Friday, October 24, 2008

Why Is Prop 8 Important?

Let's have the full Proposition 8 amendment first:

This initiative measure is submitted to the people in accordance with the
provisions of Article II, Section 8, of the California Constitution.
This initiative measure expressly amends the California Constitution by
adding a section thereto; therefore, new provisions proposed to be added are
printed in italic type to indicate that they are new.
SECTION 1. Title
This measure shall be known and may be cited as the “California Marriage
Protection Act.”
SECTION 2. Section 7.5 is added to Article I of the California Constitution,
to read:
SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized
in California.

I'm planning on voting No on Prop 8. I'm sure I'll lose quite a few potential readers right there. If I haven't lost you yet though, follow along with me through the next sentence. The California Constitution, regarding marriage, is severely broken.

Our founding fathers (of the U.S. Constitution) were very much against mixing religion and government. They'd seen the damage it could do. But even though many of them were atheists or agnostics themselves, religion was very much an intertwined part of their world - and ours.

Whether you believe in God, or the 'sanctity of marriage', or that fags will go to hell is not the point here. Whether you believe you should be able to have a thousand man orgy in a Catholic Church is not the point.

The point is that God is God, and government is government. If we truly believe in liberty in this country, then we can't have a theocracy. If we can't have a theocracy, then God and government can't mix. They shouldn't mix. They don't go well together. Each diminishes the other. God is private, government is public. God is internal, government, external. There is no good way to govern a free thinking country through a basis of religion. It just can't work.

Why? Well, 'religion' alone can't describe a government. It has to be a specific religion. Christianity perhaps? That wouldn't really work. Ask any Irishman about Protestants vs. Catholics and you see the inherent flaws there. But it goes much deeper than that. Two people sitting in the same church for years will often disagree about God. If that's the case, how can there be a consensus about how to base laws on His will?

Returning to my point, marriage is something sanctioned and authorized by churches and religions. Government has no business intruding on the affairs of any church. Civil unions are a governmental institution. The church has no business with that any more than it does parking meters.

Even civil unions are a form of discrimination, however. By almost any standard, two people, in the eyes of the government, are better than one or three. Why two? What's so special about the number two? The only reason the government clings to that is our history involving Christianity. But that history also includes Buddhists, atheists, Hindus, Muslims, and a whole host of other religions and beliefs. They should all be represented in a country that so proudly espouses the freedoms that we do. But I digress.

Why is Prop 8 important? I've already pointed out various hypocrisies in our current system. Even if Prop 8 fails, this state and this country have a long way to go to fully realizing the concepts that John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Stuart Mills and Thomas Paine gave birth to.

But a flawed system is no reason to pass a flawed bill. Anything that takes away an individuals right to make decisions is to be viewed with harsh skepticism to say the least. This bill doesn't take anything away from anyone. It gives a small (albeit flawed) bit of freedom to some though. That's something we all should support.

Again, I'm voting No on Prop 8. I welcome discussion on the issue.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why Do We Need To Blame Someone?

Orson Scott Card, a fantastic science-fiction author (Ender's Game is one of the best ever written IMHO) as well as a vocal writer on many topics, including religion and politics, has written a blunt and unapologetic piece on what he believes to be the media's shortcomings in investigating and exposing the Democratic Party's role in the current economic crisis in America.

You can read the full article here:

In the article, Card blames a left-leaning media for wanting to elect Obama so badly that it ignores a glaring malfeasance in the Democratic leadership, dating back to the Clinton administration. Card says that the Democrats encouraged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to give out bad loans to people who would be less than likely to pay them back. He also says they did this in opposition to Republicans in Congress and the Executive branch.

He calls out for journalists to step up the way they did in "All the Presidents Men" and dig for the truth.

The truth is a good thing. Card didn't say that, I did. But I think Card would agree with me on that point.

The issue I have with his article is not in its facts (or not facts, I honestly don't know how well he researched it), but with its suppositions and it's deeper meaning.

Spend any time on a hard left blog or a hard right blog and 99% of what you'll read there are articles attacking the opposition. Left leaning blogs take every opportunity to attack everything from Sarah Palin's wardrobe to John McCain's 'erratic behavior'. Right wing blogs can't stop talking about Bill Ayers and ACORN.

What neither side talks about are it's own candidates. Left wingers seem to have no interest in ACORN or Ayers. Right wingers don't seem to take notice of McCain's or Palin's shortcomings.

Therein lies the core of the issue I take with Card's editorial. It takes responsibility out of the picture and instead relies on finger pointing. Everything has become a blame game. This whole country seems to be in an enormous game of chasing its own tail, fervently dedicated to finally figuring out Who Is To Blame. If we can catch this person, this One, and then...I don't know.. Blame him to death, all will be better.

This phenomena is not limited to larger organizations like the Democrats or the 'Media', either. By the way, just to clarify, there's no such thing as the 'media'. It doesn't exist. It has no address, no power structure, no rules, no Christmas parties. There are just people, with jobs, and homes, and bosses, and employees. They each have morals, values, secrets, regrets and ambitions.

