Education marches on….A letter to my students

My Dearest Students,

So now we are embarking on a new adventure in education.  Who could have foreseen this when we first sat down together in January?  Our world has turned upside down just since the last time we met as a class.  I looked sadly at the kitchen counter today because I had bought ingredients to make St. Patrick’s Day cookies for class yesterday, when I thought you would be returning from spring break.  Throughout my 20 years of teaching I have baked my famous chocolate chip cookies for every single class…up until now.  It is hard to believe that we will not be in the same room together again.  (You are all invited to come by my office and get a cookie whenever the world returns to normal and I bake again; they really are quite good, if I do say so myself!)

So, the remainder of the course does not look like what any of us had planned.  Reworking this course for online-contact-only presents a challenge for the Socratic teaching style I have always favored.  I like the give and take, the exchange of ideas, the synergy that arises among a group of learners.  I hope this can still happen, but it will be a greater challenge for all of us.  (It could be worse; we could be a pottery class.)

I have spent the weekend trying to consider how the remainder of our time together can be as meaningful for you as possible, while trying to be sure that you tackle the various topics and issues that are so compelling and significant for future teachers. It will take some dedication and creativity on all of our parts and it will–of course–be an exercise in “thinking-outside-the-box” which, fortunately, is an invaluable skill for everyone in education to develop.

The issues that we still need to cover, in one way or another, this semester include:

  • The experience of students with special needs
  • Educating for Social Justice
  • Checking our privilege – inequity as a recurring theme in American Education
  • How the Supreme Court and the Congress have affected our work, our schools, and our students
  • Cultural Miseducation – how do we, as teachers, pass along the collected cultural wealth of the generations without bundling it with cultural liabilities?
  • The world in which you’ll teach…. issues for the schools of tomorrow

At the time of this writing, I am still not quite sure what the remainder of the semester will entail.  It will be a combination of online meetings of the class, (but I would like to minimize my contribution to the “screen fatigue” you will doubtlessly be experiencing in the weeks ahead) using some online resources, posting responses to readings, and doing more contemplation, reflection, and writing on your own.  

I cannot promise that it will be easy, and there will almost certainly be problems, technical glitches, and irritating unintended consequences.  But let us covenant together to make the best of a bad situation and see what good can come from it.  Life rarely turns out the way that we had planned, so this will be learning laboratory.  To paraphrase Robert Burns, “the best laid lesson plans of mice and men often go awry.” Just imagine how someday you will have your own classroom and your students will ask you to tell them what it was like during the Great Pandemic of 2020.  How we respond to this and other challenges in the weeks and months ahead will determine what story you will have to tell them.  

Let’s plan to meet online on Monday during our regular class time.  Instructions to follow. Please read this article by next week (in addition to the reading assignments I gave you before break)

Stay home, stay safe, wash your hands,

With great affection

Professor Nichols

The judgment of history is on you, Senator McConnell: do the right thing.

Dear Senator McConnell,

I’m writing to implore you to carefully consider the judgment of history in this perilous moment.  I completely understand the intense party loyalty and pressure that you must feel. It has to be tempting to think about 2020 and the November election and to focus on doing battle against the Democrats. You would hate to give them the satisfaction of having been right about Trump.  But I am begging you instead to think about 1776 and 1789 and the brave, passionate sacrifice that the founders and revolutionary generation made to imbue us with freedom, to give us this system of government, and to spare us an imperial, corrupt, unworthy leader. The framers are looking over your shoulder in the Senate chamber this week, Senator McConnell.  You carry the mantle of their leadership on your shoulders. I would also beg you to consider 2076; our children and grandchildren will look back on this moment and what YOU did to either sacrifice or preserve the great American experiment in democracy.  

I have to believe that deep down, you–and most or all of your fellow Republicans–must realize how manifestly unworthy, corrupt, and compromised this president is.  I believe that you still have the moral compass that is telling you that Donald Trump cannot be allowed to infect the presidency and our political system in this way. The echos of this trial will haunt us forever; if he is permitted to get away with this, it will set a political and legal precedent that will become the standard for all future presidents – Republicans and Democrats alike.  You are intimately familiar with our government and have to know how deeply dangerous this is. If the Senate fails to remove Donald Trump, I am utterly convinced that our grandchildren in 2076 will NOT live in a free constitutional republic. The American president will have become an all-powerful demagogue with no restraints on his authority, and without the checks and balances that have preserved our system.  They will NOT have our fundamental privilege of free and fair elections.  

