A Win For WE THE PEOPLE!

This hit my email box just about an hour ago:

The Supreme Court has rejected the Trump administration’s effort to subject foreigners who are grandchildren or cousins of Americans to the president’s travel ban executive order, but it will allow the administration to block many refugees for now.

The Trump administration initially said grandparents and cousins did not qualify for an exemption to the travel ban, which was required by the high court for foreign citizens with close ties to U.S. people or institutions. But a federal judge in Hawaii disagreed with the administration’s interpretation.

The judge also said refugees assigned to a U.S. resettlement organization were exempt from the ban. But the justices put that part of the decision on hold, meaning the refugee aspect can move forward for now.

Okay, so maybe it’s only a partial win, but a win, and one I truly did not expect.  Three cheers for Judge Watson and for the Supreme Court.

The decision was split 6-3, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissenting. These are the same three that voted for letting Trump’s travel ban stand in full without qualification, in June.

I would have liked to see the resettlement issue also addressed by the court.  People in resettlement programs have been fully ‘vetted’ and have been waiting, some for many years, for permission to enter the U.S.  It seems to me unfair that they are now left in limbo, not knowing whether they will ever be welcomed or will be forced to remain in a country where their very life is in danger.

But, this is, nonetheless, good news and gives us hope that the Supreme Court is still an independent department not influenced by the rhetoric and threats of the administration. It is proof that, at least for the time being, the system is still working.

Just Another Day … 04 July 2017

On Tuesday, 4 July, the nation will celebrate the anniversary of publication of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776.

A bit of history: The first description of how Independence Day would be celebrated was in a letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. He described “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations” throughout the United States. However, the term “Independence Day” was not used until 1791.

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Jefferson & Adams

A bit of trivia: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and presidents of the United States, died on July 4, 1826 – exactly 50 years after the adoption of the declaration.

Today, most families celebrate the holiday pretty much as described by John Adams, with parades, picnics, and at the end of the day, fireworks.

To be sure, there are still plenty of good things about this nation.  There are a multitude of “good people doing good things”, as I point out every Wednesday.  And there are many, many people who are fighting every day for truth, justice, and equal rights for all.  We have beautiful lakes, mountains and forests. And as of this writing, we are relatively free from oppression, we have a relatively free press and freedom to speak our minds, else I would not be writing this blog.  However …

This year, I must admit that I have no joy over the holiday.  Always in the past, I have felt proud of what had been accomplished in our nation in just two centuries, was proud to be a citizen of the United States.  No country is perfect, and I understood the flaws of our government and our citizenry, but still … it was a pretty damn good country.  Today, however, I am not all that proud of this nation.  I am ashamed and disgusted.  I have even wondered if perhaps we would have been better off to have remained a colony of the crown.

Much of my shame, of course, comes from what has become of the office of the president.  Even though we have had some less-than-noble men sitting in the Oval Office before, it has never been as thoroughly defiled as it has been over the past five months.  The policies and ideologies of the current administration are in direct contrast to those put forth by the framers of the Constitution, who began that document with the words:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

To celebrate 241 years, even as our citizens are being deprived of adequate, affordable health care, are being deprived of clean air and water, deprived of a solid education for their children, seems wrong.  Our African-American citizens are often being abused, targeted by the very officers of the law who should be protecting them, and are not given justice for any of it.  Our tax dollars go to buy guns, tanks and bombs, not to provide basic necessities for our poor and elderly.  So no, I find no pride in my heart for the government of this nation. At its head is a ‘man’ who is vulgar, crass, and respects no one. It is comprised of rich, corrupt men who care not a whit for the citizens … not a whit.

But my shame and disappointment goes much deeper than just the people in the White House and Congress, for they shall pass through quickly enough (we hope) and be replaced with other, hopefully more conscionable politicians.  The deepest part of my shame is with my fellow citizens.

