This week’s Extra! Extra! brings you sobering news out of Nova Scotia, an update on the state of immigration around the world, a look at American political institutions, perspectives on the state of the environment, and more. It’s been pretty grey in Jersey City this week, and that’s pretty much how I feel about all of this.
Tragedy in Nova Scotia
Natalie: I’m heartbroken about this mass shooting — the worst in Canada’s history — but it seems that no matter where mass shootings occur, they’re bound together by the common thread of toxic masculinity. Last year, Mother Jones did an investigation that found that “in at least 22 mass shootings since 2011 — more than a third of the public attacks over the past eight years — the perpetrators had a history of domestic violence, specifically targeted women, or had stalked and harassed women.” It’s a trend that repeats itself again and again and I’m sad that another community’s had to experience it.
Our Environmental Practices Got Us into This Hole; We are Digging It Deeper
Himani: The wet markets in China have caught a lot of flak for being a potential source of COVID-19. Listen, I’m no fan of what’s going on there, but I also feel like this is an instance of the pot calling the kettle black. There are so many things that make factory farms disturbing; pretty high on my list is the absolutely torturous conditions in which these animals are forcibly bred and froced to “live” – if you can even call something so cruel life, in the first place. Then, of course, there’s also the utterly inhumane treatment of the people who work in factory farms, where they work for low wages and at great risk to their health and well being.
But even if all that doesn’t give you pause, scientists have been saying for at least a decade (probably longer) that factory farms are a hotbed for disease. In the sobering words of physician and author Michael Greger: “If you actually want to create global pandemics, then build factory farms.” Or as another scientist and author, Sonia Shah, put it: “When I was writing my book, I asked my sources what keeps them awake at night. They usually had two answers: virulent avian influenza and highly drug-resistant forms of bacterial pathogens. Both those things are driven by the crowding in factory farms. These are ticking time bombs.”
Himani: I loved this article, but it is also incredibly, incredibly depressing. An urgent reminder that climate change is well under way, that there is little we can do to “turn things around” and the focus, really and truly must be on mitigating further damage to the environment and loss of species.
Himani: In the wake of all this depressing news about everything we have done and continue to do to destroy the earth, here is a little bit of joy.
The Xenophobia That Passes for Immigration Policy
Natalie: I don’t often agree with what Jeremy Scahill but reading his work always gives me food for thought… such was the case this week in his latest piece for The Intercept. He wrote, “[Trump] has largely been an incompetent authoritarian, albeit one whose key policies have caused massive suffering and death. What we have seen throughout his career and his three and a half years in power is that Trump is primarily concerned with making money for himself, his family, and his cronies. Literally everything this man does is a racket.” Again, I’m not sure I agree entirely with Scahill but Trump’s moves on immigration this week certainly give his thesis some credence.
You could ascribe this ban to Trump’s omnipresent hostility towards immigrants… particularly black and brown immigrants since the policy favors Western European immigrants. You could chalk this up to a regular display of the administration’s stupidity… an answer to a problem that doesn’t actually exist. Both those things are invariably true but it’s the exemptions that give the game away. Why doesn’t the ban extend to temporary visas, especially if the goal is “to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens?” Because the Trump Organization is dependent on those temporary workers and the grift is always in.
Himani: Honestly, I didn’t think about it this way until I read Natalie’s take on the situation. It’s impossible for me to not look at anything this administration has done with regards to immigration from the lens of a complete and utter hatred of “the wrong kind of immigrants” – and that definition of who’s “the wrong kind of immigrant” is a shifting target. It started out with Latinx immigrants (who are all, of course, Mexican) and then Muslims (which really means all brown people) and then black people (because people coming from a myriad of countries and continents are a monolith, of course) and, in the wake of the pandemic, East Asians (because clearly they must all be connected to China in some way). So truly every non-white immigrant is “the wrong kind.” In a lot of ways, as the Slate article discusses, what’s going on is about sowing chaos, but a common thread is the demonizing of “others,” or, in other words – making America white (again?) The policy itself may serve to benefit Trump economically, but all the posturing around it serves to stir up the members of his hate-filled base who aren’t paying attention to the details anyway.
