Jim Loomis

Experiences, Observations, Opinions

Archive for the category “History”

Charlottesville: What comes next?

First, let me state clearly that I do not share the views of the alt-right, nor do I subscribe to their actions. Nevertheless, what I am about to say might sound like I am an apologist for them.

Although the Governor of Virginia stated that the protest in Charlottesville was completely non-violent until counter-protesters arrived, the events of last weekend confirm the deep divide in our society, in all of us really — the divide between Caucasians and people of color, rich and poor, liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats — the list goes on. This division seems to be built into our DNA, and pre-dates the Revolutionary War.

The current issue of removing Confederate statues is just one more symptom of this. Having lived in both Georgia and Virginia, I believe that the history of the Confederacy is inbred into many Southerners – not so much the issues that led to the Civil War, but rather a need to preserve their heritage, the fact that the North destroyed their homes, their way of life, and their economy. Those of us in the North share a similar fundamental inbreeding — a belief in an indivisible, strong Federal government (a government which in fact is not as unified and strong and dominant as we would like to think), and a lack of understanding of why Confederate symbols are so important to many in the South still today. Removing Confederate flags and taking down statues of prominent Confederate soldiers will not solve our differences, but only exacerbate them. It takes a strong Southern leader, like the Mayor of New Orleans, to do so.

Perhaps Mr. Trump had it right when he initially condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. We are all Americans first,” he said, “and must love each other and cherish our history.” Instead, he buckled under the pressure from all of us and from politicians of each party to clearly name the alt-right groups that we wanted him to “call out.” This may be necessary in order to move forward, but it pits one group of us against another, and simply perpetuates our centuries old divide. That is, unless we follow up with a way to reconcile our differences. The President might have seized the opportunity to nudge us toward a greater understanding and acceptance of each other and our shared heritage. A President with strong moral values, a clear sense of his own personal beliefs, and a positive popularity rating might have been able to do this. Alas, we do not have such a person in the White House.

Perhaps we need our own “Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” If prominent religious leaders and political figures like Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, Dianne Feinstein, and Jerry Brown all came together to jointly call upon our clergy and our elected officials to form such a commission, we might be able to move forward in mitigating, if not resolving, our historical differences.

However, we do not have our own Desmond Tutu to lead such a commission. And I’m not sure that we have any one person who enjoys the admiration and esteem of enough of us to be able to do so. I wonder if a co-chair approach might work, with two people leading such a commission, each working closely in unity with the other — let’s say Barak Obama and Jerry Falwell, Jr.

What do you think?

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Letter to Rep. Upton, and the President’s punching bag

I had not intended to post another blog article so soon. But the President’s video tweet on Sunday has compelled me to do so. Please note that he posted this tweet on the eve of the G-20 summit this week which focuses on international cooperation, international trade, and climate change, issues that are central to Mr. Trump’s agenda and standing with other world leaders. I thought that he would have been studying briefing material and preparing for this important summit rather than tweeting an out-dated video of himself in a wrestling match.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution states in part, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” Congress has not passed such a law, but the President’s video suggests that abridging or curtailing freedom of speech is an acceptable behavior. In my opinion, the video that he posted violates the oath of office that he took to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Following this introduction you will find the text of a letter that I am mailing tomorrow to my long-term Congressman, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI). Yesterday I left a nearly identical message on his personal voice-mail in his Kalamazoo office.

In my November 18 letter to the President-elect, I pledged to do what I can to make his presidency successful. I am seriously reconsidering that pledge. Unless there is a marked change in Mr. Trump’s behavior in the near future, my goal will be to hasten his legal removal from office, by lobbying those in positions of authority, participating in protest marches, joining with other legitimate groups calling for him to step down, and/or encouraging my friends and readers to take similar action.

Some will think that I am an alarmist in my view of this situation. However, if you read through my blog posts dating back to the Presidential campaign, you will find that my observations and predictions have been fairly accurate. I sincerely hope that I am wrong this time. Meanwhile, I urge you to consider taking similar action.     Jim

July 3, 2017

Rep. Fred Upton
350 E. Michigan Ave.
Suite 130
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Dear Fred,

I am writing about the President’s video tweet yesterday of him physically assaulting a person meant to represent CNN, or the “Fake News Network,” now the “Fraud News Network,” as he calls it.

Despite the efforts of his staff to explain this latest bizarre behavior, it shows the President inciting violence against those who disagree with him, in this case the press, or at the very least, condoning such violence. I am sure that the action that he displayed in this video does not rise to the level of a crime. However, I am also sure that if I posted a video of me beating my fists against the White House door, I would be immediately arrested and charged with the Federal crime of threatening harm to the President.

