The Shame of the Nation

September 23, 2021

Sunday, September 26, 2021 is the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees.  Read the message of Pope Francis “Toward an Ever Wider ‘We'”

I drove halfway across the country last week.  And back.  Why? More on that below.  What did I see? Miles and miles and endless miles of big country, flat land, cornfields, cattle grazing, and yes, windmills on the flat windy prairies of Kansas and Colorado.

It’s a really big country.  There’s an incredible amount of open land across these United States.

So we have to ask this: why is a nation that is so rich in natural resources, so vast in its land, so wealthy in its material pleasures — why is this nation whipping and beating and shamefully mistreating the wretched of this earth huddled at the southern border, desperate people just trying with their last ounces of hope and personal courage to grasp their way to a place of greater safety, freedom from want and fear, freedom from the conditions that drove them from their homelands?  Why is it apparently the official policy of the United States to inflict even more physical and psychological harm on human beings who have already suffered more pain and degradation than most of us will ever know in our own lifetimes?

This week, the awful images were of Haitian refugees huddled under a bridge at the Rio Grande on the south Texas border, with some being chased and possibly whipped by mounted border patrol officers on horseback.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to contain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Thousands of Haitian migrants have been arriving to Del Rio, Texas, as authorities attempt to close the border to stop the flow of migrants. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

On Thursday the Biden Administration pulled the mounted border patrol from any interaction with the Haitian immigrant group.  But at the same time, Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote resigned in protest over the “inhumane” treatment of the Haitian migrants including the Biden administration’s insistence on immediately deporting the migrants back to Haiti where many have not lived for over a decade (since the horrific earthquake of 2010), and that only recently suffered another major earthquake and political assassination of the president.  Conditions in Haiti are reportedly violent, completely unstable and unable to support any kind of decent life for the thousands of refugees that the United States is flying to Port-au-Prince the Haitian capital.

Many civil right leaders and advocacy organizations have criticized the U.S. tactics regarding the Haitian refugees, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the NAACP.

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, and Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, issued the following joint statement:

“Policies such as Title 42 [US Code section allowing deportation without due process] and expedited removal all too often deny the reality of forced migration, disregard the responsibilities enshrined in domestic and international law, and undermine the vulnerability of those against whom they are applied. These are not hallmarks of a ‘fair, orderly, and humane’ immigration system.

“As a Church at the service of all God’s people, we embrace Christ’s call to welcome the newcomer and accompany them wherever they may be. During this National Migration Week—through which we prepare to join the Universal Church in marking the World Day for Migrants and Refugees—we are especially mindful of that obligation and saddened to see such a disregard for human dignity. After all, it is in the face of each migrant that we see the face of Christ.

“We call on the U.S. government to reassess its treatment of migrants in Del Rio and elsewhere along the U.S.-Mexico border, especially Haitians, who face life-threatening conditions if returned to Haiti and possible discrimination if expelled to third countries. In addition to those services and works provided by many Catholic institutions, we offer our prayers for these migrants and all those seeking safety, security, and the opportunity to flourish in accordance with their God-given dignity.”

NAACP President and CEO, Derrick Johnson, released the following statement regarding the images and videos of U.S. border patrol attacking Haitian refugees with whips:“This cruelty is utterly sickening. The events that took place today are all too familiar to those that are aware of America’s ugly history. The actions we witnessed today were inhumane under the last administration, and that sentiment remains. No person fleeing poverty and hunger should be treated in this egregious manner. For far too long, the Haitian community has endured mistreatment at the hands of our nation. The administration has got to grant temporary protected status (TPS) to those seeking refuge. The actions of the U.S. border patrol are deplorable and should be investigated and reprimanded. Our country claims to be better than this — we must show it.”

Mr. Johnson is right.  The actions of the U.S. government are all too familiar when it comes to the treatment of Black and Brown human beings.  The utter lack of care or compassion, the violence, degrading treatment, callous and downright contemptuous treatment of the Haitian refugees is truly the shame of this nation.

It’s also the shame of President Biden and his administration.  Many had hoped that President Biden would bring a fresh sense of social justice to the issues of immigration, refugee status, pathways to citizenship, care and concern for the suffering of this earth.  Instead, when it comes to how the administration is treating people at the border, there seems to be almost no difference from the policies and dispositions of the prior administration.

What is it about immigrants that makes politicians lose their spines, that makes them terrified of the wingnuts who preach so much racial and ethnic hatred in this country?

