Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

Letter From Claverack 07 04 2017 Thoughts from the creek on Independence Day…

July 4, 2017

It is as idyllic as it can be here at the cottage.  On an achingly clear day, the sun shines brightly through the green leaves of the trees.  A bee buzzes somewhere, the creek is so clear you can see its bed, the air is filled with the thrumming of insects and a soft wind moves the leaves gently.

My coffee is strong and I am slowly rising into the day, the Fourth of July, 2017.  My nephew, Kevin, is asleep in the guest room and it is so wonderful to be here, in this spot, enjoying the beginning of this day.

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Kevin prepping for a game of backgammon.

            It has been a blessing to have been here this spring and now summer, to see the earth return from winter’s sleep, bloom green and touch the peace of this spot.  Not far away, a deep throated frog croaks, signaling.

All of this is a treasure and a privilege and a boon to my sanity.

As I sat here, on this day which celebrates the birth of the United States of America, I was thinking what a messy birth and history it has been.  It means so much to, I think, all of us and yet those individual meanings are all mixed and jumbled, and so infused with anger.  The Week’s cover for June 30th had a “Blue” and a “Red” American glowering at each other, with a line asking whether “Are Red and Blue America headed for a divorce?”  The article is about a culture of rage.

And, as we live through this time in our country’s history, with the very real sense of rage on both sides of the political spectrum, I am doing my best to remember that the history of this country, for better or worse, has been driven by a sense of rage.  From the Boston Tea Party through our current Trumpian dystopia, there has been rage.

We didn’t part peacefully from England, we warred our way to independence.

We fought a Civil War from which, quite frankly, I don’t think we have ever recovered.

We have assassinated four presidents and there have been numerous other attempts which didn’t succeed.  Yes, violence is in our American DNA.

We ripped this land from Native Americans, dragged captives from Africa to work that land as slaves, built our version of the Athenian Empire and are now, and may always be, attempting to reconcile all the ugly facets of America with all the beautiful things it has been and can be.

Immigrants have flooded here from the beginning.  Each new wave was met with hostility by those who had come before.

It is ironic but not surprising that one of our current flashpoints is immigration.

An acquaintance of mine, a young Rabbi, recalled his immigrant grandmother hiding as a girl as mobs ran through New York’s streets, screaming, “Kill the Jews!”

America has been and is an experiment and other countries are experiencing our challenges.  The relative homogeneity of Europe is being challenged by the flood of migrants sweeping in, seeking a better life as did the millions who flocked to America, also seeking something better.

Change is hard and unwanted change is often met with rage.  We are a country constantly changing so it is not surprising we are raging.  Because of the acceleration of communication capabilities, we are more knitted together than with greater challenges in finding veracity.

I savor my idyllic spot and cling to the hope that reconciliation will come.  Not in my lifetime, I know, but at some point, America will hopefully become what so many politicians have called us, the bright and shining city upon the hill.

 

  • President-elect John F. Kennedy said, in an address to the Massachusetts Legislature on January 9, 1961, “During the last 60 days I have been engaged in the task of constructing an administration…. I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arabella [sic] 331 years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a government on a new and perilous frontier. ‘We must always consider,’ he said, ‘that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.’ Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, State, and local, must be as a city upon a hill—constructed and inhabited by men aware of their grave trust and their great responsibilities.”—Congressional Record, January 10, 1961, vol. 107, Appendix, p. A169…”[4]

Let us remember this as we close out this year’s celebrations, let us face each other with the light and love Christ had when He, in the Sermon on the Mount, provided the base message for Winthrop, Kennedy, Reagan and others.

 

Letter From Claverack 01 29 2017 The Game is afoot…

January 30, 2017

It is a little past seven at the cottage; the weekend is winding down, “Swing Jazz” is the Amazon music station playing.  Marcel, Lionel and Pierre’s poodle, is situated comfortably on the couch, looking at the door to see when they will return, which will be in a few days.  The flood lights illuminate the creek and I am at the freshly polished dining room table, writing.

It’s the end of a good weekend, mostly very “hygge.” [Pronounced hoo-ga, it’s Danish for living a cozy life.]  And it’s been a cozy weekend.  Young Nick has returned from his walkabout and came over Friday afternoon and helped me prepare for what turned out to be a most excellent dinner party.

Saturday was cleaning up and being domestic, a solo lunch at the Dot, dinner with Lionel and Pierre at their house, home to sleep.

But all the hygge in my life has been overshadowed and squeezed by the events in the world around me.  President Trump has been issuing Executive Orders to his heart’s content. They feel a bit like Imperial Edicts.  Do this.  Ban that.  It’s been stunning.  And equally stunning is the response of the American public.

