Letter From Claverack 07 15 2017 On the Auto Train outside of Jacksonville, FL…

It is closing on 6:00 on the 15th of July, 2017 and I am riding north on the auto train from Sanford, Florida to Lorton, Virginia.  Pierre Font, married to my friend Lionel, and I are bringing his parents’ car from Miami to Columbia County, which is where they will be living while they sort out their lives.

There are no stops.  Well, except for the one where one of the engines lost power but they managed to fix it and we are going again.  It is a bit like being on a cruise, having a day at sea.

Forty years ago, in Tehran, Maryam Mirzakhani, was born.  She is the only woman to have won the Field Award in mathematics, the equivalent of a Nobel Prize.  And today, she passed away, a victim of breast cancer, a brilliant mind gone quiet.  She has been a Professor at Stanford University since 2008.  RIP.  It is hard to lose such a brilliant mind.  By the way, she was Muslim.

Yesterday, one of my relatives sent me an email warning me about a young Muslim politician in Michigan.  It was, to me, both xenophobic and un-American, and I angrily deleted it.  We were being warned he might one day become President of the United States.  Today, I wanted to retrieve it but couldn’t seem to find it.  My relative’s unhappiness with the man was simply based on the fact he was Muslim.

One of the finest people I have known in my life was Omar Ahmad, a Muslim, who when he died prematurely from a heart attack a few years ago, was Mayor of San Carlos, CA.

There was a moment when I wanted to respond.  I didn’t because it would have no effect on him as nothing I say would change his mind.  This is who he is, xenophobic and un-American and he has been that way since I have known him.

Yet, I feel guilty at not having responded.

Such is life in 21st Century America.

The election of Trump to the Presidency has given lots of people more freedom to express xenophobia and racism and all the ugly things we haven’t dealt with in America.  And all the things that more and more of the world is having to deal with as huge populations move around the globe.

France was welcoming to Josephine Baker in the 1920’s; it could afford to be.  It looked down on the United States and its racial policies.  But would a Josephine Baker from a Muslim country today still find the embrace she did?  I’m not sure.

It is one thing to be a rarity in the 1920’s and another to be part of an encroaching potential majority in the 2010’s.

I am saddened and worn by all these things and grateful I will be gone before all this plays out.

It is possible for me to look back and think, gratefully, on what a life I have had.  It is my hope that the people who are younger than me will also have a wonderful life and that a solution will be found to all of this because if we do not find a way to embrace each other, it is not going to be pretty.

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