THE BLOG

Immigration, Republicans and Nuns on the Bus

06/11/2013 12:11 pm ET | Updated Aug 11, 2013

Nuns on the Bus get it. If you want change, push up off your backside and put your name and your body out there, right next to your beliefs. A standing room only crowd of Scrantonians joined the nuns to do just that concerning immigration. The New York Times summed up the situation well.

"WASHINGTON -- After seven months of steadily building momentum, the push for a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system enters its most crucial phase this week in the Senate, where Republicans remain divided over how much to cooperate with President Obama as they try to repair their party's standing among Hispanic voters..."

A product of 12 years of Catholic education, I respect the nuns for all they do. I am not a Catholic but one of my personal heroes is a Catholic sister. The lessons the good nuns, often literally pounded into my head, live on to this day. Many people, who do not oppose immigration, attempt to make 'Nuns on the Bus' political and to advance their own extreme agendas. However, at its core, the bus and immigration are about the very lessons the nuns and military veterans hold dear.

The sisters are spokespersons for all people of all religions. Their lessons are: care for the least among us; help the sick, welcome the traveler and recognize that good exists in all of us. Religions can get bogged down on particulars and given issues but at their core the message is help the weak, nurture the ill and care for one another. I have seen Roman Catholic sisters doing this in the very worst parts of the most hurting parts of our planet. How does this relate to veterans?

Memorial Day Holiday weekend was a bittersweet time. The very personal faces of our fallen just keep popping up at random times. The thoughts are not hostile, more nostalgic/sad. My view, now and back then, is that we owe our fallen a duty to live well: to love life and build a better nation. Service members never agree on a darn thing. Some of our fondest moments are bitching about nearly everything. However, by far the majority, late in a fading evening would admit, yes, they wanted to see the world but they also wanted to serve and build a better nation. The envisioned nation varied widely but service was the theme.

Those faces were heavily on my mind the other day as I went to visit 'Nuns on the bus'. I guarantee some of those faces from my past would not approve of my visit but others would display broad smiles. We, veterans, never were about 'approval'. We were about results and what worked. Those of us who lived, and those who died, were pragmatists. We love America deeply, although many of my fellow vets would be embarrassed to say that. My generation was neither demonstrative nor united. Some of us returned from war vowing never again, others believing that a strong defense was mandatory.

Initially, my dog tags could not say 'no religion.' Before the compromise of printing 'no religious preference' on dog tags, I took special pleasure in my tags stating clearly 'A Negative; Catholic'. The A- was my blood type but yet position made a statement for me. The human race is changing. My tale is but one example. There are atheists in foxholes, often clutching true believers. The genius of America is we meld those disparate beliefs together. The Nuns on the Bus are doing just that.

They place their beliefs, names and mission into the public arena. They brought a simple message to a Southside Scranton church built by Irish immigrants and now nurturing a strongly Hispanic congregation. This message is that it is wrong to keep treating immigrants poorly and preying on them. Devoutly religious, they opened their venue to all, even welcoming protesters. They started a dialog and stated the rationale for their position. Veterans have done the same if not with their voices, with their bodies.

Just like most veterans, the sisters preach equality, progress and accomplishing the mission. Unlike so many religious extremists, the sisters' god neither threatened nor damned any group. Immigration was a challenge to be faced and solved as equitably as possible. They supported legislation to allow immigrants without paper to emerge from the shadows. They were willing to compromise and to listen to other opinions. The majority of veterans will approve their actions even if some will oppose their position.

Currently, the nation allows amnesty by refusing to pass laws. Doing nothing encourages an underclass which falls easy victim to extortion and victimization. Like veterans and other public servants (yes, we too are public servants), the Catholic sisters have put their bodies, names and credibility on the line for what they see as right. This right we shall defend.

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