Wednesday, August 26, 2015

XENOPHOBES NOT WANTED

“The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again”

“Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane, 
All they will call you will be “deportees”

 “Deportees” (Woody Guthrie – 1961)

I read the synopsis of Donald Trump’s immigration plan last night. Only a demagogue/crook/billionaire like him could dream it up. It was a xenophobe’s delight.

Some elements of the plan are patently foolish. If Donald Trump thinks he can build a wall at the border and make Mexico pay for it, he’s even dumber than I thought he was. If he believes that Mexicans are solely responsible for our unemployment problems, he’s got a screw loose. If he thinks that restricting or eliminating green card applications is a stroke of genius, he’s delusional. 

 Unfortunately, that’s the type of rhetoric we get when the populace is angry and a filthy rich blowhard runs for President.

Trump’s position would be merely laughable if it weren’t so laden with evil intent, as evidenced by the centerpiece of his plan. If he’s elected, he’ll deport all illegal immigrants, men, women, and children. Included in the children are those who were born in the United States. For those who aren’t well acquainted with our Constitution, those born here are American citizens and, as such, they entitled to “protections and immunities” that cannot be abridged by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment to said Constitution.

Apparently, the Constitution means little to Donald Trump. He’ll just rule like an emperor. As he said the other day, “They gotta’ go.” Then, at the appropriate time, he’ll decide who comes back. Oh, the milk of human kindness!

I think you can see by now that I have strong feelings about all of this. It’s very, very personal to me.

My mother was an immigrant, like the parents of many of you who are reading this essay. She was uneducated. But, she was also a woman imbued with enormous courage and a desire to see that her children worked hard and succeeded in life.

 She fulfilled those duties admirably.

As I was growing up, there were many times that a letter would come from immigration. They terrified her. For some reason, she wasn’t sure whether or not she was in the United States legally. Any time that dreaded letter came, she would panic. “Let’s pack up. We’ve got to leave so Immigration won’t catch up with us.” The fear that registered in her face was palpable. She was panic stricken by the thought of being deported. That fear, in turn, transmitted to me, my brother, and sister. It was very real.

 My mother has gone on to her reward. She no longer has to worry about that dreaded letter from Immigration. My brother, sister, and I have also moved on. We’ve contributed to the welfare of this country. We’ve gotten educated, worked hard, served in our military. We’ve mastered disciplines like chemical engineering, linguistics, theology, and business.

We’ve taught our children well. We count among them a Rhodes Scholar and practicing attorney, an I.T. specialist, an author, a labor negotiator, a sheriff, a Social Security Administration analyst, a nurse, an investment broker.

We’re proud of our contributions to this country and we’re sure that succeeding generations of Dillons will continue to contribute to America’s principles and ideals.

I believe there are millions of Mexicans and others from south of our border who want to nothing more than my mother wanted for her family.

But, you say, we’ve got a problem with illegal immigration. I agree. But, there is an American way to solve the problem. Deporting 11 million is not the way. Blaming Mexicans is not the American way, nor is it the Conservative way.

I’ve got one more bone to pick before I’m done. According to a recent Washington Post poll, 25% of white Christians support Donald Trump. I hope and pray that the poll is wrong, but if it isn’t, I have question for that 25% percent. What in God’s name is wrong with you? Have you never read the story of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 2)? Don’t you know that Jesus, our Lord, spent part of his childhood living as a refugee in Egypt (Matthew 2)? Don’t you know that God has great affinity for the alien and the stranger (Matthew 25)? Haven’t you read that there will be a day when a “multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language” will gather around the throne of heaven (Revelation 7)?

If you’re in that 25%, you need to wake up. There is no place for xenophobia on earth….or in heaven! In fact, if you’re not careful you could become the deportees when that great day of reckoning dawns.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

FERAL CREATURES



Albert Schweitzer has been credited with once saying, “The only escape from the miseries of life is music and cats.” I’m not sure if he actually said it, but if it wasn’t him, it must have been someone with a deep sense of appreciation for things that bring balance and beauty to this often chaotic world.

I’d never spent much time around cats until I fell in love with Nancy. Once I got to that point, I realized that love meant Nancy…..and her cats. In our thirty years together, there have been many cats who generously shared their home with an interloper like me. There was Parker, then Stormy, followed by Tiddles and Beau. Corky took up residence with us about the time we left Memphis. Since we’ve lived in Emporia, we’ve had Emma, Brudder, Turkel, Felix, Mia, Chee Chee, Gracie, and, most recently a little Himalayan kitten we’ve named Kitsi.

We weren’t really in the market for another cat, but Kitsi came to us as the only reward thus far for what has become a frustrating exercise in what I thought was good citizenship.

Permit me to explain.

