Month: September 2017

Why Kaepernick Takes the Knee

25siegelWeb-master768Given the fiery responses to Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem — taking a knee, a gesture now being adopted by a wave of professional athletes — you would think that it was a militant motion, full of anger and menace, akin to the Black Power salutes raised by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics. But kneeling during the national anthem is a gesture of humility, not ominous ire.

In youth sports, players take a knee when another player is hurt. It is an acknowledgment of the vulnerable humanity that, for the moment, has been obscured by the intense competition of the game. Taking a knee in that context is, like a religious genuflection, a gesture of self-surrender before the greater reality of human suffering.

Likewise, when black players take a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence against African-Americans, they are making a gesture of pain and distress. They are putting America in a more honest context — our “Star-Spangled Banner” dimly seen through the mists of deep injury. It is like flying an American flag upside down in a moment of emergency.

Still, black players kneeling in this way has a disorienting quality. Clearly, however humble and sincere Kaepernick’s intentions, his critics have decided that he is disrespecting a growing list of American institutions: the flag, fallen service members — even the perceived line between playing professional sports and speaking out on issues of national importance.

Read More: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/opinion/nfl-football-kaepernick-take-knee.html?ribbon-ad-idx=9&rref=opinion&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&pgtype=article

Tyranny of the Minority

26goldbergWeb-master768Since Donald Trump’s cataclysmic election, the unthinkable has become ordinary. We’ve grown used to naked profiteering off the presidency, an administration that calls for the firing of private citizens for political dissent and nuclear diplomacy conducted via Twitter taunts. Here, in my debut as a New York Times columnist, I want to discuss a structural problem that both underlies and transcends our current political nightmare: We have entered a period of minority rule.

I don’t just mean the fact that Trump became president despite his decisive loss in the popular vote, though that shouldn’t be forgotten. Worse, the majority of voters who disapprove of Trump have little power to force Congress to curb him.

A combination of gerrymandering and the tight clustering of Democrats in urban areas means that even if Democrats get significantly more overall votes than Republicans in the midterms — which polls show is probable — they may not take back the House of Representatives. (According to a Brookings Institution analysis, in 2016, Republicans won 55.2 percent of seats with just under 50 percent of votes cast for Congress.)

And because of the quirks of the 2018 Senate map, Democrats are extremely unlikely to reclaim that chamber, even if most voters would prefer Democratic control. Some analysts have even suggested that Republicans could emerge from 2018 with a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority.

Our Constitution has always had a small-state bias, but the effects have become more pronounced as the population discrepancy between the smallest states and the largest states has grown. “Given contemporary demography, a little bit less than 50 percent of the country lives in 40 of the 50 states,” Sanford Levinson, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Texas, told me. “Roughly half the country gets 80 percent of the votes in the Senate, and the other half of the country gets 20 percent.”

Immigrants Shouldn’t Have to Be ‘Talented’ to Be Welcome

peopleThe terms of the debate over President Trump’s decision to revoke the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are familiar, as are the terms of the larger conversation about immigration in this country: On one side are hardworking immigrants; on the other are politicians who wrongly claim that these immigrants harm the economic interests of native-born Americans. As protests broke out across the United States in response to Mr. Trump’s move, reporters and immigrant advocates stressed that the administration’s actions will hurt achievers — people who have graduated from college, people who have bought houses, people who work for high-tech companies.

There is nothing wrong with this story. It’s one that most, if not all, immigrants like to tell about themselves — even if their actual story doesn’t neatly fit the narrative. In fact, as Hannah Arendt pointed out in her essay “We Refugees,” written in 1943 at the height of the 20th century’s refugee crisis, people whose stories fit the narrative least well — the most desperate and the worst-wounded of the immigrants — are especially invested in thinking of themselves as destined for success and, of course, as future loyal citizens.

But something goes awry when this becomes the dominant story told about immigrants in America. This has been happening for a number of years: The good people of America talk about immigrants as hard workers who conscientiously contribute to the economy. (I myself have made it onto a few lists of exemplary immigrant success stories.) In fact, DACA was designed to reward achievement: to qualify for the program, an applicant had to be in school or hold a high school diploma or equivalent, or have been honorably discharged from the armed forces. Those who hadn’t been able or lucky to meet those requirements were apparently deemed unworthy of staying in the country where they had lived since they were children.

When Mr. Trump issued an executive order banning entry by citizens of predominantly Muslim countries, American technology companies responded with a lawsuit in which they stressed that immigrants have founded and run many large tech companies. The revocation of DACA has brought forth similar — and much-quoted — responses from Silicon Valley. When the president threw his support behind a reform plan that would drastically reduce immigration to this country, editorial writers argued against it by pointing out that immigrants benefit the economy.