I am ashamed that a large portion of this country believe that they are superior to others because of the colour of their skin.  I am ashamed that many have chosen to hate and even murder others because they do not share the same religion.  I am ashamed of those who cannot accept that a person may fall in love with another of the same gender.  I am ashamed that people are more willing to fight to carry lethal weapons than they are to fight for their children.  I am ashamed that people have reverted to the racism of the past without learning from the lessons of history.  I am ashamed of the people who would turn away refugees from the Middle East and send them to an almost certain death.  I am ashamed when I hear people promoting violence against their fellow humans at rallies and protests, that some still have not learned the art of ‘peaceful’ protest.  I am ashamed that so many are willing to sacrifice our very planet out of ignorance.  I am ashamed that so many refuse to learn facts, but rather accept as fact whatever they are told. I am ashamed of those who use their religion as a shield, but judge people by the colour of their skin and refuse to offer assistance to those in need.

Most of all, I am saddened by the vileness and hate I read about every day.  Certainly it is natural that we are not all going to agree on everything, that there will be debates and disputes, but today in this nation, there is pure, ugly hate.  The person who is supposed to be a leader incites violence, tells people to punch others and he will cover their legal fees.  A man recently elected to Congress beat up a reporter who was just doing his job the night before he was elected.

For me, all of this makes it very difficult to celebrate a day that should be about being proud of our nation, for I am not at all proud right now.  In my household, Tuesday will be just another day.  There will be no grill-out, no parades, no fireworks.  I shall write, my daughter will study, and Miss Goose will no doubt draw.  And we will be content in our own skins, but I think none of us will be particularly proud of what our nation has become.  I find no reason for a celebration this July fourth.  For me, it is just another day.

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Good People Doing Good Things – Helping Hands

Good morning friends!  I had only begun this post when the news flash came across my screen that FBI Director James Comey had been fired, making it a bit tough to concentrate on good deeds. But ever mindful that readers of this blog look forward to this Wednesday morning feature, I soon came back to it and am pleased to have a couple of people that I think you will tip your hats to after you read their stories.  The first was a carryover from last week when I ran short of time and space on my “pay it forward” piece.

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Her name is Jessica Mayfield, and she used to be a nurse.  To many, she is now a saviour, an angel.  In 2014, Ms. Mayfield was serving as a nurse on a missionary trip to Tanzania.  While playing basketball with some local boys, she had an epiphany that she was meant to be more, to do more, and when she returned to her home city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, she quit her job as a nurse and got down to business helping people.  Jessica started a non-profit called Neigh’tions,  focused on helping refugees fleeing persecution.

At the time Jessica started Neigh’tions, there were 86 refugees living in Chattanooga, and she came to think of them all as family, and vice versa.  A young man named Adam was one of the first refugees she helped.  “Sometimes she’s like my mom, sometimes she’s like my sister, a friend, she means a lot to me.”

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Mayfield watching some of the kids she has helped

“There’s a lot of prejudice in our area, and just in our culture and fear, and so a lot of what God has called me to do, is to break some of those barriers and walls to educate people on the reality of the challenges they face,” said Ms. Mayfield.  Still not convinced she was doing all she could, she recently went to Iraq, where she served as an emergency nurse in a makeshift hospital in Mosul. She says more than 30,000 people are waiting for a home.

Neigh’tions helps refugees in a number of ways, including English classes, and matching up local citizens with families in need of a mentor during their transition to society in their new country.  While so many are advocating for banning and deporting refugees, it warms the heart to know there are people like Jessica Mayfield who just want to help them find their way in the world.

Last week, Jessica became a Pay It Forward prize recipient and won $500.  Asked what she would do with the money, she replied, “Oh! there’s been a program that’s been on my heart for the last few months, developing a program for women and children, specifically to address trauma,” said Mayfield.  Not a new sweater or pair of boots, not a new Cuisinart blender nor a trip to a spa … something to help others.  Small things, helping just a few people at a time, but they add up and Ms. Mayfield is definitely leaving her mark in the world.


The preceding story was about one person helping many.  The next story is about many people … 700, in fact … helping to save … a river!


