Trump’s attacks on Vietnamese immigrants is worse than you think

By now, you may have heard that the Trump administration is threatening to deport Vietnamese immigrants, including those who fled from disastrous US-led war there in the 1960s and 1970s. While this makes it sound like we’ll be spuriously sending Vietnamese elders back to a country they haven’t lived in for four decades, that’s not quite the story. Those who are citizens are not facing the threat of deportation. Instead, the administration has committed to deporting those legal immigrants who have been found guilty of serious crimes, including those with outstanding deportation orders. For decades after the fall of Saigon, the US was unable to deport immigrants who had committed such crimes back to Vietnam because we didn’t have diplomatic relationships with Vietnam. Vietnam continued to refuse to accept deportees until 2008, when Julie Myers, a Bush appointee serving as the assistant secretary of Homeland Security, signed on behalf of the US a new deportation agreement. (I mention her because some of you might remember that Myers, as the head of ICE, was implicated in the abuse of prisoners by ICE, and she awarded a “best costume” award to a white ICE employee dressed as a Jamaican prisoner, wearing blackface and dreadlocks; she then tried to cover up her actions. The racism of ICE runs through the entire history of the agency.)

Since 2008, the US has been able to deport law-breaking legal immigrants from Vietnam back to their nation of origin. Currently, the US has the largest population of Vietnamese people outside of Vietnam, and estimates are that about 8,000 of them could be affected by the enforcement of the deportation rules. To be clear, Obama did, in fact, enforce these rules, deporting more people than any US president ever, earning him the derisive nickname “deporter-in-chief” from his critics on the left.

The 2008 agreement is up for renewal in January, and the Trump administration is pushing it in a new direction, arguing that anyone who came before 1995 and who didn’t have proper paperwork is a target for deportation.

While many people will support deporting violent criminals who aren’t citizens, that’s very different from deporting people who have been in the country for 20+ years but who lack documentation, including young adults brought here as babies and who can hardly call being sent back to Vietnam a “return” to anything as they have no memory of the place.

Vietnam may not accept this reinterpretation of the law, and if they don’t accept this kind of deportee, then the US isn’t (at least not yet) going to set them afloat on a dingy off the coast of the Ca Mau peninsula. That’s the good news.

The bad news, though, is worse.

The goal here for the Trump administration isn’t really to crack down on undocumented immigrants or even criminality. (The Trump administration is full of criminals.) Otherwise, it address the fact that Canadians are most likely of all foreign visitors to overstay their visas, and the US has more overstaying Europeans than Mexicans and Central Americans combined.

The goal, as you can always bet it is with the Trump administration, is to foster racism, harass people of color, and fire up the racists who form the base of the Republican party. Vox stated the issue clearly:

It’s not about going out and deporting people. It’s about making people deportable.

The goal is to create an atmosphere of fear, to deport just enough people so that immigrants have to live in terror of a possible deportation. This thrills Trump supporters, who watch those videos of parents being torn apart from their children with glee. (The rest of us watch in horror, and, if you are a decent human being, it might not have occurred to you to see these videos as things to celebrate.)

This atmosphere invigorates xenophobic voters, but it also–at least the administration hopes–encourages immigrants to “voluntarily” leave. If life is miserable enough for immigrants, they will “self-deport.” This is a strategy shared by “decent” Republicans like Mitt Romney and by overt white supremacists like Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer. It’s an invitation for vigilante citizens to harass immigrants. It’s a way to make all of America into a sundown town.

But why Vietnamese immigrants? Like most immigrants, they tend to do well in the US, and they tend to do even better than the average immigrant. They are entrepreneurs, and, ironically, a bit more politically conservative than the average immigrant group (perhaps a way of making sense of their flight from Vietnam after the US’s war against “socialism” there).

Above, Bruce Springsteen performs “Galveston Bay” from The Ghost of Tom Joad, an album focusing on the experience of immigrants and migrants in the US. It’s an album worth revisiting right now. 

In part, Vietnam is an easy target. A lot of US manufacturing happens there. (Check the tag on you shirt. If it wasn’t made in Honduras or China or Malaysia, it was likely manufactured in Vietnam.) That makes it hard for Vietnam to stand up to the Trump administration and deny entry to a new class of deportees.

