It’s Been 17 Years

World Trade Center

Photo: theatlantic.com

Last night on MSNBC’s “11th Hour,” Brian Williams mentioned that incoming college freshmen today have no memory of 9/11. That startling fact sent me back to my past posts to see what I wrote and wonder how I could commemorate the date this year. Others have observed that 9/11 held in our time the same significance as Pearl Harbor did in our parents’ time.

I trust those college freshmen will have the opportunity in their lifetimes to visit the various commemorative installations that have been established in New York City, at the Pentagon and today, in Shanksville PA, along with others in this country and abroad. They are poignant reminders of the sacrifices of individuals made in the face of unspeakable evil.

But the most significant 9/11 reminder I read today was an op-ed piece in The New York Times by Joe Quinn, an Army veteran whose brother’s death on the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center spurred him to military service and tours twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. It took him 17 years to be able to face the realization, he wrote, that our country is doing just what Osama bin Laden strategized: “to embroil the United States in a never-ending conflict to ultimately bankrupt the country …(and) to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note.”

 

Rest in Peace, John McCain

John McCain

Our country sorely needed something like John McCain’s memorial service this morning in Washington DC , and if you were not able to sit transfixed before your television for its three hours’ duration, I urge you to search the internet for a re-broadcast. It was a hero’s final gift to us.

Photo: kbtx.com

Press Pushback

NY TimesYesterday was a good day for a journalism junkie. Heeding a call from The Boston Globe, more than 300 newspapers across the country ran editorials reminding readers, as The New York Times put it, “of the value of America’s free press” and affirming “a fundamental American institution.” The Times ran a full page of excerpts of many of these and encouraged readers to read fuller versions on the individual publications’ websites. In all, it made for inspirational reading and served as a helpful antidote to the press’s near-daily disparagement by our current president.

The Los Angeles Times did not participate in yesterday’s exercise but appeared to make amends by including on today’s Op-Ed page a piece by Northwestern University journalism professor Alex Kotlowitz titled “OK, Now It’s Your Turn To Defend Press Freedom.” Citing threats of death and injury to journalists by individuals taken in by the “enemy of the people” slur and how journalists are dealing with them, Kotlowitz writes, “Journalists are doing a remarkable job defending their profession. Where is everyone else?”

He told of Elijah Lovejoy, “a 19th century newspaper publisher and abolitionist who was killed by a mob while defending his printing press. ” The Newseum describes Lovejoy as the “first American martyr for the press,” and his story is worth contemplating. After an anti-abolitionist mob destroyed his press in St. Louis and authorities refused to acknowledge his Constitutional right to express his views, Lovejoy relocated across the Mississippi to Alton IL. Again townspeople destroyed his press. Authorities condemned the violence but urged Lovejoy to refrain from printing “incendiary doctrines which…have a tendency to disturb the quiet of our citizens and neighbors.” In response, Kotliowitz writes, “Lovejoy took to task not those who opposed his views but rather those who questioned his right to speak his mind and to publish the truth…”

Lovejoy said, “I know that I have the right to freely speak and publish my sentiments.  “What I wish to know of you is whether you will protect me in the exercise of this right.”

Few came forward, Kotlowitz writes, and “four days later, while trying to protect his new printing press from being set on fire, he was shot and killed by a mob. In his final days what so distressed Lovejoy was not his ideological opponents but rather the decent people of Alton who refused to take a stand…(He) recognized the need for citizens to speak out in defense of a free press. That need has become urgent once again…”

Kotlowitz concludes, “Journalism is not an easy institution to rally around. But if there were ever a time for citizens to defend the press, this is it.”

 

 

 

What About The Children?

immigrant children 2Today marks three months since our government announced its “zero tolerance policy” toward undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers, ripping children from the arms of their parents and placing the kids in detention facilities across the country.  I’m sure it seems much longer for the parents, some 400 of whom have already been deported and whose whereabouts the government has no clue.

After worldwide protests, “zero tolerance” was abandoned and close to 2,000 families (of the original 2,500) reunited. A family reunification deadline imposed by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw has been missed more than once, and the government tried to fob off the rest of the job on the American Civil Liberties Union whose attorneys are working with immigrants who were apparently duped into agreeing to be separated from their children.

(The ACLU has just filed a lawsuit challenging newly imposed stiffer requirements for granting asylum.)

While the ACLU has expressed a willingness to help, Judge Sabraw demurred. “That will be 100 percent the government’s responsibility,” he said. But he added that the ACLU cooperate, as described by the Los Angeles Times, “by establishing a lead counsel or steering committee to decide how to best track down their deported or missing clients and advise them of their legal options.” Both entities are directed to work together on a plan for this cooperative effort. The details of that plan are due Friday, Aug. 10.

