“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent, fair application of law is in itself a good and moral thing and that protects the weak; it protects the lawful. Our policies that can result in short-term separation of families are not unusual or unjustified.” As quoted by Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States
The Attorney General of the United States this last week used Paul’s Letter to the Romans to defend current Trump Administration policies dealing with the separation of families under arrest/detention and accused of unlawful entry into the United States.
A short pause
To digress a moment, Mr. Trump says the problem is not his Administration but the Democrats. No, Mr. Trump, the Democrats are not the problem. There is nothing in current American laws which mandates the separation of families in these immigration cases. The problem is policy, not laws.
Also, I will take a short moment to remind us all that the Republican Party controls both Houses of Congress and can quickly pass, if it so desired, a single sentence law something like: In no case shall families with children be separated while being held in detention and undergoing legal proceedings regarding illegal immigration into the United States.
This would only require a simple majority vote of both Houses and a speedy signature by the American (Republican) President. In fact, I believe that such a vote would carry 100% “For” votes by both the House and Senate. Things could then proceed without this moral posturing by both sides of the immigration debate.
Paul and Rome
Political conditions in the 1st Century of the Common or Christian Era.
Paul, or Saul, was a child of his times (as are we all of our own). He was a Roman Citizen. The Roman Empire was the largest and strongest of the social/political entities existing in the Western world two millennia ago.
The Empire covered a geographic area comparable to the contiguous forty-eight United States and had a population of somewhere around a hundred million people.
Of these hundred million people somewhere between forty and sixty million of them were slaves — yes, slaves. They had no political rights and could be bought, sold, abandoned or manumitted at any time.
Those who were big and strong worked their lives away in the fields of the latifundia. Comely children, boys and girls, were sold to brothels or to wealthy men and women for their personal use and as house servants.
I will remind you that the Roman Republic was never in our modern sense a republic. That is, it was not a representative democracy. It was a plutocratic/oligarchic dictatorship — of, by and for the rich. In those instances where the Equestrian or Senatorial classes needed to placate the lower classes, the plebes, they did so through “bread and circuses” and the buying of their votes.
Those of the lower classes who were elevated to protect the “rights” of those lower classes became, for practical purposes, members of the upper order.
The Roman Empire was an Empire. It was built and maintained through the use of military force. Millions of people, soldiers and civilians, men, women and children, were killed in its wars. The defeated were sold into slavery. Many were dispossessed of their lands, according to the political, military or economic needs of their conquerors. Might made right; terror was a weapon.
In defense of order
Paul, a Roman citizen, at one time persecuted/prosecuted those who followed the teachings of the followers of Jesus. He enforced the rule of law as he saw it — the law of the Caesars and Caesar’s appointed governors.
After the “miracle” restoration of his eyesight and “conversion,” Paul also began following the teachings of Jesus’ followers. And, through his writings urged people to follow the “rule of law.”
For practical purposes, at least to my mind, he said that people should obey a corrupt military dictatorship because that was the government given to them by God — WHY?
Why? Because Paul thought that the government of the Caesars was the legitimate government ordained by the gods — or God, depending on your point of view.
Possibly, after all he was a child of his times.
Or, possibly, he was just a realist.
There was no way that a group of poor, unarmed civilians and slaves was going to overthrow the might of the Roman Empire. To attempt to do so would lead to slaughter. While the Roman armies of the times suffered setbacks and defeats, they were sufficient to the policing of the Empire and protecting of its external borders. Augustus/Octavian had reduced the army’s size (and hit on the budget), but during the Pax Romana (Roman Peace — 27 BCE to CE 180) nothing stood against it.
As I see it, child of the times as I am — “Question authority!” — one can look on Romans 13 in one of two ways:
One: Paul truly believed that the government of the Caesars was instituted by the will of God and that people should obey all of its laws and strictures. This despite, to our modern minds, its corruption, immorality, lack of concern for much (most) of its population and dependence on coercion and slavery.
Two: Paul, knowing full well the power of the Caesars and that those to whom he was preaching were powerless, wanted to protect them and he, therefore, told them to be quiet, keep their heads down and obey the law. This in the same tone where Jesus, according to the Bible, told people to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s and unto God what was God’s.
I wonder — was Jesus a child of His time and truly believe that the military dictatorship of the Caesars was the rightful government decreed by God or was He just being practical?
Which brings me back to AGOTUS Jeff Sessions. Does he believe that Paul in his letter to the Romans 13 really means that people should obey the laws because the government was put there by God (even being a corrupt military dictatorship). And, that that applies to us? Today?
I believe that any American government official who believes, like Jeff Sessions, that we all must obey the government because God put it there should be fired. He, or she, does not belong.
We created the United States because we believed that the current — of that time — government was destructive of our needs, wants and rights. People, not God, created government(s) and it is their right to change them.
