Open enrollment is here, don’t go through the process alone

Editor’s note: Janet Trautwein is CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters. For more information, visit

By Janet Trautwein

It’s time to sign up for health insurance. Between November 1 and December 15, millions of Americans will head to or the online exchange in their state to shop for coverage for 2019.

Selecting the right health plan can be daunting. Patients have six weeks to evaluate dozens of plans, each with different networks, benefits, premiums, and deductibles. If they fail to purchase a plan during this open enrollment period, they risk forgoing insurance entirely next year.

Choosing wisely could save consumers thousands of dollars and guarantee they get the care they need. To ensure that they choose wisely, they should consider consulting free, expert resources — particularly licensed, professional agents and brokers.

The plans available through the exchanges provide coverage for ten essential health benefits, including primary care visits, substance abuse treatment, and mental health care.

Consumers with annual incomes below 400 percent of the poverty level — about $48,000 for an individual or $100,000 for a family of four — can receive subsidies from the federal government to help pay for coverage through the exchanges. Nearly 10 million Americans claimed such subsidies this year.

Those who do not qualify for subsidies may find better deals on comprehensive coverage outside the exchanges.

Regardless of what type of policy they choose, it’s critical that consumers choose something. Uninsured patients are twice as likely to struggle to pay their medical bills. And they’re less likely to receive preventative care for chronic health conditions — which is both dangerous and expensive. Lacking health insurance is also associated with higher mortality rates.

Picking through all those options can be difficult. Six in 10 Americans don’t feel confident in their ability to pick the right plan. Just 14 percent of Americans have a “pretty good” understanding of how much health insurance actually costs.

That’s where health insurance agents and brokers can help. They’re well-versed at identifying consumers’ coverage needs. They can guide individuals to the right carriers, coverage levels, and plans at the best possible prices.

Agents and brokers are experts at what they do. Nearly 70 percent have ten or more years of experience. They’re licensed by the states in which they do business. And they adhere to continuous education and professional development requirements as conditions of their licenses.

The job of an agent or broker doesn’t end once they’ve helped a consumer find the right plan. Many serve as advocates for their clients, resolving billing issues or claims disputes.

More than 7 in 10 agents spend “most” or “a lot of” their time explaining coverage to their clients.

Picking a health insurance plan can be among the most important decisions a person makes each year.

Fortunately, consumers needn’t make those decisions alone.

Calibrating for fake vs. real news

By Tom H. Hastings
I teach between 300-400 students every year and one of the most frequent concerns expressed by them is source reliability. Welcome to the era of mass gas-lighting. Info wars. Trump. Putin. Bin Salman. Fox News.
My advice to those inquisitive students is to consider following or subscribing to at least three sources and making them ideologically different from each other and note the difference in coverage, the contrasting frames and facts.

Then, for particularly close questioning of gnarly issues, check with fact-checking sites like Snopes or the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s factchecking site. By the time the curious citizen has read from liberal, conservative, and mainstream sites, and gone to reputable fact-checking sites, that citizen is operating with a fairly high degree of reliability, and when you cantilever that over years of experience, validity threats are minimized.

So, for instance, when I read extreme lefty distress over the link between the Trilateral Commission and “chemtrails,” I can (eye)roll my way past that fairly quickly. Reading rightwing hysteria over George Soros paying protesters may take an extra few minutes, but I can now confidently say that the gasp-reflex right-wing rage on this is needlessly combustible, as many social movements routinely cover activists’ traveling expenses and, for potential resisters, even bail money, as we learned in the Civil Rights era. Of course, all the gains from the Civil Rights era are pretty much what many of the Soros traducers seek to roll back.

This is not to claim that no nefarious schemes, even conspiracies, exist, but it is to note that they should be thoroughly investigated before declaring them convincing. That investigation may come from independent journalists, independent government investigators, or even from opinionated but sincere sources. The key is to document and cite actual evidence, not to cite Alex Jones or Snoop Dog or anyone at all from the Tru

mp organization, Mohammed bin Salman, Kim Jong-un, or Vladimir Putin. Sorry, no cred for you.
After some years of engaging in information verification at a sincere and non-ideological level, after applying the principles of critical thinking and common sense to the admittedly massive raw data stream coming at us 24-7, a person can develop a decent sense for authenticity, but I still caution that the need to (in the words of Dear Leader Ronald Reagan) trust but verify never evaporates. I like Rachel Maddow but on some issues I follow up to check. I like Anderson Cooper—same thing. Jake Tapper—him too. National Public Radio is my go-to daily news but I factcheck them before I make a claim based on their analysis and I often listen with chagrin as they miss seriously important strands of argument and analysis.

In short, yes, I hope we can at least avoid the spectacle of a bitter partisan debate over whether the sun rises in the east, but let’s at least allow for some context and nuance when judging our opponents’ views.
I believe Trump is a peerless disgrace, but I get his survival techniques and can let them just roll into the dustbin of lies without letting them catch my hair on fire.

Letters to the editor: strengthening will power

November 14, 2018

The two main pillars of human personality are intelligence and affection. The first aspect is more predominant in some men, making them fundamentally rational. Others, on the contrary, are more effective and sentimental. Other than these two aspects, there is a vast gamma of intermediate types that characterology has defined along with different psychological elements.

In addition to the two basic pillars of reason and love, free will is the bridge between them, which strengthens them throughout their development. A person with great intelligence and weak will power will have a hard time reaching the life objectives that they have established for themselves by living an irregular life with ups and downs and without security. On the contrary, someone with an average intellect but with a strong will power will have a constant and organized life, personal discipline and self exigency, reaching to large extent the established goals.

In the research study entitled “The influence of study habits in academic achievement”, which deals about the influence that intelligence and motivation (i.e. the strength of one’s will power) have in school report cards, it is concluded that motivation has more statistical weight than does intelligence. Another conclusion is that inner motivation (i.e. studying because one wants to) is more important than external ones (i.e. studying because one is forced to). Out of all educators, it is known that the family is the decisive environmental factor that directly influences a child’s education and academic performance. Parents within their role of educators use the reward and punishment system. Behavioral psychologist Skinner would affirm that the good management of the reward and punishment duo depended on whether children had a good or bad education. Parents rely on the authority and affection of their role as educators; an authority that is both demanding and stimulating, and at the same time creator of a joyous and friendly environment.