About a month ago, a friend made us aware of a feral cat problem at a rental property near the corner of 8th and Rural. There were at least twenty-five of them roaming around. Our friend, who is very kind to animals, convinced us to help her trap some of them and get them to the animal shelter. So, we went and set two traps. In the process, Nancy noticed that there was one little kitten that wasn’t afraid of people. That was Kitsi. She was covered with fleas. Her eyes were clouded over with gunk of some kind. Nancy decided to bring her home that night and then get her to our vet, Floyd Dorsey, as soon as possible.

The next morning, we found that we’d actually caught two of the feral cats in the traps. We took them to the shelter, thinking they’d be glad to see us. We were wrong. One of the staff told us that what we’d done was illegal. After a brief, but mutually combative encounter, they reluctantly agreed to take the cats.

Later that day I called the police department to see if Nancy and I were, indeed, criminals. We were reassured that we were still citizens in good standing.

I wanted to do more, but didn’t see much point in pursuing things further until the city clarified its relationship with the shelter’s management. That’s what I’m still waiting on. As things stand, city management is waiting on the city attorney, who has recently had surgery and is still recuperating. Ain’t politics grand? You’d think that common sense wouldn’t necessitate a lawyer, but politics isn’t generally about doing what makes good sense, is it?

So, the feral cats are still squatting, doing what feral cats usually do – breeding, passing disease to the pets of other homeowners in the area, and being a nuisance.

The cats, of course, aren’t to blame. They’re just doing what comes naturally. The root of the problem lies elsewhere.

In case you haven’t noticed, feral cats almost always find the feral abode of some feral property owner (think slum lord) to take up residence. It’s a mutually satisfying arrangement. The feral cats seem to like it and the feral property owners profit from it by taking advantage of the city’s poor. They also get the added benefit of low property taxes, which are based on the low value of the hovels they profit from.

Where does that leave the rest of us? Our property taxes skyrocket as we try to make improvement to our property. But, even our attempts at improvement have marginal benefit, thanks to the drag on property values that feral property owners inflict on us.

I could go on and on about city governing codes that were designed to deal with problems like this, but that would be pointless. Common sense tells us that this city’s homes should be structurally sound and that our properties and neighborhoods should be “protected from blighting influences (the City of Emporia’s property codes, section 5b).”

Unfortunately, getting the city to respond is a major undertaking. I’m trying not to be cynical, but I’m losing the battle. It appears to me that we’ve got a real feral problem in this city. We’ve got feral cats, feral property, feral property owners, and feral politicians trying their best to ignore the problem.

So, the problems continue to fester. The feral cats suffer needlessly. The feral property owners profit handsomely. The feral properties keep falling apart at the seams. The feral politicians keep hoping the problems will magically disappear. And, the rest of us pay the high price of neglect. It’s what horse racing fans call the exacta, with the public getting the short end of the stick.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A ZERO SUM GAME?



“Can it be that evil is a zero sum game? That each generation is allotted its quota of evil, and must express it – discharge it in any way it can?”
-          Lance Morrow – “Evil – An Investigation” (Basic Books – 2003)

The reactions from both sides of America’s abortion issue after the release of videos by the Center for Medical Progress have been swift. This morning I read in the Topeka Capitol Journal that Sam Brownback is calling for an investigation of Planned Parenthood facilities in Kansas. It won’t be long till pro-abortion supporters accuse the Governor of playing politics. Pro-life supporters will claim he’s acting out of principle.

Will the accusations and counter charges bring any resolution to heated debate? I don’t know.

Me? I’m pro-life. I don’t consider myself to be an activist, although I have engaged in some activities on behalf of the movement. Back in the 80’s I once carried a pro-life sign that read “ABORTION STOPS A BEATING HEART” to a rally near downtown Kansas City. I chose the sign carefully. I could have carried one with photos of aborted children, but decided on something less incendiary. I didn’t seem to make much difference in the way some counter demonstrators reacted to me. I was spit on once and got whacked a couple of times. One demonstrator screamed at me about Ronald Reagan and our government’s support for the counter-insurgency in Nicaragua. I had no idea what Nicaragua had to do with abortion, but felt it would be best to bite my tongue.

When Nancy and I moved to New Jersey, we took one trip to Washington, D.C. with a large contingent of pro-life Roman Catholics. We spent some time praying near the capitol building and stopped by Senator Bill Bradley’s office to leave notes expressing our views. That was as provocative as it got.

Since that time, Nancy and I haven’t been particularly visible in the pro-life movement. We could best be termed “quiet” pro-lifers.

This brings me to what I think of the current heated rhetoric.

Is what Planned Parenthood doing illegal? I don’t know enough about the law to say. I do know that Chief Justice John Roberts has said that Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” I do know that Planned Parenthood claims that they follow all federal statutes covering human fetal tissue research; particularly those concerning the logistics of the movement of the “tissue” from the abortion clinics to research facilities wanting said “tissue.” Planned Parenthood is also making the claim that the tissue is being used to help medical science find cures for Alzheimer’s and other scourges that plague humanity.