But there is another reason: Animosity against Vietnamese immigrants excites a core group of Trump devotees: aging Boomers who are still stinging about the loss of the war in Vietnam and who carry a grudge about what they see as America’s failure to support troops during the war and after. Anger rightfully directed at political leaders and a failing VA system turned to racial minorities, and Vietnamese immigrants are an easy target. Why support immigrants, after all, if we don’t support our own veterans? Especially immigrants from a country that couldn’t help us win a war on their own turf?

And this animosity has a real history–one that if Trump supporters don’t know specifically, they know generally. That is, they know that racism toward Vietnamese immigrants is within living memory of their core constituents: angry, aging white men who feel insecure about their masculinity and, by extension, about the US’s willingness to engage in cruelty toward vulnerable people, including immigrants, women, children, and the poor.

Specifically, I’m talking about a campaign of violence and harassment aimed at Vietnamese immigrants in Texas in the late 1970s and 1980s. Houston has the largest population of Vietnamese immigrants outside of California. Vietnamese immigrants settling in the area turned to fishing, shrimping, and crabbing–the kind of work familiar to them from life in Vietnam. Economic competition is often cited as inspiring the violence, which included setting Vietnamese fishermen’s boats on fire and sabotaging their traps, but old-fashioned racism–especially aimed at people seen as responsible, in part, for the failure of the post-WWII America’s first clear military failure (and, symbolically, the collapse of American masculinity)–is key. The Vietnamese immigrants weren’t simply offering stiff competition to native-born fishermen during a period of major economic restructuring; they were a visible reminder of the failure of the US to make its will felt in foreign wars.

Louis Beam leads a group of Klansman in torching a boat labeled “USS Viet-Cong” at a rally in Santa Fe, Texas in 1981. Photo by AP/Ed Kolenovsky

So it’s not a surprise that the Texas KKK showed up on the scene. Many of them former military, they were racists with unresolved anger at the Vietnamese in particular and military training. Texas Klan leader Louis Beam (the white nationalist who popularized the tactic of leaderless resistance) began a training camp near Houston to prepare for a possible race war, and Asians were a primary target. In 1979, he was arrested for trying to attack the prime minister of China during a visit to Houston. In 1981, he was fomented violence against immigrants in the Galveston area when two Vietnamese immigrants shot a white man during a fight. Invoking a self-defense argument, they were acquitted, and Klan activity increased–more arsons, burning crosses, effigies.

Eventually, the SPLC took on the case. Beam showed up to court wearing his Klan robes. In court, here is how he defended his actions:

I am charged with loving this country.

This is how hate works. It doesn’t announce itself as hate but as love for things that our culture tells us are proper to love: nation, family, tradition, culture. The hate emerges from that love, which is not love at all but fear and privilege and laziness.

The Vietnamese fishermen won the case, and the Klan was told to cease its activity. Beam’s group had to disband, and he lost his five training camps. America became safer because of the bravery of the Vietnamese fishermen who took him on.

Beam remains a hero to white nationalist, and his writing still circulates among them, though he seems to have retired–to New Braunfels, Texas–from active work in white supremacist movements. His calls to prepare for a race war using military training- are still foundational concepts for white nationalists.

Every non-white population in the US has been threatened and harassed, and Trump has spoken ill of virtually all of them.  But going after the Vietnamese is different from going after groups whose harassment isn’t linked  the failure of American masculinity and didn’t happen (at least not in the coordinated way that the attacks in the Gulf happened) within our lifetime. The white men lighting fishing boats on fire were men born in the 40s and 50s–men now in their 60s and 70s. They are men who remember the humiliation of Vietnam and who voted for Trump in large numbers.

What does it mean if the Trump administration activates these hostilities on purpose or by accident? Like a child repeating a swear word, it doesn’t matter if Trump is sincere or not in invoking racist sentiments–what matters is that he is willing to use them to hurt others. He is a medium through which hate passes. 





Under ‘just war’ theory, the war in Yemen is a moral disaster

war chess
Photo by Gladson Xavier on

Providence Magazine’s mission is to apply right-wing Christian ethics to matters of foreign policy. The magazine’s co-editor, Mark Tooley, writes he recently got into an argument about the ethics of America’s support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen — the same war the U.S. Senate astoundingly rebuked this week — and concludes that Christian pacifists are morally unserious.

