THE CRUELTY WATCH
In my case, the Grouchy One hauled me out to the backyard yesterday for a photoshoot, using a row of azalea bushes - which are in full, vibrant spring bloom right now - serving as a backdrop.
“I suppose we better get this over with before they fade,” Grouchy said. “These blossoms don’t hang around very long. Blam! And they’re gone.”
To the uninitiated, this may not sound like a grouchy approach to smelling the roses. But trust me, it’s the Glass-Half-Empty Syndrome in its purest form.
You could contrast it with how the Nice One would have done things, had she been behind the lens.
“Phoebe, just look at the azaleas; they’re gorgeous this year, pinker than ever," the Nice One would have said. "We should enjoy them right now. And, getting some pictures now means that we’ll be able to look at them the rest of the year, remembering how lucky we are to have such wonderful bushes right in our own backyard."
Cat, for his part, was celebrating the holiday out on the back deck, enjoying the blinding sunshine while simultaneously avoiding it – lying in the shade underneath a lounge chair. You have to admire cats for their have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too genius.
Cat and I agreed that the three-day classic spring holiday this year was sure living up to its promise as the prelude to summer. Sunny. Warm. Refreshing.
The Cruelty Watch.
I know. Cat knows. And we apologize. Yes, it’s a nice weekend up in our corner of America, in New England, where there’s lots of chirping birds and no tornadoes. You’re expecting something upbeat. A holiday treat. We hear you.
But it’s not our fault. It’s our job, to keep an eye on Donald J. Trump and the ghouls who make him possible: the Republicans. Without Republicans, Trump would not be the most dangerous president in history.
And you already know that one of the hallmarks of Trump’s presidency is cruelty. It’s both horrible and forgettable. There are so many different ways Trump’s meanness expresses itself, it’s hard to keep track. And for that matter, who wants to? But we must; it’s what we do in a democracy.
So, as a public service, Cat and I have decided to keep an eye on the things Trump and the Republicans do to harm their fellow human beings and to dishonor our country. So here’s the first edition of what we wish wasn’t The Cruelty Watch.
At mid-month, the New York Times reported that the White House was in hurry-up mode to process pardons for some soldiers convicted or charged with wartime atrocities, in time for Memorial Day, a revered holiday during which the nation honors its war dead.
But just the mention of such a grotesque idea triggered furious pushback, including that from military people, who said such pardons would disgrace service men and women who attempt to follow rules meant to civilize war, at least to the extent that contradictory idea is possible. They would potentially make things tougher for our soldiers should they be taken prisoner and held under what we would demand were humane conditions. And they would be counter to the hope that, as a nation, we're an ethical model for the rest of the world.
Among pardons being considered, the Times said, included those for a Blackwater “contract” soldier found guilty of killing 17 unarmed civilians in Baghdad; an Army Special Forces officer convicted of killing a man in Afghanistan; and Marines charged urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters.
Also on the list, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, of the Navy SEALS. He's accused by usually tight-lipped fellow SEALS of firing into crowds of civilians in Iraq; gunning down a girl and an elderly man; stabbing a wounded teenage enemy fighter even as he was was being administered medical treatment by other Americans. The Times quoted investigators as saying members of Gallagher’s platoon were so worried by his behavior that they monkeyed with his sniper’s rifle so he literally couldn’t shoot straight.
Gallagher has said he’s innocent, and just as his trial was scheduled to begin tomorrow, defense lawyers accused the government of sending emails embedded with software to track persons reading or forwarding computer messages, an abuse that might at least delay the hearing.
By week’s end, Trump said he might slow down the pardon process, acknowledging that “it’s a little bit controversial." And as of this writing, we know of no pardons being issued. But it’s the thought that counts. It's what Trump, himself a draft-dodger, wants to do: honor our fighting men and women by excusing the few who disgrace the rest.
About 108,000 immigrants – including 55,000 children – live in “mixed” families in federally subsidized housing, meaning that at least one family member is unauthorized, while the others in the family are citizens or are permitted to live in the United States.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development would ban such families from public housing and from rent-subsidized homes. While theoretically, the “problematic” family member could move out, HUD analysts expect most families wouldn’t split up, and would leave voluntarily or after formal eviction.
Trump has made attacks on undocumented immigrants Job One since he took office, demonizing them as a dangerous and unfit group, the latest expression of the country’s racist historical underside.
And this is one more innovation in disrupting families. Because that’s what Republicans do when they’re not promoting family values: Getting thousands of kids out of the house and onto on the streets.
THE WAR ON TRANSGENDER PEOPLE – PART 1
Medical practitioners and health insurance companies would be free to discriminate against transgender people under a new rule proposed by Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services – a new way to harm another group that Trump has singled out for demonization.
The Obama administration had added gender identity to anti-discrimination rules, but Trump would reverse that, allowing doctors and other caregivers to refuse to treat transgender men and women, such as not performing gender reassignment surgery, while permitting insurance companies to limit health coverage.
Adding to the already difficult road traveled by an extraordinarily vulnerable group of Americans.
THE WAR ON TRANSGENDER PEOPLE – PART 2
But that’s not all, folks, when it comes to beating up on transgender people: target the ones who are homeless.
HUD is proposing a rule change that would allow people who run single-sex homeless shelters receiving federal funds to exclude people on the basis of gender identity, using “the individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents.”
Many transgender people experience homelessness, including young persons kicked out of their parents’ homes. Turning them away from shelters exposes them to increased violence and death on the streets.
You have to be a special kind of sick to think up this one. But a mean president and his Republican toadies can call on some of America's meanest minds when it comes to preying on the vulnerable.
Honoring America’s war criminals; evicting immigrant children from their homes; and two new ways to make life more intolerable for our transgender fellow citizens.
Let’s enjoy what’s left of a glorious Memorial Day weekend.
Soak up the sunshine. Fire up the grills. Marvel at the spring blossoms.
Keeping in mind on this Memorial Day that Donald Trump, cruel as he is, couldn’t do any of this without the lots of help, including the 53 Republicans who control the Senate.
Team Mean: its motto is ‘Comfort the Comfortable and Afflict the Afflicted.”
If nothing else, Team Mean, strives every day, holidays included, to undermine the best traditions and values of a country for which thousands of other Americans have died to protect and preserve.
What will Trump and the Republicans think of next?