When he banned individuals from seven countries, all primarily Muslim, from entering the United States, hordes of lawyers went to airports and became filing appeals, sitting on the floor in the terminals, laptops plugged into whatever outlet could be found.

It made me proud.

At those same airports, crowds appeared.  At JFK, several New York Congressmen were there, attempting to help.  One quarantined gentleman was an Iraqi citizen who was on his way to the US because he had been an interpreter for our soldiers and his life was in danger.  Thankfully, he was released.

People with green cards are in limbo, depending on the airport they flew into.  Federal Judges are ordering limits on Trump’s ruling and some officials are ignoring them.

Excuse me, what?  What?

Heads are spinning.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief political operative, has been given a seat on the National Security Council while the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs and the Director of National Intelligence have been demoted.

What? What?

In the morning now, I get up, make my coffee and call my Senators and my Representative in Congress and tomorrow I don’t know what issue to focus on.  There are so many.

A relative sent me a clip of a State of the Union Address given by Bill Clinton, in which he talked about the dangers of illegal immigration.  The headline before the clip was “The hypocrisy of liberals!”

Well, really, hypocrisy?  Take a look at this article.  Mike Pence opposed what Trump has done and now is praising it.  Is that not hypocrisy?  Political opportunism?

Immigration has been an issue ever since we stopped accepting just about everybody.  Don’t know about you, but I’m here, an American citizen, because my great grandparents came over from Germany and settled in Minnesota.  Back then, almost everyone was taken in. [Though my great grandparents arrived in First Class so they didn’t have to go through the indignities of Ellis Island.]

Then it changed and immigration has been an issue ever since.  Okay, I get that.  And what President Trump has done is unprecedented.  His list of excluded countries does not include Saudi Arabia from which came many of the 9/11 hijackers.  It does not exclude Pakistan, one of whose citizens was part of the Riverside massacre.  It’s a bit bewildering. The banned countries have barely contributed to the numbers who have died from terrorist acts in the US.

And, amazingly, it appears the list was compiled during the Obama Administration but never activated.  Boggles the mind.

Not even during Viet Nam was I this agitated.  Agitated does not describe my mood when I am not working very hard at hygge.

In an article I scanned two days ago, it speculated that Trump may be to Millennials what Viet Nam was to my generation, a catalytic event.

You see, there is a movement to stop abortions.  There is a generation of young women who have grown up believing they had the right of choice.  Now some people want to take that it away from them.  No, not happy.  And abortions have been decreasing and in 2014 were the lowest since 1973.

There are young people who are in college whose friends are in limbo because they come from one of the banned countries and went home over winter break and may not be able to come back despite having valid visas.

And there are people like me, a Baby Boomer grown old, who is incensed in a way I have not been for god alone knows how many years.  The protests will not stop.  They will not go away.  The country is fired up in a way that hasn’t been seen since Viet Nam.

Wow!  The games have begun.

To be completely clear, I am one of the founders of Blue DOT [Democracy Opposing Trump] Hudson Indivisible.  It is my time of being an activist.  This Presidency must be opposed.  It is divisive.  It is immoral.  It has in its first week demonstrated a willingness to flaunt conventional order.

Tomorrow I am calling the office of John McCain and Lindsey Graham who are opposing Trump to thank them for their efforts.  We are all in for a rocky ride and maybe this was a good thing to happen.

The Left is galvanized the way the Right was when Obama was elected and already seems, and I hope it continues, to be more emphatic than the Tea Party movement.

The game is afoot…

 

 

Letter From New York, October 4, 2011

October 4, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

Outside it is pouring rain and I’m curled on a couch in the cottage, ruminating on the last two weeks, wondering about what I want to write. As I have been thinking about this missive, I have been thinking of people.

Just hours ago, I heard my cousin Marion, whom I always thought of as an Aunt, given the disparity in our ages, had passed away, luckily surrounded by family, including her wonderful sister Virginia, who is so long suffering, gentle, sweet and forgiving that she deserves the sobriquet: saint. She is one of the most loving humans I have ever encountered or probably will ever encounter. She suffered my mother, in all her moods and wonders, lovingly and with persistent kindness, always a wonder to me, a gift we all appreciated. Marion was tougher and more pragmatic albeit loving and between the two of them they allowed our mother to live at home longer than she would have been able to if they had not been present. I’ll lift a glass to the two of them this evening.