In order to strengthen will power it is convenient to follow a strategy of small conquests: comply with obligations even if one does not want to; comply with daily duties even if one does not feel like it; deny to one’s own self small caprices in order to have self control; etc. It is necessary to acquire a series of habits such as respecting schedules, having everything on tables and closets organized, planning tasks that must be done as well as making the effort to fulfill them all, accepting setbacks and having tolerance in facing frustrations.
These types of habits strengthen one’s will power and help make humans stronger, more secure and stable, and the master of one’s own self. A fortress wall is built against the temptations of today such as drugs, alcohol, and infidelity, and at the same time it becomes easier to reach the goals that one establishes for him or herself (Translated by Gianna A. Sanchez Moretti).
Arturo Ramo

Make our great outdoors a campaign issue

October 31, 2018

By Michael Butler

The race for governor is on. Both Karl Dean and Bill Lee are crisscrossing the state talking about the many challenges facing Tennessee and the opportunities to make the state a better place to live. However, one of the biggest issues affecting how Tennesseans live, work and play—particularly those in the state’s beautiful rural areas—is rarely mentioned. Tennessee’s wildlife and wild places.

Our great outdoors directly supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state. Outdoor recreation in Tennessee generates an estimated $21.6 billion in consumer spending every year. Even the most remote counties in the state see a $1 million tourism economic impact. This economic activity is driven by Tennessee’s incredible natural resources: our wildlife, tens of thousands of miles of streams, hundreds of thousands of acres of lakes and reservoirs, low-lying wetlands, and rugged mountains. Beyond the money, countless Tennesseans personally value these resources. It’s what carries our hunting and fishing traditions from one generation to the next. It’s what makes our weekend adventures in the wild. Even if you rarely go outside, wildlife and other natural resources impact the air you breathe and the water you drink.

Despite all this, the candidates for governor rarely address how they will support conservation of wildlife and the great outdoors in Tennessee. These resources aren’t here by accident. It took thousands of conservationists decades of work to restore Tennessee to the state we enjoy today. If it’s not a priority, we could lose it again. Tennessee Wildlife Federation was founded by people with diverse interests—from hunters to outdoors writers. But they came together around a single idea: wildlife and wild places should be conserved for themselves and the next generation.
We must continue to move forward. That requires those running for public office to share their ideas and plans for wildlife and our great outdoors. In doing this, the candidates can elevate these issues to the level of importance they currently occupy across Tennessee.

Nearly 60 percent of Tennesseans participate in outdoor recreation each year—from hunting to birding to paddling to hiking. Among voters, 66 percent hold a hunting and fishing license. Regardless of how we enjoy the great outdoors, we can agree they need to be conserved. So, contact the campaigns on social media, through email, by phone, and at their events. Use your voice even before election day. Ask the candidates how they plan to make wildlife a priority in their administration. For tools to make reaching the campaigns quick and easy, visit

Michael Butler is the CEO of Tennessee Wildlife Federation, one of the largest and oldest organizations in Tennessee dedicated to the conservation of the state’s wildlife.

Editorial: “If errors were what you watch…who could stand?”

October 31, 2018

From the Editor,
I just wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation to all of our readers and their continued support of The Tomahawk and its relevance in Johnson County. It’s been close to a year since I was given the privilege to take over as editor and it has truly been eventful, to say the least. Before I comment on the positives, I find it necessary to touch on a couple of things that hit home to every member of The Tomahawk team.

Over the last few months several comments have been made on our social media sites—some in good spirit while others not so much—about some editorial content and, or errors that seem to show up time to time. For starters, I would like to acknowledge that you all are absolutely right. Producing a flawless product is and should be every company’s first and foremost goal. I can assure you that such is the desire of everyone in our newsroom. Unfortunately, perfection is not always the case or possible due to human error as well as the increasing reliance on the ever-changing technology. That, of course, is no excuse to slack off in our diligence. We wish and want to make sure that our written page is top quality.I can also assure you that even the most respected top media organizations are experiencing issues with errors, both grammatically as well as artistically, all due to the pressure to keep reporting the news that seems to come in an alarming rate.

Thanks to some recent changes most newsrooms are doing a fantastic job, both daily and weekly while also operating with minimal staffing. Of course, The Tomahawk is by no means immune to the same reality. It is for this reason that I see the need to rightfully and confidently point out many of the positives. I am personally pleased with the hard work on the part of everyone that puts in 100 percent each week to make sure that a great edition reaches our readers. It is indeed a privilege to work with such a talented team here at The Tomahawk. I could not have asked for better staff, which of course, includes our conscientious freelance crew.The fact is that since I have been sitting behind the editor’s desk, The Tomahawk’s readership has seen a continual increase. Such growth is measured not just by the new subscribers, but also by our weekly page count, requiring working harder and longer to fill each page and edition.

I would like to thank our unstoppable advertising sales manager, Rita Hewett, without whom none of this would be possible. Rita’s fantastic talent to not only draw in new clients but to keep the old faithful is unmatched.
Rita is supported by our advertising sales and editorial assistant, Ms. Meg Dickens, who also serves as our staff writer and on whom I can always count on with full confidence. Our office manager David Holloway, whose IT skills are clearly above his title, is a vital part of the team. Thanks to David’s computer skills the paper finds its way to the press on time each week. All of this brings me back to our talented editorial staff. While many are quick to find flaws on our pages what they do not see is the hard work being done each week behind the scene.

There is little doubt about the incredible talent of our graphics design guru, Lewis Chapman, whose skills and artistic abilities have clearly transformed The Tomahawk into a publication to rival any others in the region.
It is this newspaper that has the privilege to call our devoted sports editor Tim Chambers its very own. I have had a chance to work with many great reporters over the years, but I can say with a clear conscience that I am truly blessed to have Tim on my side.
While some take issues with some of our stories I must acknowledge our talented freelance team. The reporter’s list includes Marlana Ward who, while busy caring for her family, children as well as their education, willingly sits through the often poorly attended monthly County Commission and City Alderman meetings. It is because of Marlana’s integrity, attention to detail and desire to report the news that The Tomahawk has been able to bring some of the most important community news stories to light, many of which has triggered a sizable response on our social media page. Our freelance team also includes Mrs. Jill Penley, who while holds down a full time job, manages to cover some of our most complicated and often sensitive stories.

