Yes, I could have become radicalized: my take on how it can happen

I just want to walk through a process that I experienced growing up in the 50s and 60s.

I came to perceive the world, even the U.S., as competitive place, where some people were better than others, and where people fit into a “rightful” station. I remember quarreling with my father on household chores about what is “low work”. To a large extent, good grades in school were the only currency (non fiat) that I knew. But I sensed that (as in Connell’s story and film “The Most Dangerous Game”) that the world tended to evolve toward “brains over brawn”. Yet, I thought, to be virtuous, a man needed both. You had to be both “manly” (and look “manly” and ahead of schedule biologically) and smart. That became my “idol” (as I confessed in a “religion” class after school in third grade). I suppose Jesus was presented that way in Sunday school, but the way “He” was to be “Followed” seemed like a moral paradox. I tended toward upward affiliation, but clinging to “better men” socially was generally not appreciated and tended to trap me. So as an antidote, as an adult, I developed fierce independence.

A rightful station in life implied the possibility of shame and the need to accept it. Through imprinting, I came to perceive upward affiliation to the edge of actual shame as sexually exciting, so, as I’ve explained in my books, I (by age 18) had called myself a “latent homosexual”. That led to my William and Mary narrative.

Shame” (the name of a Fassebender 2011 film for Fox) required my accepting my own. Since I was physically behind my contemporaries, I did not see myself as competitive enough to have or enjoy sex with a woman. I did not view procreation or having children as important, and tended to see it as an “afterthought” behind public cultural achievements; but in the back of my mind, in those NIH days (1962, overlapping the Cuban Missile Crisis) I also thought my genes should not be propagated. They could lead to a greater or enhanced risk of disabled children (as lineage). I was personally buying into a previous generation’s acceptance of eugenics. Ironically, I needed to believe in shame to experience (gay) sexual fantasies that could become personally satisfying. In a curious way, I get what Trump was getting at in those remarks to Billy Bush on Access Hollywood (about “Days of our Lives”) in Oct. 2016 about his own sexual attractions, but as upside-down cake.

At this point, I’ll link to a couple of essays by Milo Yiannopoulos again on Breitbart, “Sexodus: The men giving up on women and checking out on society”, Part 1, and Part 2. True, fewer men today want to get married and have their own nuclear families. Milo attributes this to aggressive feminism, with the end result that marriage is a bad deal for men (and it often is, as I began to notice in the 1980s with the increasing heterosexual divorce rate in Dallas where I lived). Milo maintains some men are intimidated into believing that the slightest mistake of misplaced assertiveness (“masculinity” in the Rosenfels sense) will get them thrown into jail (or at least lead to enormous guilt), and he may be right. But my own experience was the inverse of all this. I did not have enough physical confidences so I could eroticize shame instead, (Shame and guilt are feminine and masculine counterparts in Rosenfels terminology.)  So I built my own world, and managed to be stable and productive, without normal offerings of intimacy.  You can talk about having children as a “choice” with obvious responsibilities that follow, but family responsibility can happen anyway — eldercare and filial piety, as well as the “Raising Helen” scenario of raising relatives’ kids after family tragedies.  Childlessness could leave “you” as the insurance policy for other people with kids (second-class status, as in Elinor Burkett’s 2000 book “The Baby Boon“). The ability to offer personal warmth based on need in a family setting — building into community social capital beyond the expressive self — becomes its own moral issue.

So, in previous pieces here, I’ve talked about my soapboxes, how they maintain my independence, give me political influence (I understand Trump actually reads some of my stuff)  They can be taken away, by coercion, in a variety of ways. And I would be left with the question, what’s wrong with raising someone else up instead?

Maybe that would be what I would want if it resulted from my own “content”. Yet my own writings and scripts tend to emulate the angels, the para-Jesus figures, and at least hint that people with “average Joe” cognition would become the “Leftovers” But, if I actually did work on the right project with someone else, maybe I would elevate someone even on my own social media pages in some creative way. That would have to start by working with someone I know,

But generally, I’ve resisted making someone “below” become “all right”, or at least doing so publicly as part of my own message or brand. That would undermine my own ability to enjoy Shame (think Trump, again). I’ve also resisted attempts by others espousing some sort of systematic oppression to get me to “join in” and subordinate my own work to their messages, especially when their messages are “narrow” and tend to let people “off the hook” for their own personal inadequacies. Again, that would subvert my own pattern of “upward affiliation”.

I think you can see that this can become a dangerous pattern of thinking. Given incidents around the country reported by others, this sounds like a pattern that slips from schizoid personality sometimes into outright nihilism. (“Schizoid” refers to social behavior – or particularly, avoidance of unwanted social contact and extreme narrowness and pickiness in intimate partners, where as “Aspergers” refers to developmental arrest in social capacity; some of this can be a good thing, as with Alan Turing.) I had my worst taste of this in 1964, after the Kennedy assassination.   I rebounded from all that (it could have gone dark indeed) and managed to create my own world, in my own world, and become a stable individual contributor in I.T. before I switched to a largely unpaid second career in “provocateurship”, less flashy than Milo’s – but I’m four decades older.

For “shame” is related to meaning of everything around me. I think many people of my parents’ generation felt they could function actively in marriage if they knew everyone else had to. That gave it meaning, but implied that everyone has a “rightsize” or station in life. Marital initiative by men could be carried out if there was a consistent belief that masculinity meant something, even in terms of external trappings. In the days long before attention to public Olympic events in cycling and swimming, it was usually seen as girlish if men shaved their bodies; the belief seemed to be necessary then. Drag queens were OK if they really stayed just on the fringes. But, on an everyday basis, you wanted to see men look like, well, men. That was a little easier in a segregated society.

You can see how this can lay the foundations for authoritarianism, particularly on the right wing side (fascism, or perhaps some of the ideas of the alt-right, could link back to personal “body fascism”). If people love only when their visual expectations are satisfied, and resent connection to others beneath them, it’s easier to set up a system where some people are subjugated if they don’t make it. Yes, that sounds like Nazism. It doesn’t necessary get that far, but it can.