American Christian commentators can preach smug, condemning bromides. Or they can, if they are more serious, labor to apply the historical church’s vast ethical resources to complex geopolitical challenges for which there are usually no comfortable answers.

He doesn’t reference “just war” theory by name, though I assume that’s what he’s referring to. Technically, the theory is supposed to offer an obstacle to wanton warmaking — if you’re a Christian, you can only conduct a war under certain conditions — but I suspect that it doesn’t really work that way: Is there a war that America has refused to undertake because advocates conceded it didn’t meet just war criteria?

Let’s do what Tooley does, though, and apply the theory to Yemen. How does it stand up?

Just war theory is split into two parts — one that governs the reasons for going to war, the other that governs conduct in war. My friend Damon Linker one time summed up the six criteria for going to war thusly:

The war must be undertaken with the intention of establishing a just peace. It must be defensive. It must be aimed at protecting the innocent against unjust aggression. It must have a reasonable chance of success. It must be declared and waged by a competent governing authority. And it must be undertaken as a last resort. If the war meets these six criteria, it can be considered morally justified.

Let’s look at a couple of these items:

• It must be declared and waged by a competent governing authority.

How is such an authority defined? “A just war must be initiated by a political authority within a political system that allows distinctions of justice. Dictatorships (i.e. Hitler’s Regime) or a deceptive military actions (i.e. the 1968 US bombing of Cambodia) are typically considered as violations of this criterion. The importance of this condition is key. Plainly, we cannot have a genuine process of judging a just war within a system that represses the process of genuine justice. A just war must be initiated by a political authority within a political system that allows distinctions of justice.”

The war in Yemen being prosecuted largely by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is a dictatorship — one that recently had an opponent living abroad assassinated and dismembered. There are few people outside Saudi Arabia who would argue the monarchy serves the cause of genuine justice.

• It must have a reasonable chance of success.

The war is nearly four years old. It is a stalemate. Everybody believes they can win a war at the outset. But at this point, any “reasonable chance of success” is remote. The longer a war drags on, the less justifiable it becomes under just war theory.

• It must be aimed at protecting the innocent against unjust aggression. 

The war in Yemen is mostly about geopolitical posturing by outside powers. You should read this easy explainer of the war if you don’t understand what’s involved, but here’s the key point for our purposes:

Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government. The coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France.

The innocent are neither here nor there, it seems. The old aphorism is that “war is politics by other means” and that seems to be the case here. You can think that Saudi Arabia is preferable to Iran. But that doesn’t conform to just war theory.

These are just the justifications for war. There’s also a set of criteria for how the war is conducted.

The big one, for our purposes is called “discrimination.” Basically, civilians aren’t combatants and thus should be spared the pains of war as much a humanly possible. And it’s here, perhaps, that the war in Yemen falls most disastrously short of being just.

From August:

GENEVA — The military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes, tortured detainees, raped civilians and used child soldiers as young as 8 — actions that may amount to war crimes, United Nations investigators said in a report issued Tuesday.

The report singled out Saudi and Emirati airstrikes for causing the most civilian casualties, saying they had hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, jails, boats and medical facilities.

“There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties,” said Kamel Jendoubi, the chairman of the panel of experts that produced the report.

From November:

<p”>The announcement by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis at the Pentagon came on the heels of a statement by the aid agency Save the Children on Wednesday that underscored the harrowing nature of the conflict: An estimated 85,000 children might have died of hunger since the bombings began in 2015.

Experts say Yemen has become the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and 14 million people could soon be on the brink of starvation,according to the United Nations.

“For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death — and it’s entirely preventable,” Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director in Yemen, said in the statement. “Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop.”

I’m not as familiar with just war theory as I should be, admittedly. But it sure appears that even a cursory application of its principles finds the Saudi war in Yemen wanting — and thus the U.S. support of that war unjustifiable.

Mr. Tooley is right: The world is complex. Aphorisms don’t always match the complexity of a problem. But sometimes these matters are simpler than they seem. The war in Yemen is a moral disaster — truth, whether or not you bring the “historical church’s vast ethical resources” to bear, or not.

