Saturday, November 21, 2015

Where Are Heinrich, Udall, Grisham and Lujan In The "Syrian Refugee" Debate?

Liberal social media has been sizzling with the outlandish and vile statements coming from Republican presidential candidates, Republican politicians and conservative media figures regarding the issue of Muslim refugees coming into the US, and Muslims in general, which seem to escalate in vitriol and ignorance by the day.

New Mexico's Democrats, as far as I can see, remain mute on the subject, adhering to their standard practice of ducking controversial issues. I've looked at their government and social media web sites and searched the media, and there's nothing, save for a statement by Ben Lujan on his official web site condemning the so-called Syrian Refugee bill rushed through the House by Republicans this week. There have been no press conferences, no op-ed pieces, or any of the myriad ways they have a t their disposal, hecause of the positions they hold, to enter into the public debate and influence public opinion.

It's not just New Mexico's Democrats. Many Democrats around the country are trying to not get involved, and when they do they couch whatever defense they have of Muslims by first stressing the need to be vigilant and put the national security first. But I live here and these New Mexico Democrats are my representatives.

The effect of their cowardice can be debated. Are they in effect agreeing with the bigots?  Are they putting their personal interests ahead of their country's? As former Labor Secretary and economics professor Robert Reich pointed out yesterday in urging Democrats to rebuke one of the more egregious things to emanate during this mess, "Every hour it stands without rebuke is more poison leeching into the bedrock of America."

That's the issue. Are New Mexico's Democrats going to stand around and let more poison to leech into the bedrock of America? While you're at it think about the many ways conservatives and the tactics they use to maintain power are habitually left unanswered by Democrats, and how Democrats' inaction affects working peoples' lives in many ways.

New Mexico Democrats Michelle Grisham and Ben Lujan at least voted against the idiotic Republican anti refugee bill, and Lujan, to his credit, posted a statement on his congressional web site condemning the bill. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, his statement can even be taken to condemn the ongoing orgy of racism that has gripped the nation. In it he says:

"It does not make our nation safer, nor does it live up to our values as the greatest and freest country in history."

Unfortunately he lessens the impact of his high ideals by cloaking them in nationalism. The United States isn't the "greatest and freest country in history." That's a ridiculous, easily disprovable lie. In fairness to Lujan, we always give each other a pass when it comes to expressing our chauvinistic nationalism in this way, but it wasn't necessary to make his point. It's just him trying to cover his ass.

Rather than being the great country we like to think of ourselves as being, the United States is a warmongering bully that fails miserably to uphold standards of decency we apply to everyone else. It contains a large percentage of racist ignoramuses, and another large percentage who are too afraid to call them out. And the bulk of us, and this includes the first two groups and practically everyone else, either aren't very concerned about or haven't been educated about the more systemic and subtle forms of racism that permeate our society and who only complain, when we do, about the most glaringly obvious forms of racism.

It's the responsibility of Martin Heinrich, Tom Udall, Michelle Grisham, Ben Lujan and other prominent people who are making their living pretending to be "public servants" to not only counter vile and harmful rhetoric that's "leeching into the bedrock of America" but to help educate and inform the public about the more subtle ways this poison permeates the country. Their oath of office demands it of them.

They need to not only to call out racism when they see it, but to be good examples of how public people should conduct themselves. That goes beyond simply not saying racist things, and goes way beyond just keeping your mouth shut. It requires them to be courageous and demonstrate moral leadership, not to hide under their desks until the latest controversy fades from the headlines.

They're not doing any of these things, nor have they ever. They'll come out against NSA spying and against paying women less than men, because there's no cost to them in opposing nameless formless non entities. But when it comes to countering the inextricably intertwined forces of racism, nationalism and militarism that run through our national psyche, they won't do it.

You can argue that they're being realistic, that the current political climate dictates that they be measured, so that they can hold onto their office and live to fight another day. The problem with that logic is that they allowed the "current political climate" to emerge because they've kept their mouths shut, and the longer they keep them shut the worse things will get, and the more poisoned the bedrock of America will become.


  1. I think the "poison" former Labor Secretary and economics professor Robert Reich and yourself talk and write about is not leeching into the bedrock, it now floats on the surface.

    The conditions present now are just a hair more conspicuous than they were historically and as near as a few years back. The people of the United States seem to adopt a personal policy of "keep everyone" out. "I am here" and the horde of immigrants ought to be stopped right now.

    The only thing really different now is that we are at war with Sunni Muslims and the locals are afraid of any Muslim period.

    1. Nice insights, NM. Thanks for the comment.