Independence Day

In the United States, July fourth is celebrated as Independence Day, in recognition of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 by the Continental Congress.

This document, written for the most part by Thomas Jefferson, is still considered one of the pillars of our government. It famously declares “certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is heartbreaking that, at this time, our government is ignoring the existence of those universal human rights, most noticeably among immigrants and asylum seekers. In society, we see this same problem expressed through discrimination or hatred against those of a different religion, race, ethnicity, or gender expression. We see it with employers who don’t pay living wages to their workers.

It’s discouraging to see my country, which I love, not living up to its highest ideals.

I don’t feel like fireworks or parades or speeches.

We are celebrating quietly at home with chicken spiedies, baked beans, corn on the cob, and fresh-baked strawberry rhubarb pie. Paco is joining us for dinner, so we will have our four generations together, from my World War II veteran father to my dual-citizen of the US and UK granddaughter.

Daughter E is wearing a shirt which says “EQUALLITY” with the ALL in sparkly colors.

That’s what I want my country to concentrate on today.

PS: I really appreciated this short reflection on civil rights and and obligations by Sister Simone Campbell.

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One-Liner Wednesday: silence

“In silence, we come to know ourselves.”
~ ~ ~ Sister Joan Chittister from this excellent NCR column https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/where-i-stand/st-benedict-counsels-little-less-talk-little-more-thought
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Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesday! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/07/03/one-liner-wednesday-first-thing-that-comes-to-mind/

Badge by Laura @ riddlefromthemiddle.com

a lament

While I have been concentrating on family issues these last few months – and watching less news on television as the now-two-year-old ABC is more often alert in the evenings – there is always the undercurrent of disturbing news around me.

One of the worst of these issues is the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants by the Trump administration. Under U.S. and international law, people have the right to cross the border to ask for asylum. The administration has set up barriers to this, including restrictions at ports of entry, that have resulted in desperate attempts to cross rivers and/or deserts that have caused deaths.

Those who do manage to cross the border have been detained for long periods in overcrowded facilities without access to proper food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, communication, and legal aid. The most scandalous part of this has been the continuing separation of children from adult family members, resulting in thousands of so-called “unaccompanied minors”, some who are still infants and toddlers, who are only unaccompanied because they have been taken away from family members who brought them to the US and aren’t able to contact them or other adult family members already in the country. As if that weren’t bad enough, these children are being kept for extended periods of time in horrible conditions without proper care. This is in flagrant disregard of court orders, international law, and human decency.

These sorts of things are not supposed to happen under the rule of law and, if they do, the attorney general, as head of the justice department, should take legal action to ensure that these abuses stop and never happen again. However, this is not happening. Some judges have issued court orders, but they can’t make the Department of Homeland Security carry them out. Meanwhile, the president is holding rallies touting his tough stance at our southern border.

It’s all sickening.

I don’t know how this will end. I am hoping for the sake of the people being held that something will work to free them and care for them, now rather than later. My fear is that this disregard for our laws and for basic human rights will persist until there is a new president and cabinet. That will take much too long, though, with more suffering, deaths, and trauma inflicted on thousands and thousands of people in the meantime. It’s possible that the US could be sanctioned by the United Nations or an international court, but I doubt that would have any greater effect than the court orders of US judges.

There is no good way to end this post, other than to thank all the lawyers, social service agencies, faith communities, and local governments who are doing all they can to care for those being detained, for those who are released with no means to care for themselves or to travel, for those who are sick or hungry or thirsty, and for those who are frightened and confused and separated from their families while surrounded by people who do not speak their language. May their example of love, compassion, and human decency move those who are in power to change their ways.

Update:  I wrote this yesterday evening and woke up to see this post being shared on Facebook. It is very disturbing information about one of the for-profit companies running detention centers using US tax dollars; it lists sources.

after the report

Nana is dozing in her recliner, so I thought I would try to do a quick post on my reactions so far to the redacted release of the Mueller report. With everything going on in my family life, I haven’t been able to read all 400+ pages, but have seen excerpts and analysis from lawyers and investigative/legal reporters, which I have found very helpful.

