National news and increasingly bizarre national politics seem to bombard our lives, not only for the growing numbers who use social media but for the rest of us who read newspapers and watch or listen to news broadcasts. It’s easy to say, “That doesn’t affect me. I’m just going to turn it off.” That would be wrong, in both senses of the word. It would be incorrect, even here in Edgefield County; and it would be unethical, since each of us has the responsibility to help to preserve the core values of our nation.
As a young man, I had the privilege of expanding beyond Edgefield County some fifty years ago and being appointed as a Midshipman at Annapolis. There I met classmates of 17 or 18 years, many of whom remain my friends to this day. One of those young men eventually served as a U.S. Senator, one as Commandant of the Marine Corps, one as a leader on the President’s National Security Council, one as the NASA Administrator, one ended his Navy career as the Chief of Naval Operations, and another ended his as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The latter, Admiral Mike Mullen, wrote an OpEd of his own just last month, to the New York Times. The subject was this: “The Wrong Time to Cut Back on Refugees.” In it, Admiral Mullen stated a theme that I suspect all of us picked up in Annapolis and afterward, that our nation “didn’t become a resettlement leader out of pure altruism. By welcoming refugees, the United States revitalizes its democracy and its economy, helps preserve or restore stability in volatile regions of the world, and builds respect. In slashing resettlement,” Mike continued, President Trump “is taking a recklessly narrow view of how best to put America first. Shutting out refugees would not only increase human suffering; it would also weaken the country and undermine its foreign policy.”
One could easily state the same about the Trump administration’s policy regarding immigration, including the millions who arrived from Latin America to provide us much-needed labor in (among many other places) the peach orchards of Edgefield and Saluda Counties. For reasons good or bad, local American labor was and continues to be unavailable at an affordable cost. Cracking down now, after these laborers have been here in many cases long enough to raise a family, would also weaken our country and undermine its foreign policy. That undermining is becoming more visible as we note the reactions to it by our strongest allies not only in our hemisphere but also in Europe and elsewhere.
Our two-state CSRA includes not only large agribusiness but also the center of medicine and, increasingly, of computer and cyber security studies for the entire region of the country, at Augusta University. In my present career as a university lecturer, I have made many friends who immigrated here or were refugees from tyrannies in their previous homes. Many of them were originally from the Middle East. Under the Trump administration, for some their families can no longer visit them here and some students cannot return home or study abroad, or they might be barred from returning to school. This also shortsightedly weakens our nation by dissuading others from coming here to study, from becoming qualified as physicians and scientists, and from contributing to our nation as American citizens who have experienced what it means to seek and find the freedoms so many of us take for granted.
More and more Americans are coming to the conclusion that this is, in truth, not the way to “Make America Great Again.” We need to listen to people like Admiral Mike Mullen, and to insist that our elected representatives in Washington to do the same.