We are also happy to welcome our newest freelance writer, Megan Hollaway. Megan has proven to be a nice addition to our team, and we are looking forward to working with her as we continue to produce great content. I must also mention one of the most respected members, of The Tomahawk, a true newsman, Mr. Jack Swift, whose work over the decades has been priceless. And thanks to all those who are sending in their photos, thanks and story ideas.

In closing, and under the supervision of our publisher Bill Thomas, I hope that this brief editorial brings pause to many as well as to ponder on what it actually takes to produce one of the best and most respected newspapers in the region, which instead of looking for ways to cut and trim in size or content is actually looking for ways to manage the growth. I know that mistakes will appear on our pages and that the “biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” But, I for one am proud to be a part of The Tomahawk team and blessed to work with such a dedicated, committed and talented crew producing real community news.

Tamas Mondovics

What’s a journalist?

October 10, 2018

By Nu Yang

In August, the Atlantic published a piece by Sophie Gilbert titled “The Lazy Trope of the Unethical Female Journalist” that called out Hollywood’s treatment of women reporters. Gilbert gave several examples of how female journalists are negatively portrayed on television and in movies.  Women with drinking problems. Women who sleep with their bosses. Women who sleep with their sources. Women who break ethical boundaries. Women who are pretty much lousy at their jobs.

“In her 2016 book,” Gilbert wrote, “(Sarah) Lonsdale writes that there’s something uniquely damaging about portraying women journalists as being willing to trade sex for stories. On the one hand, it undermines their profession further in the public eye. On the other, it further isolates them from their male counterparts, and underlines the suspicion that they’ve earned their positions illegitimately.”

On social media, many women reporters agreed with Gilbert’s article. They don’t all sleep with sources; they understand journalism ethics, and they all take pride in the work they do.

After I read Gilbert’s article, it made me think about how Hollywood has shaped what we think of journalists and their image. The majority of these journalism-centered films and TV shows are filled with clichés, tropes and stereotypes: the gruff editor chewing a cigar and shouting about deadlines; the reporter who’s always hungover; the journalist who seduces her source in order to get an exclusive interview…the list goes on.

Even I’m not immune to what Hollywood offered. I grew up watching the Superman movies in the 1980s, so the first journalist I ever looked up to was Lois Lane. Although Christopher Reeve played the Man of Steel, my starry eyes were on Margot Kidder, the actress who portrayed the strong-willed Daily Planet reporter. She was tough; she went after her story; and she didn’t give up.

As a kid, I thought reporters lived a glamorous life. They had fancy apartments, they traveled to exotic places and they got to talk to interesting people about interesting things. Some reporters do achieve celebrity-like status, but in general, most of them are just “ordinary” men and women working long hours and telling stories in their local communities. I didn’t realize that until I was out of college and working at my first newspaper job, and let me tell you, I didn’t feel like Lois Lane when I was sitting through city council meetings or interviewing high school students about their latest musical production.

It wasn’t glamorous, but somehow I knew it was worth it.

Today, it’s not just Hollywood trying to write the narrative on what a journalist should be or look like. In last month’s editorial, I discussed how dangerous it was for the president to use words like “enemy of the people” when he spoke about the press. In late August, a California man was arrested for making threats to the Boston Globe newsroom, calling them exactly that—the “enemy of the people.” According to the Associated Press, the man was charged for making 14 calls to the Globe newsroom between Aug. 10 and Aug. 22, after the paper’s editorial board asked other newspapers in the country to come together and stand up against Trump’s attacks on the media. In one of those calls, he threatened he was going to start shooting people.

“While it was unsettling for many of our staffers to be threatened in such a way, nobody—really, nobody—let it get in the way of the important work of this institution,” a Globe spokesperson said.

And that should be the real story of what it’s like to be a journalist—men and women who let nothing get in the way of doing their work.

We can’t let Hollywood portray us as devious or unethical, and we can’t let the president portray us as the enemy or the villain.  We have to shape our identities and write our own stories.

Give kids what they need: Teaching the past with passion

October 3, 2018

By Dr. Peter S. Carmichael

We need more initiatives that will encourage young people to learn and understand the past for the future of democracy in this nation. Alarming statistics show we are a nation of “amnesiacs” when it comes to American history. Without knowledge of the past, among kids as well as well as adults, the ideal of good citizenship will be unattainable

It is encouraging that, as Education Week reported recently, “Civics has experienced something of a renaissance, with more than a dozen states now requiring students to take the U.S. citizenship test in high school.” But as promising as that development suggests, it doesn’t go far enough. Memorizing dates and names doesn’t necessary encourage young learners to explore the country’s founding and the ideas and aspirations of those men who launched our nation. Their belief that legitimate governments must have the consent of the governed and that the people in return should behave as responsible citizenry is a contract that will crumble if we fail to inspire young people about the American past. I don’t believe that young minds are closed off to the study of the past.”

Every summer at the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, approximately 300 Civil War enthusiasts attend a week-long conference that I oversee. And every year we award scholarships to high school students for an immersive experience in the study of the Civil War. They attend lectures, visit historical sites, and participate in an interactive experience in which the kids act out roles related to the New York City draft Riots of 1863. Throughout the week they are also active learners. In fact, we let them become their own historians, giving opportunities to read and debate original sources with top scholars in the field. The CWI approach is hardly unique as teachers and museum interpreters use similar pedagogical styles.

This positive trend is at risk of flat lining as long as public education is beholden to standardized testing. In classrooms across the country history is marginalized because it doesn’t apply to the test. At a time when teachers at all levels are showing great creativity in opening up the past in the classroom, their efforts are blunted by an assessment machine. From the many teacher conferences I have led over the last 15 years, I have heard repeatedly that the tests churn out students who often lack fundamental knowledge about the past, and the analytical skills, which are so critical to foster responsible citizens as adults.

The late Dr. Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, saw the same deficiency in America’s elementary and middle schools. It was Dr. Cole who once described the U.S. as “a country of historical amnesiacs” but his blunt, accurate assessment should not prevent us from finding hope in the future.