A 606 Jólabókaflóðið: Encouraging a Love of Art through Children’s Books

Squirrels hide nuts for the long winter. Bears pack on fat for hibernation. Here at Sixoh6, we prepare for winter by stocking up on books. To help you find the best books to gift this holiday season, we’re sharing guest posts from some of our favorite parents of babies and toddlers, children, and teens. We’ve asked our guest bloggers to share books on a theme of their choice. We hope, whether you are young or old and whether you have a lot of books to give this year or just a few, you’ll find something here that delights you and that you’ll enjoy a Jólabókaflóðið (“Yule Book Flood”) this winter.

Today’s guest blogger is Robin, a physician in the Fresno area and a mother of two girls. Here, she shares her suggestions for beautiful books about art. We hope you find something lovely among them to share with the children in your life. 




My husband teaches art and music at Fresno Pacific University and both of our daughters, aged 5 and 7, love creative activities. My older daughter loves anything related to the fine arts and is gifted in drawing, painting, and sculpting. Her art skills are way beyond my science minded brain!  She has gone with my husband and his students on trips to museums in San Francisco and Los Angeles and we often seek out museums when we are visiting different cities.  I love to browse the museum store for children’s books because it is often where I find the most amazing books.  They tend to be more creative and the pictures more interesting than any children’s books I find elsewhere.  My oldest daughter is also a non-traditional learner and needs a more creative approach for subjects like math and reading.  These books give her confidence and validation of the skills she is best at: art and design.  They also bridge the gap between her love for art and her difficulty with reading, allowing her to enjoy both.  These are some of our favorite fine art related books.  Some were purchased in museum stores, some are on the topic of art, and others are authored by professional artists.

The first book is Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg and is a great introduction to creativity.  It encourages kids to find ways to look at their mistakes in unexpected ways.  It celebrates our “oops” instead of dismissing them.  Our daughters love to make things with scraps of paper, wood, and almost any craft supply you can think of, so when I came across this book, it resonated with them completely.  Even spills of coffee on the paper can be a beautiful thing!

My husband recently stumbled upon Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, a book that fuses the words of a Maya Angelou poem and the paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat.  It’s about how life isn’t going to keep me down or scare me even if there are “shadows on the the wall noises down the hall.”  It’s a great combination of self esteem-boosting rhetoric and crazy, funky, expressive artworks that brings scary childhood fears to life and squashes them like a bug. Jean-Michel Basquiat was an amazing artist who lived with uncompromising dedication to his art.  His paintings have a raw, graffiti-like quality, and our girls love their free-form style.

The next two books were found at museum stores: Young Charlotte Filmmaker by Frank Viva at the Museum of Modern Art in New  York and Seeing Things: A Kid’s Guide to Looking at Photographs by Joel Meyerowitz at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.  Charlotte is an odd soul and looks at the world in black and white and thinks those are the most beautiful colors when all her classmates choose colors of the rainbow.  She films her world in black and white and ends up with a screening of her original film at a local museum.  In the end, she learns there is beauty in seeing the world in color and her classmates learn to appreciate the perspective of seeing things in black and white.  It’s a lesson in sticking to your instinct while also learning to see things from new perspectives.  Seeing Things guides children through qualities of good design in photography.  It illustrates how to look for the right moment to capture a photograph.  Our oldest daughter has her own camera and has taken hundreds of photos. She loves to look at this book and find those moments!

The final book was purchased at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.  Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words by Ruth Rocha tells the story of a young boy who looks at street signs, movie posters, bus stops, etc. and only sees lines and squiggles.  He watches in amazement as his mom takes him on the bus and knows where to get on and off in order to get him to school each day.  At school he starts to learn his letters and can now see all the “As” in the street signs and movie posters…then all the “Bs”….then all of a sudden he can read the bus stop sign.  Now he can get on and off the bus all by himself and find his way to school.  He watches in amazement as all those lines and squiggles turn into words.  This one brings together the fun of drawing and the joy of reading. It validates how confusing it is in the beginning before a child learns how to join letters together to form words.

Just because our daughters are kids does not mean they have to suffer through bad clip art and mediocre drawings.  Creativity should be fostered especially in the young mind, and these books guide children through the amazing world of fine art.  Hopefully you will find these books as amusing as we do!


Need more great books in your life? Want to make a thoughtful donation to a local little free library, school library, or church library? Consider these great books!

Read Erica’s suggestions for books about St. Nicholas and St. Lucia here.

Check out O’s suggestions for books about wild animals here.