This is YOUR moment Senator McConnell.  What will you do with it? I’m not asking you to turn the presidency over to Hillary Clinton, I’m asking follow our Constitutional protocol for this situation and remove Donald Trump and inaugurate Mike Pence.  I’m not a big fan of Pence, but he must inherit the presidency to tell the world, and our children, that Donald Trump cannot be allowed to abuse his power this way. All will be lost. It will take considerable courage and fortitude for you to do this, but I believe that you, and you alone can do it.  In the moment that you stand up for principle, for country over party, for what is eternally right, you will become the great hero of American history. Please, Senator McConnell. You are our last defense. The America that we know and love–and that generations have fought and died for–is at stake and will end the moment that Donald Trump gets away with this.  In your heart, you know what is right.

Thank you, Senator McConnell

Timothy J. Nichols

If we had the chance to do it all again…

I came across a photograph of my high school graduation this week and was struck realizing that two of my friends in the picture and I are cancer survivors and the other two males in the picture, in line behind me, are both already dead.  It has me reflecting on the capriciousness of life. There was no way we could have known, on that warm breezy evening in 1977, what triumphs and tragedies lay before us. To be 17–as I was in the picture–is to be invincible. We didn’t yet know about mortgages and divorce and loss and cancer…and old age. We were shiny and new, like the 1977 Corvette I dreamed of — not a scratch or a ding yet.  The problems we thought we had – an Algebra test, finding a prom date, money for a stereo system, didn’t quite prepare us for how to support our families during unemployment, the death of a spouse, or a child. In 1977 the world seemed to be filled with only promise and possibilities; 43 years later, our lives are littered with broken dreams and relationships, creaky knees, and the foreboding sense of old age.  Many, or most, of the parents crowded into the auditorium that evening to watch our procession are now gone. 

To be sure, the intervening years have also been filled with the beautiful moments and memories we dreamed of: standing nervously at the altar; holding that newborn baby, being handed the keys to our first house; the clutch of a toddler’s hand in ours; running breathlessly alongside the two-wheeler as the child learned to ride; the guiding and sustaining warmth of friendships, particularly the ones that transcend decades and distance.

We were the generation that came of age during Watergate and Vietnam; we were products of a world that was shattered on September 11th; we were the last generation to remember life before technology.  We watched the advent of the personal computer, the internet, and the phenomenon of starting to be able to carry both around in our pockets.  We’ve inherited a world we could never have imagined in 1977; The Jetsons did a crappy job of preparing us for this. It’s been a wondrous age to be a part of.  And yet, across 2019, we all turned 60. And with it, came the unshakable realization that most of our journey now lies behind us, and that one of these days, the world is going to continue revolving without us. 

18th century English poet, Robert Southey observed:  “Live as long as you may, the first twenty years are the longest half of life.   They appear so while they are passing; they seem to have been so when we look back at them; and they take up more room in our memory than all the years that succeed them.” 20th century songstress, Barbra Streisand asked, “If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we? Could we?”

I’m currently watching a Netflix series on time travel and it has me wondering, what would I say to 17-year-old Tim standing there in his cap and gown on the sidewalk in New Wilmington in the summer of ’77? And perhaps more significantly, what would he say to me?  What would he think of my grey hair and my surgery-scarred chest? What would he think of who I’ve become? Besides “Buy Apple stock,” what should I tell him to help his journey through this life? Have I even actually gotten anything significant figured out since that night? 

I’m not even sure what the question is, or was, but somehow the answer for me (as Curly explained to Billy Crystal in “City Slickers” “The secret to life is just one thing…just one thing. Find that one thing, and nothing else matters.”) is my three precious kids.  They are both my one thing, and my “chance to do it all again.” I was hardly the perfect father, and yet the pride and joy that I take in my adult children, and my deep love for them, is what will sustain me through the rest of the days of my life, and ultimately, they are what have given meaning and joy to my journey, from 1977 to here. “Don’t know much, but I know I love you.”

