Six Days at the Monastery – July 2018

My visit to St. Anselm Abbey in New Hampshire — from Sunday afternoon, July 8, through Saturday afternoon, July 14 — had several purposes:

  1. Be present for the solemn monastic profession (final vows) of Brother Ignatius Membrino, O.S.B. The abbot had introduced us when I was visiting in late June, 2014, and Ignatius was a novice about to take simple (temporary) vows. I returned for that vow-taking in early July.
  2. Go on retreat, away from the internet and my usual routine. I brought the book Glorious Holy Spirit, by Fr. Cedric Pisegna, C.P., to read and reflect on. It has sixteen chapters, so I could complete by reading the first chapter on Sunday evening and three every day through Friday. I had a second book, World without End, based on interviews by a Belgian television host with Fr. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O. I had begun it on my trip to Colorado in April and though it would be good to dip into at times when I wasn’t reading Fr. Pisenga’s book.
  3. See the novice Bro. Aloysius, O.S.B. take his simple vows and give him an icon of St. Aloysius.
  4. Celebrate the Feast of St. Benedict, July 11, at the monastery.
  5. Visit with the monks.
  6. Prepare for the homily I was scheduled to deliver on July 15 at 7:30 a.m. Mass.

Beyond these there were a couple of bonuses which I hadn’t known about in advance.

  1. Four jubilees were celebrated on Tuesday, July 10. Two of the monks had taken their simple vows 70 years ago, July 2, 1948: Fr. Cecil Donahue, O.S.B., and Bishop Joseph Gerry, O.S.B. (Bishop Joseph is a former abbot of the monastery and was bishop of Portland, Maine, from 1989 until 2004.) Brother Isaac Murphy, O.S.B., professed simple vows 25 years ago, in 1883. Fr. Mathias Durette, O.S.B., prior of the monastery, was ordained a priest in 1993. The four jubilees were honored at Mass that morning at 11:00, followed by a reception and linch in the student center.
  2. On St. Benedict’s Day, the community’s postulant, Louis Franciose, was received as a novice, clothed with a monastic habit, and given the name Basil. The reception took place in the chapter room of the monastery in a private ceremony, which was followed by a special lunch in the courtyard.

So it was a very full week.

As it happened, Bro. Aloysius had professed his vows on Saturday, July 7, so I missed that. I was able to give him the icon after Compline (night prayer) on Sunday, while we all were doing the dishes from dinner. He gave me a very kind thank you note and he told me he had hung it on the wall above his bed.

The daily schedule gave periods of under an hour between Lauds and breakfast, and between breakfast and Mass. There was over two hours between Mass and Midday Prayer (followed by lunch) and between lunch and Vespers. After Compline, I could go to bed whenever I wanted, so had all the time I needed for reading. I read a chapter of Fr. Cedric’s book during each of those longer periods. I used the shorter periods, as well as the ample free time in morning and afternoon for my other books. In addition to my “retreat books,” I had brought a couple of scripture commentaries to help me prepare my homily, and a couple of “secular” books for relaxation. I only looked at one — A Man Called Intrepid, by William Stevenson, which I had on Kindle and had nearly finished — and I finished it toward the end of my visit. I also walked around campus several times, taking pictures and exploring the new student center.

In midafternoon there is a custom called Haustus (Latin for ‘”draught”). Monks and guests can drop in to the refectory, have a snack, and chat. The novices and junior monks are frequently there, a couple of the senior monks come by sometimes, but others have jobs in the college and don’t get there. It was a nice chance to spend some time with the guys who came.

Between dinner and Compline there is a period of “recreation” during which the monks gather in the chapter room and converse, read newspapers, play games, etc. I kibbitzed at the bridge table several evenings and played when two of the regulars (Abbot Mark, Bishop Joseph, Fathers Cecil, Peter, and, if needed, Anselm) were missing.

