The Trump White House does not see migrants as full human beings. They see them as a horde of invading pests. Trump himself has recently used the word “infestation” to describe immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. That is why-despite his executive order- it doesn’t matter to his administration that children were separated from their families, and babies were detained. The children and babies are, in their minds, future rapists and murderers. As they see it, they are like their parents: moochers, freeloaders, parasites, and aliens. Speaking of gang members but generalizing all migrants, Trump has stated on more than one occasion, “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”
Of course, this is not the first time the world has witnessed such blatant campaigns of dehumanization. Every genocide is founded on the premise that some superior group possesses humanity while another subhuman group is deemed inferior. That’s why the Nazis referred to Jewish people as rats needing to be exterminated. That’s why the Hutu in Rwanda referred to the Tutsi as cockroaches. That’s why the Ba’ath Party in Iraq referred to the Kurds as dogs. That’s why Islamic fundamentalists refer to Americans as infidel snakes. Every war fought has been waged under a banner of hatred towards the dehumanized other. By making families from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico into the other, the Trump White House has waved the banner of hatred as high as their arms will reach.
History has demonstrated that the only force which can prevent humanitarian crises such as the one occurring on the border is for people of good faith and moral courage to stand up and resist. The Trump White House is not upholding the law with these policies. There is a moral law that every national law must obey. No, all Trump is doing is testing the willpower of the American citizenry. Trump is straining to see how far he can go. If the American people let him get away with interning babies without their mothers, what will be next? Who will be next? Soon there will be detention centers for women who get abortions. Then there will be prisons for homosexuals. After that there will be incarceration camps for journalists who challenge the administration. Ultimately every political opponent will be locked away. And if you think you are safe, think again. If at any time you decide to speak out, there will be a special cell with your name on it.
When the Nazis came for the Communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a radical economic thinker. In his 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? King wrote, “the programs of the past all have another common failing-they are indirect. Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else.”
Think about it. In order to solve poverty, governments convene task forces to create jobs. Poverty means that people are poor. What they need is money. Although jobs may lead to money, they are not money. In similar fashion, governments talk endlessly about prevention education, but what has prevention education ever done for someone who is poor other than tell them what they should have done not to become poor in the first place? Program after program fail because poor people need money and can’t get it..They do not need studies, research papers, websites, fancy buildings, grants, volunteer opportunities, art projects, and pats on the back.
King also wrote: “We have come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations of the market operation of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. The poor are less often dismissed from our conscience today by being branded as inferior and incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands it does not eliminate all poverty.”
One of the positions that made King so radical is that he strongly endorsed the policy of a guaranteed income-or a universal basic income. King wanted the government to fight poverty by providing every American a guaranteed middle-class amount of cash to invest, save, or spend. “We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position, we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those whom traditional jobs are not available.”
Actually a variety of countries have experimented with the idea of a universal basic income. Germany, for instance, has given the idea considerable attention. Positing all of the major counterarguments, the Germans decided against implementing it on logical grounds. They feared that people will spend their basic income on alcohol and drugs. They predicted it would spawn an attitude that is anti-work. They stated that it would require a complete restructuring of taxation, social insurance and pension systems. What is more, they thought it would bring unwanted immigration, a rise in the shadow government, and more taxes that would backfire by causing more inequality. Ultimately, the Germans ruled that there is no viable way to finance such an expensive and revolutionary program.
Yet the idea lingers on in the imagination of liberals and conservatives alike. Thoughtful observers of contemporary financial trends know that the idea is practical and perhaps essential. Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have both argued that automation will take away most jobs in the coming years, and that a basic income structure is the only mechanism that will protect humans from being taken over entirely.
Put more ideally, a guaranteed income would increase economic growth because it would sustain people while they invest in education to get appealing and stable jobs. Many commentators have pointed out that it provides opportunities for people to pursue different occupations and develop untapped potentials for creativity. Such a system lays the conditions for increased leisure time, which has always been the most significant catalyst for art, philosophy, and science.
I do agree that a basic income is a necessary component of any anti-poverty initiative. But I also sympathize with the Germans who saw several disadvantages which cannot be easily dismissed. What if a city government- perhaps my adopted hometown of Rochester, NY- were to address its decades long housing crisis by offering a universal security deposit voucher in the amount of $1,000 for anyone earning less than 30,000 a year? Is that so radical? Anyone who has worked on the housing issue knows that one of the biggest obstacles that poor people face in terms of getting independent housing is a security deposit. Anyone who has worked on the poverty issue knows that one of the biggest factors that keep people in poverty is the lack of safe and affordable housing. A basic security deposit guarantee for the most vulnerable demographic seeking housing helps to solve two major social problems at once. The money would go directly to the landlord’s special account, avoiding the risk of being squandered or redirected to some other need besides housing. Only landlords that meet certain standards of professionalism would qualify for this program. The key words in this transaction would be efficiency, fairness, oversight, and tangible results.
