Policies in this administration move at the speed of the internet. It becomes difficult to keep up with all the foolishness that is going on. I do try to comment on all the important issues that come up without addressing every early morning tweet that comes down the pike. DACA is one of those issues that seems to demand a discussion. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. We are not going to do anything while we wait and try to get Congress to come up with some reasonable immigration policy that will allow you to have a real status. We know that your parents brought you here when you were a child, and you had no control over it. You did not act criminally. The US is the only home that you know. You may not even speak the language of your home country. So, we aren’t sure what to do. DACA leaves you in limbo, lets you live your life until we have something better for you. Oops, nothing better came. Your neighbors elected a president less sympathetic to your concerns. So now what? How do we address this problem in a way that is just and kind?
The current state of affairs leaves the issue with Congress to arrive at a legislated solution that the President has said he will sign. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has said that he will not defend DACA from any legal challenges. President Trump then stated that he would suspend DACA in six months if Congress failed to pass a plan to continue DACA in that time. This threat does a couple of things. First, it takes responsibility for the program away from the President. He complained about DACA during the campaign. He has since his election found that the program is popular and its members are sympathetic. One cannot argue that they have broken the law to get here. They were children under the age of 16 when they came to the US, often without a choice or full knowledge of what was even going on. That fact alone makes the whole argument that they are crooks kind of difficult to make. Most of them have been successful in some way: attended college, gotten married, started families, or served in the military. These young people have contributed to society and culture in important ways. So where is the justification for discontinuing the program?
Here is a good place to listen to opponents of the DACA program and to hear what they have to say personally. Then look for ways to flip the conversation. You can do this by asking what people think should be done for these young people. Where should they be sent? Should they receive any consideration for their situation? What do they think Congress should do? I have not met many opponents to DACA in my circle, to be honest. The first issue is that those who feel strongly in opposition to DACA are extremists. Moderates in favor of stricter enforcement of immigration regulation recognize the sense of a DACA program. In fact, polls are finding that conservatives tend to be divided on DACA. Only among Trump’s strongest supporters does his decision to discontinue DACA find real support. Both Republicans in general and Trump supporters believe that ending DACA is the right thing to do. Numbers vary from 49 to 83 percent, depending on the survey you are looking at. What is even less clear is exactly what they want to do about the program. Many of them may have seen the creation of the program as an executive overreach. They would support congressional program that allowed a path to legalization or citizenship. They do not see immigration as core to the reality of their lives anyway, so their reaction and commitment to DACA issues are limited. To DACA participants, DACA is important. It is essential to their lives. DACA intimately impacts participants’ friends and families. There are also many individuals that see how all these policies work together to create a better community for everyone. Figuring out how to move forward from here is a problem because the Republican party holds Congress and the Presidency. When you have someone else to blame life is easier. Congress can block immigration reform without consequence. They can act in support of their corporate supporters and know that the President will veto whatever you pass. They will not have to face their constituents with the consequences of their policies.
Now Trump passed the DACA on to Congress. He met with Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. Fox news Republicans are livid that he has done this. They are screaming about the betrayal. Now is a time to flip the conversation. What do your conservative friends think should happen to these young people?
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A couple weeks ago I was watching Senator Al Franken talk to Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. They were talking about “pivoting” a conversation; the process of not answering the question you are asked, but covering a key point you want to make. It sounded a lot funnier when these two veteran comedians were discussing the issue. Flipping a conversation is a little like that process. We don’t want to ignore the issue under discussion. We just want to change the frame; we want to take the frame that our companion is using and flip that. We have been talking about framing and listening. Once we understand how Trump supporters frame their understanding of the conversation, we can listen with more compassion. Once we have the compassion to listen with accurate empathy, we can flip the conversation to achieve a completely new understanding of the material. I have been talking a lot about health care lately, mostly, because only Donald Trump believes that health insurance costs $12 a year. The rest of us know that medical expenses can be horrendous. They can hit anyone without warning. I remember one of my sisters wanted to take a sick child to the doctor and not having the $20.00 copay to do it. This event was 30 years ago. Health care is an issue that all of us understand on a personal level. The principles we have been discussing apply to any of the progressive issues that you see as important: environment, child care, women’s health, income inequality.