This latest tweet greatly increases my level of concern about Mr. Trump’s fitness to serve as President. Thus far, his tweets have been mostly sad in their content and context, sometimes amusing, and nearly always indicative of his extreme need for acclaim. This latest tweet is different. I am now scared. His vitriol seems to increase each week. Next time I fully expect him to tweet or say that some reporter should be “silenced,” or “removed,” or words to that effect. Such words can easily be misinterpreted by those prone to solving grievances with violence.

The leadership in Congress MUST reign the President in, especially those of you in the Republican Party. Given your length of service in Congress, I consider you to be one of those leaders. I urge you to confront the President regarding his behavior and to carefully consider his future behavior to determine if any of if constitutes “high crimes or misdemeanors.” I urge you and the members of the House of Representatives to be prepared to impeach the President if it does.

This man is no longer just an incompetent President requiring a long “learning curve” due to his novice status and lack of political experience. He is a danger to our country and our citizens!

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my concerns.

 

 

PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN ???

Earlier this month I attended a country music review in Osage Beach, Missouri. As is common lately at the end of such shows, tribute was paid to military veterans. The performers sang parts of The Marines’ Hymn, The Army Goes Rolling Along,  The US Air Force song, and Anchors Away.  As usual, the fifth branch of our military, the US Coast Guard, got left out (Semper Paratus – United States Coast Guard Marching Song).

And of course the show ended with a rousing performance of Lee Greenwood’s song, GOD BLESS THE USA.

We were asked to stand to be recognized when the song of our branch of service was sung. Most of those who stood were men my age or older. A proud gentleman behind me stood at attention, ram-rod straight, when The US Air Force song was performed. I served in the Army during the Viet Nam War, and although I have somewhat reluctantly stood in the past, I did not stand this time. There are three reasons why.

  • In part, this ritual seems to be obligatory and has become rather meaningless to me.
  • I was not proud to be an American during Viet Nam. Yes, it feels good to be recognized decades later for the sacrifice that my family and I made at that time. But, like many others, I opposed the Viet Nam War. I would have avoided serving if there had been any way to do so, short of fleeing to Canada as many did. It seems inappropriate to mix the “thanks” that I am receiving with something that I did only because I had no choice. Such “thanks” is strangely mixed with the glorification of war. The “thanks” presumes that my contemporaries and I fought for some noble cause, or to keep America “free,” which was not the case.
  • I also feel uncomfortable because I was able (quite legally) to receive a commission as a Social Work Officer in the Medical Service Corps while many of my contemporaries where drafted into the service to become infantrymen fighting in Viet Nam. I never went to Nam. I did serve in South Korea in the Second Infantry Division that guarded the Demilitarized Zone, and I was in Panmunjom, the heavily guarded, now deserted, truce village on the border between North and South Korea. But I was providing substance abuse and mental health counseling to soldiers, and the risk of losing my life was fairly minimal. I was not shooting at anyone, and no one was shooting at me. I am proud of the work that I did in the Army, but now, years later, I feel that somehow I cheated the system, that I was privileged by my education and career choice, when others were not. It’s hard to simultaneously hold these conflicting emotions.

Since the inauguration of President Trump, as it was for me during the Viet Nam War and the ill-advised invasion of Iraq, I am not proud to be a citizen of the USA, which is rapidly becoming the laughing stock of the world. Please don’t misunderstand; I am grateful that I am free to write this without fear of being arrested. But the President’s values and the domestic and international policies that he is pursing are diametrically opposed to what I believe to be the nobler ideals of America. I’m sorry, Mr. Greenwood, and those of you who find this offensive, but I will not “stand up” for repression, repeal of health care benefits, a larger military with reduced funding for diplomacy, xenophobia, and immigration policies that separate American born children from their parents. These policies do not square with the lyrics of God Bless the USA,” Where “I am free,” all people should be free. “I love this land,” but so do many others who would also like to call America home. Yes, I will “stand up to defend this land” by striving to make America more just, more compassionate, and more welcoming to others. Formulating and defending American values begins and ends at home. We ourselves pose a greater threat to our freedom than do outsiders.

Independence Day represents an idea yet to be fully realized, not simply a celebration of something that happened 241 years ago. I hope that in the coming years that idea will come closer to fruition, and that I can again more honestly say that, “I am proud to be an American.”

In the meantime, I have chosen to no longer stand for these military tributes honoring my time of service in the Army.

 

Physics and Politics

I don’t understand physics. Sure, I get the basics of how a series of pulleys reduces the energy needed to move heavy objects, and how teeter-totters work. But if you ask me to explain why energy equals mc2, you will get a blank stare in return. I also don’t understand the complex relationships between electro-magnetism, gravity, quarks, hadrons, black holes, the Higgs Boson, the bending of space and time, how the Big Bang nucleosynthesis is related to cosmic microwaves, and a whole host of other physics-type things.

