The Much Maligned and Dreaded 13

“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,”   A bit of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ biblical rational for current immigration policy

In most instances throughout history whenever a politician or government appointee cites scripture, the moral high ground has already been lost. In the case of Romans 13, during the life of our nation it has been used to justify loyalty to the English Crown during the American Revolution, and in support of slavery during the Civil War. Mr. Sessions may want to consider furthering his time at Bible study.

Since the age of eighteen, I have spent some portion of my working life behind the bar. My first patrol of the mahogany rail was at the Montville Inn in northern New Jersey. It was there during the summer of 1972 that I first encountered some of America’s immigrant workforce. My late afternoon crowd consisted partly of Portuguese and Spanish laborers that were repairing and resurfacing the roadway out front. While some of my two martini and three-piece regulars may have felt some degree of discomfort about having to share their space with those who had just put down their shovels in favor of a beer mug,  I found these hard-working men to be kind, generous, and decidedly less pretentious than the local gentry. I was not about to question the legitimacy of their presence.

Over the many years now spent in the restaurant business, I’ve worked with hundreds of people from different countries, mainly from Mexico and Latin America. Whether or not they were there legally was of little concern. At no time did I ever feel that my position was in jeopardy, nor did I ever see any of my fellow American’s clamoring for the chance to take on the toils and troubles of my foreign compadres. Even the most ardent voices against immigration from our southern hemisphere show very few signs of willingness to send their sons and daughters into the kitchen to wash dishes or the fields to pick lettuce.

In the interest of making a point in a somewhat succinct fashion, I am going to once more resort to my favorite format–the bullet item. And while the following generalities might be called into question by some, I assure you that they will contain more facts and more truth than your average daily White House press corps briefing.

  •  Gangs, whether it be MS-13,  the Aryan Brotherhood, La Cosa Nostra, the Russian Mafia or any of the estimated 33,000 large and small criminal enterprises that operate in the United States are a valid cause for concern. But because of the extraordinary dedication and effectiveness of local, state, and federal law enforcement very few Americans will ever be directly affected by these malicious organizations.
  • In those countries that make up the infamous Northern Triangle, the reality is quite different. The citizens of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are subject to extortion, kidnapping, rape, and murder on a regular basis, and those who commit these atrocities carry them out with near impunity. There should be little question as to why so many woman and children are now knocking on or attempting to break down America’s back door.
  • Throughout our nation’s history, there are those who have preached either the politics of inclusion or the politics of exclusion. While the former has not always gone smoothly, the ladder has always ended in disaster. The graves at Gettysburg are proof enough of that! Sadly though, a philosophy of exclusion seems to serve the demagogues well. It feeds on our fears and prejudices, and it offers simplistic solutions to very complex problems.
  • Consumer economies such as ours, with an aging population and a near historically low birthrate, depend on immigration. Our cash-strapped entitlements sorely need an influx of younger workers. But at the same time though, we need security and sound reform–but this policy of “zero tolerance” offers neither. By all appearances, it is nothing more than an improvised plan by a petulant real-estate developer from New York getting an assist from a self-proclaimed far-right nationalist from California. For Donald Trump, it’s simply about needing to get his way on that unfunded wall along the Mexican border. And in Stephen Miller, the President has found a willing ally who would gladly supply some portion of the building materials by repurposing the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
  • As to the matter of separating families, unless there is evidence of a serious crime or a child’s welfare is in question, the administration’s ad hoc strategy is unconscionable and counterproductive. As someone who has taught inner-city youth and has worked directly with incarcerated adolescents, I have seen the trauma and the irreparable damage that is so often the outcome for those who have been taken away from their parents or have not had the advantage of a stable family environment. Our current course of action at the border may, in fact, help to bolster the future ranks of those same malevolent groups that the President is supposedly trying to protect us from.

While I have never had children of my own, I have on occasion had the good fortune of being able to play the role of the Dutch uncle. The photograph at the top of this post captures one of those special points of passage. It was at the St. Patrick Pub in Old Quebec where I was able to pass along a bit of  my vast knowledge of bar stool etiquette to my godchild Alanna and her older sister Emma.

These days there’s a lot more gray and far fewer hairs on the back of my head–and those two delightful young girls are now two very accomplished young women. Their achievements are the result of individual talent, the love and nurturing of exceptional parents, and a home life that has always been safe, secure, and supportive. Embedded within the story of their lives lie the solutions to our crisis at the border. While a good fence might make for good neighbors, better homes will always trump the need for bigger walls

As we reflect upon the founding principles put forth by those who represented America’s thirteen original colonies, on this particular 4th of July we might want to consider the following about that old bedeviling  number 13:

  • In order to further his own personal agenda on immigration, the President has vastly exaggerated the threat posed by MS-13. This is nothing more than just another variation of the bogey man tactic employed by many a politician throughout our nation’s history.
  • While Romans 13 might provide some cover for the Attorney General and for those who once swore their allegiance to King George and Jefferson Davis–hopefully, the majority of American hearts will answer the call of Hebrews 13:1.

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Thomas Paine Portrait

“Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.” – Thomas Paine

In keeping with the spirit of the day, let us once more celebrate the life of our favorite American revolutionary with Dick Gaughan’s  version of “Tom Paine’s Bones.”

Click on the title or Paine’s portrait to hear the music.

 

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

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