Can the United States afford to take in all of those refugees? Yes. We are a very wealthy nation.  Perhaps we could pay for their housing and personal needs by making sure that just the top 25 wealthiest Americans start paying some taxes.  That should cover most of the bill!  Maybe instead of wasting billions on vanity missions to rocket into orbit for a few minutes the likes of Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson could ante-up to help people on the other end of the economic spectrum. Elon Musk could join them because he spends so much of his billions on fantasies that don’t really help real people.  The list goes on.

Does the United States have room for all of those immigrants and refugees?  Seriously.  This is a very big country.  We have plenty of room to welcome and resettle more people who want to be here — in fact, with smart planning, no one would even have to worry about the NIMBY factor because with a truly creative and visionary program, new communities could emerge as they did in prior generations when waves of once-impoverished ethnic immigrants flocked to this country and built its infrastructure, its schools and universities, its corporations and its wealth.  This nation would not be as wealthy or powerful today without the labor, intellectual and economic contributions of centuries of immigrants among all races and nationalities — and the labor of enslaved Black persons who were hardly immigrants in any voluntary sense but who also made this nation great through their labor and spiritual fortitude and intellectual drive across generations.

That same drive fuels the desperate march to the border of Haitians and Salvadoreans and Mexicans; it makes the dangerous river crossing purposeful, the confrontation with mounted border patrol agents just one more obstacle to try to overcome.  But it doesn’t have to be this way, not at all.  A more just, more enlightened, more charitable nation would figure out how to help the refugees across the bridge rather than wade beneath it only to be greeted by police on horses forcing them back.   A smarter nation would figure out that helping people to resettle and build new lives is ultimately good for the nation as well as for the people, as it was in the 19th and 20th Centuries with other immigrant populations, so it can and should be in the 21st Century.  A wealthy nation with a healthy moral sense of its obligations would also act to share its wealth with those who have nothing, living the principles it loves to shout out (Life! Liberty! Pursuit of Happiness!) in real ways for the modern world.

Shame on the United States for not being that more just, more enlightened, more charitable, more moral nation when it comes to the treatment of refugees at the southern border.  We must insist that President Biden act immediately to remediate this shame and do the right thing to provide a just, humane and permanent solution to the migrants whose only desire is to find better lives for themselves and their children.

It’s a very big country.  Let’s act as big as we are.

Oh, yes, why I drove: to avoid airports, of course! Pandemic conditions still make me crowd-avoidant.  Plus it’s great to see America.  A road trip beyond the Beltway every so often is good for perspective, I highly recommend it!

 

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Ending War, Finding True Peace

September 6, 2021

With a start the other day, I looked at some numbers on my computer screen and realized that the majority of first year students enrolling at Trinity this year were born after September 11, 2001.  An entire generation has grown up after that terrible day with the same kind of historical distance that I once felt from the Korean War even though I was born a year before that conflict’s cease fire.  This week, the nation will pause to observe the 20th Anniversary of the terrible day when the planes flew into the twin towers and the Pentagon, and one into a field in Pennsylvania.  So hard to believe two decades have already passed.  And yet, raw though the memories still seem, we do a disservice to current and future generations if all we do is pause to remember and then move on as if the artifact is the only thing of importance.  It’s not.  We have a duty to teach what it was we learned through September 11, and in order to teach we have to reach am more insightful understanding of what those lessons really are.

The longest war in American history ended last week, bitterly, tragically, and in so many ways, predictably.  The War in Afghanistan was this nation’s response to September 11 because Afghanistan harbored terrorists, notably the leader of Al Quaeda and mastermind of September 11, Osama bin Laden.  20 years ago, when President George W. Bush declared war, he had the full support of Congress and most of the American people.  Last week, when President Joseph Biden ended the war, his popularity ratings dropped precipitously and he garnered outrage and calls to resign from members of Congress and media pundits.  Between Bush and Biden, Presidents Obama and Trump both vowed to end the Afghan war, but never did.  Those of us old enough to remember the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war shuddered when images of helicopters lifting people from rooftops seemed to repeat history from Saigon to Kabul.

Watching a documentary about 9/11 the other evening, I found it hard once more to see the images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center — the smoke, the chaos, the bodies plunging from windows.  I remember standing at the windows on 4th South of Main Hall seeing the smoke rise from the Pentagon.  I remember being in Social Hall that morning as students, faculty and staff all came rushing in and rumors abounded about more planes coming and bombs all around and the real sense of immediate danger.  For a few minutes, even I felt a sense of panic, and then I realized it was my job to keep calm and carry on — to do what, I wasn’t sure, but the first thing we did was open all offices so students could call families and loved ones.  (We didn’t have cell phones then.  Imagine!  We didn’t have the Internet on campus then, either — we were so primitive.  We had a single television in Social Hall and we all gathered ’round  watching in utter horror as the towers melted on the screen.)