It’s also well to remember that many people who seem “weak” may be so because they have not have the benefit of political and economic stability that I have leveraged. No wonder the prepper mentality appeals to some people.

All of this is to say, them, if people want to sustain freedom, they need to learn to reach out of their own bubbles, in creative interpersonal ways, sometimes, outside the usual boundaries in a “mind your own business” society, with all its “do not track”. Commercially, it means you need to be willing to take calls from salesmen. They have to make a living, too. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to rationalize an order of “merit” maintained by a dictator. Maybe you get a “people’s republic of capitalism”.

Devin Foley has a somewhat different perspective in Intellectual Takeout. “Antifa and Neo-Nazi Propaganda: Are You Suscpetible?” You could add radical Islam to the title. The writer talks about not being willing to grow out of dependency. That’s interesting, but I think it’s also about a need to see consistent meaning.

(Posted: Tuesday, Aug, 29, 2017 at 10:30 PM EDT)

We need to be prepared, as a nation, to house people quickly after catastrophes

I can remember, even living in Arlington having returned to look after Mother, the shock in that late August morning of 2005 learning when I got up that Hurricane Katrina had been much worse than expected.

I would volunteer some time at the Red Cross in nearby Falls Church (mixing the shifts with substitute teaching at the time) finding with many callers there was very little we could do but tell them to wait hours on the line for FEMA.

Over time, a few hundred people settled temporarily in the DC area.  Many more settled in Texas, and I believe that in some cases families, or especially individuals, were housed in private homes.  I at least wondered if we could be asked to do this.  I’ve entertained this kind of emergency before (May 18, 2016).

The Sunday before Hurricane Sandy (which came inland on a Monday night in late October 2012) the pastor at an Arlington VA church gave a sermon on “radical hospitality”. Fortunately, there was little damage in this area from the storm.

I’ve also documented on this blog some of the issues with hosting asylum seekers, which I have suspended as I consider moving (no more details right now).

And I’ve noted the somewhat informal private hosting website “Emergency BNB”. And the sharing economy, developed by companies like Airbnb, many people, especially younger adults, may be used to the idea of keeping their homes ready to be shared, which is not something that would have been very practical for me during most of my own adult life. Younger adults may be less interested in collecting possessions that could be put at risk from a security perspective. Music and film could be stored in the Cloud.

Younger adults living in “earthy” neighborhoods (like New York City’s East Village) or in certain rural areas, even in collectives or intentional communities, and used to social interdependence, may be more willing to share their spaces with less attention to personal, material or legal liability risks.  Many do not have an economically realistic choice, beyond building on common social capital, as Rick Santorum or Charles Murray would describe the idea.

Along these lines, then, I wonder again about emergency housing in the context of disaster or catastrophe preparedness.  I see I took this up Sept. 22, 2016 (before the Trump election) in conjunction with preparedness month.

A few of my friends on Facebook do indeed come from the doomsday prepper crowd, and it rather alarms me how much they are into it.  A sizable number of people do not believe you can count of civilization to last forever.  They see personal self-reliance in a rural home as a moral prerequisite to participating in a world that goes beyond the immediate surroundings. Indeed, ever since 9/11, we have been warned that at some point, whole generations of people may have to rebuild the world from scratch, as in NBC’s series “Revolution” which predicates a bizarre kind of EMP event.  I say I would have nothing to offer such a world at 74,

We could indeed face a grave threat to personal security in the homeland even in 2018.  War with North Korea might be impossible to avoid, and at least a couple small nuclear strikes on the US homeland might be impossible to prevent.  As a matter of policy, what happens to the people who survive but lose everything?  Insurance doesn’t cover war (whether it covers terrorism is controversial).  Will the government indemnify them?  (It more or less did a lot of this after 9/11.)  Or will we depend on the volunteerism of “GoFundMe”? which to me has sounded self-indulgent and tacky sometimes.

It does seem that we need some kind of “national discussion” or town-hall on this.  Would seniors aging alone in oversized homes be able to take people in?  Would we expect that?  Well, we really don’t do that now with our own homeless.

Any North Korean domestic nuclear strike would probably involve a small low-yield nuclear weapon. If you look at charts like this one, you see that the number of casualties and total property damage in a city might be less than one expects.  The radiation damage is another matter.  But one can imagine calls for people in distant states to house and take in the “victims” as they may never have an uncontaminated habitable home neighborhood to return to (even with Katrina that did not hold).  It is appropriate to consider how effective the manufactured housing industry can be (with Katrina the result was not that good).

Again, another issue is the possibility of an electromagnetic pulse, which would damage all electronics in a very wide region.  Have Silicon Valley companies protected their infrastructure from this sort of thing?  One day we could find most of the Internet (and “GoFundMe”) gone forever if they haven’t.  There is very little written about this.

Nobody likes talk like this to be “thinkable”.  But the preppers have a moral point.  Resilient and prepared people are less inviting targets for an otherwise determined enemy.  Maybe that’s what “America first” means.

(Posted: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 3:15 PM EDT)

Breaking down hyper-partisanship and polarization: it gets personal

I have traveled around in rural areas some after Donald Trump’s election and presidency, and often I have found people not too concerned about Trump’s (to the media) rather glaring leadership integrity problems, with allowing criticism. Perhaps some people buy the idea that a leader needs to have the confidence of his base that the leader can withstand criticisms and challenges and “protect” his own people. I’m personally not wired that way. My attitude is, do the math and solve the problem (or, “solve the dump” as they used to say at work with production abends in overnight computer data center cycles).

I didn’t find that people really bought the “fake news” stuff – the birtherism, or the rumors of sex rings (the Comet Ping Pong fiasco). The one issue that got mentioned sometimes was health care . Some younger adults with heavy dent – student loans – simply cannot afford mandatory coverages and Obamacare premiums. Yes, if I was in office, I would to the math and solve the problems and fix it. But I don’t know how to ask for money to run for office, because I don’t personally walk in other people’s shoes. I watch, observer, and journal, but I don’t always play. Oh, yes, I ought to play rated chess more often, maybe get better at winning again (holding those endgame leads like a bullpen closer) and maybe offer to direct tournaments for underprivileged kids. Maybe get the Washington Nationals to have a chess event. It would be good for the players.

