Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
February 24, 2017 (posted February 28, 2017)
Mr. President: A disheveled, unkempt, unclean Steve Bannon finally emerged from
his warren this week to claim outstanding success for this administration in its first
month in office. Disheveled, unkempt, unclean is how Mr. Bannon always looks. The
American Psychiatric Association Manual of disorders DSM-IV defines a mental
disorder as a "clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern
...". Add Mr. Bannon's paranoid fulminations on Breitbart and there is cause to worry.
Worry, especially because he has been named to the National Security Council by the
President breaking precedent and setting a new dangerous one. This is the first time
a political adviser has been appointed, a matter of grave concern because he can
color the discourse from a political angle, varnishing bare truth for political goals. He
could also be considered the President's spy by other members causing them to hold
back on frank opinion.
Thus Trump appointing a straight-shooting general, well-regarded in the military, as
National Security Adviser and so Council chair was a huge relief for those expecting
an ideologue. Lieutenant General H R McMaster is a PhD and a student of history.
His doctoral dissertation and associative book "Dereliction of Duty" discuss the failure
of top command to voice opinion forcefully in the Vietnam war. Will his be a voice of
moderation? We have to wait and see.
For Trump's supporters the ideal American is white and Christian. They were
encouraged by Mr. Trump's constant repetitions of dubious facts, and the result has
been an upsurge of hate incidents. Among the 68 reported by Jewish community
centers and synagogues, was the particularly heinous vandalism of a Jewish
cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. If there can be a silver lining in such an incident, it
was a Muslim group raising money to repair the damage. Their goal was $30,000;
they have raised over $120,000. Common human decency is universal.
Last Wednesday at 7:15 pm, two Indian engineers were shot at Austins Bar and Grill
in Olathe, Kansas just south of Kansas City. The 51 year-old gunman, Adam W.
Purinton, was heard hurling racial epithets and yelling 'get out of my country' before
firing. Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, was killed and his colleague Alok Madasani, 32,
wounded. They worked in aviation electronics for Garmin, a GPS navigation and
communications device company. One can imagine the two shot could have been the
CEOs of Microsoft and Google -- they too are of Indian ethnicity and represent the
remarkable contributions of immigrants in the high-tech industry. In this tragedy was
a hero: Ian Grillot, 24, tried to wrest the gun away and was shot in the hand and
chest. He and Mr. Madasani are expected to survive.
Also this week a man and his female companion were removed from a Chicago to
Houston flight. He kept spewing a volley of racist slurs directed at a Pakistani-Indian
Shortly after Mr. Trump's inauguration, the Islamic Center and mosque opposite the
University of California at Davis was vandalized. Windows were broken and bacon
wrapped around doorknobs. Like Jews, Muslims consider the pig unclean. It was just
one of numerous incidents.
As is often so, the fires of bigotry and hatred are easier to ignite than extinguish. In
that sense they are much like war. U.S. forces are back in Iraq and very recently
have been assisting Iraqi forces in Mosul. And, despite Obama's strenuous efforts,
they are, after 15 years, still in Afghanistan.
One can but hope General McMaster realizes the limited successes of war as an
instrument of policy. China is quietly and effectively demonstrating the rewards of
patience and soft power across the globe.