We made it through that day and the days thereafter, but feeling that nothing would ever be quite the same again.  We learned to get used to airport security and the hassles of increased police presence just about everywhere, security cameras all over the place, seeing something and saying something.  The president declared war, we stood and saluted, and we felt somehow virtuous that we had pulled together as a nation to fight the Bad Guys.  A Good Guy — Barack Obama — finally killed the Bad Guy — Osama bin Laden — and we thought it was over.

It was not over.

Osama bin Laden and his demented disciples scrambled our national brains that day, and in the fog of war that followed we confused outraged vengeance with appropriate national defense.  We indulged moronic cowboy talk from the commander in chief — “bring ’em to justice” — when the problem was not something Wyatt Earp could settle in the OK Corral.  (Ok, just look it up if you don’t know what those references mean.)

We forgot to our sorrow that what the United States really can and should bring to the advancement of civilization is not vengeance but intelligence, not violence but solutions to violence, not isolationist xenophobia but hospitality for those we can help with our advanced knowledge and robust economy and generosity of spirit.

The toxic dust from September 11 settled deeply into the American soul, a poisonous residue with long-term effects in social fragmentation, a resurgence of blatant racism and hostility toward persons of other nationalities and cultures, especially Muslims and persons of Middle Eastern descent.  In our confusion and amnesia, some Americans even began to believe in tyranny as a value worth electing, a necessity to “make America great again” as if the nation had not remained great all along. Conspiracy theories abounded; the election of Barack Obama in 2008, a source of hope and joy for millions of Americans, was a throttle increasing suspicion and hatred in other quarters.  The “birther” conspiracy movement — claiming that President Obama was not born in the U.S. (along with the claim that he was Muslim) — clearly captured the radical xenophobia of the post-9/11 wingnuts who raged against anyone who seemed “other” than mainstream white.  Gun ownership rose dramatically, with some Americans organizing into heavily armed private militia groups with names like Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and others.  They found the perfect cipher for their inchoate rage against “the other” in Donald Trump, a man of no apparent firm principles except his own aggrandizement, someone who easily assumed the persona of a demagogue spouting vengeful nonsense to rabid ralliers.  In hindsight, the rabid ralliers’ riot and assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 — a genuine insurrection attempting to overthrow the legitimately elected government — was yet another dreadful consequence of September 11, 2001.

What have we learned from September 11 and the two decades since?

First, we have learned that no foreign actor — a nation state, a terrorist — is as powerful as our own people, for better or worse.  We have the power to renew and replenish America in each generation, or we have the power to destroy it, to end this experiment in self-government that’s been going on for 232 years.  We have seen our nation come together in awesome ways from time to time, and we have also seen our nation fragment and allow fringe actors to come close to destroying what we hold dear.  Those who believe deeply in this nation as a place of freedom, equity and justice must work even harder to keep it intact, to make its promise a reality for more people who suffer on the margins.

Second, we learned once again in Afghanistan and Iraq, as we learned in Vietnam, that our own model of freedom and democracy cannot be imposed on other societies, and certainly not through war and violence.  Military power is necessary for national defense, yes; but the weapons and tactics of war are ill-suited for building nations with distinctive cultures and heritages.  America’s military defeats are not because we did not wield enough military power, but rather, because we did not exercise the cultural and social competence to understand deeply the places we thought we were helping.

Third, the bad actors — the terrorists, the tyrants, the demagogues and conspiracy theorists — they will always be with us.  The question is whether we will allow them to dictate the terms of our governments, social organizations and way of life.  We can either spend the next several generations in endless conflict and fear and repression of civil liberties in the hope of keeping some freedom, or we can choose and exert more hopeful, forward-thinking leadership to build the kind of good society we crave.  It won’t happen by osmosis.  We cannot just stand idly by and hope that some savior will come along.  It’s up to us — We, the People — to be the leaders to create the kind of society we really want to live in.

I am wondering what Trinity can do for the women and children who are now Afghan refugees in the United States.  I invite your ideas on this.  In particular, it seems that we should be able to provide access to college for Afghan women who could thrive here.  I welcome contact information for any agency we could work with on this project.