I also thought this week of a livery driver who picked me up this week, a man from Ecuador, who loved this country because of the opportunities it would give his children. He worked fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, in order that his daughters could go to good secondary schools and then get into good colleges. Both were doing well and the oldest had just been accepted into the John Jay College of Justice in Manhattan. He was bursting with pride and I marveled at him; I work hard but driving fourteen hours a day in New York? He represented to me the immigrant experience which is America and which has driven us along through history and made me wince when I think of some of the anti-immigration legislation being made in states like Alabama. I don’t know all the rights and wrongs; I do wonder about it all. We are, all of us, after all, children of immigrants and we should remember that heritage.

And mostly, I relished remembering the marriage this past weekend of my friends, Gary and Angel, two men whom I helped meet and who, in their marriage, helped me understand the institution of marriage in a way I had never before comprehended, viscerally. Marriage, to me as a baby boomer, has seemed somewhat redundant, a non-necessity, something, perhaps, a bit archaic and even anachronistic.

But then I attended their wedding and saw the importance and the joy of declaring love to a community and committing oneself to the other in the presence of that community.

Gary and Angel met each other two years ago. From the first date they have constantly discovered new layers within the other that have deepened their respect and admiration of the other and in that deepening have grown to a place where their love is incandescent – a rare thing to be treasured in the human experience and something that is a treasure to all who know them.

Because they are two men they would have not been able to declare their love in this way until recently and now they can and in helping witness their marriage I understood why two people of any combination would want to publicly declare their love and to incorporate their union through the laws of the land, to make it public, legal, not inescapable but more complex to part. They have a love so profound as to dazzle the people around them, including me. And I now understand why people want to be married, to publically and legally declare their love for one another. I was privileged to have been with them as they declared their commitment and were united in marriage.

So, as I finish this week’s letter, I lift my hat to all of us, living our lives, passing through on the great journey called life, to the celebrations at joyful moments and the acknowledgement of the hard ones – the marriages and the deaths, the hard long hours most of us put in to make our lives the dream we dream.

Letter From New York, June 21, 2011

June 22, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

Twilight is settling on New York City; it’s a Monday night as I begin writing, the end of one of those beautiful days that are perfect – not too warm, not too humid, sun blessed with light warm winds. I walked home, past at least a dozen restaurants with their sidewalk seating jammed with people yearning to soak in the grand beauty of the day.

As I walked, I wondered what I would write about this week. Certainly I was thinking about the weekend – I spent Saturday with an electrician who was fixing the damage done to my electric wiring when lightening hit a tree near the house when I was out in California. I was lucky: the house didn’t burn down and it might have. Mostly I was thinking I was lucky.

I thought, as I walked south down Broadway, past all those New York restaurants with sidewalk seating, about how nice a city New York can be. It was a lovely day and people were being lovely – it was hard to have a fault in this day.

Walking down Broadway I thought how blessed I am with friendships. Last night I had dinner with my friends Lionel and Pierre; we have shared many things and they always take great good care of me. I thought of my friend Maura, who has come to New York, working with me at Odyssey and what a journey we are both on, trying to help figure out how to help Odyssey grow and prosper because each of us believe fiercely in what Odyssey is doing. It’s doing great things and we’re attempting to help it understand its future. There is my friend David Fox who once described me as his newest oldest friend. He had surgery today and was manning the phones by the afternoon. Wow! I would have taken the whole day off; surgery is a good excuse for a get out jail card. I thought of Mitch and Mitchell, new friends David and Bill, my brother, my sister, my sweet sister-in-law, more names than can be counted in any missive…

I am an enormously fortunate man. I split my time between New York City and a sweet little cottage on a creek in the Hudson Valley. I work on interesting projects and am intellectually engaged in my life. I listen to jazz and smile and think about a lot of things while tapping away on the laptop in my lap.

Gay Pride, which just happened in Hudson and which is about to burst upon New York City, underscores this is a huge time in New York State for gay issues. Gay marriage is in front of the legislature as I type. Governor Cuomo is pushing to have it approved; rallies pro and con abound. I remember ten years ago having a conversation at a wonderful breakfast at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel with my friend Medora who asked me what I thought about it and I told her I was amazed it was a topic of conversation in my lifetime.

My friends Gary and Angel are getting married in September. They will do the official deed in Connecticut, which has approved gay marriage, but will celebrate it in New Jersey where they have a home. Wow! This is happening in my lifetime. Who would have thunk?

I am amazed at the changes in society in my lifetime. Not just gay rights – let’s think about the changes that have happened for African-Americans in the last fifty years. This country has absorbed so many different groups of people. That’s one of the amazing things about America – it has absorbed so many from so many lands. We have always felt a little challenged about absorption but we seem to work it out.

So all I am saying is that we are at an interesting crossroads in our life, as we always are. America is changing, as it always has. Learning how to embrace those changes are the essence of what has made America great.