Also, as an aside, when it comes to green cards: people basically rebuild their lives in America for nearly a decade, often longer, with the slim hope that they can hold onto those lives permanently. Stopping the issuance of green cards is asking people who have already waited many, many years to wait indefinitely longer while the government continues to make the process even more arduous. The Supreme Court just issued a ruling to that effect yesterday.
Rachel: Very grateful for everything Natalie and Himani have both already said, and would love to reiterate Himani’s point that the green card process as it stood prior to the pandemic was already so arduous and such a crapshoot — and with such a slow and inconsistent rate of being granted – that stopping it seems clearly and intentionally cruel. More abstractly, though, in addition to the excellent points made previously about Trump’s own profits and the profitable model of selling racism to his base, the fact that to many Americans it makes intuitive sense to halt immigration while movement and interpersonal contact within our borders is only barely restricted shows how closely tied immigration is with ideas of contagion, infection, impurity and otherness in the American imagination.
Himani: But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that somehow other countries are less xenophobic. Europe’s response as a whole to the refugee crisis has been inadequate (at best) for years. This scathing article from The Africa Report breaks down how the policies put in place leave asylum seekers with few, if any, options to try to rebuild their lives in Europe.
Himani: And then, of course, there’s India. Last fall the Bharitya Janata Party-controlled government, led by Narendra Modi, passed the Citizenship Amendment Act which on the face of it appeared to be about who can be a citizen but was notable for who couldn’t. This is probably one of the most blatant uses of immigration policy to undeniably advance a hate-filled, in this case Islamophobic, agenda. Protests have been going on India about this for months, leading to riots in New Delhi in February which left 50 (mostly Muslim) people dead. The government continues to go after the protesters, even in the face of one of the strictest COVID-19 related lockdowns in the world.
The Supreme Court Is a Handful of People with Too Much Power
Natalie: You know what this situation with Elena Kagan reminds me of? The Obama administration’s attempts to curry favor with Congressional Republicans over immigration. They tried to placate the right by investing more money in border patrol and increasing the numbers of deportations…in hopes that they’d finally come to the table and compromise on a pathway to citizenship. Of course, that didn’t work and the administration’s efforts burned a lot of bridges with progressive groups.
It seems like Elena Kagan’s trying to do the same thing with the conservative majority on the Supreme Court…like, if she gives them a little bit of what they want, they’ll be more reasonable down the road. But she should: first, read that Vox piece about Alito’s troubling record and second, heed the warning from Angelica Schuyler: “[They] will never be satisfied.”
Health Care Is at Risk during the Pandemic
Rachel: People with pre-existing health conditions, chronic illness or embodied realities that mean regular contact with the medical system, like medical transition, already knew that the pandemic would have a huge impact on their ability to access regular care in a super overburdened healthcare system. One impact has, of course, been that accessing abortions is even more difficult, and coming at a time that’s crucially also a peak for domestic violence and people trapped with abusers/at risk for sexual violence and therefore unwanted pregnancies. It isn’t great! Since the beginning of the lockdown, there’s been increased attention paid to the accessibility of abortion by pill, the medication for which can be mailed. 13 states already offer it; many are urging increasing accessibility.
Labor Rights, or What Are Those Even?
Himani: In the latest round of Amazon vs any kind of basic labor protections, the company is using its advanced data capabilities to assign “risk of unionizing” to Whole Foods locations. In my current and previous jobs, we often talk about “risk” in terms of things like, you know, students at risk of dropping out of school or people at risk of going into debt – things that are actually negative. The fact that Whole Foods / Amazon are assigning risk factors to unionizing, I think, says it all in terms of how they think about worker’s rights and basic employee protections. This is, of course, part of an ongoing, long-standing pattern with Amazon.
The Politics of Stagnation
Himani: This was an interesting thought piece on why America can’t seem to get anything done, even in the face of a crisis like no other. I agree with Ezra Klein that so much of it has to do with how government is (or rather, is not) working, and I think this piece does a great job of laying out all the different aspects of that.