Crisis, Constitution, and Bible Classes

It is an attempted power grab, no two ways about it, and no one should really be surprised that President Trump actually went ahead by declaring a national emergency at our southern border. What should, perhaps, surprise us is that the Republican Party is almost completely silent, if not complicit, with this unconstitutional move. And, no, the 1976 National Emergencies Act does not give the President the authority to do what he is attempting. As the Brennan Center for Justice pointed out recently, nearly all cases of declared emergencies have involved foreign governments, outside terroristic threats, and gross human rights violations, never the President of the United States circumventing funds already appropriated by Congress and signed into law by the Executive Branch.

Of course, one could argue the finer points of the law, and sooner than later the Courts will decide the proper interpretation and possible application of the National Emergencies Act, which will in all likelihood make its way to the Supreme Court where we can only hope and pray a majority of Justices are faithful enough to the Constitution, not to mention frightened enough by the prospect of giving the President so much power, that they will rule Trump’s attempted move illegal. In the meantime, we might ask some simple but very sensible questions about all this … questions that, really, any good Republican should be asking him/herself right now, such as:

  1. Why did President Trump fail to get his billions of dollars in border wall funding during his first two years of office when the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress, especially if it was so imperative?
  2. When Trump did not receive adequate funding for the Wall, why did he not declare a national emergency in 2017 or 2018? Did this “national emergency” just suddenly arise in 2019, after the Democrats took back control of the House? Hmmm …. suspicious at best.
  3. If there really is a national emergence at the southern border, where’s the proof? No, we mean good, solid evidence rooted in reality, which begs the question: Why is illegal immigration at a nearly 50-year low if there really is a crisis along the Mexican border?
  4. Does this crisis primarily have to do with narcotics and other contraband? But studies and reports have consistently shown that most illegal drugs come into the United States through legal ports of entry… So how does this allow President Trump to declare a national emergence along our southern border?

The most important question I have for Republicans ~ and I’m really kind of frightened I even have to ask this ~ is, “Why in the world would you stand idly by and allow, if not support, any President so obviously circumventing the Constitution? Why would you … how could you support someone striking at the very balance of power we have enjoyed in our country since its foundation? Do you not realize that this sort of action threatens to erode the very foundation of our nation?”

We can only hope and pray the challengers to Trump’s power grab are successful, that they prevail. Even back in the 1930s, good ole FDR had to be challenged for his own attempted power grab, and he was … and his challengers were, thankfully, successful. However, bear in mind that many of his challengers were, as a matter of fact, from his own party. Sadly, this is seemingly not the case today!

Bible in the Classrooms?

Some states evidently have proposals on the table to offer Bible classes in public schools. Proponents offer all kinds of arguments for doing this, such as: Judeo-Christian Scriptures contain good teaching to which children need to be exposed, especially in character development. Also, the Bible constitutes some of the great literature of the world, and it has also been an integral part of the history and heritage of the United States.

Besides all this, the Bible class would only be offered as an elective, not as a requirement, so parents should not be offended because their children would not be forced into religious instruction. So there should presumably be no problem, and President Trump is evidently all for it … and at this point we might make the salient observation that he himself could use a good class or two in biblical competency! At any rate, the real question is: Would this be a good idea assuming it is not ultimately deemed unconstitutional. (And, of course, if state legislatures pass bills for Bible classes, even as electives, there will be court challenges.)

Well, there are probably many objections. For instance: Why offer an elective in the Bible and not, say, the Qur’an? Or the Upanishads? Or the Bhagavad Gita? Or the Analects of Confucius? One can easily argue that these religious writings also comprise part of the world’s great literature, and that they offer good teachings conducive to character development. Of course, they have not, perhaps, played a major role in the history and heritage of America, yet it is also true that many of these important spiritual/religious works were studied by educated Americans as part of a classical education, including many (if not most) of the Founding Fathers. (Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, for example, had personal copies of the Qur’an.)

But one additional concern, fairly simple and straightforward, is the question of just who would write the curriculum, and who would actually teach the class. Imagine offering a Bible class in southeast Alabama created by, say, Paulist Press and taught by the local, Roman Catholic priest! This would not go over at all, of course, even if the class were an elective and even if the priest received no monetary compensation. Most folks in this area of the country just would not put up with it, their attitude being: “How dare you when the overwhelming majority of us are Southern Baptists, and we don’t believe in prayers to Mary and the saints, the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion, etc. etc.!” So you see, this could be a problem: Who would end up teaching these classes?

