Justice that arrives like a thunderbolt

Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Those seemingly delightful lyrics are from the song “Accidental Racist,” by Brad Paisley and sung by him and LL Cool J. The song often refers to how white people from the south and black people from the north maybe just can’t understand each other, and maybe they’re being a little too sensitive about things, and maybe they should just have a beer together. It’s a really dreadful song and you probably shouldn’t listen to it.

A couple weekends ago, a white 20-year-old wearing patches representing pro-apartheid African nations, and who has been pictured waving a Confederate battle flag and burning a United States flag, and who — according to his roommate — had often spoke of killing some black people and starting a new civil war, went into an historic black civil war-era church in Charleston, South Carolina, sat around for a while while the pastor led his congregation in prayer, and then pulled out a gun and opened fire. The death toll, before he fled the scene only to be captured in North Carolina the next day, was nine.

Based solely on the evidence I listed above (confederate flag, anti-apartheid, yearning for another civil war, historic black place of worship) a lot of people labeled this pretty much immediately as a hate crime. Others claim it’s an act of terrorism, and I tend to agree with both. His intent was very clearly racially motivated, and going by the FBI’s official definition I think it’s clear to say this was an act of terrorism as well. The oddest thing, however, is when you switch your television station over to Fox News, you’ll hear they have taken a different approach to the situation. Obviously this wasn’t a racist hate crime, but an attack on Christianity! Because in Foxnewsland, the spin they put on any story has to make it seem like they, the Christian Right, are the ones being attacked. So far as I can tell, no indication of Roof’s religion has been made.

Anyway, this whole shooting debacle led very briefly to a discussion on gun laws and a lot of old internet memes popped back up for about three days, but that was all swept aside to make room for this week’s new topic of debate, and the real culprit here: racism.

And you know, I sort of agree. I’m no fan of guns. We need stricter gun regulations. We need to make it more difficult for all people to obtain guns. But it’s also important to determine motive and then see if there are ways to quell motivation — in this case, racism — that may lead to heinous acts like shootings that kill nine people. So our first course of action has been, for the first time in 150 years, to villainize the confederate battle flag (CBF). The day after Roof’s killing spree, the CBF was still flying on South Carolina capitol grounds. It still exists as part of the design on several state flags, as well. So obviously we have to have that flag removed.

But why a flag? It’s just a flag! It’s more than a flag, people. It’s a symbol. A symbol flown by supporters of a war 150 years old that was lost to the Union. A symbol of traitorous southerners who thought it was their god-given right to keep slaves. Yeah, technically people have the freedom to fly their CBFs or their Nazi Germany swastikas, but does that mean they necessarily ought to? Furthermore, does it mean they reserve the right to do so free of consequence? Freedom of speech and expression does not grant you immunity to criticism. As a person with German ancestry, I don’t feel it’s necessary for me to fly a swastika to honor my ancestors.

“Southern pride” rednecks can hang the flag from their trailers and lean-tos and claim their ancestors who fought and died for the Confederacy deserve respect, but I refuse to mourn for or respect separatists who, had they had their way, would have maintained their right to oppress a race of people and buy/sell them and force them into servitude.

Hell, the presence of the CBF or its likeness in the form of stickers on the bumpers of Ford trucks as old and rusty as their owners or patches on overalls serves to warn me in advance who the racists are who can’t let go of the past and their ancestors’ failings in the name of heritage, or some other hokey backwoods jargon that secretly stands for “Hey, we tried to [3/5ths] compromise!”

But that flag has no place whatsoever on public or government property. When it exists next to a United States flag, or a state flag, or especially AS a state flag, it gives the Dylann Roofs of the world a symbol to fight or kill for. It perpetuates — and even worse, institutionalizes — racism.