Except at “festive” meals (Sunday evening, big feasts like St. Benedict’s day, and celebrations like the receptions for the jubilarians and Bro. Ignatius) meals are taken in silence, with a monk reading to the rest. While I was there, they finished a book about the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro with the loss of the entire crew of 33: Into the Raging Sea, by Rachel Slade. Then they began Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Empire, by Bret Baier, about Reagan’s visit to the Soviet Union in May, 1988. The beginning was so interesting that I got the book for my Kindle.

It was a pleasant stay. The biggest point I got from my retreat reflections was that I need to stop procrastinating and do things. At this point, I’m thinking of having a brief visit in Advent — maybe two or three days in the second week of December, depending on what’s happening here in the parish.

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Hold Israel to a Higher Standard?

In the course of an argument yesterday on Twitter about the U.S. withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council, someone tweeted, “Maybe the council does hold [Israel] to a higher standard, I believe they should be. They are the Chosen, have been enslaved, kicked out of their homeland and stolen from their homeland for thousands of years so should know better and see wrong for what it is

The Tweeter did an excellent job of encapsulating 2 1/2 millennia of mistreatment in a single sentence. It could be expanded into an article, a book, or an encyclopedia, and I think it is  well for us to remember the Babylonian Captivity, the expulsion from and destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman, dhimmitude in Moslem lands, anti-Semitic violence in Europe culminating in the Holocaust, followed by destruction of ancient Jewish communities in the post WWII Middle East and North Africa. Finally, we need to realize that when the State of Israel was proclaimed, with U.N.  recognition, in 1948, the immediate reaction of the Palestinians and front line Muslim states was to invade and try to destroy it.

Seventy years later, although Jordan and Egypt have made peace with Israel, the Palestinians have not, and therefore are still at war with Israel. And this is not merely a technicality, a “phony war” on paper. For decades, Palestinians have been engaging in terrorism in Israel. Israel has responded with defensive measures, some of which have been criticized as excessive. None of those, however, would have occurred if the Palestinians had chosen to live in peace with Israel.

Even apart from the history of the past 70 years, the Tweeter’s suggestion strikes me as perverse. If Israel wants to say to itself, “We have Torah and the prophets, and we can’t expect the other nations to be as holy as we are,” that would be okay. Even that, however would not entail giving up the right of self defense. But for the rest of the world to say to Israel, “Because of all that the Jews have suffered at our hands up to 1948, we are not going to tolerate actions by you that we tolerate from others,” — which is what a higher standard means — is surely adding insult (and further injury) to injury.

Given the millennial history of suffering the world has inflicted on the Jewish people, the world should, if anything, be cutting Israel some slack in its current situation, not holding it to a higher standard.

The Crisis with Children of Immigrants

It occurs to me that Fathers Day is a good day to think about this. The Republican Party has often claimed to support family values. The current handling of children of illegal immigrants, like the case of Elián González in 2000, is inconsistent with that claim. The right of parents to raise their children, which implies the right to custody of them, is one of the basic principles concerning families. Here, however, as in the González case, that right is being denied, not for the good of the children or out of some overriding necessity, but for political reasons.

Elián González. Here is a link to a synopsis of the case. After his mother drowned in the attempt to take him by boat from Cuba to the United States, he was placed with relatives in Florida. They resisted his father’s request that his son be returned to him. The resistance was not on the grounds that the father was an unfit parent but because they preferred that the boy be in the United States rather than under the Communist regime of Fidel Castro. In other words, the Florida relatives and their sympathizers in the United States, including many Republicans, were  willing to ignore parental rights for political reasons. On the other hand, the fact that refugees from Cuba entered the country illegally was not a problem for any significant number of people of either party.

Trump/Sessions Policy. Senator Susan Collins (R, ME), in a letter (apparently to a constituent), explains the situation as follows:

In May, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would begin prosecuting individuals who crossed the southern border illegally, which could mean that parents who are apprehended at the border could be separated from their children in some cases.

She goes on to write about the dangers of the voyage from the parent’s home to the border and the the apparent belief of the parents that if they can reach the United States they will be allowed to stay. Although she does not explain what that has to do with the new policy or the treatment of the children, it seems consistent with the argument others have advanced that when the policy becomes known, it will discourage others from trying to immigrate this way.

