Should priests speak on politics? Should police ignore crime? Should protests be an excuse to riot? Should a purge of law and order prevail? Should you own a gun?
Before sitting down to type this today, I sat with my newspaper and morning coffee across from a prisoner named Joe. He was telling me about a movie he watched called The Purge. I asked him to explain its premise. The wildly popular movie has spawned an original, two sequels, and a cable network series, all set at some point in a not-so-distant dystopian future.
Its basic premise is that anarchists now control civilization and have replaced the rule of law with a compromise to assuage the urge for mob violence. One day a year is set aside for The Purge, a 24-hour period in which mobs are free to rape, murder, burn, pillage and destroy anything or anyone in their path. They launch hunting expeditions through the streets in search of prey. The Second Amendment had long since been revoked by a socialist regime. Illegal guns flood the streets.
As Joe described this, I realized that I had actually stumbled upon one of the movies on a basic cable channel one night. At first, I thought I was watching the news out of Chicago, Los Angeles, or Minneapolis, but the violence was too grim even for cable news. I asked Joe why anyone would watch such a movie and he said, “Because it reminds us of what’s happening now.”
Joe has been around the prison system for awhile. He is what I would describe as a little rough around the edges, but not beyond hope. He had a strange look as I asked what he thinks of The Purge and what is happening right now on the streets of American cities. He looked around for a moment, and then leaned in to answer so no one else could hear. ‘It’s terrifying!” he said.
Apparently, a lot of people are finding what has been happening on our streets to be terrifying. So far in 2020 alone, a record five million people have become new gun owners. They do not fit the stereotype of what CNN might present as typical gun owners. I am not talking about the acquisition of illegal guns like many driving up inner city murder rates in Chicago or New York. The five million new gun owners in 2020 America have all applied for permits and subjected themselves to record checks.
African Americans, including many who register as Democrats, constitute the largest percentage increase in new gun ownership. Forty percent of the permit applicants have been women. These new gun owners are now added to the forty-three percent of U.S. households that already have a gun. In the “swing state” of Pennsylvania, according to Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn, there are 276,848 new gun owners in 2020 alone. Mr. McGurn adds that, for perspective, “in 2016, Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes.” In “Confessions of a New Gun Owner” (Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2020) he offers a sobering justification:
- “I appreciate how unlikely it is that I will ever reach for a gun to defend my home or myself. But after watching the mayhem that’s taken over so many city streets, I wonder, probably with plenty of my fellow first-time gun buyers, what alternative I’d have if ever I had to make that terrible 911 call – and it went unanswered.”
THE CREDIBILITY OF SOCIALISTS
The “defund police” movement has been one of the most insane, and most frightening, public spectacles in American politics. It is entirely a creation of the political left and is a mirror image of their divisiveness. Prisoners have perhaps the most vivid dismal forebodings about such a future utopia. They suffer under no delusions that rioters are peaceful protesters, that those killing police officers are just acting out their ethnic anger, or that the rhetoric of Donald Trump is the source of all this.
During the largest, most frightening flare-up in this nation, following the tragic death of George Floyd, I wrote a post entitled, “Don’t Defund Police. Defund Unions that Cover Up Corruption.” In it, I wrote that prisoners want police to uphold and enforce the law. They just want it done evenly, without agendas, without unnecessary force. They want police to be colorblind. They want an end to set-ups, planted evidence, and selective enforcement. These considerations among prisoners apply across all racial lines and age groups. More than anything, they want their families to be safe and they want the marauders masked as protesters stopped.
When prisoners watch a television movie like The Purge, only the most sociopathic among them are rooting for the bad guys. In the state of Delaware a few years ago, a riot broke out in a state prison and hostages were taken from among prison employees. The incident played out over a couple of very scary days. When it was over, a prison nurse reported that some of the offenders tried to sexually assault her, but other prisoners formed a barrier to protect her and drive the assailants away. I had no difficulty believing this for I have heard similar stories from other places. Men cannot still be men if they do not protect the innocent.
So when Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar spoke recently about wanting to rethink and reshape what our culture means by policing and law enforcement, to a man the prisoners around me denounced her as having zero credibility in this matter. It was not because she is a politician, or a woman, but because she is a socialist.
PRIESTS AND POLITICS
I saw the same reaction among prisoners here as they scoffed, on the day before I write this, at a news story in which Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez told the camera, “We are confidant that Joe Biden can be moved further left.” In a nation at the brink of civil war, that manipulative comment went unchecked and without question by a news media encamped with the ideology of the far left. There are scary things happening, and among the scariest have been the scenes of cities on fire while the news outlets describe it as “peaceful protests.”
Just days before writing this, I saw news footage of a man walk brazenly in broad daylight up to the window of a police car with two sheriff’s deputies and open fire, critically wounding them both. Ambushes like this have been committed against police in cities across America. The President is right to speak out in support and defense of police. I am no thundering conservative, but all we are hearing from the left on this topic are smarmy remarks about peaceful protests. People do not die and businesses do not burn down at peaceful protests.