We should certainly remember September 11 and those who died.  But if all we do is allow the memory to rekindle anger and resentment and hostility toward “the other” we will have dishonored those who gave so much.  We must move on from the memory in the best of ways, redoubling our efforts to establish a nation that truly values peace within itself as well as abroad, that is able to bring the best of our economic and intellectual power to bear on finding solutions to the conditions that foster terrorism and fear.  Ending war is not enough; we must find a way to engender hope and establish justice, which is the basis for true peace.

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Remembering Dr. Kelley Wood

August 16, 2021

I think that, more than anything else, Kelley Wood would like to be remembered with his students, like the group above.  News of Kelley’s sudden death coursed through our Trinity family like a terrible shockwave at the end of July.  He was out on a bike ride, one of his favorite pastimes when not teaching, and apparently suffered a heart attack.  In this modern age, we learned the news late at night on Facebook postings.  Immediately the tributes poured in, along with expressions of grief at the unexpected sudden loss of a dear colleague, teacher and friend.  One student wrote that he had just written a letter of recommendation for her.  An adjunct professor wrote how he loved his students, and she loved working with him, and how she was planning to visit him in his office that week.

Another faculty colleague recalled how he was the first person she met at Trinity, and how helpful he was.  Another student wrote about how he helped her to stay enrolled in the master’s degree program despite many challenges, and how he changed her life as a result.  Alumnae and alumni write with words of sadness and condolence for Kelley’s family, especially his two brothers Thomas and Robert with whom he was very close.

Another faculty member wrote, “Kelley personified the true meaning of a colleague. His kindness, patience and selflessness will be sorely missed.”

Kind.  The word is used in so many of the messages community members sent to me after hearing the awful news.  “A good man; a great colleague.”  Kind. Patient. Selfless.

The accolades roll on, with the emphasis on Kelley’s remarkable qualities of care and devotion to his students and colleagues.

I remember when Kelley first joined Trinity’s faculty in the Master of Science in Administration Program.  Arriving in 2007, Kelley was fresh from his early career in the restaurant business.  But far from the stereotype of a hard-charging entrepreneur, Kelley was more interested in people, and how leadership evolves in relation to the people leaders serve.  He listened carefully in meetings, sometimes leaning back and at times I thought he was not listening — until he would suddenly lean in and offer a deeply insightful comment about whatever we were discussing — an idea for a program, a plan for course revisions, a solution to some vexing problem.  He never pushed his ideas, instead, he simply stated them quietly, confidently, and in a way that compelled everyone to pay attention.  He was a very effective thought leader.

Below are some tributes to Kelley.  We will be planning a service on campus after the start of the semester and I welcome more tributes for posting here or to share with his family.  Send me yours at president@trinitydc.edu and let me know if I can post them here.

Ashley F., MSA Student:

Dr. Kelley Wood was a true educator who possessed a kind heart and a passionate mind. I am a current MSA grad student at Trinity. It was Dr. Wood who convinced me to participate in this program and without him, I probably would not have pursued my master’s degree. It was clear that the MSA program was his baby – a true representation of his life’s work and something he loved sharing with his students.  I will miss him greatly.

Associate Dean Tom Mostowy, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice:

Kelley was my oldest and closest friend at Trinity.  He was the first person I met when I came for my first interview and a much-needed guide during my first years here.  I can’t speak to Kelley’s relationship with his students, as our students did not overlap, but no one put more time and effort into ensuring student success than he did.

Kelley was also one of the first to volunteer for those services that are necessary but difficult for the University, like UCAP (University Curriculum and Academic Policy Committee) and the AHRB (Academic Honesty Review Board).  He was always a dependable, reliable and good-natured partner.  Our overlapping assignments, and proximity of our offices, over the years meant that we spoke about something nearly every day, whether it was Trinity business, his latest close-call on his bike, or my son’s latest skating accomplishment. (Since biking is cross-training for speed-skaters, Kelley was my go-to expert. He kept up with Conor’s career and was the first to congratulate me on his national championship this year.)  No matter the topic, there was no such thing as. brief conversation with Kelley.

Covid forced all of us apart this year, and I was so looking forward to rekindling the collegial atmosphere as we returned to more familiar spaces and routines this year.  As another academic year begins, Kelley’s absence will be everywhere.

My best to his family.  Since we were about the same age, we often spoke of parents, siblings, nephews and nieces, and all those relationships entail, as well.

