Life and Loss

I love sitting at my window and staring at the ivy-covered trunk and leaf-covered curvaceous branches of the willow oak. Beyond the tree, I notice how tall the corn has grown in the back corner of the garden, promising a good harvest in the near future. Everything looks verdant and alive, including the tall yellow sunflowers just visible in the spaces between leaves.

This scene stands in contrast to the dying I have felt inside this week as I went to my office to clean out my desk. No longer will I be meeting face-to-face the amazing students from countries as disparate at Congo, China, Korea, Iraq, Belarus, Mexico, Cuba, and other countries. They broadened and enriched my worldview. They made me laugh and cry. They gave me life. No longer will I regularly exchange greetings and stories with colleagues who likewise loved these students and embraced their cultures. Besides feeling too vulnerable to hold face-to-face classes this fall, I do not know if programs like ours can survive, given our president’s policies of limiting or cutting off visas for foreigners, including refugees, from many other countries. Compassion for the suffering seems to have disappeared from our government policies.

No longer will I hold weekly classes for visiting Chinese scholars who shared present day stories from their teaching experiences in China. They provided an ongoing link to a country I grew to love during five years of teaching English there. Occasionally, they shared delicious Chinese food that cannot be found in any restaurants here in town. I tried to extend to them the kind of hospitality I had received in China.

Why are these things happening? In the midst of the pain of the corona virus pandemic, it seems our current administration is trying to inflict yet more pain on the lives of ordinary people. By picking fights. placing tariffs, and putting sanctions on Chinese companies like We Chat, many people feel their lives are being unnecessarily up-ended. Millions depend on We Chat to communicate with their friends and families across the globe. They do not need this stress at this time. I do not care if China is collecting data on me. I have nothing to hide. I also have a personal friend who worked at the American Consulate in Chengdu, along with around 200 other staff. These people lost their jobs because our president first closed a Chinese consulate in Houston. These are only a few examples of the dangerous tit-for-tats happening between the governments of China and the U.S. Where will it end?

And now, where is compassion for people in our own country? Congressional members dither, while many thousands cannot pay their rent or buy their food.

Like the resurrected green life outside my window after a mid-summer drought, I try to believe there will be a brighter future.

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