Following Captain Ahab into deep, deep water

I admire absurdity, especially political absurdity, but I’m finding it hard to laugh right now. As I write this (late Sunday, January 29), people with visas, and possibly with green cards—it’s not clear what’s happening right now, as opposed to what’s being said—with every legal right to enter the U.S. are being barred because they’re Muslims and from the wrong countries.

No, make that presumed Muslims, because I’m sure no one’s asking what they believe. I mean, c’mon, they might be terrorists, so why should anyone listen to them?

It echoes one of America’s moments of national shame, the World War II detention of Japanese-Americans, not because of anything they’d done, or even believed, but because their Japanese heritage meant they must be the enemy.

Is the current detention illegal? You bet your ass it is. It’s discrimination on the basis of religion. It’s refusing people who have a legal right to enter to country permission to enter the country. It violates a 1965 law that forbids discrimination against immigrants on the basis of their national origin.

Although several courts issued temporary stays of execution, Al Jazeera reports that the Department of Homeland Security said it would ignore them. The New York Times reports that the Department of Homeland Security said it would comply with the rulings, but it would also enforce the executive order. Are both things possible? Hard to say. In a world of alternative facts, I’m not sure we’re supposed to care.

The Times also reports that it’s not clear how consistently airport officials are complying with the court order.

When I was a kid, we were taught that the U.S. Constitution’s checks and balances were a stroke of genius of the part of the nation’s founders and the reason for America’s stability. From where I’m sitting, on the far side of the Atlantic, it sounds like the Trump administration wants to throw all that out the window. The executive branch is ready to ride over a federal court because they don’t like what it said. Because they don’t have to. Because who’s going to stop them?

As we used to say when I was a kid, “You and whose army?”

There are bright spots in the picture. Lawyers flooded to airports, volunteering their help. They filed suits, they did all the things lawyers do, except they did them for free. In places they seem to have been allowed to see detainees. In others, they seem not to have been. Protesters also materialized at airports. And at New York’s JFK airport, cab drivers staged a one-hour strike in protest.

On a personal note, my goddaughter—Catholic by baptism, I’m no longer sure what by belief—is considering wearing a headscarf as a gesture of solidarity. I don’t know if she’ll do it—it’s not an easy step to take and she’s concerned that it might actually offend the people she wants to support—but her courage and her commitment are humbling.

If I lived in the U.S., I’d be advocating that all women do it, but I’m an ocean away and don’t feel I have a right to advocate an act I’m in the wrong place to take myself. I’m increasingly uneasy at not being where I ought to be right now.

The U.S. hasn’t slipped irrevocably into one-man rule yet, but the signs are chilling. We’re far out into uncharted waters, friends, and Captain Ahab is at the wheel. I don’t know how long we have to turn the ship around. Although I’m not sure how much impact online petitions have, I’m signing them like mad because it’s something I can do. Because we have to do whatever we can.

76 thoughts on “Following Captain Ahab into deep, deep water

  1. It is very scary here. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham issued this statement today. What struck me was the following “We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security.” Now that is truly scary. Read the entire statement here:

    Liked by 2 people

  2. These are not just strange times but also terrible times. As you know, I am a green card holder. I now feel my position is pretty vulnerable. I am sure the draconian measures taken to limit immigration and the rights of immigrants will reach me in time even though as a white, English speaker from a nominally Christian country I am in no way the target of this administration. But my levels of anxiety are nothing, absolutely nothing at all, compared to what other families around the US and the world must be feeling right now. I can only imagine how precarious they must be feeling their futures are. And then there are the families now stuck in limbo as they have been rent asunder by this executive order. It is impossible for me to even begin to comprehend the terror they must be feeling right now. Not only is it disgusting, amoral, and utterly shameful, but it has also been done in such a thoughtless way that immigration and security staff on the front line clearly don’t have the first clue how to handle those already in transit. It is gross incompetence coupled with a moral vacuum. That should terrify us all.

    If one more person tells me I need to give Trump a chance to prove himself and the merit of his presidency I might just go fully apoplectic and spit venom at them. This is week one for @#$%’s sake and look at the levels of destruction already! All week I have been wavering between raging and weeping.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Two answers to the people who say, “Let them prove himself.” 1: He has. 2: A car’s headed toward you. Do you honk the horn or wait to see if it’s really going to hit you?