The promotion of the past must begin early and it must inspire young learners, imaginatively, or they will not become engaged. David Bruce Smith, noted for advancing the “cause” of history inside and outside the classroom, co-founded, with the late Dr. Cole, the Grateful American Book Prize, which the Smithsonian Web site described as an “interactive educational series [that] aims to restore a passion for history in kids and adults.”

At David’s invitation, I helped him implement the Prize in 2015; it has since become one of the most influential forces in out-of-the-classroom history education. The Prize encourages authors and their publishers to produce engaging, historically accurate works of fiction and nonfiction for young learners. Such books capture the imaginations of youngsters in a way that textbooks can’t. They tell absorbing, engrossing, adventurous tales that kids won’t soon forget. Most important, they are true stories that provide insight into the events and personalities that have shaped our nation.

Carmichael is a member of the Panel of Judges for the Grateful  American Book Prize and a member of the history department at Gettysburg College.

Editorial Public ‘Enemies’

Fake. Disgusting. Failing. The enemy. Those are just a few words President Donald Trump has called media organizations, particularly the ones he doesn’t like. Trump has been spouting his anti-press comments since his presidential campaign, but now that he holds one of the most powerful offices in the world, his careless words are creating a dangerous echo chamber among his supporters. In fact, it’s become so hostile that a group of Democratic senators has introduced a resolution urging Trump to respect the rights of the press.

“Punishing reporters for simply doing their job is a strongman tactic that cannot be tolerated in a free democracy. President Trump may not like tough questions, but that’s simply too bad,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement.

In July, while covering a Trump rally in Tampa, Fla., CNN’s Jim Acosta shared a 45-second video clip from the rally on Twitter (it currently has more than 4 million views). In the clip, Trump supporters are heard shouting “Stop lying!” and “You suck!” while waving their middle fingers and giving Acosta a thumbs down. One man even lifts up the front of his T-shirt that says “F*ck the Media.”

“Just a sample of the sad scene we faced at the Trump rally in Tampa,” Acosta wrote. “I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy.”

Yet for thousands of people, the press is the enemy. A recent Ipsos poll showed almost a third of the American people agreed that the news media is the enemy. This “growing animosity towards journalists” will continue, according to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

“More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion,” said the report. “The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters ‘enemies of the people,’ the term once used by Joseph Stalin.”

Being harassed and targeted is nothing new to journalists, but in the wake of the Capital Gazette shooting, threats are being taken more seriously now, and news outlets are doing more to secure the safety of their journalists. For example, journalists are now using security guards and bodyguards when covering Trump rallies, according to Politico.
Realistically, the demonization of the press will not go away anytime soon. But newsrooms are pushing back.

Last month, more than 300 newspapers published editorials in response to Trump’s attacks on the media, calling for “the dirty war on the free press” to end. And during a recent meeting with Trump, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger said he told the president “directly that (he) thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.”

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence,” said Sulzberger. “…I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

This kind of truth is what we need to speak in order to triumph over our adversaries.
Even when he was being booed and insulted, Acosta didn’t stop doing his job. He knew it was his duty to report because he believes—and we should all believe—“the press is not the enemy.”

Reviving the spirit of ’68

By Robert C. Koehler
I was a hippie/bicycle delivery boy living in San Francisco when the Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago 50 years ago, so I absorbed the chaos, the police riot, from half a continent away, but I knew with absolute certainty that the nation was changing and I was part of it.We were in the violent spasm of transition. How long would it last? MLK and RFK, as they called for peace and sanity and civil rights for all, had just been assassinated. This was the God of War, turning its vengeance inward.

A year earlier I had been part of the march on the Pentagon. At one point a group of soldiers charged us as we stood on the grounds next to the building and I got clonked in the head by a rifle butt. Later, as we sat in, I felt with sudden certainty that Lyndon Johnson was going to emerge from the Pentagon and declare an end to the Vietnam War. Uh . . . that didn’t happen.
Instead, I eventually just got up and left. When I returned to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where I was in college, the first thing I did was drop out. Apparently I wanted to remove myself entirely from the infrastructure or normal, middle-class existence and join others in creating something new.

As I read about the chaos in Chicago at the convention — the thousands of cops and National Guardsmen and U.S. troops storming the protesters, whacking them with their batons, throwing them into paddy wagons, as the pro-war consensus (epitomized by the grimace on the face of Chicago’s mayor, Richard J. Daley) held tight to the reins of power — I felt myself quietly retreat back into my own life. The “movement” wasn’t going to remake America. Or rather, idealism all by itself wasn’t going to bring about the world I had envisioned with such certainty as I sat on the steps of the Pentagon.

I didn’t surrender my idealism; I didn’t turn into a cynic. But I shifted my focus to my own life and returned to school. Half a century later . . . I gape in awe at how little has changed.

“The reality is that the war has created the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe today,” Moustafa Bayoumi wrote recently in The Guardian. “Three-quarters of the population, some 22 million Yemenis, require humanitarian assistance and protection. About 8.4 million people hang on the brink of starvation and another 7 million lie malnourished. Since 2015, more than 28,000 thousand people have been killed or injured, and many thousands more have died from causes exacerbated by war, such as a cholera epidemic that has afflicted more than a million people and claimed over 2,300 lives. At least one child dies every 10 minutes from causes linked to the war, according to the United Nations.”

Actually, something has changed — the opposite of what I had anticipated in 1967, as I sat on the steps of the Pentagon, or in 1968, as I silently cheered the protesters demanding that the Democratic Party become a party of peace. The war in Yemen, which the U.S. is making possible with billions of dollars in weapons sales to the Saudi coalition, is barely even news. Neither are the wars — at least seven of them — in which the U.S. is directly participating, including Iraq (15 years and counting) and Afghanistan (17 years and counting). I fear the forces the antiwar protesters were confronting 50 years ago have made a shift in keeping with their deepest interests: not to “win” the wars but simply to make sure they continue.

Even Donald Trump was shocked by this: “When Trump announced . . . that he was ordering a new approach to the war,” the Associated Press reported last March about Afghanistan, “he said he realized ‘the American people are weary of war without victory.’ He said his instinct was to pull out, but that after consulting with aides, he decided to seek ‘an honorable and enduring outcome.’ He said that meant committing more resources to the war, giving commanders in the field more authority and staying in Afghanistan for as long as it takes.”

