Yesterday Robert W. DeKelaita, an attorney who was born in Iraq, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit immigration and naturalization fraud for his Christian clients. This is the message he wrote on his Facebook page to the people: I am asking something of you. Don’t ever be afraid. When you fight, fight with courage. Did you see what they did to our ancestral lands in Assyria (Iraq)? They kicked us out and brought us here and look at what they’ve done to us here. Have faith in yourselves and have faith in me as an attorney who has fought until the last minute.
Mr. DeKelaita is an activist for Christian Iraqis and ironically his verdict came just as a book which I spent six years writing comes out. The Great American Family: A Story of Political Disenchantment was released this week. It is about a case that had all the political elements that Mr. DeKelaita’s had, which made me realize this: Although we came here for America’s freedoms, as an immigrant, I’m seeing how we are losing the very things we came here for.
This realization is the result of six years of research, which began the day a family approached me to write a story about their daughter, who was then serving a 6-year prison term. She was accused of conspiring to broker telecommunication equipment to Iraq during the sanctions. Unbeknownst to Dawn and the jury which tried her, her co-conspirator was actually a CIA operative. The project was sponsored by the United States to listen in on Saddam and his men.
I was drawn to this story and decided to write about it as a cautionary tale. Through the lens of a single case, I touch on a number of important issues that are robbing American families from living the American dream: a criminal justice system that is based on greed and profit; big lies that lead to wars, sanctions, terrorism and other costly consequences; a democracy that is based on double standards.
“I’m going to do something very radical in American politics, something very radical,” said Bernie Sanders when he took the stage at one of his rallies in Michigan. “I’m going to tell the truth.” Then he quoted Harry Truman, “I never gave anyone hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”
People cheered and I thought, we’ve come a long way. For decades, I watched as our leaders sedated people with the idea that we are better than any other country in the world. This larger-than-life belief makes a person too lazy to want to find out the truth for themselves and play a stronger role in their own destiny. And it makes it so easy for the government to justify their unjust decisions – like wars, sanctions, debt, imprisonment – with formal words and written documents. But now many have figured out this trickery. Many want leaders who will listen to them and not just wealthy campaigners.
Sanders said that although it’s difficult, “If we have the courage to look at our problems in the face, we can resolve them.”
Sanders then gave us a list of truths, and while that in itself was a radical thing, his ideas are really and simply called “democracy.”
Overturn Citizens United which essentially says that the wealthiest people in this country: “you already own much of the American economy. Now, we are going to give you the opportunity to purchase the U.S. government.”
“We are talking about a rapid movement in this country toward a political system in which a handful of very wealthy people and special interests will determine who gets elected or who does not get elected,” he said. “That is not what this country is supposed to be about. That was not Abraham Lincoln’s vision of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
This has already created a rigged democracy where 58% of all middle class income goes to the top one percent of the wealthiest people. Hillary Clinton, for instance, was recently paid $225,000 to give a private speech at Wall Street.
“It must be a fantastic speech, an extraordinary speech, a Shakespearean speech,” said Sanders, “a speech which you must want to share with the American public.”
The average citizen is working the longest hours per year than any other industrialized nation. What does that mean?
Kids don’t get the attention they deserve
As we do so, we are paying “The major welfare abuser in America is the wealthiest family in America, the Walton family,” he said, accused the Walton family, which owns Walmart, of paying its own workers so little that they rely on welfare to get by. “And who pays for this welfare and food stamps? You do!”
Low-wage employers end up relying on the kindness of taxpayers, some $153 billion in 2015.
“On behalf of the Walton family, I want to thank you very much for your contributions,” he told the people. “It’s time for Walton family to get off of welfare.”
Invest in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration. Why is it that, in the wealthiest country in the face of the world, there are more people in jail than any other country on earth?
“Over the last 30 years, the war on drugs has ruined peoples’ lives,” he said. “Marijuana should be legalized not made equivalent to heroin. It should not be a federal crime. While whites and blacks use it just as much, blacks are arrested four times more. Drug addiction is a health issue not a criminal issue.”
Instead of building cells, he wants to build us freedom by:
Raising minimum wage
Raising Social security “The way to measure a country is by how it treats the most vulnerable amongst us,” he said. “And we do not treat our elderly well.”
Free healthcare – “There’s only one major country in the world without healthcare. You’re living in it!”
Free public college and university education – “Young people should not be forced to be hanged by their college tuition. We should not be punishing people [with debts] for getting an education. We have to think outside the box. Everyone knows that education and learning are inherent in being a human.
Paid maternity leave
Equal pay for women
“I know that every man in this room will stand with the women,” he said.
How will he do all this?
“Wall Street, through greed and illegal behavior, destroyed our economy and Congress bailed them out,” he said. So one way would be to make corporations pay taxes on all of the profits they have shifted to the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax haven, which Congressional Research Services estimates may currently create losses that approach $100 billion annually, and other loopholes. To learn of other ways, visit https://berniesanders.com/issues/how-bernie-pays-for-his-proposals/
So what’s the difference between him and Hillary?
Sanders depends on the $27 average donation from the American people whereas his opponents get millions from a handful of people (i.e. Hillary’s private speeches for Wall Street for $225,000).
Sanders voted against every single TPP trade deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership. Since 2001, 60,000 factories in America have been shut down. We’re in a race to the bottom, where our wages are going down. Hillary voted for every single one of them.
Sanders did not believe what Congress said about Iraq and voted against the war in Iraq.
Clinton heard the same information that he did yet voted for the war. She said she had gone to Henry Kissinger for advice.
“I find it rather amazing that Clinton boasts about the support of Kissinger, given that he’s one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country,” said Sanders. “Why would you go to the most destructive person for approval?”
What’s the difference between him and Trump?
“Our Latino brothers and sisters are tired of living in fear so we will create a comprehensive immigration reform,” he said. “In America, people are angry. We should take out our anger at the people responsible, not those who are scapegoats.”
Republicans say they believe in family values, and for that, they believe that
No woman should have the right to control her own body.
Gay brothers and sisters should not be able to get married.
“My wife and I believe in family values but they’re not republican values,” he said.
Not one republican candidate is willing to listen to scientists about climate change.
“That’s scary because you can’t do public policy unless it’s based on science,” he said. “Now everything Trump does is great and big and extraordinary and he’s also the greatest scientist and he decided that climate change is a hoax penetrated by the Chinese.”
“This shocked me,” he said. “I thought it would be perpetrated by Mexicans or the Muslims.”
He said that more important than the polls, we will beat Trump because “We don’t want a president who insults Mexicans, who insults Muslims, women, or African Americans. Because togetherness Trumps selfishness. Love Trumps hatred.”
Yes, we don’t want a president that reminds me of the very one my family fled from 35 years ago. We came here for the democracy that Sanders is talking about, and however close he helps us get to it that is fine by me.
This country is becoming more undemocratic every day and that did not happen overnight. So restoring democracy will not happen overnight. But Sanders’ honesty, wisdom and intelligence will help us move in that direction, because as he says, after his disgust at the Flint water crisis which you’d think would only happen in third-world countries, “We have a moral responsibility to leave this planet healthy and habitable for our kids and grandkids.”