“In May … would begin …” In other words, contrary to Trump’s claim that this was necessary because of some “horrible law” enacted by the Democrats, this is a new policy, freely chosen by Jeff Sessions. It is not necessary under current law.

“the southern border” The Constitution requires equal protection of the laws. To have a set of rules for those entering across the southern border which is not applied equally to those entering across the northern border or at any port of entry by sea or air is clearly unequal on its face. The obvious difference between those coming across the southern border and those entering elsewhere is that the former are Hispanic while the others generally are not. In other words, this policy is based on ethnic bigotry.

“parents … could be separated from their children …” The only hint of a rationalization for the deliberate change of policy which produces this result is not that the parents are unfit but that it will send a message to other, unrelated individuals, to discourage them from coming here. As with Elián González, people want to take children from their parents for political purposes.

Comments and Conclusions. Regrettably, it seems that many Republicans — now as then — are, at best, selective in their support of family values or ignorant of what they entail. It seems that an anti-immigrant fervor, which is directed only at Hispanics and Muslims, takes precedence for them. The bigotry of the Administration and their supporters makes them comfortable with using the children as pawns/hostages in their attempt to get funding for the border wall. Those who recognize the rights of children and parents are being pressured to fund the wall as part of a deal to end this unnecessary policy.

It should be noted that one difference between the González case and the current situation is that Elián was with family members, whereas the children now are not being placed with loving and caring relatives. Presumably, in the vast majority of cases there are no such known relatives, so they are being held in custody. This raises the point that if parents and children alike are in custody, it should be possible for them to be together in custody. This is not like the situation which often occurs in other sorts of criminal cases, in which a child  can be placed with other family members when a parent is in custody.

It is true that the United States cannot be expected to allow open borders. We need to have sensible immigration policies and procedures, including better border controls. But that need doesn’t mean that anything goes or that the natural rights of parents and children may be disregarded.

What we need now is an immediate reversal of the DOJ decision of last May. Then we need serious immigration reform. Until such reform is enacted, immigration enforcement should be limited to cases of serious criminals, the “bad hombres” Donald Trump pretended to be concerned about. People who have merely violated immigration laws or are convicted of non-violent crimes should be allowed to remain until Congress passes comprehensive legislation; and that legislation should allow those who have already made a peaceable life for themselves here to remain.

Sunday Scriptures — Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) B, Mar. 25, 2018

First Reading — Isaiah 50:4-7

Second Reading — Philippians 2:6-11

Gospel — Mark 14:1-15:47

The liturgy of Palm Sunday can begin with a ceremony of blessing of palms during which the passage telling of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is read. It is taken from the current year’s gospel, except that in Year B there is an option to read the account from John. Thus, if the blessing takes place at a given Mass, we may hear Mark 11:1-10 or John12:12-16. The version from Mark includes Jesus’ sending disciples to borrow the colt for him. John’s version includes an Old Testament quote promising Zion that her king would arrive as Jesus did. Central in significance for both is the people’s acclamation, “Hosanna!” followed by words quoted at every Mass, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The irony that a few days later a crowd, possibly including some of the same people, would be shouting for his crucifixion is a warning to us all to be v=clear about where we stand. Our human nature can be fickle. Even if we don’t explicitly oppose Jesus, we can ignore his teachings and calls in our life.

 

The first two readings and responsorial psalm of Palm Sunday are the same every year. The gospel is the Passion Narrative of the gospel being read on Sundays throughout the year. So this year we hear the Passion according to St. Mark.

 

The first reading — Isaiah 50:4-7 — is the third of four “Songs of the Suffering Servant” in the book of Isaiah. The servant of the Lord undergoes sufferings like those of Jesus, but he has confidence in God that he will ultimately be vindicated.

 

The responsorial psalm — verses of Psalm 22, with verse 2 as the refrain — is quoted by Jesus on the cross. Like the first reading, it tells of one who is being tormented, but concludes with an expression of confidence in being vindicated by God.