Read Ruby’s suggestions for Star Wars-themed books here.

Learn why Saffron thinks that Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books are the greatest here.



Hate as Emotion and as Sentiment

One final (for now) word on why people hate. It’s from a relatively recent (August 2018) article in the journal Emotions by Agneta Fischer, Eran Haplerin, Daphna Canetti, and Alba Jasini. Here is the abstract from “Why We Hate”:

We offer a functional perspective on hate, showing that hate has a unique pattern of appraisals and action tendencies. Hate is based on perceptions of a stable, negative disposition of persons or groups. We hate persons and groups more because of who they are, than because of what they do. Hate has the goal to eliminate its target. Hate is especially significant at the intergroup level, where it turns already devalued groups into victims of hate. When shared among group members, hate can spread fast in conflict zones where people are exposed to hate-based violence, which further feeds their hate. Hate can be reassuring and self-protective, because its message is simple and helps confirming people’s belief in a just world.

The entire article can be accessed online for free, but here are some key quotations:

“In short, on the basis of preliminary evidence we propose that when individuals experience hate, they typically perceive their hate target as having malicious intentions and being immoral, which is accompanied by feelings of lack of control or powerlessness.”

“[O]ne of hate’s core characteristics is that it generally lasts longer than the event that initially evoked it. The enduring nature of hatred is based in the appraisals that are targeted at the fundamental nature of the hated group.”

“The two forms of hatred [the short term emotion and the long term sentiment] are related, yet distinct, and one fuels the occurrence and magnitude of the other.”

“We think that hatred can more easily go through a transformation from individual to group level than other negative emotions; some will even claim that it is the most ‘group-based’ emotion.”

“[An additional] aspect of hatred that makes it more susceptible to become an intergroup sentiment that spreads fast, is the fact that it can increase in the absence of any personal interaction between the hater and members of the hated group.”

Patrick H. Weems's photo.Above, a historic marker calling attention to the spot where Emmett Till’s body was removed from the river after he was murdered. Like many efforts to memorialize hate crimes, this one has been physically attacked by racists. But no one today can really hate Emmett Till in an interpersonal way. So how, decades after his death, does hate against him still circulate?

“From a leadership perspective, fine-tuning of the exact patterns of hatred is almost impossible; hence, hate rhetoric can backlash.”

“Hate seems particularly prone to spreading at this intergroup level because it helps us to defend ourselves by strengthening the ties with our ingroup and putting all the blame for insecurity and violence elsewhere. Because hate is based on the perception of a stable, malevolent disposition of the other person, haters perceive little room for constructive change, and therefore there seem only radical options left to act upon one’s hate.”

How many dead civilians were represented in the first row at George HW Bush’s funeral?


Image result for george h w bush funeral

No good guys here.

Above, mourners at George H.W. Bush’s funeral include all the living former presidents and their wives, plus Donald and Melania Trump.

This photo represents so much grief to me. So much death.

6,979 soldiers killed in the Global War on Terror.

383 soldiers dead in the Gulf War.

Smaller numbers of military casualties almost too numerous too count under Carter, Bush I and II, Clinton, and Obama.

And the bigger numbers:

200,000 indigenous people dead and 1.5 million more displaced in Guatemala in a genocide that began during Carter’s term; under his leadership, the US failed to sanction Guatemala as the nation began a campaign of terror against peasants. We supplied training for military leaders, and tanks from Israel, subsidized with US war money, were used in the violence there.

Approximately 200,000 people in East Timor were slaughtered while Carter’s administration provided funding and weapons to the Suharto regime, whose atrocities were well-documented

More than 600 Namibians in a refugee camp killed by a South African airstrike in Angola, and Jimmy Carter refused to call for sanctions against South Africa (still an apartheid nation at the time) in the UN

Afghanistan destroyed–and ready to embrace the Taliban as an alternative to western warfare–after the US fomented rebellion against Soviet forces there under Carter. (Oh, and one of the men we trained to fight the Soviets was Osama bin Laden. So this grief is not foreign. This photo reminds me of the lives lost on September 11, too.)

75,000 civilians dead–85% of them at the hands of the government–in the Salvadoran Civil War. Carter’s administration gave at least $5 million, plus training, to in aid to the government. Among those dead were priests working for piece, including Oscar Romero.

