Safe Passage

Character and integrity –
A Fresnel prism,
Cutting through the foggy mire of lies
With a focused beam of truth and clarity.

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Photo credit: john curley via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
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Blocking the Opponent

Let me start off by admitting that I’ve never been much of an athlete. I tried track in high school and got 4th out of 4 by hanging back to encourage a teammate during the mile. (She had the nerve to sprint ahead of me at the finish!) I was the kid shooting granny-shots in middle school basketball during the last 5 minutes of a winning game. So maybe my view is skewed, and maybe I have this wrong, but allow me an attempt at an analogy.

I remember during that middle-school basketball experience learning how to plant my body in front of my opponent to impede his progress. I don’t remember the name of the move, but I do remember that it was risky. Placing yourself in front of a charging, basketball-wielding player intent on hitting the goal might cause you, upon contact, to go flying across the court. It was also tricky. Not fully planting your feet would cause a foul call upon you. Your job as defense was to plant your feet firmly and road-block your opponent.

Progressives are now playing defense. Not only that, but we are playing against the team that is known for playing dirty, and they’ve probably bought the refs. But we can use and must use this play.

It’s time to dig in our heels and not chase down the players. It’s time to plant ourselves firmly in front of the player with the ball and not move. He may, and probably will, get around us, but hopefully we’ve given the blockers time to move into position to successfully throw the ball back to us. The opposition may score a few points, but this is a game we must win. Our democracy depends upon it.

Obama’s Fan Club

I set the packet in front of the 2nd grade English Language Learners. We were studying grammar and linking sentences in the context of learning about some of the more well known presidents. They scanned through the faces until they came to our current president.

“Oooh, that’s our president.” they cooed in unison, spilling over with excitement. “Barak Obama. He’s our president.” The adoration was palpable.

It was hard to pull them back to the task at hand as the conversation drifted onto the topic of politics and a mutual dislike for Donald Trump. As we reached end of the packet, another photo of the president pulled out more bright-eyed cooing. Their task was to create a compound sentence about the photo.

“President Obama is special.”

“Yes, but why is he special? You need to add to your sentence.”

“President Obama is special because he is nice.”

In all of my interactions with students, I have never seen the connection with a political official before now. I have been in classrooms where students parrot dislike for a candidate, and I become a fly on the wall at their family dinner conversations. I have seen students’ confusion over the whole process. In second grade, their idea of president is pretty limited. This is the first time I had seen actual love for a president.

President Obama ran on a platform of hope and inclusion. It’s nice to know that message reached some young minds. There may be hope for democracy yet.

 

Oregon Occupied

I consider myself a reasonable person. I am generally moderate in most discussions, with an ability to see both sides of an issue. I am also a teacher and a parent, with no tolerance for temper tantrums and standoffs. If you have a case to make, make it. I will listen. I will think about it and perhaps research your points to see if they make sense. I will make a decision based on reason, rather than emotion. If you threaten, stomp feet, slam doors, or stage an armed takeover a government facility, you muddy your cause, and I no longer want to hear about it.

This is why the Oregon Standoff, as it has been called, is particularly problematic to me.

There are justifiable concerns here. The Oregon ranchers, the Hammonds, were sentenced under a mandatory sentencing law that required them to serve 5 years each for arson. You can debate the hows and whys of that case, but a decision was made. A judge chose not to impose the mandatory sentence, the decision was appealed, and the mandatory sentence stood. I contend that there is a case for repealing mandatory minimum sentences and allowing context back into the sentencing conversation. This involves calling your representatives. Find some lawyers, set up a GoFundMe account, and fix it the laws the right way. It’s a slower process than taking over a building with a bunch of guns, but it’s our democratic way. Take it to the highest court in the land.

Another concern is the management of land. The communities of Central Oregon and other rural communities like it are frustrated at the restrictions placed on them by the government. They claim that setting aside land has cost them jobs and their livelihood. I see the frustration, but in an ever-shrinking world it’s more important than ever to balance resource management with conservation. Opening land that is being held in the public trust for the enrichment of a few is a bad idea. The people of Burns, Oregon are going to profit from the land at a fraction of what large investors and corporations stand to gain from it, and if you think the government (which is us) doesn’t care about you, wait until you see the attitude of big business.

Then there is the whole militia movement. I’m sorry, but you can quote the Constitution and parade the flag like you own it, but you will never speak for me on the necessity to rise up against a government (which is us) that is still able to manage a peaceful transfer of power. When the guy in charge reaches the end of his term, he vacates the premises. He doesn’t hang on any longer than he (or she) is due. The next qualified, elected candidate steps up to the task for the next four years. Does this aspect of our government have its flaws? Of course it does. But it still works.

 

As with any argument, you can get mired in rhetoric. Militants claim to be upholding the Constitution and Oathkeepers hold fast to the oath to “protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Which parts of the Constitution are they defending? Article 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the following responsibilities:

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress; 

The militia that we have seen recently in the Oregon occupation was not, to my knowledge, formed under the supervision of the Congress of the United States. Congress has not, to my knowledge, called them forth to repel invasions or suppress insurrections. On the contrary, they seem to be at the brink being the ones to stage the insurrection. Who has organized, armed and disciplined its members?  If they are self-styled and not regulated by Congress, doesn’t that put them in opposition to the Constitution they swore to uphold?

