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Letters to the editor July 18

| July 18, 2019 12:07 PM

Daines joins president’s rhetoric of hate

The Montana Association Of Rabbis (MAOR), representing rabbis in Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, and Whitefish, is unanimously appalled by the ongoing torrent of racist incitement and personal attacks that President Trump continues to direct against Democratic women of color in Congress. MAOR is unanimously appalled and surprised by Senator Daines’ support of the president’s views and attacks.

Montana deserves and expects more from its representatives. It is not the Montana way to personally attack others for their political viewpoints or positions. It is not the Montana way to promote bigotry or hatred, as the senator himself stated with his fellow representatives on December 27, 2016: “We stand firmly together to send a clear message that ignorance, hatred and threats of violence are unacceptable and have no place...in Montana or across this nation.”

Collectively, as Montana’s rabbis, we are the experts on antisemitism in Montana; we have studied it, lived it, and know it when we see it. We refuse to allow the real threat of antisemitism to be weaponized and exploited by those who themselves share a large part of the responsibility for the rise of white nationalist and antisemitic violence in this country.

Accusing these representatives of antisemitism is no justification for telling them “to go back to where they came from” or inciting violence against them.

In a direct affront to Montana’s Jewish communities and Jewish leaders, Senator Daines has decided to join in the president’s rhetoric of hate, a rhetoric which presents a serious threat to Jewish communities. We do not feel safer or supported by Senator Daines’ comments, rather we fear the legitimization the president and the senator are giving to racism, xenophobia, misogyny and hatred.

At a time when many of the core values and norms of American democracy are under threat, we cannot equivocate or hesitate to challenge the forces of hate, even — and especially — when these forces cloak themselves in the authority of the Senate or the White House.

We invite Senator Daines to meet with MAOR’s rabbis so that he can learn more about the dangers of antisemitism and how his words do not combat antisemitism as much as they promote white supremacy and hatred.

—Rabbi Laurie Franklin, Missoula; Rabbi Mark Kula, Bozeman; Rabbi Francine Roston, Whitefish; Rabbi Allen Secher, Whitefish; Rabbi Ed Stafman, Bozeman; Student Rabbi Erik Uriarte, Billings

Please stop

Please, please, people who are living or visiting Swan Lake... it is now mid-July. Stop setting off fireworks at 10 p.m. You’re upsetting our horses and dogs and us. PLEASE STOP!

—Sheila Ford, Swan Lake

Keep the Fourth special

I am so annoyed at the firework booms. I understand the Fourth of July fireworks. Our independence, a great reason to celebrate. But to continue with fireworks on the 5th, the 6th, the 7th, the 8th, the 9th, shows no of respect for our Fourth. And no consideration for any other being or animal that become so disturbed by your loud booms. Have some respect for our country and keep the Fourth special. Show some consideration for human and animal alike and quit exploding your dynamite well after the Fourth.

—Janet Reynolds, Kalispell

Reading list suggestions

In correcting Warren Illi’s conflation of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, Tom Muri adopts a somewhat haughty tone in suggesting that “Warren and others might be enlightened to know the Bill of Rights were [sic] not applicable to the states originally.” May I be so bold as to suggest that Muri himself could benefit from some enlightenment.

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson and the other founders were educated in both classical and Enlightenment philosophy, and while not uniform in all their ideas, shared a common belief in natural rights (defined by John Locke as life, liberty and property). This common belief was the foundation of both the constitution itself and the amendments that became known as the Bill of Rights.

These amendments were meant to affirm that the rights enumerated were among the “unalienable rights” to which Jefferson had referred in the Declaration of Independence. The amendments do not grant these rights but acknowledge them, affirming that government has no lawful authority to abridge or deny these natural rights. While strictly speaking, Muri is correct to say that the Bill of Rights applied to the federal government and not to the states, an understanding of the founders’ overarching philosophical consensus makes it plain that they believed no government entity had any legitimate authority to violate these rights.

In the same vein, Muri errs when he states that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision “was the first time that the Second Amendment was applied to individuals.” A more correct description of the Heller decision would be to say that it marked the first time the SCOTUS clearly acknowledged that the Second Amendment — like all the other 10 amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights — was meant by those who crafted it to affirm an individual right. Among the works cited by Justice Antonin Scalia in his written decision for the court’s majority was “The Origin of the Second Amendment: A Documentary History of the Bill of Rights 1787-1792,” edited by David E. Young, and “David E. Young’s monograph, The Founders’ View of the Right to Bear Arms: A Definitive History of the Second Amendment.” One of the attorneys who argued for Heller before the court, Alan Gura, has written that these two works are “the authoritative books on the subject [of the Second Amendment and The Bill of Rights].”

I recommend that Muri and anyone else interested in the Bill of Rights as a whole and the Second Amendment in particular, read both of these books, as well as Scalia’s decision — not to the exclusion of the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers and other primary source material from the ratification era (letters, journals, speeches, sermons, newspaper articles, etc.) or biographies of the founders or other historical studies of the Bill of Rights, but certainly to be put at the top of the reading list for anyone who truly seeks to be enlightened about the nature and meaning of this keystone document.

—Lee Smith, Somers

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