I keep telling myself I won’t write about politics anymore; it’s too depressing. But I keep making an exception for John Kelly, the ex-Marine general who headed Homeland Security and now will be Chief of Staff in the Trump White House.
I make the exception because Kelly is my age and from my home town. Many of the same forces that shaped me presumably also shaped him. But here we are. One could imagine a military guy agreeing to take on Homeland Security — it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. Better someone who is competent that an idiot or an ideologue. But if competence leads to an outcome like this, give me idiocy:
Colindres always thought of America as a dream refuge. He fled Guatemala in 2004 to get away from the drug trafficking, from the murder, from the country where one of his family members was killed. He came across the border through Texas — where many of those he traveled with were caught. He decided to turn himself in and he was released into the US on a provisional waiver.
What he did not know, until after he married Samantha and began legal proceedings to become a US citizen, was that he had missed a court date in Texas. New England Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Shawn Neudauer said an order of removal was issued by a federal judge in 2004.
Colindres maintains the system failed him, too. Officials had his name and address wrong, he said, so he never knew about the court date or resulting order.
“I’m not a criminal. The only thing I did wrong was miss a court (appearance),” he said. “I didn’t know, I was just 20 years old. I made a mistake. I’m sorry. I think that’s all I can say.”
And now Kelly will apply his competence to–what? It will all end badly, for Kelly and for the country. He is likely to end up a dignity wraith, to use Josh Marshall’s brilliant term, having accomplished nothing except ruining his reputation and, like his predecessor, expressing gratitude to the great man who has humiliated him.
Here’s an article about Jamie Gorelick, the high-powered progressive attorney who has become the lawyer for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Just another day in Trump’s America.
I find this interesting because the lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, was in my class at Harvard, and this has become the subject of some interest on the class mailing list. As with the head of Homeland Security, I don’t know this person, but it feels like there’s a connection. And I find myself wondering: how does this person make such a choice? The article says that she didn’t realize that some of her friend would call her a turncoat. How could she not realize this? Gorelick has done far more than I have for liberal causes, but if I were attending a reunion, I’d be hard-pressed to shake her hand, knowing that she has in any way aided Trump’s family. At the end of the article Gorelick gets emotional as she worries about the quest for “political purity”:
She teared up, reached for a tissue, and, with her voice cracking, she added, “It would be a travesty for this country to go down that road. I believe in the facts. I believe in the law. I believe if you follow that system, you will get to a fair result. I don’t see that changing. Even now.”
But what if, in following the system, she enables a bunch of people who are intent on destroying that system? How will she explain that to her grandchildren?
Here’s the song running through my head, which is much more nuanced than I’m feeling nowadays:
. . . the head of the Department of Homeland Security born in the same town as me, in the same year as me.
Here he is at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night:
That night at Mar-a-Lago, Trump had dinner with Sessions, Bannon, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly and White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, among others. They tried to put Trump in a better mood by going over their implementation plans for the travel ban, according to a White House official.
This is not a Cabinet secretary; this is a courtier. Does he think he is helping America by doing this? Does he think his grandchildren will honor him for doing this? I can imagine a person who takes a job hoping to improve an awful situation by providing common sense and sanity. This does not appear to be Kelly’s motivation.
Ah, General! History will not treat you kindly.
… when you realize that the alternative-universe young-adult adventure story you’re writing is turning out to be about Donald Trump.
Trump is ruining everything.
Here I pondered what to do with myself after giving up on the American experiment. Some updates:
- My garage is much cleaner, thanks for asking. Although not exactly, you know, clean.
- I haven’t read A Theory of Justice. But it’s on my Amazon wish list (hint hint)! Also, it was mentioned in a good book I read about philosophers of the Enlightenment called The Dream of Enlightenment.
- Following my brother’s suggestion, I have listened to Schoenberg’s orchestration of the Brahms piano quartet. It was great. Thanks, Stan! Thanks, Amazon Prime! Thanks, Brahms and Schoenberg!
- I’ve speeded up my fiction writing. I’m up to about 40,000 words of my first draft. Theoretically, that should be about halfway through. Unfortunately, I seem to have about a dozen point of view characters, and things keep getting more complicated. Occupational hazard.
- I haven’t read more Shakespeare. On the other hand, I have listened to Ian McEwan’s Nutshell. I’m generally conflicted about McEwan, but boy is this novel great. It’s a modern retelling of the Hamlet story; in this case, Hamlet is the narrator, and he happens a fetus overhearing a plot between his mother (Trudy) and uncle (Claude) to murder his father. It’s ridiculously well written, even if McEwan’s characterization of a third-trimester fetus isn’t always, um, plausible.
Is my mood any better? Actually, no, despite the state of my garage. Here is Charles Blow in the Times, summing things up pretty well:
We are not in an ordinary postelection period of national unity and rapprochement. We are facing the potential abrogation of fundamental American ideals. We stand at the precipice, staring into an abyss that grows darker by the day.
So many things to choose from.
- Clean out my garage. You’ve seen my garage, right? You haven’t? It’s a mess. Decluttering is all the rage. Maybe I’ll start there.
- Read A Theory of Justice by John Rawls. Reading about his theory clarified for me why I’m a liberal. But I’ve never read the book itself. It’s, um, long. And if I read it, maybe I’ll have to read all the books that have been written in response to it. And meanwhile the garage will get messy again.
- Listen to more Brahms. How come I got to be as old as I am without listening to his string quintets? They’re great! What else am I missing? I can listen to Brahms while cleaning my garage.
- Finish my novel. Faster. Luckily, my novel doesn’t have anything to do with politics. Of course, it’s entirely possible politics will sneak in before I’m done with it.
- Re-read Shakespeare. I’ve let that go for too long. Now would be a great time to start it up again. Also, there are a couple of Shakespeare exhibits at the Boston Public Library. How come I’m not there right now?
Of course, there’s always the chance that at some point I’ll rethink my current attitude. As that noted optimist Samuel Beckett famously said:
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
Failing better is the American way.
I haven’t been posting much here lately because I’ve spent all my time worrying if America was going to break in the election.
Well, the election has happened, and America broke, and my heart broke with it. So what’s a fella to do? Post a photo of a kid playing soccer with a very uninterested panda, I guess.