There is a lot of back and forth about the staging and response to this situation. This zealous group of self-proclaimed patriots are challenging the authority of the American government (which is us) and have said that they will use deadly force if necessary to promote their agenda, which at this stage sounds like taking back the land from we-the-people. (Is this stealing?) I ask you, who are the insurrectionists? Where is the reasoned debate? Are you willing to set the precedent of negotiating with terrorists?

If you are a conservative reading this, ask yourself if you would be okay with the opposing viewpoint taking this stand based on their agenda.


 

To my loyal readers, I promise to get off my soapbox. I just feel the need to speak out against this occupation. This is my state and I am offended by outsiders hijacking it. I also love my country and am unwilling to let it be torn apart from the inside without raising my own voice in protest. Thanks for your patience.

Three Percent is NOT a Democracy

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Are we still a democracy?

Hey, wait a minute. We were never a true democracy, but rather a representative republic.

Okay. Are we still a Representative Republic? Or a Representative Democracy? Or any form of government dedicated to the will of the people?

At the time of this writing, we have a group of armed men who have staged a takeover of a wildlife refuge in my state. They have guns and have told us all that they are willing to use them. What they have done is illegal and intimidating. You can throw in other words if you like – treason and sedition come to my mind.

But wait a minute. They are just like Rosa Parks. They are just peacefully standing up for their rights.

They are not Rosa Parks. What did Mrs. Parks do? Let’s review the history. She refused to relinquish her appointed place on the bus for a more privileged person, setting off a boycott of a service that catered to the underprivileged community that needed that service, a peaceful protest to gain basic human rights of equality under the law. The NAACP was able to galvanize a movement behind her small act because she was a hard-working, stellar member of the community who had done nothing wrong. She was following the unjust law of the day and still she was victimized. I don’t know that I would have had the courage.

The Malheur occupiers are squatters and invaders, nothing more. In their states’ rights view, I wish the Oregon National Guard would go in and arrest them as invaders. Can they do that?

Oh, come on. They are just protesting federal overreach. This is a just cause. Besides, nobody has been hurt.

Well, thank goodness! The fact that nobody has been hurt is due to restraint by law enforcement. These guys have made goodbye videos to their families. What does that tell you about their intentions? They have made threats to the sheriff and have brought an arsenal that they intend to use.

It’s a lose-lose for law enforcement, really. If they do what they should do and enforce the law, the militia groups will shout, “See? We told you the Feds are tyrannical.” If they don’t go in and do what they should do, the militias feel powerful and will do this again and again and again. I vote for the former.

Hey, over here. You know the real reason that law enforcement hasn’t gone in because they are white, right? If this was Ferguson, they would have been there in armored vehicles, guns blazing, tear gas flying.

Well, there’s probably some truth to that, but this is a different situation, and a similar situation to others that have ended badly in the past. Do you know about the militia movement in America? Or are you like me, who has a superficial knowledge that they are out there, but not really what they represent, nor what they are planning on doing with all of their training? And yes, they have been training. Just to give you a quick reminder, Timothy McVeigh, one of our own, the worst domestic terrorist in my time, was a part of this movement.

The Oklahoma Federal Building bombing killed 168 Americans (who live under the same flag that these people have appropriated as theirs), including 19 children, and injured another 600. Seven hundred sixty-eight civilian victims, including children. I remember at the time of the bombing we as a country looked outward. Surely this was a Muslim extremist, a terrorist like the ones who tried to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993 and had previously hijacked and brought down airplanes full of innocents. Who else would want to cause such destruction? Who else would give America such a punch to the gut? When it was discovered that it was one of our own, a military veteran, no less, there was a collective gasp. What the hell was happening to our country?

Timothy McVeigh was just a small part of a larger movement to destroy our country from within, to take shots at the federal government, the backbone that keeps us all together. He lashed out in a planned attack, terrorizing a nation and killing and maiming civilians whose only “crime” was to be employed by the federal government. His motive? He hoped to instigate widespread revolt against the federal government for the Waco Siege and Ruby Ridge. Like the terrorists in the Middle East, his victims were civilians.

The movement is still there, and still ready to strike. They have appropriated the Constitution. They have appropriated the flag. They think this gives them the right to terrorize the rest of us who also hold the Constitution and the flag as our own. This is why law enforcement is proceeding with caution. You can’t reason with these people. After Bundy’s father staged his own standoff with the federal government over his refusal to pay grazing fees on public lands, two followers of the militia movement were galvanized, not to march peacefully or walk to work, but to shoot two law enforcement officials who were eating pizza.

I ask you, what type of people have this much resentment toward law enforcement? Hmm…. lawbreakers?

But getting back to my original question, are we still a democracy? One of the militia groups is called the Three Percent, based on the premise that only 3 percent of colonists took up arms against the British in the Revolutionary War. (Still wondering about their motives?) If you have three percent of the people making decisions for the other 97 percent, is that a democracy? I think you know the answer.

Welcome to our own version of the Taliban.