The 'police' don't violate your civil rights. A policeman does. He has a name. Every time we generalize that way, we dehumanize and devalue all of the good cops out there who work hard every day to keep us safe.

In the same way, saying the 'media' needs to stand up, isn't just ineffectual, it's not really possible. If Mr. Card would like to point at a specific person and say 'You, why don't go investigate this?', that might be a more realisitic approach. But wailing about 'the media' doesn't just devalue individuals, it also reflects badly on Mr. Card.

Why? Because the moment we start pointing fingers at someone else, we inheritly try to absolve ourselves of some blame. This world we live in is Everyone's responsiblity. Instead of pointing fingers at others, we should be spending more time figuring out what more we could be doing.

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that if we all just hold hands and wish the world were a better place, then squirrels and song birds would come running and join us in a song while cherry blossoms fall from the sky.

What I do believe in is concrete action. An example, you say? Why certainly! Mr. Card is an author and a columnist. The title of his article was "Will the Last Real Journalist Please Turn the Lights On". Mr. Card needs to realize that rather than pointing fingers, his energy is much better spent 'turning the lights on' himself. Why doesn't Mr. Card go do an investigative jouranalism piece? He's intelligent, articulate, well-respected, and has the resources to put together an actual substantial piece of journalism. Instead, his article is full of fury and accusation, none of it backed up with sources which, for all of it's clarity and wordsmithing, still reduces it back to being a component of the tail-chasing mindset.

There's plenty of blame to go around, for everything, all the time. We are all angels and we're all devils. We need to spend less time blaming, and more time doing. The only finger pointing that should be going on is when we stand in front of a mirror.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Those Who Know Better

"Actually, there are two kinds of people: Those who believe there are two kinds of people, and those that know better." ~ Tom Robbins

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What's an insurgent?

Before I get into this, let's have some full disclosure: I'm an American citizen who served in the United States Navy. During part of my enlistment, I was involved in Operation Desert Shield. I've never seen combat, never shot at a human being, never killed anyone, and never seen an insurgent in the context it is used in relation to the U.S. governments' war on terrorism. defines an insurgent as:
"a person who rises in forcible opposition to lawful authority, esp. a person who engages in armed resistance to a government or to the execution of its laws; rebel."

Prior to the Iraq war, I'd heard all kinds of names for the enemies of America, those immoral, undemocratic heathen monsters who would oppress those around them in the name of...well, something un-American. The United States has fought "slant eyed, yellow imperialists", "fascist krauts", "gooks", "ragheads", and of course the more civilized versions, "enemy combatants", "rebels", "opposition forces" and our favorite these days, "insurgents".

But who are these insurgents? Why are they fighting us? Why is it good when we kill them? These questions are inextricably intertwined and all vitally important to get answers to if we are going to condone sending American citizens off to die in our names.

We generally put the people in Iraq into one of three categories: Us (U.S. soldiers and citizens), Iraqis (the people we've liberated), and insurgents (people who want to kill people from the first two categories).

So who are these insurgents? Where do they come from? Certainly, some come from other countries, their radical beliefs dictating that they travel abroad and interfere with other countries political destinies in the name of their own religious and moral fervor. But most of the insurgents we kill are Iraqis(the people from category 2).

Yes, that's the ugly truth. We're killing the people we've liberated. The United States doctrine can be summed up as "accept the democracy we've forced on you, or we'll kill you". Of course that's an over simplification. But the truth still stands: When a U.S. soldier kills an insurgent, it's most likely an Iraqi that doesn't want us there.

I can't speak to the motivations of 'insurgents' or 'terrorists' who want to shoot at things or blow things up. I'd be willing to be that if you tried to pin them down on it, very few would have cohesive, rational explanations for it. (There's a great article here on the psychology of terrorism here.) By the same token, however, I'd be willing to guess that there are few Iraqis who have ever gotten up one morning and said, "That does it, I'm going to become an insurgent!" It's silly.

Imagine deciding you'd had enough of the Iraqi military standing on your street corner, and knowing that the Bush administration was one more or less set up by Malaki, you decided to rise up and restore your country to it's former glory. Would you call yourself an insurgent? Patriot maybe, although there's an entirely separate post on that word. Rebel? Angry Citizen? Probably, you'd call yourself an American. And that's what you'd be. Disagreeing with your government, even to the point of violence, does not change your nationality.

Words are powerful. Too often we let the government and the media (and pundits, and bloggers, and advertisers and spouses....) push phrases and concepts into our heads that have less than clear meanings. We have to step back from the hype, from the emotion, and examine what's being said. Every message we get, comes from someone else. It's a guarantee that that message had to be filtered through someone with an agenda. They've chosen their words carefully to exact a specific response from you.

The word insurgent has a purpose. It helps us delineate whether we've killed an Iraqi (or 'other non-American) who doesn't like the U.S. and our agenda, and one who does. We need to remember that. We need to remember that while most terrorists are very disturbed, dangerous people, it's the first phrase in the definition of an insurgent that is paramount above all else: "A person". The rest is all perspective.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Start

Cloquet hated reality but realized it was still the only place to get a good steak. ~Woody Allen