Executive Responsibility to Enforce Laws

In the past week, the Oregon Attorney General has stated that her office will no longer defend the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.  (Bloomberg)  This has come at a time when the voters of that state look to be voting on the issue to revoke the ban.  In recent months and even in the past year, we have seen several governors and attorneys general refuse to defend certain discriminatory laws.  Even President Obama (along with Attorney General Eric Holder) refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court last year.

Coming from the side where such decisions are of great benefit, it is usually something to cheer.  However, I must also look at things in terms of the role of government.  Here we have executives (both state and federal) determining unilaterally which laws they will enforce and which they will not.

“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”
Article I, Section 1 – US Constitution

Each branch of government (whether state or federal) has predetermined responsibilities.  The Legislative Branch passes laws while the Executive Branch enforces those laws.  (see also By Order of the Executive)  No where in the responsibilities of the Executive Branch does it state that the chief executive (e.g. Governor, President) has the right to determine which laws to enforce and which ones not to.  The role of the executive is to enforce all of the laws that are passed.

“[H]e shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.”
Article II, Section 3, Clause 5 – US Constitution

According to Humphrey’s Executor v. United States (1935), the Supreme Court ruled that the President (as the Executive) must obey the law and cannot dispense with the law’s execution even if he/she disagrees with it.  Even during the Whiskey Rebellion (1791-1794), President Washington stated, “[I]t is my duty to see the Laws executed: to permit them to be trampled upon with impunity would be repugnant to that duty.”

So though we may cheer about progress when an Executive, whether it’s a Governor, Attorney General, or even a President, decides not to enforce a discriminatory law against same-sex marriage, we must also be wary.  We are giving our approval for one person to decide if a law is enforced or not.  This can set a dangerous precedent.

If a law is detrimental to the citizens then it should be either ruled unconstitutional in the courts (if it violates part of the Constitution) or repealed/amended through the legislative process.  Our government has been set up so that one person does have full authority.  And any Executive that fails to enforce the laws that have been passed by the legislature  has failed to uphold their responsibilities of the office.

united-states-branches-of-government-e1340665227162

Just because we might tend to think that the Executive is doing the right thing now in not enforcing or defending such discriminatory laws, what will we say when another Executive decides to not enforce or defend another law that could be detrimental to the public?  We don’t get to pick and choose which laws to obey once they have been passed.

If a law has been passed that is harmful to the people then we have legal ways of reversing it.  We have the freedom of speech and assembly that is guaranteed by the Fist Amendment to the Constitution.  We can elect new legislators and an Executive so that they can repeal the law.  We can send a lawsuit through the court system to have them rule as to whether that particular law violates the Constitution.  Regardless, allowing an Executive to have the sole authoritarian role of determining whether a law is enforced/defended is not a legal option and is dangerous to overall society.

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Boston Common

The Politicizing Of Boston With Immigration Reform

It seems only fitting that I write this post today.  On April 19, 1775, the first battles of the American Revolution occurred at Lexington and Concord.  It would be the start of a long, drawn-out war with Great Britain that would officially end with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  This past week, the eyes of the entire nation have once again been on the city of Boston… what was generally considered the cradle of the rebellion against the British monarchy.  This time, though, it is because of act of violence that left three dead and over a hundred people injured.  Authorities do have suspects.  One of them is already deceased while the other remains at large at the time of this writing.  However, I’m not actually here to discuss the bombing or the suspects directly, but an indirect consequence that all of this is having on a different discussion that is just now taking center stage in Washington… immigration reform.

deskepticon_1How this connection is made is quite simple.  The family of the suspects is from the Russian republic of Chechnya in the Caucuses region… an area that has been fighting with the Russian government for independence.  However, both suspects were born in the country of Kyrgyzstan.  One of the brothers came to the US in 2002 while the other arrived in 2004.  Both were considered refugees from Chechnya.  The youngest of the brothers had become a permanent resident of the US in 2011.  This part of the immigration debate actually has to do with legal immigration instead of the illegal part that we so often discuss.  The Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, tweeted, “Part of the ‘national conversation’ about Boston should include whether we suspend Muslim immigration to the U.S. NOW.”  And liberal columnist for the The Atlanta Journal – Constitution, Cynthia Tucker, tweeted, “This smacks of the sort of terrorism that has plagued Britain, committed by legally-admitted but alienated residents. #BostonMarathon”  Though both sides of the political spectrum seem to have some agreement with this, both couldn’t be farther from the truth in this debate.