 

In the gospel — Mark 14:1—15:47 — we hear of Jesus fully aware of what is about to happen to him, saying that the woman who anointed him at the home of Simon the leper had done so in preparation for his burial. Although in the garden he wishes that it weren’t necessary, he accepts it as the will of his Father. At the Last Supper, he gives the Twelve his body and “[his] blood of the covenant.” “Blood of the covenant” is significant because it recalls the blood of the covenant in Exodus 24:8. To ratify God’s covenant with Israel, Moses offers a sacrifice and takes the blood of the animals sacrificed and splashes half of it on the altar and sprinkles the people with the other half, Now Jesus’ sacrifice establishes God’s covenant with his people and brings forgiveness of sins.

Jesus unflinchingly proclaims his Messiahship and accepts his crucifixion. Others actively seek his death (the Sanhedrin), yield to pressure (Pilate), betray him (Judas), deny him (and repent)(Peter), run away (disciples, young man who ran away naked — instead of leaving all to follow Jesus, he left all to stop following), mock him (Sanhedrin members, Roman soldiers, passers-by, chief priests, those crucified with him), follow loyally (women observing the crucifixion), or come to faith (centurion). If we sin, we are yielding, denying, or running away from him, and seeking our own comfort or pleasure. But he will forgive, as he forgave Peter and the other disciples after he rose.

I was at a lecture where someone asked where was Jesus’ mercy when he said of Judas, “better for that man if he had never been born.” The answer is that all of God’s threats are conditional: this is what will happen if you don’t repent and change your ways. When Jesus spoke to Judas, it was a warning and a plea: what you are about to do will turn out very badly for you; don’t go through with it. Judas could have repented and been restored to God’s grace. God’s mercy remained available to him, as it is to all of us.

We might note that the Sanhedrin trial was a kangaroo court. At 14:1, days beforehand, they decide to put Jesus to death. At the trial, failing to get testimony capable of justifying the death sentence, the high priest asserts that Jesus’ claim of Messiahship consistent with Daniel 7:13 is blasphemy. But of course, if true, it isn’t blasphemy. There is no proof that Jesus’ claim is false, just an assertion made in order to justify the predetermined outcome.

 

The second reading — Philippians 2:6-11 — also speaks of the sufferings of Jesus, putting them in the context of his divinity. As God he was unable to suffer and die, so he became human in order to die for us. His exaltation shows him as Lord, our Savior, deserving of our reverent and grateful praise.

 

I don’t think I’ll have a chance to write new posts for Holy Thursday and Good Friday, but the readings are the same every year, so you might want to check out those from 2016 in the archive.

Sunday Scriptures — Lent B 04 & 05, Mar. 11 & 18, 2018

Fourth Sunday – March 11

First Reading — 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23

Second Reading — Ephesians 2:4-10

Gospel — John 3:14-21

A unifying thread of these readings is God’s merciful care for his people. Chronicles concludes with the release of the Israelites from the Babylonian captivity. In Ephesians Paul speaks not of a political captivity but of the spiritual death of sin. The Israelites did not effect their own liberation. It was the Persian king, raised up by God to liberate them for the consequences of their violations of the covenant. In the same way, it is not our own works that save us from the death of sin; it is God’s freely given grace. Jesus died and rose, and God has “raised us up with him.”

Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus, quoted in part in this day’s gospel, includes the classic text, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. The passage begins with a reference to the story in Numbers 21:4-9: the Israelites were being bitten by venomous serpents, and God told to make a bronze image of a serpent and mount it on a pole. Whoever looked at the bronze serpent was healed. Jesus, mounted — lifted up — on the cross heals those who look on him with faith. The grace of faith brings us to leave the darkness of our sins behind.

