Emma Gonzalez (or maybe Stormy Daniels) for President!

Emma-Gonzalez (1)

This last weekend introduced the nation to two extraordinary women speaking about issues that concern us all, viz. presidential corruption and gun violence.

Those issues aside, what struck me about the women in question was the fact that each showed evidence of being better qualified for the oval office than its present occupant. As the latter might tweet: “Sad!”

Of course, I’m talking about Stormy Daniels and Emma Gonzalez. Stormy’s the porn star who alleges an affair with Donald Trump and a payoff by his lawyer to keep quiet. As we all know, she was interviewed on 60 Minutes last Sunday. Her responses to Anderson Cooper’s probing questions were serious, witty, and fulsome. (She also seemed to care about her young daughter, while her client seemed to lust after his own.)

Emma Gonzalez is the now-famous 17-year-old survivor of the Parkland, Florida St. Valentine’s massacre. On Saturday, she spoke out powerfully at the D.C. March for Our Lives. The highlight of her speech was an abrupt silence of more than 6 minutes to honor her schoolmates who were shot on February 14th. Those long minutes have been described as the loudest, most effective silence in the history of American oratory.

In any case, my point is that each of these extraordinary women showed herself better qualified for our nation’s highest office than its current occupant. Think about it. Ironically, both showed evidence of being:

* More thoughtful than Mr. Trump
* Smarter
* More self-possessed
* More articulate
* Better informed

Yes, that’s right. A 17-year-old high school student and a sex worker gave the distinct impression of being better qualified for “the highest office in the land” than the 70+year-old John who actually holds it.

Is there anyone out there to dispute my claim? If so, please let me hear from you.

So, maybe we should run Stormy or Emma for president. Emma would be my preference.

Granted sex workers have a special knowledge about the way men and the dominant patriarchy work. Nevertheless, their business model, like our politicians’, is based on deception, illusion, and fakery. This suggests that despite the brightness she exhibited on 60 Minutes last week, Ms. Daniels might share too much in common with dim-witted “Lyin’ Don” and most of our other “public servants.”

And don’t worry about Ms. Gonzalez’s age. Yes, according to Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, she’s less than half the age required for president. However, I’m sure we can find a way around that one.

After all, (except for the Second Amendment) Washington’s best and brightest have found their way around many constitutional obstacles without much trouble. So, while respect for the Second Amendment prevents “strict constructionists” from questioning citizens’ rights to own and use AR-15s to kill their fellow citizens, they have no trouble finding ways around:

* Initiating war by presidential fiat, despite the clear instructions of Article i, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution which reserves to Congress the right to declare war. (This has been true in the cases of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, the Afghanistan War of 2001 and the Iraq War of 2002 — not to mention all the acts of war committed after 9/11/01.)
* Reading our mail or listening to our phone conversations in clear violation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment
* Executing without trial U.S. citizens like Anwar Aulaqi and his son in evident contravention of the Fifth Amendment guaranteeing due process to all U.S. citizens
* Similarly discounting the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment (and the Magna Carta itself) by imprisoning indefinitely and without charge or trial both suspected terrorists and undocumented immigrants
* Disregarding Article 9, Paragraph 1, Section 8 (the “emoluments clause”) by using the office of the presidency for personal profit.

You see, Emma Gonzalez, even at 17, perceives the hypocrisy of all that. She calls them out and demands that the entire Constitution (not merely the Second Amendment) be respected. If you can “interpret” the document for the sake of fighting terrorism, excluding Mexicans, making a buck, or spying on you and me, why not interpret away the Second Amendment for the sake of protecting the lives of our children, students and teachers?

Ironically, (as I said) such questioning makes this 17-year-old more honest, smarter, better informed, and strangely more qualified than the John who calls himself Don.

So, I’ll say it again: Emma Gonzalez for president!