On July 2, the Wall Street Journal ran a big article by Amanda Ripley, “America, Meet America, Getting Past our Toxic Partnerships”. The writer starts with the extreme hyper partisanship (augmented by gerrymandering) in our culture today – it’s getting downright dangerous when you get to issues like the debt ceiling (which, by the way, absolutely must be raised by October). She claims that the partisanship is personal. It’s a kind of xenophobia that turns, ironically, into oikophobia, rather like rain on the snow.

The article expands on foreign student exchanges with an account of domestic experiments where people in rural areas or red states go to spend summers with families in blue states or cities, or vice versa.

I have two gut reactions. One is that mainstream churches are still focuses on overseas outreach. Sometimes this challenges the law, as with some efforts to shelter undocumented immigrants in border states run by some faith-based groups. Often, this consists of youth programs in Central America and sometimes Africa. I noted in the previous post how this came come across. Church groups have often sent youth to volunteer domestically after floods (ranging from Katrina to West Virginia deluges) and found being of real help harder than it seems – sometimes the people that live in these areas (especially the mountains), with their prepper lifestyles, are more self-sufficient than we give them credit for.

The other is that, closer to home, we really don’t walk in others’ shoes very much. Look at what I ran into when I started looking into whether I could personally host asylum seekers – an effort put on hold now as I consider possible relocation myself (I’ve “announced” this on Facebook). There was a great dependence on social capital, belonging to a group of people with some degree of personal fungibility, which is foreign to me. Because of the legal environment and lack of certain structures (compared to how refugees are handled) there is more persona risk for the people who would assist unless they are already bound into a social group. Really, a lot of early activism in most areas (race and later gay rights) sometimes worked this way, even though I never wanted to deal with it on a group level. The irony is that belonging to a group (especially a “resistance”) means connecting to people with different kinds of cognition in novel ways, something Paul Rosenfels had called “creativity” at the Ninth Street Center back in the 1970s.

I think a recent column by “do good” David Brooks “Getting Radical about Inequality,” where he talks about the ideas of Pierre Bourdieu, seems to apply here. As David says elsewhere, we have to live with the fact that right now the free world is led by a child. And, no, blind loyalty to a “leader” does not come across as an essential moral value to me.

(Posted: Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at 11 AM EDT)

Volunteering usually needs to get personal

Conservatives often prompt the idea that the needy can be served by volunteerism even better than by publicly owned and run services (as we can see right off from the health care debate).

It’s rather logical to ask, then, if volunteerism, working in service to others for free, is to be expected on moral grounds from those who are able.

Right off the bat, I call to mind some passages in the 2007 book “The Natural Family” by Carlson and Mero, where the authors maintain that only within the nuclear and somewhat extended family can a determination “from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs” be made. I remember how that quote of Karl Marx was thrown around the barracks of Fort Eustis back in 1969 when I was in the Army.  Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has voiced similar ideas, that “It Takes a Family” (his 2005 book) to socialize people into meeting real needs.

But you can encircle the family with communities, and those with a country, so you can imagine how a moral expectation of service can fan out.

I can imagine, however, a mentality, where the poor could view some sort of structured personal attention or care from “the rich” as a moral entitlement, even in a “free” and conservative society.  Off hand, that doesn’t strike me as particularly encouraging for developing healthful self-concepts among the disadvantaged.  I’m recalling a time in kindergarten, in early 1949, when the teacher (who ran the class in her home) separated the class into “brownies” (who stayed downstairs – and I was one, despite that everyone was “white”) and “elves” (who got to sit in the living room upstairs).  I felt like I was put into a defined underclass, yet entitled to expect attention.  Maybe that did help shape some of the development issues I would have in the grade school years.

We don’t start out on life in the same place in line, to be sure.  OK, we can get into the whole debate on the role of “privilege” in setting up moral expectations of people. There are different kinds of disadvantage.  Of course, being born into poverty or in a totalitarian culture normally hurts once likely future station in life.  But there is a perpendicular situation:  within a particular family, which may be well-off, one is born with disability or a general lower level of capacity.  It can happen between twins or multiple births in the womb, or just among siblings.  So the social conservatives are right in saying that inside the “natural family”, if it is about the right size, people learn to develop affection and bonds to others in the family or group who may be less capable.

The tendency to look at some people as “better” than others relates to the real concerns about the outside world knocking that practically everyone in my generation dealt with.  Less capable people could become a drag on the group if faced with security problems.  Among men, the biggest and strongest often stepped up to defend the clan and took the casualties.  There was not a lot that could be done about most disabilities, so there wasn’t a lot of talk that helping those with disabilities was an expected thing to do.  On the other hand, the expectation of adhering to the personal discipline of confining sexuality to heterosexuality marriage was seen as a personal equalizing force, giving stability and sustainability to a families, tribes and whole countries that faced external perils.

Obviously, today things are a lot different.  Many people (myself especially) are not tied to families, and see pleas online to get involved personally with the needs of others in a way that would have been seen as inappropriate or unwelcome in earlier generations.  “Gofundme” has become a social norm today, when it strikes an older person like me as grating and self-indulgent.

Practically all communities have organizations that serve the poor.  Many are faith-based.  They offer services like healthful food preparation and delivery (sometimes owning their own gardens for fresh foods), various monthly community assistance (like groceries, clothing, HIV testing,, as well as meals), to specialized services needed by specific communities (elderly, some LGBTQ, asylum seekers and refugees, single mothers, those with mental health or substance problems).  Often the communities ask for lots of volunteers for special events (Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, monthly assistance).   Sometimes there are home-building or rehab events (as with group homes for the disabled, or with Habitat for Humanity) The interaction between the volunteers and those being helped will vary, not always being encouraged. Sometimes it seems that the purpose of the activity is more to build social capital among the group (often faith-based).

