The two court rulings this week relating to the whelming social issue of gay rights provoke fiery passions and deep conflicts. I wish it were not so, but it is, and I think I understand it. But I believe it’s best for everyone to take a few steps back and try to view the larger frame. Regardless the technical strengths and weaknesses of constitutional jurisprudence, and there are both, in the arguments made before the court as well as in the decisions and dissents of the justices, the core issue grinding these judicial proceedings is simply one of human decency and social equity.
My citizenship credentials are conservative; philosophically, politically, economically and ethically. I am Roman Catholic by birth and by informed adult choice. So I understand much of what motivates protest against gay rights. But the good Lord blessed me with a free will and a soul I have a responsibility to nurture with thoughts and deeds that my free will makes manifest. I follow no dictates except those of my conscience. This is only one issue on which I disagree with my church.
To assert that gay couples are somehow less capable than heterosexuals, or worse, less deserving, of sustained loving spousal relationships is prima facie wrong, not to mention mean. So, too, I think, are assertions that homosexuality is not a biological/psychological imperative. And biology incurs no dimension of morality.
I don’t pretend any expertise or special insight. My views develop from an unremarkable life of experience and observation. I fully admit I don’t understand homosexual attraction, and the thought of it can make me squeamish, but my sensibilities should have no impact on the issue. Even if I’m wrong, and instead of an organic compulsion homosexuality is a consciously chosen lifestyle, then I’m entitled to make a moral judgment, but my judgment, or yours, has no legal standing under our system of laws.
Getting back to decency and equity, marriage is an exquisitely personal contract between two people. The state has no business meddling with such a relationship, and certainly not by either requiring or forbidding marriage by anyone. But because marriage has become so complexly interfaced with bureaucracy, the state does have a role, a very simple one, and that is to accept it. All marriages, regardless the sex of the partners, should be treated by the state in exactly the same ways. That is all that decency and equity requires.
Moreover, the escalating war of belligerent rhetoric badly needs a truce. There are no categorical demons in this. Supporters and opponents of gay marriage are neither good nor bad people because of their positions. Both sides sorely need to find a way to respect the opposing view, because without that respect there can be no tolerance, and without tolerance there can be no healthy civil society. Disagreement within a pluralist society is a given, and it often serves as the engine of improvement. But demagoguery, no matter its ilk, will only destroy us. The state, on the other hand, should remain neutral and administer its marriage related functions fairly, without the prejudice to which individual citizens may be entitled.
Marriage is a vital societal lynchpin. But our American institution of marriage is in sad shape. Instead of warring, we should be joining forces to do everything possible to encourage its pursuit. And that applies most assuredly to gay couples as to anyone else.
(Another reblog from my first month here – January.)
does authority shackle us
in a shadow world of half-truths
cast before us by unseen fire
is enlightenment after all
merely the selfsame illusions
by different inadequate light
can the sunlit unfettered few
convince us the world offers more
than dark reflections from the pyre
between truth and perception are
distortions imposed by those who
prefer we have ignorant sight
(originally posted January 2013)
when three sheets fly free
avoid the temptations of
lightning and thunder
better to belly-crawl down
below curbs and high-heeled shoes
rain makes the leaves jump
like flouncy marionettes
trickling with laughter
(I wrote this piece a few years ago and originally posted it here in January.)
What Karl Popper missed in his Plato
Was its nourishment of the most profound thought
That justice is born through induction
Of cardinal virtues innately caught
Once abstracted those virtues compel
Good-willed men to shape frameworks for governing
That will channel the right moral flow
From which perfect justice may spring
“The Republic” was no bleak ordainment
Of flawed, fated, subjective norms
But rather sketched ideal conditions
For souls to attain flawless forms
* * *
What George Soros missed in his Popper
Were grave perils that perforce obtain
When non-judged good and evil seek power
And find equal permission to reign
Instead of a thwart to oppressive regimes
As they’d have you believe is their goal
Glib Liberalist ideologues
Play the cruel and quite opposite role
By denying the soul its perfection
Their errant philosophy breeds
Corrupt elevation to leadership
Of tyrants hellbent…
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(My mind seems stuck on a war footing these last few days. Here, I reblog some reflections I originally posted in January.)
“In peace, sons bury fathers. In war, fathers bury sons.”
Attributed by Herodotus in Book 1 of The Histories to the Lydian king Croesus, from a speech in which Croesus was lamenting and repenting his failed invasion of Persia, which failure in turn caused the utter loss of his kingdom and all of his fabled wealth and power. He blamed the god Apollo for his disaster, because it was Apollo’s oracle at Delphi who initially told Croesus that, if he attacked Cyrus in Persia, “he would succeed in destroying a great empire.” His mistake was in assuming that the empire he would destroy would be Persia itself, when in fact it was his own.
