24 June 2009

Who's "Defending" Marriage from the GOP?

With the news today of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford's Argentinian affair, and his apologies to his wife and four (4) sons (for whom this is truly sad), I have to ask: How, again, are gays and lesbians a threat to our cherished "traditional" marriages??

Now I am not even suggesting that Democrats don't cheat, too; of course they do. However, they're also not the party typically leading the charge in the defense of this oh-so-sacred institution (that's also still a church issue). Sanford, John Ensign, Vito Fossella, David Vitter... seriously? You're afraid of what damage some committed, monogamous gays are going to do to the franchise?

20 June 2009

Guns, Dogs, Gays, Voter Turnout & Accountability

Who’s against more guns on the streets, as well as in bars and on playgrounds? Only the governor of the state, some sane and otherwise funded legislators, the Metro Nashville Police chief and force, and a large number of business owners themselves. What really troubles me is that so many states, Tennessee included, get to vote about something as irrelevant to anybody else's lives as the validity of another couple's relationship (even though I haven't gotten to vote on some I thought were pretty foolish), but we do not get to vote on whether we are comfortable walking around in public with more people armed. Or having dogs in restaurants. And as a sidenote, I personally love both guns and dogs, but I do not believe, as long as I live here with other people, that I should just have the run of the place with any guns or dogs I happen to have in my possession, especially when both potentially directly affect everybody around me at any given time and neither are almost ever necessary for survival. It's similar, in my perception, to cigarettes.

People keep talking about dogs in relation to health codes. They also bite, usually when people least expect them to, because the very best ones in the world can be very territorial. Heck, people are unpredictable, but at least you can sit them down and explain the rules. Many, many people are also badly allergic to them. And why in the name of time, without even a vote, could just anybody take their guns and dogs to dinner with them whenever they please when we all got a say in deciding that I can't just sit here in my living room in any legally recognized commitment to my sweet baby whatsoever, which nobody would ever even know about unless we told them?

Some possible reasons why people don't vote (besides the present electoral college system and the number of times "our" choice has actually not won the presidency): inconsistency and deep discrimination in the legislative offerings; pacification (my theory of letting the electorate decide emotional and subjective issues so they feel involved and less victimized by the sometimes far more regulatory legislature that just gets passed and defeated without us ever having a say); and our own profound lack of accountability and deeply codependent relationship with our government caused by constant preemption of natural consequences. This, again in my perception, and granted, I do spend too much time in my own head sometimes, is illustrated by things like the McDonald's lawsuits (both the coffee and the Super Size Me references), the endless "safety" features (like automatic shut-off electric blankets and car-backing cameras), and the rescues. Obviously, sometimes, as with Hurricane Katrina, when so many people literally did not have the resources to evacuate themselves, or when there is no warning, people don't choose their fate. But I know that I personally have heard over and over and over again about communities of perfectly capable people being warned by every government agency in operation about the devastation they will face if they remain where they are, and after they completely blow off every warning and every last speck of evidence and sometimes are in the middle of their "disaster party" when said disaster hits, the calls start coming, begging for help, pleading for every previously ignored government agency to spend their precious resources, risk the lives of their people when the danger is at its peak, to come save their arrogant asses.

My point is that, as a society, we cry and cry about too much government interference, bad or no options, too much regulation, not enough freedom...we want to do what we want, until we get into trouble. Then, frankly, we squeal like pigs for some kind of "bailout." And government, for its part, keeps feeding us the rope until we inevitably hang ourselves, so they can swoop in and save us and then wag their fingers and show us the proof of how inept we are at managing our own lives. And we let them, because too many people don't really want the responsibility. I believe in my heart that that collective attitude is going to need to be the first thing to get adjusted for voter turnout to increase or anything else to change.

17 June 2009

Darfuris Still Waiting

While I truly appreciate the collection of plates that our government has spinning at the moment, I am compelled to offer another plea for assistance and a concrete plan for peace for the people of Darfur.

The heinous Sudanese President Bashir remains free and has continued to persecute the citizens of this region – with no “fault” beyond being black and Christian - including expelling multiple aid organizations that have been the only source of relief and hope to this area’s millions of refugees.

