Friday, June 27, 2014

All Men Are Created Equal.....


Wow, who would have thunk that my state of Indiana, my backward crimson red state, would ever have allowed gay marriage? I would have assumed we'd be one of the very last to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century!

Of course, our controlling Republican legislature didn't do it of their own free will. It took the actions of federal judge, Richard Young, to rule that our ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional (which incidentally is the same decision of every judge who has heard these suits across the country). And, of course, our attorney general is going to appeal the decision, and hoping for a stay while that process is going on.

But in the meantime, gay couples are filling the county clerks' offices in Indiana. And the majority of counties are performing same-sex marriages. These couples could find themselves in a legal limbo if the attorney general wins his appeal but bless those who are plowing forward - the more weddings that are performed, the harder it will be to regress. Even if it happens, I can just about guarantee that the governing powers will only win temporarily. They are on the wrong side of history and the culture so it is only a matter of time.

Because marriage is a civil right. The United States Declaration of Independence states as follows:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.  
I don't know a better definition of the Pursuit of Happiness than being able to declare your love for another through the sanctity of marriage.

And it's not like many straight couples aren't exactly role models for that sanctity, honoring it mostly in the breach, as they cheat and beat their spouses and get divorced as easily as going through a revolving door. So maybe it is a question of glass houses......

I've read many articles and blog posts about how fundamentalists believe they have copyrighted marriage and only they have the right to use the term or define who may or may not have their couplings blessed by God. That's fine. They have the right to believe whatever they choose but they do not have the right to force others to live by those beliefs.

In fact, the first recorded evidence of marriage occurred 4,000 years ago in Egypt. Back then, marriages were mostly done for the consolidation of power and wealth as high-ups married their daughters off to the sons of other prominent and affluent families.

Male bonding ceremonies used to be common, particularly in the Mediterranean areas. They included marriage prayers, holding hands at the altar and ended with a ceremonial kiss.

Religion didn't really enter in to marriage much until the collapse of the Roman Empire when church ceremonies took over for civil courts. As the Church grew more powerful in the Middle Ages, it claimed marriage for its very own.

In early America, marriages were extremely lop-sided. Men were the masters while women were considered property. Weddings were less about love and more about financial negotiations. (This is still true, of course, in many parts of the world). As women began fighting for equal rights, marriages eventually became the pairing of equals.

So conservative Christians don't "own" the concept of marriage. They can refuse to bless gay marriage. Their own churches can refuse to perform them but they can't mandate that other churches follow their lead. They are going to lose in the end as younger Americans....and even many of us old ones....don't see the big deal.

The future is here in Indiana. There may be some bumps in the road but they will only be temporary setbacks and to that I say, "yes, ALL men are created equal"!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Peace, Please


I don't care. I don't care about Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or Iran or Saudi Arabia or Libya. I don't care what kind of government they have. I don't care if they go to war with one another. I don't care how many of each other they kill.

Of course, that isn't exactly true. If there was something we could do to make a real impact, I might be in favor of doing it, but I don't think there is such a thing. And I don't think they appreciate our interference, just as we wouldn't appreciate it if one or more of those countries came over here and said our own philosophical division was getting entirely too hate-filled and threatened to bomb us if we didn't get it together.

Religion has been a catalyst for wars since mankind has existed. Even when we find a wise man who preaches that violence isn't the way, and proves it, be it Jesus or Mohammed or Buddha or Gandhi or Martin Luther King, we find torturous ways to explain why they didn't really mean it..but yes, actually, I think they did. We find the Muslims more...what?...barbaric in their sectarian hate but don't forget, until recently Protestants and Catholics were blowing each other up in Ireland....good old western European white people were just as eager to send their kids out to die in the name of religion as Muslims.

I can only think of a couple reasons to go to war. One is in self-defense, of course. And I mean, self-defense in the most elemental terms not the perversely twisted definitions of the term from those who want us back in the Middle East. Did Afghanistan meet the criteria for self-defense? Yes, in the beginning when were after bin Laden and Al Qaeda, but not later, when we stayed on and on for reasons no one seemed to be able to explain.

The second legitimate rationale for war is defense of our most strategic and trusted allies. Thus, we were justified to go into World War II. We had to help save Britain and France. We may have to go to war someday for Israel's sake, although Israel has done everything it can possibly do to ensure that they can take care of themselves. Do you think Israel's troops would shed their uniforms and run in the event of an attack as the Iraqi Army did? No, I don't think so either.

What about Vietnam? Could we articulate why we thought it was necessary to see 58,000 of our young men slaughtered in South East Asia? No way! Korea, despite a somewhat better outcome than Vietnam, I say no.

