There are a few huge stories in the US this week, and not all of them are depressing. I feel I have to apologize – I never really intended this blog to be either depressing (outside of some of the things that come out of my head), or overtly political. And yet, here I seem to be – overtly political because I’m just finding too many things in the news to be depressing (or frustrating, or anger-inducing) – and since this blog was intended to share my views & see how everyone else feels about the same things, well… here we are.
The biggest story, and in some senses the scariest, is that the US Supreme Court has agreed to determine during this term whether or not marriage equality really should be the law of the land under the Constitution. I’m somewhat optimist about this given that they have already struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, effectively rendering the state bans unconstitutional. And, happily, many states are already on board (some less willingly than others). I would very much like to see the court rule in favor, since that would clear the hurdle for the remaining states, and would also address the issues that exist due to the differences in various state laws. In several cases, the Federal judges that struck down individual state’s blocks have, rightfully, pointed out, that the arguments against marriage equality bear a disturbing resemblance to the arguments used in the not-so-distant past against inter-racial marriage.
This court, however, has proven itself to be far more interested in the rights of corporate persons, than those of human persons, so I have my doubts.
While still on the topic of things I think are good news – Civics! Arizona, a state I frequently find a bit odd in their thinking, has gone and done something really wonderful. Beginning in 2017, high school students will be required to correctly answer 60 out of the 100 questions on the US Immigration and Naturalization test – the same test the applicants for citizenship must pass, and that I have long felt most people born and raised in the US could not pass. I frequently question whether some of our Congressional Representatives clearly understand how government works. So, even though I have my suspicions about the organization leading the push to have all 50 states require the test, I still believe that this is a good thing. So – yay, Arizona! But I still think I’d rather move to New Mexico when I retire.
On the more distressing front – the virtual lack of coverage by the US media of the massacre in Baga, Nigeria, by Boko Haram. Over the years, especially after spending a year traveling outside of the US, I have been disturbed by how poorly informed we are about what happens in other countries – or about world geography, in general, but that’s a separate subject. I had assumed that things like Charlie Hebdo – big stories that involve things we already view as threats to our own safety – things like attacks by alleged Islamic extremists, would capture our attention. But not this time. There is absolutely nothing that I would have expected, or wanted, our government to do. There is no fund-raising concert that can fix this. But I would have expected a bit more coverage of something that horrifying (since human tragedy also sells). Is it because we, in our bubble, don’t think events in Nigeria are as compelling as those in France? I don’t know, but whatever the reason, it bothers me that I need the BBC to give me most of my world news.
On the totally beyond sanity front, I have to mention the North Miami Beach, Florida, Police Department’s use of mug shots of black men and teenagers for target practice at their firing range. The Chief of Police actually defended the practice, and said it helps with facial recognition. WTF?? The practice was discovered when a National Guard member recognized a picture of her now-adult brother taken when he was arrested for drag racing at 18. The only regret expressed by the police chief? That they used the photo of a Miami resident. A serious case of ‘sorry we got caught’. Personally, I think the Police Chief ought to be fired, but since no laws were broken that won’t happen, and in our ‘post racist’ country, I’m probably racist for even bringing this up.
And I can’t really miss the opportunity to mention the proposed South Carolina “Second Amendment Education Act”. Even for the state that had an almost embarrassing degree of debate about granting an 8 year-old child’s request that the Wooly Mammoth be named the state’s fossil because some bible literalists in the chamber wanted to make sure that God was given credit for the creation of the dinosaur in the text of the legislation, this is an alarmingly ridiculous proposal. The proposal would require students to spend 3 full weeks each school year, for all 12 that they spend in public schools, studying the 2nd Amendment. Since I don’t see a proposal to spend 3 weeks each year on each of the other 26, I’m more than a little bit disturbed about the extent to which the well-known gun industry lobby group, The National Rifle Association, has gotten its dollars distributed in American politics. To pretend, continually, that somehow the 2nd Amendment is sacred and more important than any of the other 10 original amendments is absurd from pretty much any perspective. Far more offensively, the bill also proposes that the anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting, December 15, be designated as “Second Amendment Awareness Day”. Seriously?!
And somehow this all brings me to a quote that I was planning to use one of these weeks for a Tuesday quote, but hadn’t quite managed to fit it in:
“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.”
— Clarence Darrow