Note that Reagan, whose interference in Latin America is a direct cause of so much suffering today, isn’t even in this picture. 

See the source imageThose seeking asylum in the US today are fleeing from violence that the US fomented in our fight against communism and the War on Drugs in Latin and South America. 

Approximately 200 Panamanian civilians were killed during the US invasion of Panama and Operation Just Cause under George H.W. Bush.

Estimates of civilian deaths during Desert Storm range from 2,300 to more than 3,600.

In the War on Terror, we have no idea how many dead, and we have no desire to know, because the number would be so shaming and would likely inspire more terrorism against the US. Maybe 4 million or more.

Plus under George H.W. Bush, military excursions into Liberia, Zaire, Sierra Leone, Bosnia and Herzegovinia, and Kuwait. Under Clinton, Bosnia, Somalia (where 18 Americans were killed, 1 was captured, and 73 were wounded), Macedonia, Haiti, Central African Republic, Kuwait, Albania, Congo, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Liberia, East Timor, Serbia, and Kosovo–but, somehow, not Rwanda. Under George W. Bush, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Yemen, East Timor, Yemen, the Philippines, Georgia, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Haiti,  and, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan. Under Obama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Uganda, Jordan, Turkey, Mali, Syria, and Cameroon. Under Trump, we continue to maintain 1.3 million US troops abroad, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Kuwait, Syria, Poland, and South Korea.

And, of course, at home: those who died of complications related to HIV due to government inaction during the Reagan/Bush years. Mass incarceration under Clinton. Rising hate crimes under Trump.

Image result for drone attack victims in pakistan

Below, Pakistani protestors remind Americans of the link between US-led killing of civilians via drones and terrorism. US presidents could care about human rights of the world’s most vulnerable people. If not, they are responsible for understanding that violence breeds terrorism, not security.

When a president dies, we invoke how “complicated” the presidency is. True. And you probably have to be a bit of a narcissist who is disconnected from reality to be able to withstand the pressure of getting the job. But it’s not “complicated” to engage in warfare that takes civilian lives 90% of the time.

When we say “complicated,” it could just be that we mean, “I’m scared of thinking about a world in which the US would not be able to destroy the entire world. I’m afraid of the work it would take to create a more just world. I am so scared that I’d rather elect a future war criminal than to work for peace. I’d rather send my children off to war than have to make peace on their behalf.”

I’d trade four living American presidents for the millions of brown-skinned civilians whose deaths they caused. In an instant. Of course. And so would the millions of enemies we made worldwide through our violence.




A 606 Jólabókaflóðið: Suggestions from a Volunteer Librarian, grade 5

Squirrels hide nuts for the long winter. Bears pack on fat for hibernation. Here at Sixoh6, we prepare for winter by stocking up on books. To help you find the best books to gift this holiday season, we’re sharing guest posts from some of our favorite parents of babies and toddlers, children, and teens. We’ve asked our guest bloggers to share books on a theme of their choice. We hope, whether you are young or old and whether you have a lot of books to give this year or just a few, you’ll find something here that delights you and that you’ll enjoy a Jólabókaflóðið (“Yule Book Flood”) this winter.

This week’s guest bloggers are Saffron, age 11,, and her sister, Ruby, age 8. They live in Pennsylvania.  In the fifth and second grade, respectively, they recommend buying a child a series of books so that they can read them all at once, somewhat like binging on a TV show on Netflix.  The trick? Finding a book series good enough that you can’t read just one!

Today, we hear from Saffron.  




Image result for the lightning thief

 The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is the first in the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It starts with Percy finding out he is the son of one of the ancient Greek god Poseidon. Zeus’s thunderbolt has been stolen, and he thinks Poseidon stole it. Percy encounters other gods in this story, not all of which are helpful.  This story has wonderful plot twists and a delightful plot at that. It is full of everyday situations that only a demigod can turn abnormal. (Riding the bus with three old ladies ends with the bus exploding.) All in all, it is truly in my top ten favorite books.

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The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan continues The Lightning Thief. Percy goes to an island in the Sea of Monsters to save his satyr friend Grover from an evil Cyclops. Ironically, we find out Percy’s half-brother, who is coming with Percy, is a cyclops. The book is similar to the Lightning Thief in its quick wit and real-life situations. Altogether, it is one of my highest-recommended books.