      I understand your feelings all too well. When a government attacks immigrants, it may specifically target some but none of us are safe. And even if some of us were, safety at someone else’s expense is a nasty thing. Keep a cool head. Get through this. Do what you can. Make a difference.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thanks, Ellen. Your car analogy reminds me of that flipping “pilot” analogy going around social media. Do I want my pilot to crash? Obviously not. But I would not have boarded a plane being piloted by someone so woefully incompetent in the first place and I like to think I would organise a coup of passengers should I have found myself in that position.

        I hope that the little we are doing as a family does make a difference if everyone else is going their little bit of difference too. Thanks for your thoughtful words.

        Liked by 1 person

        • What matters is to do something, and we all have to figure out what we can do best and what we can sustain. Because we have to keep on doing it, even when we’ve started to ask, “Is this really making a difference.” It is. Maybe not this five minutes, this day, this week, even this decade. We can’t know how far the ripples will spread or who they’ll reach.

          Stay strong.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. What you and Wild One did in moving out looks brilliant from here. During the first years of Bush II’s presidency, I seriously considered moving to the little town of Sequim in Washington state because I could look across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and see Victoria in Canada. I figured I could pack a bag and get on the ferry in Port Angeles pretty darned quick. Well, those look like play days now, don’t they? I marched in our local Women’s March. Amazingly, 10,000 people–men, women, kids, babies, dogs–turned out. It was loving, kind and cheerful but very determined. The signs, as elsewhere around the world, were very clever and very individual. We walked, some in wheelchairs, some with walkers, all ages, in the pouring rain through our small town of San Luis Obispo and we filled the street curb-to-curb for the whole route. The front end had to stop and pile up while the back end moved from the park to the route of the march. It was wet but glorious. Still, we have our Chief Narcissist calling the shots in D.C. and what a mess he is making of it. I spend hours making comments on Facebook, signing petitions, and writing emails to legislators. Several years ago I read a book that really explained what has been happening for the last several decades: The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet. Wikipedia has a brief article on it but I do not think that article captures the essence of the book. The Family is in charge now and that is really scary. Actually, I fear The Narcissist is the least of our worries because Pence and Bannon are the truly frightening ones. There is no way out of the next four years. I’ve decided that I am old and really don’t have a purpose in life except protecting my sons and grandson so I am prepared, I think, to take the consequences of continuing to speak out, if these horrid people even care. I’m going to volunteer at Planned Parenthood, wear defiant shirts, try to change some minds in as gentle a way as possible and just basically live to try to get us through this mess. I think others are doing the same. I never protested anything before. So here we go. Thanks for writing about this. P.S. Part of me would still like to live in your wood shed with a flashlight, sleeping bag and a stack of good books!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s kinda damp in there, so I don’t recommend it.

      During the Vietnam War, those of us who demonstrated felt hopeless and helpless. We didn’t seem to be making a dent, and the killing went on and on. And yet, in the long run, all those demonstrations did make a difference. We have to be in this for the long haul.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Damp and cold are just fine and preferred over deserts and hot. Yes. Long haul. I’m getting a little enforced reprieve right now. Sitting in the jury room waiting to see if they want me. Feels good doing civic duty right now although it is perfect outside down by the bay–sparkly sky, cool breeze, lots of birds, couple of sea otters. Kind of defies the state of the world.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m on your side although physically I’m half a world away. Mr.T is a one man band, marching to his own tune. It is scary. No. It is more than scary. He says his ban is “working very well”, even though every major airport across the U.S. filled with protestors, and Federal Judge orders to release were issued. He seems determined in his own defiance and…detriment. Or…ours.