I recently reread the 9 volumes of The Histories (last time was more than 45 years ago) and this early passage really struck at my heart.
Above all else, it reminds me of the profound gratitude…
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borrow from China
buy Saudi petroleum
run Japanese cars
wave to big brother
relinquish your liberties
(A reblog of a poem I posted in January)
It lay there
One edge imbedded
At crooked cant
In much disturbed sand
Half a yard from the road
Half a world from its home
Who knows for how long
From its grim dun surround
Of gritty ground and
One more lifeless feature
Of a barren baked landscape
That’s never known peace
This artifact of war
Not really belonging
Yet not out of place
Whose was the head
It last endowed armor
The head whose sweat swelled
And stained its sewn webbing
What judgments of duty
Enjoined its young wearer
Were they frenzied and frightened
Or steadfast and stoic
With chinstrap pulled taut
And goggles sharp set
For the myriad threats
Of jihad in the desert
What convictions conjoined
Love of life, fear of death
In this overly hot
Right up to the moments
Before being pitched
From victory’s path
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(My humble homage to the ineffable George Carlin).
After much thoughtful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most versatile word in the English language is “shit.” That’s right, shit! Not only is it versatile, but whenever you use it, nobody will ever misunderstand you. Just think about it.
You can buy shit, sell shit, own shit, borrow shit, steal shit, store shit, lose shit, find shit, and forget shit. You can even study some shit in school. You can see stuff that looks like shit, listen to stuff that sounds like shit, or just feel like shit. Some stuff smells like shit, unless it’s your own because your shit doesn’t stink. Some stuff tastes like shit, especially if you order shit-on-a-shingle, after which you can wear a shit-eating grin on your face. And if people don’t like your grin, you can tell them to go eat shit.
Some people really know their shit, while others can’t tell shit from Shinola (you have to be old as shit to remember what that is). There are useless shits, dumb shits, and crazy shits. You can be full of shit, even full of bullshit or horseshit. You can sling the shit, but you’d better duck when the shit hits the fan. You can smoke really good shit, or really bad shit, but either way you’ll get high as shit, unless you’re one of those people who are lower than dog shit. If you’re an accomplished musician you can really play some shit, but if you’re not, you probably can’t play for shit. You can give people a lot of shit, or get your shit handed to you.
There are those who think they’re big shit, but everyone else usually thinks they’re just little turds. You can have too much shit, not enough shit, the right shit, the wrong shit or a lot of weird shit. There is fancy shit and just plain shit. You can talk shit, or shoot the shit. You can drive a piece of shit, or find yourself up shit’s creek without a paddle. You can get drunk as shit, or get just plain shit-faced, but either way you’ll probably catch a load of shit when you get home. Maybe you have piles of shit in your garage.
You can give a shit about everything, or not give a shit about anything. Some people get shit-canned, and have to watch their career go down the shitter. You may worry if you find you’re in deep shit, or you may be as happy as a pig in shit. Some days are colder than shit, some days are hotter than shit, and some days are just plain shitty. You can look like shit, be ugly as shit, or be built like a brick shithouse. You may find yourself up to your neck in shit, or you can shovel the shit against the tide. There are shitty politicians, usually those who promise lots of shit.
Sometimes whatever you touch seems to turn to shit, or you might fall in a bucket of shit but come out smelling like a rose. You can be a lucky shit, especially if you’ve stepped in shit. Maybe you earn chicken-shit while working yourself shitless for a boss who’s a shit-head. You can be sick as shit, but don’t miss work on the day that the eagle shits. You might know someone who’s nothing but a sack of shit, which is just another way of saying they’re a worthless shit. You can ponder great mysteries like does a bear shit in the woods, or do movie stars ever shit at all.
There is holy shit, but there is wicked shit, too. There are stores that sell cool shit, and people who think of themselves as hot shit. You can let people shit all over you, or you can kick the shit out of them. It may be okay to shit where you work, but you should never shit where you eat. You can know lots of shit and be smart as shit, in which case you probably have all your shit together. But you don’t want to know too much stupid shit. You can fix broken shit, or you can throw away your old shit and get some new shit. You can be brave as shit, or be scared shitless. You and your friends can pile on into the pickup and go out to have a shit-kicking good time. You can hurry up to shit, shower and shave, but some impatient somebody is still bound to tell you to shit or get off the pot.
One thing you just cannot do is live without the word shit because, no matter who you are or what you do, shit always happens.