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     Civil right? Wrong question.
    Filed under: — David @ 5:16 pm

    I have heard and read many times the idea that same-sex marriage should be allowed because marriage is a civil right. The problem with this claim is that it very conveniently ignores the opposing argument, which is that the real issue is the definition of marriage. It makes no sense to discuss whether marriage is a civil right until we agree on how marriage is defined.

    So I’m actually undecided on whether marriage qualifies as a civil right, but I’m not very concerned about the question because I think it’s irrelevant, or at best premature.

    Out of curiosity, I have been searching the net for explanations of why marriage should be considered a civil right, looking at blog posts, articles, and court cases. In nearly all instances, people simply repeat the assertion that marriage is a civil right, without any kind of justification.

    The closest thing I’ve found so far is traced back to a 1942 decision in the case of Skinner v. Oaklahoma in which it was declared that sterilization should not be allowed as a punishment for crimes.

    We are dealing here with legislation which involves one of the basic civil rights of man. Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race.

    This decision was referenced by the Goodridge v. Department of Public Health case in which the Massachusetts state supreme court declared that same-sex marriage should be allowed. (The other Massachusetts case cited on this subject is that of Milford v. Worcester, but the text of that decision doesn’t seem to be easily available online.)

    Finally, an explanation for this civil right idea. But I don’t buy it. Why not? For an explanation, I’ll use the words of the Hawaii state supreme court, in a case which is actually mentioned by the Massachusetts court, even though as far as I can tell it argues against their interpretation of Skinner v. Oaklahoma.

    Whether the [US Supreme] court viewed marriage and procreation as a single indivisible right, the least that can be said is that it was obviously contemplating unions between men and women when it ruled that the right to marry was fundamental.

    That was my reaction exactly. To use Skinner v. Oaklahoma to support same-sex marriage discards the entire context and severely manipulates the original meaning.

    So I’m still looking for an explanation… but still, only out of curiosity. I still believe that the definition of marriage is the real issue, and I firmly believe that gender, as a fundamental characteristic of the human race, is and should be a vital part of that definition.

     Some real Chuck Norris facts
    Filed under: — David @ 8:00 am

    The other day I discovered how awesome Chuck Norris really is, through an article he wrote about the intolerance displayed by many of the opponents of Proposition 8.

    What’s surprising (or maybe not so) is that even though 70 percent of African-Americans voted in favor of Proposition 8, protests against black churches are virtually nonexistent. And everyone knows exactly why: Such actions would be viewed as racist. Yet these opponents of Prop. 8 can protest vehemently and shout obscenities in front of Mormon temples without ever being accused of religious bigotry. There’s a clear double standard in our society. Where are the hate-crime cops when religious conservatives need them?

    The truth is that the great majority of Prop. 8 advocates are not bigots or hatemongers. They are American citizens who are following 5,000 years of human history and the belief of every major people and religion: Marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman. Their pro-Prop. 8 votes weren’t intended to deprive any group of its rights; they were safeguarding their honest convictions regarding the boundaries of marriage.

    He also mentions that he “passionately opposed” Barack Obama for president, but I’ll forgive him that, especially since he mentions it to make the point that it is important to honor the democratic process.

     Politics and patriotism
    Filed under: — David @ 8:26 pm

    I have come to the conclusion that negative campaigning is unpatriotic. It goes like this:

    A negative campaign creates and encourages an atmosphere and attitude of mistrust, smugness, and superiority. Everything is put in terms that make it sound like only an idiot would disagree (remember the definition of bigotry?). It polarizes people in a way that makes it very difficult to have a reasonable discussion about the issues without it degenerating into shouting and name-calling. This is bad for democracy because it teaches people not to consider the other side of the story, so they’re not going to be as informed when they vote. Carrying on a practice that is harmful to democracy - especially as part of an effort to become president - is unpatriotic.

    That is why my vote is influenced at least as much by the tone of a campaign as by what they say about the issues… assuming they get around to that part.

     Marriage and bigotry
    Filed under: — David @ 4:41 pm

    I have a theory that the LDS church wouldn’t take a stand on Proposition 8 unless the idea of marriage being only between a man and a woman could be defended without getting religious, and bringing up issues of separation of church and state. So I developed my own de-religionated explanation.

