Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 20, 2015

I can never leave the past behind

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

Given the recent tragedies in Beirut and Paris, I thought I’d change it up just a little to talk about the recent rhetoric around the possibility of refugees coming to the United States.

The United States, ostensibly, is built on the hard work and labor of immigrants and refugees.  At some point most everyone’s ancestors was an immigrant or a refugee; a stranger in this land.  I happen to be the child of refugees myself, after being rescued at sea my parents were both sent to Fort Chafee in Arkansas where the Governor of that State has emphatically said that he would not accept Syrian refugees.

Add to that the insensitive comments that lack adequate historical perspective to justify denying Syrian refugees safe passage to our country and well you have quite the tale of the conflict that exists between what the United States should be — a place for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free — and the United States that some folks want it to be: a place where the sign reads “visitors forbidden.”

Folks wonder why it is that I often bring the subject of race into some of the issues that some folks believe to be race and culture neutral.  Well, the sad state of our political discourse is one reason.  This comment posted yesterday is another.

Slight tangent, I have to say that the overtly racist comments stopped affecting me long ago.  It’s more like a “huh, at least I know where I stand with that person” sort of revelation.  Personally, the covert racism that is wrapped up in righteous indignation when its pointed out is much more problematic.  Whether intentional or unintentional.

As long as we view people with whom we disagree with this “otherness” because their culture and their background is different and use that as ammunition in our political discourse then we’ll never reach this post-racial America that some people seem to think that we should be in today where race and culture doesn’t matter.

We’ll never understand the value that people different than us — ethnically, socio-economically, and/or religiously —  can bring to our lives if we allow those families and individuals to be shut out of our communities.

Just to bring it back to an Alameda specific story: a parent volunteer at Ruby Bridges once told me this story which never fails to make me reflective and a little teary.  In a small group of First Graders she was reading them a story based on the American Civil War.  At the conclusion of the book she asked the kids if they knew what the civil war was.  One of the students, a young boy, answered that he did and that there was a civil war happening in his home country right now.  That young boy was from Syria.



  1. Thank you for this posting.

    Comment by Steve Good — November 20, 2015 @ 8:41 am

  2. Well documented immigrants have always been welcome here. The average American wants people from other countries to come here and to succeed. But, if there is a chance that just one of those immigrants may blow up an office building or shoot innocent Americans in a restaurant, we need to make sure that we check these people well. Sacrificing American lives in order to allow just about anyone to enter the U.S. is wrong and is not fair to those who have fought and died for our freedom and our safety. I don’t view what some states are doing as “fear,” but rather “caution.” Is that so bad? There are plenty of racists in our community, of all colors and backgrounds, but caution is not a racist activity.

    Comment by Bill — November 20, 2015 @ 9:43 am

  3. 2. was Timothy McVeigh an immigrant? European countries are taking them by the thousands and we have taken something like 1000 and may take 10,000. After the Vietnam war we took thousands of Southeast Asian immigrants because, well they were displaced because of a war we escalated and our influence in the Middle East is even worse. IS is the bastard child of Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush was the surrogate mother who helped incubate it. “Mission Accomplished”!

    In Europe at large there are perhaps 15,000 people who have gone to Syria and Iraq to train with Daesh who have returned to Europe. According to FBI the figures for the U.S. are in the teens. But if any of them do decide to commit a terrorist attack, the easy access to weapons will sure make it interesting.

    Comment by MI — November 20, 2015 @ 10:35 am

  4. 2. When Colin Powell (not my favorite) said “you break it, you buy it,” this is what that means. We don’t get to both set a region on fire and then turn a blind eye to the people running away from that fire.

    Comment by BMac — November 20, 2015 @ 11:01 am

  5. In the seventies we took in thousands of Cuban refugees despite the violence and knowing many were criminals and terrorists. There is a NYT article, behind paywall unfortunately, that describes this and some shocking statistics such as, “In the last three years, more than 100 bombs have exploded in Miami. At the height of the campaign, there were 10 blasts in a 24-hour period, including one outside the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, one in Miami police headquarters, and a third in the office of the State Attorney.”