As longtime readers may recall, I was very concerned about Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 US presidential election, even before the voting took place, so volume one of the report, which details the Russian attacks, is chilling. It reveals how extensive the attack was, confirming that it reached millions of potential voters, some of whom were targeted with particular posts or ads because of where they lived, their race, and other personal factors. It also deals with the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other campaign systems with release of materials to the public, as well as attempts to hack voting systems.

I am very concerned that Congress has not done enough to help the FBI and the states and localities identify potential weaknesses, especially in technology systems, and rectify them for the 2020 race, which has already started with many candidates declaring their intent to run in the party primaries. We need to be prepared for both similar attacks and for different kinds of attacks from Russia and from other countries. This should not be a partisan issue at all; people across the political spectrum should all be committed to protecting our national security and our freedoms.

The second part of the report is about possible obstruction of justice by the President. It makes it clear that no charges were filed because it is Justice Department policy not to indict a sitting president. Mueller also made it clear that he could not gather all the evidence needed, as the President and several other key figures were not able to be interviewed by the investigators. However, the report lays out details of possible counts of obstruction, which could be taken up by Congress as part of their investigations (which could lead to the filing of impeachment charges) or which could be charged by the courts after Trump leaves office. The statute of limitations for most of the actions taken by the president is five years, so if he leaves office during his first term or fails to win a second term, court charges could be brought for obstruction of justice.

The question of whether the House of Representatives will move toward impeachment is open. It’s complicated by the fact that the Mueller investigation was focused on Russian interference, but there are investigations on-going in other areas, among them illegal campaign contributions, emoluments, and financial crimes. Trump is trying to block them by ignoring subpoenas, not providing records, and not allowing even former staff to testify to Congress. It’s plausible that this could cause additional impeachment charges of obstruction for not cooperating with a Congressional investigation.

Additionally, people have to be aware that the standards for impeachment are different than they are for court trials. For example, one of the impeachment charges against President Nixon was lying to the American people. There isn’t a specific law against this, but it is considered a “high crime or misdemeanor,” which is the Constitutional impeachment criteria.

Some people say that Congress should just wait until the 2020 election, but I disagree. I’m afraid if these things aren’t investigated, with impeachment charges filed if found appropriate, it will look as though anyone who is elected president can get away with breaking laws and ethical codes for four years without consequence.

That is a terrible message to send. We, the People of the United States, deserve better.

JC’s Confessions #3

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

When Stephen does Midnight Confessions, in his lead-up he often says that he doesn’t get to go to church as often as he would like and he misses one of his favorite things, going to confession. At which point, I usually think, “Said no Catholic ever!” Everyone with whom I have ever spoken about it feels that it is a stressful situation, even with a good confessor (and downright terrifying with a poor one).

For the last several years, our diocese has had a day during which every church is open for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as confession is more properly called. I confess that I find it very creepy that they advertise this on television and with billboards, as though mercy and forgiveness are commodities.

It also makes it seem as though forgiveness is only available through this sacrament, even though the church recognizes many other routes for this, such as the penitential rite during liturgy, asking for forgiveness from someone whom you have hurt, prayer, making reparations, and receiving the Eucharist. Indeed, individual confession is only required in the case of serious sin, one which fractures the relationship of the person with God.

I admit, not confess, that I haven’t gone to individual confession in years. This is partly due to a priest from my past who was so unstable I was afraid to be alone with him. Even though he is no longer a threat to me, it makes the thought of going to confession even more fraught.

What is even more difficult is figuring out how to confess my own part in social sin. I grieve that the United States is participating in violence and injustice, degrading the environment and the climate, and lacking in compassion and assistance for those most in need. We are called in our Constitution to “promote the general welfare”; my faith tells me to love and serve my neighbors near and far. Even though I try to oppose what is unjust and to help those in need, I still bear guilt for being part of an unjust system. Seeking forgiveness for these social sins feels hollow, because I am no less a part of the social system after confession than I was before it.

Wow! When I said in my standard introduction to this series that my reflections would be “more serious,” I didn’t mean to make it quite this serious.  Still, we are living in very serious times with many very serious problems confronting us daily. I can only hope that my trying to do my part in repairing the damage will join with the efforts of other people of good will to improve our country and our world.

Reading Michelle Obama’s memoir

Since she became a public figure during the first presidential campaign of her husband, I have felt an affinity with Michelle Robinson Obama. While on the surface it would seem that an African-American woman from the South Side of Chicago couldn’t have much in common with a European-American from a tiny New England town, there are a number of similarities. We are close in age, having been born in the last few years of the Baby Boom. I have long felt that we youngest of the Boomers, who were young adults during the Reagan recession when unemployment was high and mortgage rates even higher, are fundamentally different from the elder members of our cohort. Michelle and I are both mothers of two daughters and women who have been blessed with a close and long relationship with our own mothers. We have close women friends and mentors. We are both community-minded, and also recognize the importance of educational opportunity for ourselves and others. We each have a long, loving, and intact marriage. And we are both women of our time, which means we have experienced sexism and the challenge of tending to both our private and public lives.

Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir published late last year, reinforces my sense of her on all these points. She writes honestly and beautifully; I was especially impressed with the way she wrote about her feelings about what was happening and not just the events themselves. She also frequently gives context of what happens either before or later with a particular place or event, such as the changes over time in her South Side neighborhood.

I particularly enjoyed reading about Michelle’s childhood, teen, and college years, as the stories from that time before she was a public figure were mostly new to me. I also appreciated knowing how she felt about many events and causes during the campaigns and her eight years in the White House, as well as her take on the current president.

What was most enlightening to me was hearing how being a black female impacted her life at every stage and added to the pressure to excel and to be an exemplary person at all times. As the first African-American first family, it seemed that every move the Obamas made was scrutinized. I admire that Michelle and her mom, who was also in residence at the White House, were able to protect First Daughters Malia and Sasha from most of the intrusiveness of the press corps so that they could grow up (mostly) out of the public eye.

Many people share my admiration for Michelle Obama and her accomplishments. Her book tour includes venues that seat thousands of people and her book has sold over three million copies, making it the bestseller of 2018.

She can definitely add best-selling author to her already impressive resume.

SoCS: the current state of affairs

Seriously, watching the news in the US these days is like watching a soap opera!

The richest man in the world reveals a plot from a tabloid to get him to stop an investigation into them by threatening that they will release compromising photos of him and more text messages about his affair that is what landed him in a divorce from his wife of twenty-five years, who is now likely to be a very, very, very rich woman, but then will he not still be the richest man in the world – or maybe it’s the country. It’s hard to keep track…

But wait, there is more! The owner of the tabloid is an old friend of the president and they – they meaning the owner and the business – are currently in a cooperation agreement with the federal judiciary because they acknowledged that they paid hush money to two women during the presidential campaign so that news of his (the president’s) affairs with them would not hit the papers right before the vote. As part of this, they are not supposed to commit any new crimes or they will be prosecuted for what they already confessed to. So, does their behavior regarding the richest man rise to the level of a crime?

Meanwhile, the brother of the woman with whom the rich guy had the affair that broke up his marriage is in a friend and business relationship with several people who are being investigated or who have been indicted by the Mueller probe. So, was he the one who leaked the private messages to the tabloid? Or was it – insert serious music here – someone at a federal agency who was trying to discredit or harm the rich guy because he himself owns a newspaper, the Washington Post, which has done a lot of investigation and reporting on the current administration and Russian oligarchs and other shenanigans?

Stay tuned because no one knows what shoe will drop next!

If this were fiction, people would say it is too far-fetched. But here we are, listening to these reports on the news or reading it in the papers or online.

It’s no wonder my head is spinning. Metaphorically.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was to begin the post with an adverb that ends in -ly. Bonus points for ending with one, too. Not that anyone is keeping score. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/02/08/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-9-19/