Is Hanging Breathless On Thy Fate

 Swimwatch seldom strays into the world of politics. The blog was started to discuss swimming matters. It is fair to say we have remained loyal to that cause. However this week a crime was committed, far removed from a swimming pool, but so heinous, so repulsive that it should not pass without mention. What I say will have no effect. The perpetrator will not even know my opinion. But, by joining many millions of others who despise Hitler, Stalin, Putin and Kim Jong Un, I will feel better. At least I am another voice added to the chorus of contempt.

You see I like the United States. I’ve spent a lot of time there. I went to High School just outside Green Bay, Wisconsin. I graduated with a good high school diploma. The Green Bay Packers football team bought me my senior class ring. I played football. I traveled by bus from New York to Los Angeles. I drank root beer and ate apple pie. It’s difficult to be more American than that.

I also had high school mates who were drafted to fight in Vietnam and went off to die. One of them said to me before he left Wisconsin to join the Tet Offensive, “David, I don’t understand. It took me 12 years to learn to play football. I’ve had two weeks of unarmed combat training and they expect me to fight the Viet Cong who have been fighting all their lives. How does that work?” Oh, so incredibly sadly, it didn’t. A roadside mine brought another valuable human life to a pointless end.

Many years later I spent two years coaching in the US Virgin Islands. Armed with an O1 visa and green cards, Alison, Jane and I were United States residents. Jane was on a swimming scholarship at Washington State University and I was coaching a club team on the island of St Croix.

And then I accepted a job as a club coach in the Florida town of Delray Beach. That’s a few miles north of Fort Lauderdale and very close to the distasteful opulence of Trump’s Mar-a-Largo retreat. We stayed in Delray Beach for five years.

After eight years living in the United States you can imagine there are many valuable memories; the intellectual brilliance of lawyer Jonathan Golden, the warmth of the Westerman family, the care the of Myrvang family, the generosity of the Foltz family, the acceptance of the Jeffreys, Skuba and Andrew’s trust, Jamie’s talent, Rhi’s class, the fun of Tiffany and the friendship of a dozen others. One of the leading lights of the Delray Beach master’s swim group, Leslie Worner, was the ex-girlfriend of the lead-singer for the Grateful Dead rock band. There were so many good, honest, caring, warm hearted people. But in my view they share a common problem.

Quite simply the guy they have as President is a moron. We’ve known that for a long time. But this week the moron exceeded our worst expectations. He told four Congress women that if they criticized him they could go back to where they came from. Ignoring the fact that three of the four women were born in the United States, ignoring the fact that all four were freshman representatives eager to learn the best qualities of good government; ignoring common decency, what a disgusting, low-life thing to say.

I felt it because he was talking to me. I’d been an immigrant into the United States. I had been critical of parts of the country I did not like. I was critical of the guns that kill more school children that in any other country in the world. American health and American democracy are in serious need of reform. A country with America’s wealth has no excuse to rank below 20 in healthcare and democracy.

But for all that I did not expect to be spoken to by a disgusting example of American vermin like that. Telling immigrants (not that three of these were) to go back to where they came from is despicable. Imagine me telling Eyad to go back to Syria. Truth is New Zealand is lucky to have him. Truth is every one of us in New Zealand and most of those who live in the United States are immigrants from somewhere. My ancestors came from Scotland. Every Maori came in canoes from somewhere in the Pacific. Donald Trump’s father came from Germany. His wife came from Slovenia. Only Trump would be guilty of a racist slur that insulted everyone.

But what makes his behavior even worse is when he spewed his insult all over the White House Rose Garden his audience applauded. What has America become? In the symbol of American power, the White House, Trump is able to invite a group who will applaud his naked racist vomit. Thank God my time living there is over. I deeply hope that in 2020 the country I knew replace this moron. Because while he is there the words of John Winthrop are meaningless, “We shall be as a city upon a hill; the eyes of all people are upon us.”

One desperately sad irony is that one of the Congress women Trump invited to leave the United States was a black American. It is disgusting to recall that Trump’s white population chained her ancestors into ships and forced them to come to the United States, to work in the fields and build the White House. Because of Trump’s white population they had no option but to be in the United States. And now instead of thanking them for their contribution, instead of paying reparations like any descent society, Trump orders her back to Africa.

America get rid of him. Get rid of him in 2020 before he contaminates you all. And here to uplift our spirits from the sewer Trump has created, is the verse from one of America’s greatest poets, Henry Longfellow, and the source of the title of this post. Read it slowly. What a contrast.

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!

Sail on, O Union, strong and great!

Humanity with all its fears,

With all the hopes of future years,

Is hanging breathless on thy fate!

We know what Master laid thy keel,

What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,

Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,

What anvils rang, what hammers beat,

In what a forge and what a heat

Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!

Fear not each sudden sound and shock,

‘T is of the wave and not the rock;

‘T is but the flapping of the sail,

And not a rent made by the gale!

In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,

In spite of false lights on the shore,

Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!

Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,

Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,

Our faith triumphant o’er our fears,

Are all with thee, — are all with thee!

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