swept away by the news torrent

I try to keep up with important national (US) and international news. When I was away at my residency week at MASS MoCA earlier this month, I read/heard very little news, which was nice for a bit of a mental break, but it has been a challenge to catch up and keep up.

The pace of news here in the United States has been a particular challenge. Important news stories are breaking all the time – and I’m not talking about the news channels that call almost everything “breaking news.” The investigation into the relationship among Ukraine, the Trump administration, and Rudy Giuliani and his associates is especially concerning. The Congressional investigation is ongoing, but is in its early stages. Any depositions taking place right now are confidential, as grand jury investigations would be in the court system. There have been contradictory public statements from the president, his chief of staff, and Giuliani, sometimes even within the same interview, statement, or tweet-day. (Is there such a thing as a tweet-day? I’m not sure of the proper nomenclature.)

I am appalled by Trump’s withdrawal of support for the Kurds in Syria, who did most of the fighting and lost over 11,000 in the international battle against ISIS (ISIL). That he decided to do this without consulting his Cabinet, national security advisors, and the military leadership is stunning. The deaths, injuries, and loss of homes and livelihoods of the Kurds of northern Syria is his personal responsibility, as he withdrew the United States troops that had been protecting against an invasion by Turkey.

It will be incumbent upon the next US president, whomever it will be, to begin repairing the damage that has been done to our standing among nations. It will be a decades-long process and our reputation will never be fully restored. I hope that Congress will pass new laws to explicitly prevent some of the corrupt and unethical conduct that we have seen from this president, laws that had never been written down as it was assumed that ethical constraints and thoughtful, collaborative decision-making practices would hold. We also need to re-balance the powers of the various branches of the government. The executive branch has become much too powerful. It is no longer co-equal with the legislative and judicial branches; indeed, it has defied both Congress and the courts on multiple issues.

The United States also needs to acknowledge and develop better defenses against cyber war, which can be more wide-ranging and dangerous to civilian populations than armed conflict. Foreign governments have infiltrated or attacked government, corporate, and private systems. We need to better protect our financial, utility, business, and government computer systems to avoid the chaos of election tampering, blackouts, transportation disruptions, business shutdowns, and more.

It would also be helpful to reinforce that the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press does not give license to lie, slander, threaten, exploit, or incite violence.

The list of tasks could go on, but that seems to be enough for one post.

I am very sad to write this about my country that I love so much. I am trying to gain comfort from this quote from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

It is sobering, though, to think about how terrible things became and how long it took for “the better angels of our nature” to re-assert themselves.

We need those “better angels” now, not in some distant future.

 

this week in the US

I have expressed unease over the way things are going with the United States government, especially the executive branch, over these past two years.

The news of court cases and filings, some related to the Mueller investigation and some not, firings/resignations, and policy changes on both foreign and domestic matters have been particularly intense over the last few weeks.

Still, I wasn’t prepared for the torrent of news this week, especially the sudden announcement of the withdrawal from Syria and the subsequent resignation of Secretary of Defense Mattis.

And the week isn’t over yet.

It’s likely that there will be a partial government shutdown. It’s possible that, with the president being so unpredictable, some other countries might take provocative actions, thinking the US is too preoccupied to respond.

I’m really scared.

SoCS: welcome the stranger

In my faith tradition, we are called to welcome the stranger and extend hospitality. Welcoming the stranger is also part of the civic tradition in the United States, exemplified in the Emma Lazarus poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor, although I must admit that we as a country often fail to live up to our highest ideals.

I was heartened to hear, however, that a meeting called to see if there were people interested in aiding the re-settlement of Syrian refugees in our area was so crowded with local folks wanting to help that they had to expand the meeting room to accommodate them all.

Our Greater Binghamton (New York) community has a long history of welcoming refugees and is an official re-settlement area. Over decades, there have been refugees here from diverse countries, such as Laos, Ukraine, and Iraq. It would be an honor for some of the Syrian refugees who have suffered so much to find a new home here with us as well.

I get a bit choked up thinking about new refugees arriving because one of the main organizations that will help them is the American Civic Association, which suffered a mass shooting as few years ago. Despite that, they continue to do great work, welcoming the stranger, helping them to learn English, teaching them about the United States, and helping them create a new home here.

I truly appreciate their work and their example of what “welcoming the stranger” really means.
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Linda’s prompt for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday is:  strange/stranger/strangest. Join us!  Find out how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2015/10/30/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-oct-3115/

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