Letters: Inspiration from Apollo 11

Johnson City Press • Jul 19, 2019 at 5:45 AM

In 1973, I was living in the southeastern African country of Malawi, and had occasion to visit a small fishing village there on Lake Chilwa. One midday I observed several fishing boats, hauled up on the shore, awaiting a late afternoon launch in anticipation of an evening catch. The largest and likely the best of these craft had its name painted on the stern: Aporo Ereben. Clearly, the owner had been inspired by the most amazing and advanced achievement he could imagine, the United States Apollo 11 spacecraft, launched just four years before. As an American living in what even then was one of the poorest countries in Africa, I was humbled by this recognition of my country’s achievement. 

This month, as we celebrate lunar explorations undertaken by NASA’s Apollo Program, I am especially thinking of my brief encounter with that other “Aporo Ereben.” I long to remember that as a hopeful inspiration for all my country can achieve. But instead, I am saddened when I realize the present leadership of my homeland looks down on such poor countries as Malawi as examples neither to be aided in improving their lot nor even to be pitied, but instead belittled as inferior examples of humankind. If that is the best we can manage, we are unworthy of reaching for the moon, or the stars.
Professor of History, Emeritus
Asheville, N.C.

Where are Roe's loyalties?

House Resolution 489 reads, in part, "... strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should “go back” to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as “invaders,” and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants (or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants) do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America."

Congressman Phil Roe voted against this. Where are his loyalties? To a "President" who lacks common respect and dignity and frames his communication in a purpose of divisiveness and hated or to the support of members of Congress who are representing their constituencies and American values of strength through diversity?

Shameful, Mr. Roe. Shameful.


Depravity carried out in our names

The day before the border-detention-center protest vigil in Founders Park, I read comments by Republican Committeewoman Anita Hodges Taylor and Phil Roe. Taylor accused the organizers of using “fake” second-hand information. She, you see, relies on “reliable” secondhand reports by Phil Roe and Marsha Blackburn. I read their reports and checked websites where I found a single photo of Roe and the congressional doctors contingent before a facility sign. No evidence they‘d been shown much of anything.

The protestors “second-hand information” comes from interviews with detainees, annotated analysis, and photographs. Rep. Joaquin Castro sneaked a camera inside border facilities and recorded the depravity carried out in our names. We saw the court proceeding with a HHS lawyer defending the lack of soap and toothbrushes, calling them non-necessities before visibly astonished judges.

There’s the letter from the ICE agent who said they had resented Obama’s overly hands-on approach to “their” business, but they’d now take it any day over the haphazard chaos and indefensible conditions Trump has created.

Despite federal standards, an unannounced visit by DHS’s own Inspector General found people held for weeks in standing-room only cells, with limited access to showers or clean clothes. They found 155 people in a cell for 35, 41 in a cell for 8, and 900 people in a facility with capacity for 125. “Dangerously overcrowded” is the phrase used to describe conditions in what Laura Bush has called “internment camps.” Cruelty seems the intent.

Six children have died from neglect following extended detention under Trump’s “management” compared to none in the previous 10 years.

Roe added nothing substantive or objective as usual. Perfectly acceptable detention conditions (but blame Democrats anyway). Comprehensive reform doesn’t imply open borders, but to Roe a more civilized policy sounds like “ending American sovereignty?” Honestly?

Johnson City

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