    Despite this, we continued taking in refugees. What has happened that has left us with a country where a presidential candidate can state that he would not even take in 5 year old orphan refugees and doesn’t get laughed out of the race?

    Comment by Spanky McDoogle (@SpankyMcDoogle) — November 20, 2015 @ 2:00 pm

  6. #6 Probably not the best example of why “we” shouldn’t let refugees in. The Nieves murder was part of the larger anti-Castro activities conducted by Cuban exiles who were intent on overthrowing Castro. Many were former CIA operatives who were wrapped up in the Iran-Contra scandal; many did go to jail in the U.S., but politicians (including Jeb Bush) advocated for their release. Do some research on the Mariel Boatlift. Castro allowed anyone who wanted to leave to get on a boat in Havana, including jailed prisoners. The U.S. welcomed these people with open arms, knowing full well who they were. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” doesn’t always work out so well.

    Comment by Alison — November 20, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

  7. I saw Scarface. That means I’m informed on the refugee issue, right?

    Comment by BMac — November 20, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

  8. Great post today…..Thanks

    Comment by J.E.A. — November 20, 2015 @ 3:45 pm

  9. Learn more about Islam here:

    Comment by vigi — November 20, 2015 @ 3:45 pm

  10. Considering what the KKK was doing in the Jim Crow South on a regular basis, or bombers of clinics providing abortions in the 90s, and countless wars over two millennia, all in the name of Christ, would you feel that Christianity was a violent religion? If so, kudos to your ideological consistency and we shall put you in the Bill Maher camp.

    That some terrorists commit heinous acts in the name of their god, is not a convincing argument that the religion they profess to represent is inherently violent.

    Comment by BMac — November 20, 2015 @ 3:55 pm

  11. 11 is being asked of vigi, if that isn’t clear.

    Comment by BMac — November 20, 2015 @ 3:56 pm

  12. #10 – Carol, that’s a real authoritative source you’ve linked to there. Here is a bio of the author of the site (in his own words): A self-described “techno-geek,” Glen Roberts is a programmer, webmaster and blogger as well as the author of How to Renounce Your US Citizenship in Two Easy Steps. The book was written as a guide to cut through opinions and present the requirements and process in a direct and straightforward manner. Glen renounced his US citizenship after living in various Central and South American countries for more than a decade. He is now a happily stateless person.

    A real authority on Islam there! And a real patriot, too.

    Comment by david burton — November 20, 2015 @ 4:18 pm

  13. Lauren:

    The insult at the time was to call them “boat people.”

    My elementary school hosted a family. We learned quickly that all our descendants came to the USA on boats.

    My children are both by products of Ruby Bridges. Their great grand-father took a “boat” from Beuirt.

    Comment by Gerard L. — November 20, 2015 @ 5:00 pm

  14. Jews fleeing persecution were turned away during World War II. One would hope that we could do better.

    Also, nobody has suffered more from Islamic/Jihadist extremism than other Muslims.

    Comment by JohnB — November 20, 2015 @ 6:59 pm

  15. #13 = Well, then. Try this site:

    Regarding your post, try:

    Anyone can edit it. It has an entry on The Religion of, which is supported by footnotes and references, which the “bio” in your post is not.

    BMac doesn’t surprise me, because people who have no belief system tend to paint all religions with the same brush. But I have seen David Burton walk up to communion at St Josephs Basilica, so I assumed he was Catholic. David’s comments are surprising.

    Both of you reveal in your comments that neither has actually visited the site to click on the links or view the data there. The links are to news stories in the main stream media, including the Washington Post, which Lauren has linked to in this very post above. I don’t really care who compiled the list of terrorist acts there, as long as they can be verified independently. If you actually LOOK at the list, you will see that it is Mostly comprised of terrorist acts AGAINST OTHER MUSLIMS. You could at least read something before condemning it.

    I am all for providing a haven for those fleeing terrorism and persecution. But how do you tell the difference? It only takes one suicide bomber to bring down a plane. Only 19 terrorists to bring about 3000 deaths on 9/11.

    At Pearl Harbor, the Japanese military sent 6 aircraft carriers and more than 400 aircraft to accomplish a similar objective. Not a comparable situation.