Volunteering has become more subject to bureaucracy.  Now there are usually automated background checks of volunteers, especially for those who will drive vehicles or work with minors.

I do find that occasional volunteering to be problematic.  I don’t accomplish much or make much difference when I am there.  Further, there are situations where unexpected personal risk is involved, like driving into unfamiliar and dangerous neighborhoods to make deliveries.

I think it should be more promising to look for more specialized opportunities where one can use one’s own expertise.  With my background, for example, I could perhaps direct chess tournaments attracting low income youth.  Or I could do something with my classical music background, although that can become problematic if it involved pandering to notions about popularity.  If I were involved with music, I’d be more interested in seeing some particular neglected works(not just my own as I composed) performed. As a self-published book author, I do get questions about being more supportive of community book stores (hard copies instead of Internet and Kindle) and of literacy initiatives.

But actual interaction with clients will often be problematic for me.  That is something I did not learn through familial socialization the way others have.  I didn’t learn to place emotional value on having someone depend on me. In the decades of my own upbringing, you would learn that partly through heterosexual courtship leading to marriage and parenthood within it.  Otherwise, my own somewhat “sheltered” upbringing really didn’t require me to interact personally with people with earthier temperaments;  some of it was avoided by placing unwelcome interaction in the category of teasing or even bullying, avoidance of somewhat physical competition on other people’s terms.  That artificial isolation and introversion continued during my long-track information technology career as an individual contributor, where I basically interacted with just “the choir”, people with cognition similar to mine. This diffidence really showed up when I worked as a substitute teacher in the mid 2000’s, and, with low-income or disadvantaged students (especially middle school) encountered interpersonal demands that one normally needs to have been a parent to encounter.  Or perhaps one would learn it through helping raising younger siblings (I had none) or raising as sibling’s children after a family tragedy, something which sometimes happens in inheritance situations (like “Raising Helen”). It’s notable and ironic that when I was growing up, eldercare was not seen as a challenging issue because our grandparents didn’t live as long as they can now.  My own eldercare situation from 1999 on to 2010 had aspects (how old even I was as well as Mother) that would not have happened often in earlier times.

Focused interaction with clients requires commitment to a narrower set of person-related goals than I have experienced until now.  I like being the public person who forces others to “connect the dots”.   The level of personal commitment needed requires (as the character Ephram on “Everwood” once wrote in a fictitious essay) the “ability to change” and share an outcome for a group. The one time I was the most personally engaged was in the mid 1980s when I volunteered with the Oak Lawn Counseling Center in Dallas as an AIDS “buddy” (rather assistant), although somewhat on my own terms.

On a couple of occasions, both in the early 1990s, I got feedback from two different organizations that I would not be effective unless I was more involved with the group, including spending more time with it and being more integrated to the group’s specific goals.

(Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at 10 PM EDT)

Center for Immigration Studies holds panel discussion on the risk of asylum fraud

Today, Wednesday, May 10, 2017, the Center for Immigration Studies held a briefing in the Bloomberg Room of the National Press Building in Washington DC near Metro Center.

The moderator was Mark Kirkorian, Executive Director.

Panelists included Andrew Arthur, a Fellow at CIS, author of a paper “Fraud in the Credible Fear Process: Threats to the Integrity of the Asylum System.”; Mark H. Metcalf, former judge in Miami and prosecutor in Kentucky, author of “Built to Fail: Deception and Disorder in America’s Immigration Courts” and “Courting Disaster”; and Todd Bensman, criminal intelligence analyst.

The CIS website has an article by Dan Cadman on state-based visas which disagrees with Cato’s position last week (May 3).

The Talking Points mention some cases of asylum abuse, such as Rabei Psman, Ahmed Ferhani, El Mehdi Fathi, Ramzi Yousef.

Some people implicated in terror attacks in Europe had faked their asylum systems, although we know that many terrorists (especially in the US) are second generation people of legally arrived people who did not assimilate well (like Boston and Orlando).

The panelists presented a “business model” where smugglers bring people across the southern border into the US for money, and sometimes rehease the immigrants on what stories of credible fear to tell. Oddly, the smugglers don’t have an incentive to determine whether there really is credible fear (that was an audience question). In some cases, radical Islamic extremists have been smuggled across the border after traveling from the Middle East (or sometimes Somalia)

The panelists suggest that the US could enforce existing law by now accepting asylum applications for people passing through “third party” countries (with clandestine “safe houses”) which themselves could grant asylum according to their own laws.

One woman in the audience from a Hispanic caucus in Congress asked the panelists to re-explain the difference between refugees and asylum seekers, the latter being “already here” and usually “uninvited”

I (saying that I was an independent blogger with strong ties to both LGBTQ and to libertarian-or centrist leaning conservatives and somewhat to faith) asked about the “moral” pressure that some congregations (evangelical and catholic) place on members to house asylum seekers (or sometimes undocumented people) in “spare bedrooms” in their own homes. This has sometimes happened in the LGBT community. I mentioned the Mariel Boatlift from Cuba from 1980 by comparison, and also mentioned the questions about parole from detention with financial sponsorship.

The general answer was sympathetic to the idea that people have a moral obligation to help personally, as is particularly the belief in communities of faith.  The panel reinforced that empathy by noting that this is a nation of immigrants and many immigration controversies have occurred in the distant past. The panelists seemed to believe people should probably house only people they know (often relatives). But there was an implicit libertarian admission that “private” communities of faith (or sometimes activist organizations) are in a better position to identify people who have been in the country for a while (affirmative cases, sometimes with overstayed visas) than are government agencies or the immigrations system. Social capital really matters.  Even so this could be confounded by the pattern that some attacks (San Bernadino) have happened from people who have been here legally for a long time and were a shock to people who knew them.

The panel was aware that some groups want to encourage “sponsorship” of parole from detention.  While well-intended, the practice could provide an underground incentive for more people to attempt migration with unfounded asylum claims.