“It’s OK, Tim…it’s going to be a good life.”

Trump’s Ten Trillion Dollar Political Stunt

Upon entering office in 2017, one of the first actions by our vainglorious, inept, and petty “president” was to tear up our treaty with Iran, which had been working.  He did so in his besetting and woeful ignorance of foreign policy, motivated only by his all-consuming jealousy of his predecessor and his deep and irrational desire to undo as many accomplishments by Barack Obama as possible. 

Why would Trump have taken this reckless action, endangering us–not only the United States, but also the citizens of the world–with another protracted war in the Middle East? When you are a president under the threat of impeachment, who is historically under water in the polls and facing an uphill battle for re-election, what should you do to change the conversation from your deeply-flawed presidency?  If you are an honorable, patriotic, visionary leader, you keep your nose to the grindstone and work as hard for the American people in the time that you have remaining. But if you are a profoundly corrupt, narcissistic, self-serving demagogue, you pull a stunt war that will shed innocent blood and burn through untold trillions of the tax dollars that we are stealing from our great grandchildren.

Why does Trump insist on smashing all political safeguards? Did he consult with Congress prior to this raid (as he is constitutionally bound to do)? Did he consult our allies whom he has been systematically alienating for the past three years, while cultivating closer relationships with totalitarian dictators instead? Did he consult the former presidents who have expertise in dealing with Iran? No. Apparently he only consulted his moronic son, Eric, who tweeted about it before the attack. Our troops who put their lives on the line deserve a carefully considered foreign policy by a wise and competent commander in chief, not a capricious one by a desperate candidate.

Moscow Mitch would not allow President Obama to nominate a Supreme Court justice during his last year in office, and Obama had high approval ratings. Trump is the most politically vulnerable incumbent in a generation, and now we are going to allow him to plunge us into another endless, pointless foreign war?

When have we recently been successful in one of these wars?  And remind me, did Iran invade us? Attack us to provoke this response? If Trump’s recklessness leads to war,we will still be in Iran a generation from now and the untold trillions we waste there could have been spent on Flint’s drinking water, infrastructure, education, health care, high-speed train service, environmental clean up. But no, we will pump it into the military industrial complex. 

Ask yourself this: If your child dies in this political stunt by Trump, will it have been worth it?

A kinder, gentler lunch…and world

I’m a person of faith and yet I celebrate Chick-fil-A’s change in policy. Here’s why.

A generation ago I held most of the conservative Christian beliefs: I believed the Bible opposed homosexuality and abortion and I did not object to the church speaking out against both.  But these intervening years have dramatically changed my perspective.  The church I thought I knew–the one I grew up in–was not marked by what we opposed, but rather by the way in which we were the living vessels of God’s love to a hurting world.  I always believed the church to be a haven for sinners, a refuge for the needy, a place of welcome for all.  It’s hard for me to interpret the story of the good Samaritan any other way.

Somewhere along the way, the church I loved got into bed with a stern, exclusive, reactionary, conservative ideology that built an impenetrable wall between us and the rest of the world: the very hurting people that Christ came to save with His message of redeeming love.  Instead of being a safe harbor, the church became a battlefield: us against them.  As we embraced the moral majority, tried to tear down the Founder’s wall of separation between church and state, and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party and Fox News, we obviously alienated the very people who needed God the most.

I believe that had Jesus intended 21st century Christians to spend all of our political and social capital opposing abortion and marriage equality, He’d have gotten around to mentioning them during his years on earth.  Have we every really truly asked ourselves why Jesus gave us no guidance on these hot button issues?  Why He instead focused His message entirely on social justice and how we should treat the poor and downtrodden?

I no longer believe find it in my theology to oppose either marriage equality nor abortion. I know that many of my family and friends will immediately add me to their “Going Straight to Hell” list. There are no circumstances under which my wife and I would have aborted our own children, but I’m not a woman and have never faced the deep pain and anguish of an unwanted pregnancy. There are also no circumstances under which my faith should be able to dictate whether someone else can marry the person they love.

