Category Archives: Values

Values, Culture

Same-sex marriage, civil rights

by John Oliver Mason, The Mason Missile, July 4, 2014

Greetings! At last! Pennsylvania has joined the roster of states legalizing same-sex marriage. Originally, the plan was to have the court, and thereby the state, recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states. The federal court, however, took it to the next level.

Bans on same sex marriage are also being challenged in Texas and Utah, traditionally conservative states. There has been the fear raised about how same-sex marriage would change the definition of marriage, that it would lead to marrying farm animals (ridiculous!). But HAS the definition of marriage ALWAYS been one-man, one-women, till death they do part?

In the Torah, we have Abraham marrying Sarah and holding Hagar as a concubine-servant; Jacob conned into marrying Leah, and marrying Rachel after seven more years of work with Laban; Jacob’s wives and concubines together giving birth to Jacob’s sons; David marrying Machal, then lusting after Bathsheba; Solomon with a thousand wives and concubines to seal alliances with neighboring tribes and kingdoms. So, you can’t say “religious values” as a reason for why marriage is a one-man-one-woman thing.

One book that discusses this is Sex At Dawn, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, which chronicles marriage practices among indigenous tribes in Central and South America and in the Pacific; in many tribes marriage and divorce is as simple as leaving and entering the other person’s hut, usually on the initiative of the female; many of these tribes are matriarchal, with much decision-making by the women. In more patriarchal societies, marriage has nothing to do with who loves who, but it is a matter of transferring property and sealing alliances.

Echoes of this is in the new conservative Christian phenomenon of “purity balls,” featured on ABC News; the fathers pledge to protect the sexual “purity” of their daughters and vet any men that go near them. At the “purity ball,” the fathers sign a pledge to watch over the purity of their daughters “as high priest of the home.” The fathers sign it, and it resembles a marriage vow, and they conclude with a “father-daughter” dance. As far as I know, there is no similar ritual that fathers take towards guarding the “purity” of their sons; the sexuality of the young women is thus the property of the father, and it is transferred, via marriage, to the husband.

All this takes place in the anniversary of the Stonewall riot of June 1969, when young Gay men, drag queens, and lesbians sat in a crummy, mob-owned bar and the police came to raid the place and arrest everyone; but, this time, instead of taking the harassment and abuse from the cops, the patrons fought the riot cops for several days, thus starting the current LGBT rights movement.

There was, previous to the Stonewall riot, underground organizing of Gay men and Lesbians; there was the Mattachine Society, called a “homophile” organization, founded in 1950 by Harry Hay, who was a veteran organizer for the Community Party and the CIO; and the lesbian Daughters of Bilitis, founded in 1955 by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. These groups were organized in the 1950s, the time of the Red Scare, the time when “homosexuals” were considered security risks. All this could be seen in the wonderful documentary film Before Stonewall, go rent the DVD; it shows the enormous historical and political “prep work” that went on before the Stonewall incident.

Really, equality doesn’t need the permission of others to happen. But still it has been fought for, usually with blood. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the murder of three young Civil Rights activists–James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman–in June 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, during the “Freedom Summer” campaign to register Black people to vote. They investigated the arson fire at a Black church, were later arrested by the police for “speeding,” and then were handed over to the Ku Klux Klan to be killed.

Later that year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in schools, housing, and other facilities. (Voting rights were not included in the bill; it was covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.) But–The Republican party has taken over the tactic of code-worded race-baiting. Not for nothing did Ronald Reagan start his presidential campaign in 1980 in a town near Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney were murdered, and he included the phrase “I believe in states’ rights,” the old war cry of the pre-Civil war-south, as their mantra for enslaving African-Americans.

It is a tribute to the Civil Rights movement–and to the young activists who risked their lives against official and freelance terror in the South–that blatant, public, in-your-face racial slurs are not acceptable in public discourse (which is the basis of the right-wing whine about–I HATE this term–”political correctness,” as if they would fight to the death for the right to scream racial and ethnic slurs). The tactic from then on was exemplified in the “Southern Strategy” of the presidential campaign of Richard Nixon in 1968, to play on racially-motivated fears of “urban crime’ and “welfare loafers.”

After the re-election of Nixon in 1972, it was as if the country had amnesia–all the discussion about Civil Rights and reducing poverty was reduced to cutting needless government spending and kicking the lazy welfare bums off the rolls, and in general reducing the size of so-called “big government”–and including liberating corporations from the burden of regulatory agencies, while consciously not discussing the problems of air and water pollution, occupational safety and health, product safety, financial fraud, to name a few, and trusting in the “free enterprise system” to handle everything, trusting the corporate geniuses (such as Bernie Madoff) running our corporations (such as Enron) to handle everything.

Remember, it was NOT the federal government deciding all of a sudden to implement from on high financial regulation, Civil Rights enforcement, occupational safety laws, consumer safety, etc.; it came from the work of dedicated activists, people like those you go to school and the job with, who worked hard at campaigning for these things-people like Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, and the other young brave Civil Rights activists of the Freedom Summer of 1964. We may not have to face fire hoses, mean police dogs, even meaner cops, or homicidal Klansmen, but ever time we make a stand, people will join us, and we set an example for future campaigns for freedom-and believe me, the campaign for freedom never ends.

Enjoy your Fourth-bye!