By Fischer’s own comment, we are to completely stereotype an entire group of people and forbid them from coming to this country and living as ordinary, law-abiding citizens that contribute to our country and to our society because of the actions of these two men.  Somehow, there seems to be a double standard to this on a couple of different levels.  It’s easy to find a scapegoat in this situation… to blame all Muslims and immigrants (even those that are non-Muslim) for the violent acts of these two suspects.  However, one must wonder what Mr. Fischer would say be saying if they were Christian and from somewhere in Europe.  Yes, they do exist, too.  And contrary to what Ms. Tucker tweeted, Britain’s problems haven’t always been the influx of Muslim immigrants.  It used to be the IRA (the Irish Republican Army) which was deemed a terrorist organization that bombed innocent people, and they were Christians.  So should we not let Irish people immigrate to the US… or Christians for that matter… in case they might have terrorist intentions?  I don’t see anyone speaking up in favor of this.  We tend to judge those types of immigrants on an individual basis, so why shouldn’t we do that with Muslims still?  What about Italian immigrants?  It used to be that Italian immigrants made up parts of the mafia that would go around terrorizing the cities in which they lived.  Should they be excluded from immigrating here because of past mistakes of people they have no connection with?  Again, I don’t see too many people speaking up in favor of this either.

And as much as people would like to infuse the debate on immigration reform into the Boston Marathon bombings… thus politicizing it, these same people are still forgetting about American citizens (people that are born here as US citizens) that commit acts of terrorism.  We are turning a blind eye to this part of the conversation.  If we are to deny an entire group of people legal immigration status because of the action of two people, should we not stereotype our own citizens with the same levels of hatred?  The Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 were bombed by Eric Robert Rudolph.  He was an American… not an immigrant.  He belonged to the Christian Identity movement which is a militant, racist, and anti-Semitic organization.  Though not an immigrant, should his acts be held against other Christians?  What about Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing?  Should white men not be allowed to rent moving trucks because of the horrible act this man committed?  In both of these questions, any rational person that is not speaking with absolute fear would answer ‘no.’

WRD - refugeeThe problem with stereotyping a group of people is that it is only done out of fear and has no place in rational, logical discussions.  Fischer went on to tweet later in the day, “I think we can safely say that Rubio’s amnesty plan is DOA. And should be. Time to tighten, not loosen, immigration policy.”  So again, his thought process is that the violent and hateful acts should also be placed on other legal immigrants just because they are immigrants.  I would also hazard a bet that he also speaks out heavily on illegal immigration.  The problem with that is that we can’t deal with illegal immigration unless we deal with the broken legal immigration system.  And by tightening it to the point to where he’d possibly be satisfied, it would probably only exacerbate the illegal immigration situation.  In this particular instance, you can’t have it both ways.   And he also forgets one tidbit of additional information… that these two suspects were refugees.  The US has a different set of policies when it comes to refugees from war-torn areas than just people wanting to immigrate to our country.  Should we be stopping all refugees from entering our country?  While the Bosnian War raged on during the 1990s, the US took in thousands of Bosnian refugees.  I live in a city where many of these refugees have settled.  They are peaceful, law-abiding people that have worked hard to be a part of our society.  Since coming here, they have opened up new “mom and pop” businesses and have worked to add their culture to our own.  If a couple of them had been bad seeds in the way that the two suspects in Boston have been, does that mean we should have stopped allowing them to come into our country?  Absolutely not.  And what about the ones that were already here?  Would we have kicked them out, or would they be allowed to stay?  The problem with stereotyping as I am seeing done, as it is being injected into the immigration debate, is that it doesn’t hold up in an actual rational debate.  When people start speaking (or tweeting) this utter-nonsense, it just shows that they are afraid.  Terrorism lives on fear… but it can’t win when there is courage.  And one of the best things I saw that day in Boston was the courage of those who rushed toward the scene to help those who needed it the most.  We must always be diligent, but we must not give in to fear.  Terrorism can’t win so long as there is courage to combat the fear, and stereotypes can’t win so long as there is logical, rational thought to defeat it.

UPDATE:
The second suspect is now in police custody.  Keep in mind, he is still considered a suspect.  Under the US Constitution, he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  The task now falls onto the state to get him convicted.

LINKS:
Point-Scoring on Immigration – Slate
Questions from Boston – POLITICO

“On The Mindless Menace of Violence”

With the news of the shootings at the Sikh temple outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and with the movie theater shooting near Denver, Colorado, I wonder what we are becoming when people can’t enjoy a night out at the movies or a day of prayer in our religious homes. There is absolutely no reason for actions such as this.  And though gun control will likely get into the debate, that is not what this is at this time.  Instead, we as a nation and a community are left to grapple with what has transpired.  We must learn to be peaceful, loving, and tolerant toward all people that live in our communities.  They are a part of who we are.  If we don’t understand something, then it is within our duty to educate ourselves by direct interaction.  It saddened me after news of the shooting broke how many people were degrading the Sikh community and commenting how they deserved it thinking that they were Muslims since they wear turbans when in fact, the Sikh religion is an offshoot of Hinduism and comes from India.  Education and understanding is always key, and we must not give in to stereotypes.