(Sunday Homily) “Citizenfour”: Keeping God’s Law through Civil Disobedience

Citizenfour

Readings for 5th Sunday of Lent: JER 31: 31-34; PS 51: 3-4, 12-15; JN 12: 20-33 http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032215-fifth-sunday-lent.cfm

I saw “Citizenfour” today. You can see it too. For your own good, please do. The film is live-streamed free here:  https://thoughtmaybe.com/citizenfour/

“Citizenfour” won this year’s Academy Award for best documentary. Its director is Laura Poitras. The film is about whistleblower, Edward Snowden – the 31 year old CIA employee who two years ago leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA).

The information revealed “America’s” massive world-wide spy system that Snowden saw as absolutely eviscerating U.S. constitutional protections against “unreasonable search and seizure.”

In case you’ve forgotten, the 4th Amendment of the Constitution reads as follows:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In contradiction to those words, Snowden’s revelations show that indeed “Big Brother” is watching us at all times. We are under constant surveillance. None of our e-mails or phone calls is secure.  Telephones normally found in hotel rooms are routinely used as listening devices. All of our e-mail searches are monitored and recorded.

This means that citizens expressing disapproval of government policies are easily identified. So are our constitutionally protected efforts to organize against such policies. All of us are subject to blackmail and prosecution based on stories manufactured from “metadata” and texts gathered by our watchers.

Knowing full well that he would be hunted down and prosecuted (and possibly executed) for his leaks, Edward Snowden shared his information with Laura Poitras and with Guardian reporter, Glen Greenwald. Snowden fled to Russia where he was given temporary political asylum. “Citizenfour” is the upshot.

Of course, Snowden’s opponents say his revelations have endangered national security and that he is guilty of treasonous acts of espionage. In response, the former CIA contractor says the whole matter of government secrecy and surveillance needs full debate. So do extra-judicial killings in the world-wide drone assassination program. Security, Snowden implies, is less important than freedom, privacy, and the lives of innocents arbitrarily killed on mere suspicion of possibly one day harming U.S. citizens. Then there are those disturbing words in the Fourth Amendment. . . .

All of that made me think about today’s liturgy of the word. It’s all about obeying conscience rather than the written law. It’s all about another 30 something law-breaker who rejected absolute security in favor of opposing the authorities of his time.  Think about the readings one-by-one.

The first (from the prophet Jeremiah) reminds us that God’s law is not primarily found on tablets of stone. It is inscribed on our hearts. Without invoking “God,” that’s the law Edward Snowden claims to follow – a law much higher than the 1917 Espionage Act invoked against him.

According to today’s responsorial psalm, a heart shaped by God’s law is good and merciful; it is compassionate, forgiving, and guilt-free. Laura Poitras’ film shows Snowden exhibiting all of those qualities. There is not a trace of self-seeking in any of his actions or statements – only concern for others victimized by the state.

It is that heart sensitive to God’s internal law that Jesus manifested. But, like Ed Snowden, it took him great pain to get to that place. Today’s second reading specifically mentions Jesus’ “loud cries and tears,” his anguished prayers and supplications.

Finally, today’s selection from the Gospel of John reiterates the call to follow Jesus, even as Snowden has without any specific reference to Jesus.  Our reading has the Master say that “serving” him means walking the way of the cross. In other words, we must learn his same lessons about rejection that always follows hard upon adoption of Jesus’ counter-cultural “Way.”

A seed has to die before it can bear fruit, Jesus explains. That’s our Teacher’s metaphor about exchanging what the world calls “life,” for what John’s gospel calls “eternal life.”

As in contemporary “America,” the world’s utopian ideal enshrines perfect security – saving our lives at all costs, even if it means wholesale killing of others, even if it means surrendering the God-given freedom that makes us specifically human.

By contrast, Jesus’ Way enshrines compassion, service and forgiveness, even if it costs us our lives.

Ironically, Jesus explains, if we expend our resources on saving our lives, we will lose them. But if we reject security as our guiding principle, we’ll gain access to “eternal life” – access to God’s Kingdom, where God is King, not Caesar.

Mysteriously, today’s final reading instructs us against loving our lives. It actually says we should hate our life in this world. Edward Snowden shows what that injunction means. His courageous example calls us to oppose Big Brother, and to support Snowden’s own return to the United States – as a hero.