If you missed it, or if you need a quick refresher about framing, here is the link to that post. Okay, so we are most likely operating out of a nurturing family frame. Our companion is most likely operating out of the strict father frame. If we have been talking to these family members and friends about things that they have done which expresses the nurturing family frame in the last few weeks, we’ve prepared them to make a switch. If we have asked Uncle FOX News about ways in which he is helped people without expecting anything in return, we have given him an opportunity to experience a nurturing family frame. When we make the switch, it will not seem like a completely foreign language to him. First, it’s important to recognize that most people do understand the need for government intervention in healthcare. For example, most people believe there is a need for Medicare and Medicaid in the system. Medicaid is known as Medi-Cal here in California. They might argue about who should be entitled to these services, but they recognize the need for healthcare services for the elderly and people with low income. It is interesting to note that in attending a town hall meeting my Congressman held back in February, he reported that his office got many calls from people telling him to get rid of Obamacare but that they wanted to keep the ACA (Affordable Care Act). It is surprising that so many people were unaware that they were the same thing. I can’t help but wonder if he’s getting the same calls now. Many voters are becoming much more aware of health care as an issue as they see the congressional debate over it. They are learning that much of what the Republican Party is advocating will provide them with little benefit. That has done little to change their thinking on what they believe the American healthcare system should look like. It has done a lot to help them understand that politicians they thought were advocating for them are not. So the next step is to help them see that a more open, free health care system is a better system for the nation as a whole is a benefit for the nation. The question of health care is not just about making a better system for the poor.
Flipping the conversation can be done with any of our progressive or liberal issues: education, infrastructure, gun control, women’s issues, child care, climate change, agricultural policy, care for the poor. You will notice that I did not use the terms “food stamps,” or “welfare.” The punishing father frame, not a nurturing family frame, drive both of those terms. “Food stamps” are part of our agricultural policy. Nutrition programs should be considered separately from agricultural issues. That way nutrition programs will be based on what is best for people, not what is best for farms. For now, agriculture has a firm grasp on nutrition programs.
Where are some of the opportunities for flipping the conversation?
1. Time frames. We often look at programs as potential money savers. When the required tax savings don’t appear in the first few months of the program, we consider it a failure. We need to start thinking in longer terms. Even up to 20 years as we invest more in education, infrastructure, immigration policy. All of these progressive policies will cost more to start. The benefit regarding less poverty may take many years to realize. Some families may take 20 years to recover a more independent life.
2. Everyone’s life style will improve. Bill Gates has told his friends that at some point it just does not matter how much money you have. You cannot spend it. Everyone’s life is better if there is no one living on the street, no one has to beg for necessities, the roads, bridges, and schools we all need are in good repair. We all have to breathe this air, drink this water, and eat this food. Better for everyone’s quality of life if it is clean. Yes, everyone must take responsibility for themselves. How do we require that people do that? How do we care for those who have less and are less able to do for themselves? What about the fossil fuel industry? Do they have a responsibility to clean up the mess that they make?
3. The size of government is the wrong question. What are we getting from the government? Is it what we want and need? Those are the questions we should be asking. Yes, a single payer health care system will mean more spending for the government. It will mean much less spending on health care.
None of this is easy. None of this happens without more discussion, thoughtfulness. We must be willing to listen. We must be willing to consider what Trump supporters are afraid to lose. We must be willing to persuade. Again, some people are not going to change the way that they think, no matter what we say or do. Others can be persuaded. But whether or not we can convince people, we should be able to have a conversation.