In Rochester, there are a number of civic and nonprofit agencies that claim to provide help with attaining rental assistance including security deposits. Unfortunately these services are often encumbered by a number of inbuilt limitations. For example, they are one time only loans, restricted by geographical range, based on referrals rather than cash in the landlord’s mailbox, and more often than not, dished out sparingly by overanxious, overburdened non-profits with a poverty mentality themselves; that, or they are just plain ineffective due to lack of planning and effort. This may sound overly critical, but the statistics and stories validate my assessment. For those agencies that deliver security deposits as advertised, they should be commended and copied. That type of direct support often makes the difference between someone getting off the streets, working towards a new job, or raising children in a stable environment.
As King understood in the late 60s, the way to fight poverty is to give the poor some weapons to fight the war with. There has never been a better weapon in human history to fight poverty than the weapon that destroys poverty just by being wielded in battle. Rochester could become one of the few cities in the world to offer a basic security deposit guarantee for its low income citizens. I don’t think that is too radical a proposition. The money to pay for this could be generated by a combination of sources including federal allowances, State grants, municipal taxes, and non-profit charitable donations. If carried out in earnest, the universal housing fund that I have described could be one of the most pragmatic civic policies ever put into action.
In religious terms, Dr. King put this matter as only a Baptist preacher could:
God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty. (Strength to Love, 1963)
George Cassidy Payne is an independent writer, social justice activist, and adjunct professor of philosophy at SUNY. He lives and works in Rochester.
Alice Walker once said, “activism is the rent we pay for living on the planet.” Speaking as a white American male who is able bodied, heterosexual, English speaking, university educated, reared Christian, and endowed with birthright citizenship, I know exactly what she means.
My favored position on this planet is both a blessing and a burden. I am blessed because I have been granted every conceivable privilege under the sun. I am burdened because my privilege has too often come at the expense of my fellow brothers and sisters, people just trying to survive with dignity. For example, my gender has oppressed women. My whiteness has discriminated against people of color. My citizenship has justified imperialism. My able body and mind has contributed to the perception of disability in others. My western education has propped up a global caste system. My English language has monopolized other cultural experiences. My heterosexuality has intimidated and bullied the LGBQT community.
With Alice Walker’s words as my reminder, I am compelled to view my activism as the price I must pay to not only live on the planet but to live with the planet. If I do not fight for women, I am against women. If I do not fight racism, I am a racist. If I do not fight nationalism, I am a terrorist. If I do not fight homophobia, I am a gay basher. If I do not fight Christian triumphalism, I am a Christ killer. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “If we are neutral in situations of injustice, we have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
It is really that simple. I must choose activism because I cannot afford to waste my gifts sitting on the sidelines of social conflict. Truth be told, there is no sideline to sit on. We are all in the game. The only thing that matters is which side we are fighting on.
Despite the mind numbing deluge of disinformation, the endless red herrings let loose in movies, articles, documentaries, TV specials, books, and internet blogs, a six decade long history of witness intimidation, distortion of testimony, and corruption of evidence, the public need not feel paralyzed by the legacy of the JFK assassination.
It all comes down to a series of incontrovertible facts discovered by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison.
1. “The Zapruder film established a maximum time frame for the shooting of 5.6 seconds. In such a short span of time a lone assassin could have fired only three bullets. Since the government had already concluded that one bullet missed completely (with a fragment striking onlooker James Teague in the cheek) and a second bullet hit the President in the head and shattered his skull, that left a third “magic” bullet (Commission exhibit 399) to account for the remaining seven wounds in Kennedy and Connally.”
2. There was a discovery of a fourth bullet. Tucked away in a footnote on page 286, Garrison asserted, “Years later two other important discoveries concerning the autopsy were made. The first was that during the autopsy Commander Humes apparently found an additional bullet that he never acknowledged in his report. On the contrary, he told the Commission he did not find any bullets…The discovery of a fourth bullet during the autopsy necessarily meant that more than one shooter hit the President. The second discovery came in 1972, when Cyril Wecht, an eminent pathologist and the coroner of Pittsburgh, Penn, obtained a court order allowing him to examine President Kennedy’s brain at the National Archives. An examination of the brain, which had been preserved in formalin, might have revealed from what direction, how many times, and what bullets had struck the president’s head. Unfortunately, Dr. Wecht could not perform such an examination. The President’s brain, it was explained to him, had disappeared.”
