During the summer of 2001, my husband and I visited our daughter in New York City. One day we took the ferry out to the State of Liberty and then on to Ellis Island. I took this photo looking back at Lower Manhattan where the skyline was dominated by the Twin Towers. No one knew that by the end of summer, on September 11, 2001, the towers would be brought down by terrorists. That was the day that fear entered the American psyche. Psychologically, our country has never be the same.
Our American optimism went down a slippery slope. During the G. W. Bush years, we recklessly entered into two foreign wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and gave large banks and financial institutions the ability to bring down our economy to the point of near self-destruction. This reached a crescendo in the fall of 2008 when the stock market crashed, homes were foreclosed, the job market tanked and many people lost their livelihoods. That was a dark time in America.
Barack Obama ran for the presidency on the promise of Hope and Change. His election brought back a degree of optimism. Thanks to his leadership and a Democratic Congress, we got a floor under our crashing economy, gave life support to the automotive industry, and finally brought affordable health care to a large segment of our population who otherwise would have been unable to purchase health insurance.
In my opinion, the Ship of State seemed to be righting itself. Progressive values seemed to be taking hold, especially with younger generations. Everything wasn’t perfect, but the trajectory of our country seemed optimistic…especially for women, minorities, the LGTBQ communities, persons living with disabilities, environmental groups, and Native Americans.
Then came Trump’s shocking win in the 2016 presidential election. Looking back, I can understand how a large segment of our country voted for him. It was because they felt “left behind.” He certainly played on their fears. He promised them jobs which they desperately needed in order to hang on to their version of the American dream. Some of his followers felt that progressives had made too many gains and they wanted to roll back the clock.
His boldest promise was to stop illegal immigration and the flow of refugees to our country. Both of these are serious issues and need to be addressed. But rather than working with Congress (where both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans), he decided to act unilaterally by issuing Execute Orders that would throw our country into chaos. I have heard from several of his supporters that they are happy to see Trump acting in such a way and are applauding his ability to “get things done” apart from Congress or anyone else that might get in his way. I just shake my head and wonder why people think this is a good idea.
The protests started immediately! People are taking to the streets in opposition to his actions and executive orders. Even National Park officials and Scientists have made their voices heard!
To me, Trump’s behavior these past two weeks seems “reckless” at best and “destructive” at its worst.
We must always remember that America is not yet a dictatorship. It is a democracy with three branches of government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. The founders of our country set up this system of government in order to have checks and balances so that one branch would not hold power over another.
My prayer today is that our Government (all three branches) will work together to move our country forward.
I also pray for all those yearning to come to our shores after being vetted and obtaining visas and green cards, whether they are on a path to citizenship or here to contribute to our society for a short time. Even Donald Trump has asked, since his election, for our country to authorize visas to workers that he wants to bring to our country in order to work at his American properties (even thought there are plenty of Americans who would like those jobs, especially in South Florida). For that reason alone, I call him a hypocrite.
He has tried to put a ban on people from particular countries or religions which is now being temporarily blocked in federal courts. Many legal experts are looking at his executive actions and calling them not only unconstitutional but not in our best interest if we want to remain “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
In watching news reports these past days, I weep for those being turned away from our country who have valid reasons to come and live among us: international students, doctors and researchers, interpreters who have fought along side our military, children coming for life saving medical needs/surgery, and those traveling back and forth for personal reasons who are now trapped in our political chaos.
Time magazine’s latest cover showed a Statue of Liberty with her flame going out. Let us keep her torch burning brightly for all the world to see. Let us be optimistic once again!