As of this writing, several states have removed the CBFs from their capitol grounds. Several retailers — even huge retailers like Wal-Mart, Amazon, and eBay — have stopped selling CBF merchandise. I don’t think that was a necessary step, but I support their right to sell or not sell what they please. Even video game publishers of historic games are talking about stopping sales of games featuring a CBF. It is absolutely huge that this is in national discussion right now. There are the people who think the flag belongs in a museum, since it certainly has a history within the United States, and then there are the people who refuse to take it down because their “southern pride” is more important to them than supporting their fellow Americans. When all is said and done, the racists will stick out like sore thumbs and we’ll all be better off knowing who to stay away from.

WHICH BRINGS ME TO TODAY’S BIG NEWS

I awoke this morning and turned on the news, like I do, and I picked up my Android phone and started scrolling through Facebook to see what I had missed during my slumber. As it turns out, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a vote of 5-4, overturned states’ rights to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

This is an extraordinary time to be alive right now, knowing that not only is history being made, but that I’m on the right side of it and have been since I was old enough to understand that boys are allowed to love boys too.

The second thing I did this morning, after I had scrolled a bit through Facebook, was to start perusing the comments sections under the posts made by local news organizations. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you really want to know the state of things in our country, don’t watch TV, don’t read a newspaper; all you have to do is read the comments sections under local news articles. Because this is your home; these are the people who surround you. Many of them are kind-hearted, reasonable people whose love for life extends to their friends and neighbors and doesn’t just stop outside their own personal egobubble.

But then there are the rabid, hateful, obscene people who want everyone to know how much love they have for family values and Jesus and oh god won’t somebody think of the children! It is to those people whom I address in the remainder of today’s post. Those Christians who assume this progressive country abides by the laws in their millennia-old book.

Your silly book of fairy tales with its laws against shaving your beard and laws against women taking on roles as educators and laws proclaiming bats are birds and stories about talking donkeys and people being turned into pillars of salt and daughters raping their drunken father and god destroying everything a man loves and lives for all because of a silly bet…

That’s not the book from which our normal-people laws are derived. Hell isn’t real, heaven isn’t real, talking serpents and donkeys aren’t real, dragons and unicorns and behemoths and leviathans aren’t real… so do kindly shut the fuck up and refrain from passing judgment on anybody – ANYBODY – seeking happiness and inclusiveness and equality. Because if what they’re doing shakes the very foundation of your fundamental beliefs, then it’s your fundamentals which need to be checked, NOT theirs.

If I learned anything from the Bible, and I have read it cover to cover, it’s that lesson from very early on in the book about the big important guy getting all in a kerfuffle because his two subservient playthings decided to seek knowledge: the ultimate gift.

Too bad satan’s not real, otherwise I’d praise him for setting us free from the Christian god’s shackles.

Equality wins, boys and girls, friends and family. And of you still huffing and puffing about hell or about how icky it is that some people actually had to fight and live through the ridicule and the pain and the insults just to hear their country say “okay, you’re allowed to love each other now,” you huffers and puffers are a dying breed.

This is an incredible time to be alive in the United States. I’m watching history being made. I’m watching my friends finally be recognized as actual people. I get to see my friends rejoice in who they are and know that finally, America is on their side.

If there was a god, I wouldn’t offer cries of “god bless” or “god is great” or any sort of fealty. Not after seeing how his/her/its followers and so-called disciples spit venom and hatred and condemnation toward anybody a little bit different than themselves. Anybody with a different skin color, or anybody with a different sexual preference or identity. No, god deserves no love, no praise, no thanks. It’s the fast-growing majority of progressive, forward-thinking Americans who are to thank for helping bring this country that much closer to universal equality.

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Same-sex marriage

The current hot topic is same-sex marriage. As I said in my last post, President Barack Obama “came out” in support of marriage rights and equality for same-sex couples. After listening to a radio broadcast this afternoon in which both hosts were in favor of same-sex marriage, I got to thinking about what arguments were commonly used in defense of restricting marriage to only be between one man and one woman, and I decided to take a shot at knocking every one of them down.