    Your romantic notions of “immigrants built this nation” are so last century! Not progressive at all!

    Don’t accuse me of bigotry for presenting the evidence. Only a bigot would dismiss the evidence without examining it.

    Comment by vigi — November 21, 2015 @ 11:15 am

  16. 6. When Castro launched boats from Mariel it was a cynical joke to eject criminal element along with other dissidents on boats headed for Florida. The zealots who allegedly killed Nieves may be similar to Daesh in their fanaticism, but the immigration situation may be apples and oranges comparison with Syrian refugees. Conversely, loyalists to the Cuban revolution refer to all dissidents as “gusanos”. They are like crazy KKK. Castro is without a doubt is a tyrant, but the revolution also elevated a lot of people. Even with embargo the Cuban’s get decent medical care compared to poor in U.S.. Literacy is high. Assad regime on the other hand is an ethnic minority clinging to power by killing it’s own people. It’s all pretty sick.

    Comment by MI — November 21, 2015 @ 11:28 am

  17. If you don’t think the current talk about making registries for all Muslims, the idea of having them wear badges or carry special i.d. as to their religion, or “closing down” mosques, coffee houses and other places where “they” gather doesn’t sound like what led to the death camps for some 6 million Jews you are delusional. This is scary, scary stuff and not in keeping with our values as a Nation. The Muslim religion and those who practice it are no more to blame for the crazy jihadists than the Christian church is for the KKK or the terrorizing/killing of people who work in women’s health clinics, or the Timothy McVey’s. How sad it is to hear a whole religion and its believers reviled by shallow minds and how wrong it is for us to turn our backs on those fleeing from the persecution of extremists. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” is not a mere passing reference in the Bible, it is a baseline for our behavior. As is “I was hungry and you fed me; I was naked and you clothed me; I was homeless and you sheltered me.” I hear the people who say they adhere to Christian values saying “I got mine, Jack, F-you!” Why do they not open their ears to hear the cries of the suffering?

    Comment by Kate Quick — November 21, 2015 @ 11:42 am

  18. 16. The link you provided in 10 is pure bigotry. Bill Maher may be a funny man but he is also an asshole.

    “Your romantic notions of “immigrants built this nation” are so last century! Not progressive at all!” progressive-shmessive. Actually when I think about Syrians the whole huddled masses thing makes me swoon. It may be romantic, but more than that it’s truer than ever. This country is better for the influx of South East Asians during and after Vietnam era. African Americans were the original “boat people”. White privilege is not some P.C. term. It is real and it is slowly eroding. Bring it on.

    Comment by MI — November 21, 2015 @ 11:57 am

  19. ***African Americans kidnapped as slave were original boat people.

    Comment by MI — November 21, 2015 @ 11:58 am

  20. 20. I disagree. There were some boat people here a bit earlier. I believe the boat was called, the “Mayflower.”

    Comment by Denise Shelton — November 21, 2015 @ 12:21 pm

  21. “But I have seen David Burton walk up to communion at St Josephs Basilica, so I assumed he was Catholic.” You have to be the nosiest person in the city! Are you often told to mind your own business or get a life?

    Comment by BC — November 21, 2015 @ 12:55 pm

  22. #22 – that’s not being nosy, that’s just seeing your neighbor in church. I’m happy to say I’m a life long Catholic (another question whether I’m a good one), and I’m always happy to see my fellow Alamedans there.

    That said – Carol, your Catholic faith should tell you not to judge a whole segment of the population, or a whole religion, by the actions of a few. If we judged a religion by the actions of a few adherents, then we Catholics would be in a bad spot (Crusades, clinic bombers, the Inquisition – need I keep going).

    Comment by david burton — November 21, 2015 @ 4:18 pm

  23. Historical Comments from 2 Great anti-Muslim bigots: Thomas Jefferson and Alexis de Toqueville:

    “I studied the Quran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. As far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion more to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, author of ‘Democracy In America.’

    “We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the ground of their pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.

    The Ambassador [of Tripoli] answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
    – Thomas Jefferson, 1786 in a report to John Jay, then US Secretary of Foreign Affairs [a Musselman = old term for a Muslim]

    Yeah, I am the one with the problem..

