A Crisis of Character: America at it's best, and worst

When the situation first developed with my daughter and son-in-law stranded in Morocco, and I sought to make people aware of their situation through social media, my reaction to the sophomoric, churlish, and idiotic comments about their plight, and that of thousands of other Americans, was one of rage.

Angry, intense, unmitigated rage.

Anger which, if allowed to express itself, results in prison terms. They directed these comments at my daughter and son-in-law and many other Americans. And they came from “my fellow Americans.”

To say it incensed me is an understatement.

Before I took to the usual recourse of writing about these things, I knew I needed to let the rage subside. I wanted to be sure everything I wrote came from my rational and reasoned side and that it was accurate and sincere.

I am now at peace with the rage. Here are my thoughts on this situation.

This country contains a significant number—not a majority, yet perhaps just enough to populate a small town—of moronic, self-centered, intellectually compromised nitwits. This small town of Moronville would contain enough people to give every other village, town, or city an abundance of idiots and still have leftovers.

Where do I begin?

When I contacted the local media to publicize the situation facing American citizens stranded overseas, I expected some negativity. I knew there would be a few dimwits, ensconced in their zealous xenophobic ignorance, who’d offer something less than charitable suggestions or ignorance-laden nonsense.

Yet I did not understand how many of our fellow Americans have absolutely no consideration or empathy for others.

I won’t dignify the keyboard courageous by repeating the comments, but they took great pride in parading their obliviousness. Their lack of fundamental knowledge about contagion, or even basic understanding that readmitting stranded Americans would have ZERO effect on the spread of the virus in the US, is frightening.

We are well beyond that.

Yet the absolute absence of any empathy, from those who I’m sure proudly claim their Judeo-Christian heritage, is astounding.

“What Would Jesus Do?” might be a bumper sticker on their car, but I dare say it was there when they bought it and no one has read or explained it to them.

Now here is the real kicker. While there were many comments wishing my daughter and son-in-law a speedy and safe return, they were in the minority. Yet one stuck out of the cacophony of overwhelming ignorance. A person who doesn’t know my daughter, and who doesn’t know me, offered to help.

This person was a Moroccan living here in Rhode Island. Surrounded by so many Americans who wrap themselves in the flag, foaming at the mouth about Making America Great Again, none offered any help.

But this Moroccan did.

This one exception showed what being a humane and caring member of the human race is all about. Think about that. Let that soak in for a moment. Americans offered criticism and “too bad, it’s on you for going there,” while a Moroccan offered to help by putting my daughter in touch with their family in Morocco.

Americans offered callous criticism and snide remarks, a Moroccan offered shelter from the storm.

That’s one reason why we travel. One of the many reasons we encouraged our daughter to travel, One of the reasons we encouraged her to go to countries like Morocco. To see the world beyond the borders of this country; to see there are good people all over this planet.

Now there is a second, and perhaps more troubling, aspect to this story.

The failure of the US State Department and the Embassy to offer even the slightest bit of help is a symptom of the incompetence of this administration.

It began long before the current crisis with the loss of many career State Department employees. In the face of the President’s policy ignorance, lack of Foreign relations skills, and callous disregard of advice from those with enormous experience, we lost decades of knowledge and expertise with the exodus. The President then replaced them with sycophants, wealthy campaign contributors, and co-conspirators.

Here’s a frightening example of how ill-considered appointments put Americans at risk.

Ambassadorship are often offered to patrons of a candidate. They are the plum positions rewarded for contributions and political support. Yet any competent administration should realize that world situations are fluid, fast moving, and prone to develop in the most unlikely circumstances.

Like a Pandemic.

Having competent people on the ground, even in countries such as Morocco with its relative stability, is critical. Political contributions are not a qualification, it’s a down payment or a bribe.

Even with the reality of politics, competence should enter the equation.

The American Ambassador to Morocco, David Fischer, is a Trump appointee. His previous experience was managing a collection of auto dealerships. There’s a comforting thought. The man on the ground taking care of our fellow American citizens has vast experience financing auto purchases and zero experience in diplomacy or emergency preparedness.

We’ve trusted a diplomatic mission to someone who amounts to a step above a used car salesman. I know that’s harsh, but other than politically supporting Mr. Trump, the man has zero qualifications. (https://ma.usembassy.gov/our-relationship/our-ambassador/)

The consensus among those on the scene, my daughter among them, is the Embassy has been useless. Local authorities say there’s been no communication from the Embassy and they advised my daughter and the others they were on their own.

The French, while understandably allowing their citizens to travel first, have been less than cordial with the Americans. They are allowing Americans on the Air France flights after taking any French citizens, but they are not happy about it and wonder why the American government has done nothing.

