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AMEND CORNER: Intelligence isn’t enough

Our current president just can’t seem to avoid controversy.

His supporters, naturally, blame his opponents for nit-picking and writing fake news about him. His opponents, on the other hand, blame the president for the goof-ups.

Controversy arose when the author of a recently published book apparently quoted someone who claimed our chief executive is not very smart, and is mentally unstable to boot. Naturally, the prez denied being a bonehead or a nut. In his own words, he called himself a “stable genius.”

Whatever his intelligence, that isn’t the real issue. In fact, I don’t think it matters much. That doesn’t mean I’d like a president whose cable system is short a few channels.

Rather it means only that being smart, even really smart, doesn’t mean you always do the right thing. Smart people make mistakes all the time. Sometimes they make decisions based on incorrect or incomplete information. They may act based on wishful thinking rather than sound evidence. In addition, being smart does not mean you’re without bias or prejudices that might lead you to make bad choices.

Being smart also doesn’t mean your motives are good ones. Criminals aren’t all dunderheads; some of them are actually pretty smart, real evil geniuses who use their high IQs to commit fraud or hack into your computer and steal your Social Security number. In short, they misuse their intelligence.

That brings me to the most recent presidential kerfuffle, set off by comments the president made in a conference with some members of Congress on immigration policy.

The president was quoted as using crude, vulgar language I can’t use — and wouldn’t use if I could — to describe our neighboring republic, Haiti, and underdeveloped African nations as really horrible places. He seemed to question whether people in those nations should ever be granted legal entry to the U.S. Since citizens of those nations are nearly all black, many took the statements as proof that the president is racially bigoted and wants our immigration policy to exclude all or nearly all black immigrants in favor of, say, Norwegians, who, presumably, would be white.

Naturally, it was a Democrat who reported the president’s statements. Just as naturally, a couple of Republican congressmen and the president himself denied he had used the vulgar language, but one Republican Senator immediately chastised the president for the comments and said the Democrat’s report was “basically accurate.” I’ll take that as the truth of the matter.

In that light, what am I to make of the president’s intellect? Are the statements in question a product of intelligence, or the product of bigotry? Does his implication that citizens of those nations are of no value and are not fit to enter this nation the result of sound thinking, or has he come to his conclusions based on faulty logic and insufficient information?

Personally, I find the language the president used repugnant. The nations he had in mind certainly have problems, including scarce resources, poor leadership, poverty and, in some cases, religious and tribal warfare. That said, it does not justify dismissing whole populations with language that is discourteous and disrespectful. Many, if not most of these nations are working hard against tremendous obstacles, to solve their problems. They deserve respect, not vulgar put-downs for those efforts.

As for his reluctance to admit immigrants from such nations, he needs to look at a little history. Simple logic would realize that many, if not most, immigrants coming to America were doing so because of problems in their homelands. Some of our early immigrants were actually criminals that England deported because they were short on prison space. Later immigrants arrived from places such as Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe — nations beset by poverty, violence and discrimination. My great-grandpa left Russia for Nebraska because Germans like him were facing persecution, and the Pol Pot regime’s rapacious rule that ruined Cambodia brought my son-in-law here. There may be such immigrants in your family tree, too, because our nation is made of such immigrants.

So I think immigrants from Haiti or Ghana and other nations the president insulted would also make positive contributions. They come intending to build a better life and their efforts would make things better for all of us.

In the midst of the Facebook chatter about the president’s insulting language, I found support for my opinion. My daughter-in-law posted a photograph from a past graduation ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy. Alix, a graduating cadet, was overcome with emotion over the honor he was receiving and the opportunity of serving America.

Alix’s father, who had immigrated earlier, brought him to the U.S. in 2009. Alix was serving in the Maryland National Guard when he became interested in attending the Academy. He applied, was accepted and enrolled in 2012. The second lieutenant finished at the top of his class in physics and entered training to be a helicopter pilot.

We are fortunate to have immigrants such as Alix who are not only willing to serve us, they feel honored for the opportunity. Our nation is better because of immigrants like him — even if they arrive from a nation our president disparages as a terrible place.

Alix is from Haiti, one of those countries.

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