Some people will ask, "well, what about defending the world's precious oil supply?" and I say it would be a good thing in the long run if that supply became expensive and unstable. It is probably the only way, we will face the fossil fuel crisis head on. I have enough faith in America to think if the chips are down, our scientists and technologists and engineers, who are the world's best, would work day and night to replace oil with renewable resources. We are starting to do that now. Some countries, such as Germany, are already well on their way to having achieved that goal. How often have we intervened in Africa compared to the Middle East although there are just as many vicious dictators and hungry refugees and children dead of brutality or disease as there are in Iraq and Syria? Why do we care so much more about one part of the world than another? The answer is oil, of course. The sooner we are independent of the Middle East for our energy, the better.

Religious differences are even at the heart of our own growing mistrust and loathing of one another here in America. Muslim fear is at the heart of the whole plethora of "Obama wasn't born here; he isn't a Christian; he's a secret Muslim mole who wants to destroy America and you're a traitor if you support him" lunatic conspiracy theories. It's strange how hate works like that.

So I say, let the Middle East figure out it's own fate. When the dust settles, we can try to initiate diplomatic relations with the winners....or not.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

No! No! A Thousand Times No!


I have this unbelievable sense of deja vu when I surf the news channels and see many of the same people who sold us the Iraq war pushing for us to jump back in. They are interviewed by the talking heads just as if they had even a freaking ounce of credibility after getting it so wrong the first time.

Cheney, Wolfowitz, Pollack, Bolton, McCain. Remember how they told us Iraq would be a cake walk and they figured it would be over in days or weeks but that it certainly wouldn't take months, oh, no. How about fucking YEARS, guys?

Remember how they told us that it wouldn't cost us much at all because Iraq's own oil profits would pay for the war and their reconstruction. In the end, the price added up to trillions. 

Remember how they told us that the Iraqis would greet us as liberators and they'd be so happy for their freedom that, after centuries of hate, the Sunnis and Shia would hold hands and sing kumbaya together? Instead, al-Maliki, the leader that we installed, embarked on a government of paybacks that shut the Sunnis out despite America's pleas for unity. (Hell, we can't even manage that for ourselves!)

Remember how they told us about Iraq's non-existent yellow cake uranium and non-existent aluminum tubes, getting up on television and lying through their teeth?

Did they not notice that the Middle East is constantly balanced on a powder keg, liable to go off at any time? Before our ill-fated entry into Iraq, Saddam Hussein (Sunni) and the mullahs of Iran (Shia) kept each other in a rough kind of check along with other countries that sided with one or the other. The Iraq War upset that balance of power.  Now it seems to be civil war in almost every country.

Remember how they told us Iraq was a threat to our security because Saddam Hussein was allied with Al Qaeda - another bald-faced lie? So, were there more radical Muslims who hate us then or now?

Remember how they forgot to mention that part of the price of this war wouldn't be in money but in the blood of our children. over 4,000 killed and tens of thousands injured. And for what? Someone who believed in the war just tell me - for what? What did we gain in return for that terrible cost?

And yet, here they are again, making their rounds of the Sunday talk shows, telling us how it is all Obama's fault. Everything in Iraq was hunky-dory under their watch, don't you know? And in the height of egregious self-righteousness, they talk with straight faces as if they actually believe what they are saying. And the hosts listen to them with straight faces, as if they hadn't tarnished their own reputations so badly, they should never be allowed in front of a television camera again. And that goes for the listeners as well as the talkers. Wasn't there a famous saying, "fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again"?
Oh, wait.....

Some conservatives don't seem to understand that the Bush Administration negotiated the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement that mandated that all our troops would be out of Iraq by December 31/2011. That's what Iraq wanted. President Obama actually offered to extend that timeline, provided al-Maliki would make some effort to establish a more inclusive government. He refused and we completed the withdrawal of our troops by December 16, 2011.

So, now, of course, this new group, ISIS, even more radical than al Qaeda if you can imagine that, has sprung up, determined to seek revenge for the Sunnis against both Iraq's government and Shiite population   as well as America. On the other side are Iran and the Assad regime in Syria, both of whom we have declared our sworn enemies, but those would be our allies if we go back to Iraq. What a kettle of strange fish that is, huh?

I say no, absolutely not! We gave them 9 years and thousands of American lives and trillions of American dollars. That's enough. If the Rumsfelds and Pollacks and Cheney's and Wolfowitz' and Boltons are so anxious to get back in a war, let them enlist an army of America militia who seem so anxious to show off their AK 47s. You guys take this one on without the rest of us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sorry, Mr Martinez, There's Been One More

Parents wait outside Reynolds High School following a reported shooting June 10, 2014. (KOIN 6)

These things happen so frequently these days, it is difficult to keep up. This is the latest as far as I know. These parents are waiting to receive word about their children after a shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon. It has been reported that one teacher was wounded and the shooter is dead but details are still sketchy as to exactly what took place.

* Update - one student and shooter (also a student) dead.

Evidently, this is the new normal for the U.S. Cops getting shot while peacefully eating their lunch in a pizza parlor. Kids getting shot while attending school. Wives getting shot by husbands....or sometimes, vice versa. Black teenagers getting shot while walking home. Intimidated diners having their dinners interrupted by swaggering jokers carrying assault rifles....just because they can. An attempted assault on the Forsyth County, Georgia courthouse by a right-wing nut armed with "an assault rifle, smoke grenades, stun grenades, multiple explosives, and lots of ammunition."