 

Fifth Sunday – March 18

First Reading — Jeremiah 31:31-34

Second Reading — Hebrews 5:7-9

Gospel — John 12:20-23

In the gospel some Greek believers in Judaism go to one of  the apostles with a Greek name and ask to see Jesus. He gets the other apostle with a Greek name, and they relay the request of those believing gentiles. Jesus’ response, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” seems enigmatic. I think it has to do with the fact that his message is reaching beyond his Jewish followers. His resurrection must take place before the gentile world is evangelized. The text does not say whether Jesus actually met with those Greeks. It is entirely possible that he did. What is important for us is that their request heralds Jesus’ death and resurrection. As in the fourth Sunday’s gospel, Jesus again speaks of being “lifted up” (like the bronze serpent) and drawing everyone, Jews and gentiles to himself.

Jesus is the epitome of self-abnegation for the sake of producing fruit. He willingly accepted crucifixion and death in order to be “the source of salvation for all who obey him,” and invites all to this obedience. But we are also called to share his attitude of “hat[ing] our life in this world.” We will not necessarily have to die directly as a result of following Jesus, but our lives must not be ones of self-seeking.

We believe that Jesus inaugurates the new covenant of which Jeremiah speaks. It is a covenant in which our sins are forgiven and God’s law is written in our hearts — the Holy Spirit guides our consciences.

Sunday Scriptures — Lent B 03, Mar. 04, 2018

First Reading — Exodus 20:1-17

Second Reading — 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Gospel — John 2:13-25

 

St. Paul tells us that Jesus is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” His death and resurrection show God’s power at work in him. He is the authorized spokesman who has a right to specify proper reverence for God’s temple. Wisdom (reason, philosophy) seeks to understand the truth of existence: a worthy pursuit. In this, it has the immense advantage of the truth presented by the revelation of God in Jesus and in scripture, that God loves his people and offers us eternal life where all evil is overcome.

The ten commandments set out minimum standards of living in right relationship with God and with one another as members of his people. The two greatest commandments — love God with all your being; love your neighbor as yourself — provide the basis and context for the ten, as well as for all the developments elsewhere in the Torah, the prophets, and the teachings of Jesus.

Do we regard God’s law as a burden or do we see it as the Jews regard Torah, a great gift, as expressed in the responsorial psalm (Ps. 19:8-11)? There we say, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. … They are more precious than gold …; sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb.”

The scriptures of this day point us toward Easter and invite us to renew our faith in Jesus as the one sent by God to save us and bring us into holiness and eternal life through his teachings and above all through his death and resurrection which are not only salvific in themselves but also the proof of his Messiahship.

Sunday Scriptures — Lent B 01 & 02, Feb. 18 & 25, 2018

First Sunday – February 18

First Reading — Genesis 9:8-15

Second Reading — 1 Peter 3:18-22

Gospel — Mark 1:12-15

Every year, the gospel for the first Sunday of Lent tells of Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the desert and  his temptations. The current year, Year B, features the Gospel of Mark, and Mark’s account gives none of the details of the temptations we hear of in Matthew and Luke. This gives a chance for us to hear a bit of the context going forward, namely, the beginning of his public ministry: proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The verses preceding this selection tell of Jesus’ baptism by John, and that provides a connection to the second reading, which in turn connects with the first.

The three “synoptic gospels” — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — record the same sequence of events: Jesus is baptized, anointed by the Holy Spirit, and proclaimed God’s son; Jesus undertakes a 40 day period of fasting and prayer in the desert, during which he undergoes temptation; Jesus begins his public ministry. (John gives us the baptism and inauguration of the ministry, but doesn’t mention the desert.) This has significance for our lives. Most obviously, we have entered on a period of forty days of prayer and fasting (and almsgiving). It is a time of preparation for Easter, which is the time for adults to be baptized and begin their ministry as members of the Body of Christ, proclaiming the Kingdom of God. For those already baptized, Easter is a time for renewing our baptismal commitment to proclaim God’s Kingdom by our lives, in our circumstances; and Lent is when we prepare to reinvigorate our lives of witness to the gospel, overcoming temptation and opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit through our Lenten practices of a more intense living of lives based on faith.

In the second reading, Peter sets baptism in the context of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the saving act which is the culmination of the ministry which began after his baptism. Baptism incorporates the believer into this saving act of Jesus, in effect making him or her a sharer in that act, a recipient of its benefits. The water of the flood destroyed the sinfulness of the world in the time of Noah, just as baptism takes away our sins and puts us in a covenant relationship with God.