    Liked by 1 person

      • You are correct. Trump is the guy who upset the plan to give us Pence or Ryan or Perry as President but the Family has adapted. Read Jeff Sharlet. Trump is a classic narcissist. He is an attention-seeking maniac but as long as he is advancing their agenda, he will be our Prez. When he becomes a liability, they will offer him up for impeachment (and further distraction for our outrage) and we will get the chilling Pence. Bannon is the puppet master. We cannot afford any optimism. We have to fight like mad for four years with a focus on taking back Congress in 2018. Sign, call, write every day. The best practical action I’ve seen is The Sister District Project in which those who sign up will be matched with a district where there’s a good chance to flip it with some effort and money. They send you an email with specific things to do. The first one is a state legislative district in Delaware. This group is proceeding carefully. Google them. Gotta go now. Off to Monterey CA to look at really tiny places to live (under 700 sf) to better secure myself financially so I’m better prepared when they come after my pension and Social Security and crash the economy again. This is the worst crisis since the Great Depression and the Civil War. We have to respond even though I’d rather go live in Ellen’s damp woodshed!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sorry, I don’t need instructions from a state legislative district that is proceeding carefully. I’m a revolutionary, not a reformist. I want an international struggle against global genocide much more than I want to better secure myself financially. Any American with a car can drive to the border and help smuggle migrants across. That’s where I’m starting.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The left has a long and honorable tradition of tearing itself to pieces over who has the right strategy. Or tactics. Or theory. I’ve participated. I no longer know what the right thing to do is and my theory’s shot to hell. I’m at a point where I’m grateful for any action that doesn’t destroy the movement.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I know what you mean. I really do.
              I wasn’t directing my comment to you, though
              This is the first time I’m looking to commit myself to armed struggle. And also to the idea that my life isn’t more important than any dead Syrian’s.
              I don’t know….it’s hard to describe, but I just know that everything is going to be different this time. XXOO

              Liked by 1 person

              • I respect the hell out of your commitment, and I know what you’re saying about the value of your life, my life, the life of someone who drowns in the Mediterranean, although like most people I cling pretty hard to my small, personal life and don’t want to give it up if I have a choice. But armed struggle? I don’t think it’s realistic or useful at this point.

                Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m feeling cautiously optimistic – given the instant backlash from around the globe. I also don’t know if writing letters to MP’s (I’m in Canada) makes any difference. But it gives one a sense of being able to do SOMEthing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yep. It’s really bat-shit crazy here. Trying to find absurdity, as are you, and humor, to sustain me. And trying to figure out what we personally can do. Local action seems the most direct. But that’s easy to say and harder to do. Thanks for your words. We are everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Philadelphia has been in the streets, nearly every day for a week. Inauguration day protests, the Women’s March, several days of pro-ACA marches and protests ( the GOP leadership held their “let’s decide how to repeal health care from the poor and needy” meeting here last week), and now hundreds of people are filling the airport with their rage, outrage, and grief.

    I don’t know that it will make any difference. I doubt that it will make much. But my friends and chosen family, my people, my city is putting hearts and bodies on the line every day to oppose this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m old enough to remember the anti-war demonstrations during the Vietnam War, and the feeling that nothing would help, that what we were doing wasn’t effective. And yet, it did make a difference. And so will these. Not necessarily quickly, but they do matter.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Deep and worrying territory, indeed. I am taking heart from all the protests that are happening. Not that I think Trump will be influenced by them. However, now it the time to stand up, because not everything over and done. “Captain Ahab” is at the wheel.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is surreal. Trump and his puppet master Steve Bannon (the Breitbart Nazi) have done so much harm in such a short time. It’s dizzying. It is bound to get worse here before it gets better. What that will look like…who knows? Many of my friends, representing a broad range of temperaments and liberal viewpoints, expect war on our soil. This is incomprehensible to me, and yet the Chinese have stated that war with the US has quickly become a “practical reality”, and they are reportedly repositioning their nuclear armament hardware so missiles can reach the west coast. (I live in Washington State!) We may need the French to liberate us this time around.
    As for your feeling of needing to be here…you belong exactly where you are, and be glad of it. You don’t want to be here right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. If the unseen ruling elite wanted to get a puppet to start World War Three, I wonder who they would choose. Possibly a bright orange egomaniac with hatred in his heart. And for those who still think he is ‘ok’, watch out because he will be picking off various groupings of people one by one. (Apart from maybe gingers wearing fake tan.) What is the best way to destabilise the masses? Pit them against each other while the mega mega mega wealthy people who are REALLY in control live on a different level on their private islands.