    I believe that gender - the differences between men and women - is an important part of who and what we are as human beings, and it must be allowed to play its part in order to have a healthy society. I can think of no better place - not even a close second - for gender to play its role in our lives and our society than in the marriage relationship. I believe that part of what marriage is about is learning to deal with, and benefit from, the fundamental and inherent differences between male and female. To take gender out of the definition of marriage turns it into something much different, and I believe much diminished. It denies the importance of gender, and I think that detracts from our humanity.

    It seems to me that the biggest challenge that something like Proposition 8 faces is the assumption that it’s based on homophobia and/or religious beliefs that don’t belong in the state constitution. Many people seem to make this assumption without making any effort to really understand the opposing point of view. I bet most supporters of Prop 8 can describe the opposing point of view pretty well, but the reverse doesn’t seem to happen much.

    One of the most disturbingly ironic images I’ve seen is a “Yes on Prop 8″ sign vandalized with the word “bigot” spray-painted on it. Vandalizing someone else’s campaign sign is itself an act of bigotry, and using the word bigot that way is utter hypocrisy.

    When it comes to these issues, neither side has a monopoly on being the victim of prejudice and bigotry. I think there’s a misconception about what what “bigot” actually means, and an assumption that it only applies to people who are homophobic or racist. So I looked it up.

    big·ot n. One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

    I’d say that describes the sign vandals.

     Not so tough
    Filed under: — David @ 7:42 am

    Bob Shieffer:

    Are each of you tonight willing to sit at this table and say to each other’s face what your campaigns and the people in your campaigns have said about each other?

    John McCain:

    Well, this has been a tough campaign. It’s been a very tough campaign.

    Barack Obama:

    Well, look, you know, I think that we expect presidential campaigns to be tough.

    (Unsurprisingly, neither one of them really answered the question.)

    So “tough” is a euphemism for “full of mud-slinging”. I think that just sounds silly. Negative campaigning is full of cheap shots, and that doesn’t qualify as tough.

    And unfortunately, Obama is right: our expectations for presidential campaigns - and political campaigns in general - are low.

    We’re starting to see where low standards will lead. Congressman John Lewis has illustrated this with an extreme example. Many people, especially presidential candidates, have criticized him for going too far. Personally I think the comparison he makes is actually valid and important. Negative campaigning is a slippery slope, and the bottom of that slope is a horrible place to be.

    Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse. … George Wallace … created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional rights. … As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.

    It is true that on a few occasions John McCain (but not Sarah Palin as for as I am aware) has taken a moment to insist on more civility while his followers sometimes literally call for Obama’s head, but it is too little too late, and it contradicts most of the other things he says about his opponent. You say that we don’t know who “the real” Obama is, that he “pals around with terrorists”, but really we shouldn’t be afraid of him becoming president? How are your supporters supposed to reconcile those statements?

    Rather than take responsibility for creating an atmosphere of fear, suspicion, and hate, McCain tries to distract us with counterattacks. He wants John Lewis’ remarks denounced, but when his own statements are denounced he feigns innocence. Meanwhile he’s still slipping down that slope.

    It’s insulting to me that I’m supposed to accept this behavior, and actually want these qualities in a president. Just like I’m insulted every time a politician talks about his opponent’s voting record. Look, he voted for something bad! He voted against something good! And I’m supposed to believe it’s all neatly black and white. Then it turns out the “good” bill was fatally flawed, or that this outraged politician actually voted the same way as the opponent he criticizes.

    When a politician - any politician - talks voting records, I ignore what he or she is trying to imply about his opponent, and instead look at what it says about the speaker. And oh so rarely is that a complimentary view.

     The definition of marriage
    Filed under: — David @ 7:51 am

    John McCain’s web site says that he believes “the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman.” I couldn’t find a comparable statement on Barack Obama’s web site, but he has stated the same thing in interviews: marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

    I actually disagree, but not for the reason a lot of other people do. I actually think that definition is an insufficient argument against same-sex marriage, and I would put it this way:

    Marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the purpose of creating a family.

    McCain’s web site continues: “It is only this definition that sufficiently recognizes the vital and unique role played by mothers and fathers in the raising of children, and the role of the family in shaping, stabilizing, and strengthening communities and our nation.” I think my definition does that better.