So here are the most common arguments I’ve heard against same-sex marriage:

Bible says it’s wrong.
Okay, that’s cool and all that you respect the word of your religious texts, and I won’t ask you to change that stance. However, our country is not founded on the practice of any particular religion, nor do we have a national religion. If either of those were true, it might be reasonable to think our laws should be based on Biblical laws. This is not the case, though. Instead of putting laws in place because a certain religion says we should, we put laws in place which help protect our rights and provide us with safety. Also, the Bible says not to get tattoos, trim your beard, or wear polyester. I’m just sayin’.

Well, it’s still a religous institution.
Not really. Marriage is a legal issue. It determines who owns the claim to another person’s property should that person die. It determines who can be included in an insurance plan, who has visitation rights in a hospital or jail, as well as other government, employment, and medical benefits. If marriage was strictly a religious practice, marriages between atheists wouldn’t be recognized by the government. If marriage were a religious issue, which religion? Yours? Should people of a different religion than yours be allowed to marry?

Reader comment: “If the church doesn’t want to marry gay couples, they don’t have to. Gay couples could still be legally married (just like many straight couples) outside of a church.” – Sarah C.

Sanctity of marriage
First, what does that even mean? Who determines the sanctity of marriage? If we are concerned with the sanctity of marriage being infringed upon, why is divorce legal? The divorce rate in the United States is somewhere around fifty percent. In other words, half of the people pledging themselves to love one another for the rest of their lives are changing their minds and calling it quits. That doesn’t seem like a very sacred institution.

Tradition
Traditionally, fathers sold their daughters to the highest bidder; whomever could offer the best dowry. Traditionally, white men could not marry black women (and vice-versa). Traditionally, American laws have been changed in light of our ever-evolving social acceptance of minority groups.

Procreation
There are people who will argue that the reason marriage should be restricted to being between a man and a woman is because only a man and a woman together can reproduce. If this were a legitimate argument, one would assume these same people would be opposed to letting infertile or elderly couples marry, nor would they allow marriage between two people who simply don’t wish to have children.

Reader comment: “Last I checked, people can procreate without being married. Do people think gay couples getting married is somehow going to change the birth rate? It might change the number of orphans and foster homes.” – Sarah C.

Slippery Slope
“Marriage is the legal binding of two consenting adults.” There, now we don’t have to worry about children, animals, or inanimate objects being married.

Okay, fine, but call it something else!
Why? If it looks like marriage, smells like marriage, acts like marriage, and tastes like marriage, it’s marriage.

Morally wrong
Who says? You? Does everybody share the same moral view as you? Should every one of our laws be based on what you, personally, find to be morally objectional? Would that be a reasonable way to determine the law for an entire country? If somebody other than you decided every law should be based on their opinion, would you agree with them?

Reader comment: “The simple fact that it wouldn’t harm anyone if your gay neighbors were married instead of just living together. People would go about the same lives with their same personal moral codes, except with marriage they’d be able to visit their sick spouse in the hospital.” – Sarah C.

Sure, what I’m proposing may seem like I think laws should be based on my opinion, but that’s only because my opinion is that none of a country’s citizens should be discriminated against. Unfortunately, I will still be accused of being “intolerant of intolerance” or “discriminating against discrimination.” Y’know what? I’m okay with that. If you can’t tell the difference, shame on you.

Freedom to Marry

Freedom to Marry

Image via Wikipedia

For a long time I’ve been an avid supporter of the Human Rights Campaign and the fight to grant equal rights to the LGBT community. Just the other day I learned my friends at LUSH Cosmetics have partnered with the Freedom to Marry campaign to encourage the US Government to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would effectively undo the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies LGBT couples the right to marry.

Along with the right to marry, there are 1,138 rights straight couples have, but which are denied to the LGBT community. Let me say it again in italics: that’s one thousand, one hundred thirty-eight rights that straight couples are allowed but gay couples are not. Here’s a .pdf file that outlines all one thousand, one hundred thirty-eight rights the gay community is denied.

Please take forty seconds of your time today to sign LUSH’s Freedom to Marry petition and pledge your support to the campaign. If you have an extra minute, I encourage you to make a donation to Freedom to Marry.

To visit the Freedom to Marry website, please click here.
To visit LUSH Cosmetics, click here.