For decades the Kuttemperoor river in Alappuzha, India, slowly choked under the weight of rampant illegal sand mining and construction sites that dumped tons of sewage on its once-pristine banks. Fish and aquatic life were completely wiped out.

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Before …

Kuttemperoor is a small tributary that connects the Pambha and Achankoil rivers but is crucial for the villagers in this region where water sources are increasingly polluted. “When water scarcity turned unbearable, we decided to revive the river. Initially many discouraged us saying it was a mere waste of money and energy. But we proved them all wrong,” said Budhanoor panchayat president P Viswambhara Panicker.

Tired of waiting for the government to act, and suffering from a drought, the villagers took matters into their own hands.  They first removed weeds and then plastic that was lodged solidly in the river bed. The next step was to dredge the water of pollutants and other debris dumped over the years. Many of the workers were women, a number of who fell ill with dengue fever, a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. “I was down with dengue for two weeks but I returned to digging the day I was out of my bed,” said P Geetha, one of the villagers.

It took them 70 days of back-breaking labour, but finally the water flow has returned and the people’s wells are once again full.  The river now brims with water, the stench is gone and children are playing on its green banks once more.

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And After

But a bigger challenge awaits: To fight off the sand mafia and encroachers and ensure the river doesn’t turn into a sewer again. But for now, their herculean effort has catapulted the sleepy village to the headlines.   With climate change and environmental issues being so important to the future of our planet, it is wonderful to see a small group of people who are willing to take control of their environment, roll up their sleeves, and just do what needs to be done.  Two thumbs up to these villagers!


That’s all I’ve got for today, folks.  Sorry, but I’m still battling tiredness, so I am going to take Doc Gronda’s advice now.  Just remember … we may not always see them on the news, their good works may be overshadowed by politics and incidences of man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man, but they are out there … those good people doing good things!

Thoughts on Hypocrisy …

The right to life is a moral principle based on the belief that a human being has the right to live and, in particular, should not be killed by another human being. The concept of a right to life arises in debates on issues of capital punishment, war, abortion, euthanasia, justifiable homicide and, by extension, public health care.

It seems to me that those who vociferously claim to be “pro-life” would cherry-pick the instances in which they support another’s right to life.  For example, pro-lifers are against abortion … in all cases.  Yet, once a child is born to a mother who does not have the wherewithal to provide for that child, then the same pro-lifers who forbade the mother from having an abortion, turn their backs.  They are unwilling to have their tax dollars used to support the child, to provide medical care for the child, or a free education.  So in essence, they are crueler than those of us who would support a woman’s right to choose, since they have insisted on this child being born, but are now willing to allow it to live in abject poverty, without his basic needs being met.  Listening to the song In The Ghetto, originally by Elvis Presley, one stanza in particular jumps out:

People, don’t you understand

The child needs a helping hand

Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day?

Take a look at you and me

Are we too blind to see

Do we simply turn our heads, and look the other way?

Rather than making it harder for women to have abortions, why not make it less necessary for a woman to need an abortion?  Ever hear the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”?  But instead, the very same ones who decry abortions, have routinely and consistently spoken out to de-fund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides counseling, health care and contraceptives to women.  And many who consider themselves ‘pro-lifers’, are also against contraceptives.  Think about the Hobby Lobby and other similar cases.  So, they want to deny women a right to birth control, but also deny her the right to do what she feels is best in the case of an unwanted pregnancy.

Those same people who unconditionally oppose a woman’s right to seek an abortion, are by large the same who support capital punishment, seeing no problem with taking a man’s life for a crime he may have committed, even when his guilt may be in question.

And almost to a person, those who claim to be pro-life see no problem with advocating for every person in the nation, regardless of mental state, emotional health, capability, or temperament, to own and carry a firearm.  They applaud when somebody takes the life of another, claiming it was “self-defense” … even though more often than not, it was not self-defense at all.  They also applaud when police brutally murder a black man, frequently without reason.  Just don’t kill a small pocket of cells within a woman’s womb, but kill all the people who might have committed crimes.