Personally, I would not really object to a comparative world religions class offered as an elective to, maybe, juniors and seniors with curriculum produced by, say, MacMillan or Oxford and taught by an astute PhD in Religion (with said PhD eared from a fully-accredited institution of higher learning.) Such a course would possibly further expose students to the various cultures and belief systems of the Earth, which could be very helpful, indeed … especially since we live here in the “melting pot of the world.”

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We Have Come Too Far: A Villanelle Poem

Lightening truth will strike the soul through and through,
For we have come too far to turn back now to bow so low,
And we’ll not forget these lessons we have come to know

As flaunting terror haunts from whitened house of power,
We will not cower while we freely let loving peace flow,
For we have come too far to turn back now to bow so low

Child refugees walk across the land as wandering bands
With no helping hands as we recall we’re part of the show,
And we’ll not forget these lessons we have come to know

Anger from up on high has raised danger in heated streets
Where heartbeats race to slow to embrace mercy’s glow,
For we have come too far to turn back now to bow so low

Younger eyes hunger for freedom, food and some shelter
In this helter-skelter world, hoping for a better tomorrow,
And we’ll not forget these lessons we have come to know

Lightening truth will strike the soul through and through
Creating a beautiful view of the future so poignantly true,
For we have come too far to turn back now to bow so low,
And we’ll not forget these lessons we have come to know


Note: A villanelle (also known as villanesque) is a nineteen-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines. The villanelle is an example of a fixed verse form.

One Mall, Three Groups: Who’s to Blame?

So who is to blame for the raucous, divisive incident at the National Mall involving three very different groups: white, male Covington Catholic High School students, members of the radical Black Hebrew group, and/or the Indigenous Peoples, who were present to march for world peace? The media and commentators have been all over this story, which is, unfortunately, emblematic of the disunity and dissention in the United States today, and which tragically occurred the very weekend before we reverently remembered the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

First off, let me say unequivocally that no matter who “started it,” the very adult Black Hebrews ought to be held accountable for their incendiary, vulgar shouts and taunts at the high schools students, and should even be held legally accountable for any and all threats made against those boys, (and we are, after all, talking about minors.) There is simply no excuse for calling high school boys “incest babies” and other gross names, and threatening to “harvest the organs” of an African American student. And, by the way, where is the outrage over this?

Second, though, the chaperones of the Covington Catholic High School boys are culpable in all this if for no other reason than the fact that they failed to move the students away from the situation, that is, away from the Black Hebrews. Where were they, anyway, and what were they thinking? Mature, levelheaded adults would have removed the boys some reasonable distance from the vulgar, incendiary group and then surrounded them as a kind of protective barrier. This is, after all, the sort of thing chaperones are supposed to do, yet these boys were left to basically choose their own course.

Third, where the students themselves are concerned, instead of backing away from the Black Hebrews, they formed a semi-circle around them, began chanting “school spirit” chants (ostensibly, at least), hooping and hollering and jumping up and down… One young man even ripped off his shirt and started doing a kind-of-sort-of-whatever “dance,” much to the amusement of his classmates. None of this served to diffuse the situation at all, and even the junior, Nick Sandmann, whose image we see smiling, or smirking, at Mr. Phillips said as much in his interview on the Today Show. 

Fourth, when Mr. Phillips and the other Indigenous Peoples entered between the two groups ~ the Black Hebrews and Covington Catholic High ~ Sandmann and his classmates should have simply turned and walked away some distance. Again, even Sandmann now says as much … but they didn’t do this. Instead, the junior stood his ground in order to show Mr. Phillips that he was not going to be, in his words, “provoked” or “intimidated.” What??? No viewing of any of the video footage would lead anyone to believe that Mr. Phillips was attempting to provoke or intimidate.

Besides, when did it become appropriate for some young, wet-behind-the-ears, whipper-snapper to stand his adolescent ground in front of an adult, Marine veteran? No “if, ands or buts” about it, this was just plain disrespectful, but again, where were the chaperones? Yes, these students had been subjected to an hour-long (at least) barrage of insults from the Black Hebrews, but when Mr. Phillips intervened they had yet another opportunity to back off to some safer place. Instead they directed their hooping and hollering, now with offensive tomahawk chops, toward the Indigenous Peoples. Wow … Just wow!

