COLUMBUS: All politics, as the late Tip O’Neill liked to say, is local.

U.S. Supreme Court decisions, however, can be very personal.

Two handed down this week were for me, and not in a positive way. I expect this was the case for other Americans who share my peculiar blend of life experiences.

One of the 5-4 decisions wiped out a high court ruling from more than 40 years ago that permitted public employee unions to collect fees from non-members covered by a union contract, while not allowing those fees to pay for political activities.

The second upheld President Donald J. Trump’s irrational, mean-spirited and fear-mongering travel ban prohibiting citizens from five mostly Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

The ruling on public employee unions took me back to growing up in Flint, Mich., in the 1950s and 1960s. Flint has become a poster city for the urban wreckage resulting from the demise of high-paying, union factory jobs.

When I was growing up, however, Flint was a boom town, with tens of thousands of workers in General Motors’ plants spread across the city. Flint’s median income was reported to be the highest in the state.

The prosperity was created by the founders of the auto companies but also by Flint’s William C. “Billy” Durant. Durant brought several of the auto companies together to form General Motors.

There was another key ingredient to Flint’s prosperity, the United Automobile Workers union. By organizing the workers and keeping them together through sit-down strikes, the UAW made sure that the workers got their slice of prosperity.

The benefits reaped by the UAW did not extend, however, to school teachers and other public employees.

Many teachers, including my mother Josephine, were women. They were subjected to the sexist conventional wisdom of the day: It was OK to keep their salaries low because their husbands had good jobs.

Through collective bargaining and occasional strikes the teachers slowly changed this attitude. I remember one strike. My mother was no agitator and did not picket. She stayed home, however, and refused to cross picket lines.

Her dad, my grandfather, had been a coal miner and later a GM worker. She knew how much unions had done to improve their lives.

Among the teachers in those days there were high-minded, self-serving devotees of self-righteousness opposed to unions and especially to paying union dues.

My mother was a devout, teetotaling Methodist and the church certainly ranked far ahead of unions in her pecking order of devotion.

She had no use, however, for friends who professed that joining a union was against their religion.

“Is it against your religion to take the pay raises?” she asked.

That question is relevant today for the free-riders who will no longer have to pay fees to the public employee unions that represent them.

The union-inspired salaries earned by my parents helped pay for my undergraduate and graduate college studies. This education whetted my curiosity about the world beyond Flint and the United States and led to volunteering two years as a Peace Corps teacher in Ethiopia.

This experience put me strongly at odds with Trump’s travel ban. My two years in Ethiopia, 1968-1970, coincided with the Vietnam War, and America’s involvement tarnished our reputation around the world, especially in developing nations.

Still, for most Ethiopians “America” was the world’s shining light, a beacon of optimistic hope. In the town where I trained there was a bar named after President John F. Kennedy.

The Ethiopians in the small town where I taught welcomed me and gave me an appreciation for the world’s wonderful human diversity.

When the Ethiopian civil war in the 1970s resulted in a ruthless, murderous military government, I had a chance to return the hospitality. My wife, who also had been a Peace Corps volunteer, and I helped bring one of my former students who had been caught up in the fighting to the United States as a refugee. We helped resettle other Ethiopian refugees in Ohio.

Today, of course, there are even more refugees seeking safety and for them the United States continues to be a beacon of hope. I meet some of them every week — from Iraq, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bhutan, Tanzania, El Salvador and other places — as a volunteer English teacher.

They are eager to do their part to continue the grand experiment that has formed a great, generous and welcoming nation.

Sadly, the president’s “zero tolerance” policy and travel ban threaten to roll up the welcome mat.

Hershey is a former Washington correspondent and Columbus bureau chief for the Beacon Journal. He also was the Columbus bureau chief of the Dayton Daily News. He is the co-author, with John C. Green, of Mr. Chairman: The Life and Times of Ray C. Bliss. He can be reached at hershey_william@hotmail.com.