Metcalf mentioned a case in Miami where someone from Colombia made a credible fear claim based on LGBT persecution, but he said he denied asylum after deciding that the claim was false and the person might not have been gay. But I got the impression that the LGBT cases may tend to be credible a higher percentage of the time than other claims. LGBT people were victims and witnesses of the Pulse attack (Mateen was US-born) and also in Paris.

There was some discussion of the pay of immigration judges vs. border asylum officers (much lower).

CIS will provide a complete video of today’s event in a few days.

Metcalf: “Failure by the numbers” (the statistics here are important; they’re huge)

Arthur: “Fraud in the Credible Fear process

(Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 1:15 PM EDT)

Update: Wednesday, May 17, 2017  (2 PM EDT)

CIS has published the complete video and accompanying transcripts from the 70-minute presentation here.  My question is included at 16:19 in the last video, the QA. There is a secondary link to a panel transcript.

Update: May 22, 11:30 AM

Here’s a shot of the Berks County Detention Center in Leesport PA (really closer to Reading, SW of US 222 and PA 183 off County Welfare Road).  It’s big and hidden away so people aren’t aware of what’s going on.  When I asked for directions in a convenience store in Leesport, the attendant seemed to be aware of the hidden controversy.

Jail nearby

(End update)

Weekend event for asylum seekers, and a field trip: revisiting the idea of hosting

I want to update earlier comments on what ordinary US citizen can do to help asylum seekers, LGBT or not.  This area would particularly focus on the possible opportunities to host asylum, seekers in private homes.

I did a little field trip today (April 30), 150 miles to the SW (of Arlington VA) to Farmville, VA, where I looked at the grounds of the detention center.  It is on a side road a half mile north of US 460 heading east into Town.  The land is sloped so that you can barely see the corrugated buildings from eye level.  There were some buses with opaque windows.  After snapping a couple pictures I saw the “no trespassing” and (especially) “no photography” signs so I drove away quietly, but I was on a public street.  This facility, run by Immigration Centers of America, was said to be one of the more comfortable and dorm-like facilities at the DC Center Global meeting April 1, 2017.  At that meeting, an attorney from Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition spoke.  The possibility of developing a program to support release of some detainees on “parole” with contributions and housing was discussed (previous summary by me).

Saturday (April 29) I had visited  a fundraiser event in Bethesda, MD for the Asylum Seeker Assistance Project.  Right now, the Eventbrite link has the best list of the way donations may help asylum seekers.

I had conversations with two attorneys and others at the event.  Some details are sensitive, so I’ll summarize the gist of what I found out a high level.  This is not legal advice, but more a marker for what potential hosts might expect and for how immigration policy (especially for asylum issues) might be debated.

Let’s backtrack to revisiting the differences between supporting refugees and supporting asylum seekers.  Today, refugees vetted overseas in detail before they are allowed to migrate to the US (this is getting even stricter under Trump and refugee processing seems suspended right now).  Volunteer efforts are supervised by social services agencies (often faith-based) licensed with DHS and can also monitor the use of DHS funds. These agencies work with local groups, often congregations (synagogues, mosques) which in turn supervise groups of 20 or more people who help a refugee family, which is usually placed in a commercially managed apartment.  In Canada, by comparison, the volunteer groups are smaller (like about 5) and volunteers accept specific legally driven financial responsibilities for refugees that resembles foster parenting.  This is called “private sponsorship”, which the United States does not have.  To my mind, Canada gets a lot of things right;  the Hollywood world with which I am familiar has outstanding young adults raised in Ontario, especially.

Asylum seekers are already here and by definition usually would not have been vetted before they arrive.  If they arrive illegally and ask for asylum and can establish credible fear, they are likely to wind up in detention. As noted already, some activist groups want to raise funds to help release asylum seekers from detention.  But a significant number of asylum seekers arrived here legally with visas for work or school, and then overstayed them.  Usually, to remain here legally the asylum seeker needs to have asked for asylum within one year of original arrival.  If the “credible fear” is established, then the asylum seeker’s presence in the United States remains lawful until a hearing of some kind.  If the request is turned down, there is often a right to appeal.  But eventually, it is possible for this process to run out, after which the asylum seeker’s presence would become illegal and he or she would be subject to deportation.

Typically, there is a period of six months or longer (apparently starting when the seeker’s presence would otherwise be illegal) cannot get federal benefits and is not allowed to work.  An asylum seeker not allowed benefits or to work would need financial assistance, and especially housing (and possibly medical).  There is no formal DHS-driven system of social service supervision for which funds are available.  Therefore, the onus would fall upon private individuals and grassroots-style organizations to provide for them, especially if they become homeless.  (Homeless persons normally would not be put back into detention and could not return home on their own unless they had funds, which could then mean the return home to the expected persecution.)  This would be more challenging personally than normal “volunteering” in a structure refugee assistance situation.  Off hand, it would sound like it might be easier to assist a wide number of asylees in private homes than by purchasing or renting building for them.  Nevertheless, right now, based on what I was told Saturday, right now the greatest interest is in raising funds to purchase or rent buildings as shelter.  It’s worth noting here that, while the US does not recognize the idea of private sponsorship of refugees, it does allow private “sponsorship” of migrants apply for visas under I864 documentation from hosts willing to guarantee support (usually family), and the work “sponsor” has sometimes been used loosely in connection with parole from detention.  There does not seem to exist a legal concept of a “custody” relationship between the host and asylum seeker, so it seems unlikely that host could be held responsible for a seeker’s medical bulls (even if he or she could pay them), although I can imagine right-wing attempts to impose such a liability

So it would sound as if live-on housing provision could sometimes be risky for the host.  One of the points of the 6-month wait for benefits is apparently to discourage ‘frivolous” asylum application, often right after illegal entry.  The government (even pre-Trump) reasons that a person would normally be sheltered only by someone who knows the person well, usually a relative.  If someone has personal contacts with a personal interest in assisting the person, then that person represents less of a “burden” or risk for the public.  So assistance organizations are put in the position of building the social capital that would simulate that of relatives or close friends.   From a security viewpoint, the lack of vetting overseas has to be replaced by having people who know the person already.  That would sound easier with someone who already had been here legally with a work or student visa.