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Filed under Gay & lesbian issues, History, John Mason, Race, Ethnicity, Immigration, Religions, Republican party, Right Wing, Values

Tired of “weary of war”

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, September 10, 2013 (also Daily Local News, 9/16/13)

I’m tired of hearing that Americans don’t want to attack Syria
because we are “weary of war.”

There are many better reasons not to go to war.

If we weren’t war-weary, would we look around for some other country to beat up on and expend our aggressive energies against? No, I think we are better than that.

There are many better reasons not to attack Syria. One is that war kills people. It’s too bad anyone is killing people there, but at least we aren’t doing it.

If anyone says this wouldn’t be war, try to picture how we would feel. Suppose Syria (or China, or whoever) decided to take out a few of our buildings of military and governmental importance in Chester County (along with the people in and near them) because they might be stockpiling forbidden weapons. You can bet that would look like war to us.

The Imperial Japanese Navy didn’t have any boots on the ground in Honolulu, but Americans tended to think of Pearl Harbor as an act of war.

The reason not to go to war of our own volition is that it is wrong.

We don’t need to be tired of it to be against it.

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Filed under Nathaniel Smith, Peace, Security, Terrorism, War, Values

The Quiet Closing of Washington

Robert Reich’s Blog, June 8, 2013

Conservative Republicans in our nation’s capital have managed to accomplish something they only dreamed of when Tea Partiers streamed into Congress at the start of 2011: They’ve basically shut Congress down. Their refusal to compromise is working just as they hoped: No jobs agenda. No budget. No grand bargain on the deficit. No background checks on guns. Nothing on climate change. No tax reform. No hike in the minimum wage. Nothing so far on immigration reform.

It’s as if an entire branch of the federal government — the branch that’s supposed to deal directly with the nation’s problems, not just execute the law or interpret the law but make the law — has gone out of business, leaving behind only a so-called “sequester” that’s cutting deeper and deeper into education, infrastructure, programs for the nation’s poor, and national defense.

The window of opportunity for the president to get anything done is closing rapidly. Even in less partisan times, new initiatives rarely occur after the first year of a second term, when a president inexorably slides toward lame duck status.

But the nation’s work doesn’t stop even if Washington does. By default, more and more of it is shifting to the states, which are far less gridlocked than Washington. Last November’s elections resulted in one-party control of both the legislatures and governor’s offices in all but 13 states — the most single-party dominance in decades.

This means many blue states are moving further left, while red states are heading rightward. In effect, America is splitting apart without going through all the trouble of a civil war….

continue reading at Robert Reich’s Blog

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Filed under National govt & politics, Values

The 4 Plagues: Getting a Handle on the Coming Apocalypse

Excerpt from “The 4 Plagues: Getting a Handle on the Coming Apocalypse” By Don Hazen, AlterNet, 6/4/13. [The “four plagues” are “privatization, financialization, militarization, and criminalization, which together are producing a steadily creeping authoritarianism.”]

In an environment of confusion and despair, it helps to understand the forces at play, how they operate, and why they feel so overwhelming.

…To best understand the plagues, there are several cross-cutting fundamentals of U.S. capitalism which fuel the oppressive nature of the plagues and help us understand how they interact.

1. Follow the money: For every unfair, exploitative and destructive force going on in America—and there are so many—some corporations or groups of people are profiting. Not only are they making a lot of money, they have also very likely built a powerful infrastructure to ensure the security of their cash flow using a potent array of tools to protect their interests. These are lobbyists, PR agents, campaign contributions, trade associations to agitate for their interests, and with overarching powerful giant entities like the chamber of commerce to provide the protective umbrella.

2. When following the money, it is often the case that the system picks on the weakest. Long ago, someone figured out that the easiest way to make a lot of money is to paradoxically target those who don’t have much.Or use powerless people as scapegoats to leverage access to large pots of money. One example is state lotteries, about which AlterNet’s Steve Rosenfeld explains: “What many people don’t know about lotteries is that they prey on those who can least afford it.” State lotteries amount to a hidden tax on the poor. They eat up about 9 percent of take-home incomes from households making less than $13,000 a year. They siphon $50 billion a year away from local businesses—besides stores where they’re sold.

Another example is that the privatization of the public school system is on the backs of poor kids, with the discredited fantasy that schools will be improved when people make money off of them. “Rent to own,” “payday loans” and many other tactics of capitalism all exploit poor people.

3. The best way to maximize profits and make radical changes in policies is to take advantage of crises. We all know what happened after the horrible death and destruction of 9/11. Our government, the Bush administration, orchestrated the most gigantic overreaction in history, turning a criminal case to the ongoing “war on terror,” which has transformed most of our lives in many negative ways.

The aftermath of 9/11, which includes the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq, also created the most extraordinary secret government in the history of humankind. The Washington Post, in an unprecedented investigation that took two years, discovered a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in oversight. “After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is a system incredibly massive –1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.”

Naomi Klein, in her book The Shock Doctrine has helped us understand that when crises erupt, those in power will use the opportunity to increase power in extreme and undemocratic ways, in what is now called “Disaster Capitalism.” For example, as Kristen Rawls reports, after the massive impact of Hurricane Katrina, most of the schools in New Orleans’ Parish were replaced by charter schools….

read the whole article at AlterNet

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Filed under Economy, Labor, Tax, Education and schools, Values