I want to live in a world where we celebrate love; where every child is wanted, where immigrants are welcomed to our land of plenty; where ALL people feel welcomed in God’s house. I want to live in a world where we build longer tables rather than higher walls; I want to live in a world where we care as much about a Mexican child in a cage as we do about a five week-old fetus.  I want to live in a world where neither our government nor our fast-food emporiums try to tell us who we can and should love and marry.  I want to live in a world where Matthew Shepard is still alive.  Think of all of the time and energy we waste on opposing one another.  Couldn’t we save it and create a kinder, gentler world of love and acceptance?  If you are still vehemently convinced homosexuality and abortion are wrong, why not just let God sort it out?  Let’s make the church a place of love and acceptance? 

(I don’t actually eat at Chick-fil-A anyway because I also want animals to live in a kinder, gentler world. But that’s my own belief structure – I’m not going to try to impose it on you.  However, the next time I’m in Erie I think I’ll enjoy peppermint chocolate-chip milkshake.)

The Calls are Coming from Inside the House

On September 11, 2001, the symbolic center of American capitalism and economic hegemony was chosen for horrific destruction to strike at the heart of our way of life.  18 years later, we are once again under attack, only this time, it is from within. The metanarrative of the American experience is immigration.  Unless your ancestors were native Americans, or were forcibly relocated here during the African diaspora, you are an immigrant–the Pilgrims fleeing intolerance, the huddled masses at Ellis Island, the desperate Irish Potato famine victims, the El Salvadorian refugees—we are immigrants.; Immigration has shaped and defined America.

  And yet in 2019, we have an individual, placed in the Oval Office by the Electoral College, who vilifies immigrants and refugees, and deliberately chooses divisive racist language to appeal to the very worst in us: fear, greed, selfishness, xenophobia and hate.  Immigrants are not our enemies.  Immigration has EXPANDED the American economy, not contracted it.  The pie gets bigger, not smaller.  And yet we have arrived at a new unrecognizable version of ourselves:  one in which Hispanics must fear going to Walmart; one in which the president suggests that American citizens/members of Congress should “go back where they came from;” one in which Heather Heyer was mowed down by “good people” at Charlottesville for daring to speak out against racism; one in which Muslims, Jews, and Hispanics must live in fear of being murdered for their faith or ethnic origin.

When the history of this dark era is written, what will it say about us?  That we stood by and allowed this to happen? When your grandchildren learn of these dark days, where will you tell them that you stood?  Maybe you stood by when he bragged about sexually assaulting women, when he mocked the disabled, when he mocked an American POW/war hero, when he called White Nationalists, “good people,” when he stood by the Russian dictator at Helsinki and rejected our own intelligence and law enforcement agencies, when he called African nations “shithole countries,” when he sat in front of the crosses at Normandy and mocked his political enemies, and even when he suggested shooting immigrants in the Florida panhandle.  But in the Summer of 2019, when he whipped his followers into an angry anti-immigrant frenzy and a home-grown terrorist took him up on it and gunned down 44 people in El Paso, ending 22 innocent lives, did you take a stand against him?  Did you say, “Enough!”?  There is a direct and bloody trail from Trump’s tweets and rhetoric at his rallies to the El Paso massacre.  If we do not speak out against this now,  When will we?  We are complicit in future deaths if we do not try to stop this. 

In the interest of full disclosure: this deadly and dangerous powder keg is deeply personal to me.  My wife and children are Hispanic.  My Hispanic son lives and works and shops in Texas.  Yes, he is a natural-born citizen, but your average crazed gunman doesn’t ask for birth certificates before he sprays the Walmart, movie theater, concert, church, synagogue, college campus, or elementary school with bullets from his weapon of war.  But if you can dismiss this because you and your loved ones are white, not brown, then YOU are the problem. This CANNOT be our new norm.  We CANNOT accept this.  Stop the madness.  We must come back together as a unified nation which celebrates diversity, before it is too late; it may already be: the calls are coming from inside the house.