This year, Georgia passed a "guns anywhere" law that allows its citizens to carry openly in churches, schools and bars. 

In 2006, Indiana passed a law outlining when people may shoot police officers if they believe the cop is acting "unlawfully". It is sort of a stand-your-ground law designed specially for the police. "Hey, I thought he was acting unlawfully!"

Ironically, Jerad and Amanda Miller, the Las Vegas cop shooters, were from Indiana and loved that law. 

I guess all these bodies - our children, our law enforcement officers and others - well, I guess they are just the collateral damage we have to tolerate in return for our Second Amendment rights. 

Richard Martinez, whose son was recently shot to death, has tried to start a rallying cry  - "not one more". But now there has been one more....and there will always be one more....or five more....or 22 more. Unless we decide we care enough to do something about it.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What Have We Become?


I swear, I think I may have to back off politics for a while and take a mental health break. Over the last many years, I have been angry, frustrated, despairing, stunned, confused, discouraged....pick a some of the beliefs and actions of my fellow citizens but I don't think I have ever been as disgusted as I am right now.

Google "images" for Bowe Bergdahl" prior to his release and you'll see photos by groups, many of them military (yes, military!) with captions like "Bring Bowe Home" and "Don't forget Bowe" and "No Soldier Left Behind" And it wasn't as if they weren't aware that there were questions about his leaving his post because that was known even then. Still, the prevailing attitude seemed to be that in America, we bring ALL our soldiers back with no limiting conditions. And it isn't just an attitude, it's the LAW and part of the military code that is as old as the U.S. itself.

So, when Bowe was released, I was expecting "Hurrahs!" but nope, the Conservatives changed on a dime, which it is what they always do when it involves President Obama. Their default position is - "Obama = BAD!" no matter the issue.

Suddenly, Bowe Bergdahl became a piece of garbage who deserved nothing better than being left to rot in a Taliban camp. But what about a trial, some of us asked, what about an investigation and an opportunity to tell his story and mount a defense? You know, all those things Americans are guaranteed in the constitution? Screw that! "We doan' need no steenkin' trial and defense!" The feeding frenzy that has gone on regarding this man makes you think, the conservatives would tear him limb by limb and feed on his flesh if they caught him. It makes me sick.

When some of us asked for patience - "let's get him home and wait for an investigation to see what should happen next, then if it is found he should be be brought up on charges, so be it." But, hell, that's no fun. Some of the hate might die down by then. We're ready to crucify him RIGHT NOW!

And the Taliban leaders we released in exchange? That was terrible and wrong too, of course. Never mind the hundreds that George Bush let go. Heck, they weren't really bad guys. We were just keeping them in Guantanamo for shits and giggles, they didn't really need to be there. Not like the men Obama released.

And never mind that the Obama Five weren't classified as terrorists in the accepted sense of the word. They weren't out to get Americans in general. They were fighting us because they wanted us out of their country, just as they had done with the Russians before us. And never mind, that as such, we would have to release them BY LAW when the war is over, which it soon will be.

All this is down to 911 when our whole American mindset changed from the land of the free and the home of the brave to the land of the surveilled and the home of the afraid. So fearful, in fact, that we've been willing to give up every principle America ever stood for. Torture? Hey, gotta' do it to keep us safe? Extreme rendition? Hey gotta' do it to keep us safe. Take my shampoo and my shoes at airports. I'm good with stay safe. Monitor my phone calls and e-mails? Anything in the name of safety! We used to like to think we were the country everyone else looked at to be just and honest and fair (although we didn't always live up to that) but  but we had to give that up to be safe...sigh. The Geneva Accords (which we helped write), that banned torture, habeas corpus, the right to face your accuser. Those were luxuries we couldn't afford anymore. We were all about Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and Jack Bauer. It was nice knowing you honorable America but you were naive.

Because you never know where a terrorist might be lurking although the odds of being killed by one for the average American is probably one in a kazillion. You're much more likely to be shot with your neighbor's or your husband's or a random shooter's gun. (But don't think about that because, you know, the Second Amendment.)

So, the object of our fear now are 1) poor Bowe Bergdahl, who may have suffered a nervous collapse. Instead of committing suicide as many do, he simply walked away. But we don't want to know his story. He should have to pay for his actions, and perhaps, if it comes to that, he should be sent to an American prison but the cost shouldn't be spending the rest of his life as a prisoner of the Taliban.

And 2), the Obama Five, who will mostly likely have an American intelligence drone targeting them for the rest of their lives because you are foolish, if you are under the illusion that we simply set these men free to do as they please.

Anyway, this whole situation has nauseated me for my country. Maybe I'll just go concentrated on precious puppies and clever cats and beautiful birds for a while.