I vividly remember watching the Sudanese delegation at the United Nations meeting in which President Bush declared that the actions of Sudan’s government and their janjaweed hitmen would not be tolerated. They laughed at him, at us, at the international community, at the idea that anybody could or would do anything to stop the atrocities they had already been committing for several years. No small feat, a warrant was finally issued for Bashir's arrest months ago, an invitation for intervention by the global community like none before. Still, no action has been taken, and in fact, the situation has only deteriorated further.

Make no mistake, I am no less deeply concerned about the plethora of domestic issues plaguing our country. But I believe in my heart that every second that we allow the continuance of the humanitarian crimes in Sudan (as crimes they are), we give up so much of ourselves, and so much of what we claim to have learned from our collective international genocidal history, that all measures to save ourselves will ultimately be irrelevant and pointless.

It is long past time to stop this. We are running out of time, not only to help these people, but to seize this one of a long list of opportunities (the Holocaust, Bosnia, Rwanda, etc.) to change our pattern: letting it happen, condemning it afterward, and swearing, “Never again.” We are running out of time to say, as a nation, “Not on our watch,” and mean it.

11 June 2009

Discrimination Never a "States' Right"

I’ve been thinking about President Obama’s [at least partial] answer to Brian Williams’ question last Friday about whether or not gays and lesbians have a friend in the White House. I have to say that I agree that it is unproductive, unnecessary, and not government “business” to be redefining “marriage.” But it is absolutely necessary to begin the process of redefining whatever we are to call the lifetime legal contract between two people that it is government “business” to license and which guarantees those two people the rights heretofore associated with “marriage.” Let us finally begin to adhere to the First Amendment and allow churches to do what they want; but let us also begin to defend the Constitution against those same churches. This is not a religious issue, and it is not a state issue.

I wholeheartedly support the Tenth Amendment as reserving to the states the powers not prohibited to them by the Constitution. However, the language of the Constitution very clearly does prohibit discrimination against any state's citizens by any other state. All citizens are one hundred percent equal in the eyes of the Constitution (at least more or less, since the Civil Rights movement), but government and the Constitution have proven many times to be two different animals. In application, it’s beginning to seem as though, to borrow from an old saying, nothing is equal but death and taxes. Church weddings aside, being a practice of the church and therefore out of the legal reach of government according to the First Amendment (along with their willingness or unwillingness to perform any such ceremonies), the actual legal contract binding two law-abiding, tax-paying, consenting, adult American citizens, whatever it's called, cannot, at least Constitutionally, be afforded to these two of the aforementioned citizens, and not those two.

In that sense, and in the sense in which I guarantee it to be perceived, it is no different than being denied the right to vote, or drive, or carry a gun. And it is absolutely no different in subjective foundation from the laws forbidding interracial marriages only a few short decades ago, until Loving v. Virginia (1967). The original judge in that case convicted the Virginia couple after they married in Washington, DC (because it was illegal in Virginia) and suspended their sentence only if they agreed to get out of the state. On appeal, he upheld his original ruling, actually saying: "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." That sounds to me very similar to the arguments flying around regarding today's marriage issues. The problem is that no one belief is ever going to be stronger than any other. That's just the nature of beliefs, and of opinions, but the law still has to be the law.

The Lovings' sentence was eventually invalidated by the Virginia Supreme Court, but they upheld the state's Racial Integrity Act, which had been in place for over 40 years (along with the Sterilization Act (OMG), not even completely repealed until the 1970s, not only banning interracial marriages but ordering the sterilization of everyone classified as "insane, idiotic, imbecile, feebleminded, or epileptic," used on a sufficient number of minorities hospitalized for different reasons, a precursor to the Nazi practice about 10 years later).

The U.S. Supreme Court finally overturned the convictions and held that "Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man.... To deny this fundamental freedom on ... classifications [then just skin color] so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens liberty without due process of law."

Do we really want to start that far back? Can we afford to be this slow, again, in realizing that, in our attempts to defend God, we may actually be committing irrevocable offense? This is wrong. My beliefs, my opinions aside, the collection of principles governing this issue was written down and has been defended repeatedly for more than 200 years, 221 to be exact, as of this June 21. We should give it more credit.

Case facts from Loving v. Virginia, Supreme Court Cases: The Dynamic Court (1930-1999), 1999.