Be sure to see “Citizenfour.” It exemplifies today’s readings. It’s about opposing the values of “the world,” and about losing one’s life in favor of life’s fullness. It provides an example of a young man following the Law of God inscribed deep in our hearts. That’s our vocation.

Why I’m Not Celebrating July 4th This Year

Anti-Americanism

I remember in 1972, I was asked to give a 4th of July speech in some church context which I’ve since forgotten. I was a 32 year old Roman Catholic priest then. And my remarks were critical of the U.S. role in Vietnam and in the Third World in general.

Before I began however, an officer from the local VFW led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember how he prefaced his part with a long July 4th introduction. He praised the flag for being “unsullied in emblemizing mankind’s struggle for freedom, unparalleled in standing in defense of human rights and the pursuit of justice, blessed by God above all others as the flag of his New Chosen People.”

It was enough to turn my stomach.

My nausea was induced by what I knew the U.S. was doing in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Like everyone else, I knew about Mai Lai, Agent Orange, the Phoenix Program, the Pentagon Papers and merciless illegal bombings of civilians.

My revulsion was also fired by my growing awareness of what the United States was doing in the Third World in general and especially in Latin America where the liberation theology I was studying was powerfully shaping consciousness throughout the hemisphere. Its insistence on historical and structural analysis had caused a paradigm shift in my own perception. Increasingly, I was seeing the United States as the Sandinista Anthem would later phrase it, “the enemy of mankind.”

Somehow I got through my speech without having anyone walk out. I still wonder why.

These days I’m feeling even more alienated than I did more than 40 years ago. Contemporary realities have actually turned me against July 4th celebrations.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Abu Ghraib and the use of drone technology to execute U.S. citizens and anyone in the world without due process are only part of the syndrome this time around. It’s what we’ve recently learned from Ed Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange that make flag-waving and Pledges of Allegiance so repulsive. Now when I see fireworks, I can only think of Dick Cheney and the “Shock and Awe” pyrotechnics we all saw on CNN when Our Great Country used lies and false pretenses to attack a sovereign nation that had never done us any harm. As Allen Greenspan said in effect, Iraq’s curse and crime was having huge supplies of high grade crude.

As for celebrating our Great Constitution, Snowden’s revelations coupled with a mere reading of the Fourth Amendment are enough to give anyone pause: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Yes, the Constitution’s fine; but increasingly it’s a dead letter.

Similarly, my willingness to celebrate American democracy is tempered these days by memories of the 2000 “election” of George W. Bush through the intervention of his brother who happened to be governor of Florida with the power to deliver the White House to his dear sibling. The machinations of brother Jeb and a crony Supreme Court would have been comical in any Banana Republic scenario. Having it occur in the United States was more than embarrassing. Subsequent insistence on our privilege to monitor and invalidate elections elsewhere in the world has made us the international laughing stock we’ve hoped to make countries like Venezuela and Iran.

And then there’s Republican redistricting, voter suppression, Citizens United, and the recent SCOTUS evisceration of the Voting Rights Act. What’s that you say about free elections?

The crowning glory of all this embarrassment is our country’s willingness to end life as we know it on Planet Earth by blocking every serious attempt to reverse climate change. President Obama’s recent tepid declarations notwithstanding, the U.S. persists in catastrophic denial of what every serious scientific study reiterates: we are on the road to destruction with the “America” blazing the trail.

Our country’s willingness to end life as we know it on our marvelous planet (not to mention our wars and arms industry) is reason enough to believe that Mother Earth would be better off if the U.S. just dropped off the map. Think about it: the earth would be better off without the United States’ pollution, wars and “Way of Life.”

That’s why I’ll do no flag waving or banner display. I’ll recite no Pledges of Allegiance, nor stand for the Star Spangled Banner. Patriotic speeches and other jingoistic claptrap will draw no applause from me.

It’s all gotten so bad and such a matter of public record that it might even make my VFW friend turn over in his grave.