In other words, he was pulled back into line — that is, back into lyin’. Glory, glory, hallelujah. In America, clichés rule. We may bomb children, and (even more to the point) manufacture and sell the bombs that take out school buses, etc., etc., etc., but we still pull out our clichés about freedom and honor and such, stale as they may be, on a moment’s notice.

America’s journey to its Orwellian present-day reality, in which wars are endlessly expanding background noise (as opposed to news), essentially began in the tumultuous late ’60s, when peace consciousness had seized much of the nation. While LBJ did not declare the end of the Vietnam War, the war eventually did end — in defeat, dishonor and disgrace, leaving behind a shattered country (more than million dead, an environment despoiled with Agent Orange and unexploded ordnance) and countless U.S. vets spiritually and physically wounded. The American public was weary not of war without victory but of war itself. This was called Vietnam Syndrome, and it was profoundly troubling to the political status quo.

It took several decades, but Militarized America did achieve its one and only post-World War II victory. It defeated Vietnam Syndrome. Step one was eliminating the draft, which freed the public from any personal risk — and thus, any real stake — in future wars, leaving only a poverty draft to fill the ranks, and who cares about them?

Ronald Reagan was forced to fight proxy wars against the commies in Central America, but his successor, George H.W. Bush, declared a victory over Vietnam Syndrome after Gulf War I. A decade later, his son, as we know, launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which, having accomplished none of their alleged aims, nonetheless continue with no end in sight, two presidents later. Victory no longer matters. A seemingly rational mission no longer matters. Clichés and a bloated military budget are enough.

Fifty years ago, the country was in tumult about the war in Vietnam and millions of people wanted to reshape the Democratic Party into a party of peace. The War Machine, which owned (owns) both parties, held fast and tough. Billy clubs won. The media surrendered. But we the people have not surrendered. We were outmaneuvered, gerrymandered, removed from the voting roster, but we have not surrendered. Is the spirit of ’68 coming back to life in the Trump era, as evinced by an upsurge in progressive electoral victories? The War God is ruthless and clever and will not give up. Neither should we. Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor

My Piece of the World: Ode to the humble cuckoo

By Jinifer Rae

For our twentieth anniversary, my husband bought me a cuckoo clock. For the readers who are thinking that is a terrible gift, I think it bears mentioning I love cuckoo clocks. Please indulge me a few lines regarding some of the advantages of having this particular style of a clock.

Obviously, the first reason to own a clock is to know what time it is at any given hour. However, the cuckoo clock that graces my dining room wall is so much more than a simple timekeeper. My cuckoo clock has hung in a place of honor for over six years now, and not one day has passed when it has not made me smile.

The design of the house is reminiscent of a little chalet in the springtime. The edges of the cozy home are surrounded by various flowers and evergreen trees dusted with snow. A quartet of German dressed dancers swirls at the beginning of every hour to twelve different melodies. One of the girl dancers carries a red umbrella opened as if a spring rain may burst through the sky at any moment.

But that’s one of the beauties I have noticed about cuckoo clocks. This little timepiece has a way of transporting the observer to another time and place, perhaps old Germany, or the Swiss Alps. When your imagination takes you there, it is never raining and time has a way of slowing down.

It takes slowing down and really looking closely at the fine details on my clock that allows notice of the cuckoo bird.
My clock has a little yellow bird with green wings, which comes out from behind a tiny door every hour on the hour.
When I worked twelve-hour shifts that little bird popping out at five in the morning was always a delight to start my day.

At the end of that long day, there he was again, patiently waiting to greet me as I walked through the door.
Sometimes when I am in the middle of a project around the house, his little chirping reminds me to stop and take a break. I love my beautiful clock. It was the perfect gift, especially the little yellow bird that never

While Rome (and Most Everywhere Else) Burns

By Mel Gurtov
By now we’re accustomed to learning that every year brings record high temperatures around the world. Extreme weather, says Prof. Michael Mannof Pennsylvania State University, “is the face of climate change. We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change. The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out in real time and what is happening this summer is a perfect example of that. We are seeing our predictions come true. As a scientist that is reassuring, but as a citizen of planet Earth, it is very distressing to see that as it means we have not taken the necessary action.”

Ordinary folks, rich and poor, who live in low-lying areas such as port cities and towns on rivers and coastlines, and in certain forested areas, are in increasing danger of losing their homes—and possibly their lives—to floods and fires. But members of the governing and business elite always have the option to move away from flood and fire zones, not to mention pollution and hurricanes. So where’s their incentive to think ahead and about others’ wellbeing? They need to be called to account!

Climate change, Michael Mann explained, may not be the direct cause of every single weather event. But it raises the risk of disaster by as much as two-fold, and every such disaster adds to the possibility of ecosystem collapse. Just in the last few months we have more bad newsin which climate change plays a part: loss of a near-record 39 million acres of tropical forests in 2017, and a tripling of Antarctic ice sheet lossover the last decade compared with the previous one.
Every world leader who shrinks from directly addressing this situation through public and international policy is, to my mind, guilty of a crime against humanity. A harsh judgment? As I read scientists’ reports about just how fast the polar ice caps are melting, how quickly seas are rising, and how temperatures worldwide are making new records, I conclude that worsening environmental conditions are outrunning both scientific predictions and the ability to act in time. Inaction in such dire circumstances is inexcusable, and should be punishable, on behalf of humanity.

The Trump administration is taking action, but in precisely the wrong direction. Adding to its horrendous record on the environment, the administration is pushing a plan to roll back Obama-era regulations on car and truck tailpipe emissions, which account for as much as 60 percent of carbon dioxide pollution in the US. Even car makers, concerned about the bottom line, are reportedly opposed to the extent of the proposed rollback of emission standards. But once again, it will be up to local-level resistance if this fight is to be won—our environmental and legal organizations and especially state governments like California’s that are determined to maintain tough (tougher even than Obama’s) carbon limits. In fact, California is on trackto meet its legal commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. That’s the kind of leadership we should follow.*

*And within hours of writing that, 18 other states reported that they would sue the administration to stop the rollback.
Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University

Statements on Senator John McCain

Chairman Roe Statement on Senator John McCain
Johnson City, Tenn. – Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released the following statement after the passing of Senator John McCain: “Clarinda and I extend our deepest sympathies to the family of a true American hero during this difficult time. Senator McCain served our great nation honorably for decades, and I enjoyed working with him on numerous veterans issues. He always finished our conversations with ‘thank you my friend.’ Thank you, Senator McCain, for a lifetime of selfless service.”

