Archive for June 29th, 2009
Nathaniel Frank has identified the elephant in the room. People don’t run off to get married to privately have access to government rights and benefits. Hell, where’s the romance in that? And when they get married, they actually get smacked upside the head by the government with the federal tax marriage penalty. The government screws with marriage by taxing it.
So what’s the draw and social function of marriage? Why do people really want to be married? Marriage involves far more than just the two people getting married. Frank explains:
[M]arriage is not just a private bond, but a public identity, whose meaning is shaped by the assumptions and practices of all those who claim and recognize its status. Being married helps us keep our commitments to our spouses and our communities by creating a shared identity with very public expectations. It doesn’t always work. But every day thousands of people choose to embrace this identity because of the support it helps afford them. This is why gays need access to the very same institution of marriage–not civil unions–that straights enjoy: so they can join not just each other, but the wider community of committed people whose marriage is recognized, understood and championed by people across the world. And this is why separate is inherently unequal.
From a friend of mine:
You know how every once in a while you come across a piece of writing that is spot-on, so much so that you sit back and think, “Wow, that really captures it well.” This just happened to me in reading Halberstam’s book, War In A Time Of Peace (2001). Here’s the quote:
“(In 1992) Ed Rollins, the former Reagan political consultant, had an epiphany about how dramatically American culture had changed in the twelve years since Reagan’s first election. Driven by various technological, social, and economic forces, that change was now being seen in American politics. Reagan, Rollins believed had been the final political reflection of the popular culture of his time, derived primarily from the movies of John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and Gary Cooper days when the American self-image called for one lonely man to stand up and do the right thing, whether it was popular or not. That self-image during the Cold War was comforting; it might not be true, but as they used to say in the west, when there was any difference between the truth and the legend, print the legend. Clinton, by contrast, was the political extension of a new popular culture, the age of empathy television, symbolized by Oprah Winfrey, the need to feel better about yourself in a difficult, emotionally volatile world where the greatest daily threat was posed not so much by the nuclear warheads of a foreign power, or by severe economic hardship, but by the inner demons produced by an unhappy childhood” (p. 108)
Reading this quote brought to mind George Lakoff’s two basic ways of portraying government which, in both cases, is metaphorically conceived as a family. Conservatives see government as run by a strict father figure while Progressives tend to see government a nurturing parent. Here’s a excerpt from Wikipedia:
Lakoff argues that the differences in opinions between liberals and conservatives follow from the fact that they subscribe with different strength to two different metaphors about the relationship of the state to its citizens. Both, he claims, see governance through metaphors of the family. Conservatives would subscribe more strongly and more often to a model that he calls the “strict father model” and has a family structured around a strong, dominant “father” (government), and assumes that the “children” (citizens) need to be disciplined to be made into responsible “adults” (morality, self-financing). Once the “children” are “adults”, though, the “father” should not interfere with their lives: the government should stay out of the business of those in society who have proved their responsibility. In contrast, Lakoff argues that liberals place more support in a model of the family, which he calls the “nurturant parent model”, based on “nurturant values”, where both “mothers” and “fathers” work to keep the essentially good “children” away from “corrupting influences” (pollution, social injustice, poverty, etc.). Lakoff says that most people have a blend of both metaphors applied at different times . . .
I will never forget the images of Pope John Paul II arriving in Poland in June of 1979. The Pope descended from his plane, kneeled, bent and kissed the ground of his beloved homeland.
The Pope arrived as a pilgrim, news reports said. The Polish people saw more, perhaps a glimpse of freedom in the offing where their historic contributions and ties to the world were once again recognized as Polish, not as a Warsaw Pact satellite of the communist USSR.
Something similar is going on now in the Islamic Republic of Iran. After an historic election where the chosen candidate of the ruling elite was challenged, the results were announced mere hours after the paper ballots were cast, and current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the winner.
Some say the Iranian voters’ ballots were not even counted.
Reports of unrest due to concerns of electoral fraud continue, although foreign media have been barred from Iran
Many of the supporters of the rival candidate for President have taken to the roofs and shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” which I’ve seen translated as “God is the Greatest!” and “God is Great!”
Without a doubt, there is continued opposition to the hard line polices of President Ahmadinejad which many in Iran believe do not reflect the country’s history and traditions.
