Op-Ed by Janet Phelan
The television room was overflowing at Sistering, a drop-in center in Toronto for prospective immigrants, streetwalkers and others economically challenged. A black man was running for President of the United States and not only the Sistering black women were riveted by the tall, handsome man who was running on a platform of “change.”
I had managed to find a seat close to the TV. I was regularly taking my breakfast and lunch at Sistering and was still hopeful that the situation that had impelled me to flee the US could be resolved. Was the potential resolution in this candidate for President?
And then the mask slipped, for a brief moment. “We will track down Osama bin Laden and kill him,” declared the tall, good-looking black man. And my heart sank.
Osama bin Laden was already most likely dead. The attacks of September 11 were obviously, to me at least, an inside job, a planned event in order to take down the strong and vibrant Constitutional protections which had made the US the “leader of the free world.” And where in the annals of US history do we “track down and kill” people? Don’t we take them to a court of law and try them for their alleged crimes?
I got up and walked out of the television room in disgust. It was 2010 and I had been in Canada for two years, trying to get official residential status. I had been offered a job teaching journalism and was waiting for my work visa to be approved. The US could just continue its slide into a state of deception. I would stay in Canada and try to rebuild my life.
In fact, shortly thereafter my work visa was denied and I received a letter ordering me to “Leave Canada immediately.” I was in pre-semester meetings at the school which had hired me and there was no one to take my place to teach the class. I took out a map of the world, befuddled.
Okay, I thought. I speak pretty good Spanish. Never been to the Yucatan. So, somewhat blindly, I bought my airline ticket for Merida and took off for another leg of my exile.
Obama swept into office on a mandate for change. Bill Clinton had also run as an “outsider.” Even George W. Bush, a former President’s son, had tried to make the case that he was a political outsider. Trump ran as the ultimate outsider, the non-politician and the enemy of the established order. If the voting pattern of the American populace reveals anything in the last couple of decades, it shows that Americans are seeking someone who will approach the problems of the country with a reformer’s heart and soul. We know something has gone very wrong. We want it fixed.
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In 2016, the last year in which figures are available at the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, several hundred US citizens applied for refugee status in other countries. Eleven of these applications were approved. The official perception is that the US is a “safe country” and therefore does not produce asylum seekers. Thus, American asylum seekers are seen as grifters or frauds and, in some countries, such as Iceland, do not even qualify for the general social services granted other asylum seekers.
However, more and more American citizens are falling afoul of the established system. Many times this takes place as a result of some involvement in civil –not criminal—court proceedings. Family court is producing a rash of people who are having their families decimated, their children taken on flimsy to non-existent excuses. In the process, savings are ravaged by the necessity to hire a lawyer, then as that lawyer proves ineffective, another and then another. Equally, probate proceedings are producing more victims, as adult guardianships are seizing an older parent, removing him to an undisclosed location and emptying the elder’s bank account. Increasingly, the court-authorized efforts are targeting the alarmed and protective adult children, and in many cases, imprisoning them for violating junk gag orders or orders to pay court costs. Criminal proceedings have also been politicized and increasingly the targets of these proceedings are whistleblowers and civil rights advocates.
In some instances, as I can personally testify, people so targeted are being directly assaulted by officers of the law. Having survived such an assault, I hung with the US as long as I possibly could. When the LEOs started sniffing around again, I saw the proverbial writing on the wall and closed up the US chapter of my life and, as quickly and quietly as possible, got out. I was at that time writing for an Oregon newspaper and hosting two radio shows every week, one on KSKQ and one on Republic Broadcasting Network.
We now are viewing the efforts of yet another President who came to power with the promise of change. But are Trump’s changes integral or window dressing? I would suggest his efforts need to focus less on immigration and more on the resuscitation of the dying American promise. The problem is less in keeping bad people out as in dealing with the bad people who are embedded in government.
We have been promised that we will be protected from the overreach of government. We have been promised that our courts will provide equal justice for all and that the police will not serve as death squads. In fact, we are now in a situation where the average American citizen is surveilled multiple times a day, a situation where approximately two thirds of the judiciary have financial profiles redolent of bribe taking and money laundering and where police are regularly murdering US citizens without culpability or prosecution.
We have been promised our right to bear arms. But our government has weapons which they do not hesitate in using which reduce our guns to the status of peashooters. Our government has and is deploying chemical, biological and electromagnetic weapons against its own citizenry. If you haven’t cottoned onto that yet it is indeed time to do the research.
From my perch in Latin America, I am reminded on a daily basis of what Philip K Dick wrote, that reality denied comes back to haunt. More and more, our collective plight appears to be reinforced by false concerns and irrelevant if not downright confabulated news reports. Our attention is being constantly redirected away from what should be our core concern—that our very government intends us harm.
I left ten years ago. I doubt I will ever return. The US is not a safe country, not for me and certainly not for many others. When Mr. Trump vowed to drain the swamp, I had hoped he meant that the weapons formed against us would be neutralized. I’m still hoping.
Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking , EXILE. Her articles previously appeared in such mainstream venues as the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine, Long Beach Press Telegram, etc. In 2004, Janet “jumped ship” and now exclusively writes for independent media. She is also the author of two collections of poetry—The Hitler Poems and Held Captive. She resides abroad. You can follow her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012703457651