Teri's Public Library

The Art of the Grift


It was not uncommon for me to come home from work to find Cousin Bobby holed up in my apartment. He lived hours away. He never called in advance. He didn’t have a key. But there he’d be, dirty clothes piled by the washer, something burnt in a skillet on the stove, and Cousin Bobby sprawled on my couch, TV blaring.

Donald Trump reminds me of a more sophisticated Cousin Bobby. Forget “The Art of the Deal.” Theirs is the art of the grift.

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They don’t call you snowflake at War College


With former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen

It was during a coffee break outside Bliss Hall that an Army colonel from Virginia shared his exasperation with TV news.

“I was in one of those tanks,” he told me, clearly angry, “rolling down a street in Iraq. FOX, CNN, the networks, they all showed us throwing fistfuls of candy to crowds of kids with the caption ‘US troops greeted as liberators.’ I was so dang mad. Those kids weren’t the welcome wagon, they were starving.”

This conversation took place well into my week at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where I’d been invited to sit in with 330 colonels (on temporary leave from command) for lessons like The Economics of National Security, Terrorism in the 21st Century, and The Human Dimensions of Warfare.

I’d been instructed personally by the college Commandant that he’d invited me for one reason: to openly share my views, liberal or otherwise, to help his colonels “get a more rounded view on the diverse society they serve.”

“My guys are world-class in debate,” the Commandant warned when I arrived, shaking my hand. “I need you to stand your ground.”

I’ve been thinking lately about my week with the colonels. I wonder what they’d say about a president who tweets about nuclear weapons and North Korea. I wonder what they’d say about a president who talks about eating “the most beautiful chocolate cake you’ve ever seen” while launching missiles.

I wonder, is there any such thing anymore as civilized political debate?

This past weekend, the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll wasn’t canceled but delayed to Monday and decreased by half.

It may sound trivial, but I assure you this event is a very big deal, particularly for its primary invitees: military families. Moms and dads excited to take once-in-a-lifetime photos of their dressed-up little ones running across the White House lawn, playing games with the President and First Lady, and listening to the likes of Robert DeNiro read a bunny book.

But how many military families can take off work on a Monday? And why so few invitees?

Several of the colonels I met at War College had been to events like the Easter Egg Roll, and they had the pictures on their walls to prove it, pictures I spotted when their wives hosted me for backyard barbecues and late night poker games at their kitchen tables.

After their kids were in bed, we got quieter but continued the days’ debates on everything from Limbaugh and Hannity, whom they dismissed outright as infotainment, to our disparate views on presidential powers, torture, the Middle East, and the pros and cons of closing Gitmo.

We agreed. We disagreed. We shared a lot of laughs. But never once, as surprising as it sounds today, did any of them call me a Snowflake or a Libtard or a Whore for Hillary. Not one of them threatened me with physical violence—“maybe one of those refugees you love so much will rape or murder you in your home”—for holding an opposing view.

My husband and I have since visited the colonels in their Pentagon offices. I’ve been inside the offices of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and run from his speeding motorcade. They’ve taken my husband and me out by boat to see our incredible Capitol and monuments lit up, at night, from the water. I’ve hosted them as weekend houseguests.

We differ. And yet, we remain great friends.


On one of my last days at the War College, I followed three colonels out the revolving doors to get some fresh air. We’d been talking about what it was like to have the first black president, and we kept at it on the patio.

It was a colonel who’d deployed several times who said, “Think about it this way. Forty years ago, who would have thought we’d have a black president? Forty years from now, we’ll have a gay president and nobody will care. All the stuff people are fighting about today will have been a big waste of time.”

The world, the colonel assured us, is not black and white. The world is gray. And gray is uncomfortable. Unnerving. Hard work. Gray requires detailed study, other-thinking, and compromise.

It is in the gray where those we most often prejudge and pigeonhole can surprise us, and even earn our respect.

When did Trump start caring about Syria?


Credit: Associated Press

In February 2016, at a town hall in New Hampshire, then-candidate Donald Trump was asked about the Syrian crisis, if he could “look children aged 5, 8, 10, in the face and tell them they can’t go to school here.”

Trump did not hesitate, saying, “I can look in their faces and say ‘You can’t come.’ I’ll look them in the face.” And his answer brought a burst of applause from the crowd.