Where is that moral outrage on the part of pro-lifers when Trump is threatening to ban refugees because they are Muslims … how do they justify that they are anti-immigration?  Do not the lives of those men, women and children living in conditions whereby bombs are being dropped over their heads over night matter?  Do not the lives of Syrians, Iraqis, Afghanis, and Yeminis count in the ‘pro-life’ ideology?

Let us speak for a moment of drones dropping bombs on unsuspecting civilians in the Middle East.  Or what of the “mother of all bombs” recently dropped in Afghanistan, or the Tomahawk missiles in Syria?  Each of these took lives.  If you support any of these, especially in the cases where civilians were killed, you cannot claim to be pro-life.

Let me tell you what I think.  I think that in order for a person to be honestly considered pro-life, that person must be:

  • Pro-immigration
  • Against capital punishment
  • Pro-national health care
  • Pro-social services for the poor
  • Anti-discrimination of every type, including religious
  • Pro-gun regulation, including at a minimum, a ban on assault-type weapons
  • Anti-war

There are others, but I think you see my point.  Nobody is truly pro-life … perhaps Mother Teresa was, or perhaps Pope Francis is, but for the rest of us, there are circumstances in which we are in support of ending a life.  Right?  Wrong?  I do not pretend to know.  I know only what my own conscience tells me.  And my own conscience, while not a fan of abortion, believes in a woman’s right to choice because I am not inside that woman’s mind, I cannot know her circumstances.  It may be that she knows she cannot take proper care of that child for whatever reason.  That is not mine to judge.  But I believe there are far worse examples of taking a life than to take the life of a fetus whose life would quite possibly be a tragedy from day one.

One final note:  The population on earth is 7.5 billion people and counting.  So far this year, 2017, there have been some 48 million births, and fewer than 20 million deaths. The world is already overpopulated, and some would deny a woman birth control???

Next time somebody claims to be ‘pro-life’, ask them if they support capital punishment, random killings in the Middle East, or if they wish to repeal ACA which provides health care for those who would otherwise have none.

I do not ask that you agree with this commentary, but merely that you think about it.

An Extreme Embarrassment …

Donald Trump, the man who was selected to represent us all, is an embarrassment. I am ashamed and embarrassed by the way this “man” treats the people of this nation, but even more ashamed and embarrassed by the way he treats our friends and allies. I would like to sincerely apologize today to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for the bad behaviour of our elected representative.

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Malcolm Turnbull

Australia is not an enemy of the U.S., but is, in fact, one of our staunchest allies. Historically the U.S. and Australia have shared intelligence, supported one another diplomatically and have fought together in wars including in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, when Trump called P.M. Turnbull last Saturday, he was rude and obnoxious.  Some details of the call leaked to the press this morning, and a senior administration official later acknowledged that the conversation with Turnbull had been “hostile and charged”, although the ‘official’ White House record shows a more toned-down version.

It seems the main source of conflict was a previously negotiated agreement that the U.S. would accept approximately 1,200 refugees from two detainment facilities off the coast of Australia, subject to passing security screening.  Trump’s immigration ban, signed last Friday, included a special provision allowing for exceptions to honor “a pre­existing international agreement,” a line that was inserted to cover the Australia deal. Nonetheless, it appears that he now does not want to honour the agreement and made his displeasure known in ways consistent with his venomous personality.

refugees-2.jpg“I don’t want these people,” Trump said. He called it “the worst deal ever”, and told P.M. Turnbull that he was seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.” Then yesterday he tweeted, “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”  There are approximately 2,000 people in the two detention centers, and the agreement calls for the U.S. to accept half of that number.  And they are refugees, asylum seekers, not illegal immigrants.

This morning, Republican Senator John McCain tried to smooth things over with the Australian government, calling Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, “to express my unwavering support for the U.S.-Australia alliance.”  At least somebody in the administration has a sense of propriety.

“I asked Ambassador Hockey to convey to the people of Australia that their American brothers and sisters value our historic alliance, honor the sacrifice of the Australians who have served and are serving by our side, and remain committed to the safer, freer, and better world that Australia does far more than its fair share to protect and promote.”