It has become a staple of the ruling council to denounce protesters as incited by the West, mostly the UK, where two diplomats were thrown out of Iran. The UK responded by giving the heave to two Iranian embassy personnel. But, the Iranian government raised the ante on the UK, yesterday and detained many members of the diplomatic staff assigned to Iran in violation of international law.
It remains an issue is whether there what actions may be taken in solidarity with the aspirations of Iranians by supporters of freedom around the world.
First, one must caution forbearance.
If many take up the rhetoric of the far right in the US calling for swift, strong action against Iran there will be a backlash against the protesters in Iran. Such is already in the offing as the media have been closed down, and the government tries to spin the whole thing as a plot by the West and points to such rhetoric in support of its claims. Those which make such harsh statements and urge imprudent action give aid and comfort to the enemies of freedom in Iran.
So, what then for those worldwide which support the Iranian people’s return to the world community and to again recognize Iran’s past contributions and continuing ability to contribute to the world at large? I offer several ideas.
We could tie a green ribbon ‘round the old oak trees. Green is the color of the party of the opposition in Iran.
We could join in solidarity with the aspirations of the protestors and go onto our rooftops or just go outside and shout or say; “God is Great!” at midnight Tehran time (about 2:30 p.m. CST [+4 GMT]).
And ask that peace be with our Iranian brothers and sisters.
I know it is wholly unoriginal of me to link to the comic XKCD, but today’s strip was just too true to life:
Almost nothing annoys me more than the bemoaning of the future as an immoral, uneducated, unenlightened time. Many people- of both conservative and liberal ideologies- call up sunny images of a past where people were happier, smarter and “better”. Usually we can point to political and technological advancements that demonstrate this is not the case.
My deeply-held belief is that the future is bright and brimming with promise, that today’s youth are not hopeless or devolved, and that new fangled technology will not cause the collapse of our species. When bad things arise, we are tempted to look to the past with a fond and foggy nostalgia- as if fundamental human problems were not always the same. Bringing apocalyptic rhetoric into the discussion of modern problems is inappropriate, I think, because every generation has its big, scary troubles. As this comic advises, we should always look to the evidence and not catastrophize.
Ryan Grim has just published This is Your Country on Drugs, and he has presented some of his main ideas at Huffpo.
[O]ur nation diverges sharply from the rest of the world in a few crucial ways. Americans work hard: 135 hours a year more than the average Briton, 240 hours more than the typical French worker, and 370 hours–that’s nine weeks–more than the average German. We also play hard. A global survey released in 2008 found that Americans are more than twice as likely to smoke pot as Europeans. Forty-two percent of Americans had puffed at one point; percentages for citizens of various European nations were all under 20. We’re also four times as likely to have done coke as Spaniards and roughly ten times more likely than the rest of Europe.
What is driving law enforcement regarding drug use. Grim’s answer focuses on our ambivalence toward pleasure:
When pleasure is suspected, American drug use gets tricky, particularly when that high might do some real good, as in the case of medical marijuana.
Americans talk a good game when it comes to the environment, but most of us aren’t willing to do much of anything at all. Are you willing to ride the bus, carpool, cut down on your consumption of meat, eat produce only in-season? No thanks,” say most Americans. That’s my personal experience, based on talking with numerous “concerned” citizens. Most people that I talk with tell me that they will make changes only when the “market” makes it worth their while. It’s crazy, but that’s the way it is.
How about this option: Would you be willing to use one roll of recycled toilet paper per year if it would save 425,000 trees? Resoundingly, America has said “no thanks,” according to Time Magazine:
[A] mainstream brand, Scott, started offering toilet paper made with 40% recycled fiber. Switching to such material could make a big difference: the NRDC estimates that if every household in the U.S. replaced just one 500-sheet roll of virgin-fiber TP a year with a roll made from 100% recycled paper, nearly 425,000 trees would be saved annually. . . Hence Greenpeace’s four-year-long campaign to pressure paper companies . . . to stop cutting down virgin forests. . .
It’s possible — but few Americans are doing it. Toilet paper containing 100% recycled fiber makes up less than 2% of the U.S. market, while sales of three-ply luxury brands like Cottonelle Ultra and Charmin Ultra Soft shot up 40% in 2008.
Considering that the average family uses about 20 rolls of toilet paper per month, NRDC’s suggestion is not a laughing matter.
Based on my conversations with lots of people, though, being responsible to the environment is truly a laughing matter for most Americans. They just don’t get it, unless it affects their pocketbooks.