The risks are well worth enumerating.  Life cannot be made risk free, but one should understand risks and try to minimize them, and organizations asking others to step into such risk help to assess the risks. For example,  if asylum is denied while the person is hosted and the appeals are denied, the host could eventually be put in the position of harboring an undocumented alien.  While the practical risk of prosecution is low (even under Trump), it can’t be ruled out completely.  How a host should behave in a situation like this needs to be thought out in advance.  This is indeed the “seeing around corners” problem that Dr  Phil talks about that activist groups often ignore. (It is not clear to me whether a host is responsible for seeing the asylum seeker’s paperwork proving legal presence in the country, when the asylum seeker moves in.)

Along those lines, hosts could be concerned with the strength of an asylum claim and whether it is likely to prevail, as well as the length of time of the seeker’s need.  This has to do with notions like belonging to a “particular social group” or with expressed political opinion.  One wonders whether the current administration, under AG Sessions, could try to gut the idea that LGBT no longer meets a PSG standard.  I am told there is no actual indication that the Trump administration is trying to do this, and the inclusion of LGBT in the PSG rubric is established now by court precedent.

Of course, giving a key (or security code) to your home to a “stranger” crosses a line for most people (including me), and on the face it could put neighbors at risk, too, creating another moral dilemma. (“Emergency BNB” was discussed here Dec. 16, and Airbnb is lucrative, after all.)  This is much less of a concern to people who have “less to lose” (the “Rich Young Ruler Problem”) and particularly people who live in strong systems of social capital (the “Lotssa Helping Hands” model in many faith-based groups)  Politically, libertarian groups like Cato Institute and writers like Charles Murray have been making these observations more often, in the past five years or so.  With social capital, the idea then is that the overall risk (including to others) is marginal, rather comparable to taking on a foster child or employing a live-in caregiver.  (And here, it is well to note that it is possible to provide foster care to minors in detention in some unusual circumstances, but these efforts are closely monitored by state social services)

There are some other issues.  Allowing someone to use your Internet router can bring certain risks, which have been discussed here already (Jan. 31). Part of the solution is to set up separate guest accounts.

I don’t deny that there can be many benefits to hosting. At 73, in a larger than necessary home, it could facilitate future medical appointments and provide another responsible person here in case of an accident.

In some areas of the country, especially southern California, some (largely church) groups are making a point to shelter undocumented immigrants, outside of the law.  Some say that their faith compels them to do this.  I do respect the need for resistance (and I do respect the legal arguments, based on the 10th Amendment, made by sanctuary cities recently), but I think that sometimes we need to learn to distinguish among the ideas of resistance, activism, and service.  They are not always the same.  Likewise, social capital and solidarity are related but not identical concepts.

I linked to the two Washington Blade stories asking for hosts, on July 21, 2016 (sixth comment for an August story), and Oct. 15, 2016, but here they are again (August, October).  DC Center Global most recently referred to this request on November 11, 2016 (after Donald Trump’s election).

Here is an earlier personal statement on what I can do myself with hosting.

It is worth remembering that massive calls for hosts went out for the Cuban refugee (really asylum seeker) Mariel Boatlift in 1980, as at Metropolitan Community Church in Dallas, where I lived at the time.  It was not well thought out and few people did it.

Readers should also be familiar with the case Lozano v. Hazleton (PA), 2007.  I’ve added the ACLU link. But as far as I know, the law is unlikely to regard a host as a “landlord” anyway (unless the asylee actually pays rent); but you wonder what the “alt right” could cook up.

(Posted: Monday, May 1, 2017 at 11:45 PM EDT)

Update: Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Dzubow has an important piece  or blog post on when asylum seekers could reasonably fear detention or arrest today.   I was not aware that anyone with any conviction of a serious offense could even be considered for asylum.  But there is also an issue concerning arrests without convictions.  But Dara Lind also writes today on Vox, that Donald Trump’s non-policy on immigration has been a “success” for white and native-born people, by making non-white immigrants more fearful of asking for help when they need it, and for making settled and insulated Americans more reluctant to have much to do with them personally — a concern I have heard expressed at churches and at Center Global.

I even feel that Hillary Clinton’s remarks about how she lost the election in the last 12 days to Comey, the FBI, Russia, and fake news is relevant.  Had she won, it is likely I would be hosting someone now. I’ve never said that before, but I think it is time to say it now. Putin (whose name was not to be mentioned) has literally reached into the US and made it harder to help LGBT people who fled his country.  International issues and government corruption can indeed affect us very personally and very suddenly.

Duty, risk-taking, helping others, and self-promotion

It’s a vague and general principle in the insurance business that some activities are more readily underwritten when there is outside, third-party supervision of the endeavors.

That gets to be testy when the aim is to help others.

I wrote my three books and developed my websites and blogs without supervision. The lack of peer supervision was actually an issue back in the Summer of 2001 when I was turned down for a renewal of a “media perils” individual policy that National Writers Union was selling as an intermediary.

Yes, I took some risks, and I probably knew what I was doing better than a lot of amateur writers, with regard to areas like copyright and defamation. I did become infatuated with the implications of my own narrative, which are considerable.  I did look forward to the fame, or at least notoriety. But was I helping anyone?

Well, the central topic of the first book was “gays in the military,” and in fact I knew a number of the servicemembers fighting the ban (and the old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy) well, at least by correspondence.  I would not have desired a romantic relationship with any or many of them, but I did feel legitimately connected in some personal way. I think I helped, although indirectly.  My staying in the debate for so many years in the search engines did help make the final repeal in 2010-2011 more likely.

But I also had made some unusual arguments.  They were based in part on accepting the idea of duty, of the necessity for shared sacrifice and resilience.  Specifically, I talked about the Vietnam era military draft and my own experience with it, and about the idea that it was still possible to reinstate it.  I recalled all too well the controversy over student deferments, implied cowardice, and the connection between risk and vulnerability.