This statement came just a few months after the lifeless body of a 3-year-old Syrian boy had washed ashore in Turkey, his mother and 5-year-old brother having also drowned.

Like most Americans who saw the recent images of Syrian children chemically bombed and poisoned by their own government, we know these horrors and cruelties cannot be allowed to continue. That something must be done. The question is, what exactly is the right something?

In the wake of U.S. airstrikes in Syria, this would be a good time to know if we — if our allies and our enemies — should take Trump seriously, or literally.

We saw the photos of that drowned 3 year-old boy and heard Trump say coldly to applause, “I can look in their faces and say ‘You can’t come’.” We have all seen image after horrific image of Syrian children living in fear and being pulled lifeless and bloodied from the ruble left by bombs in Aleppo.

And yet, the president had little response.

So why is it now, after this particular attack, that we finally hear Trump say from the White House Rose Garden, “that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me — big impact”?

I can’t help but wonder, if it had been Hillary Clinton in the Rose Garden, speaking about the same big impact and then carrying out airstrikes, would we, including Trump, have condemned her for being too predictably hawkish? For responding “like a woman,” emotionally or irrationally?

What are Trump’s beliefs, his principles? The fact is, we do not know, because the president himself does not know.

He was a Democrat until he was a Republican. Pro-choice before deciding he was pro-life. He once said his motto was to hire the best people but not to trust them, but then said he only hires people he trusts.

In 2000, he said, “I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” (Trump: The America We Deserve), but changed his tune during his run for president, saying, “I am the strongest person running in favor of the Second Amendment.” (South Carolina, February 15, 2016) The list goes on.

In a Washington Post interview from November 15, 1984, Trump boasted, “It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles. … I think I know most of it anyway.”

So, we have a president who claims there is no more to learn about missiles; a president who knows more than the generals do; a president who says, “I alone can can fix it”; a president who says about refugee children, “I can look in their faces and say ‘You can’t come.’ I’ll look them in the face.”

We have a president with no guiding ideology and no firm moral compass.

This past week, the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against his own citizens, and our president responded within hours by sending in more than 50 tomahawk missiles. Yet the same Syrian regime launched a chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus in 2013, and Trump tweeted, “President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your ‘powder’ for another (and more important) day!”

Maybe this, 77 days into his presidency, was that more important day. Remember, he alone can fix it.

Blinded by wealth, Trumps play while safety net burns


Photo by Susan Walsh – Associated Press

We were on a business trip when I learned Tinker came from money. The plane had started bouncing around the sky and when I reached over to grab her arm, she laughed, “Isn’t this great? Like my daddy says, a day without turbulence is a day without sunshine!”

That’s when Tinker told me about her plane. As in the plane her family owned, the one her daddy flew to their mountain home for skiing and to their summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, which she called simply The Vineyard.

I wondered what Tinker would think if I told her I’d never flown, never even been to an airport, before I got this job.

I thought of Tinker as the Obamacare repeal and replace debate heated up. Alongside reports about which programs to eliminate for the poor (emergency services? maternity? prescription drugs?) there were the slick photos of Ivanka Trump and her family on the ski slopes of Aspen, reportedly trailed by a hundred secret service agents.

As Ivanka skied, her unearned, controversial West Wing office vacant, the vote to cut the healthcare safety net for 24 million Americans loomed.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer made it known the president had worked very hard. “He left nothing on the field.” House Speaker Paul Ryan reported, “The president gave his all in this effort. He did everything he possibly could.”

Yet for 7 of the last 8 weekends, the president checked out early most Fridays to hop Air Force One down to Mar a Lago, the exclusive country club he’s christened his Southern White House. Weekends that reportedly cost taxpayers $3 million per trip.

The White House stresses these are working weekends. There are meetings. But can you really claim a working weekend when you send the press pool to the basement while you play a couple rounds of golf?

Ironically, no one was more critical of former president Obama playing golf than Mr. Trump. There are literally dozens of tweets like this one from October 2014: “Can you believe that with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf!”

But no matter. The rabid, cult-like devotion of Mr. Trump’s supporters—people who would never be welcome inside Mar a Lago’s golden gates—does not waver.

Healthcare is a Gordian knot in its complexity and one-sixth of our economy. So I knew we were in trouble when the president said, “Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated.”

These are words spoken by a man who has never considered deductibles or caps or the terrifying words “out of plan.”

A man who has had lifelong access to any doctor or surgeon or specialist he could ever need, his family could ever need, immediately, and without concern for cost.

A man who, like Tinker’s daddy, casually hops on his plane—the American people’s plane, Air Force One—for $3 million weekend golf trips.

Who knew healthcare could be so complicated? Anyone who has read the small print of a damn insurance policy or has tried to make sense of a hospital bill. And cried.

Tinker was like this. She could talk a good game, but I was the one who worried over details. I knew her daddy had gotten her the job, but I didn’t care. I felt lucky to be in her orbit. Tinker could be oblivious, but she was also charming and funny, and she was so much more confident and comfortable than I was, both in the world and in meetings with powerful men. I imagine Ivanka this way.

Summers, Tinker took her 2 weeks vacation plus an additional unpaid week to spend with her family on The Vineyard, and she was generous enough to invite me. Every summer. “Come on!” she would say, “Just fly out and Daddy will send the car for you. We can sail all day and party all night. And it’s free!”

As much as I wanted to go, as much as I wanted to see The Vineyard and get a peek into that life, I always politely declined. I had to work. Nothing is free. How to tell her I could not even afford the airfare.

On the Side of Angels

Old Notre Dame High School 11-25-2011

Even in the final scene, I am not at home.

I am alone in a friend’s Kelso basement, pulling my Bulldog-blue graduation gown over my head, and their game room is bright with lights. I stare into a wall of beer-themed mirrors, the contents of my makeup bag rolling across their pool table as I line my eyes with a kohl pencil.

My friend’s dad, AJ Schott, walks in and jokes, “Hey there, kiddo. You moving in or just riding to town?”

That was May 1983. After Notre Dame High School saved my life.

Four years earlier, I’d been just one lost girl in a sea of lost boys and girls. And for good reason. My single mother and I had a habit of circling Cape Girardeau like nomads, forever looking to save a few bucks on rent. Who knew where I might end up for high school, or for how long, when by eighth grade I’d already been to Jackson, May Greene, back to Jackson, to Nell Holcomb, and finally to St. Mary’s.

You never know where you will meet your angel. St. Mary’s is where I met mine. Monsignor Huels made a note of one lost girl, and set to work.

The Monsignor found me in the lunch room one day and made an offer. He’d found a family, he said, a family willing to pay 100% of my Notre Dame tuition. For 4 years. Plus books. Anonymously. With no terms for payback and no criteria for keeping up my grades or writing essays or playing sports or even showing up.

If this sounds too good to be true, it was.

And it seems I did everything I could to screw it up.

My grades were, in a word, dismal. I had no math skills and even less interest. Science may as well have been study hall. I read a lot of books, but tossed aside the assigned, classic titles for fat paperbacks by John Saul and Danielle Steele and VC Andrews. I took Spanish because they said I had to, and it showed. I secretly worshipped Ms. King and the casts of her musicals, but I could not carry a tune nor build a set, so what value could I be?

Outside school, my mother and I remained on the move. A few more apartments around Cape, then Kelso.

Yet, without concern for school districts, I could stay at Notre Dame, and the moves mattered less as school mattered more. I began to like my shorthand teacher, Mrs. Glueck, and learned I was not bad at making coded shapes for words. I started reading the books assigned in English class. I even tried math.

As Notre Dame stayed put, so did I. And my first deep roots, invisible as they must have been to my frustrated teachers, stubbornly began to take hold.

Turns out lost girls can take time, test patience. We can wear out the best of you, make you throw up your hands, surrender, move on, give up.

Thank you Notre Dame, for not giving up. For letting me in and for letting me stay. Even when I least deserved it.

As much as I seemed to hate school, school was home. And 4 whole years in one place saved a life and made a difference.

Thank you to my generous, still anonymous, donor family. I eventually went on to finish college and even graduate school. A painfully late bloomer. Your money was not lost, just a slow return on investment.

And thank you AJ Schott who, when you found this lost girl in your Kelso basement in May 1983, make up bag spilling across your pool table, you just made light and loaded her into the family car and drove her to graduation. No questions asked.

You are all, every last one of you, on the side of angels.