Most of the time I think in a linear, cause and effect fashion that makes logical sense to me. It is easier for me to see how one thing is related to another, or not, than it is to try to conceptualize how multiple things simultaneously all relate to one another and exert influence upon one another.

Here’s where politics comes into play.  (If you understand this better than I do, please write a comment and pass this post on to others.)

During his trip to the Middle East last month, President Donald Trump reportedly praised the country of Qatar, “Qatar is really an important partner and actually combating terrorism and money laundering and the war.” *

Then on June 5, four Arab nations (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain) broke diplomatic ties and shut down air and sea links with Qatar, citing Qatar’s support of terrorism. President Trump took credit for this, tweeting on June 6, “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!”  and  “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

I think that I understand this apparent contradiction. It’s the teeter-totter principle at work.

Then this week Mr. Trump approved the sale of $12 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Qatar.  Qatar?  The state sponsor of terrorism? The nation that he took credit for isolating? I’m sorry, but now my simple, linear brain is just not working. I’ve lost his line of reasoning.

Although, I suppose that we most not forget that Qatar is an important ally of the United States. Their Al Udeid Air Base hosts the largest US military presence in the Middle East and is the home of our Central Command, which is responsible for US operations from Egypt to Pakistan and north through Afghanistan. Nor should we forget that Qatar’s state-owned airline, Qatar Airways, occupies leased office space in Manhattan’s Trump Tower.

Hmm…things are beginning to get a little complicated. Lack of a clear foreign policy? A lack of understanding that the world doesn’t work like my linear brain? Competing national and personal interests? Who gets what from whom? For sure, one big winner is Boeing, the company that builds the F-15. Their stock hit a record high after the announcement of this deal. They will hire hundreds of new employees. “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS.” I’d be willing to bet that the person who takes credit for that will be the same person who took credit for isolating Qatar.

Well, I get lost trying to understand all of this. The logic of the events of the past month regarding terrorism, Qatar, and the selling of fighter jets to Qatar escapes me. But then, perhaps President Trump understands the complex nature of physics and its application to foreign policy better than I do.

  • Tom DiChristopher and Hadley Gamble, Sunday, June 11, 2017, CNBC.com. (Bear in mind that this report is based on statements made by Qatari Finance Minister Ali Shareef al Emadi).
http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/11/trump-praised-qatar-for-combating-terrorism-qatari-fin-min-says.html

MEMORIAL DAY – 2017

A time of family fun, cookouts, parades featuring the local Boy Scout troop, the high school marching band, and a few scruffy Viet Nam veterans with gray pony tails, the playing of Taps at the local cemetery, a 3-day holiday weekend heralding the beginning of summer, and VFW members hawking red poppies in the middle of street corner intersections. (What’s the deal with the poppies?)

We celebrate the holiday, to be sure. But where did Memorial Day come from, also known as Remembrance Day in Great Britain?

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World War I: 10 million military troops died, 7 million civilians died, 350,300 US soldiers died. My wife’s grandfather convalesced in a sanitarium after the war fullsizeoutput_41dedue to lung problems caused by being gassed in the trenches of France. Of the approximately 200 soldiers in his unit that went overseas, only 28 returned alive! Had he not returned, my father-in-law, my wife, my sons, and my grandchildren would not be here today.

The company at Camp Custer, Michigan prior to going overseas (at top).        Those who returned (above). 

World War II (barely 25 years later): Our fathers’ war, both drafted into the Army. Total dead: 16 million military troops and 45 million civilians, including 407,000 US military personnel and 12,000 US civilians.

Followed immediately by the Korean War.

Then the Viet Nam War: The war of my generation. My brother-in-law loaded bombs onto US war planes in Viet Nam. I served in the Army in the Asian theater during the war. 58,300 US military men and women died. My high school classmate died in the early years of the war. My wife’s classmate became an alcoholic as an aftermath of the war and was killed in a shoot-out with police a few years later. In total, an estimated 450,000 to 1,170,000 died.

And since then, innumerable “minor” military actions, and now the War on Terror, lasting over ten years (longer than both World Wars combined), now morphing into a war to “wipe out militant Islamic terrorists.” I wonder if war in the Middle East will ever end. If we fail to heed what history teaches us, I fear not.

Lest we forget why we celebrate Memorial Day, I invite you to take a few minutes to watch and listen to these videos – click on the titles of the songs.

(You will also find out what the red poppies are about.)