I’ve thought about the “duty” concept in connection to the need for refugees and asylum seekers for assistance, sometimes very personalized.  One idea that comes through in discussions, especially with lawyers, that anyone offering hosting or major support should have some third-party supervision.  That usually would come from a social services agency, or possibly a faith-based group, as well sometimes local or state agencies.  Of course, the capacity of individuals to offer this has become muddled by Donald Trump and all his flailing and failing travel bans.  The desirable supervision is much better established in Canada (and some European countries) where sponsorship comes with some legally-driven responsibilities comparable, say, to foster care.  In the United States, given the political climate, the volume of people assisted is lower, and the risk or cost, whatever that is, gets spread out among more people.  The situation is even murkier for asylum seekers than for refugees, since their access to benefits and work permission is less, as has been explained here before.

I don’t yet know how this will turn out for me, but I agree that any adherence to “duty” would require some supervision.  So, I am fussier with this than I was with the risk management for my own writing.  But what about the people?  True, I don’t feel personally as connected to the people in this situation as I was with the military issue.  I have to admit that I have led a somewhat sheltered life.  For most of my adult life, the “system” has actually worked for me, and I have been associated with others who more or less play by the rules and benefit from doing so.  Since retiring, I’ve seen that the interpersonal aspects of need do bring on a certain culture shock. The system simply does not work for a lot of poorer people, who sometimes find that they have no reason to play by the same rules, but who do tie into social capital.  The system also fails “different” people, some not as well off as “Smallville‘s” teen Clark Kent. I can understand duty (accompanying “privilege”), but the meaning expected to be attached to helping others in a much more personal way is rather alien to me.

The whole question of housing refugees and asylum seekers (and I’ll even limit the scope of this remark to assuming “legal” presence in the U.S.) fits into a bigger idea about social resilience and radical hospitality, most of all for those (like me) with “accidentally” inherited property.  I do recall that after Hurricane Katrina there was a call for helping to house people in other states (sometimes in homes, sometimes with relatives).  Even though most people want to be near their homes to rebuild after disaster, this sort of need (a kind of “emergency bnb” lower-case) could come back again after earthquakes or major terror strikes or even a hostile attack (North Korea is starting to look really dangerous).  In the worst cases, the nation’s survival could depend on it.

(Published: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 10 AM EDT)

On “elitism”, real life, and having “too much education”

I wanted to pull together some threads of animosity in today’s multi-polarized climate over many issues, with all the rancor surrounding Donald Trump’s election and presidency.

A key concept seems to be resentment of “elitism”. David Masciaostra has a piece in Salon on Nov. 20, “’Real Americans’ v. ‘Coastal Elites’”. The tone of the piece reminds me of a drill sergeant, when I arrived at Tent City at Fort Jackson SC during 1968 Basic Combat Training, saying I had “too much education”. Others in the barracks regarded me as a “do nothing” or dead wire when it came to risk of pain and sacrifice. Salon mentions people wanting a leader who can talk in middle school language, or “talk that way”. Voters want respect for “real life” (as my mother called it); they see elites as spectators and critics who don’t put their own skin in the game. And some voters seem way to gullible in their response to authority that can get them what they think they want, whatever it costs others; and these voters actually believe that everything that matters in life happens through a chain of command, even within a family.

I could mention a related issue right away: modern society’s unprecedented dependence on technological infrastructure. Trump hasn’t talked about it this way, but Bannon ought to be paying attention to taking care of the power grids, especially, as I have often written here before. Along those likes, I thought I would share a New York Post piece on teen digital addiction. Remember 60 years ago, middle school teachers screamed, “Read, don’t watch television”. And in those days we had only black and white.

The “real life” person doesn’t trust what disconnected intellectuals write, so the “real lifer” doesn’t think it’s important to listen to arguments about pollution or climate change. The lifer knows that she can’t afford Obamacare premiums, but has no concept of how the policy changes promised to her by huckerizing politicians could make things worse for her or for a lot of other people. Lost. By the way, in the argument about health care, is the total lack of transparency in pricing (the GOP is right about this). But the “lifer”, with her anti-intellectualism, ignores a moral precept: that looking after the planet for future generations matters. Yet, it’s only been the last few decades that we’ve come to see that as a moral idea, even given our preoccupation with “family values” – and lineage. It’s ironic that the cultural, even gender-sexist moral arguments of the past flourished in a time of higher birthrates and shorter life spans, when filial piety and taking care of our elders hadn’t become the issue it is today.

Policy problems are often presented in moral terms, but we actually tend to get used to a status quo without asking why things need to be the way they are. If we did have single payer health care (like Canada), it would become the expected public safety net, and unreasonable demands on families or of volunteerism would no longer have a place at the “morality” table. Bernie Sanders is right about this. But other status quos in the past have been “bad”. We accepted homophobia without understanding why other adults’ private lives needed to be our business. We had a male-only military draft, and a hierarchy of forced risk-taking for the country. It took a long time to change these.

We also get used to begging from politicians in terms of groups and identity politics. That works better with “vertical” groups – long, well-established common identities that policy is used to addressing. These include nationality, religious affiliation, and race, and sometimes economic groups like labor and workers.   Groups associated with gender issues and sometimes disability tend to be more “horizontal” as members appear in all the vertical groupings, causing divided loyalties. They intrinsically take longer for partisan political processes to handle. Differentiating “chosen” behavior and inheritance (or immutability) becomes much murkier. “Middle school kids” have a hard time disconnecting this from religion because of “anti-intellectualism”.

We also see appeals to become personally connected to people, as online, as transcending the barriers of the past, but still colored by “identity politics” and a tendency to entangle legitimate individualism with a sense of automatic entitlement to attention from others. We gradually learn that as we distance ourselves from our groups of origin (often families), we find their replacements (even a “resistance”) just as demanding in loyalty and obedience.