Once the reunification mess is sorted out, there will be a need to address the trauma that has been endured by children and their parents.

immigrant children 7immigrant children 3

Photos: npr.org, newyorker.com, hrw.org

 

 

 

 

‘This Isn’t Who We Are.’ Apparently, It Is

Make American Human

As if snatching children from trusting asylum-seekers and then losing track of them were not atrocious enough, now there’s a new horror happening in the land of the free and home of the brave.

Foreign-born military recruits who enlisted with a promise of U.S. citizenship upon completion of their service, are suddenly being discharged with little or no explanation. The only explanation is xenophobia, according to Margaret D. Stock, a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and immigration lawyer who helped create the program that attracted these people. Known as the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI ) program, it was created during the George W. Bush administration to recruit immigrant troops with valuable language and medical skills. More than 10,000 have joined, almost all in the Army. Our country’s thanks to them is to send them off to uncertain futures with questionable military records and unknown citizenship status.

I first became aware of this situation last night with an excellent piece by Joy Reid on MSNBC. Wanting to know more, I found two items in today’s New York Times, one on the news pages titled “They Came Here to Serve, But for Many Immigrants the Service Isn’t Interested” by Dave Phillips and the other an editorial on the OpEd page titled “Trump’s New Targets: Immigrants in the Military” by Rob Cuthbert.

I want to say, as I have repeatedly lately, “What is happening to us?” But I know. Ugly times.

At last week’s Families Belong Together demonstration, there was that sign, “Make America Kind Again.”  Another read “Make America Human Again.” I know we haven’t always been either. Only consider our history with Native Americans, African Americans, Japanese Americans and now Muslims and others trying to become Americans.

For most of my life, I’ve wondered how Germany and other fascist countries got to where they got in the 1930s and ’40s. I’ve read books and toured Holocaust museums in many cities, puzzling over what happens to good people who get caught up in bad times. (Scott Simon mentioned a few months back on NPR that 22 percent of Millennials never heard of the Holocaust.)

So I’ve wondered. And now perhaps I know.

 

My Old Passat — No Longer Passé

“Do you always look for things that legitimize your own ideas?” “Of course. Doesn’t everybody?”

I was alerting my daughter to a Los Angeles Times story describing a renewed interest in station wagons. Of course the cars mentioned were high end — in the $70,000 – $85,000 range with plenty of extra add-ons.

My own wagon is 11 years old and has recently been re-registered as “salvage,” which I think means it’s worth nothing. But it still runs well, and now that its body has had a makeover, it looks pretty good. And until I read the LA Times story, I’d been referring to it as “the last station wagon in America.” It is a VW Passat, a model that Volkswagen chose to kill a year or so ago but which a glance at the company’s website shows me has been reborn, sort of.

The Times story by Russ Mitchell highlights two luxury models from Jaguar and Volvo, but mentions Mercedes and Buick, along with Volkswagen, as other companies selling station wagons in the U.S., “prompted,” he writes, “by the steady success of the Subaru Outback.”  Having no interest in owning an SUV — my husband and I once turned one back at a car rental place (“You don’t like this car?” the agent asked incredulously), I thought the Outback would be the closest I could come to replacing my car when the time came.

And then here came Michell, the car reviewer, admitting to owning an SUV but writing, “I’ve always been partial to station wagons,” (Yes!) “and I’m glad to see more of them hitting the market.” He explains, “I enjoy driving, and station wagons, being lower to the ground, cruise more smoothly and handle curves with far more agility than a top-heavy SUV. Both cars hold the road like a sports sedan, but unlike with a sedan, I can fit a lot more junk in the back.”

Well yes, but besides junk, my wagon is useful for hauling groceries, cases of wine, packages for the post office, contributions for Goodwill, and until a couple of years ago, one 130-pound Great Dane.

So why the body makeover? In recent years, posts and similar stationary hazards have been jumping out at my car to the point where it was looking pretty shabby. And then I moved into an apartment building with a garage and an assigned parking space bordered on one side by two huge concrete posts. Being very aware of the nice-looking car in the adjoining space, I was carefully maneuvering mine into my space, making sure I was not too close to my neighbor, when my car and one of the posts kind of leaned into one another. No bang, just sort of a sigh. But when I exited the vehicle, I was horrified to see the entire back door on that side caved in.

I don’t think in all the years of car ownership, we ever put in a claim to the insurance company for something that was our fault, but this time I did. When the adjuster came to see the damage, he observed that, along with the many other dents, scrapes and loose-hanging parts, the car could easily be considered totaled.. Would I want that?  I said “Okay,” not realizing that would bring the “salvage” designation. Trying not to think how much the car cost when it was brand new, I used the insurance money to have the worst of the damages repaired. As for what will happen when it’s time to renew the insurance, in one of our current president’s favorite expressions, “We’ll see.”

VW Passat 1