The CEO of Fantasy Land



There is a scene in the movie The American President where a lobbyist, played by Annette Bening, tells the chief of staff that if the president believes ludicrous claims about the fossil fuel industry, “then your boss is the chief executive of fantasy land.”

More than a week after President Trump issued a series of Saturday morning tweets accusing his predecessor of wiretapping, the White House press secretary now asks with a chuckle that we move on and let the following statements, exclamation points and all, slide:

—How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

— Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

We can argue these are merely tweets. The president blowing off steam. But that’s not the way things work when you’re the leader of the free world.

Every word the president utters, whether in speech or in writing or even on Twitter, has the power to wreak havoc or peace. And if the president believes he can accuse a former president of a federal crime, then wait it out and hope everyone forgets and moves on, then he is, as Annette Bening said in the movie, the chief executive of fantasy land.

In the span of two short months, we’ve slid down the rail from “don’t take the president literally, take him seriously,” to having absolutely no idea if anything the president says is fact or fiction.

We still have his unproven claim that three to five million people voted illegally, all of them for Hillary Clinton.

He falsely claims the unemployment rate “is probably 20 percent, but I will tell you, you have some great economists that will tell you it’s 30, 32, and the highest I’ve heard so far is 42 percent,” though economists roundly agree the unemployment rate rests below five percent.

He has never backed off his claim that he saw thousands of Muslims cheering on TV (no such footage exists) when the twin towers fell on September 11.

And how can we forget the seven long years he proclaimed, again without producing a shred of evidence, that President Obama was not born in the U.S.

At a recent White House press briefing, a reporter had to ask, in all seriousness, “When [the president] says something, can we trust that it is real?”

To be fair, we as citizens also have a stake in our fantasies about the president.

If he’s smart enough to not pay taxes, maybe he will pass those smarts over to us.

We remain certain he was a successful businessman, even though he filed for six bankruptcies and refuses to show us his tax returns.

We still believe him when he says he will bring coal jobs back to Kentucky, which is like believing typewriters are going to come back and replace computers, but what choice do we have?

And then there is healthcare.

We’ve learned from the Congressional Budget Office that the president’s replacement for Obamacare will throw approximately 24 million people off their insurance in the next ten years.

This number equals the population of Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas and Oklahoma … combined.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich put the fantasy of the new-and-improved healthcare plan into context when he said to NBC’s Chuck Todd, “If I put you on an exchange for your family, and I give you a $4,000 tax credit or a $3,000 tax credit, what kind of insurance are you going to buy for $3,000?”

Yet on March 9, the president tweeted:

Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great. We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture!

It turns out we no longer need to see the made-up, movie version of The American President. The chief executive of fantasy land is alive and well, and he’s tweeting at us from the White House.

The Lords of Chaos



As Mitch McConnell ducked out the back of the American Legion Hall and sped away in his spit-shined, black SUV, a few of us resorted to yelling out our questions. “Hey Mitch,” I said, “what good are school vouchers for rural families here in Lawrenceburg?”

A man wearing a Trump hat spun around, spread his arms wide, and leaned into my face. “Shut your mouth!” he screamed. “We have one Christian school, and by God we’ll build another Christian school!” I picked up my purse to leave so he turned his anger on a young cancer survivor asking about health insurance.

I’ve never seen this man before, and yet I know him. I grew up with men like him.

Grandpa Red was a screamer, and indiscriminately cruel. There was the night he threw grandma out the back door as he sat inside with a rifle on his lap, daring her to try, just try, to come inside. There was the Saturday he skinned my pet rabbits and left them hanging for me to see. I was seven. There were the long summer days when he perched on the porch swing, yelling “Little  Sambo!”, a sweating glass of sweet tea by his side, and shot BBs from a slingshot at any little black kid who dared to step on his lawn.

Like Grandpa Red, the screaming man at the Lawrenceburg lunch feels empowered, emboldened, within his rights. It is 2017. And our new Commander in Chief has set the tone.

In a span of days, the president cruelly rescinded an order protecting transgender children, called the top attorney general a “fake judge,” and disrespected the leaders of Mexico, Australia and Sweden. At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) the president said, “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake. A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people!”

The crowd cheered. Invective rules.

