Byrne: To end violence, return to American values

The recent violence in our country – and the passionate debates it has sparked – have led me to reflect on the emotional state of our country and the battle being waged between good and evil.

I thought back to comments I gave earlier this year at a naturalization ceremony. These new citizens were gifted with the opportunity to forge for themselves a new American identity, complete with all its blessings, possibilities and responsibilities.

That morning at the U.S.S. Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, I spoke of the American belief in self-government, that ‘we the people’ can govern ourselves. To successfully execute such a radical (at the time) idea, we had to found our nation on some basic values. From our adherence and loyalty to those values, our American character was created.

I quoted the words of the 19th-century French observer of early America, Alexis De Tocqueville, written several decades after our nation’s founding. He said “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

De Tocqueville knew that democracy, in many ways, is a burden upon its people. They cannot rely on the direction of an autocrat. In a democracy, more so than other systems of government, the nature of its people is reflected in their government. De Tocqueville knew that for a representative democracy like ours to remain, its people must be virtuous. That is a big responsibility!

With the goal of creating and preserving a virtuous society, our founders laid out fundamental principles. Our natural rights were given to us by God. Government is instituted by men to protect those rights. With our rights preserved, our values can flourish.

Those values have led to the traditions, vibrancy, and endurance of American culture.

We all know that our country is one of religious freedom. Each of us can practice any religion we choose or none at all. The establishment clause of our constitution prohibits an official state religion.

However, our nation has increasingly rejected our foundational beliefs in natural rights and moral absolutism – that there is universal right and wrong that does not change. Without these beliefs, law and order and even good and evil are subjective. Not only can these definitions change from generation to generation, but conflicting value systems will clash violently in the present.

Unfortunately, the post-modern world in which we live seeks not only to undermine religious freedom but moral absolutism itself. These attacks are no longer limited to the salons of liberal coastal enclaves. They are now taking place in the halls of Congress.

I’m also troubled by the weakening of an American quality that has served to keep our large and diverse nation together—our sense of community.

Communities are not made up of thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook friends. They are forged through the personal interactions all humans need. They are forged at neighborhood parties, Little League practices, Friday night football games and places of worship.

Unfortunately, in recent decades, our sense of community has been lost, and the consequences have been swift and severe. Technologies initially projected to bring us together have led to a growing epidemic of crushing isolation. Mental health issues have skyrocketed.

The result has been a fundamental breakdown of American society. To reverse the trend, we must return to the values and sense of community that made America strong.

These traditional American values are Alabama values. They have guided me as a son, brother, father and now grandfather. They are the values that guide me in Washington.

I will not remain silent while those who cherish these values are attacked and blamed for problems caused by the rejection of what made us great. American values – and our rights – must be defended.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

50 mins ago

Watch: Alabamians line up with American flags to welcome slain Naval ensign home

As seen in a video posted on Twitter, people lined the streets of Enterprise on Friday to welcome home Navy Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson.

Watson, a 23-year-old Coffee County native who also spent many of his formative years in Blount County, was killed in last week’s shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

The hero’s body arrived at Dothan Regional Airport on Friday and then a procession took him to Searcy Funeral Home in Enterprise.

Considering Fort Rucker’s presence, the area has a high percentage of military families, making Watson’s murder that much harder on the Wiregrass community. People lined the procession route with American flags, honoring his service, sacrifice and life.

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A public memorial service for Watson will take place at the Enterprise High School Performing Arts Center at 11:00 a.m. next Saturday, December 21.

Burial will be the following day at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo. Governor Kay Ivey has ordered flags to half-staff on that day of internment: Sunday, December 22.

RELATED: How the hometown of a NAS Pensacola shooting hero is paying tribute to one of their own

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

‘God loves you. Jesus paid the price’: Secret Santa pays off all layaways at Alabama Walmart

Christmas came a little early for several shoppers with layaway purchases at the Walmart in Anniston.

As reported first by ABC 33/40, an anonymous Alabama man came into the store recently and paid off the entire layaway balance at the time. The total value of the items he paid off was reportedly $65,000.

All the Secret Santa requested in return?

That each customer with a layaway item he paid off received a note, each with just the same seven words:

“God loves you. Jesus paid the price.”

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While the man’s tremendous act of generosity was greatly appreciated by customers ABC 33/40 interviewed, that seven-word message seemed to touch people powerfully in and of itself as well.

“That really topped it off,” Kandy Ward explained. “I really loved the message that he put out there and I think that’s what he wanted to do.”