All the Days of My Life

This week brought my 60th birthday and the 27th anniversary of the day that Olga and I said “I do.” These two milestones have me reflecting on the memorable days of my life: both good and bad.  There have certainly been terrible days: Our miscarriage on 1/4/93, losing Dad on 12/30/02, losing my job on 11/10/09, discovering cancer on 10/16/14, finding out I needed open heart surgery on 11/9/17…

But looking back across six decades, the wonderful days vastly outnumber the bad. I started to work on a list of my top ten favorite days:  Picking up Toby in Texas with Juan on 4/12/84; the day the whole family gathered in Fredonia after Ben was born 11/21/86; a memorable fall day in Eureka Springs with the Azzaritos and Ama on 10/17/87; being introduced to Costa Rica by Olga and her family 12/30/90; the day I graduated from UB with my PhD, 5/16/97; the day we met Sabrina 8/4/07; the magical day the kids and I spent at Glacier National Park 7/22/09; picking up Tillie in Busti with Anthony & Bertha 4/28/11; Bob & Christina’s wedding (and Cedar Point honeymoon!) with the whole Foley gang 8/3/14; the final performance of “Hello Dolly” 4/28/18; getting my new job at Alfred 6/22/18, and yesterday – 7/16/19: my surprise 60th birthday party! ….before long the list started to spiral out of control as I thought about vacations, Christmases, weddings, birthday parties, trips, special times and memories with so many of you throughout my sixty trips around the sun.

It was, however, easy to decide on the four-way tie for first place: the four days that my family was assembled.  As much as I cherish the memories of so many special days, there was something so transcendent about these particular four days which sets them apart from the others:

I’m a lover of writing and words, yet I am nonetheless stumped at trying to describe what those days meant to me.  On July 4, 1992, Olga and I gathered with our family and friends and merged our two lives and created a new home. We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, but she was the common denominator for all four of my favorite days, my partner in all of this, and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. On each of November 5, 1994, March 8, 1996, and May 1, 1999 a tiny little bundle of life and love and vulnerability and promise and hope and joy joined us — a LIFE that we created together.  Each of those moments was so magical and mysterious and each would redefine everything that came after it. The wonder of the first time I held those precious little persons has stayed with me even as each stage of parenting has brought its own wonder, challenge, and joy.

Turning 60 is a shock: any pretense of still being young has been obliterated and far more of my days–good and bad–are behind me than are before me. But I continue to count on life having more wonderful days–and no more surgeries–in store for me: I still have quite a few bucket list items I want to accomplish: I hope to have more travel adventures and I’d like for my retirement years reconnecting with old friends (like I got to do yesterday at my party!) Even if I only try to read all the books I’ve bought but not yet read, I’ll need to live several more decades.  (And, if I live to be as old as my great Aunt Susan, I still have 46 years left!) Thanks to all of you dear friends and family for filling my 60th birthday and all the days of my life with love. The memories we share together grow sweeter with each passing year and continue to light my path into the future.

A long day’s journey into night…

When we were growing up, my mom used to recite for us, by memory, the tale of the “Little Small Red Hen” which tells the harrowing story of the hen’s encounter with a villainous wolf, and ends with:

But the Hen lived happily, just as before,
In her dear little house by the wood,
Walking picketty-pecketty,
Working as hard as she could,
"I've had a great many troubles,
I hope they won't happen again.
Anything for a quiet life,"
said the Little Small Red Hen.

My dear little small mom has indeed had a great many troubles, starting with a terrible 1982 car accident that nearly took her life and left her hobbled up. During her recovery she developed a bi-polar disorder, which has caused difficult circumstances in the years since.  My dad died in 2002 and shortly thereafter–living alone–Mom took a terrible head-first tumble down the basement steps in the middle of the night and had another long, hard recovery from that. She remarried in 2007 and had five blissful and loving months with her second husband, Rev. Peoples, but then one morning he had a heart attack and died, leaving her alone again. Her world got smaller, she stopped cooking, her driving worsened, and the four of us worried about her living alone, but she steadfastly refused to leave her dear little house and garden in New Wilmington.  Then in 2017 she became gravely ill and had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. She has never been quite the same since. She moved into a senior-care facility and settled as best she could into a little assisted-living apartment. Sally, Billy, and Chris work so diligently to take care of her from 35 minutes away and Mindy is so sweet and thoughtful with lots of cards and gifts and visits.