The president’s travel ban, lifted by the courts but still looming, continues to wreak havoc. Last week a beloved Australian children’s author was inexplicably detained and interrogated for two hours at LAX. A British teacher, a Muslim man traveling with his class, was humiliated and banned from boarding a flight with his students.

In Olathe, Kansas, a white man hurled ethnic slurs at two Indian engineers, telling them they don’t belong in this country. The man left, then returned to gun them down. A hate crime the president refused to acknowledge, much less condemn, for a week.

At our southern border, a sixteen year old boy was shot in the head by Border Control, and left to die.

Since his inauguration, there have been a hundred threats on Jewish community centers and schools. Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated. After saying nothing for weeks, the White House suggests phoned-in threats may have come from “overseas” and/or that Jews made the threats themselves to garner sympathy.

We wait for the slim light, for a glimpse of kindness. But it never comes. Never. It never comes because there is no pivot, no better man waiting in the wings.

Our president thrives on chaos and cruelty. I recognize him.

When I was nine, my single mother and I moved in temporarily with my grandparents. I started fourth grade up the street, and since I walked to and from school it wasn’t long before the kids found me out. “New girl lives with Slingshot Man!”

For the next months, a band of boys delighted in terrorizing me. They followed me morning and night. They chanted nasty names. They threw rocks. They laughed while shoving me down muddy hills and off the sidewalk into traffic. Somebody had to pay for Slingshot Man with his off-limits lawn.

I will never forget the president from the campaign, the man who mocked a disabled reporter, bragged about grabbing women by the pussy, insisted he sacrificed as much as a Gold Star family who lost their son in war, said John McCain is no hero, called Mexicans murderers and rapists, and spun up his cult-like crowds with chants to “Lock her up!”

There are lessons to be learned from screaming men. They demand respect. They shout, “Shut your mouth!” They wallow in credit and pass the buck on blame. They recruit followers.

They are the lords of chaos, and they rarely suffer consequences. Consequences and suffering are for the rest of us.

We were warned, and now we will all pay


Painting by Hossein Khosrojerdi

In the weeks before the election, a number of traditionally conservative newspapers insisted Donald Trump was not only unqualified for office, but a danger to the republic.

We were warned.

The Arizona Republic said he was not a conservative and not qualified.

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote, ”Trump is a clear and present danger to our country.”

The Houston Chronicle stated that “his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance,” should be disqualifying.

The Dallas Morning News wrote, “Trump’s values are hostile to conservatism. He plays on fear — exploiting base instincts of xenophobia, racism and misogyny — to bring out the worst in all of us, rather than the best. His serial shifts on fundamental issues reveal an astounding absence of preparedness. And his improvisational insults and midnight tweets exhibit a dangerous lack of judgment and impulse control.”

Less than one month in, all of the above has proven true.

Despite his complaints during the campaign about Hillary Clinton’s connections to Wall Street and the wealthy, Mr. Trump’s cabinet appointees read like a who’s-who  of millionaires and billionaires with ties to big banks, like Goldman Sachs.

His first counterterrorism raid went, by most accounts, terribly wrong. Yemeni locals were tipped off to the secret mission by louder-than-normal drone surveillance, a member of Seal Team 6 was killed along with many civilians, including women and children ages 3-13, and the raid ended with the destruction of a $75 million aircraft.

In his first phone call with Vladimir Putin, Mr. Trump informed the Russian president that the 2010 nuclear treaty (known as New START) was a bad deal negotiated by the Obama administration while, according to White House sources, having to place Mr. Putin on-hold to ask his advisors what was in the treaty.

His poorly executed travel ban on refugees from Muslim-majority nations fermented fear and chaos around the world, despite the fact that no refugee has committed an act of terror in this country for decades. And when the courts brought a stop to his executive order, he tweeted his contempt for the rule of law at the “so-called” judge.

First Lady Melania Trump has chosen to remain at their home in New York, costing taxpayers an estimated one million dollars a day.

He calls Mar a Lago “The Winter White House.” Mar a Lago is not his, not his house, not private, not secure. Mar a Lago is an exclusive Florida country club where the wealthy pay for access to our president.

Mr. Trump constantly derided President Obama for playing golf, but Mr. Trump has already spent 3 of his first 4 weekends as president, staying and golfing at his Florida country club.

