or pander to the opposite site of the political spectrum in order to get a buck. Despite Nick Vallelonga presumably being a bigot or having some bigoted tendencies, that doesn’t stop him from seeing and crafting a good story that people would like to see. That doesn’t stop him from making art that people of opposite beliefs would appreciate. Knowing the background story however makes me not want to see the film, it is after all mostly a work of fiction. But it’s sad that all of this baggage is affecting performers who otherwise did well on the film.

Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator pretending to speak for young people started out as a liberal. When that didn’t work for her, she became a conservative talked. With her bleach blonde looks and crazy talking points, conservatives were all too willing to give her the attention she wanted. Her African-American equivalent is Candace Owens. Same beginnings, started out as anti-Trump but is now a conservative talker. Follow the money. See what the audience likes, give it to them = profit. I think Louis CK is sorta trying to do the same thing, too. Before he was outed as a predator, his materials were raunchy and offensive, but tended to lean on the progressive side. But hearing his leaked materials, I see him courting the same men’s rights dude bros that he used to make fun of. He’s even making fun of students who were victims of school shootings despite having two kids of his own. It was the voice of a man aggrieved which is all too common with the alt-right types who claim that Gamergate was about games journalism. There is an audience for this, a very easy to entertain audience. Perhaps he’s just following the money. Maybe if he says “cuck” more often, I would be more convinced.

I don’t see how people do this though. I would never know how it feels because I never really earned a fortune through my art, but how does one make art or do work that is disingenuous to your true self? How does one spout of conservative nonsense when they are truly much smarter than that? How does Louis CK pander to a rather mean-spirited audience with his awful jokes? Or maybe that’s the real Louis CK all along. If so, how does one fake being a progressive when deep inside your soul is as black as Gavin Mcginnes’? How does one make a film shining the light on racial inequality and work with Muslim artists when deep down they would rather make a wall around the country to keep out all the dark minorities? Is it just the money? That must be an awful lot of money. That amount must be so big that you could hug it and at the same time feel its warmth surround you, giving you the most comfortable sleep at night. An amount of money that replicates the joy of making love, the comfort of being in a loving womb, and the taste of having sweet chocolate in your mouth (Am I describing cocaine?). What a wonderful amount that must be.

So yeah, maybe Nick Vallelonga is a bigot who doesn’t much care for the actual lives and values of the people who would most appreciate his story. I’m sure Green Book is a good movie, but other shows and movies have suddenly become more of a priority for me. I hear Bird Box is interesting.

 

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Making Out with Canada Again

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There are times when I wish I could kiss Canada in the mouth. This is one of those times.

Apparently, the government of Manitoba has been very supportive of refugees crossing the border from the United States into Canada. The small town of Emerson, instead of being worried about terrorist boogeymen, is more worried about refugees hurting themselves and not being prepared for the cold weather. The RCMP stated that they will devote resources to refugees coming in from the states should their numbers overwhelm the small town. Leaving the US is not a criminal act, and they will be screening individuals instead of turning them in.

Of course, I don’t know how accurate that last part is. Leaving the US is not a criminal act, but I believe illegal immigration to Canada is still punishable by deportation. It is a problem that many people believe will only get worse with the new Trump administration. There was a poll that found a majority of Canadians believe that illegal immigrants should be deported. Ironically, that poll also found that Quebecers, with their rather “close-minded” reputation, overwhelmingly believe that illegal immigrants should get some form of accommodations instead of simply being deported. But then again, I don’t know how accurate that poll is now especially with Trump as president down south and our Prime Minister announcing that Canada will be welcoming refugees.

And speaking of illegal immigration down south, there are reports of ICE agents rounding up illegal immigrants in the US, with some having lived in the States for years and have kids who are American citizens. Some government agents are even following school buses in order to arrest illegal immigrant parents. Great job, guys (especially, you family values folks)! Instead of constructive solutions, you break families apart. How will broken families improve the economy? How will they make your country safer?

So God bless Canada. We may not be as tempting to move in to as the United States, but we care for those who try to come in and be Canadians. I should know, I am an immigrant. And even though it was difficult for the first couple of years, most Canadians welcomed me as neighbor and a friend. I remember even without taking my oath of citizenship, some friends already regarded me as a countryman.* But that was back then, and that was in Canada. It must take tremendous courage now to be an immigrant in the United States, especially if you’re a minority or a Muslim. God help and protect you.