The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan continues The Sea of Monsters. Percy’s crush has been kidnapped by Kronos’s army, and he (obviously) wants to save her. Bianca and Nico DiAngelo (Nico might be my favorite character in the whole series,) are two new demigods who have to be delivered to Camp Half-Blood, the training grounds for demigods.  On his quest, Percy takes one of Artemis’s Hunters, Zoe Nightshade, Grover Underwood (the satyr), and Bianca. At the end, Percy returns to Camp Half-Blood and Nico blames him for the death of his sister. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite reads.

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The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan continues The Titan’s Curse. The story opens with finding out that there is a, no, the Labyrinth beneath Camp Half-Blood. Percy decides that it is a good way to infiltrate Kronos’s army. He and Annabeth (his crush), Grover, and his half-brother (Tyson the cyclops) go into the labyrinth and meet Daedalus. Although, I can’t give too much away, I can say that it is a great book to read for a school book report.

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The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan continues The Battle of the Labyrinth. The book starts with Percy blowing up one of Kronos’s ships. This is the closing book of the series, and so the Battle of Manhattan against Kronos begins. All the gods and goddesses pitch in to help defeat the titans. In the end, it is not Percy who is the hero, though. And I certainly cannot give that away, now can I? Like all the books, this is full of plot twists. However, this is my favorite for a number of reasons I cannot share for fear of spoiling the book. I hope you enjoyed my review of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I highly recommend this book series for 2nd   to 4th graders.

About the author:

Saffron is a huge fan of Rick Riordan and has read all his series. She enjoys reading almost any material and recommends books to her classmates. She is 11 years old and can pick out books based purely on personality and how hard the books are. She likes to go to the library and sit quietly in the sun, curled up with a book. Whenever she comes across good book series, she is sure to tell her friends. She calls herself a “book loving book discoverer librarian.” She also enjoys dachshunds and has one named Dawn at home.

“The library is my second home. I can find practically anything there”



Want to get more suggestions for great books to gift this holiday season?

Read Erica’s suggestions for books about St. Nicholas and St. Lucia here.

Check out O’s suggestions for books about wild animals here.

And read Ruby’s suggestions for Star Wars-themed books here.

Does Not Pray Well with Others

In case you missed it, at George H. W. Bush’s funeral last week, “baby Christian” Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump did not recite the Apostles’ Creed. This was in contrast to the Clintons, Obamas, and Carters.

Who cares, right?

A lot of people, actually.

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Above, former presidents and their spouses read or recite the Apostles’ Creed. The Trumps do not participate.

The most obvious explanation is that Trump does not know the Apostles’ Creed And why should he? He claims to be Presbyterian, and that faith tradition uses the creed, but the only thing Trump picked up in church is Marla Maples, so it would be unrealistic to expect that he would have learned it there.

Why didn’t he read it, then? (Let me interrupt myself for a moment. If you are a church-attending Christian, please consider reading the stuff you might otherwise recite. It helps newbies feel less embarrassed that they don’t know the prayer, creed, Bible passage, or words to the hymn.)

Is the president illiterate?

It’s probably more that he doesn’t have the attention span, not that he can’t sound out words.

And, to be fair, the Apostles’ Creed does have some advanced vocabulary (“conceived,” “Pontius Pilate,” “resurrection”) in it.

This also seems to be the argument that Franklin Graham is forwarding, though he probably doesn’t read it that way. When Graham, a big fan of Trump and hater of refugees and immigrants, defended Trump’s silence during the creed, he compared it to his own decision not to sign in church.

“Guess what—I don’t usually sing in church. Why? Because I can’t carry a tune! And, I have no rhythm,” he explained on Facebook.

First of all, Franklin, talent has nothing to do with praising God. Once again, your theology is garbage.  Second, you just told everyone in your congregation that if they aren’t good singers, they should shut up. Once again, you’re a lousy pastor. Third, finish this analogy: you don’t sing because you don’t do it well, just like Trump doesn’t read because ____________. Really? I mean, it’s true. He doesn’t seem to have the reading comprehension to realize that he’s Individual-1 in the Cohen sentencing guidelines. So, thank you for being honest.