When the news of his call to P.M. Turnbull, as well as another contentious call with Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto became public knowledge this morning, Trump responded with this:

“When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it. Just don’t worry about it. The world is in trouble, but we’re gonna straighten it out, OK? That’s what I do, I fix things.”

Prime Minister Turnbull has been gracious about the call, refusing to criticize or condemn Trump.  That is what is called ‘diplomacy’, something about which Trump knows nothing.  The refugee crisis is ongoing.  We are talking about people living on two islands, in detention centers that are, in the words of one aid worker, “inherently toxic … akin to torture”.  These are families with children whose only crime was being born in a country that has been at war and being Muslims.  The conditions in these centers are so bad, and the plight of these people so hopeless that many are suicidal.  “I felt like my job was just convincing people to stay alive,” said another aid worker.

Even putting the humanitarian issue of the refugees aside, whether Trump likes it or not, we, the United States, signed an agreement with an ally, to which we are legally and morally bound.  It is unacceptable for Trump to be rude and berate the leader of another nation, one who is our friend and has done nothing to deserve such treatment.  This, in and of itself is bad enough, but consider for a moment … what happens when he throws diplomacy to the wind when speaking to a leader who is not so tolerant as Turnbull?  How will he negotiate with Kim Jong Un of North Korea or President Xi Jinping of China?  If he cannot even communicate civilly with our friends, how will he ever manage to communicate with our enemies?  Think about that one for a minute …

This is our new leader.  And I am ashamed and embarrassed.

Guess whose ….

… own children will not be voting for him, at least not in the New York primary next week. Apparently Donnie’s children, Ivanka and Eric Trump ‘forgot’ to register.  According to Trump, “They had a long time to register, and they were unaware of the rules and they didn’t register in time … I think they have to register a year in advance, and they didn’t.”  Actually, the deadline for them to register was March 25th of this year … just 18 days ago.  But that is just a small, pesky detail, right Donnie?  I guess they are like their father and don’t like to be bothered with those small, pesky details. I wonder if they will register in time to vote in the general election on November 2nd?

Here’s an interesting tidbit for all you Trump supporters who love to hate President Obama … Donald Trump actually voted FOR Obama in 2008.  “It’s very exciting we have a new president. It would have been nice if he ended with a 500 point up instead of down. It’s certainly very exciting. His speech was great last night. I thought it was inspiring in every way. And, hopefully he’s going to do a great job. But the way I look at it, he cannot do worse than Bush.”  ( from “On the Record ,” November 5, 2008).

During the same interview, he made other interesting statements that may appear to conflict with his current “platform” (to the extent that he can be said to actually have a platform):

  • “I’m very liberal when it comes to health care. I believe in universal health care. I believe in whatever it takes to make people well and better. It’s an entitlement to this country if we’re going to have a great country.”
  • “The Democrats didn’t have a policy for dealing with illegal immigrants, but what they did have going for them is they weren’t mean-spirited about it. They didn’t know what the policy was, but what they were is they were kind.”
  • “He [Mitt Romney] had a crazy policy of self-deportation which was maniacal. It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote. He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.” The GOP has to develop a comprehensive policy “to take care of this incredible problem that we have with respect to immigration, with respect to people wanting to be wonderful productive citizens of this country.” [emphasis added]

Can this possibly be the same Donald Trump that is running a vitriolic campaign for president of the U.S. in 2016?

Last on my agenda for today is the fact that, despite his claim to have made some 4,844 charitable contributions totaling $102 million (not a particularly large sum for a man with net assets of approximately $4 billion), the man has not made any donations of actual cash from his own pocket.  Most of his “gifts” seem to have been in the form of land-conservation agreements and free rounds of golf.  Now, if I am a poor person who needs food, clothing or shelter for my children, how do I benefit from Donald Trump agreeing not to build hotels on a certain piece of land?  How do I benefit from a free game of golf?  I will not dwell on this, as I made mention in a previous post that Trump is no philanthropist.  If you are interested in learning more, you can do so here.