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An Inconvenient Truth was released in 2006. My husband, an environmental scientist, and I took our young children to see the film as soon as it came out. The film was a bit dry relying primarily on charts and slides to demonstrate the dangers we were facing if action was not taken to address the problem of global warming. We are now 11 years later. 2006 was towards the end of the George W. Bush administration. We didn't want to call the lower world wide temperatures “global warming”; let’s call it “climate change,” so it does not sound so bad. Bush did not deny that climate change existed, he just said that we did not know enough. We could not take any action that was going to risk our economy if science did not have an agreed upon understanding of the results of global warming. In An Inconvenient Sequel, Vice President Gore refers to global warming. Global warming exists. It is on the way. It is as scary as a Stephen King novel.
I work in the middle of California’s Central Valley. After four years of drought, mild summers, and dry winters, this summer is setting records for heat. Many days have seen the temperature exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. An Inconvenient Truth relied heavily on charts and statistics to make their point and contained some footage from Hurricane Katrina. The truth was that the impact of global warming was just beginning to be seen dramatically. Those 10 to 11 years that have passed until the release of An Inconvenient Sequel have created two divergent trends. United States industry has decided that science does not matter. They have successfully convinced many of our citizens that science does not matter. The other trend is that global warming has come home to roost dramatically and disturbingly. In fact, the drama of the way in which the effects of global warming have become evident in a way that was so impactful that nearly every nation in the world signed an agreement to do what ever they needed to do to prevent the world from heating up more than two degrees Celsius. With our current levels of heat, we are already experiencing rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and people are losing their homes, not just the house, but the whole island they live on. Many of the world's poor and developing nations have agreed to the Paris Climate Agreement according to Vice President Gore. One nation backed out: us. The one nation that was once the most advanced, developed, and economically strong nations in the world.
I bought our movie tickets in advance. Just my husband and I attended this time because my children are grown and into their own lives now. I could easily have bought tickets at the theater. I am saddened to find that An Inconvenient Sequel only took in $900,000.00 opening weekend. An Inconvenient Truth made $50 million dollars, was awarded an academy award for documentary, and contributed to Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize. An Inconvenient Sequel is a more dramatic and compelling film. Unfortunately, it is about what is happening in the world and real solutions that are ready to apply. An Inconvenient Truth is about what could happen. Alternative energy sources are now cheaper than fossil fuels. Electric cars, solar roofs, and effective batteries are available. We have real solutions. Where is the interest? The fossil fuel industry has done such a great job of convincing people first that global warming is going to cost too much to fix. Then they convinced us that global warming was not global warming; it was climate change. Now, climate change does not exist.
The global warming issue is more difficult to flip and engage our neighbors in because it is not as easy for them to see how the ultra-wealthy can benefit from convincing people it does not exist. The immediate tax reductions are not as easy to see. The reality is that the expectation is that the fossil fuel industry wants to continue to produce energy and fuel our cars long past the day it is even practical for them to do so. Even though big oil interests told us for decades that renewable energy like solar and wind are not practical solutions for the near future, that is no longer true. The technology for generating energy from the wind and solar, as well as the batteries necessary for storing that energy exists. I think where this flip occurs, is if the person we are talking to is convinced that others need to take responsibility for themselves. If the fossil fuel industry, if the car industry, if the energy industry, or any industry for that matter, creates waste as part of the process for whatever they produce, cleaning up the mess is the responsibility of that industry. That responsibility is inconvenient and can be expensive. It can cause problems. If the industry does not take care of it, then the medical expenses, the cost of the disasters, the problems with our way of life are externalizations of those expenses to others. The poor worldwide must absorb the expense of the costs of responsible environmental protection from developed and developing nations.
An Inconvenient Sequel spent time discussing the 2015 Paris meeting on global warming. Of course, Al Gore is the star of the event since it is his movie. What is important about the issue is that business and government worked together to achieve an agreement. I recommend everyone go see this film. I cannot say that it will entertain you, but it will educate you and get you thinking. It will help you to see that we have less time than we think. Many people who do not already think global warming as a problem will see this film. It is more likely that it will provide information and motivation for those of us already in the fight.
Please comment, share, let us know what you think. Next time we will be taking about Neo-Nazi protests in Virginia. Also, I am looking for others who want to contribute to this blog. Let me know through the contact section if you are interested.