WILLIE McBRIDE

also known as “No Man’s Land” and “The Green Fields of France”

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 (written by Eric Bogle following his 1976 visit to military cemeteries in Flanders and Northern France)
The song references two other melodies, the Last Post and Chorus and the Flowers Of The Forest.

THE LAST POST

During the 19th century, the “Last Post” was carried to the countries of the British Empire where it has been incorporated into military funerals and played as a final farewell, symbolizing the fact that the duty of the dead soldier is over, and that they can rest in peace.

“They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old.  Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

THE FLOWERS OF THE FORESTfullsizeoutput_41dc

A lament written for the army of King James IV (“the flower of Scottish manhood”), the army that was slain with their king on the Field of Flodden, September 1513.

You may remember the iconic protest song of my day, written by Pete Seeger, and made famous by the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and Mary.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE?

“Where have all the flowers gone, lone time passing…gone to young girls everyone…where have all the young girls gone, long time ago…gone to young men everyone…gone for soldiers everyone…where have all the soldiers gone…gone to graveyards everyone…gone to flowers everyone.”

– And the cycle repeats –

“When will they ever learn…Oh, when will we ever learn?”

fullsizeoutput_41eeFor our Willie McBrides      a century later

it still happens again, and again, and again, and again!

Have a great holiday weekend, but

FIRST…REMEMBER! 

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CRISIS du JOUR

It’s been an interesting week in Washington. I wanted to write something profound about the President’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. But all of the newspapers, broadcast networks, and social media platforms seem to have covered every last detail ad nauseam, including each day’s new revelation. So I will just offer these thoughts:

As sensational as this is, this is just the latest crisis du jour. Every week during Mr. Trump’s infant presidency a new crisis or urgent situation has arisen, commanding the attention of the nation and the world. Consider, in less than four months:

  • two judicial injunctions stopping the implementation of the President’s Executive Orders banning immigration of persons from certain Muslim-majority countries;
  • the firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she determined that the President’s ban of immigrants was unlawful;
  • the appointment of Gen. Mike Flynn as the National Security Advisor, followed three weeks later by his resignation due to his failure to completely disclose to the Vice-President his contacts with Russian officials — this appointment having been made by President Trump despite Gen. Flynn’s dismissal as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014;
  • Mr. Trump’s repeated allegations, without any supporting evidence, that President Obama wiretapped his offices during the campaign;
  • the inability of the House of Representatives to put together a health care bill within the unreasonable timeframe demanded by the President;
  • the President’s convoluted explanation of how Mexico will pay for the border wall that he wants to build, now that Mexico has emphatically said that they will not pay for it as Mr. Trump promised they would;
  • Congress’s reluctance to include any significant funding to even begin feasibility studies on how to build the wall;
  • the President’s retraction of his suggestion that he would withdraw from the North American Trade Agreement the following day, after receiving phone calls from the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Mexico that evening — announcing instead that he would renegotiate the agreement;
  • the Syrian bombing, quickly forgotten;
  • dropping the “Mother of all Bombs” in Afghanistan;
  • the President’s flip-flop on his pledge to pronounce that China is manipulating their currency;
  • the North Korean nuclear crisis and the botched reporting of the whereabouts of the US aircraft carrier fleet supposedly steaming toward the Korean peninsula — now also seemingly forgotten;
  • the unprecedented, jubilant Rose Garden celebration when the House finally passed a very controversial, partisan health care bill, which has no chance of clearing the Senate in its current form;
  • the near government “shut-down,” prevented at the very last minute when Congress passed a continuing budget resolution;
  • the President’s suggestion that South Korea pay for the THAAD antimissile system that the US installed in their country, contrary to our agreement with South Korea;
  • the on-going investigation of the possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russians who may have interfered with our election — a problem for Mr. Trump that just won’t go away;
  • the President’s continual insistence that the election was fraught with voter fraud, apparently needing to prove that he won the popular vote;
  • and now this week, the sudden firing of the FBI director while the FBI is conducting an investigation into the possible Russian interference in our election.

Weaving its way through all of these incidents is the President’s obvious need for adulation, and his habit of blaming anybody else for anything that does not portray him in the best light possible, manifested in part by his accusations that the media is making up “fake news,” even though he himself proclaims inaccurate and conflicting information to support his fragile ego — also manifested by “throwing” his press corps and the Vice-President “under the bus” this week as they tried to explain Mr. Comey’s firing while Mr. Trump changed his stated reason for doing so on a daily basis.

I wanted to conclude these thoughts by saying that we should not impart too much importance to this latest crisis in Washington. The firing of Mr. Comey will only dominate the news until the next crisis arises, either bona fide or of the President’s own making.