Chairman Golden Statement on Senator John McCain
“With the passing of John McCain, our country has lost a patriot, a war hero, and a true public servant. He tirelessly fought for America and her ideals — in uniform, in the halls of Congress, and abroad. We send our prayers and thoughts to his family and wish them peace as they commemorate one of America’s greatest heroes.” — Scott Golden, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman.

John McCain, War Hero, Senator, Presidential Contender, Dead at 81

John S. McCain, a naval aviator, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, a Republican congressman and senator from Arizona and a two-time contender for the presidency, died on Saturday, August 25, at his home in Arizona. He was 81. According to a statement from his office, Mr. McCain died at 4:28 p.m. local time. He had suffered from a malignant brain tumor, called a glioblastoma, for which he had been treated periodically with radiation and chemotherapy since 2017. Mr. McCain did not shy away from voicing his views as well as at times standing alone in his beliefs including his dramatic appearance in the Senate to cast a thumbs-down vote against his party’s drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

A son and grandson of four-star admirals, Mr. McCain has served in the political arena for more than a half-century, and is known for “driven by raw ambition, the conservative instincts of a shrewd military man, a rebelliousness evident since childhood and a temper that sometimes bordered on explosiveness.” Shot down over Hanoi, he was subjected to solitary confinement for two years and beaten frequently.

In 2008, Mr. McCain sought the presidency against the first major-party African-American nominee, Barack Obama. With a reputation for candor, Mr. McCain’s campaign bus was called the Straight Talk Express on the road to capturing the Republican nomination. Fully aware of his condition and what lay ahead Mr. McCain wrote a farewell message to his fellow Americans and and especially his fellow Arizonans.

“My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans: Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.”

“I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.

“I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes – liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people – brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

“’Fellow Americans’ – that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history.  We have acquired  great wealth and power in the process.

“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

“We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

“Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening.“I feel it powerfully still.”

“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit.
We never surrender.  We never hide from history. We make history.”

“Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.”

Mountain City, a diamond in the rough?

By Tamas Mondovics

An interesting press release came across my desk last week, entitled “Abingdon Main Street awarded $12,000 in downtown investment funds for façade improvement.”

Okay, so you might ask why is this fruit for thought to include in this week’s Tomahawk editorial? Well, let me answer that question with a question. Have you seen downtown Mountain City? Granted, I must qualify this question by saying that I love this town including its beautiful brick sidewalks and historic buildings. It might be good to mention that while it is wishful thinking, I am not talking about our little town needing a full-blown streets cape, but that a little TLC is definitely due and, would go a long way.

Let’s go back to this Abingdon investment fund just for a minute. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that Abingdon Main Street has been awarded the grant, which will be matched by an additional $10,000 grant from the Abingdon Economic Development Authority, and used for façade improvements in Abingdon’s historic downtown district.

All this means is that businesses located within the Abingdon Main Street footprint can now apply for funding to offset the costs of improving and rehabilitating their storefronts. Funds may only be used for exterior improvements. The selected businesses will also qualify for free design plans from Frazier and Associates Architects. Standard upgrade stuff, right?

“We want downtown Abingdon to be a vibrant area that will attract and sustain small businesses,” said Carrie Baxter, Executive Director of Abingdon Main Street. “History is such an important part of Abingdon’s identity, and these funds will preserve those historic properties and make Abingdon more attractive to visitors and new businesses.”

All of this, of course, is great for Abingdon, already a vibrant city with its countless historic brick buildings that line Main Street, most of them adorned with plenty of seasonal decoration as well as a brief historical description not to mention its resident’s pride and joy; Barter Theater.

And that brings me back to my new town, Mountain City. I would love to invite my friends to visit without first warning them about some of the blight right within the heart of downtown, which I believe a little paint here and there, could indeed fix.

As far as some of the more significant, visual and structural concerns go, like the damaged or altogether missing bricks from many of the structures, makes me wonder how safe they are and how long before a portion of or an entire building itself comes crumbling down.

I know that every place, and that includes Abingdon has its skeletons and spots that require some improvement and adjustment. I am also well aware that caring for any place can be a constant struggle. But there is a limit to the madness, and I hope that our city and county officials will soon be inclined to do a bit more than just agree with the obvious.

Yes, a little streetscape, here and there, which of course would require some commitment and dedication on the part of the local leadership, would go a long way. Mountain City is rightfully proud of its musical heritage, and there is
no doubt about all of the potential, on its own merit, to rival any small town in the country, including Abingdon.
So, depending on how you look at it, Mountain City may be or could be a more beautiful gem to visit and enjoy living in. nUnfortunately, for now, at least to some degree it remains a diamond in the rough.

Schools need to put a new emphasis on American history

Numerous news reports indicate that elementary, middle, and high schools are giving little attention to the study of American history, according to education consultant John Danielson. Professor Katy Swalwell teaches courses in elementary social studies methods at Iowa State University. In an article she published at the National History Education Clearinghouse Web site, Dr. Swalwell noted that “the condition of history in the elementary classroom is one of great concern. History is rarely included as part of the curriculum and, if it is taught, relies upon a conventional and canonical perspective that ignores historical scholarship and excludes multiple perspectives. Our best hope is that current and

future teachers become critical consumers of state standards and district-sponsored materials and see themselves as ‘smugglers’ of good history back into the school day.”
It’s shameful but true that less than 20% of young learners are proficient in U.S. history. More disturbing is a report issued by the Annenberg Public Policy Center that shows nearly 75% of Americans cannot name the three branches of government.

