As the latest caravan of people, many from Honduras, arrived at the Mexican border, I went the other way. I flew to Honduras on vacation to meet my Honduran goddaughter, not without hesitation. I read the country update from a service that my work provides. Risk of robbery: high. Risk of kidnapping: high. There is something called “express kidnapping,” often done by pulling people from cars as they wait at a traffic light. I received advice from my Salvadoran friend to dress as if I were poor. Even wearing glasses is a sign of wealth, she said.
Honduras has an unpopular president, one who somehow dodged the law against running for a second term, winning in what many considered a fixed election. You can see graffiti throughout the country telling the president to leave, “Fuera JOH.” While there, I had a conversation with my goddaughter’s father-in-law, who acknowledged the violence and hopelessness of many who are desperate enough to walk thousands of miles to a confrontation at the U.S. border.
Yet, thanks to my Honduran goddaughter and her family, I saw the other side of Honduras. We experienced the beautiful countryside and toured the Mayan ruins in Copán before heading to their home in a small town in the mountains. I learned how to grow and process coffee at their small, family-run coffee finca. We went to the opal mine, where, ironically, I was illegal. (Only residents of the city are allowed to mine the opals there.) I experienced the extreme hospitality and friendliness of the people. Even the guards with machine guns at the frequent checkpoints were friendly. At one stop they were happy to pose with me for a picture.
One image is etched in my memory. As one member of our group sat with her baby on her lap at a restaurant after nursing, three young daughters of a family at a nearby table came by to admire the baby. With the mom’s permission, one after the other, they bent down and reverently kissed the baby’s soft skin. Here are people who seem to value family above all else. It reinforced what I already knew. Hondurans want the same things that Americans want, a chance to live in freedom and peace, something most of us in the U.S. take for granted.
Mark Bornhoft, Mounds View
THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY
And so it goes …
Our commander in chief just lied to troops deployed in a combat zone to make himself look better. First, he told those troops that “You haven’t gotten [a raise] in more than 10 years — more than 10 years,” then he told them that he’d had gotten them a raise of more than 10 percent. Now, our troops are smart. I’m thinking they likely know that they have, indeed, gotten raises in each of the last 10 years. They will certainly notice that they are not getting a raise of more than 10 percent.
I simply do not understand how people can continue to support this man. He lies. Continually. Every. Single. Day. In ways that are easily proven. And yet, they believe. Someone explain this to me.
Deb Jensen, Maple Grove
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The president traveled to Iraq to tell our troops that the U.S. will no longer be played as “suckers” and that deployment of our military fighters should be “reimbursed.” His view is that the greatest military in the world should be a mercenary fighting force for hire, where other nations will compensate us (him) for helping to defend them. For him, everything is transactional, and everyone is taking advantage of us. Everything is unfair. We have all been suckers. The man seems incapable of recognizing true national security imperatives involving shared values and ideals, historical bonds, mutual interests, or compassionate support for others.
This is not the rational thinking of a responsible leader, statesman or even good businessman. These are more the thoughts and actions of a New York mobster who demands payment from merchants, small businesses and shopkeepers for protection.
Dave Pederson, Minnetrista
• • •
In response to the firing of Jim Mattis as secretary of defense, incoming White House Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney informed “Fox News Sunday” that “I don’t think there’s concern that the presidency is in crisis. This is what having a president who is nontraditional looks like. He’s not going to be an ordinary president.”
With all due respect to Mulvaney, Trump has been permitted to handpick his senior staff, many of them vetted for competence by a sympathetic Senate, and with Mattis’ departure, 28 of them have either been fired or resigned, most under duress. Either Trump can’t work with them, or they can’t work with Trump. This isn’t nontraditional. It’s feckless. There isn’t a publicly traded company in the U.S. that would tolerate such antics, and it’s time that Congress, including its Republican members, demand of this president that he rise to the level of the “ordinary,” or be held accountable.
David Jensen, West St. Paul
• • •
Gen. Mattis was way out of line to make a spectacle of his disagreement with President Trump and subsequent resignation. As a former troop commander, he should have known better. It was OK for him to offer his resignation, but to flat out quit was not appropriate. What if Gen. George Patton quit in the middle of World War II? Trump should have told Mattis to “stow it, and get back to work.”
William Howard, Minneapolis
• • •
The pundits and acolytes of the Trump regime have begun to lament the media’s characterization of the state of the administration as “the wheels are coming off.” I, too, have become inured to this characterization, because it gives me hope that the end is near, only to be disappointed. Then I remember: This administration is so far outside the bounds of normalcy as to be unfathomable to those who value normalcy and order over chaos. I am taking the media’s assessment seriously but not literally. In the literal car analogy, the tires are bald, at least half the lug nuts are missing, the remaining are loose, the head gasket is cracked, the drive shaft is bent, the suspension is nonexistent and the body is a rusted orange. And yet the car limps down the road. If Trump were a car, he would have been sent for scrap long ago. Trump isn’t a car; he’s entropy personified.
Janis Keil Day, Anoka
• • •
Trump should be impeached for gross incompetence. However, a move to impeach, except for a cause that all agree reaches the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” would be destabilizing and would involve a drawn-out fight that would derail any progress toward enacting meaningful legislation. The ensuing conflict would not benefit the American people (at least in the short term) and would exacerbate divisiveness.
Short of invoking articles of impeachment, Democrats’ using their subpoena power to investigate the president would also block any meaningful legislative progress. (The president indicated that any attempt to investigate him will result in his taking a warlike stance toward the House.) However, many Republican members of Congress are also privately very disturbed by the president’s erratic behavior and bad policy decisions. Therefore, it is up to Congress to reach a compromise on funding the government that can override a presidential veto.
As a coequal branch of government, Congress must assert its power to defy the president. This will require Republican members to take a stand on principle following the example of outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake and others. It will also require a willingness to compromise on the part of the Democrats. The alternative is a long shutdown, roiled financial markets and continued stalemate.
Steven Baird, Roseville
THE FINANCIAL MARKETS
Still ahead in the Trump era
A few things to note about the Dec. 27 letters about the loss of money from accounts. This is the time of year when there is a sell-off (taxes). When you sell holdings, it’s not always last in, first out. You get to pick which ones to sell. Since the Trump presidency, my portfolio has increased by one-half. Since the sell-off, I have lost half of the half I gained. As you can see, I am still ahead. Things should go back to normal after the first of the year.
Edward McHugh, East Bethel