Dr. Carrie O’Reilly, Associate Professor of the Practice in Nursing and Director of the Simulation Lab:

I first met Kelley during the September 2015 UCAP (University Curriculum and Academic Policy Committee) meeting just after I was hired at Trinity. I asked a question during the committee meeting that, unexpectedly for me, generated some ardent discussion. I must have apologized a few times for the question because after the meeting, which Kelley chaired, he came to me to introduce himself properly and to let me know how happy he was that I was on the committee and that I had asked the question. We talked for several minutes. The next month he came up to me again after the meeting to say he was happy I had come back and, again, how happy he was that I was there. This process of just chatting a few minutes after every UCAP meeting became a habit with us and for the last six years we have always taken the time to sit and share with each other after every UCAP meeting we attended together. As time went on we discussed many topics. We shared the little things about our lives. Sometimes those chats lasted just five minutes and other times they lasted an hour. He shared his love of vegetarian cuisine and I shared how much I hated tofu. He gave me tips about helping graduate students who struggling with the writing requirements of graduate courses and I shared with him my adventures of developing and using grading rubrics in Moodle. He talked about his love of cycling and I talked about my love/hate relationship with knitting. Someone described Kelley as a gentle soul and he was. Kelley Wood was, honestly, one of the treasures I discovered early at Trinity and have been so blessed to get to know. I will keep going to the UCAP meetings because so much great work for the university community is done there but, moving forward, it will never be the same. I will miss my chats with Kelley. I will simply miss knowing such a sweet light is gone.

(Above:  Faculty including Dr. Peggy Lewis (former Dean of PGS), Dr. Jamal Watson, Dr. Kelley Wood, Ms. Rehva Jones)

Dr. Jamal Watson, Director of the Strategic Communication and Public Relations Program and Assistant Professor:

Dr. Kelley Wood was a thoughtful and engaging colleague. He was a master teacher who was deeply committed to his students and the profession.  Dr. Wood would routinely stop by my office late into the evening to discuss ideas, instructional pedagogy and media and pop culture. As a key component of Business Graduate Studies (BGS) at Trinity, he worked closely with me and Prof. Rehva Jones. Indeed, we were a team!  Dr. Wood was funny and self-effacing. He took his job seriously, as a calling of sorts. May the memory of his life and his work be a blessing to all of us who were fortunate to know and work with him.

Ms. Sheryl Brannon, Adjunct Professor:

I will never forget how gracious he always was with me as a first adjunct faculty.  He always found time to speak with me and provide guidance.  He was truly a gentle soul and a nice human being. He was also so passionate about his work at Trinity.  My sincerest condolences to his family.

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Trinity Vaxx Champions Part Five!

August 4, 2021

And there’s more!  Trinity Vaxx Champions keep coming!  Students urging sister students to get vaccinated!  Here are the latest entries:

Jasmine Myers, Class of 2025:

@jazzandkenzie

♬ The Magic Bomb (Extended Mix) – Hoàng Read

Florence Njoroge, Class of 2025:

https://www.canva.com/design/DAEl3mQ9CyM/iaWODxDM71a0Va1U3tuWPg/watch?utm_content=DAEl3mQ9CyM&utm_campaign=designshare&utm_medium=link&utm_source=publishsharelink

Daniela Romualdo Castro, Class of 2022, Communication:

Catherine Santos, Class of 2022, Biology:

Anita Viveros Reyes, Class of 2024, International Affairs:

@anaviv16

Get vaccinated!! #fyp #vaccine #covid19 #trinitywashingtonuniversity https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/vaccine-benefits.html

♬ Permission to Dance – BTS

Larisse Young, Class of 2022, Business:

Breonna Bailey, Class of 2022, Business Administration:

 

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Trinity Vaxx Champions Part Four!

July 29, 2021

More than 40 students have submitted their videos and posters so far!  Their messages are heartfelt, compelling and absolutely right! How proud we are of our Trinity Vaxx Champions!  Here are the latest:

Ingrid Tchouamo, Class of 2023, Psychology:

@ingrid_gull

#trinityproud #vaccinecoronavirus #wecandothistogether

♬ original sound – Marcelle Dominguez

Sabina Nakamba, Class of 2022, Criminal Justice

Lidia Munoz, Class of 2025, Biology:

Laura Lucero, Class of 2022, Human Relations:

@laura_c.o22

#trinityvaxxchampion #classof2022 #letsgetvacccinated

♬ original sound – Laura_c.o22

Lizzett Garcia, Class of 2025:

Keiry Cordon-Estrada, Class of 2025:

Alexa Amaya, Class of 2025:

@itsbriseiry

Get vaccinated, save lives!! – Trinity Vaxx Champion Video.

♬ original sound – Alexa

Ezinne Azubuike, Class of 2025:

Micheriadeline Salvador, Class of 2024, Nursing:

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