“There is a general lack of knowledge about our history; perhaps, that is the reason why political dissention has become more violent in recent times,” says Danielson, a long-term colleague of former Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. He also served as Chief of Staff for Education Secretary Rod Paige. “Dissention, in itself, is not a bad thing. Skeptics like George Washington, John Adams and the other Founding Fathers put our nation on the road to a unique style of governance—a federation of states with a Representative Democracy. And, it took nonconformists such as Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr. to incorporate their  visions of a better world to bring about much needed reforms to the American way—which actually—permanently influenced the world for the better. They were our revolutionary role models,” said Danielson.

Is the country losing faith in the values and ideals that made it great, because of its historical illiteracy?

“The late Dr. Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and history education advocate David Bruce Smith thought so. And, that is why the Grateful American Book Prize was established. It occurred to them that if kids were not learning history in the classroom, perhaps they could be enticed with stories of adventure, romance and ingenuity. The Prize is aimed at encouraging authors and their publishers to produce more historically accurate fiction and nonfiction for middle schoolers. Regaling our kids with exciting tales that capture their imaginations can hook them on history.”

As columnist Karol Markowicz put it an OpEd in the New York Post: “We talk often about how fractured our country has become. That our division increases while school kids are taught less and less about our shared history should come as no surprise.”

If that’s the case, says Danielson, we need to do whatever it takes to “re-capture” the kids. It would help, too, if parents petitioned the education authorities in their communities and states, requesting them to reinstate the importance of history in the classroom.

“How can we expect America’s younger generations to learn how to be responsible and productive citizens without informing them of the events and personalities that shaped the nation? How can they make knowledgeable, intelligent choices without knowing the critically important decisions of the past?” Danielson said.

Fact: for those newly arrived in the U.S. seeking to become citizens, a thorough knowledge of American history is a requisite. They need to know about the Constitution, the workings of our three branches of government and more. There are no less than 100 questions on the examination they must take in order to qualify for citizenship.
Says Danielson: “ask yourself, could my middle and high school students pass a citizenship test?”

Election 2018: Issues and Answers Despite innovative approaches to education Tennessee children still lagging

By Frank Daniels III

During the past five months the major candidates for governor of Tennessee and U.S. Senator have shared their ideas on several crucial issues facing Tennessee. This month, in the final installment of the series, candidates address education. Early voting for the August 2 primaries and county general elections begin July 13.

“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”No, Thomas Jefferson did not write that, and no records exist that he said it, yet the quote has been attributed to him in thousands of arguments on the importance of education because it is apt.While the wording is not Jefferson’s, the quote does embody the Founding Father’s philosophy and sentiment.

As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates Thomas Jefferson first advocated for a tax-funded system of public education in 1779. He could not get his bill passed as a member of the House, nor during his two terms as governor. It was not until after the Civil War that Virginia established a system of tax-funded public schools.The gulf between talking about the importance of education and making the words have meaning through action was not then, nor is it now, easy.

Innovative leadership
In recent years, Tennessee has had innovative governors, particularly on education. Bill Haslam has been determined that he would leave office with a legacy as an “education” governor. His work on the Tennessee Promise scholarship and mentoring program is a good example of that desire. Promise ensures Tennesseans who want to get higher education have that opportunity without paying for tuition. The Promise program is part of a broad plan that includes his “Drive to 55” plan to increase the number of Tennesseans with education beyond high school to 55 percent of the adult population to meet the requirements of a changing work environment.

Haslam, a Republican, succeeded another innovative education-oriented governor, Democrat Phil Bredesen, who launched a massive effort to reform schools after the state received an “F” from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2007 on student proficiency. The state, the chamber said, was falsely claiming that its schools were graduating students ready to work and/or attend college. The state’s testing and graduation standards were too easy, and an “A” in Tennessee did not equal an “A” in other states.

The Bredesen administration authored a reform plan that won a $500 million federal grant –Race to the Top – that included formation of the Achievement School District to improve the lowest performing schools, new testing standards, and incentives for teachers. Bredesen’s reforms and Haslam’s commitment to implementation of his predecessor’s plan, in addition to his own initiatives, led to significant progress in student achievement, but the path has been bumpy and controversial.

As higher standards were kicking in, and as a new evaluation system on teacher performance was being implemented, the General Assembly ordered new standards, a new testing system that were more “Tennessee” and less “national.” The changes have led to delay after delay in implementing new tests and the teacher evaluation system.Reform is not easy, requiring patience and resolve from a diverse number of stakeholders.

Does Tennessee have the resolve?
Tennessee has made significant strides since earning its “F” in 2007. High school graduation rates are strong, eighth best in the nation, but student proficiency in core subjects and on college entrance exams remains elusive. Funding is a challenge. Tennessee’s constitution requires that the state fund schools, but the Basic Education Plan that outlines what funding is required is not fully funded and the formula that allocates money to school districts is being challenged in lawsuits.Student performance is inextricably linked to teaching, but Tennessee ranks 39th in teacher salaries, including paying teachers lower than the states surrounding us. And teachers are skeptical of the evaluation systems that have been installed.

The next governor will follow two men who have done much to improve education. But the next governor’s task will not be easier because of them. He or she will have to do more to make Tennesseans the “educated citizenry” that is vital to our survival as a free people.

Frank Daniels is a writer living in Clarksville. A former editor, columnist and business executive, he is a member of the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame. You can reach him at

A different perspective on peace

By Kent D. Shifferd

Think of where we are, on a very special, tilted planet that revolves on its own axis every 24 hours while it is circled by a moon that moves around it every 27 days, and both are circling the sun every 365 days, and the sun and all its planets are part of the spiral barred galaxy we call the Milky Way, which is revolving around its own axis once every 250 million years which means that our incredible little planet is racing through space, carried along by the galactic revolution or Cosmic Year, at a speed of 500,000 per hour or 12 million miles per day. Try to picture all these simultaneous movements in your mind. We are on the outer edge of just one galaxy in a universe of 100 billion galaxies, a tiny dot in measureless space.

And yet, and yet…this incredible planet has life, indeed is a living planet encased in a web of creatures dependent on one another and all functioning to support the whole miraculous enterprise. And here we humans are, conscious of all this, which ought to be both overwhelmingly humbling and awe-inspiring to the point of putting us on our knees. To think that we are a part of this almost inconceivable cosmic dance leaves me breathless. And I say to myself, how can we possibly harm one another and the whole web of life, for as far as we know there is no such other planet like earth, and if there is, it’s too far away get to.