I wrote a post some weeks ago entitled, “The State of Our Freedom, the Content of Our Character.” It was somewhat mildly critical of Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, because I believed (and still believe) he mischaracterized the reason President Trump appeared holding a Bible in front of St. John Episcopal church in Washington. On the previous night, mobs had virtually destroyed the façade of that church. Neither CNN nor MSNBC nor the major news networks would film the damage so Trump went to stand in front of it bringing the news cameras with him. Even then, CNN zoomed in on Trump so as not to display the damage from the previous night’s “peaceful protest.”
After I wrote about this, one of our readers posted it on one of several Catholic Facebook groups that share posts from These Stone Walls. I have never actually seen any of these groups. I have never seen Facebook either, but I am told that almost instantly someone posted in screaming caps, “YOU’RE A PRIEST! STAY OUT OF POLITICS!” My response to that would be, “Ummm, No.” I should not run for political office, and I should not use my proclamation of the Gospel to endorse a political candidate, but ordination to Catholic priesthood does not cancel out my First Amendment rights.
This came to the fore recently when an outspoken and rather courageous priest, Father James Altman, was disciplined by his bishop for statements that his conscience (and Catholic moral teaching) concluded were true. Then two other bishops entered the fray in defense of Father Altman. Some Catholics pitched their tents at opposite ends of the fray, but the whole affair left me feeling that the Church is alive and well in America, even if suppressed by the growth of socialism. Father Altman concludes that resistance is not futile, and I agree with him. A lot of readers very much liked our recent graphic in “Kamala Harris, Knights of Columbus, Threats to Democracy”:
- “Our duty as Catholics is to know the truth, to live the truth, to defend the truth, to share the truth with others, and to suffer for the truth.” (Servant of God Father John Hardon, S.J.)
Father James Altman now suffers for the truth.
PLEASE KEEP YOUR POLITICS OUT OF OUR PAIN
It just amazes me how much everything – every tragedy, every thought, every human experience, is now forced through the sieve of politics. Just hours before writing this post, I was subjected to hearing an email message between two of my friends. One of them thinks he only used to be my friend, but does not seem to know that I still regard him as such despite his not having spoken to me for about five years. The unfortunate fallout was because I intruded offensively upon his politics when I invited a well known conservative figure, Catholic League President Bill Donohue, to write a guest post for These Stone Walls (See, “Travesty of Justice: The Ordeal of Father MacRae.”)
In the email – in which my friend took meticulous care not to mention me – my friend stated that he is very sad for Pornchai Moontri who must now pass through the nightmare of ICE detention during an Administration that has little regard for people who do not look like they do. I absolutely reject this, and so would Pornchai who had little regard for identity politics.
The truth is that my friend, Pornchai, really is in a nightmarish situation. After he (and we) were told that he would be sent to Boston and then on to Thailand, he was placed in the dark of night aboard a plane filled with detainees bound for a private prison in Louisiana that houses ICE detainees. It took days for us to learn this and several days more to set up some form of contact with him and support for him. He will languish there until the bureaucracies of ICE and the Thai Consulate can agree on a plan. We had all of this shored up before he left here, but as with any bureaucracies, it all crumbled once he was out of our sight.
But this has nothing to do with Donald Trump. I last wrote about that same process in “Criminal Aliens: The ICE Deportation of Augie Reyes.” My friend, Augie, languished in that very same facility, but it was during the previous Administration. In the application of American Justice, no one is ever let off the hook. But this is nothing new. We tried to reach out to a few politicians on both sides of the aisle, and some even gave it lip service and stopped to have a look. We could see how hits to my post about Pornchai’s life came in from the Senate Office Building in Washington, but like the priest and Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, they stopped, looked, and moved on.
I am struggling, from inside my own prison cell, to coordinate our advocates and do all I can to assist Pornchai to survive this. I refuse to let this story become subjected to political points in a toxic election year. There are many entities out there who could help us, but won’t – unless we allow our story to become just another media missile aimed at the current occupant of the White House. No thanks.
I still have the audacity of hope that the land of the free and and the home of the brave will be brave enough to confront the whole story of Pornchai Moontri’s life here with transparency. But alas, my friends, this is an election year, and misplaced blame is now our stock in trade.
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Note from Father Gordon MacRae: Thank you for reading with open hearts and minds. Please pray for us as we do for you. Pornchai has told me that he is trying to offer what he is enduring right now for the readers of These Stone Walls. Please share this post, Subscribe to These Stone Walls, and Follow it on FaceBook. You may also like these related posts:
- Pornchai Moontri: Hope and Prayers for My Friend Left Behind
- The Death of George Floyd: Breaking News and Broken Trust
- Human Traffic: The ICE Deportation of Pornchai Moontri
- Can Christians Support a President Like Donald Trump?