Thursday, February 25, 2021

An Open Letter

Dear Idaho Lawmakers, Senators and Representatives:

You currently have in the House of Representatives a piece of proposed legislation, H195, that, if passed, will outlaw what it calls “targeted picketing” — protests staged in front of the home of a government official.  The text of the bill reads as follows:


Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Idaho:

SECTION 1. That Chapter 64, Title 18, Idaho Code, be, and the same is hereby amended by the addition thereto of a NEW SECTION, to be known and des- ignated as Section 18-6411, Idaho Code, and to read as follows:

18-6411. TARGETED PICKETING. (1) Any person who intentionally engages in picketing or otherwise demonstrates on the street or sidewalk in front of a person's residence or dwelling place, or the adjacent residence or dwelling place, with the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person commits targeted picketing. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to a residence or dwelling place used as the principal place of business of an individual.

(2) Any person who engages in targeted picketing shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

SECTION 2. An emergency existing therefor, which emergency is hereby declared to exist, this act shall be in full force and effect on and after its passage and approval.

One of the lawmakers who sponsors this bill declares that there has been an uptick in protests that cross lines and engage in intimidation tactics.  She asserts that this bill is meant not only to protect civil servants from intimidation tactics to but to protect regular citizens.  “Your voice,” she said in an email to me, “should not be drowned out by the loud but hollow voice of intimidators.”

To begin with, this is a statute that could impermissibly impinge on constitutionally protected activities, namely, speech and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  There are already laws on the books to deal with behavior that goes too far.  Disturbing the peace (section 18-6409, Idaho Code) and disorderly conduct (various municipal ordinances) are misdemeanors that carry maximum penalties of up to 180 days of jail and $1000 in fines.  Rioting (section 18-6402, Idaho Code) may, depending on the circumstances, be either a misdemeanor carrying up to a year of jail and a $5000 fine, or a felony carrying 5-20 years and a $25,000 fine.  There is no need for yet another crime on the books.

Secondly, I do not accept that this bill protects my constitutional right to petition my government for the redress of grievances.  Public servants know the difference between writing, emailing, carrying signs and testifying before committees on the one hand, and lighting fires on the other.  Public servants also know that they are not entitled to disregard my peaceful petitions just because others happen to be rioting.  It appears that lawmakers and other officials who support it are just trying to further insulate themselves from the pesky plebes.  Indeed, they try to assume privileges for their homes that even monarchs have not had.  Where would citizens in a monarchy go to air their grievances with their politicians?  To the king’s residence: the palace.

For the record, I have never protested at anyone’s home, nor do I plan to.  I don’t like breaches of the peace or anything that threatens the peace.  But I can understand people resorting to this tactic, even while I disagree with it.  I think it ought to give pause to remember that regular working stiffs (as distinguished from professional leftist storm troopers) really do not want to set aside their lives and their business to engage in protests; so, if they feel provoked into doing so, there must be something seriously wrong.  A bill like this does nothing to address the root causes of why these protests happen.

I would submit that, instead of trying to shut down protesters, our elected officials should devote their energies to considering why it is that citizens are protesting outside their homes.  The answer is that the citizenry perceive that their elected officials are not listening to them.  Year after year policies are imposed on us that we don’t want and that go against what we know to be right.  If there is one thing that the events of the last year in particular have made clear, it is that our elected officials view us, not as citizens whom it is their duty to serve, but as economic cows to be milked; yet they have not got the sense to give us even the minimum of cultivation that cows require.  Our officials are responsive, not to the voices of their constituents, but to the dollars of private, powerful, moneyed interests, to the inflow of federal “emergency” money and to the strident voices of leftist activists who often do not even live here.  All over the country over the last year, we have seen mayors and governors failing in their God-given duties of governance.  They have treated their own people like the enemy, depriving them of their livelihoods, excoriating them for trying to go about their legitimate business without jumping through hoops, and all while coddling leftist storm troopers who were bussed into their communities to burn, loot and destroy monuments.  They have walked all over their people, because they can.  In our own city of Boise, we have had the spectacle of Mayor McLean identifying with these same storm troopers while deploring her own citizens who want nothing more than to be left in peace to go on with their lives.  This sort of bad governance provokes decent people to take their grievances to their officials’ doorsteps, since they are not being listened to in any other forum.

