To Homes They Never Knew

Sending People Back to Homes they Never Knew

Since the writer [Jose Antonio Vargas] wasn’t sent “home” (yet!) that party of the story isn’t told. But it’s important to note that deporting people who arrived to the US as small children involves sending them to places they have no memory of, where they may not speak the language, where they may have no family or any means of support.

I see no reason to do this, other than the politics isn’t there to change the status quo. Here’s to hoping the Dream Act, or something like it, will eventually become law.


Inside Al Jazeera

Inside Al Jazeera:

The next morning, a Friday, Mohyeldin remembers that the city was silent. “All you could hear was the call to prayer,” he says. “That’s not normal. I mean, there was so much tension,” as well as fear, anxiety, and exhaustion. What form would the final crackdown take? Camels and thugs? Fighter jets? Armed security forces? And how bloody would it be?

Now in the square something amazing appeared: a remake of the Egyptian flag. But in this version, the emblem of the eagle of Saladin had been replaced by the flame of Al Jazeera, the ultimate statement of allegiance by the protesters who felt that whatever may come, they still had their witness.

Mohyeldin got a haircut, lunched at the hotel where the crew was set up, and went upstairs to work. By afternoon, there was an announcement that the presidential council would soon be making a statement. Mohyeldin set up for the live feed. And then there was the vice president, Omar Suleiman, reading a twenty-second statement.

What followed was Al Jazeera’s climactic moment. While the other networks fumbled for meaning and explanation, at first waiting on the Arabic translation, Adrian Finighan, AJE’s presenter in Doha, said simply, “Hosni Mubarak has gone,” and then the network went live to Tahrir Square, panning the exploding crowd for a full seven minutes without voice-over, letting the natural soundscape rise: People cheering, chanting, hugging, crying. People in shock, overcome, praying. That sea of flags, standing now for something new, thrilling, and idealistic, something yet in chrysalis.

When Finighan’s voice returned—”The roar of the crowd says it all…”—he cued the live feed with Mohyeldin. Moments prior, Mohyeldin had made a quick call to his father, the man who had taken his family from Egypt to Detroit, Michigan, in 1984, after the assassination of Anwar Sadat, in search of a better life for his two boys. Mohyeldin had never heard his father, a former military man himself, cry before—but now he cried openly, on the phone. “It’s your generation that did it,” he said.

On-air, Mohyeldin had regained his composure, and to the end, was trying to place the right, carefully considered words atop the images on the screen. When Finighan finally asked him “to stop being impartial for a moment” and explain how he, as an Egyptian, felt, there was a beat of silence, and then a slight cough or laugh, as if he was slightly taken aback. Mohyeldin then rambled a little about the sacrifices made by so many, how the fall of one man had led to the rise of 80 million this night, and after drifting on for a while, he finally allowed himself to slip into first person.

“I never thought I’d live to see a day like this,” he said.

Watching this live is something I will always remember.

We have Always been mediocre at history

Or as the article puts it, “Our amnesia of past ignorance”:

And yet it may be that, while kids aren’t getting better, they’re not getting worse. The history of history-education evaluation is littered with voguish pedagogy, statistical funny business, ideological arm wrestling, a disproportionate emphasis on trivia, and a protocol that insures that each generation of kids looks dim to its elders. “We haven’t ever known our past,” Sam Wineburg, a professor of education and history at Stanford, said last week. “Your kids are no stupider than their grandparents.” He pointed out that the first large-scale proficiency study—of Texas students, in 1915-16—demonstrated that many couldn’t tell Thomas Jefferson from Jefferson Davis or 1492 from 1776. A 1943 survey of seven thousand college freshmen found that, among other things, only six per cent of them could name the original thirteen colonies. “Appallingly ignorant,” the Times harrumphed, as it would again in the face of another dismal showing, in 1976. (And it’s not just Americans: an infamous 2004 survey revealed that a small percentage of Britons aged sixteen to twenty-four believed that the Spanish Armada was vanquished by Gandalf.)

I’m not surprised; Gandalf is a goddamn wizard.

It’s a hard intuition to fight, but there’s no reason for kids to know what you think they should know. The world they grow up in isn’t the same as the world that you (and I) have.


Bad Visual Pun

  • Crazy wind tunnel acrobatics (hat tip The Dish):
  • Yet Another Article about how Conservatism has lost touch with reality
  • The latest Political Scene podcast from the New Yorker is the first time (I think) I’ve heard a centrist Democrat say Obama was not pragmatic enough.

Washington priorities

This is sickening.

Apparently, some members of Congress think the phrase “women and children first” applies to budget cuts. Even worse, the proposed cuts are based upon false information:

Ill-Informed Claim Does Not Justify WIC Cuts, CBPP: The House is scheduled to vote today on a measure to slash funding for the WIC nutrition program, which (as we have shown) would force the program to turn away at least 200,000 to 350,000 eligible low-income women and children next year.  The Appropriations Committee approved this unprecedented cut last month, in part based on the claim that more than 40 percent of WIC costs go to program administration.  But this claim is flatly false, as our new paper shows.

In reality, only about 9 percent of federal funds for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) go to administrative costs, and these costs represent only about 6 percent of the program’s total cost.. In deriving the 40 percent figure, the Committee apparently misunderstood a finding in a federal Agriculture Department (USDA) report…

The proposed funding cuts for WIC are unprecedented.  Since 1997, Congress — on a bipartisan basis — has provided sufficient funding each year for WIC to serve all eligible low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and young children at nutritional risk who apply.  False claims regarding WIC administrative costs are no justification for breaking that 14-year commitment.

It’s definitely more important to cut nutrition funding for 200,000 to 350,000 children than to, say, cut back on defense spending. Or raise taxes on the wealthy, run a temporary deficit, or just about anything else. And if there are real administration problems with a program like WIC instead of phantom, imaginary problems as in this case, we should make children pay the cost instead of firing administrators and then trying to fix the administrative problems. Let’s hope the vote on this fails.

It looks like even deeper cuts were voted down, but there are still significant cuts on the table.

Pyramids – Terry Pratchett

I finished Pyramids last week, and I enjoyed it very much. Then again, I’m not sure I’ve read a satiric novel that I haven’t enjoyed. It’s funny, thought-provoking, and it has some neat lines:

No one is more worried by the actual physical manifestation of a god than his priests; it’s like having the auditors in unexpectedly.


And now, when his kingdom needed him, the words of a Ritual had scored themselves into the pathways of his brain and bewildered all attempts at thought.

“Er,” he said.

There are other neat quotes about religion in the book somewhere, but I can’t find them at the moment.

I think Mort and Equal Rites are my favorite Discworld novels so far, but I’m not very far in.

Internet Story Time

So it turns out that the Gay Girl in Damascus blog was really an American guy. For whatever reason I was reminded about Alice and Kev when I heard that.

They both tell stories about underdogs; Gay Girl in Damascus about… well a gay girl in Damascus. Who wasn’t real.

Alice and Kev about a homeless father and daughter. Who are also not real.

It doesn’t make it any less touching.