    We, the worker ants, are their biggest resource and there are ‘too many of us’ to quote one of the ringleaders in the banking world. The keep us in a state where we have the illusion of freedom (and some of us have more comfortable cells than others while despising those living rough with no cell at all.)

    We needed to wake up and face the depopulation agenda of the ruling elite a very long time ago but those of us who were trying to talk about it were shot down as nutcases (and are still being shot down even though the evidence is smacking everyone around the face now.)

    And for anyone who is not convinced that the nutcases may have a point, read The Unseen Hand that came out 35 years ago. I read it back then and have been watching the happenings in the world ever since with a different viewpoint to those around me who said I was crazy for believing what was in the book.

    What is in the book helps understand the seemingly random, unbelievable events in the USA right now.

    The media (owned by the true world dominators) has been working to destabilise society by promoting fear and hatred for a VERY long time but it hasn’t worked well enough to cause mass fighting on the streets yet. The DT administration is a little boost to get it all going again because it’s about time for another war to get rid of ‘excess people’.

    Ok, just my ‘crazy’ opinion of course but that is what it looks like from my seat on the edge of the sea where I sit frantically watching the skies for Air Farce 1.

    Ordinary Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Christians, Mexicans or Gingers (yes, we get picked on too) are not the problem – we need to stand together against the tyranny of the power hungry trillionaires who keep us all compliant by making us fight amongst ourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Where to begin? These are truly disturbing times. ‘Oh, don’t worry, he’ll be all right, you’ll see,’ ‘There are checks and balances, he won’t be able …’ – all the words of the optimists are sounding a bit hollow now and I see people who laughed at us for being afraid are now saying – ‘um, can he do this?’ . My husband is a US citizen who also took British nationality a couple of years ago and now he is doubly upset – Brexit followed by Trump. I gave up signing petitions a while ago but I did go on the Women’s March (well, rally) in Liverpool and would certainly do it again. I have a feeling there will be much call for marching int he weeks and months to come. And I like your daughter’s idea… Hope. Stay hopeful.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Ellen,
    I agree with you that the signs are terrifying. And have been for quite some time. It’s not only the current administration that worries me, but also the spineless submission of the Republican leaders, the refusal to obey the law even by some judges, etc. And even now we are told to give that administration a chance! I wonder till when. When all Muslims here have to wear the equivalent of that infamous yellow “Judenstern” again?
    Keep praying, please,


  13. This seems to support the deepest fears we have — aside from the possibility of WWIII. A coup performed by our megalomanic, vindictive, petty little POTUS who has no experience in leadership, government, law, or military. He is merely a dictatorial CEO executing a hostile takeover.

    We’re gonna need a bigger boat. Or a man-eating shark with a taste for ginger.

    View at

    Liked by 3 people

  14. This is horrible. In a word: it’s un-American. Descrimination on the basis of the religion not only goes against everything that we are as a country–it goes against everything that we have ALWAYS been as a country, and indeed, everything that we were as COLONIES.

    Regarding your god-daughter: if she searches for the article with the title (I believe) “As Muslim women, we ask you not to wear the veil in solidarity,” she’ll find a pretty good argument against the idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I agree with her, but if women who do choose to wear the hijab are under attack for it–and they are–we could muddy the waters by wearing it not as a symbol of modesty or religion but of defiance.

      For anyone who wants to read the article, it’s here.


  15. I, too, remember (and participated) in the Viet Nam marches. Problem is that it seems like it took a more sane political atmosphere to be effective. Something we don’t have in this era. Every bit of it is pretty chilling. Seems like there’s nothing left but the lunatics running the asylum.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sometimes it helps just to see someone else recognizing the madness. There are days when I feel we’ve come completely untethered, and I don’t know if we’ll ever get things back to normal. I do know we have to fight while we still have voices to raise. Keep speaking truth!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What was normal led up to the madness, which much of the world has recognized for years. Resistence is going to take a lot more than raised voices. Revolution has to become a real concept for Americans. Otherwise, global blood will be on our hands, and that is the truth we must speak while we still have voices to raise.
      The children of Syria know that millions of adults are allowing them to be slaughtered. Who’s going to look the survivors in the eye?

      Liked by 1 person

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