The real solution to protesters outside the homes of government officials is for those government officials to stop provoking their citizenry by their arrogant disregard of their legitimate needs and interests, to stop abusing their powers, and to start engaging in good governance.  Right now, we are being treated as though the obligations only flow in one direction, from us to our masters.  They don’t.  Our masters also have obligations to us, and they will be held responsible before God for their failure to fulfill these just as much as we will be held responsible for our failure to fulfill ours.

For these reasons, this bill should be rejected.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Random Observations Near the Close of February


- February 25th is my mother's birthday.  She would have been 72 this year.  Her mother's birthday was February 12th.  She would have been 104.  Please say a prayer for the repose of their souls.

- “Put not your trust in princes,” says the Psalmist, “in the children of men, in whom there is no salvation.” This is an admonition we need to keep in mind during this time when all our props and stays, from Donald Trump to Rush Limbaugh to Cardinal Sarah, are, one by one, taken away from us, and fewer and fewer humans mediate between us and the tyrants who own us.

- I listened to Rush from the early ‘90s on and can say definitely that the portrait painted of him by what he called the drive-by media was pure caricature, had nothing to do with reality, and could only be taken seriously by persons who never listened to his program and didn’t care to find out the truth.  His enemies dismissed his success on the basis of his being an entertainer, the same way they dismissed the popularity of Ronald Reagan.  He was an entertainer, and a very good one; but he was also an acutely intelligent businessman and an astute analyst of current events and the people behind them.  Most of all, he gave voice to what millions of Americans were already thinking.  His show was the opposite of racism, bigotry and rage porn.  And those who rejoice in the death of this man who never did them any harm, hoping that he is now burning in hell, need to sit down and seriously ponder what their eternal destiny would be if they themselves were to die right now.

- Many Catholics, seeing the wanton destruction wrought by our bishops from the Pope on down, and seeing that the Orthodox have maintained the apostolic succession and seem not to be having a liturgical silly season, like we in the Roman Rite are, are tempted to jump over to the Orthodox camp (or camps: there is no one “Orthodoxy”).  However, for as long as the Orthodox remain outside of communion with Rome, it would be a mistake to think they have it all together.  As Charles Coulombe puts it, the West will tolerate any amount of heresy but no schism, while the East will tolerate any amount of schism but no heresy.  If you leave the Catholic Church for an Orthodox church, you will only be exchanging the heretical excesses of the West for the mind-bogglingly complicated schismatical excesses of the East.  Besides, if you are tired of the inanities of the West, and want to give the East a shot, there is no need to leave the Church to do it.  The Orthodox churches that are outside the Catholic Church have their counterparts that are within the Catholic Church.  Instead of leaving the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation, stay within her and pray for the healing of this breach between East and West which has done so much to weaken Christianity down the centuries, but which we are so used to that we are insensible to just how tragic and grievous it really is.

- 2020 was a year of revelations; 2021 is shaping up to be a year of more revelations.  We are finding out, among other things, that popular sovereignty is a sham, and that our Elders and Betters recognize no limits at all to their powers.  Not even a tyrant like Henry VIII ever dreamed of getting away with the things our current rulers are doing to us right now; and yet, we pride ourselves on having overthrown George III, a king who didn’t come close to the excesses of Henry VIII.  And now we have fallen into the hands of a governing class that doesn’t come close to  approaching even the intellectual caliber of those who overthrew King George.  Our owners today are evil enough to view us as nothing more than economic cows to be milked for their own gain, but too stupid to give us even the minimum amount of cultivation that cows require.

