Moderator Jon Gustafson facilitates discussion at the Current Events meeting, Dec. 31 in Schein Hall. SC photo by Jan Holly
Moderator Jon Gustafson facilitates discussion at the Current Events meeting, Dec. 31 in Schein Hall. SC photo by Jan Holly

Moderator Jon Gustafson queried attendees about “inflection points—emblematic events—that made 2018 memorable” to open Current Events’ final session of the year, Dec. 31, in Schein Hall. As examples, Gustafson cited such milestones as Democrats gaining control of the House of Representatives, “resignations and convictions of high government officials,” the deaths of Senator John McCain, President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush, and “closure of government, because of congressional refusal to fund the [border] wall.”

Adding to the list, participant Ann Yarnall pointed to “the profound shift in the number of women entering Congress—and their diversity. The [Supreme Court Justice Brett] Kavanaugh hearing had a crucial effect,” she said. “It politicized the court, radicalized a lot of women and focused attention on the failure of media to cover an important event adequately—plus the unawareness of men,” she added.

Steve Overbeck referenced the slow leakage from the White House “of so-called ‘adults in the room’ who would keep Trump from making disastrous mistakes. They actually steered him away from his foreign policy of not getting involved in foreign wars or regime change,” Overbeck said. “Liberal, mainstream media heads are exploding, because he wants to pull out of Syria.

The guy is looking after the health and welfare of America,” Overbeck added. “Because of Trump’s policy, we will have fewer dead bodies, fewer maimings, less chaos, less bombing and less destruction in the Middle East.”

Corky Boyd saw a “tectonic change” in the far East. “China is going full-bore ‘1984,’ tracking people, with the communist party taking over, and Mao’s little red book operation. China is trying to isolate itself and return to Mao’s time. It’s not good for them,” he said.

About the current, partial government shutdown, which is uppermost on the minds of many Americans, Gustafson remarked that “federal agencies are left vulnerable and federal employees are victims of a dispute not of their making. Should Americans tolerate this gamesmanship?” he asked.

One attendee described the shutdown as “a paid vacation at the expense of the taxpayer. I am sure that banks will extend credit,” he said, “knowing that [the government] will pay before long—but it is a disgrace for the country.”

Yarnall decried the shutdown as “outrageous, horrifying, appalling and disgusting. It happens so frequently, the country is now inured to it, and government thinks it is a legitimate tool,” she said. “It’s a demonstration of the utter contempt that Congress has for the American people. It should be off limits.”

Taking a sanguine view, another attendee remarked that “democracy doesn’t flow smoothly. It’s not the end of the road. The sky isn’t falling,” he said. “It’s just the way things work in a rough democracy.”

With discussion inevitably turning to President Trump’s demand for a border wall, Herb Rubin called on “our responsibility for our neighbors to the south. Since World War II, we have been the model of democracy,” he said. “Our responsibilities do not end at our borders.”

Concurring with Rubin, Sydney Picker cited America’s “special relationship with border countries. They can provide stability or instability,” he said. “A mere wall will not protect us. Drugs can be droned in. We have gone out of our way to destabilize both our northern and our southern borders.”

Hyde Tucker disparaged a southern border wall as “an ineffective solution. Our borders on the Pacific and Atlantic oceans are the most porous,” he said. “Military force is not effective. We have a problem, and we don’t have a solution.”

Millard Eckhart amplified Tucker’s comments with data points. “There are [numerous] tunnels into the United States, plus drones, planes, cars and trucks—they all bring drugs into the country. The wall may do some good,” he said, “but it is not the answer.”

Ed Hendrick concluded the discussion with an alternative perspective. “New Mexico was settled south to north. Families go back generations—500 years. The border is not static. It was wherever the Rio Grande flooded.

The wall is a 14th or 15th century solution,” Hendrick added. “Farmers have investments on both sides of the border. High-end neighborhoods of El Paso [are populated by] Mexican nationals. A wall is just impractical.”

Current Events meets 10 a.m. Mondays at BIG ARTS. Albert Hann moderates the next session, on Jan. 7. Islanders are invited to join the discussion. Admission is $3.