During my son's high school band recital on Monday, something rare and special happened. The band director spoke of a tradition that had been lost in our country, that of honoring our nation's flag and the men and women who defend it. He asked us to stand while the Navy Junior ROTC color guard brought forth the colors. The band struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner" while we stood, and I noticed the band director was standing ramrod straight, like a soldier at attention.
At the end of the concert, the band played "America the Beautiful" and he once again asked us to stand while the colors were brought forward. Again, he stood tall and erect in perfect military fashion until the colors had left the auditorium. His reverence for our flag moved me, and I commended him afterward for what he had done.
I told him how his actions as a school official stood in stark contrast to those of the vice-principal at a California high school, who last week forced several teens wearing t-shirts with the American flag on them to turn the shirts inside out, remove them or go to the principal's office to be sent home. The vice-principal took these actions to avoid offending the majority Hispanic student body on Cinco de Mayo.
In fact, I thought the news story might have been the motivation for the band director's gesture of support for the flag, but he wasn't aware of it. I appreciated his actions even more as a result.
The travesty in California continued with hundreds of Hispanic students marching in protest, not because of the violation of their classmates' First Amendment rights, but because they had the temerity to wear American flag t-shirts in an American high school. Oh, the horror!
Here in Maryland, illegal immigrants protest openly and demand rights and privileges to which they are not entitled, and our governor and General Assembly give taxpayer dollars to an organization, Casa de Maryland, whose mission statement openly flaunts its intent to disobey the law by providing assistance "regardless of immigration status" - their words, not mine. The fact our state officials in Annapolis, and local governments in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, as well as the city of Baltimore, have given this organization millions of our hard-earned family funds over the years, even in the midst of a recession, ought to have every single Marylander in a rage against their public "servants."
More frustrating still is the support illegal aliens receive from the Catholic Church and other mainline denominations, which has the effect of providing these lawbreakers with moral sanction. People of faith are made to feel guilty about not providing sanctuary to these illegal aliens, and this manipulation is a cynical distortion of the Biblical direction to treat aliens with compassion.
The "alien" in the Bible to whom we are commanded to show compassion, and for whom the Hebrew word ger is used, is a stranger that has taken up residence in the land with the permission of the local authorities - a legal immigrant. Moreover, the principle of sanctuary as described in the Bible applies only to one accused of involuntary manslaughter, and is not intended to support evasion of the law, but to ensure an accused person the opportunity for a fair trial.
There is no Biblical sanction to essentially excuse the harsh conditions in other countries by encouraging their citizens to flee and take up residence in our nation without our permission.
There is no ethical reason to render illegal aliens vulnerable to extortion, injury or death at the hands of human smugglers, or humiliation due to capture and deportation by law enforcement authorities, or subject them to exploitation by unscrupulous employers.
There is no morality in denying the poor of our nation the opportunity to work for a living by importing the cheap labor offered by illegal aliens.
There is no blessing in putting our people's lives at risk due to violent crime or terrorism allowed to cross our insecure borders.
There is no divine justification for breaking the legitimate laws of a sovereign nation.
All of this behavior that seeks to wrap illegal aliens in the mantle of morality and civil rights begs the question: What is American citizenship worth?
At the heart of this heated debate is the question of value. Those of us who are citizens or who have legal status in the United States consider our status to have value in the eyes of the law and society as a whole. That is why certain privileges are accorded to citizens that are not available to legal immigrants, and legal immigrants are accorded privileges not available to non-resident aliens.
Because our citizenship or legal immigrant status have value, we expect those who aspire to a higher status to earn them. They are not universal birthrights, nor are they for the taking. I have yet to encounter an advocate for illegal aliens who could justify to me why they should be given, or be permitted to take, the privileges of citizenship or legal immigrant status.
If residence in the United States is secured through theft, intimidation, or fear rather than legal means, and if citizenship or legal immigrant status are granted in spite of how residence was obtained, our government is saying to us, "Your citizenship or legal immigrant status has no special value. It can be given to anyone, anytime, anywhere."
That is why illegal aliens and their supporters fly the flags of their homelands with pride, while showing disrespect to the flag of the nation that is harboring them. That is why they feel justified in committing acts of vandalism and assault in protest of our laws. They are being told by their allies, too many of who hold positions of authority in government at all levels, that there is nothing unique about American citizenship or legal residency that requires their adherence to the law or respect for our people or our customs.
The first great influx of immigrants to the United States made us a better nation because they left behind the allegiances of their homelands and adopted America as their new home. President Theodore Roosevelt described the process which has governed immigration to America for generations - until today:
In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin.
But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all.
We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.
While our federal government fails in its fundamental constitutional duties, states and localities have had to step up. While much is being made of the Arizona immigration law, it is simply a restatement of existing federal law, not dissimilar to a law enacted in Prince William County in Virginia. The results of the law's enforcement in that county have been dramatic; in the first year, crime dropped by 18% and the next year, by 20%. Uninsured births dropped by 500, thereby lowering hospital costs. Smaller classes at school mean less stress on the infrastructure, teachers and administrators. These improving indicators have led to an active and positive business development climate which holds the promise of future job creation.
Living in America is a privilege; over 1 million people immigrate to America legally every year. Our government wants to cheapen that privilege and devalue the special blessing we have of being Americans. Don't let them do it.
Fly the Stars and Stripes with pride. Exercise your right to vote. Oust every elected official who seeks to give away American citizenship or legal residence, telling them as the door hits them on the way out, "It's not yours to give away - now go away!"
Ron Miller, of Huntingtown, is a military veteran, conservative writer and activist, communications director for the Calvert County Republican Party, and executive director of Regular Folks United, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Ron is a regular contributor to RegularFolksUnited.com, American Thinker, and RedCounty.com. You can also follow Ron on his website TeamRonMiller.com, as well as Twitter and Facebook.