The man who is at the front of the reality show called the American presidency raised a salient question yesterday, concurrent with his degrading, insulting and profane comments about people of Haitian or African descent. In a moment which demonstrated his most deep-seated feelings about race, the pretend president asked why he would want “all these people from shithole countries,” adding that the U.S. should admit more people from places like Norway. In other words, we don’t want any people with brown skin or black skin, but we’d be happy to have as many as possible of the white ethnicity.
It’s a good question, one for which there are more answers than time or space to reply. Why would we want people like astronauts Ronald McNair or Guion Bluford? Why did we allow George Washington Carver in? What did Neil de Grasse Tyson or Dorothy Vaughn ever do for us? Hank Aaron should never have been here. Nor Willie Mays. Why would we ever have wanted the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Or any of the millions of African-American citizens of this country who were either born in one of these “shithole countries” or descended from immigrants who came from them. The course of our country’s independence, wealth and freedoms would have been dramatically different without the countless individuals who came here, involuntarily or by choice, and dedicated their lives to the character of our country.
Certainly, we don’t want any more immigrants from a place like Haiti. What would we do with another Sidney Poitier? The artist John Jay Audubon was one more Haitian than we probably needed. The likes of Danielle Laraque-Arena, first woman president of The State University of New York Upstate Medical University, surely aren’t needed here. We have plenty of orchestrators, so no more Lee Holdridges, please. In fact, Haiti is the poorest country in the entire Western Hemisphere and we have plenty of “those types” in our nation already.
The President of the United States (in title) has now been crystal clear with his racist and elitist beliefs. That a sitting president of any party would make such insulting and inaccurate statements about entire ethnicities is a desecration of leadership perhaps matched only in history by a man named Hitler.
Winds of Peace Foundation has been and remains a politically independent organization, without political affiliation or endorsement. The President’s comments yesterday are egregious beyond political party….
It’s June. The trees are leafed out, I need to cut my lawn at least once a week and summer seems as though it wants to stay around for a while. It’s what we in the north have pined for during the past six months. And all I can think about is Nicaragua.
I haven’t been in Nicaragua since February and likely won’t make another return trip until August. No farms, no cooperative counsel, no ownership enthusiasm, no face-to-face conversations with people who do not speak English, but who nonetheless speak “my language.” Memory of earlier trips fade over time and I begin to feel more and more distant from people who are the focus of our work and the hopes of sustainable Nicaragua. That exemplifies a problem, a big one for all of us.
Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it also creates distance. Physically, I am no further away from my Nicaraguan colleagues and acquaintances than I was upon my return from there in February. But the ensuing four months have distanced me, nonetheless. Obviously, I do not see their faces. I do not hear their voices or the anxieties within their words. They do not shake my hand in the morning or wish me a pleasant night in the evening. We cannot share meals together. I am not there to encourage and they may quickly forget lessons shared. We are… apart. Despite my heartfelt desire to be a resource and a friend, the time and distance erode the intensity of our relationship. I’ve experienced the phenomenon before.
In 2000, my wife and I traveled with our four children (our two sets of twins) to the land of their birth, South Korea. One of the many blessings of that travel was the opportunity to meet with both sets of birth parents. The reunions were priceless, the time spent with these extended families were filled with emotion and love beyond our possible expectations. We became family with these South Korean kin; by the time of our departure from their country, we promised each other ongoing love and communication.
For a time, we kept our pledge to one another. From the U.S., we regularly telephoned long distance with the aid of an interpreter. (E-mail was not yet the readily available tool that it was to become.) From Korea, we received gifts and photos. Christmas featured gifts in both directions. The bonds remained vibrant. But in time, they grew less frequent. Our kids grew into busy young people already pressed for time and energy. Birth families likely grew increasingly frustrated with time lags and difficulties in translating letters. And eventually, not even the bonds of shared parenting and extended family could sustain a continued embrace.
It’s perhaps an obvious reality that time and distance intrude on the most sincere of desires and necessities. And if they can erode our intentions even with respect to those whom we know and love, we can only speculate about the difficulties in nurturing connections with those we do not know. I experienced it happening with South Korean family. I feel it developing with Nicaraguan friends. We become victims of our isolations.
At a time when our government and some of its population look to isolate our nation- to create greater distance and fewer collaborations to Make America Great Again- we would do well to recognize the realities of distance and time. They are already formidable enemies of peace and humanity. They siphon away touch and contact and emotion. They feed doubt and gossip. They sew seeds of suspicion. Our needs are not to withdraw even further from the presence of “the other,” but to draw closer.
At the very least, I’m determined to reach out to two families in South Korea. And to get back to people whom I know and care about in Nicaragua….
Back in December, I posted here an imagined letter from a Nicaraguan to an acquaintance in the U.S. The letter was wide-ranging in its topics, a general missive of introduction and inquiry, curiosity and clarification. It generated an equally-imaginary response just days later from an equally-imagined person in the U.S. Now our Nicaraguan “imaginary friend” has written again, with an interesting perspective for those of us in the North.
Buenas dias, mi amigo!
I did not write back to you since December because we have been very busy with the farm. We do the last of the coffee harvest now. We also have been working with a research man here in Nicaragua who has been teaching us about changing and improving our farms, with many interesting ideas. One example is completing a family investment plan (FIP), which is a very complete look at all of the aspects of our producer lives. The exercise is very detailed and asks us questions about our farms, our families, our futures, everything. Every member of our family has been helping with this. So I have not been able to respond to you during these days.
I have wanted to ask you some questions about many of the stories we have heard recently. During your election, we have heard many times the call for “America First.” Some of the people who live in our area became very excited when they first heard this. They believe that your president intends to help the people in all of Centro America and Sud America! As Americans, we can hardly believe it, but this what your president has said.
But there are others who say that he did not mean this at all. The president of our administrative council says that he meant only the United States and that he was going to become even more demanding of other countries to help his people even more. I told our cooperative members that the U.S. president would not have said “Americans” if he meant just U.S. I reminded him that we are Americans and that we were Americans even before the U.S. Many agreed with me but said this is not the way the U.S. president thinks of us.
Then I reminded him about the other saying that is used, “Make America Great Again.” I told my friends that this was proof that the U.S. president meant us. The United States has always been a great country of power and money, so there would be no need to become “great again.” If he meant only U.S., then he would say “greater.”
The U.S. president said that he did not like the CAFTA agreement and that it was a terrible deal. Of course, we in Nicaragua agree with that! It has only benefitted the producers in the North. We are hopeful that it might be considered again to be more fair. I do not believe that the U.S. president thinks that CAFTA is bad for him, so he must be thinking of us, no?
In Nicaragua, we have lived through many actions from the U.S. that hurt our country and all of Centro America. It is partly why many of our young people have decided to move away and find a better opportunity. It seems to us that your president knows this and sees that past policies have not been fair. Maybe he knows that our countries were once great, too, and now is the time to make them great again. I hope that is how he thinks to end illegal immigration to his country.
I try to read articles that will explain these stories but it is very hard to understand what the new U.S. policies will be. So I hope you can write to me and explain what you think is going to happen. We believe in “America First” and making “America Great Again,” but maybe we don’t understand?
In two weeks we attend another workshop to learn more about the FIP and other tools to help us produce better harvests. I will ask these questions then but I hope you will write to me with your thinking.
Adios, Su amigo Nicaraguense
I’m not sure whether a response to my Nicaraguan friend will help much in his understanding of evolving policy in the U.S. Most of it does not make much sense to us in the North, either. Meanwhile, I was sent a link to YouTube, copied here, which puts into visual form what our Nica friend was trying to say. We are not the only Americans, or even the first….