Mom’s health and memory have declined precipitously this summer and, by last week, she was back in the hospital. I’ve been sitting here with her for six days now: we listen to Gaither homecoming songs on my laptop (yesterday she sang along with Sandi Patty!) and I try to get her talking to keep her with us.  When I asked her to name her beloved grandchildren, she couldn’t reel in a single name from the fog that has settled over her. I tried to coax her into saying her siblings’ names and she eventually got Kay, and then Bruce. Thankfully she still remembers the names of her four kids, and when the doctor came in yesterday she motioned to me and said: “See that guy over there? He’s mine.” 

Raising Mindy, Sally, Billy, and me was the great joy of her life, and she did it beautifully.  I don’t remember her sitting by my crib; feeding me in my high chair; holding my sippy cup; and trying to make sense out of my gibberish, but I know that she did so lovingly. Now, sixty years later, I find myself doing all of those for her. I can barely get her to eat anything these days.  Yesterday there were sweet potatoes for lunch, which she used to love, and which I’ve always hated. She turned up her nose and wouldn’t take a bite. “You made ME try sweet potatoes, so you darn well are going to taste these!” I declared, and we both laughed and she took a tiny nibble.

She fretted all day about wanting to go home, and finding Aunt Mae (who died decades ago,) and grew increasingly frustrated by her inability to find the words she needs. Now I watch her sleeping peacefully, bathed in the afternoon sun, and I feel as if she is slipping away from us both physically and mentally, but then, she has scared us before and somehow bounced back. There’s no easy way to say goodbye to a parent, I know only that I hope her great many troubles are nearly over. I love you, Mom.

Love animals; don’t eat them.

Last November, I celebrated my 30th turkey-free Thanksgiving.  In 1989 I was about to celebrate my 30th birthday and was at least 75 lbs. overweight.  I decided to kick off my thirties by getting healthier. I extreme dieted and started walking and exercising faithfully.  Soon I was down to my desired weight. On a very poorly thought-out whim I decided I would try vegetarianism, figuring that all vegetarians must be thin.  (Of course, in the decades since I’ve come to realize that one can consume only Twinkies and Oreos and still be a vegetarian.) I was single and cooking for myself in those days and I’d always found the handling of raw meat to be fairly sickening, and rarely did so. I’d always preferred to let poor McDonald’s employees handle the cooking of dead animals for me. I started wondering to myself: “What would life look like if I just stopped eating meat?”

In those early days I wasn’t very committed to a vegetarian lifestyle and if I was a guest at someone’s home, or at a nice restaurant, I would go ahead and eat meat, but I never bought it at the grocery store again. To get ideas of what to cook, I subscribed to Vegetarian Times magazine and it was there that I encountered the book that would change my life:  Diet for a New America by John Robbins, heir to the Baskin-Robbins fortune.  Robbins rejected his family’s business and wealth and instead wrote a scathing expose on American factory farming and our unconscionable system of cruelty and suffering inflicted on animals on their way from birth, to a short life of misery, to a terrifying and torturous death in the slaughterhouse.  Robbins (and I) chose not to sit atop that heap of suffering. By the time I’d finished the book, I was a deeply-committed vegetarian who never again (knowingly) ate a bite of meat.

Thirty years later, I have maintained a healthy body weight, but am no longer concerned about–nor motivated by–that.  I’ve come to realize that good health and a positive body image come in all shapes and sizes. Instead I became committed to the philosophy that my food choices should not contribute to the problem of animal suffering in our world. People are always astonished by my vegetarianism,  asking: Don’t you miss meat? Don’t you need more protein? Don’t you crave bacon? No, no, and NO. I stopped eating meat and never looked back and never missed it either.  I’ve lived a full and healthy life and have never once regretted my choice. 18 months ago, when my defective mitral valve was discovered, doctors ran a battery of tests on my coronary health.  After my first angiogram the cardiologist came in and said “Well, it certainly isn’t coronary artery disease; you have astonishingly clear arteries for a man your age…for any age.” I said “Well, I’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years.” “Ah, that explains it” he responded.

So today I celebrate thirty years worth of animals that were spared a gruesome death by my food choices.  Forgive my proselytizing, I don’t write this in judgment of anyone else’s diet; we all make the food choices that make sense to us. Rather, I write this to celebrate the anniversary of one of the best choices I ever made for my life and my health.