Finally, who in the world was stupid enough to allow students to wear any political clothing or paraphernalia to a Right to Life march? Of all the important issues in the world, one would think the Sanctity of Life is one that does not need to be politicized … at least not more than it already has been. Aside from the fact that many, many people consider MAGA hats (and shirts and whatever) to be offensive for a variety of reasons, why would any religious school allow its students to display/advertise politics on or at the school and school functions? Just enforce a non-descript, uniform dress code!

Well, I will say at least one more thing about all this, which is a broader point and, perhaps, a take-away lesson, and that is: Perhaps young people should not be carted to state capitals and D. C. for marches and demonstrations. Yes, it’s important for high school students to learn about civics, history, the political process, etc. but maybe they’re not quite mentally and emotionally developed enough to actually be directly involved? Or at least if they are, then they really should be held to the same standards as adult participants… No pass for the stupidity of youth!

Peace in the Middle

Lady Liberty cries as angry words fly and malice stains the palates
Of youth untaught in the ways of grace when coming face to face
With elder glory in story boldly told in chanting prayer for peace,
And yet on the other side another mob from another world of hate,
Who throw out the bait by taunting, vaunting their own religiosity
In some monstrosity of twisted history with apocalyptic prophecy,
While one veteran man stands in the gap to quell the rising storm
As the foundations are being shaken to awaken our sleeping souls

Beyond Washington, What Do the Locals Say About the Border ‘Crisis?’ Part II

In yesterday’s “Beyond Washington, What Do the Locals Say About the Border ‘Crisis?’” we looked at what New Mexico and Arizona residents, local papers, and Border Patrol officials have to say about the President’s proposed Wall and the alleged “crisis” at our shared border with Mexico. Today, let’s at least glance at the State of Texas, especially since POTUS just visited there to drum up support for the Wall, and see if we can get at least a bird’s eye view of what the situation looks like from there.

President Trump visited the city of McAllen, Texas on Thursday, January 10th, to advance his case for his promised Wall along the Southwest border as an essential necessity in combating illegal immigration, especially focusing on drug smuggling and other contraband, terrorism, gangs and other critical problems allegedly tied directly to illegal immigrants crossing over from Mexico. His simple point remains the same as it has since at least 2015: The U. S. needs a wall all along the Mexican border for security.

If this is true, then one might logically expect the fairly elected mayor of McAllen to agree with the President. One might reasonably expect the mayor to fully support the President’s assertion that there is, indeed, a “crisis” at the border … but this is simply not the case. Following Trump’s visit, McAllen’s mayor, Jim Darling, told Time pointblank, “We don’t feel a crisis in our city… We live day to day in a very safe community.”

Darling further pointed out that McAllen is “a vibrant area” and “the safest city in the state of Texas, and we’re right on the border, so that kind of rhetoric,” about crisis, “resonates and sells newspapers, but it hurts our area.” He added the fact that McAllen had “no murders last year in a city of 150,000…” In a city of that size, especially along a border in “crisis,” one would expect things to be grimmer.

Furthermore, Julie Hillrichs, who represents a coalition of border mayors, judges, and other officials, told Time that “the real way to increase security at the border would not be a wall, but increased investment in the legal ports of entry that already exist in their area. ‘We have never supported the wall,” Hillrichs says. “The Border Coalition has consistently over the years stated we believe the wall is a wasted investment.'”

But the Attorney General for Texas, Ken Paxton, claimed fencing along the border in El Paso has helped to substantially reduce crime in that city, which, he further claimed, had previously had one of the highest crime rates in the nation. “After that fence went up and separated Juarez, which still has an extremely high crime rate, the crime rates in El Paso now are some of the lowest in the country,” Paxton said. “So we know it works.”

El Paso may not quite agree, however. In a January 10, 2019, article the El Paso Times investigated the AG’s claim and found that this is simply “not the case.” The paper further, and importantly, explained:

Looking broadly at the last 30 years, the rate of violent crime reached its peak in 1993, when more than 6,500 violent crimes were recorded. Between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes fell by more than 34 percent and less than 2,700 violent crimes were reported. The border fence was authorized by Bush in 2006, but construction did not start until 2008. From 2006 to 2011 — two years before the fence was built to two years after — the violent crime rate in El Paso increased by 17 percent. 

Point in fact, in January 2018, community leaders and law enforcement officials in El Paso credited a number of developments, programs and efforts that have resulted in lowering crime rates … not border fencing. 