Some commentators have said it’s like Soylent Green in reverse.

Is what Planned Parenthood doing based on altruism? Are they acts of kindness?   Are they moral?

I don’t believe so.

I think the problem here is that too many pro-abortion supporters are confusing legality with morality. They’re two different things. While the law can have moral roots, law can also be used to make something immoral seem like a perfectly moral course of action. Our own history makes this clear. In 1857, for example, a majority of Supreme Court justices ruled that Dred Scott was nothing more than a piece of chattel property. In 1927, justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote on behalf of the seven other justices who supported the idea that forced sterilization was legal in Buck v. Bell. His words were chilling – “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

As I read the recent op-eds about this issue I get a queasy feeling in my gut. Pro-abortion supporters are saying things like “Yawn,” which is another way of saying this is not a big deal. They apparently find the videos boring. Some are claiming that pro-lifers are letting their emotions override their logic, as if logic should be the only proper way to measure what’s happening.

Well, I have to admit it. I find what’s going on emotionally disturbing. And, like the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby, I think pro-abortion supporters should also be emotionally troubled by what they’re seeing and hearing. Like him, I find it morally repugnant to hear a Planned Parenthood official like Deborah Nucatola say over a salad and red wine, “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

While the law may say that the things we’re hearing and seeing are legal, I’d like to think that our consciences aren’t so seared that we can’t see evil when it’s staring right at us. If we can’t, God help us. We’re doomed.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

'WHEN THE SHIP COMES IN'






I’ve been in a funk since yesterday. Paying attention to the news of this world tends to do that to me.

It all started when I read a news release about Dinesh D’Souza. For those of you who don’t know much about how he ran afoul of the federal government, I’ll give you a brief thumbnail. D’Souza has been a forceful, often persuasive critic of the Obama administration. He’s produced films like “2016: Obama’s America” and “America: Imagine the World without Her,” that have been widely praised by Conservatives and panned by Progressives. His work has been so effective that some have dubbed him the “anti-Michael Moore.”  Moore, of course, is the documentarian who has become the darling of America’s Progressive movement.

To say D’Souza’s has been a political lightning rod or a target would be an understatement.

Well, sooner or later the shoe was bound to drop. In 2014, he was charged with violating federal campaign finance law. His crime? He’d used straw donors during a political campaign, something many donors do without much notice on the part of federal authorities. But, D’Souza had the dreaded target on his back.  He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years’ probation, another eight months in a halfway house, a $30,000 fine, and what I think of as “therapeutic psychiatric counseling.” It was the judge’s way to coerce D’Souza into to thinking more kindly about the Obama administration in particular, and Progressives in general.

Was the sentence justified? Most Progressives seemed to think so, but there was one notable exception. After the sentence was handed down, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz commented on the whole affair – “The idea of charging him with a felony for this doesn’t sound like a proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion.... I can’t help but think that [D'Souza's] politics have something to do with it.... It smacks of selective prosecution.”

If there was a bright side to the spectacle, it was in discovering that there’s at least one honest Progressive out there.

A year has passed since D’Souza was sentenced. At the most recent judicial hearing, his lawyer presented evidence from D’Souza’s psychiatric counselor, who testified that he “found no indication of depression or reason for medication.” Another counselor provided the court with a written statement that concluded “there was no need to continue the consultation, because D’Souza was psychologically normal and well adjusted.”
 
That should have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t. Judge Richard Brennan ruled that D’Souza’s violation of campaign finance law was evidence of a “psychological problem” and ordered another four years of “therapeutic counseling.”

God knows what might happen to D’Souza in four years if he doesn’t straighten out his thinking. Massive doses of Thorazine perhaps? A lobotomy?

A while later I read about Hillary Clinton’s novel approach to dealing with malcontents who just won’t get with the program. Clinton, who is an ardent supporter of abortion, made the following statement in a recent address to the Women in the World summit: “Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don't count for much if they're not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice—not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs (emphasis added) and structural biases have to be changed.”
 
Clinton, as she often does, tried to be vague, but I don’t think she succeeded. What she was saying was that if people have cultural codes, structural biases, or religious beliefs that aren’t in keeping with her agenda, she will use “resources and political will” (the law and the federal bureaucracy) to straighten them out.

I doubt that she was aware of it, but she was doing a brilliant job of channeling revolutionary French politicians who gave us their 19th century “Reign of Terror.” The following, for example, comes from Billaud Varennes, a prominent member of the “committee for public safety,” who oversaw the mayhem that came with all the talk of liberty, equality, and fraternity:  “A people who are to be restored to liberty must be formed anew. Ancient prejudices must be destroyed, antiquated customs changed, depraved affections corrected, inveterate vices eradicated.”

Who knows? If Hillary Clinton gets elected we just might get to see a latter day Madame Defarge sitting at the foot of the political guillotine, stoically knitting schemes to deal with dissenters. “Knit one, pearl two…Chop…Chop!”

What might this mean for people like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who are locked in a battle of faith and conscience with the federal government? Just this morning, a three judge federal appeals panel in Denver ruled they had to get with the program and provide¸ through a slippery third-party arrangement, free contraceptives for their employees. The Little Sisters believe that the government’s “accommodation” still makes them complicit in an immoral act they cannot in good conscience support.

What have the Little Sisters done that’s so ruffled the feathers of Progressives. I’d like to know and so would the Little Sisters. This is how they put it when the three judges ruling came down: “we should not have to make that choice, because it violates our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives. For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity. All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.”

The next step will be the Supreme Court, with Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her Progressive cohorts waiting in the wings. By the time the ruling comes, Hillary Clinton might be our President. Then what? “Knit one, pearl two…Chop…Chop?”

As you can see, my frustration level is pretty high. It’s a good thing, though, that I didn’t write this essay last night. I was in a fury. Nancy and I watched PBS’s “Frontline.” It was an investigative piece about the barbarism going on in ISIS controlled territory in Syria. There were interviews with Yazidi women and children as young as nine years old who were being repeatedly raped by ISIS thugs and being bought and sold as slaves. There were videos of young ISIS recruits laughing and joking about being able to rape children with no fear of retribution for their evil. There were other videos of Yazidi men being executed in masse. There was photographic evidence of ISIS executioners throwing young men suspected of being gay off the tops of buildings. There was a graphic video of a young woman being stoned to death for supposedly committing adultery, although the man she was supposed to have committed the sinful act with was nowhere to be found.

The only saving grace to the piece was a Syrian lawyer who is trying to save as many of those trapped in the hell of ISIS controlled Syria as he possibly can. Using a network of trusted agents, he’s been able to find a way to help a couple of hundred Yazidis escape the terror. He’s engaged in a noble effort, but it’s wearing on him. You can see it in the video. He’s tired. You can see that he feels the enormous weight of the task he’s taken on.  There are hundreds of thousands trapped, but he can only rescue a few.

As the program rolled on, I found myself muttering at the grainy images of the young ISIS thugs, “You filthy swine…..you filthy swine.” In the recesses of my soul I began to think, like David of old, “I hate them with a perfect hatred.” (Psalm 139) I even caught up in thinking that if I could only get a hold of some of those evil bastards, I would “dash them to pieces like pottery.” (Psalm 2)

After the show, Nancy and I talked about how powerless watching all these events made us feel. We pray about these things every day, but there’s very little that we can do beyond that. Will changes in our politics change things in America? Can we Christians change that? I don’t think so. We’re the minority report these days. We’re in the gunsights now. Just ask the Little Sisters of the Poor. Can we convince ISIS to stop pillaging and raping? No! Their theology dictates that they annihilate anyone who gets in the way of the establishment of their caliphate.

My frustration comes close to boiling over. Like the great cloud of witnesses in heaven, I keep asking, “How long, oh Lord? When will the cup of iniquity be filled to the point where you will intervene on humanity’s behalf?”

All I can do is pray. Arrayed against the principalities and powers of this age, my prayers seem feeble. But, I have to be satisfied that in praying, I’m doing my part. So, I’ll watch and pray, and look to the eastern sky for that glorious day we’ve been promised, when the crooked places will be made straight and the valleys will be exalted. All of these things are in God’s hands. They haven’t escaped his notice. We have our plans and methods. He has his!

As I was thinking about these things this morning¸ I turned my Pandora app on and the first song that came up was Bob Dylan’s 1963 classic “When the Ship Comes In.” I’ve always seen it as a theological piece. The eschatology is raw and powerful. As I listened I found myself longing for the time when I would see the fish laughing, the seagulls smiling, and the rocks standing, as the ship of salvation descends upon the earth one last time. I could almost feel my tired toes resting on the sands that will become a carpet of gold and the wise men will proclaim that the whole world is watching.

There’s a YouTube video at the introduction to this essay. If you haven’t listened to it already, I highly recommend it. I’ll also close with the complete lyrics to the song, which follow. Read them and be edified.

Maranatha!

Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin’
Like the stillness in the wind
’Fore the hurricane begins
The hour when the ship comes in


Oh the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking


Oh the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they’ll be smiling
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand
The hour that the ship comes in


And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they’re spoken
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean


A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck
The hour that the ship comes in


Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin’
And the ship’s wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin’


Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’
But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it’s for real
The hour when the ship comes in


Then they’ll raise their hands
Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands
But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered
And like Pharoah’s tribe
They’ll be drownded in the tide
And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered