still around

Contrary to appearances, I have not (quite) fallen off the face of the earth.

Since I last posted, I have spent quite a bit of time trying to take care of people who are sick and being sick myself. Luckily, both of my sisters have visited to help take care of Nana and Paco while I was sick.

This week, I need to do a ton of catching up on paperwork and poetry. Before the end of the month, I need to prepare comments on four manuscripts and get my own together to distribute to our group. Fingers crossed that I can get my brain in gear to manage it.

Of course, all of this is happening against the backdrop of the continuing maelstrom of the news. If a television show, novel, or movie followed a plot from the current political news in the US, everyone would dismiss it as too far-fetched. Yet, here we are in a continuing succession of situations that are accurately called unprecedented.

It’s enough to make one’s head spin.

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more unsettled

Last week, I wrote about how unsettled I was, for both personal and societal reasons.

It’s worse now, particularly on the political front.

With the Manafort verdict and the Cohen guilty pleas and the immunity deals for Pecker and  Weisselberg, the possible legal jeopardy for the Trump family and businesses has increased. The president has tweeted multiple threats against the Justice Department and especially against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. There has been public discussion about the possible issuing of presidential pardons, but those only apply to federal charges and it is likely that the state of New York will bring more tax and financial charges against the Trump Foundation, businesses, and family members. Meanwhile, the Mueller investigation on Russian election and political interference continues and no one knows when the next indictment or plea deal will be announced.

It makes my head spin.

Although I was a preteen at the time, I remember this same unsettled feeling during the final stage of the Watergate scandal before Nixon resigned. Despite the public revelation of evidence of corruption and coverup, many of Nixon’s supporters among the electorate were adamantly against his impeachment or resignation; it took the intercession of Republican Congressional leaders to convince Nixon to resign rather than put the country through impeachment of the president and subsequent Senate trial.

I have no idea how our current predicament will resolve. I pray that it will be just and peaceful and lead to healing and reconciliation in the country, but I fear that it will not.

Senator John McCain died yesterday, leaving a long and distinguished record of public service, as a Navy officer, including five and a half years as a prisoner of war, a member of the House of Representatives, a Senator for over thirty years, and a presidential nominee. Tributes to him, his courage, and his service are pouring in from across the country from people across the political spectrum. It saddens me that part of the obituaries and coverage is dedicated to Donald Trump’s personal animus against and disparagement of Senator McCain.  Given that history, DT’s current condolences ring hollow.

May John rest in peace and may his legacy live on in his family, friends, and colleagues.

unsettled

This month has been a demanding one personally; hence, I have managed only a few posts this month.

I will spare you the bureaucratic details that have been occupying so much of my time and headspace, but the situation is made all the more difficult by the public unraveling going on around us.

Although I have cut back on the amount of news that I see, the continuing revelations of foreign entanglements with United States elections and governance have been truly disturbing, as has evidence that the Russians have been detected infiltrating computer systems involved with the upcoming midterm elections in November. The Manafort trial, more books and articles being published about the administration and the investigation, DT’s tweets, and interviews with members of the administration and the president’s lawyers add to the unsettling mix.

The past week has also seen a lot of coverage of the grand jury report on sexual crimes by Catholic clergy and coverup by church officials in six Pennsylvania dioceses. The behavior described in the report is appalling, sinful, and criminal and my heart breaks for the victims and their families, but, unlike many people, I did not find the report shocking or surprising. We have heard similar stories from other US dioceses and from other countries for years now.

Some Catholics feel that the Church is being attacked or singled out for criticism, but I don’t feel that way at all. I see the root of the problem as abuse of power. Sexual violence is one form of abuse of power, but there are many others, verbal, emotional, and physical abuse, financial and employment discrimination, racism, and sexism among them. All of this has led some priests into a culture of clericalism, which, in turn, led to the coverup of crimes by “brother priests” and the silencing or ignoring of victims, who are usually lay people, although sometimes also members of religious orders, other priests, or seminarians.

For many people, the Pennsylvania report highlights the lack of accountability among bishops. While this issue has been on my mind for years, it is gaining new prominence in the Catholic and general press now and is being more openly discussed among lay people, theologians, and ethicists.

Pope Francis, when he visited Chile, made the mistake of dismissing sexual abuse survivors and supporting a bishop who mishandled credible allegations against priests. After public outcry, Francis appointed an investigator. Upon receiving the report, Francis changed course, met with Chilean survivors, and called all the bishops to Rome. All thirty-four bishops offered their resignations; at this point, Francis has accepted five of them.

There are now calls for the United States’ bishops to also offer their resignations, which the Pope could accept or not on a case-by-case basis. This is occurring in the aftermath of the resignation of retired archbishop of Washington, DC Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, after reports of abuse of both minors and adult seminarians. He has been ordered into seclusion; it’s not clear if he will be laicized if he is found guilty at a canonical trial, as has happened with priests.

Of course, for most bishops, the issue will be if they covered up crimes of priests in their dioceses or moved priests to other locations where they abused still more minors or vulnerable adults.

For me, there is also a larger crisis of leadership. If a bishop fails to protect children and teens from such terrible crimes, how can he credibly claim to be leading and caring for all the Catholics in his jurisdiction? For a variety of reasons, I have been avoiding dealing with the bishops in my diocese, concentrating instead on parish-level ministry and the Church as the people of God, not as a hierarchical institution.

Still, I can’t help but think that personal complications would be easier to bear if the government and the church were functioning with stability and rectitude.

indictment of Russian military officers

I am appalled at DT siding with Putin against the very real evidence of crimes against the American people around the 2016 election by members of the Russian military.

The indictment is detailed and, of course, the grand jury, ordinary United States citizens doing their civic duty, saw the evidence behind the counts listed.

Russia will not extradite the officers to stand trial, so the trial will need to be held in absentia.

All members of Congress should speak up and support the Justice Department and courts as this process moves forward. They should also pass legislation to secure the 2018 and future elections.

They must also denounce the president for taking the side of Putin and Russia against the United States. I can barely believe the depths to which DT has sunk, as he denigrates our long-time allies while praising authoritarian leaders.

The Congressional oath of office begins, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” I call on all members of Congress to fulfill their oath and protect our democracy.

parents and children

Daughter E and granddaughter ABC have been back with us for a month. ABC is currently snoozing in her grandpa’s arms. While we are sad that her daddy is so far away right now, we know it is necessary so that E can get a spousal visa to join him next year when the three of them will be together full-time at last.

ABC just reached thirteen months of age and is going through one of those time periods when she is especially attached to her mommy and very suspicious of strangers. Observing that and knowing how important it is for her to be surrounded by love and stability makes the ongoing crisis of the current US border policy all the more appalling. It is unconscionable that the current administration has taken children away from their parents or guardians and then lost track of them.

While the courts have ordered that families be reunited soon, the government has asked for more time. Meanwhile, the damage to these children’s health continues, as well as the heartbreak of their parents and of millions of Americans who cannot belief that such cruelty has been done in our name.

Many people have come forward to assist the children and their family members, giving money, legal services, transportation, housing, and other assistance to reunite the children with their loved ones as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we cannot undo the trauma these families have experienced.

marriage, family, and immigration

Millions and millions of people watched press coverage of the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Meghan, a United States citizen by birth, is now the Duchess of Sussex.

I am very happy for them as they begin their married life in the United Kingdom, but I am sad that British immigration law makes it so much more difficult for other non-citizen spouses to join their British counterparts. The complex immigration laws of the United Kingdom and the United States, both currently in flux under their current governments, are conspiring to keep ABC, my dual-citizen granddaughter, from being with both her parents for the majority of her first two years. She is always very excited to video-visit with her daddy when she is in residence with us and her mom here in the States, but it is, of course, not the same as being there in person.

Still, at least they can see each other and have access to a process that will enable them to be together long-term, unlike the families seeking asylum in the United States who are being subjected to new procedures by the Trump administration. Children as young as one year are being separated from their parent(s) and put into foster care. Unconscionably, some of the parents are being charged with human trafficking of their own children.  Such treatment of asylum seekers is both immoral and illegal under international law. I’m hoping that legal challenges filed on behalf of these families will find justice among federal judges, even though it is the Justice Department in Washington that has implemented these new draconian policies.

Update June 1:  This post gives more information and ways to speak out in defense of children and parents.

Parkland – part three

As part of my continuing reflection on the Parkland shooting, I wanted to share this moving video of a Parkland student speaking in a listening session with the president, who was holding notes to help him respond with seeming empathy. I continue to react with awe to the voices and activism of the Parkland students and the other teens who have mobilized to demand that lawmakers and other authorities take steps to help protect students and the general public from gun violence.

While many people are advancing serious strategies, others have responded with suggestions that are problematic. The president and some others are promoting the idea of arming teachers, which is opposed by teachers’ organizations and many individual teachers, parents, school board and community members. There was an armed police officer on duty at the high school in Parkland, but he, despite his training and experience, did not intervene in the shooting and has since resigned. How could teachers, with much lower levels of training and experience, ever hope to wound or kill an armed intruder without shooting bystanders? How many accidental discharges or mistakes would there be if 20% of all teachers were armed? In other countries that have suffered a mass shooting and taken effective action, the solution has always been to reduce the firepower in civilian hands, not increase it.

I am also appalled to report that the member of the House of Representatives from my district, Claudia Tenney, has made a number of reprehensible remarks after Parkland, most notably that “so many of these people that commit the mass murders wind up being Democrats.” (There is no data to back up this claim.)

I find this particularly offensive to those of us who live in the Binghamton area. When the mass shooting at the American Civic Association here occurred in 2009, it did not matter whether the shooter was a Republican, Democrat, independent, or not a voter at all. What mattered was that people were killed and wounded, families and communities shattered, and a beloved civic institution damaged. That Representative Tenney could be so dismissive of those of us in the southern part of her district as she vociferously supports a gun manufacturer nearer to where she lives is ye another reason that many of us have already mobilized to hold her to account for her views and votes and to back strong candidates to oppose her in the November election. We deserve a representative who is thoughtful, honest, and committed to the common good.