All of this leads me to pose the question, “How is the individual who perceives himself/herself as different really supposed to behave?” Maybe not the Pharisee that I became, who wants to be recognized for his original content, but doesn’t seem to care “about” individuals who can’t distinguish themselves.

Here are a couple of other perspectives on elitism: the New York Times on liberal bubbles; The NYT on leaders needing meek little followers; and a (real) “rude pundit” blogger.

(Posted: Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at 2 PM EDT)de

Does “Emergency BNB” provide a reasonable and scalable model for hosting asylum seekers, refugees, and maybe some homeless?

On Oct. 21 here, I did mention the site “Emergency BNB”, founded by Egyptian immigrant businessman Amr Arafa.

To my surprise, a story on CNN (October 21, 2016) by Camila De Chalus indicates that about 700 people or families around the U,S. have been willing to list their homes as potential hosts, link here.

It is called an “Airbnb for refugees” but no money can change hands, so it would not come under the regulations in many cities of offering private housing for rental.

The site is designed to help refugees (presumably that includes asylum seekers, who are legally in an even more compromised situation) and victims of domestic violence.

The article does say that hosts should expect to see documentation (like some sort of refugee immigration paperwork, or police reports or court restraining orders showing domestic violence) and that some applicants are turned down.

The site does have a short Wikipedia article, here.

There is a detailed story by Laura Bliss on Citylab in June 2016 here.

Shareable has a story on September 21, here.   Takepart compares it to “tweaking Aibnb” here .

The Washington Post had a bigger story Aug. 25 by Perry Stein, here.

One obvious question would be legal liability or risk for the host.  Some leases (maybe most) or homeowner’s associations might not permit it.  A host might hit bad luck and actually host a real criminal (the “Trojan horse” fear raised by Trump supporters).  A host could arguably be putting neighbors in danger, or could be liable for the misuse of his own high speed Internet connection (even if he or she supplied separate computers or smartphones).  Who would be responsible for the asylum seeker’s living expenses or health care costs?  Another good question would be, how long does the guest usually stay with the host?  Short term, or does he/she (or an entire family) live there long term?

It’s fair to compare the “risks” to offering your home for rental in Airbnb, and you can get insurance for some risks there.  People who “do” Airbnb may be more amendable to participating in a service like Emergency BNB.

One obvious question is whether the concept could be applied specifically to GLBTQ asylum seekers. A mission of Center Global of the DC Center (July 21). It’s significant that many of these are not allowed to work on their own and would need to become full dependents.

I have looked into this.  Generally, most gay organizations and churches have only fragmentary knowledge of the issue.  I’ve talked to two law firms in Virginia, and both imply no one should offer to do this without the services of a major social service agency to supervise the refugee (that doesn’t apply to the domestic violence part of the service).  I’ve tried to start a dialogue with Center Global and not gotten far yet.  Obviously the question of personal risk is unsettling.

In fact, the risk of playing “Samaritan” is as much a cultural question s a legal one.  People have different perceptions of their willingness to take risks for others outside their own families, or the moral ukase to do so.  It may be perceived as a question of faith (like that of the Rich Young Ruler, who had too much to lose).  People who interact in communities with strong social capital are better able to deal with this (even “under the table”) than feline people who do things on their own.  And some people may see hosting not so much as duty as a form of activism.

Personally, I would need to determine whether, in my situation, hosting is the “right” and even “expected” thing to do (more details ) .  That could set an example for others, and makes it hard to put on the table before any organization.

You can certainly extend this discussion tribally:  should we host our own homeless first?  But that isn’t generally expected as sharing behavior, as far as I can tell.

(Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2016 at 7:15 PM EST)

Volunteer organizations and some employers need to be more transparent about personal risk


I recall that particular dichotomy on the “right” leaf of an elementary school bifolio report card, “Progress of th pupil as an individual” v. “progress of the pupil as a member of the group.”  I was definitely the fomer.  I’ve always been remote from meeting the real needs, in an adaptive sense (what Rosenfels meant by “adaptive” v. “creative”) of other people.


So volunteering effectively is a challenge.  I noted, on Nov. 6, that the possibility of unusual personal risk is always in the back of my mind. That can morph into what we used to call cowardice, in the days that we had male-only conscription.

One of my takes is that organizations asking for volunteers, or for services (like hosting people) need to be transparent and clear about what they are asking for.  Organizations can share liability with volunteers for serious mishaps (earlier writeup).

But organizations (and some employers) sometimes have periods of unusual demand, or unusual personal sensitivity.  I agree, that there have been a few occasions where I signed up for something provisionally, and then had to back out when I found out that an assignment could present an unacceptable situation that I am not prepared for.   In the future, I will be much more insistent that organizations disclose certain details to me than I have in the past, when I have reason to suspect that the organization or employer faces enhanced challenges from its own clients.


Many organizations find that “occasional” volunteers don’t work out that well, and find that a minimal rate of participation, including orientation, and also other bonding with members of the group, turns out to be necessary.  I was told this on two separate occasions in the 1990s after a couple of misunderstandings.  People are supposed to just “know” by belonging.  But this can be dangerous for new volunteers in some situations.

There were a couple of occasions when I was substitute teaching, especially shortly after I had started in 2004, when I backed out of a couple assignments after learning that the duties could involve far more intimate contact with disabled students than I had anticipated (details).  I had accepted the assignments, by cell phone codes, believing that I needed to be venturesome to see if substitute teaching would generate enough assignments for a decent income.  The assignments had been outside my normal “profile” preferences emphasizing academics.

This was a very sensitive issue for me.  Had I ever had my own children through conventional marriage, I would be prepared for “OPC” (other people’s children).  That’s one reason, by inverse logic or by “potentiality”, why “family values” matter, so that someone like “me” can step up when necessary.  But think about the situation another way.  I could have been working for minimum wage in a convenience store, exposed to the physical dangers we all know that problem brings.  Or I could have been delivering newspapers at 3 AM.   I was in a sense starting over.  This is the underside of “class warfare” and resentment politics (as we just saw), and it’s all very disturbing.

(Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 at 10:45 PM EST)