Strawberry Fields Forever - Nothing is real

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tryanny of the majority

I wrote a bit in the last post about the "tyranny of the majority". Of course, this was one of the principle concerns of the framers of the Constitution, and explains why much of the Constitution is by design anti-democratic (note the small 'd').

In 2004 I watched the Republican (note the big 'R') machine win on issues including attacking minorities - specifically homosexuals, and putting up initiatives across the states specifically designed to restrict the rights of homosexuals. There are cases where politics is the genuine disagreement between two sides wherein both sides have a valid point - this is not one of those. While I grant that there may be some minority within the homosexual population wherein their sexual orientation is a choice - and I suppose at gunpoint I could probably "decide" to override my own heterosexual identity, in the vast majority of cases, it is simply not a choice.

Frankly, even were it to be a choice, there is no reasonable argument for restricting the freedoms of those who are homosexual. Fundamentally the only reason this is an issue at all is because a segment of the population's private religious beliefs dictate it, and because others are personally uncomfortable with homosexuals. Republicans used these excuses in 2004, and I'm fed up with it. People used the same (or even flimsier) excuses against people with black skin (and sometimes still do). Realistically there will always be a segment of the population whose religious beliefs dictate these tendencies - and while it's their right to believe what they wish to, it is NOT their right to oppress others with them.

Even more so, for those who fundamentally are uncomfortable with those who are different, I have little to no sympathy nor patience anymore. I believe in plurality and tolerance, but I'm fed up with being tolerant of ignorance and childishness. (note: I am NOT comparing religious beliefs to ignorance and childishness, these are two separate groups of people I am referring to)

I have a friend who I am in contact with at times (and I don't name names here because I feel it is fundamentally unfair to reveal persons identities and beliefs/etc to the world that don't choose to do so themselves) and I had a "conversation" with him last night. I found out that somehow he believes that Barack Obama is somehow a secret Muslim, but also a follower of a radical White-hating Christian. Don't ask me how that is possible to hold both of those beliefs, I tried to suss it out of him, and it didn't work. He then tried to explain a bunch of incoherent ramblings about illegal immigrants and how Obama would take away all rights. I tried to explain how Obama is a former constitutional law professor, and actually knows the Constitution and rattled off how many rights have been eviscerated or outright lost under this administration. Then he started shouting racial slurs, and at that point I realized it was pointless to continue the call - I simply hung up. The guy is not evil, but he is fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea of a "black president". That's his right, and it's my right to stop trying to win him over and work like crazy to elect Obama president and force him to confront his childish fears.

(for the record, I did NOT want to engage in any sort of political discussion, I had called to see how he was and how his children are)

Just as there are wackos on the left that don't listen to reason, there are wackos everywhere who don't listen to reason, and I just don't have the energy to try to convince those who are simply looking for excuses to justify their prejudices. Sometimes a society progresses by quiet persuasion over many years, and sometimes it has to be forced upon those who are fundamentally scared of people who are different. I thank the California Supreme Court (and earlier the State Legislature who passed a bill doing the same twice earlier) for having the courage to try to force the issue.

I thank Barack Obama and his supporters for having the courage to try to force another issue - that a "black president" is not something to be feared - especially when he has the potential to be a great president.

I didn't vote for Obama because he has dark skin; I voted for him because I felt he could be a great President. However, after that conversation, I am glad I did additionally because my friends' children will have a shot of moving beyond the prejudices of their father.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

All you need is love?

This last week the Supreme Court of California (indirectly) took a step forward at erasing one of the last second-class citizen groups left in society by ruling that California must recognize so-called "gay marriage" if they are to recognize marriage at all. It should come as no surprise at all that I am very much in favor of this ruling.

I do recognize the argument that the voters themselves voted less than 8 years ago and resoundingly voted to deny marriage rights to homosexuals, and that this is seen by many as social engineering by the judiciary. Frankly, I don't care about either. This was also the way that schools were desegregated, among a slew of the other social progresses occurred over the last century or so. On the topic of the voters, I am very much a democrat (in this case note the small d), but I am also a big believer in the ideas and ideals behind the federal Constitution. One of its guiding principles was that to protect the minority from the "tyranny of the majority." In this case, the majority would deny rights to a minority - rights that really do not impact much, if at all on the majority. It's pretty clear that "gay marriage" in Massachusetts hasn't exactly destroyed all "heterosexual marriages" since its inception, nor is there any reason to believe it will.

However, this is a bit more personal to me than simply abstract ideas about extending freedom to minority groups. I remember a time, several years ago when I was talking to a good friend, and I commented to him that I thought he could be a good father someday. A few weeks later, he confided in me that my comments had stuck with him because he was coming to terms with his own sexual orientation, and that he was in fact gay.

At that moment a slew of thoughts dawned on me. First of all, I was touched that he would feel that he would be able to tell me this. Second of all, I was somewhat relieved to realize that I did not have a childish negative reaction - that he was still the same friend he was before regardless of his sexual orientation. Third of all, I realized how my comments must have stung a bit. He was admitting to himself that he was a member of a minority, a minority that in society had no hope of ever achieving the relatively simple goal of having a family - of getting married and having children. I have to admit, I felt really bad about what I had said earlier even if I meant it to be a positive comment when I said it.

There's still a long way to go, but it greatly encourages me today that my friend, and everyone who shares his sexual orientation may be one step closer to being able to have the opportunity to live out the dreams and aspirations that we all have.

In 1776 Thomas Jefferson wrote in our founding document: "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 think we are one step closer to this goal. This was a good week for California.