This is it, here on this rapidly moving miracle planet. So, to put it simply, let’s all get along together and nurture the unique systems of life which support us in this remote but awesome place in the universe.

Kent Shifferd, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of From War to Peace: A Guide to the Next Hundred Years and former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies.

“Gangsterism” or “Progress”? Examining North Korea’s latest statement on denuclearization

By Mel Gurtov

Most US news reports are suggesting that the North Koreans may be backtracking on their commitment to denuclearization, calling the US position “gangster-like” following the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang. What the North Korean foreign ministry actually saidin its statement of July 7 is far more nuanced, and speaks directly to the longstanding differences between Pyongyang and Washington.

I urge readers to judge for themselves whether or not it is a rational, reasoned statement—and then consider Pompeo’s assessment of progress in the talks with the North Koreans. Here are my brief assessments:

• The North Koreans believe Trump promised “a new way” to deal with US-DPRK relations and denuclearization, namely, step by step. Their view is clear: denuclearization comes last, not first—a longstanding position. Instead, Pompeo brought only renewed US insistence on the old US position: CVID (comprehensive, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization).

• In the North Koreans’ mind, the joint US-DPRK statement out of Singapore laid out three priorities (and in this order): creating a “peace regime” on the Korean peninsula, improving relations, and denuclearization. But the US is riveted on the last, they say, and has offered nothing on the other two.

• What does a “peace regime” mean? Some observers think it means terminating the US military presence in and defense obligation to South Korea. But the North Korean statement says otherwise. “Peace regime” means a “declaration of the end of [the Korean] war at an early date”—replacing the armistice with a peace treaty, which “is the first process of reducing tension…” The statement makes no demands about the US-South Korea relationship other than to dismiss as inconsequential Trump’s decision to suspend (not end) the joint exercises that had been scheduled for August.

• The statement emphasizes trust building. That’s the key argument for a phased approach to denuclearization: establish a peace regime to defuse tension and build trust. Only then will the North Koreans feel secure enough to take action—exactly what kind, we still don’t know—on denuclearizing. And the North Koreans maintain that they have taken a few trust-building actions, listing dismantlement of a test area for a new ICBM engine and discussion of returning the remains of US POWs and MIAs.

To those of us who watch North Korea closely, this picture is not in the least surprising. Kim Jong-un had staked out his notion of the proper timeline for denuclearization months ago, and the North Korean quest for security
via normal relations with the US and a peace treaty to end the Korean War is well known. The Trump-Kim summit was a breakthrough in terms of direct dialogue, but unless the US gets beyond “CVID,” the North Koreans will continue work on nuclear weapons and missiles and the dialogue with Washington will revert to an ugly form.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

Separation of Immigrant Families Is Institutionalized Cruelty

José-Antonio Orosco, Ph.D, writes for PeaceVoiceand is Associate Professor of Philosophy: School of History, Philosophy, and Religion Director, Oregon State University Peace Studies Program.

As I listened to the recording of immigrant kids crying because they were being separated from their parents, I heard the Border Patrol agent joke that they sounded like an orchestra without a conductor. My reaction was to wonder how anyone could be so cruel to the fear of young children. What could make a person so cold to that kind of pain?

The incident reminded me of philosopher Phillip Hallie who wrote about the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Hallie pointed out that amid the daily horror of the camps, there were guards who had not been broken down by the constant show of degradation and would display kindness to the prisoners. They would share a kind word, or sneak an extra roll of bread to a starving person. Such examples are often used to argue that despite cruel situations, there might be solitary individuals who recognize the humanity of others. The Border Patrol agent laughing at children in terror doesn’t seem to be one of those.

But Hallie warns that we shouldn’t narrow our focus on the morality of individuals or on episodic instances of cruelty or kindness when thinking of the concentration camps. In fact, a Nazi guard’s smile or an extra ration from the camp kitchen only works to remind the prisoners that there is a world in which people can be kind and people are treated with dignity, but they aren’t part of that world inside the camp.

Hallie argues that the way to comprehend the immorality of slavery or of the Nazi concentration camps is with the idea of “institutionalized cruelty”–the way in that the individual infliction of pain and suffering becomes normal, justified, and everyday. The Nazi guards could kill, beat, starve, torture prisoners because they had lived for years with their leaders telling them that their country, and their own families, were threatened by enemies who were not quite human. Ordinary Germans tolerated the Nazi policies because they became convinced by Nazi rhetoric they were somehow morally better than Jews, and therefore, deserved to control and dominate them.

Recent public opinion polls suggest that 28 percent of Americans approve of the President’s policy of separating immigrant children from parents at the borders; among those identifying as Republican the approval shoots up to almost 60 percent. These numbers indicate that more than 1 in 4 Americans think that there is an immigration crisis facing the nation that requires an extraordinary effort of cruelty to solve. How could they be convinced of that?

Trump started his presidential campaign in 2016 by railing against Mexican immigrants as dangerous criminals, assuring his followers that (only) some of them are good people. He continued this way of thinking at the beginning of this year, bemoaning that the only kinds of refugees we attracted came from “shithole” countries. Then he warned that our laws were letting in “animals,” having then to clarify that he meant specific MS-13 gang members and not undocumented immigrants in general. The ambiguity in Trump’s language might be attributed to lazy speech, but just this week he reiterated that immigrants want to “infest” our country. It’s clear that when it comes to immigrants, Trump relies on metaphors about animals, insects,
disease, filth, and crime. It’s really not surprising that cruel policies follow such patterns of thinking.
Hallie pointed out that the remedy to institutionalized cruelty is not kindness but what he called “hospitality”—caring for the victim of cruelty in a way that removes them from the relationship of domination that makes them suffer. Hallie’s heroes were the people who sheltered runaway Jewish families and kept them out of the grasp of the Nazis. This suggests that what we need now is not just a reform to keep immigrant families together, but also a recommitment to assist refugees and asylum seekers and attention to the economic and political circumstances that are creating waves of migrants to our borders. And we need to stand up to the dehumanizing language from our leaders that hardens hearts and then, crushes bodies. Like Hallie’s heroes, we ought show kindness not only by alleviating the suffering inside the tent cities where immigrant families are being detained, but by making sure that such places don’t come to exist at all.