 

Second Sunday – February 25

First Reading — Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

Second Reading — Romans 8:31b-34

Gospel — Mark 9:2-10

The gospel for the second Sunday of Lent yearly presents an account of the transfiguration of Jesus — this year from Mark. First though, we hear the harrowing account of Abraham and the uncompleted sacrifice of Isaac. (For the people of ancient Israel, this was at least an implicit rejection of the practice of human sacrifice.) Some of the detail* is omitted from the reading, to concentrate on the essentials. We hear of Abraham’s obedience to God, and God’s promises in response to Abraham’s faithfulness. God spares Abraham’s son, but, as Paul points out, he does not spare his own son. That sacrifice acquits us of our sins.

* Isaac carries the wood for the sacrifice, making him a “type,” a prefiguring, of Jesus, who carried the wood of his cross to the hill of sacrifice. In response to Isaac’s question, “Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham promises that God will provide, which he dies.

Paul tells us that Jesus not only died but was raised for us and is at the right hand of the Father. The transfiguration gives the apostles a vision of Jesus in the glory of his resurrection. The presence of Moses and Elijah — representing the Law and the Prophets — shows the continuity of the revelation of the Old and New Testaments. Jesus fulfills that revelation.

The voice from the cloud repeats the proclamation that was made at Jesus’ baptism: he is God’s son. This resonates with the baptismal facet of Lent. As a result of our baptism, we have the promise of a like glory when we are resurrected. The Jews of Jesus’ time knew that there would be a resurrection at the end of time, but they didn’t expect anybody to rise before that general resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection promises ours.

Our baptism makes us spiritual descendants of Abraham, so that in us, along with the Jews, “all the nations of the earth shall find blessing.”

Questions about Hart’s New Testament Eipgraph

A few days ago, I bought a copy of the new translation of the New Testament by David Bentley Hart. The dust jacket tells us, “David Bentley Hart undertook this new translation of the New Testament in the spirit of ‘etsi doctrina non daretur,‘ ‘as if doctrine is not given.’ Reproducing the texts’ often fragmentary formulations without augmentation or correction, he has produced a pitilessly literal translation, one that captures the texts’ impenetrability and unfinished quality while awakening readers to an uncanniness that often lies hidden beneath doctrinal layers.”

As I began to look at it I was fascinated by the epigraph, whose source it took me a while to locate. It’s in Greek, and can be translated, “The word says, ‘Take up the stone, and there you will find me; split the wood, and I am there.'” The first thing that’s interesting to me is that it’s not from the New Testament, not even from the Bible, but from the Gospel of Thomas. The second thing is that he alters the introduction. In the original, it reads, “Jesus says,” but Hart alters it to “The word says.” Finally I find it interesting that he chooses this text, even apart from its source and his alteration of it. These things suggest several questions.

1.) Why does he draw the epigraph from the Gospel of Thomas? Maybe he doesn’t want to take something from the New Testament for fear of making it seem that he thinks it’s the most important thing in the whole Newt Testament. But he could have taken something from the Old Testament (e.g., the passage from Isaiah comparing God’s word to the rain which does not return to him void — Isaiah 55:10-11). Is he insinuating that the Gospel of Thomas belongs in the canon of scripture, or does he just find this saying somehow apposite?

2.) Why does he attribute the saying to the word, rather than to Jesus? Is he using “word” in the sense in which it’s used in John, Chapter 1, as an epithet for Jesus, so that it means the same thing as saying Jesus, but maybe with the specific connotation that Jesus is the Word of God? Does he mean, instead, to present this as an invitation and promise from scripture itself?

3.) What does it mean to him? Does he see his work of translating as, metaphorically, a strenuous effort of lifting up stones and splitting wood to reveal Jesus or the true meaning of the scriptures? Are the readers being encouraged to do the heavy lifting in order to find the meaning of the word?