 

*Of course there are some people who will never see me as a full Canadian even if I was the product of generations living in the country. I will always be asked, “yes, you’re Canadian, but where are you REALLY from?” I’ve written about this soft racism several times, and so have other writers.

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The Message with Sally Yates

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I was going to write a love letter to Manitoba, but recent news has got me upset. What happened with Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was not the Saturday Night Massacre. Nixon was more subtle by comparison. The Trump administration had the constitutional right to remove Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates from her position for not following Trump’s executive order to ban Muslim immigration from seven countries, but there is absolutely no reason to tar and feather her by saying she “betrayed” the country and that she is “weak on borders and weak on illegal immigration.” The statement they issued was petty and vindictive, and they flaunt their authority over the justice system, completely ignoring the federal court orders to have the immigration ban stayed. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates cannot act on the executive order when federal courts are against it and the Supreme Court has not made a ruling on its legality.

As the top lawyer of the United States, it is not the attorney general’s job to agree with everything the president does. To do so would make the position technically moot. This also isn’t the first time an attorney general or a deputy attorney general has acted against a sitting president’s orders. James Comey famously went against the president’s wishes just a few years ago. Of course, many attorney generals go along with the administration’s wishes. After all, they get their by the administration’s recommendation. Eric Holder was extremely partisan and didn’t go after the big banks after the Obama administration mentioned that they weren’t looking to prosecute them. But while they are partisan appointees, their job is to uphold the law and make sure that the executive branch acts within the scope of the law. It is not the attorney general’s job to do something which they believe is illegal or somehow bend the rules to make them legal. They definitely can, and can be rewarded for being loyal partisan actors, but it’s blatantly unethical to relieve someone of their position for not doing something which they believe is illegal.

This constitutional duty to not blindly follow the leader but to follow the letter of the law as well as what is ethical is what allows me to sleep at night despite knowing that Trump has the nuclear codes. He may order a country to be bombed simply because a citizen there annoyed him on Twitter, but it is the officer’s as well as everyone else in the hierarchy’s duty to not follow his order if they deemed it illegal, immoral, or unethical. It is their civic duty to do so; and to follow the president’s order in such a case would be a dereliction of duty. This is what Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to do, to carry out an act which is in her opinion, an opinion based on a lifetime of working for the justice department, is both illegal and indefensible. It was her duty to refuse the president. And for that, she got sacked.

But really, what choice does she have. The Muslim ban is clearly a disaster and several federal court orders agree. It was an executive order that was hastily made without consultation from the president’s own top advisors. His own Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, does not support the order, and believes it endangers the troops he’s been recently made in charge of. As far as I can tell, the only people who were certainly in the room when Trump drafted the order was Stephen Miller, a young political operative with a racist history, and Steve Bannon, a publisher of a Web site frequented by neo-Nazis. They’re not exactly the people with the most expertise regarding immigration and national security. But then again, neither is Trump. The woman Trump fired had more years serving the public, more years keeping the country safe, than Trump.

And to those defending the Muslim ban, calling it a mere travel restriction, even Trump calls it a ban. And whatever name you call it, and even if you only limit it to those seven countries, it still affects Muslims. It still goes against the notion of having no religious test for the country. It flies in the face of common decency. The measure doesn’t make the US safer. It makes it harder for the military to gain allies in those seven countries and serves as a great recruitment tool for ISIS. But then again, what do expect from the great military expertise of Trump, Miller, and Bannon?

Sally Yates’ firing goes along with the message that the Trump administration is sending out. From journalists and employees at the National Park Service, to long-time government employees and officials- if you’re not with the Trump agenda, you should be fired. This is an amazingly flagrant display of authoritarianism.

It’s been a really dark few days. Even Canada has not been immune to Trump’s brand of intolerance. Quebec has been marred with tragedy, with the shooting of a mosque. And while some detractors will point out that Quebec has had a history of intolerance long before the Trump phenomenon, the shooter has been a part of the same alt-right movement which supports Trump.

It’s going to be a tiring few years. I believe the wave of bigotry will continue to wreak havoc long after we stopped getting daily bad news from Trump. There will be frequent protests and frequent outrages. Luckily, it is exactly during these times when people can become heroes by fighting injustice. Sally Yates will now be remembered as a hero. Honestly, I doubt if many people knew her name before she stood against Donald Trump. Now it’s time for people to go against him, take advantage of the growing rage against the US government’s recent actions, and make a name for themselves. If not because it is the right thing to do, but it is also good politics.

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