In a Strange Land: Eleven

Three years into exile, and I knew that I would become “old” soon enough. Maybe I was already. I hoped to be one of those people who enjoyed good health and a sharp mind right up until the end, but for many people, some sort of affliction came with the territory of old age.

I knew that Alzheimer’s disease, a cancer growing in this or that vital part, coronary artery disease, and stroke were among the many terrifying maladies that might be awaiting my arrival. Whatever the malady that would dog me through my last days, there did not seem to be any good reason to spend valuable time thinking about it too much.

The prospect of affliction could not easily be ignored, but no amount of thinking about what that place would look like or how it would feel to me was going to map its location with any greater precision.

Time would run out sometime, probably within twenty-five years. I had read that the limit on human longevity was around 120 years, and so maybe I had fifty years—certainly no longer than that. For the time being, I felt healthy, and it was part of my way of being to do what I could to stay that way.

Lacking a consuming passion or inspiring mission that would have defined a meaning for my life, I felt that my purpose was to find a kind of joy, to delight in beauty, to be interested in what was new to me and to pursue what I did not know.

I believed that we were meant to feel what it was to be alive. The urge to feel existence was involved somehow in the creation of life itself.

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    And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. [Exodus 2:21-22] It was the same but different. There was…
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Something So Wrong: September 2017

  • On September 5, Trump announced that he was ending the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. The program was created by President Obama by executive order in 2012 and made it possible for immigrants who had been brought to the US as children to stay legally in the country if they met certain qualifications. Trump ordered an end to the program as of March 5, 2018, exposing the 800,000 young immigrants currently enrolled in the program to deportation. In the meantime, the Department of Homeland Security will not accept any new applicants for the program.
  • On September 19, in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Trump called on all nations to uphold “two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.” He called these duties “the beautiful vision” of the UN. He declared that nationalism should be the guiding principal of all countries: “As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.” He called out North Korea, Iran and Syria for particular criticism. North Korea, he said, is a “depraved regime” whose its pursuit of nuclear weapons is “reckless.” He warned that if North Korea threatened the US or its allies, the would “have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” He belittled North Korea’s leader, calling him “Rocket Man” and saying that the North Korean leader was “on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” He said that “denuclearization” was North Korea’s “only acceptable future.” Turning to Iran, Trump called that nation’s government a “reckless” and “murderous” regime. The 2015 agreement with Iran, he said, was “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” The five-nation agreement, which curtailed Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, was, he said, “an embarrassment to the United States.” He called on Iran to “stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people, and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbors.” Trump said that the US is seeking the “de-escalation of the Syrian conflict,” while calling the current Syrian government a “criminal regime.” Trump asserted that the US is a “compassionate nation” that has spent “billions and billions of dollars” supporting humanitarian assistance in Syria, and he praised Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for “hosting refugees from the Syrian conflict.” He said that the US would not accept more Syrian refugees but would “out of the goodness of our hearts…offer financial assistance to hosting countries in the region.”
  • On September 22, North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un responded to Trump’s speech at the UN with rhetoric of his own: “The mentally deranged behavior of the U.S. president openly expressing on the U.N. arena the unethical will to ‘totally destroy’ a sovereign state… makes even those with normal thinking faculty think about discretion and composure.” Trump’s remarks “convinced” Kim “that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.” He refered to Trump’s speech as “the most ferocious declaration of a war in history” and vowed: “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”
  • On September 26, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Graham-Cassidy bill, the Republicans’ last-ditch attempt to “repeal and replace Obamacare” under the reconciliation process (requiring only 50 votes), would not be brought to a vote after three Republican Senators (McCain, Collins and Paul) declared their intention to vote against the bill. McConnell said that the Republicans would now turn their attention to tax reform.
  • On September 27, Trump announced that the quota on refugee admissions to the US would be capped at 45,000 for the 2018 fiscal year. This sharply reduced the number of refugees allowed under the Obama administration (110,000 for fiscal year 2017). Since 1980, annual refugee admissions have averaged more than 95,000 per year.
  • San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made news in August of 2016 for not standing while the national anthem was played at a pre-season game. He said that he would not “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Since that time, other NFL players have taken a knee during the anthem as a protest against social injustice. At a campaign rally for senate candidate Luther Strange on September 22, Trump told the crowd that NFL owners should respond to players kneeling during the national anthem by saying: “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired!” He suggested that fans should “leave the stadium” when players kneel in protest. At subsequent NFL games, many more players joined in protest by kneeling.
  • On September 28, acting Homeland Security chief Elaine Duke told reporters that the federal response to the devastation of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria was “really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.” In response the next day, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said: “This is, dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a ‘people are dying’ story. This is a ‘life or death’ story. This is ‘there’s a truckload of stuff that cannot be taken to people’ story. This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen.” Trump reacted to the mayor’s comments by tweeting: “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”

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    After a decade of diplomatic effort, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany reached an accord with Iran earlier this year. These nations (known as the P5+1 or the E3+3), engaged in negotiations with the goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. A deal was signed…

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