Monday, July 19, 2010

Que Pasa?

Sorry about the length of this post. I got onto a subject and couldn't get off the merry-go-round until the ride was over. I do have the distinct disability of both having been raised by hippies in the 60's and taken a constitutional law course in law school. Read on at your own peril.

First Point: The small town of Hyrum, Utah (south of Logan, about 50 years it turns out) tried to help a nervous pastor with the closing prayer at their 4th of July Celebration. It only got them in trouble.

The pastor who was asked to say the closing prayer at the celebration requested to say the pray in Spanish because she was afraid she would not say it correctly in English. This decision to change the prayer into Spanish was criticized as "unpatriotic" and one do-gooder said the council should be "impeached and sent to Mexico".

Aside from the obvious racism does anyone else see the constitutional conflict with saying a prayer at a government celebration? I am not against prayer, just one person imposing their viewpoints on another. Sort of ironic, huh?

Second Point: We now have Listgate here in Utah.

It seems a few underachievers at the Department of Workforce Services (a Utah governmental department charged with helping Utahns get jobs) took it upon themselves to compile a list (on their own time of course) of 1300 alleged undocumented aliens in the state of Utah. The list contained private information of these individuals and was distributed, unsigned by the creators, to government officials.

The creation and dissemination of the list is being condemned as a "despicable act", the perpetrators have been identified (they can trace things like that from your work computer you know) and the Utah Attorney General is considering criminal charges.

The uproar over the list is not universal. The Utah Minutemen (a group formed to fight immigration reform) is calling the list creators "patriots". They are trying to publicly embarrass their founder and former president who was seen on TV next to a Latino community leader condemning the list. They want this interloper drummed out of their ranks.

Fear and paranoia has taken over. The Utah Minutemen have morphed into a group of racists. Have they ever heard of the Right to Privacy?

The unifying concept I see in both of these circumstances is that reasonableness has left the building. It is good to be active in community, social and spiritual issues. It is good to speak out about injustices you perceive. It is not good to do it by trampling on other's rights.

In the movie My Blue Heaven, Steve Martin plays a mob guy exiled to the Midwest in the witness protection program. He has a philosophical discussion with a local attorney about the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. He, as a petty thief and mob guy, says "I'm the reason Thomas Jefferson put that clause in the Constitution" and he is exactly correct. If we can't protect everyone, even those who we aren't comfortable with, we risk not protecting anyone.

An often repeated quote goes "I don't agree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

The Constitution is a sacred document granting us all liberties that we need to protect. As a side note, beware of people using words like "unpatriotic" to cover their racist feelings. It is dangerous to use personnel attacks to further a political issue.

This is how it starts. People who don't believe the way a small faction does are called names or their patriotism is called into question. Not wanting to rock the boat, those being called names don't fight back. Some hearing the name calling are also angry at the object of the small faction's disapproval. The group grows. The small faction and its beliefs become commonplace and accepted. Before you know it people who see the ideas of this group as wrong can't speak out. (You can insert the name of any dictatorship or oligarchy of your choice).

Someone in leadership needs to speak up about immigration reform. We do need to protect our resources and not allow everyone into the US that runs across the border. We also need to treat those here as humans and give them the due respect that reflects their contributions that make up a significant part of our culture and population.

We need to not allow criminals into the US. This means from everywhere. We need to protect those who are here legitimately or who are follow the rules by going through the system so they don't get pushed aside by those who feel entitled. We need a comprehensive immigration policy and enforcement that fits today's requirements.


Max said...

You bring up an issue that hits pretty close to home. The idea of being "patriotic". During G.W.'s tenure in office my views were often labeled as unpatriotic. If you didn't support the war, you were unpatriotic. If you didn't support the Patriot Act*, you were unpatriotic. If you spoke against the torture (oh, sorry, I mean detainment and questioning) at Gitmo, you were unpatriotic.
Bullshit! The most patriotic thing you can do is question the actions of your Government, be it Federal, State or local. That's why the very first amendment, the first of the Bill of Rights, includes free speech and petitioning the Government. As patriotic Americans we should always be questioning, not always disagreeing with, what our Government is doing.
*In my unpatriotic opinion the Patriot Act is, was and always will be, the single most misnamed document known to mankind. How does one protect American Freedom by shredding it? Illegal search and seizure, phone tapping, email reading, searching books taken out at the library by suspected terrorists are completely contrary to the idea of the bill of rights. That's like burning down your house because you don't want it burgled.

Pedro said...

I can feel your pain. It is hard to see all that our forefathers worked to do trampled upon because a single minded simpleton thought he knew best and wasn't smart enough to listen to opposing view points. The democratic process works because of opposing view points. I want to be part of the "Un-patriotic" party.