Meanwhile, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with President Trump during his Thursday visit to McAllen, except it wasn’t really a discussion. Saenz said, following the event, he felt rather “disenfranchised” because he was, quite frankly, not able (or allowed) to make any contributions whatsoever. On Friday, January 11th, the Laredo Morning News reported him saying:

There was a disconnect. Maybe he (Trump) gets information, but really he ought to take into account the border leaders, the mayors and county judges – input that he didn’t get because there was no opportunity for us to provide that information… We need to make our own evaluations locally to come up with the best plan.

The editorial board of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times judge the proposed Wall would be “like setting fire to billions of dollars,” and that “money would be better spent on stronger administration and enforcement at the ports of entry and better technological monitoring of the remote places where Donald Trump envisions a tall physical barrier.” In its December 2018 article, simply concludes that the Wall is “not the solution.”

Once again, seemingly not much support for the Wall, at least along the borders in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll take a look at California, or more appropriately southern Cal, to gain some local perspective there. So far, though, it seems folks along the border, with the majority of Americans, favor better and tighter border security, but by other more effective means than a wall.

Beyond Washington, What Do the Locals Say About the Border ‘Crisis?’

There have been a few articles on how residents along the Mexican border feel about the proposed Wall, illegal immigration and related issues. For example, the New York Times recently ran one entitled, “On the Border: Little Enthusiasm for a Wall,” on January 9, 2019. But I’d thought I’d do some snooping around myself, so I began with newspapers in Arizona and New Mexico.

I thought, reasonably enough, that if there’s really a border crisis with a flood of illegals crossing every day, smuggling in drugs and weapons, trafficking in sex and generally putting the lives of everyday, ordinary Americans at high risk, then of course I’d run across articles and editorials about this issue. In doing so, I also limited myself to local opinion and perspective. In other words, no nationally syndicated news or op-eds.

To make this research easier on myself, at least initially, I utilized the convenient “clearing house” of newspapers provided by USNPL. I also narrowed my research, this time round, to the states of Arizona and New Mexico, leaving the much larger states of California and Texas to tackle independently at a later date. Finally, I made any and all local news reports on immigration-related issues top priority — that is, above opinion articles.

Well, I searched a little over 30 newspapers and, much to my surprise, found only five that in any way addressed the Wall and/or border and/or illegal immigration issues. Only five out of approximately 32, if my count is right. That is, only about 15.5% of the local news sources I examined had anything to say about these issues, even after the President’s address on what he continues to describe as our “border crisis,” and all but one was an opinion-editorial.

This rather shocked me, to say the least, and it may seem unbelievable to some … but that’s why I provided the above link to USNPL. This site lists newspapers in all 50 states, so anyone if free to conduct their own research and correct me on my findings. In fact, I heartily welcome any and all contributions to this discussion. For now, though, what did I find? In short, the following:

In a recent statewide survey, of which results were published January 10, 2019 in The Arizona Daily Sun, fully 40% of residents said education was their top concern followed by immigration and border security at a distant 29% and healthcare at 8%.

In an op-ed published by The Fountain Hills Times, local resident and editorialist Ann Schweers bluntly said, “The assertion that there is a crisis on the border with thousands of terrorists and criminals apprehended is false. They are playing with statistics to instill fear.”

Susan Sanders of Green Valley, Arizona, had to say this about the Wall and border security in an op-ed for the Green Valley News on January 10, 2019:

We don’t need more physical wall. Those who work and live along the border know its ineffectiveness. Physical walls have proven damaging to the environment, to personal property, to business, to tourism and they are downright unfriendly.

We do need border security…

Eventually, we need immigration reform with consistent and enforceable laws!

The Albuquerque Journal editorial board noted in its January 5, 2019 opinion article that it is a “fact (that) immigrants commit fewer crimes than their U.S.-born peers,” but also argued that “border barriers in some form would help with the humanitarian crisis by sending the message we do care about border security and funneling crossers into safer, more manageable areas…”

The editorial board of the Sana Fe New Mexican also stated in its January 9, 2019 editorial that “clear statistics … show undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.” They also went on to point out:

Trump said the wall is needed to keep out illegal drugs; most drugs come through official ports of entry, not along the border between entry points. As we have pointed out before, too, illegal immigration is hardly a crisis, despite Trump’s claims. Border crossings are at their lowest point in decades. The humanitarian crisis Trump said he is addressing has been caused by his administration’s wrongheaded policies.

Finally, another perspective, which, although published in the Wall Street Journal, nevertheless comes from local Border Patrol agents. In its article published back in 2016 the Journal reported:

[S]ome border patrol agents like (Matthew) Eisenhauer, who typically work in remote areas, see it differently. Eisenhauer told CBS News that a “great wall” is not really the solution.

“Border fortification means a lot of things in different areas,” said Eisenhauer. “In areas where we can’t have a physical structure, we use the environmental challenges to funnel traffic into certain areas to identify and apprehend [individuals] in a more effective manner.”

And in the same article, Joe Agosttini, the assistant port director in Nogales for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, asked rhetorically, “Do you think a wall is gonna stop them from coming in?” And then answered himself, “The fact that you have a house, would that stop a burglar from coming in … I used to live about 30 feet from the fence, OK? I’ve been seeing these things for 30 years.”

Perhaps tomorrow, or sometime in the fairly near future, we’ll take a look at California and Texas, probably separately (!) to see if we can drum up some local perspective on the wall issue in those states, but again, it shocks me to find so little about this “crisis” from local news outlets. One would think that if their communities were being overrun and endangered, the local papers, so very dependent upon local advertisers and subscribers, would consistently cover this unfolding, tragic drama. What I found instead, by and large, were the newspapers of relatively quiet, sleepy little towns reporting common, everyday, ordinary news you’d expect to find in small town newspapers.

Trumped Up ‘Crisis’ and Reality: Will It Just Go Away?

In an 1861 address delivered in Cleveland, Ohio, Abraham Lincoln said, “This crisis is altogether artificial. It has no foundation in fact. It can’t be argued up, and it can’t be argued down. Let it alone, and it will go down of itself.” Ah, well, tragically enough the crisis at that time did not “go down of itself,” but his words still sound very applicable to the present situation we face in our country.

Trump has created an artificial crisis at the southern border, all in order to build an unnecessary and (would-be) largely ineffectual wall. We discussed the proposed merits of building such a wall in a previous article, “To Build or Not to Build: Educate Thyself.” Looking at the raw facts, we found (I believe) that a wall all along our southern border with Mexico is simply unnecessary at best.

However, the President dragged out his same worn-out arguments, false claims, and misleading (mis)information in his address to the nation last night to hopefully convince the American people that we really do, indeed, face a “crisis” in illegal immigrants flooding into the U. S. from Mexico. As we showed in the above-cited article, and as plenty of media outlets, think tanks and other groups have reported, this is not true.

What is, perhaps, more disconcerting at this point, though, is the seeming intransigence of the Republican establishment. They seem determined at all costs, no matter the consequences, to follow Trump even should he lead them into the depths of hell itself … but why? It has been amply proven there is no crisis at the southern border, but if there is, does it make any sense to keep the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) largely shuttered in a continuing (non-sensical), partial government shutdown?

Think about it? If we were at war, would we expect the President and Congress to do something stupid to cripple our Armed Forces? Ha! would you lay off more than half your army smack dad in the middle of an armed conflict with another nation? Of course not, so it would only make sense for the Republicans ~ and particularly the Republicans, because they supposedly believe there is a crisis ~ to push to at least temporarily fund DHS … if not the other gov’t departments as well, but at least DHS!

Some other things to note regarding the curious Republican lemming-like devotion to Trump: 1) the President’s approval ratings have never been high, but now they’re hovering somewhere around 38 to 40%, 2) Most Americans believe, adamantly, that the continuing government shutdown is nonsensical, detrimental, and completely unnecessary, 3) a majority of Americans fault Trump for the government shutdown, as opposed to blaming Democrats, and 4) most Americans really don’t want a wall anyway!

So, what are these GOPers thinking? Especially Mitch “Turtlehead” McConnell? Do they imagine they’re gaining anything? Perhaps they’re just playing politics and protecting their positions of power… Maybe. But even though I’ve never claimed to be a political prophet, I fully expect two (or three) things to happen:

1) the Republicans will lose control of the Senate, which means, of course, that several GOPs will lose their bid for reelection, 2) Democrats will very easily maintain control of the House, and 3) if Trump even makes it to 2020, he will most assuredly not be reelected.

It would really be nice if this manufactured “crisis” would “go down of itself,” but that’s not going to happen. So … it seems Trump and his Republican cohorts will have to go down, and go down they surely will. Independents and moderate Republicans are more than tired and aggravated by this administration, and they’re growing impatient with Republican senators, especially, who refuse to exercise the duties of their office, all in blind adherence to POTUS. Time will tell … but that time is quickly drawing near.