I wanted to say that the news media should spare us the excruciating details of each new crisis and tone down their sensational rhetoric, leaving us room to respond in a thoughtful and informed way. I wanted to say that instead they should focus on the underlying problem which exacerbates each of these crises. That’s what I wanted to say.

Then yesterday I read an editorial by John Moody, the Executive Editor of Fox News, wondering if Mr. Trump really wants to be President, citing “his random tweets, his crude public use of insults and threats and his blatant disregard for decorum and the integrity of the office of president,” going so far as to suggest that the President should announce a date that he will resign. Yes, that Fox News, the only media outlet that Mr. Trump seems to believe is credible!

Then I noted the President’s tweet yesterday threatening Mr. Comey, now a private citizen, stating, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

I also took notice of the President having Henry Kissinger sit in the Oval Office with him while he defended his firing of Mr. Comey. I found myself wondering why he would do that and then allude to the possibility that he may have secretly taped his meetings with Mr. Comey — distinctly drawing parallels between himself and President Nixon’s Watergate scandal and the “Saturday night massacre.”

Then this morning I noted that James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, told MSNBC that there “could be evidence” of collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign — this following Mr. Trump’s tweet yesterday morning stating, “When James Clapper himself…says there is no collusion, when does it end?”

I recall that President Reagan was referred to as the “Teflon President,” because problems arising from his handling of matters of state just didn’t seem to stick to him. Given the long list of problems attributed to President Trump that are forgotten as soon as a new crisis occurs, I began to think that he might have Teflon skin also. But a friend suggested to me that each of these problems may be like a barnacle that attaches itself to the hull of a boat. Taken alone, they are not noticed. But when enough barnacles collect they can no longer be ignored, for they will ultimately destroy the vessel. Now I’m not so sure that this week’s crisis will go away as easily as the many others that preceded it did. Mr. Trump is collecting a lot of barnacles.

Finally I concluded that the reporting of the excruciating details as they unfold does in fact allow us to focus on the underlying problem which exacerbates each of these crises, if we can see the forest for the trees. Such reporting does give us the information that we need in order to respond in a thoughtful and informed way. We simply need to exercise our ability and our obligation to do so.

After all, crises effecting the US occur constantly. When they do, how our leaders handle the crisis makes all the difference in the world — literally.

Who controls what happens next ?

Again, I must confess. I am still addicted to the many, daily “tweets” from our President, and the non-stop news articles, comments, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and sketches responding to his actions, from both those of us at home and those abroad. I find some of what I see and read to be humorous, although they are always at the expense of someone else, and at the expense of my better judgement. I especially enjoy Alec Baldwin’s SNL sketches portraying Donald Trump. I see them as simply good-natured satire, and they provide me with some comic relief, which is a good thing. However President Trump clearly doesn’t see them that way. I guess that I wouldn’t either if I were in his shoes. I imagine that for him and for the half of our population who voted for him, they are not funny, but instead quite offensive. But mostly, the vast majority of what I have read and seen is simply very discouraging. It saps my energy and leaves me with a hopeless feeling.

If you follow my blog or pay attention to what I LIKE or SHARE on Facebook, you know that my political views lean left. Not surprisingly, I find our new President to be woefully unqualified for his job. See my posts of October 8 and November 1, where I outlined my criteria for the person who aspires to be the President, specifically characteristics of Integrity, Temperament, and Experience. Mr. Trump’s job performance thus far confirms my prediction that he fails to meet those criteria. At best, he only very minimally meets the criteria of Integrity, in that thus far he has done exactly what he promised to do.

That said, our response to his actions, either supportive or critical, have taken on a reactionary, obnoxious tone, leaving little room for civil discourse. Rather, they demonize the person(s) whose thoughts differ from ours. This is not the way to make our democracy work. Our government is already fractious and dysfunctional. We do not need to add fuel to that fire and/or to our own differences.

I am not arguing for inaction or passivity. We need to respond to our discouragement and feelings of hopelessness. It helps me to write this article to you, and I regained some sense of power when I participated in a peaceful demonstration in my community celebrating diversity and inclusion of others not like ourselves. But demonstrations alone are not enough. Yes, they give hope and a means to discharge strong emotions, and they can serve as a good starting point. But by themselves they do little to actually change anything. This is especially true when they only express outrage and negativity.

I am reminded of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. There were anti-segregation marches and protests, and many of my contemporaries participated in them. Many of those marches were led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But there were four other essential elements to the success of the civil rights movement besides protest marches.

  • First, there were clearly defined goals.
  • Second, there was a strategy. Many marches were carefully planned to take place at a specific time and in a specific, symbolic place.
  • Third, there was much constructive work done behind the scenes. Let us not forget that Dr. King worked with President Kennedy to modify the original plans for the 1963 march on the National Mall in order to avoid violence. He also met with officials in the Johnson administration to plan how civil rights for African Americans could be codified into law and implemented.
  • Finally, the civil rights movement was firmly rooted in the basic principles of morality and hope. This is perhaps best exemplified in Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

At this time our protests are not only against Donald Trump’s actions, but also against him personally. While many find his character to be reprehensible, never-the-less he is, and will be, our President for the next four years. Of course, it is still too early in his Presidency for those opposed to his policies to form strategic plans to counter his actions. But such will be necessary in order to effect change. Meanwhile, the more we sling insults at him personally, and at each other, the greater our divisions will be.

Fortunately, there are some who are already following up their opposition with targeted action. Examples include the ACLU filing suit against Mr. Trump’s immigration and refugee proclamation, acting Attorney General Sally Yates’s refusal to defend the President’s ban on immigrants coming into the US, the cities that have affirmed that they are “sanctuary cities,” and the legislature of California hiring former Attorney General Eric Holder to prepare for litigation to thwart possible deportation of undocumented immigrants. These actions have reportedly prompted President Trump to consider modifying his order on immigration and refugees. If we wish to change Mr. Trump’s policies we will need to hone our objectives and organize our actions in a non-emotional fashion, similar to the examples above. Our current vitriol will do nothing to help our nation move forward.

Enough “trash talk” already!

Those who do not agree with the direction our new President is taking must not let him set the national dialogue by always jumping to respond to his vacillating pronouncements and incessant, reactionary, offensive “tweets.” Instead, let’s step back, refuse to participate in the vicious conversation, roll up our sleeves, and get to work in a coordinated, constructive way to reclaim the American values and policies that we believe in.

DEAR MR. TRUMP

Donald J. Trump
President-elect of the United States
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022

November 18, 2016

Dear Mr. Trump,

Congratulations on your election victory. But please remember that half of those who voted did not vote for you. Therefor, will you allow me to offer these suggestions?

  • Do not build the wall. Isolationism is not productive in today’s global world. Rather, work with Mexican leaders to establish a just way for citizens of both nations to cross our border in safety.
  • Do not ask Congress to repeal “Obamacare” that has brought insurance to millions who could not obtain health care insurance on their own. Rather, lead Congress in fixing the flaws in the program that need to be fixed.
  • Do not deport millions of immigrants without considered thought, especially children of undocumented aliens, and refugees from countries at war or with a history of terrorism. Rather, focus on ways for those persons to obtain US citizenship.
  • Do not revoke our pledge to support the Paris Agreement on global warming. Rather, heed the scientific evidence of our destruction of our environment. Work to increase our use of renewable energy sources. Support those whose jobs are eliminated by the expansion of renewable energy. The WPA and CCC might be models to consider while we find ways to retrain those workers for jobs of the future.
  • Consider carefully and seek expert advice on any action regarding our international trade agreements and military alliances. While these arrangements are always in need of review, changing our involvement with any of them can have far-reaching unintended and unforeseen consequences.
  • Appoint Supreme Court justices who will determine cases objectively based upon the Constitution, and not based upon any particular ideology or position that they might hold. Appoint justices who have the wisdom to apply the Constitution to today’s America, which is certainly much different than our founding fathers could have ever imagined.

I wish you the very best and will do what I can to make your Presidency successful. All of us, and indeed the whole world, depend on your wise leadership. Thank you letting me share my thoughts with you.

Sincerely,

James F. Loomis

HUMPTY DUMPTY

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
– English nursery rhythm

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
– President Ronald Reagan, June 12, 1987

It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women…to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue…new opportunities open up for all. This…requires courage and daring.  A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism.
– Pope Francis, Address to a Joint Session of Congress, Sept. 24, 2015

“I’m going to build a wall.”
– Donald Trump, 2016

Our relationships with other countries of the world, including our neighbors, is often fraught with tension. Currently there is a debate about how best to control the border between Mexico and the United States. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposes to build a wall across the entire US-Mexican border in order to keep out illegal immigrants.

Walls serve a useful purpose. They keep unwanted things out, and they keep in those things that should not get out. But eventually they outgrow their usefulness and are almost always breached.

We shared a backyard with a former neighbor, and our kids played together in this joint yard. When our neighbor put in a swimming pool he built a six-foot high privacy fence along the property line in our backyard. It prevented the risk of accidental drowning in his pool. But it also dramatically reduced our neighborliness, and it ended the relationship that our children had with each other. Unfortunately, we were not able to breach that wall, and our kids were seldom invited to swim in our neighbor’s pool. Thirty years later the wall still stands.