Or maybe he was just too busy thinking about something else, argued Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas, one of the most patriotic, tackiest Baptist churches in America. “I imagine the leader of the free world has a few things on his mind,” he told The Christian Post. I think this actually is a likely excuse. I have no doubt that Trump was thinking about something else since he has shown no ability to think about the presidency in its historic context, reflect on the successes of another person, or pay attention for the duration of a funeral sermon.

Mainstream Christians—the Episcopalians, like Bush Sr was—have taken this as evidence that Trump’s not really a Christian, and they keep mentioning it as if the 81% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump will care about his failure to recite or even read from the funeral program.

But the evangelicals who support Trump aren’t going to be persuaded by this because many of them don’t say the Apostles’ Creed. Not just that, but lots of them (okay, us, because this was definitely the thinking I grew up with) view the recitation of creeds as getting pretty close to idolatry. The rote repetition of words you don’t understand? That’s basically pre-Vatican II Catholicism! Not speaking directly from the heart, as the Spirit guides you, when you pray aloud? Hypocrite! The ONLY acceptable traditional, pre-written prayer is the Lord’s Prayer, and that’s only because Jesus directly told people they had to pray it. Bible recitation is one thing—that’s the word of God—but any creed that came after the Bible is necessarily a work of man, not God. So: no.

Which makes Trump (get ready for it!) a better Christian than those hypocrites sitting in the pews next to him.

Or, even if you think that this proves that Trump isn’t a Christian, then you should appreciate his honesty in not professing the creed; he is living according to his conscience.

And, just to make sure that they have all their bases covered, conservative Christians can rest assured that if Trump was silent because he’s too principled to pray a lie, that’s okay, too, because it just reaffirms that he is their King Cyrus. Cyrus wasn’t a Jew, but he was appointed by God to provide them with the space and material support to reassert their faith—specifically, to rebuild their temple, surrounded by a protective wall so that they could maintain an exclusive hold on both religion and politics. They draw this analogy from Isaiah 45:1-4, where God promises Cyrus all power, even though he doesn’t recognize God. Here is verse 4:

For the sake of Jacob my servant,
    of Israel my chosen,
I summon you by name
    and bestow on you a title of honor,
    though you do not acknowledge me.

Yep, conservative Christian logic is impenetrable. No matter how you looked his silence, it was evidence of something conservative Christians love about him: he’s plain spoken and doesn’t have time for those his smooth-talking predecessor used; he was too busy thinking about how to slash taxes that provide a safety net for the poor; he is the kind of Christian who prays sincere prayers from the heart, not one who recites ancient words not even from the Bible; he’s not a hypocrite like the Clintons or Obamas, who go to church but perform late term abortions and secretly worship Allah; and, anyway, the gap between his personal piety and his commitment to restoring Christian hegemony means that he’s really appointed by God, because why else would a secular person do so much for the faith?

More likely, he needs reading glasses and simply refuses to put them on because doing so would mean admitting to weakness and aging. We might not believe that he’s the fittest person to even run for office if we saw him peering over some readers. Vanity and pride—and insecurity and living a lie—are pretty likely explanations.

12 APOSTLES WITH JESUSAbove, Nicholas Poussin’s painting of the 12 Apostles. 

But I suspect that, even if Trump wasn’t too insecure to wear glasses and wasn’t embarrassed to have to read a text that those next to him know by heart and if he wasn’t going to struggle with the two- and three-syllabus words, he still wouldn’t have read it.

Recitation of a prayer—following the lead of a spiritual leader, humbling yourself to join voices with a group of fellow believers, losing yourself in the history of millions who have said this same prayer—that’s not exactly Trump’s style. It requires humility, vulnerability, and the willingness to be subsumed into something greater. For some Christians, this is precisely what makes prayer of this kind so powerful. Common prayer isn’t common because it is ordinary; instead, it holds us in common and that is decidedly uncommon, especially in an individualistic culture, including an individualistic religious culture. We join in it together, with no on voice above the others. Trump couldn’t do that if he tried, and so he didn’t. It would have been a lie to pray, not merely because he doesn’t believe in what the Apostles’ Creed professes but because he does not believe in anything he’s not the star of.

Christians who support Trump should be very concerned about that. Cyrus didn’t try to compete with God. Trump, you get the sense quite clearly, has no god but himself. That is something that, eventually, conservative Christians will find they can’t manage.