In 2017, a crucially important story emerged out of the State of Washington. According to Seattle’s Crosscut, “Former University of Washington physician and professor Dr. Donald Miller Jr. says that the late Malcolm Perry, the Dallas surgeon who tried to save Kennedy’s life in the Parkland Hospital operating table Nov. 22, 1963, questioned whether Lee Harvey Oswald fired all the bullets that struck Kennedy’s motorcade…Miller, who later worked and taught with Perry at the University of Washington School of Medicine in the 1970s, says Perry told him there were entry wounds from both behind and in front of Kennedy, contradicting what he told the Warren Commission under oath. Perry confided similar details to an Alaska doctor as well…”He took that to his grave,” Miller, a UW professor emeritus, says today. He claims that Perry, during conversation the two had in the late 70s, said he’d been pressured to change his story and agree with the government’s theory that all entry wounds came from behind the motorcade. Perry had moved to Seattle in 1974 with Dr. Tom Shires, Parkland Hospital’s Chief of Surgery, who became Chairman of Surgery, at the UW. Shires brought Perry and several other Parkland surgeons to the UW, including Dr. Jim Carrico, the first doctor to examine Kennedy in the ER.” (Records of Perry’s testimony and public comments, and Miller’s recollections of the private talk they had, are contained in the first batch of released JFK documents which came out in October, 2017.)
Rick Anderson’s Crosscut article went on to report that “Elmer Moore, a Secret Service agent who worked with the Warren Commission was later transferred to the service’s Seattle office, admitted he was ordered to pressure Perry to refute the two-gunman theory, according to a University of Washington graduate student who interviewed Moore and eventually testified at government hearings.”
So, in summary: the chief surgeon in Parkland Hospital, on the day Kennedy was rolled into his operating room, recanted his original testimony, claiming instead that he saw both exit and entrance wounds on Kennedy’s body. That testimony alone disproves the single gunman theory. Couple Perry’s confession with the charade at Bethesda Naval Hospital, the statements of Elmer Moore, and the discovery of a 4th bullet by Commander James J. Humes, MC, USN, on 22 November 1963, and the case becomes rock solid.
Now is the time to nail the coffin on the single gunman theory shut for good. Dr. Perry was not the only surgeon who saw Kennedy’s head before the conspirators had a chance to manipulate it and destroy it forever. Dallas surgeon Dr. Robert McClelland later drew a rudimentary sketch of the right side of Kennedy’s head and noted the entrance and exit wounds of the bullets. This became known when the sketch went up for auction. In the clearly illustrated drawing of his eyewitness account, the surgeon noted two different entrance wounds – one low in the neck and one at his hairline – which came from different directions. Furthermore, he noted that the fatal wound to the back of the President’s head was from a bullet exiting the skull rather than entering it.
What more is required to smash the lone gunman theory into shards of dusty glass? If only the government has a brain. I mean that literally. If only they had a brain to prove their case, but somehow it was stolen from one of the most secured facilities in the world. If only the government had the windshield to prove the angle of the bullets impact, but that windshield-and the rest of the limo- was flown out of Dallas that very night and rebuilt from scratch. If only they had the autopsy notes from the man who inspected Kennedy’s body after it was taken from the city where the crime occurred. Inexplicably, those notes were ordered to be burned in his fireplace.
 In 1979, The House Select Committee on Assassinations determined that there was probably a conspiracy to kill JFK, but the motives and individuals involved remained unknown. Even though it lacked the stamina to pursue the crime to its logical source, the HSCA could not ignore the acoustic, ballistic, and forensic evidence which leans heavily in the direction of 2, 3, possibly more shooters. Drop the physically absurd “magic bullet” scenario and as many as 10 shooters could have fired simultaneously. The notion that no new bullets can be found has been proven false more than once. Initially the government was inclined to say there were only two shots, but then Mr. Teague’s testimony matched what people saw on the Zapruder film. There had to be three bullets. But then Humes found another one that he kept hidden. How many bullets were taken at the scene of the crime? How many bullets were taken at the Naval Hospital? How about the witnesses who claimed to have heard bullet shots from the Grassy knoll and saw bullet marks near the area of the motorcade? There is a preponderance amount of evidence that points to a multiple gunmen scenario.