Posts Tagged 'Proposition 8'

Is that Lou on the Bench?

I nearly fell out of my chair.

Browsing through the NY Times yesterday I stumbled across a link that promised to regale me with a dissertation about Antonin Scalia’s attitude toward gay marriage. Expecting some humorous reading on an otherwise dull day, I clicked on it and was presented with a photo that purported to be the renowned Supreme Court Justice standing at a lectern.

Scalia at lectern

But, instead, there before me was Lou Costello. Lou, the master of buffoonery. The guy whose “Who’s on First” routine caused all of us to stumble as we vainly tried to repeat that classic baseball conversation between Lou and his pal, Bud Abbott.

Checking my calendar, I confirmed that it was about a week too early to be an April Fool’s joke. Was it possible that the NY Times had made an error? Could the world’s greatest newspaper have published the wrong image?

And then I thought…what difference does it make? Those two clowns are interchangeable. Except that Lou doesn’t have a seat on the Supreme Court.

There’s little doubt about the way Antonin swings on the subject of gay rights. In his 2003 dissent from the Court’s overturning of Texas sodomy laws he said… Americans have every right to enforce “the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct” in order to protect “themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.” On this first day of Passover, I’m sure that had he been serving in Pharaoh’s court he would have condoned the enslavement of the Jews as being a lifestyle appropriate for both the Egyptians and those who they had enslaved.

Similarly, last month he voiced his displeasure with the Voting Rights Act. Specifically, he dismissed the entire document as a perpetuation of racial entitlement. I doubt that neither Daniel Day Lewis nor Abraham Lincoln would have been shocked by his astounding repudiation of the thirteenth amendment.

But I shouldn’t selectively pick on Justice Scalia. At today’s first day of arguments centered on the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, Justice Alito had this to offer…You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cell phones or the Internet?

Justice Kennedy echoed these thoughts by expressing concern for the unknown impact of allowing same-sex marriage…We have five years of information to weigh against 2,000 years of history or more. There’s no point in rushing things, unless you are the discriminatee, not the discriminator.

Although Justice Thomas held firmly onto his avowed promise never to speak from the bench, I wonder what went through his mind when he thought about his wife, Virginia. A former aide to Dick Armey, a founder of Liberty Central, an advocacy group associated with the Tea Party, and coincidentally a white female. It was 1967 and Clarence was nineteen when the Supremes overturned state laws forbidding interracial marriage.

Perhaps gays and lesbians have not waited long enough. Perhaps they should retreat to public restrooms, back alleys and other clandestine hideaways. Perhaps they should wait while we further analyze the impact of letting two people who love each other do the same thing that other lovers do.

We’d be better off if Lou were on the bench.

Xenophobia

When I was a bit younger we would read a portion of our prayer book that highlights a slug of things for which we asked forgiveness.  One no-no had something to do with xenophobia.  Since I was not as smart as my buddy Russell Klem and had not, like him, read the dictionary cover-to-cover during my summer vacation, xenophobia was not at the top of my most-used-words list.

Every time I saw the prayer and stumbled over the word, I had visions of people with a  horrible disease like leprosy.  Charlton Heston’s mother and sister in Ben Hur floated through my head and I assumed that I was to feel ashamed for avoiding people like that.  I usually promised myself that I would look for some lepers in the coming year and share good times with them.

Only later did I find the true meaning of xenophobia and found that there were lots of people that the word applied to.  From my perspective, black people, people who wore funny hats, spoke a different language or ate without switching their fork and knife after every bite fell into the fear category that xenophobia encompassed.  Even Republicans.  I have since tried to shed those people from my irrational behavior, but a few still pop into my head from time to time.

But I’m an amateur xenophobe in comparison to some other people.  It appears that the fear of those unlike ourselves has been taken to a new level.  People who think Muslims shouldn’t be able to build a house of worship two blocks from ground zero.  Folks who think gays and lesbians are second (or worse) class citizens not deserving of the right to be miserable in marriage.  And those who think we should amend the Constitution to cleanse the country of those who were born here without reminding their folks to get their citizenship papers before jumping into the hay.

Now you would think that different xenophobes would focus on particular categories of folks who don’t deserve to be treated like us.  For example, specialists in Muslim xenophobia would be different from folks who specialize in gay/lesbian xenophobia.  If that were the case, it would be very difficult to identify the true xenophobe.  He or she couldn’t always be relied on to demonstrate that irrational fear.

But god works in wondrous ways.  She, in her infinite wisdom, made xenophobes generalists.  No trouble identifying one.  They can always be relied upon to rant, mis-state facts, threaten, and occasionally pass laws that single out those different from them.  They occasionally wear ID cards, carry placards and appear on certain networks proudly strutting their xenophobic tendencies.  Thank you, god.

