Wednesday, February 1, 2017

#32 / First, Last, And Always (And Alone)

The President's Inaugural Address made it official. Our national policy, under President Trump, is going to be "America First." 

The President's speech echoed (who knows if intentionally) the infamous racist and anti-semite, David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Duke identified his philosophy as one of "America First, Last, and Always!"

In a column published in the Mercury News on Sunday, January 29, 2017, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson told us that we would be ill-advised to ignore the president's "verbal eruptions." This "verbal eruptions" phrase was translated by the Bay Area News Group, in its print edition headline on Robinson's column, into the word "rants." Oddly enough, as others have noted, the President's first official proclamation as President, his Inaugural Address, does seem to qualify as a "rant," in many ways. 

Subsequent events confirm the validity of Robinson's cautionary suggestion that we should take the President's words very seriously. One of the President's first official actions, following up on his first official speech, was to order a closing of the borders of the United States of America to various persons who might qualify as Muslims. 

As noted in a front-page article in the Sunday New York Times, the Executive Order titled, "Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States," is hardly likely to accomplish this objective. Even if forbidding entry to "Muslims" would actually be protective (the opposite is likely to be the case), The Times' story properly noted:

There was a random quality to the list of countries: It excluded Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where the founders of Al Qaeda and many other jihadist groups have originated. Also excluded are Pakistan and Afghanistan, where persistent extremism and decades of war have produced militants who have occasionally reached the United States. Notably, perhaps, the list avoided Muslim countries where Mr. Trump has major business ventures.

The front page of the print edition of The New York Times on Sunday, January 29th, has three stories on the impacts of, and reactions to, the President's Executive Order on "Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States." One headline said, "Confusion at Airports Ends With a Partial Stay Favoring Detainees." Another was titled, "Ban Prompts Deep Anger, Muted Praise." The Scott Shane article, already quoted, was a "News Analysis" headlined as follows: "Visceral Fear, Dubious Cure."

For those who think that we do need to be prepared to take action, to demonstrate against the actions that will clearly follow upon the President's words, it was heartening to see large and spontaneous demonstrations at airports on both the East and West Coasts that immediately followed upon the President's travel ban:

Protestors at San Francisco International Airport

Protestors at Kennedy International Airport in New York

We (the people) must be prepared to act! That is good advice, and Eugene Robinson is not the only one giving it. But let's not forget to think about the more abstract or theoretical implications of the "America First" approach. 

Perhaps the very greatest thing about the United States of America has been its welcome to the world. Often rather arrogantly, the United States presumes that it "leads" or should lead the world, but whatever legitimacy that kind of claim might have comes from our willingness to have an "open door" to all those who wish to come here, and to maintain a society that discriminates not at all on the basis of race or religion. This is our proclaimed intention, however poorly executed it has been in the past, and continues to be. If we give it up, and deny our ties, of every kind, to the world at large, we will be (first, last, and always) completely and utterly alone. 

The New Colossus 
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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

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