    If marriage were only about the two people getting married, then I would agree that it doesn’t matter who those people are. But it is more than that.

    Yes, my views on the subject follow that of my church. But I am not blindly and mindlessly following their teachings, nor did I take it on as part of a package of political views (I tend to vote Democratic anyway). My beliefs are the result of using my own brain, my own heart, and my own prayers. I will respectfully disagree with those who advocate same-sex marriage, and recognize that they have their own reasons and reasonings for their position. I expect the same in return, though I have not always gotten it.

    About a month ago, the LDS church released an article titled The Divine Institution of Marriage. I think it does an excellent job of presenting our point of view, comprehensively and respectfully.

    I’d like to summarize some points that caught my attention:

    • The Family: A Proclamation to the World, released in 1995, ends by saying: “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” This was five years before the church got involved in California’s Prop. 22, taking a stand on a political issue for the first time. They were not getting swept up in the right-wing agenda. They were following their own pre-established policy. The same applies now with Proposition 8.
    • The definition of “tolerance” is being changed. These days, in order to be considered “tolerant” of other people, you have to adapt your own standards and morals to accept whatever they want to do. “Tolerate” is becoming synonymous with “condone”.
    • Legalizing same-sex marriage creates a conflict with the religious rights of people who don’t believe in it, and religious rights are losing. Churches are getting sued for not allowing same-sex weddings in their buildings, and photographers for declining to photograph those weddings.

    Please read the full article. It covers many more excellent points, including references to other significant articles and studies.

    My hope is that even if we can’t agree on issues like this, we can at least be able to respect each other’s points of view, and better understand our own. Far too often, these discussions descend into emotional arguments full of fear, anger, and name-calling. We can do better.

    Filed under: — David @ 6:54 am

    Something that a McCain spokesman said recently has been bugging me a lot. I’m sure many people didn’t notice it, and not all of those who did thought it was a big deal. But to me it’s a classic example of their dishonest, mud-slinging attitude.

    It started with John McCain not being able to remember offhand how many houses he owns. This is of course troubling from a presidential candidate, but it’s not what bugs me.

    Obama’s campaign was naturally quick to pounce on that, among other things with this ad, which I actually don’t like because it strikes me as a cheap dig and it says nothing about Obama himself. I always dislike ads that tell me whom to vote against. But this isn’t the thing that bugs me either.

    In response to that, Brian Rogers, a McCain representative, said “Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses?” There are several things wrong with that. One is that McCain recently said it takes $5 million to qualify as “rich”. Another is that this isn’t about houses, it’s about being aware of your own finances.

    What gets me is one word: “private”. That particular detail was invented and thrown in just to try to paint Obama as an elitist again. It’s a lie. How do I know? Because there is no such thing as a “private beach” in Hawaii. All beaches are public. I’ve been on the beach where he was.

    Mr. Rogers might claim that by “private” he merely meant “secluded” or something like that, but “private beach” plainly implies a beach that is private property. You can’t say he was exaggerating, either. Calling something the opposite of what it is doesn’t count as exaggeration. It’s a deliberate fabrication. A man who allows such things to be said on his behalf should not be president.

    Filed under: — David @ 7:56 am

    I have a hard time mustering much respect for John McCain. It started in the Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Library back in May, when he argued with Mitt Romney about the meaning of the word “timetable”, stubbornly insisting it implies retreat regardless of what Romney actually meant when he used it.

    Now, while Obama is talking about actual issues, McCain is trying to distract us with bad jokes. There’s his recent ad where he compares Obama to Paris and Britney, and at the same time making straw-man attacks (Obama’s going to tax electricity!) that stretch the truth to the breaking point. Now we have the thing with the tire pressure gauges. To me, they symbolize the individual’s ability to contribute to solving the energy crisis. But McCain would have you believe that Obama’s energy policy consists of nothing more than that, which to me is insultingly dishonest.

    The thing that struck me recently is that my dislike for McCain has actually very little to do with his stance on the various issues. The way he has been campaigning shows a level of dishonesty that would tempt me to leave the country if he were elected. It’s depressing and puzzling to me that so many people still want to vote for him.

    This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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