He doesn’t care for the White House. Too isolated. The towels on Air Force One not soft enough.

With the sudden resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (after only 23 days on the job), our military commanders are rightly alarmed. General Tony Thomas, the head of Special Ops, told The New York Times, “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war. As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”

Our government is unstable because Mr. Trump is, as we were warned so often before the election, unqualified for the job. A danger to the republic.

Being president of the United States is serious business. It cannot be reduced to impulsive tweets. Sadly, Mr. Trump did not want to be president. He simply wanted to be a bigger star. The biggest star. He wanted to headline stadiums filled with fans, dominate the daily news, increase the value of his brand, pummel the media, and destroy his opponents.

He wanted to win at all costs. And win he did.

Mr. Trump has an insatiable, gluttonous need for stardom. There will be a steep price. And we will all pay.

Valuing the sanctity of life means openness to refugees


Tangled Figures, a preparatory drawing for Pablo Picasso’s Guernica

Everyday, I pass by a small community church with its automated sign close to the road. The sign reads, in bright red letters and all caps: ALL LIVES ARE SACRED!

The church is about halfway to town, and it’s got a safe, easy spot to slow down and pull over, so this is where I stop if I need to send a text or finish a phone call before I hit one of those dead, cell service spots. This week, with the Muslim travel ban,* I’ve been thinking a lot about the words “all lives” on the church’s sign.

It is hard to get into the United States. Our president talks a lot about extreme vetting, yet he has never defined what, exactly, he means. The fact is our vetting is already extreme. Refugees fleeing war and persecution in their home countries face a rigorous and exhaustive screening process, a process that can take from 18-24 months.

Imagine you are desperately trying to save your family—your newborn, your teenagers, your elderly parents—from certain death and having to wait a year and a half or two to clear all of the investigations and paperwork. But you are willing because your lives depend on it. You do everything that is asked of you. You wait. You hope. You sell everything. You pray. And though you pass every test you’ve been given, the U.S. suddenly invokes an inexplicable, emergency ban telling you that your family are unwanted, unwelcome, and feared.

How devastating to learn that, while church signs in America scream “All lives are sacred!” in big red letters, they are not talking about your life.

The president remains emphatic this new ban is meant to keep us safe. America first! Yet virtually all of our recent attacks have come from homegrown American terrorists.

The Orlando shooter was born in New York. Dylan Roof was a white supremacist born in South Carolina. The Aurora, Colorado theatre shooter was born in San Diego. Even the Boston marathon bombers were from Chechnya (not on the travel ban list).

According to the Cato Institute, in the last 37 years no refugee, Syrian or otherwise, has committed a major terror attack in the United States.

So just how does the president’s ban make us safer?

Last weekend, the president’s poorly implemented ban wreaked havoc around this country and the world. Thousands of lives were affected, sending internationally traveling families into panic, uncertainly, and confusion. Two stories specifically have stuck with me.

One young man waited all day at the Los Angeles airport for the release of his 80 year old Iranian grandmother. She’d already traveled 20 hours, and was then locked in a small room with other detainees for nine hours. She does not speak English. She had no idea what was happening. She was, rightly, terrified. When she was finally released, the young man found out she’d had no food and had been provided only eight ounces of water.

Despite completing all of the required paperwork, an Iranian couple with a four month-old baby scheduled for heart surgery was denied entry into the U.S. The family was already in transit with their sick child, and found out during their layover in Dubai that they were no longer welcome in the United States. They had no choice but to return to Iran.

We often hear Americans make simplistic statements about foreigners, particularly about Middle Easterners. “They hate us for our freedom,” they say. Based on stories like the ones above, I’d argue we don’t give ourselves enough credit. How would you feel if your 80 year-old grandmother were treated this way? Imagine your very sick four month-old baby being denied, completely without reason, the medical care you’ve been promised?

This morning I drove to town, and though I did not need to make a call or send a text, I pulled into the safe spot by the church, stared at the big red letters, and said a prayer.

Because for all our big, blustering talk about our Christian values and “love thy neighbor” and “do unto others” and signs blaring, “All lives are sacred!” we can be excruciatingly cruel. We are failing, as the president would say, bigly.


* No matter what you choose to call the ban, it’s a Muslim ban. I mean, you can call a goat anything you want, but it’s still a goat.

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