The Ming Dynasty completed the Great Wall of China in order to keep out foreign invaders and to control international commerce and tariffs. It worked, more or less, but, along with Communism, it kept the Chinese isolated from the rest of the world. The wall now stands as an engineering marvel and a tourist attraction. It was breached when it no longer served a useful purpose.

The Soviet Union built the Berlin Wall to keep East Berliners from crossing into West Berlin. The wall also split families, separating kinfolk who lived on opposite sides of the wall. It was famously breached in 1989. The result was the reunification of Germany, which is now the recipient, by far, of the largest number of Syrian refugees in the European Union. This is a very dramatic, 180-degree shift from the atrocities committed by Hitler’s Germany. Portions of the Berlin Wall are now simply display pieces in museums.

The Soviet Union built the “Iron Curtain,” subjugating the countries of eastern Europe. That wall was breached by the will of the people and by courageous leaders like Lech Wałęsa and Pope John Paul II.

President George H. W. Bush built a wall around Iraq with the enforcement of a “no-fly zone.” That wall was effective in preventing Saddam Hussein from spreading his reign of terror beyond the borders of Iraq. That is, until the second President Bush breached the wall by invading Iraq with no follow-up plan, launching the quagmire of the “War on Terror” that seems to have no end. Sometimes breaching a wall comes too soon.

On August 31 Mr. Trump visited Mexican President Nieto. They discussed mutual goals, including how to control illegal immigration and how to stop the trafficking of drugs through Mexico into the United States. He referred to Mexican Americans as “spectacular hard-working people” who are “beyond reproach.” For a moment it appeared that together we could work toward a solution to these problems that we share as neighbors. Then, that evening Mr. Trump gave a rousing speech on immigration, repeating his plan to build a “physical, tall,…beautiful southern border wall,” and stating that Mexico would pay for it.

Mr. Trump is not Humpty Dumpty. Our standing as a good neighbor, our history as a nation of immigrants, our foreign policy, and our skill in diplomacy is Humpty Dumpty. How ironic it would be if Humpty fell off of the very wall that Mr. Trump believes will protect us.

Fortunately, we are a resilient people, and we have experience putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. If it is ever built, Mr. Trump’s wall will be quickly breached. But how much more productive we could be if we simply stopped pushing Humpty Dumpty off of the wall in the first place!

I AM AN IMMIGRANT

Given the anti-immigration rhetoric proudly proclaimed by our candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, it seems to be the right time for me to post an abridged version of a story that I wrote last summer to commemorate America’s 239th birthday.

I  AM  AN  IMMIGRANT

Xenophobia:   (intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries) Such a harsh word.  We don’t use it. It puts the blame on us.

Illegal immigrant; undocumented alien:  Much more politically correct.  It puts the blame on them.

Homeland security:   Who can argue with that?

Consider…since the 9/11 terrorist attacks Americans have been obsessed with “homeland security.”  Millions of dollars have been spent as our intelligence agencies have been reorganized.  A new cabinet Department of Homeland Security has been created.  Currently we are consumed with the idea of turning away Syrian refugees, and there are never ending calls for tighter border security, primarily the Mexican-American border.  Apparently Mexicans seeking jobs and a better way of life pose a threat to us, while our Canadian neighbors do not.

But….
Christopher Columbus, 1492:  Illegal immigrant, undocumented alien.
Jamestown VA, 1607:  Illegal immigrants, undocumented aliens.
Plymouth Rock MA, 1620:  Illegal immigrants, undocumented aliens.

It seems that homeland security wasn’t so important to our European ancestors when they came to North America.

We are all immigrants, even those that we refer to as “Native Americans” who were here thousands of years before we were.  Beginning in 1638, my family members, including our daughters-in-law, came to America from England, Canada, Germany, Austria, Poland, Scotland, Ireland, Japan, and China.  One of my daughter-in-law’s grandmothers escaped to Iran at the time of the Russian occupation of her country of Georgia following the 1917 Soviet revolution.  Her daughter, my daughter-in-law’s mother, then emigrated to America.  From Georgia to Iran to America; three countries in just two generations!  My family: immigrants from eleven different countries.  My family: for 378 years a family of immigrants seeking freedom and economic opportunity!

Yet somehow, despite our immigrant status, we have acquired the idea that we are the only rightful owners of North America.

Manifest destiny, embraced as national policy in the 1800s, was the idea that Americans owe to the world an obligation to expand and preserve the spread of republican democracy: ”that great experiment of liberty.”  As history shows, “that great experiment of liberty” was a rather incongruous idea at best!