I was particularly impressed today with Jay Ambrose’s column  in the Ventura Star.  Jay reviewed Judge Vaughn Walker’s overturning of Prop 8.  A lot of nerve acting like a king, Jay said, overruling the will of the people.  After all, 52% of Californians had passed a law that returned homosexuals to second class status.  That should be enough reason to leave things be.  Jay went on to say that gays and lesbians had enough rights already.  They could pretend to be married and get most, but not all, the same entitlements as real married folk.  They were not being treated unfairly, just differently. There is no inequality here, and to assert the opposite is equivalent to saying it’s discrimination to deny Social Security to young, able-bodied working people. Or to deny food stamps to the rich. Or to tell octogenarian men they cannot join the Boy Scouts.

Separate and unequal is the watchword of their faith.  Even the Boy Scouts don’t offer a merit badge for that.

Undecided

Sweetie and I decided to drive to Oxnard yesterday to visit Costco.  For you guys in Ojai, yes, I’m a traitor for shopping anywhere but here.  OK, now that I’ve admitted my errant ways, let’s move on.

As usual, Sweetie looked at me when I suggested Costco and said “Huh, what do we need?”  I responded “Who cares, let’s just go.”  We usually visit our money at Costco in the mornings.  It was already 2pm.  But I needed a break from blogs, election news, and the maniacal stock market.  See, our trips to Costco are generally classified as social events, full of great adventure.  Including bone-headed drivers, competition for parking spaces, being run down by errant shopping carts, grazing the food kiosks, and jockeying for position at the checkout stands.  I usually pick the wrong one, just like you.

As we drove down Highway 33 I became increasingly aware of the proliferation of “Yes on Prop 8” signs.  You know, the “Let’s Discriminate Against Gays” ballot proposition.  They seemed to be increasing at an exponential rate.  Not only were they in front of churches and homes.  Now they were sprouting up in public places, along the highway and up on hills.  I visualized masked marauders driving up in the dark of night and sticking them where they should not be stuck.

Arriving at Costco, I scanned the hundreds of faces in my midst.  Was she one of the marauders?  Was he the guy who planted the sign on the public right of way?  Those two look like Prop 8 supporters…not to mention big fans of the Old Guy and the Snow Queen.  I was surrounded.

We drove home, picked up the mail, skirted around Ron’s dog in the middle of the driveway, and unloaded the spoils of our trip.  After I stowed the grocery wagon, I picked up the Ojai Valley News and scanned through it.  I always skim Dan Nelson’s religion column to see what I disagree with.  Pastor Dan reported the defacement of “Yes on 8” signs and threats made against those who support it.  He said that we should respect the rights of those who may disagree with us.  He expressed the need for tolerance.  I wondered if he was a marauder.

I checked my e-mail.  A note from Mark in response to yesterday’s blog said he hadn’t decided how he would vote on 8.  Then I called Paul to check in.  After the usual chit-chat, we launched into the election.  “I’m going to vote no on 8 but I still wonder why we can’t just leave well enough alone.  After all, they’ve got all the rights that we do.”

“Really” I said.  Just like black folks did in the public school system.  Separate but equal.

 

A Difference of Opinion

Since we last talked about signs I’ve been doing a comprehensive study of them.  I get a lot of time to do that while shlepping the old folks around on the bus.

For example, I’ve noticed that colors seem to denote a difference in character.  Brighter colors are associated with brighter candidates…like the Muslim Guy.  Duller colors seem to be associated with…well, duller candidates like the Snow Queen and the Old Guy.  Size seems to be a factor too.  Smaller signs seem to go hand in hand with simple requests…like vote for me because I’m best suited for the job.  Larger signs are a bit intimidating…like vote for me or you’ll go to hell.

I’ve also determined that certain signs seem to go together.  Obama/Biden signs and No on Prop 8 signs, the gay marriage travesty, share space on the lawn.  Yes on Prop 8  signs always go hand in hand with McCain/Palin placards…a sure sign that the Old Guy and the Snow Queen are far from being uniters.

Opposing signs seem to be dueling with each other as I drive the bus down the street.  Yes on the left, No on the right…hmmm.

Another duel of sorts took place in the Ventura County Star yesterday.  Prominently displayed in the opinion pages were two opposing pieces about Prop 8.  Rabbi John Sherwood , Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Emet, Woodland Hills, California took the No on 8 position.  Gerald Christian Nordskog, chairman of the Ventura County Christian Leadership Council, tried to convince me to vote Yes and keep those homosexuals in the second class citizen status they deserve.

Rabbi Sherwood, wearing the bright colors, simply asked for someone to explain why granting the right of marriage to gays threatens his own marriage.  He strongly supports the opinions of colleagues who disagree with him on moral issues, but…when arguments for this attempt to take away the civil rights of literally hundreds of thousands of our citizens…I am obligated to call attention to the truth.

The Rabbi deftly takes on the Yes on 8 arguments about how whips will be used on teachers who refuse to teach gay marriage to Johnny, and how bamboo will be inserted under the fingernails of clergy who refuse to unite Joan and June.  He finishes his indictment of Prop 8 by reminding us that we are all created equal.  Simple ideas to go with bright colors.