We cannot use a quote from a first century Roman citizen to justify the, in my humble opinion, immoral actions of our twenty-first government.
Whether you consider Mr. Trump to be the Savior, Anti-Christ or just The Mule in regards to American government in the highly toxic political climate of 21st century America, it is immoral, or so I believe in this day and age, to separate children and parents by the hundreds and thousands. And, separating a nursing baby from its mother?
Assuming the actual existence of the God Jeff Sessions says he believes in, I would like to be a fly on the wall when God questions him at his last judgement: “A baby, Jeff, a baby? How can you justify taking a nursing baby away from its mother by saying I OK’d it? I, God, am to blame?”
13 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
Romans 13 has a long history with regard to revolution and oppression.
Both sides, Loyalists and Patriots, used it to defend their positions during the American Revolutionary period.
Martin Luther used it to defend his position in putting down violent peasant uprisings in the 1520s.
Pro-slavery forces used it to defend the fugitive slave acts in 18th and 19th century America.
Adolph Hitler used it to defend his repression of opponents in the 1930s Germany.
Go to your favorite Search Engine and type in: Romans 13 and whoever or whatever you wish to research. Some of the articles and sites are well-researched and written. And others, I have found, are just pure junk. Decide for yourself.
“They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
A notice for those of you who’ve smelled the wood burning around here, I’ve been thinking . . . about teachers and guns . . . and carrying them on school grounds.
I taught at middle school/junior high for some forty (40) years and never felt the need to carry a weapon.
Back in the 70s we had some bomb threats and had to evacuate from the classrooms to our fire drill stations on the fields and school periphery. Some of us volunteered to check rooms and student lockers. The only things we ever found were a few road flares hung up to look like dynamite sticks.
Shot in the butt
I do remember one time when a student fired a gun just off campus, or from the sidewalk in front of the school. He wounded another student (not seriously). One of our teachers (a WWII vet) was on duty in front and went to confront the young man. The student pointed his pistol at the man’s face and told him to go away, in rather strident and impolite language.
I don’t remember exactly how it happened but a police officer was giving a self-defense demonstration with another teacher in our auditorium and the shooter was soon apprehended. No other shots were fired.
I spent a while directing traffic around the scene as the paramedics took the injured student to the hospital. — Other than that, the years have obscured my memories as this all happened thirty plus years ago.
I do, however, wonder what would have happened if our teachers had been armed.
What if . . .
If Bill had confronted the shooter with a drawn weapon, would the student have dropped his weapon or just opened fire and shot him? If he had opened fire immediately, would he have hit my friend and wounded or killed him? Would he have kept firing until he ran out of ammunition? Would he have hit anyone else?
I know my friend would have given the student a chance to put down his gun and surrender; he wouldn’t have just opened fire on the kid.
. . . the rest of us were armed?
You’ve probably seen some of the recent videos of police officers firing multitudes of bullets at suspects, some armed with nothing more than a cellphone. Imagine a firefight in front of a school at dismissal time. Hundreds of kids, armed teachers firing from different directions, possibly armed parents getting out of their cars and adding to the confusion and violence.
The military has a term for what can happen in incidents as confused as this — friendly fire. Even in police shooting incidents, sometimes the police officer who is shot is found to have been shot by a fellow officer — and these are veteran officers with years of training and experience.
Teachers with guns
Tell me truly, do you really want armed teachers on your child’s school grounds?
If volunteer teachers are to be stationed on school grounds, how much training should they undergo? A day? A week? A month? A year? What kind of training? The kind a police officer receives?
What kind of weapon shall a teacher carry? Shall it be a school district issued weapon or the teacher’s personal property? A pistol (automatic or revolver and what caliber)? A rifle? A shotgun? AR-15 semi-automatic type? Rubber bullets or real?
Shall they carry them at all times? Only when they are on duty outside of the classroom? Where do they store their weapons? In a holster with a safety strap on their hips? How about in a desk or filing cabinet, locked or unlocked? In the school safe? In thinking about this when was the last time a school near you was broken in to and robbed or vandalized? Think of these vandals now being armed.
What shall be the Rules of Engagement (ROE)? Under what circumstances may the teacher draw his or her weapon? Under what circumstances may a teacher actually fire his or her weapon? Or are you going to leave the decision to the teacher’s best judgment? What if the teacher makes the wrong decision, freezes or just plain panics? What if the teacher accidentally wounds, or kills, your child while dealing with an on campus shooter?
Remember, we live in an overly, to my mind, litigious society. Can you imagine the lawsuits coming from any mistake made by a teacher with a gun in these kinds of circumstances? Or do we legislate Good Samaritan type “hold harmless” laws to protect them?
What kind, or kinds, of teachers do you want armed on the school grounds your child attends? How about the grandmotherly type who teaches kindergarten? I still remember Mrs. Lombard from sixty plus years ago and can imagine few people less likely to pack a six-gun.