These are only a few of the things that make me wonder who Donald Trump really is.  I believe he is a chameleon, changing his colours to appear to be what his followers want him to be.  I certainly have no objection to him having voted for Obama … I voted for him both in 2008 and 2012.  But he is a hypocrite.  His change in stance on immigration is far more troubling.  Either he loves immigrants or he hates them.  Apparently eight years ago he thought they were great and now he wants to deport them all and build walls to keep any more from entering the country.  He speaks out of both sides of his mouth (and with a forked tongue at that), changes his mind almost daily about one thing or another, and tells more lies and half-truths than any other politician or candidate.

Ferries Not Frontex

Yet another heartbreaking post from a volunteer assisting refugees on the Greek isle of Kos. When … where … how … does this all end? What is the solution? I don’t know, but I am thankful that there are people like this lady in this world to help. Please read!

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“Safe Passage” we blazoned on our banners, we spread across our social media, we shouted in the streets.

“Ferries not Frontex”

“Refugees Are Human Beings”

“Don’t Let Them Drown”

We campaigned, we protested, we wrote to the powers that be, we signed petitions, we exclaimed our outrage, our desperation, to anyone who would listen and more so to those that would not.

We filled the gaps the governments left, trying to provide basic humanitarian assistance to those making the journey across the Aegean. We watched the horrors unfold, we saw so many lives lost so unnecessarily.


The 45 minute ferry from Bodrum to Kos, only costing a few Euros, but only for those with the right passports, forever taunted us and those forced to climb into a dinghy and risk their lives crossing under cover of darkness for the hope of a better life.

But on the 4th of April…

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Integrity.

This is the 3rd I have re-posted from “fromscotlandwithloveblog”. She is volunteering to help immigrants on the Greek isle of Kos. This may well b the most touching of all three posts. My heart breaks along with hers. An important read …

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How do you keep your head when all those around you are losing theirs?

Back in September, I had had enough of simply sitting around watching an unraveling humanitarian crisis unfold on the shores of Europe so I decided to try and do something. I had no idea what I could do, but I had time and I found some cheap flights and thought, why not? I could sit around my house becoming angrier and angrier or I could get on that plane, land on a Greek island and physically, actually, do something. Of course, I am not naive, my little actions were exactly that, just little actions in a mammoth crisis, but I knew that in the future I would not be able to look back on this dark time and know that I just sat by and did nothing.


I showed up not knowing what I could do…

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When Words Fail Me…

This is a follow-up to the post I shared yesterday from a Scottish woman who is currently serving as a volunteer, working with refugees on the Greek island of Kos. She writes beautifully and from her heart, so I hope you will all take a few minutes to read her post.

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In keeping with the general style of this blog since September last year, it is the middle of the night and I can’t sleep so I thought staring blankly at a computer screen, desperately searching for the words to make sense of what has happened over the last 48 hours, would help. Surprisingly it is not though as this time I have stared blankly at this screen longer than I ever have before because there really are no words, there is no way to make sense of the final nail in the coffin of the idea of human rights.


Today I was watching a photography exhibition being prepared to show the journey, the stories of this little island since last year. I recognised so many people, so many moments, so many memories. Yes, not all of these memories I care to think about too much, but what stood out for…

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R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I struggle a bit tonight with … not exactly “writer’s block”, as I rarely run out of ideas or words, but more with the issue of coming up with something that I think anybody is interested in reading.  Some of my topics are wearing thin with those who regularly read this blog, and my attempts to “lighten it up” often fall flat, I think because I am not writing from the heart when I do that.  So, I had almost decided to put it aside for a day when a piece written by Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO of Facebook, crossed my path.  It touched me (he is an altruist, a humanist, and a philanthropist).  What he said gave me the idea for this post.

Today I joined 60 technology leaders in supporting President Obama’s executive actions to prevent undocumented immigrant children from being deported.

As I travel around the world, I see many nations turning inwards. I hear growing voices for building walls and distancing people labeled as “other”. Whether it’s refugees, undocumented immigrants or underrepresented minorities, I hope we have the wisdom to understand that the best path forward is always to bring people together, not divide them.