But none of this antiquated “do unto others” stuff is nearly as effective as Chairman Nordskog’s arguments in support of the proposition that gays are unworthy of marriage.   After providing us with a stern warning from that great Jewish humanitarian Dennis Prager, and a reminder about those activist Supreme Court justices who had the unmitigated gall to protect the rights of all Californians, he proceeds with a lesson in anthropology…

Not a single religion or moral philosophical system — East or West — since antiquity ever defined marriage as between members of the same sex.” The audacity of those today, 6,000-plus years after the creation, to think they are suddenly smarter than any prior civilization, and wiser than almighty God.

He then invokes the Ten Commandments which he would undoubtedly etch on the foreheads of those activist judges but for the Constitution of the United States…

The Ten Commandments, handed down by God on Mt. Sinai to Moses for all the people for all time and eternity, clearly spells out…“Honor your father and mother.” (man and woman) — the Fifth Commandment. God indeed created Adam and Eve, and guess what?  Surprise, surprise!  They match and fit together perfectly. They are, in all ways, an ideal complement to each other.

After a lesson in physiology reminding me that it takes a man and woman to create a child, he gets to the heart of the matter…

Homosexual conduct is sinful and unhealthy, according to the Bible. There has never been any proof that a same-sex or bisexual person has an extra gene or is born different in his physical and emotional makeup.  In truth, it is not genetic, but a learned-behavior which is abnormal, irresponsible and most unhealthy.

Remember my earlier blog?  You know, the one about that huge “Yes on 8” sign in front of the Baptist Church that made me nearly drive off the road.  See, it all supports my signage hypothesis.  Small signs say “Vote for Me, I’m Best Suited For The Job.”  Big signs say “Vote for Me…Or You’ll Go to Hell.”

 

God help us

Sweetie and I drove back from Lake Casitas this morning after taking photos of docks, herons and reflections in the water.  I love going to the lake.  When  I told Yoram that I had chosen Casitas as my next subject for a photo project he said “Why?”  Good question.  We’ve been there a bunch of times and each time, if we wait long enough, an interesting subject generally appears.  Not always but, like one good golf shot in an otherwise unmemorable eighteen holes, it brings you back again and again.  The trip focuses your senses on the task at hand and that in itself is calming.

We finished taking photos of docks and, as has become our custom, got back in the car determined to drive around the lake in the hope of that once in a lifetime photo-op.  We didn’t get very far when I spotted some rowboats stacked up in drydock looking very forlorn.  We parked the car, got out, and looked for something that said “shoot me.”

A paunchy guy about my age joined us and stood by a heavy, black metal box that looked like an old boiler.  “What’s that” I said.  “A barbecue” he said.  “Built it myself.  Fact is, it’s one of four I put together awhile ago.”  He stared at the tow bar extending from the end of the barbecue.  It was lying flat on the ground in a position that didn’t look quite right.  “Loaned this thing to a guy who works in the coffee shop.  Broke the tow bar.”  I thought “What a nice thing to do for that guy and it’s a shame that he broke the bar.”  Before I could verbalize my thoughts, he said “What do you expect from a Mexican.”

Ila and I stared at each other with the kind of look that says “What a jerk.”  In a nanosecond I weighed the consequences and benefits of confronting the bigot with “What’s being a Mexican got to do with anything?”  Or…  But we just walked to our car and drove off.  Cowards.

That was our tasteless encounter for the day, I thought.  Driving down Highway 150 we looked at the mountains, yellow grass, blue sky and absolutely no other cars.  Beautiful.  We turned left at the 150/33 junction and came up on the Baptist church.  Nice looking property.  Rolling slopes, trees…and a very large painted sign stuck in the ground that said “Vote Yes on Prop. 8…Save Marriage.”

I forgot about the old bigot at the lake and focused on the new bigot stuck in the church lawn.  You’ve read all kinds of stuff about Prop 8, the California ballot proposition that amends the state constitution to proclaim that the word “marriage” only applies to the union of a man and a woman.

All sorts of arguments have been advanced that support the proposition.  All of them are a facade.  There is only one honest reason why proponents want to change the constitution…they dislike gays and lesbians and many are using the bible to justify their feelings.  No right thinking Prop 8 proponent believes that the institution of marriage will end, or that Junior will bring home pictures from his first grade class that show the seventeen sexual positions preferred by homosexuals, or that their very own pastor will be forced at gunpoint to conduct a wedding ceremony for Jack and Jim.  No, they just don’t like them.

But this was the first time I had actually seen a big sign, undoubtedly approved by the minister and his lay leadership, planted in the front of a church that said “Gays and Lesbians Not Welcome Here.”  I wondered if there were other signs, used long ago and gathering dust in the shed behind the church that said “Negroes Go Home” or “Jews Stay Out” or “Mexicans Leave Us Alone.”  I wondered if Barbecue Bob was a member of the church.  I wondered whether there was a sign, in temporary storage til after the election, that said “Do Unto Others.”  Probably not.

 


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