Mass Killing in Parkland, Florida

The killing of 17 people at the high school in Parkland on February 14 has led to renewed calls for various forms of gun control, including measures to prevent those with mental health problems that make them dangerous from having access to firearms. There have also been people who have said, “Let’s not politicize the tragedy.” Speaker Ryan cautioned against a “knee-jerk reaction” before all the facts and data are known.

My response to Speaker Ryan is, “If you won’t do anything about Parkland, there are many previous mass shootings about which all the facts and data are known. Do something about them.

As for politicizing the issue, the question is what is meant by “politicizing.” If it means, “seeking solutions through governmental action,” there is clearly nothing wrong with doing that. That is part of our rights as citizens. If it means “attempting to win advantage for one political party over another,” the real possibility that some people will politicize the matter is not a sufficient reason for others to ignore the problem. Such hyper-partisanship is an increasing problem in our politics*, but rather than yielding to it, we should refuse to let it stop people of good will from seeking to resolve problems.

            *The fiasco on February 15 in the Senate on immigration legislation, leaving the Dreamers unprotected is the most recent example.

The proposals I’m aware of include general restrictions on sales of guns — background checks, banning sales at weapons shows, waiting periods, etc. — banning certain types of weapons and accessories frequently used in mass shootings, such as AR-15 rifles and bump stocks; and restrictions on persons, preventing dangerous individuals from owning or purchasing firearms. I think all approaches have merit, and I see no validity in saying only one facet — sales, weapon types, or mental health — is the problem. All contribute to an intolerable situation, and all should be addressed.

Some people will claim that the Second Amendment prevents some of the proposed actions. But the courts have already recognized that the Second Amendment is not absolute. It would be absurd to suggest that individuals have a right to possess nuclear devices or guided missiles. When there are types of arms unknown to the framers of the Amendment, it is at least questionable whether the original intent of the Amendment was to include them. Therefore, it is proper for legislative bodies to consider whether they should be restricted and for courts to decide whether such restrictions are constitutional.

The response of the students themselves gives me real hope that this time something will be different. In addition to grieving the loss of life and honoring those who responded heroically, this time they are angry, and they are articulating that anger powerfully in a clear demand for long overdue action. I believe that this anger-driven demand for action is likely to a effective movement driving politicians to respond with legislation, not just the empty pieties that have followed past acts of this sort.

Dreamers Aren’t Most Senators’ Priority

Looking at the voting on the roll calls in the Senate last Thursday, I must conclude that for the vast majority of Republican Senators, building the “Wall” is more important that letting the “Dreamers” stay in the U.S., while for the vast majority of Democrats, stopping the “Wall” is a higher priority that protecting the “Dreamers.”

On the first roll call, all 48 Democrats and “Independents,” except Manchin, voted in favor along with four Republicans, Senators Flake, Gardner, Graham, and Murkowski. The remaining Republicans — except John McCain, who was absent due to illness and took no part in any of the voting — all voted against the bill.

On the next roll call, all 40 Republicans present voted in favor and were joined by Democrats Donnelly, Manchin, McCaskill, and Stabenow. The two “Independents” and the remaining 43 Democrats voted against it.

On the third roll call, eight Republicans — Alexander, Collins, Flake, Gardner, Graham, Isakson, Murkowski, and Rounds — joined 44 Democrats and both “Independents” in favor.  Three Democrats joined the remaining 42 Republicans in opposition.

 

The point I’d make is that if the “Dreamers” aren’t taken care of now, they’ll be gone as a group forever, while the “Wall” and questions of family reunification and visa lottery can be revisited another time. Yet there are only four Democrats and four Republicans who considered them the top priority. Republicans Alexander, Collins, Isakson, and Rounds were ambiguous, but it could be argued that by supporting the “Dreamers” when their preferred version failed, they made them the top priority. As for the other 45 Democrats and “Independents,” and the other 42 voting Republicans — the “Dreamers” just weren’t that  important to them. So let’s have no criticism of the President or other party from those 87 insufficiently caring Senators.

 

Among those whose message to the “Dreamers” is, “Drop dead,” are my state’s two Democrats, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey.