On the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jorge Garcia, a 39-year-old husband and father, a successful business owner with a spotless record, was deported to Mexico.  His parents had brought him here when he was ten years old.  He had been in contact with the government and had done everything he could to apply for and receive legal status.

Mr. Garcia is one of thousands of people who are being deported from this country.  Why? Ultimately, because of a conception of America as tribal, as a club earned by legal status, by birth or formal admission.  That admission is controlled by those in power, and apparently  those in power presently are interested in allowing only those with views, and perhaps even skin, similar to their own.

There are, in the United States today, approximately eight to twelve million people, about three percent of the population, who are undocumented.  They, or their parents, either got into the country illegally or they somehow or other lost the legal status they used to enter the country.  Slightly less than one million of them were brought here as children.  This group of people, as a group, commit fewer crimes, make more money, pay more taxes, and achieve higher education, than native born Americans.  All of that begs the obvious question:  why is the present administration so bent on deporting all of them?

There is no one obvious answer to that.  Perhaps it is that the present administration sees it as politically advantageous.  Since, however, the vast majority of Americans want these people to be given a pathway to legal status, this answer is difficult to accept.  Perhaps, then, it is because the present administration is prejudiced against the main body of immigrants on the basis of religion or skin color.  That seems clearly true of a president who would refer to Hispanic and African countries as “shithole”, but I sincerely doubt that the main body of Republican legislators are that bigoted.

Whatever the reason, the impetus for mass deportation and greater barriers to legal immigration demonstrates an egregious misunderstanding of what it is to be an American.  Our country was built on an ideal — equal birth and inalienable rights.  That ideal was the ground for the creation of a nation made up entirely of people who were themselves immigrants.  Some came here to escape oppression, some came for a better life, and some were brought here forcibly as slaves or indentured servants.  It is discomfiting to realize that those immigrants disenfranchised, killed or enslaved the native population of what is now the United States, but that sad historical fact does not erase the fact that the new nation was based, not on ethnic, religious or regional bases but rather on a moral ideal, indeed on the defining moral ideal of absolute obligation to the rights of every human being.

We have been gradually abandoning our commitment to that ideal in favor of a commitment to self-interest.  Why that is true would make a wonderful book written by someone far more talented than I.  It is, however, true, and our present administration is the acme, the pure distillation of that gradual decline.  That we the people are complicit in that abandonment is obvious by our willingness to ignore what would have, at some prior time, been considered the horrendous conduct of our president and by the willingness of our majority legislators to pass over that conduct as, at worst, “unfortunate.”

It is time, it is far past time, to arrest this slide into ego-centrism and to renew our commitment to the ideals that once made the United States a polestar of true freedom, that is, a freedom based on responsibility for others.  That doesn’t happen by legislative fiat.  It happens by individuals, you and I, refusing to ignore outrageous conduct and demanding that our legislators act, not in their own political interests, but in pursuit of the real American ideal.  Politically, it means the election only of people — men and women, liberals and conservatives — who will make political decisions truly on the basis of how those decisions will promote the American ideal.

What about Jorge Garcia?  I don’t know, but I do know that the world is watching, and if there are more such stories, we will likely not be seen as much of an ideal.




































When I was a young man, I marched to the south side of my city to protest “red-lining”, a policy of excluding people of color from buying homes in certain areas of the city.  That policy had long-range effects, including the fact that I live in what is still, longer after the policy was outlawed, one of the most segregated cities in the United States.

At one point in  that march, a young girl, certainly no more than fourteen years old, came running across the street at us, shouting something or other.  When a policeman stopped her, I heard her say to him, “I can’t help it.  I just hate them.”  I’m pretty sure “them” were the African-Americans who constituted a large part of the marchers.

That incident made it clear to me that you had to be taught to hate.  That little girl didn’t have enough life experience to develop such a prejudice on her own.  Someone — a parent, a sibling, a friend — had taught her to approve or reject people solely on the color of their skin.  I think often of that girl, and I hope she grew up to learn better.  I hope she escaped whatever culture of hate she had lived in.  I hope she has, by faith and by education and experience, grown to learn that prejudice of any kind is an enemy of her faith and of the American ideal.

We are all prejudiced, of course.  We are all taught to automatically see some things and some people as good and some things and some people as bad.  My dear Irish grandmother referred to everybody in the world as “one of ours” or “not one of ours.”  She even had a special dislike of Irish Catholics who had abandoned their Catholic faith.  She called them “left-handers,” which is also, I now realize, an expression of prejudice against people who are left-handed.  Good old Granny.

What brings us out of our primal prejudices is education and experience.  What gives us the most powerful education to tear down our bigotries is the example of good people who stood up against prejudice and hatred of all kinds.  Gandhi stood against the bigotry of the British, and he stands now, that man with no wealth or position, as a beacon of hope when all those who opposed him are long forgotten.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of those good people.  He spoke when no one else would speak.  He walked where others feared terribly to walk.  He suffered violence and imprisonment and condemnations from a thousand different levels, but he kept speaking and writing and marching.  He, a doctor or religion, made clear that religion without commitment to others is just a bunch of words, a cheap con game.  He had a dream, but far more importantly he gave us a dream of a day that has not yet arrived but is at least on its way.

There are two odd things about icons like Dr. King.  The first is that we seem to kill them off.  The second is that, once we kill them off, we raise them up as symbols of the kind of people we really want to be.  No one will ever hold up Donald Trump or Karl Icahn as symbols of our real ideals.  Dr. King, however, will always stand as a beacon, an example, of what it could be like if we really followed the American ideal of the equal and inalienable rights of all people.

So black or white, female or male, old or young, in whatever way we differ, we owe it to ourselves to stop for a moment and thank Dr. King for standing so that we would not be afraid to stand, and for voicing, even though we were afraid to do so, our real commitment to America, not as a place, but as an ideal.

Thank you, Dr. King.
































Recently, a noted psychiatrist made a profound observation.  It was not proper, he said, to describe Donald Trump as mentally ill.  Call him crooked or ignorant or self-absorbed, but these are not characterizations of mental illness.  The truly mentally ill are not defined by these characteristics.  Therefore, he concluded, to call Donald Trump mentally ill is an insult to those who are truly mentally ill.

There is a truth here even beyond its own startling acute application to the mentally ill.    Political reporters constantly refer to Donald Trump’s base, and they all imply that the people included in this base are in lock step with whatever Trump says or does.  This, I put to you, is an insult to the people generally characterized as being in “the base.”

Take, for instance, the people of Alabama.  Much of the reporting on the recent senatorial election seemed to assume that those who voted for the much maligned Roy Moore did so because they were simply and blindly following the recommendation of their demi-god, Donald Trump.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

We really are a confederation of states, and the people of each state tend to share a certain character.  Each state even tends to share its character with its neighbors.  Think, for instance, of the character of the states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, or the character of Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.  The people of these states are. with remarkably few exceptions, good and caring and decent folk, wanting only to have meaningful live and to live those lives and raise their families in relative comfort and safety.   The differences in character among these states really differ only in the means by which those ends are best achieved.   Those means are chosen for various reasons — philosophical, political, religious, historical, etc.  Whatever their source, these determinations constitute the character that defines a state like Alabama.  The good people of Alabama vote for one candidate or another, not because they follow some individual but because the candidate they choose is most likely to promote the policies that most comport with their character.

So, for instance, that large minority of people who did vote for Roy Moore likely did so despite, rather than because of, that sick man’s deviant conduct.  He would, for instance, oppose a woman’s choice to have an abortion, and the majority of Alabamians share that opposition on the admirable grounds that they hold all life sacred.  There are, equally, solid moral grounds for virtually all of the determinations that make up the character of Alabama and of each of the states.

The simple point here is that this “base” that liberals so much enjoy caricaturing is every bit as grounded in moral commitment as these liberals  who claim to define themselves by such commitment.  It is an outrageous insult to the people we typically cast as the “base” to claim that they are blindly committed to such an outrageous aberration as Donald Trump.

We will recover from the devastation Trump is causing, and we will return to our commitment to the American ideals from which he has caused to stray.  But we can only do this if we stop viewing those with differing views in cartoon fashion and deal with all of our sisters and brothers as just that, brothers and sisters, and incorporate all views in fashioning American policy.

























for instance,