The President’s Column

By Donna Altepeter

Donna AltepeterDear NASW Wisconsin members,

As you have probably noticed, I do try to send you a letter periodically in the newsletter but have not been much of a blogger. However, the events in Charlottesville, VA this weekend and subsequent comments made by President Trump have moved me to insert my thoughts about all that continues to transpire in our nation, which reverberates throughout the world.

Yesterday I spoke with a young man in his twenties who shared that he has decided to limit his social media because he can no longer tolerate the degree of anxiety produced by the constant barrage of turmoil in our country. For some time, he was hoping for a “leadership pivot” by the president but has found himself increasingly disappointed and highly anxious about the president’s lack of leadership to quell the unrest in our country. More importantly, he sees clearly, that the president’s consistent behavior is provoking and fueling the fires that are destructive rather than our moving forward as a nation of justice.

In speaking about the president’s recent comments regarding the white supremacists march in Charlottesville, Van Jones (CNN commentator) relayed that it is not just who the president is endorsing in his most recent statements, but it is also about who he is forgetting. Jones’ god mother is Jewish and he was thinking about her as he made this statement.

My father, a 92 year old proud sailor who served on the destroyer, USS Haggard in WWII, died in November. He was awarded a purple heart for an attack in the Pacific theater where he sustained burns by a Japanese kamikaze. He talked often of the moral responsibility for our country to respond to the evils of fascism . He remembers the reluctance of our leaders and citizens to enter the fight early on, hoping that it wouldn’t boil over. But it did, impacting our nation with the attack on Pearl Harbor. At that moment, we became united in a world effort to fight for a just and safe space for all in the world. Indeed, it was a world war. He wondered whether a more decisive and earlier response could have kept us away from the ultimate use of the atomic bomb; he aided the Japanese in the restoration of their country after the war. He saw the effects of atomic warfare on the people around him.

In some ways we are in a similar place now. The difference is that we do not have a leader who is outraged by injustice; Instead, President Trump’s statements reflect an injustice that outrages so many. Our fight for justice, while right at our back doors, does not stop there. It has ramifications for justice everywhere. Leaders and citizens of the world, not only see the response of the president but they are looking to see the response of our country. Of those who support him and those who don’t; those of his party and those who politically distance themselves from him. Of those on cable news who endorse his views and those who speak in shock and disdain. People are searching for some sign of outrage by others to validate the outrage within themselves.

What we do and don’t do, individually and collectively, at this moment in history, matters.

Courage matters.

Keep up all the good work you do, every day.

Donna Altepeter, LCSW
Your NASW Wisconsin President