In 1830 President Andrew Jackson gained Congressional passage of the Indian Removal Act, authorizing the removal of Native American tribes to land west of the Mississippi River in exchange for forced cession of their lands in the Southeastern United States.  The goal was to allow European-American planters to move in and develop the land for their plantations. The outcome of this action, known as the “Trail of Tears,” was the forced march westward of members of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations.  Enroute to designated “Indian Territory” and later Oklahoma, thousands became ill and died.

Today, due to our government’s numerous violations of treaties made with those who were here before us, bands of Native Americans must petition our governments to be recognized as an extant tribe.  This status then allows them the right to request approval to operate casinos, which provide income to fund needed education, employment, health care, and social services to their tribal members.  These casinos drain many millions of dollars from their patrons, those of us who arrived here long after Native Americans did.  Righteous retribution, I suppose.  But someday these casinos will be seen for what I believe they really are: yet one more example of our subjugation and degradation of those who occupied this land before we did.

Manifest Destiny rationalized the United States’ annexation of Texas in 1845, resulting in the Mexican-American War.

Manifest Destiny even extended beyond our Pacific border.  In 1893 the Hawaiian monarch Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown and replaced by a provisional government composed of members of the American Committee of Safety.  (I can’t help but wonder whose safety was in question.)  The Queen was placed under house arrest in her palace in Honolulu.  The monarchy was never reinstated, and in 1898 Congress passed the Newlands Resolution annexing the Republic of Hawaii to the United States, which subsequently became our 50th state.  The absurdity of this strikes close to home in the Loomis family, as our son and his wife now live in Honolulu in the home in which her father of Chinese and Japanese ancestry grew up.

In the meantime, while we were subjugating those whose land we coveted, the United States engaged in the most schizophrenic of behaviors.

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886.  Standing on Liberty Island, rising above the Upper New York Bay, she bears a torch and a tablet upon which is inscribed the date of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.  The Statue of Liberty is an icon of freedom: a welcoming signal to immigrants arriving from abroad.  A symbolic broken chain lies at her feet.

Inscribed at the base of the Statue are these words penned in 1883 by Emma Lazarus, a woman of Jewish ancestry, who had written extensively of the persecution of Jews:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.

“From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

“I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Next to Liberty Island sits Ellis Island which served as the famous immigration station from 1892 to 1954.  During that time 12 million immigrants were processed through Ellis Island.  Eight million more were processed in the 35 years before Ellis Island was opened.  We welcomed freedom seeking immigrants into our country as early as 1857, while simultaneously keeping as our slaves Africans that we had kidnapped from their countries.  Today one-third of all  Americans can trace their ancestry to those who arrived at Ellis Island, a lineage of immigrants of astonishing proportion.

(From John McCutcheon: “I am an Immigrant”)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7qx4sl52Zo

“I am an immigrant.
I am a stranger in this place.
I have left everything I own.
To everything I’ve known I say goodbye.”

During the Irish Potato Famine from 1845 to 1852 one million Irish men and women died, and one million emigrated from their homeland to the United States.

“I am an Irishman.
When the famine put us to the test
Away into the West,
Like wild birds flying,

“We put our backs to the wheel
With a heart that always yearned for home.
We have made this place our own.
And about died trying.”

Several groups of Amish and Mennonite people make their home in northern Indiana and in St. Joseph County MI, just south of where I live.  They are direct descendents of Anabaptist Christians who were tortured and persecuted in Europe by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches.  Thousands fled to the United States to obtain religious freedom.

“She said, ‘Give me your tired,’
Don’t you know I’m weary?
She said, ‘Give me your poor,’
She’s talking to me,
One of your huddled masses 
Yearning to breathe free.

“And I never have lost sight of
What this journey has been for.
See how she lifts her lamp
Beside the golden door.”

The United States was the destination, and benefactor, of many other groups of immigrants.  Of note in our area of southwest Michigan are the Hispanic migrant workers who harvest our abundant fruit and vegetable crops each year.

“I am a Chicano.
In your orchards and your fields
I have gathered in the yields
For this hungry land.

“I am Chinese.
I worked your mills, your yards, your mines.
I laid your railroad lines
With my two good hands.

“I am Nigerian,
I am Iranian, a Jew.
From Laos, from Katmandu.

“I am a long, long line,
One you have forgotten, that is true.
I am everything you knew.
I am your glory!”

   Xenophobia ….there’s that word again.

Perhaps Native Americans should have experienced a bit more xenophobia
and exercised more “homeland security” when our ancestors came here,
for now….

We seem to have forgotten what our journeys have been for!

*  Now we hide her lamp behind our golden door.  *

– AMERICA –

– a nation of immigrants –

May we restore her beacon-hand from which glows world-wide welcome.

And may we always bear witness to the richness of our diverse cultural heritage, a heritage both historical, and yet to come.

Therein lies our glory!

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