As we have tried to make sense of the shootings in Colorado, we now try to do so with those in Wisconsin.  It is time, we as a nation realize that we are stronger together than we are divided.  Our richness comes from our diversity.  So as we pause to give reflection and send our prayers, I found some appropriate words on mindless violence spoken by a famous American, and that speech seems to fit what needs to be said.

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.

Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily – whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence – whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

“Among free men,” said Abraham Lincoln, “there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lost their cause and pay the costs.”

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man’s spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.

I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children’s future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy~

May we learn that peace and tolerance begin at home within each one of us.  We must start taking responsibility for such actions instead of always trying to place the blame elsewhere.  As a society, we can and we must do better.  These violent acts do not show what we Americans stand for.  In the days that are to follow, may we find solace in one another and show that these violent actions will not define us as a people, and may we all find peace with our neighbors.

From The Shadows

“Hope is the dream of a soul awake.”  French Proverb~

I have thought over this blog entry for the past several days and even still, I cannot come up with the proper words on how to start this.  It honestly breaks my heart to even think about this.  But as it seems to continually surface in the news, I feel like I need to speak up… to lend my voice with those of my community so that the light might shine again for those that find themselves stuck in the shadows.

Behind the smiles and the friendships and the everyday lives is the pain and the suffering of someone’s soul.  Despite their outward appearance, they find themselves slipping farther and farther away and feeling as if there is no way out… no where to turn for help.  They might be young; they might be middle-aged; or they might be elderly.  It is defined not by any age or race or religion, but it usually ends in the same result… someone with no hope left just giving up.

Whether we know the individual or not, whether it makes headline news or not, it still affects those of us that are left behind.  We wonder how and why.  We look for absolution, though it never comes.  We carry the burden in our hearts and hope that there is no more.

We live in a changing time.  Though LGBT-rights have been making progress over the past several years, there is still much to be done.  For those that have gone before, we keep their memories in our hearts as we move forward.  For those of us that have lived through it, we know that it gets better.  We know that there are places to turn to when we need that helping hand… whether it be a family member, a personal friend, or an organization within the bigger community.  All we ask is that before things get so bad, that one seeks out help and guidance.  There is nothing wrong in admitting that help is needed.  Even I, at one point in my life, needed that crutch, and it helped me get through some dark days.  That crutch was that light that I needed to get me to emerge from the shadows.  And there is a light for all of us.  We just must take the time and not be afraid to reach out for it.

Amongst our changing world, there is plenty of hate, violence, and bullying.  It can seem as though that’s all our culture is.  But there is plenty of love, kindness, and hope that exists out there, as well.  Sometimes, we just have to look a little harder to find it.  No matter who you are… no matter of age, race, religion, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc… there is someone out there that cares about you, and they might not even know you.  It can be hard to turn off all the negativity that exist within life, but it can be done.

Albert Einstein once said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.”  Even if yesterday was horrible and today is no better, there is always hope for a shining light tomorrow.  Regardless of what life throws at you, you have the ability to overcome.  All one must do is plant his/her feet firmly on the ground and march forward.  Suicide is never an option and should never be considered as such.  There is much more to live for, and we all have a reason for being here.  Let us stop the hate and the bullying.  Let us reform our culture to be one of positive energy instead of negative.  Let us build people up instead of always tearing them down.  Let us remember that we are all someone’s father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter, aunt or uncle or cousin, husband or wife, friend or foe.  No one deserves such harsh treatment that they wish to make an early exit from our realm.  Mind your words and your actions for they do have consequences that might not be considered.  Let us together end the suicides that are plaguing our community, and let everyone know, no matter where they are, that there are those of us out here that care about them and will help get them through whatever dark time they are currently in until they can once again emerge from the shadows.  No one is ever alone.  No one is ever alone.

For those that have already fallen, we will never forget them.  For those of us that remain, we must do better to make sure no one else follows them.  We must be willing to stand up and say “We Care!” and reach out to those that need us.  I am proud to stand up and say that “I Care!”.  The bigger question is, do you?  And if you are one that needs that helping hand, do you have the courage to seek that crutch that you need so that you can stand up with us?  I know that within your heart, you do.  So reach out today for your community is here to help you.

INFORMATION:
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, please call 1-866-4-U-Trevor (1-866-488-7386).  You can also click on the link for The Trevor Project.  There are people there that are willing to listen and to help.  You can also look up your closest LGBT Center.  Remember, you are loved… whether you know it or not… and you can get through this.

“He who has health, has hope.  And he who has hope, has everything.” Proverb~

In Memory of Those that have Fallen…
Let there be light so there are no more shadows.

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