How about one of the coaches? Maybe, but probably not the one your son tells you swears at them during practice, berates them for mistakes during the game and throws his headset at the referee when he is ejected from the game.
Mentally go down the list of teachers at your child’s school. Who would you want to carry a gun on campus and, maybe, in the classroom? Is your list of the teachers you would trust the same as those of the other parents, the administrators, the teachers themselves?
And what of those of you who are, or were, teachers? Do you want to carry a gun in your classroom or the wider campus? Would you have wanted to back when you were teaching, for those of you who are no longer teaching?
I cannot answer any of the above questions, except for myself. And, the answer is NO.
No, teachers should not be armed and expected to deal with armed students, or other intruders, on school grounds.
If armed guards are needed full-time on campus, I believe we should hire retired, long service police officers who do not have records, or complaints, of resorting to violence as a first resort. They will be dealing with children, not hardened criminals; they need to know how to end touchy, potentially dangerous situations through de-escalation not by resorting to threats and violence.
Not the answer
Giving more people guns is not the answer. We need to de-escalate our entire society.
Through our government and other organizations and businesses we spend millions of dollars dealing with alcoholism and its effects. We spend millions of dollars dealing with smoking and its effects. We even put warning labels on packs of cigarettes; how about warning labels on guns?
We license and require practical, as well as written tests for those who drive our cars, trucks, buses and for those who fly airplanes. How about we require the same of those who own and use guns? (Yes, I do know the WHY/WHY NOT of the situation, but we can deal with through the ballot box and appropriate legislation.)
We will not improve the situation by repeating the same answers again and again; we will not improve the situation by yelling and screaming at each other and invoking our “God-given and Constitutional Rights” yet another time.
The answer lies in civil discourse, in wanting for others the best we have to offer of ourselves and in electing to office those best able to speak for us.
In our youth the world was simpler and better only because we had not the eyes nor experience of the adults around us.
In the 60s we had “duck and cover” drills; our grandchildren have “shelter in place” drills.
Things will not improve until we become better people.
Yesterday, the Official Voter Information Guide for the June primary election arrived in the mail. While I will have several sets of comments to make about this in the future, today’s post will deal with just a few points of information.
The election will take place on Tuesday, June 5, 2018.
Polls will be open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm on election day. (If you are in line when the polls close, you still get to vote.)
May 7, 2018 is the first day to vote-by-mail.
May 21, 2018 is the last day to register to vote. You are eligible to vote if you are:
a U. S. citizen living in California
at least 18 years of age
registered where you currently live
not currently in state or federal prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony
not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court
The California Secretary of State’s Website — http://www.sos.ca.gov/ — gives you access to election information:
The Voter Guide
Registration information and status
Find polling place or vote center on Election Day
Get vote-by-mail ballot information
Research campaign contributions and lobbying activity (follow the money):
Watch live election results after poll close on Election Day
There is something that is new this year, at least I’ve never seen it before: Pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you may pre-register and on your 18th birthday you will automatically be registered to vote. Just go to: http://www.RegisterToVote.ca.gov and click on the “Pre-Reigster to Vote” button and complete the information requested.
All of the above information, and more (96 pages of it) is available in the Voter Guide.
Remember, we live in a representative democracy. In a representative democracy a nation’s citizens elect people to govern for them. If you want a say in electing these people, you need to be registered to vote and then actually vote.
We are taught that as citizens we have a right to vote. Well, along with the right to vote I believe that we have a duty. I believe that we have a duty to educate ourselves about the issues and candidates and then to cast our votes accordingly.
Whether you are a centrist or you lean to the left or right of the political spectrum; whether you believe we are on the correct track politically or believe we are going to heck-in-a-handbasket; if you wish your opinion to be heard by the powers-that-be, you need to vote.
Of course, if you favor candidates and policies that are opposed to those I espouse and don’t vote, I won’t cry about it.
But, I will say: “If you don’t vote and things don’t go the way you want, don’t complain. You had your chance.”
After retiring from the Marine Corps, a former Drill Instructor Sergeant took a job as a high school teacher. Just before the school year started, he injured his back. He was required to wear a light plaster cast around the upper part of his body. Fortunately, the cast fit snugly under his shirt and wasn’t noticeable when he wore his suit jacket.
On the first day of class, he found himself assigned to the toughest students in the school. The smart-aleck punks, having already heard the new teacher was a former Marine, were leery of him and he knew they would be testing his discipline in the classroom.
Walking confidently into the rowdy classroom, the new teacher opened the window wide and sat down at his desk, he looked around the room and made eye contact with each and every student. A strong breeze through the window made his tie flap. He picked up a stapler and stapled the tie to his chest.
The rest of the school year went very smooth . . .