In contrast, the British Ambassador, Thomas Reilly, has received high marks for coordinating the return of British citizens. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/travel/coronavirus-americans-stranded.html?fbclid=IwAR3qX0uAJJ-FbVGHzoXrOHAIsG3W7PLkzeW1M5EthzAeAvmoSL1coip51e0)

Absent any presence of American Government authorities at the airport, American citizens are at risk. And this is happening all over the world.

To their credit, staff in the offices of Senators Reed and Whitehouse have remained in touch, made efforts to get information from the Embassy, and move the government to deal with the issue. For that I am grateful, but they can only do so much from here.

The President does not bear the responsibility for this pandemic. He does not bear the responsibility for the global financial collapse. But he bears the responsibility for the incompetence and lack of planning in his administration’s response.

And if there is any doubt about the sinister nature of this administration and those who support it, there’s this gem. Senator Richard Burr- R-NC, a member of the Intelligence Committee receiving classified briefings about COVID-19 before the widespread pandemic, dumped stock and warned a group of well-connected constituents to prepare for the financial meltdown with the spread of the Corona Virus.

No doubt there will be more such noble actions brought to light by that evil enemy of the people, the media and the First Amendment. And I have no doubt there will be Democrats among them. (https://www.npr.org/2020/03/19/818192535/burr-recording-sparks-questions-about-private-comments-on-covid-19)

Something we need remember come November.

Can we afford such incompetence in the face of a such challenges? Because there will be more. Much as many would like, we cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the world, nor should we. The very idea underscores the idiocy of many Americans.

I hope this does not dissuade my daughter from the joy and experience of travel. I hope she can remember traveling was not the issue, nor the pandemic, it was being abandoned by her own government, leaving her to her own devices, that was the biggest disaster.

And I hope she keeps in mind how the people in Morocco took care of them as best they good, and the kindness of the person from Morocco here in Rhode Island, to remind her there are good people all over the world.

*Author’s Note: My daughter and son-in-law are now on a flight to JFK having made their way out of Morocco on their own with little communication from the Embassy.

That, they will remember, and I will remember these things as well.

Under African Skies…Understanding

Marrakech, Morocco


We’ve been in the country of Morocco since April 9th and not for one single moment have I felt the slightest bit concerned. Contrary to the fundamentally flawed jingoist ignorance of many Americans, Muslims are not jihadist crazed zealots seeking the destruction of America.

As with most things, ignorance ignores truth.There is no such thing as one Islam. There are Sunni and Shia with major doctrinal differences always left aside when right wing zealots, led by an equally uninformed President, call for barring Muslims from the US or requiring them to be registered.

(From a BBC special on the historical split between the two sects)

Members of the two sects have co-existed for centuries and share many fundamental beliefs and practices. But they differ in doctrine, ritual, law, theology and religious organization.

Their leaders also often seem to be in competition. From Lebanon and Syria to Iraq and Pakistan, many recent conflicts have emphasized the sectarian divide, tearing communities apart.” (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-16047709)

Most Muslims, like most people, seek nothing more than to enjoy life, raise their families, and live in a free and open world. I think we have more to fear from nationalist fervor than anything rising from the few terrorists who twist Islam for their own selish purpose, or any other misguided religion driven groups.

What is also true is the West bears some responsibility for creating an environment where radicalism rises. (A stage set by our British friends with their random drawing of borders with little regard for the history of the Middle East and Africa.) Our long history of overt support for totalitarian regimes (particularly in the fervor of post WWII anti-communism) and covert action when the government showed the slightest resistance to our policies contributed significantly to anti-American attitude which the terrorist turned to their advantage.

The best way to learn the truth is to seek it. And traveling to a country like Morocco can be a great opportunity. The best part, it works in two directions. We offer a kinder, gentler face of America, countering the rabid ignorance of the Tweeting President.

Our experience here has been nothing but incredible.

These are the faces of Morocco.

The last face is a Moroccan man who walked over to speak with me when we stopped for a break before heading into the desert. Like many Moroccans, he spoke Arabic and French with just a few words of English.

I, on the other hand, had a piece of paper with some English/Arabic and some vague memory of Bonjour and little else.

But by the simple gesture of a smile and a nod, we got our point across. Two men, raised under entirely different cultural backgrounds, could stand under an African sky and convey, without the benefit of words, Hello. How are you? Glad we could meet.

And that is what I see when I’ve encountered a Muslim.

Let’s hope the future is one embracing understanding rather than driving us back to the folly of the Crusades.

Inshalah. Salam