    Comment by vigi — November 21, 2015 @ 4:35 pm

  24. That bit by Jefferson, the liberty loving owner of hundreds of slaves, reads an awful lot like the justifications of the Conquistadors, who were Catholic.

    Every religion has used to promote violence, even yours.

    Comment by dave — November 21, 2015 @ 4:47 pm

  25. The 21st century world is getting very complex with the rise of non-state groups that challenge existing government who are not providing needed services to their citizens. Many of these non-state groups have a religious component.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — November 21, 2015 @ 6:03 pm

  26. 16. Every terrorist or aggressor you mention was not a refugee. Boston Marathon bombers: not refugees. 9/11 terrorists: not refugees. Timothy McVeigh: not a refugee. All the white guys gunning down 4+ people because guns are so easy for anyone to get in this country: not refugees. We have the death toll of two Paris Massacres in this country every nine days in the U.S. from gun homicides. That’s where the real danger is. This anti-refugee hysteria shows the worst side of American fear and ignorance.

    Comment by Larry Witte — November 22, 2015 @ 1:11 am

  27. My Brother In Law was over in France last Friday to do some filming for the world Ice Skating Championships for NBC.

    He worked with some young French who were talking about their fears and what was going on in France prior to the bombing.

    When my BIL got home from France last sunday he recieved this video from one of his Co Workers. They want out of France.

    Not everyone sees this the same.

    I don’t have the answers but there are many viewpoints.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — November 22, 2015 @ 2:11 pm

  28. 27=Guns are “where the real danger is”? How many guns were used by the terrorists who hijacked the planes on 9/11? Answer = NONE They used plastic knives and box cutters. How many guns were used to bring down the Russian plane over Sinai? NONE. Used bomb in a soda can.

    The weapons aren’t the problem. I posted the quotes from Thomas Jefferson (1786) and deToqueville (c 1840) about Islam to demonstrate that, even when we were barely a country of 13 states, Western leaders were well acquainted with Islam’s objectives.

    Did I say all terrorists were refugees? No I didn’t. But if you are paying any attention at all, you would know that ISIS/L has stated for the record that it intends to smuggle its soldiers in as refugees. Taking ISIL at its word is not “anti-refugee hysteria”.

    Comment by vigilante — November 22, 2015 @ 2:26 pm

  29. 26 = “21st century world is getting very complex”? Try 18th century. We are back on “the shores of Tripoli”, as if we never left. ISIS is straight out of the Ottoman Empire Barbary Pirates.

    Comment by vigilante — November 22, 2015 @ 3:20 pm

  30. 29. You’re dead wrong. Guns kill 10,000 every year in this country: 3X the number on 9/11, and hundreds more than the soda can. That’s just homicides. I’m not including the 20,000 suicides by guns each year. That’s where the real danger is. Since Paris we’ve killed more.of our own people with guns. I pay attention to these facts and keep my focus on reality. Heck, you don’t even use your real name.

    Comment by Larry Witte — November 23, 2015 @ 2:47 am

  31. 25
    Nothing unusual having slaves in the fifteenth century but to equate Jefferson or US slavery in general with Conquistador Catholicism or Ottoman Empire Islamic slavery is bit of a stretch. Kinda like equating twentieth century Nation Socialism with the Communist Party of Canada.

    Comment by jack — November 23, 2015 @ 2:58 pm

  32. Update on that beneficent Alameda…unh..Sweden

    “The situation became so fierce the teachers and police had to walk with the children from the centre to the school. But there were teachers who wouldn’t walk with the children, because they were afraid of being threatened.”

    Read more:
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

    Comment by jack — November 26, 2015 @ 10:48 am

  33. Jack, should we infer you enjoy the fact that Sweden is buckling under the strain of the refugee problem as if it proves something about your jaundiced view of the world?

    Comment by MI — November 27, 2015 @ 8:41 am

  34. You can infer whatever you like. I was born with yellow jaundice but was quickly cured so my view of, at least, parts of the world is probably best described as skeptical. And even more than skeptical towards those parts of the world controlled by fawning socialists. Such as Sweden and the US.

    Comment by jack — November 27, 2015 @ 10:35 am

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