I hope we find the compassion and courage to give everyone a fair shot, to treat everyone with respect and dignity, and do what we can to make this world better for all people — not just people who look like us or live near us.

A few years ago I taught a class on entrepreneurship at a local middle school. Some of my best students were undocumented. Because of that, they weren’t sure if they would be able to go to college. These are smart and hardworking kids who could grow up to be leaders in their communities and in the world. But despite having lived in the US for as long as they can remember, they could be denied the chance to participate fully in the life of our country and reach their potential.

We are a nation of immigrants. We are one world. And we are all connected. We must have the humanity to welcome in these children and to bring people together — and that’s what we told the Supreme Court today.

Mark Zuckerberg, 09 March 2016

 

Earlier this evening I was reading about the summit in Brussels with the EU and Turkey trying to reach some solutions for the refugee/immigrant crisis in Greece, Turkey and the EU.  It appears that there may be some progress, though I do not believe they are even close to finding an ultimate solution, but then it may well be that there is no panacea.   What bothers me, not only with the talks in Europe, but also the attitude in the U.S., is that we have all, leaders and citizens alike, lost sight of a very important fact.  We have lost sight of the fact that these refugees, these immigrants, are human beings.  They are people.  They are individuals.  They have feelings, probably the exact same type of feelings you and I have.  Their heart breaks when their child is hurt or ill.  They love, they listen to music, they dance when they are happy.  They are not dancing right now, for they are scared to death.  They are scared that death will be upon them in a matter of weeks, days or even hours.  They have no home, no food, no medical care for their children, and nobody to help them.

I understand the economics involved, that no nation can take in all the refugees, that it would shatter the economy, particularly of smaller nations in the EU, such as Austria or the Netherlands, Greece and Turkey.  I understand, also, that this situation has turned into a political tool, a bargaining chip between Turkey and the EU, but it shouldn’t be. Even the U.S. with all its resources could not possibly take them all.  But to shun them, to treat them as if they are some subclass, just some problem that must be dealt with, is the wrong way to think about it.  Yes, we must talk, we must communicate between nations, we cannot ignore our own problems, but we need to be working with other nations to try to make sure that somewhere in this world there are places where these human beings can find refuge, where they can have the basic necessities of life:  food, shelter, clothing, medical care.  If we continue to view them merely as a group called “illegal immigrants”, I fear we will never come to the point where we respect these people as humans.

I am very fortunate to know a few families who are refugees from Syria and Iraq.  The family I am most familiar with, and with whom I have formed a strong bond of friendship since they came to this country two years ago, are wonderful, warm, loving and caring people.  In Syria they were what we would consider an upper-middle income family.  They lost everything when they had to flee for their lives one night. They have three adorable boys whom they cherish just as I cherish my own children.  We have helped them, yes, but they have given us more than we could ever give them, and I am thankful for that.  They have taught me humility.  They have taught me compassion.  They have tried to teach me a few words of Arabic, but I am not a very good learner, I think.  Although I can say “thank you”, “you’re welcome”, “cat”, and “I love you” in Arabic!

A few people have said to me that I should watch my back, that these people are not good people.  Why?  Because they are Muslim.  I will not repeat what I said in response to those people, but suffice it to say that I do not deal well with bigots.  At the end of the day, we are all more than Americans or Syrians.  We are more than Christians, Jews, Muslims or atheists.  We are beyond the labels that society and politicians attach to us.  We are something far more important.  We are humans.  Let us act like it.  We cannot control what governments decide to do, but we can elect those who we believe will do their best for all people.  More importantly, though, we do have complete control over our own actions.  I am disappointed in much of my fellow mankind for the bigotry and hatred I see all around me.  I think we all need a lesson in humility and humanity.  Next time you see a Muslim woman in the grocery store, stop and remember that she is a human being, no better nor worse than any other human being.  She is a mother, a wife, a daughter, just like you, just like me.  Respect.  It is, perhaps, the biggest 7-letter word in the English language.  Respect.