The American presidency is permanently damaged

It has become impossible for me to imagine how my Trump-supporting Christian friends have been able to reconcile their faith with Trump’s hate-filled words and divisive politics. How do they make room in their conservative theology for this multi-married, promiscuous pussy-grabber who mocked a disabled reporter, a gold star family, and a deceased war hero; this petty, vindictive man who found good in murderous Nazi White Supremacists in Charlottesville; who embraces totalitarian dictators while turning a blind eye to the brutal murder of a Washington Post journalist; who regularly incites his dangerous rallies to violence against the free press—that last bastion protecting our free and democratic republic; this shameful man who sat at the desk of Washington & Lincoln and wrote checks to pay off his porn-star mistresses; and who separated families at the border and put children in cages? Seriously? A “pro-life” judge is worth all of that? What the hell does pro-life even mean anymore at this horrific cost? Has it ever even occurred to you to speak out against him? How about when he compared immigrants to animals or an “infestation?” When he called African nations “shithole countries?”

Trump recently mocked refugees when speaking before the Jewish Federation. Does anyone remember when America turned away 900 Jewish refugee seekers aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939? They were so close to deliverance that they could see the lights of Miami; they wired the US govt. begging for sanctuary, but we sent them back to Germany where many died in concentration camps. So after Trump’s cruel remarks I waited for evangelical Christians to finally renounce him, but I wait in vain: I realize now that there is nothing so oppositional to the teachings of Christ that this despicable man can do which will change the minds of the Christian sheep who follow him. Yes, I get it that you voted for him because you didn’t like Hillary Clinton in 2016, but after you have seen the cruel, divisive, corrupt, and racist ways that Trump behaves and governs, how can you possibly still be supporting this vile person in 2019?

Now Trump announces he will resume his barbaric family separation policy and wants to impose costly fees on asylum applications to try to further deter desperate people from seeking safety in America, because “America is full.” While the Bible is silent on abortion, it could not be any clearer on how we should treat strangers among us–refugees such as the Israelites, the Holy Family, our own ancestors who fled to America, and the Jews aboard the St. Louis: No Donald J. Trump: America is not full. But I am full of sadness, and despair at the Christians who refuse to reject your xenophobic and inhumane policies.

Did you question him at all when we learned that he doesn’t pay taxes? That he loses rather than makes billions? Or when the Mueller report described in detail this deeply corrupt and compromised presidency and Trump’s obstructive efforts to stop any investigation into his campaign and Russian-assisted 2016 electoral win? Are you at all concerned by his assault on the rule of law and our Constitution? I challenge my Trump-supporting friends to re-read the Mueller report and every time you see the name “Donald Trump” substitute “Hillary Clinton” or “Barack Obama” and imagine where we’d be. Forget impeachment; Mitch McConnell would be convening a firing squad. Ronald Reagan’s party is putting up with Russian interference with our free and fair elections–the foundation of our democracy–because it got them the president they wanted. Now that we have established lying, cheating, foreign interference, and governing by tweeting as norms for the White House, it will be nearly impossible for future candidates to go back to playing by any rules of integrity and civility. The American presidency is permanently damaged.

Last week we were treated to Trump’s thoughts on generals. Just as Emperor Hirohito and Osama bin Laden waged war against the United States, so did Robert E. Lee. He presided over the deaths of 360,000 men and boys who gave their lives to defend America. Lee led a hostile power that attacked our country for the right to enslave people in this country based on the color of their skin.  Even Lee’s descendants have called for the removal of the statues. But our “president” defended this traitor and called him a “great general” and sided with the white supremacists who glorify him. Last night was the final straw: when a supporter called out loudly at a Trump rally that we should shoot immigrants, the “president” laughed and made a joke about it. Even if you discard everything else as “fake news” and a vast left-wing conspiracy, if you are a person of faith who can listen to that clip alone and still support him, I can no longer respect you.

Shame on you, Donald J. Trump: for your racist treatment of immigrants, minorities, refugee seekers, and people who are different than we are: they are our fellow human beings.  

Shame on you, Donald J. Trump: your name will be reviled for the generations. 

And shame on those who still support you. You are forever on the wrong side of history.