Another shopper, Hannah Haynes, agreed.

“Everyday I wish I could thank the anonymous person for being so obedient (in his faith),” she said.

Haynes added that she stuck the note on her refrigerator and plans to keep it there, letting it serve as a motivator.

“Everyday I’m gonna wake up like, ‘How can I bless someone?'” Haynes remarked. “How can I show someone that type of love?”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Byrne introduces bill allowing cartels to be treated as terrorist organizations under federal law

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) is leading the charge in the U.S. House of Representatives to be able to officially treat international drug cartels as terrorist organizations under federal law, something that President Donald Trump has recently expressed as a priority of his.

Byrne announced on Friday that he, along with Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI), has introduced the Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act.

This legislation would create a new federal designation, “Significant Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs),” which has more stringent sanctions than the existing transnational criminal organization designation. The penalties for Significant TCOs would mirror many of the penalties for entities currently designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), including sanctions on organization members and their families, travel restrictions and increased penalties for American citizens who grant them material assistance.

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In a statement, Byrne said, “We should not have to tolerate transnational criminal organizations exporting drugs and violence into our country.”

“This bill will enhance our ability to come after these groups and keep our communities and citizens safe at home and abroad. Congress should rally behind this effort and show these groups that there are severe consequences for their actions,” he advised.

This comes after nine dual U.S.-Mexico citizens were viciously slain by cartel members in northern Mexico on November 4.

Sanctions the federal government would be able to impose on Significant TCOs under Byrne’s legislation include:

  • Barring organization members and their immediate families from admission into the United States
  • Freezing assets
  • Seeking civil and criminal penalties against individuals providing material assistance or resources to the organization.

The bill also would require the president to submit a report to Congress detailing the government’s findings from the November 4 attack, including whether the cartel responsible should be designated as a Significant TCO.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has introduced the Senate version of Byrne’s bill.

Alabama has also had its problems with cartel-related violence and crime.

Attorney General Steve Marshall (R-AL) has advised that the Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for “almost all” drugs imported into the Yellowhammer State. That cartel is headquartered in Culiacán, Mexico.

Just two weeks ago, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office took down two suspected Mexican cartel members in a major firearms and drug bust in the Birmingham metropolitan area.

Then, of course, there are the more shocking examples from the recent past, such as when cartel members in Alabama stabbed a grandmother to death and then beheaded her 13-year-old Huntsville granddaughter.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Ivey orders flags to half-staff honoring slain Navy ensign

Governor Kay Ivey announced Friday that she is ordering all flags on government grounds to be flown at half staff on Sunday, December 22 to honor the life of Navy Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson.

Watson, an Enterprise native who spent many of his formative years in Blount County, was killed in the shooting at Naval Air Station in Pensacola, FL, on December 6.

“Let us remember the life and service of Ensign Watson, who died as a hero trying to protect his fellow service members. We offer our heartfelt condolences and prayers to his family, friends and community,” the governor said in her directive.

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According to reports relayed to the media by his family, the 23-year-old Watson saved many lives with his actions on the day of the shooting. His heroic actions drew praise from many of Alabama’s political leaders.

“After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable,” Adam Watson, the victim’s brother, told the Pensacola News Journal (PNJ).

Watson’s father, Benjamin, said of his son, “His mission was to confront evil, to bring the fight to them, wherever it took him. He was willing to risk his life for his country. We never thought he would die in Florida.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

You’re invited!

The biggest birthday party in Alabama’s history is taking place on December 14, and you are invited! Join us in Montgomery for the grand finale celebration of our state’s 200th birthday.

Watch the parade, listen to concerts and performances, visit open houses and much more.

This is sure to be a day you don’t want to miss. The event is free to the public and lasts all day starting with an elaborate parade at 10:00 a.m. The parade will travel from Court Square Fountain in downtown Montgomery up Dexter Avenue to the State Capitol. There will be marching bands, city floats and unique displays of Alabama history on wheels, such as the USS Alabama and U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

The parade is a great opportunity for families to enjoy the celebration together – and it’s only the beginning of a packed day. Following the parade, Governor Kay Ivey will dedicate Bicentennial Park. The afternoon will offer performances, exhibitions and open houses throughout downtown Montgomery. The day will conclude with a concert featuring popular musicians from Alabama and the history of Alabama presented in a never-before-seen way.

Visit Alabama 200 Finale for a complete rundown of the day’s events.

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