- Another thing that is being shoved in our faces in this eye-opening era is the perniciousness of the Calvinism that lies at the heart of America’s founding.  Under Calvinism, persons are not considered to have value in themselves; rather, they are valuable only insofar as they can be “productive.”  How have we been treating the “unproductive” in the face of the coronapanic?  Is it possible that this whole utilitarian attitude toward our fellow man has made it that much easier to treat him as if he were a biohazard?

- On March 8th, after almost exactly one year of working mostly from home (to “flatten the curve” for “two weeks”), we are being called back to the office on a full-time basis.  About this I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, the work I do does not lend itself easily or ideally to not being in the same room as my clients (although virtual court will continue).  Also, it will be good to be with my friends and colleagues again.  I have long realized that, despite my introverted nature, it is not good for me to be alone all day, every day.  On the other hand, I have enjoyed the three-second commute to my home office; being surrounded by my creature comforts; not having to wear a damn face covering; not having to get up before the sun to make it to work on time; being able to crank up the heat as much as I want; and saving wear and tear and gas money on my car.  It really is time to go back to the office; still, while the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.

- I hasten to add my acknowledgement that the foregoing qualifies as First World Concerns.  I am very thankful to have a means of supporting myself.  I realize that many have been deprived of theirs.

- Some people like society’s current state of affairs and approve of the coronapanic measures.  Some people think the coronapanic measures don’t go far enough.  Some people deplore the current state of affairs.  Many of the most vocal people in all these camps talk as if God does not somehow factor into the equation.

- Last month I read, for the first time, C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet; Perelandra; That Hideous Strength).  The Space Trilogy should be required reading in our time.  Lewis’ theology was flawed, but here he launched into a fruitful exploration of Christian themes, like the implications of cooperating with grace, and not cooperating with grace; fallen sentient nature versus unfallen sentient nature; trust in God; self-sacrifice; the nature of God and those who are with Him in heaven; divine providence; and — a theme most fully developed in That Hideous Strength — the logical outcome of living as though there is no God.  One very striking point in That Hideous Strength that we should pay attention to in these times is the ultimate outcome of an inordinate desire to be free of pathogens.  In my opinion, one of the great lessons of these books is how, left to our own devices as fallen men, we cannot help making things very much harder than they need to be.

- In my experience, nothing kills Lenten resolutions quite as effectively as talking about them; therefore, I am not going to tell you what I am doing for Lent.  But I will make a couple of suggestions.  First, have recourse to the Sacraments as often as possible.  If your bishop still won’t let you have the Sacraments, or makes you jump through all sorts of humiliating hoops to get them, and you have have the SSPX in your area, put away any scruples you have and go to them.  Second, pray the Rosary every single day.  In our time, great graces and promises are attached to the Rosary, because we really need them.  If you already say the Rosary every day, say an extra one to pull the weight for those who never say it.  

- I’ll close out with an item of good news.  The tabernacle and baldacchino at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist have, since the Era of Wreckovation, sat in a corner in the Gospel side transept.  Bishop Peter Christensen of the Diocese of Boise has decided to undo some of the wreckovation and move the tabernacle and baldacchino back to the high altar, front and center where they belong.  (I am under the impression he is also replacing the ugly ‘70s tabernacle.)  This is not all the damage that needs to be undone at the Cathedral, but it is a huge and very important first step.  May it be an earnest of other things that will soon be given back to Our Lord and His people.

- And one other note about this last item.  A year ago, Bishop Christensen earned a great deal of opprobrium, within and without the diocese, for issuing a letter to the priests cracking down on traditional practices of devotion like kneeling for Holy Communion and celebrating the new Mass ad orientem.  Now, the same bishop who, at that time, ordered priests to stop setting up kneelers for parishioners who want to receive Communion on their knees, is restoring the Blessed Sacrament to Its traditional and rightful place at the heart of the Cathedral.  This should prove to us the critical importance of praying for our shepherds.  They may not listen to us, but God still does.