Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Coffee Anyone

Calhoun's Cannons for April 2, 2013

I wish I had confidence that the Supreme Court will do the right thing when it comes to ruling on gay marriage, but I don't. They and they alone chose to hear the DOMA and California's Prop 8 cases and speculation was that it was Justice Scalia, viewed as an anti-gay partisan, who was the deciding vote on taking those cases.  Presumption was he pushed for getting the case before the courts now when there was a chance to defeat or long delay all efforts to legalize gay marriage, a surprisingly "activist judge" move that, oddly, didn't get a peep out of conservatives ever on the lookout for activist judges. So, I guess that epithet only applies to "liberal" judges "legislating from the bench," not conservative ones.

So the court chose to hear those specific cases and yet there was Chief Justice Roberts whining about having to decide such a controversial and potentially complex issue.  That hints at an unsure court, a timid court, a court unwilling to do any heavy lifting while desperately looking for the door.  Indeed, like a kid cranking on about having to do his algebra homework, Roberts wondered aloud why the President didn't just settle one of these cases himself, which hardly inspires confidence that we have a court that understands its constitutional role.

On the other hand, Justice Ginsberg sounded like she might have to take those whiny boys well in hand with her talk of "skim-milk marriage," a delightfully earthy metaphor that went to the heart of the matter.  Whole milk, skim milk.  That in a nutshell is always at the heart of issues involving  "equal rights under law."

And that's why I'm so constantly disheartened by the astonishing and fiercely defended disconnect between what we profess and how we actually proceed.  In public, pols, preachers, and patriots, all sporting little American flag pins in their lapels, piously preach freedom and justice for all in public, then privately vote for (and defend) laws that offer neither to certain citizens.

It's tempting to think that this disconnect is just run-of-the-mill hypocrisy, but it's far darker than that.  It's always a thick stew of fear, ignorance, animus, privilege, greed, lack of empathy, a failure of imagination, and an odd inability to rationally extrapolate from the individual to the larger case.  All of it a series of crippling failures of heart and reason that are almost always propped up by  invoking "belief," or "tradition" or "God." 

And even though the arc of history tends to bend towards justice, as Martin Luther King  observed, too many people turn themselves into rocks-in-the-road impediments to the very "freedom and justice" they think they're preaching. And those rocks cause very real harm to real people in real time, none of it reparative.  Which is always discouraging, especially since no sooner has one injustice finally been rectified than another springs to life.

Deep, deep is the human need for and love of injustice that comes cloaked in deceptive soothing phrases, especially when that injustice only strikes The Other Guy. But in a country founded on the principle that all men are created equal, skim milk is still skim milk.

And so here we all sit, reading the morning paper, coffee cup in hand, waiting for the Supreme Court to pass the sugar bowl and the pitcher of  . . . what?


Anonymous said...

Whenever I invite the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons into my living room for some lively banter, the subject of how to interpret the Bible comes up. (I really enjoy my sessions with them. They are invariably kind and care about my eternal destiny.)

Being an atheist makes the conversation pretty interesting.

It's the same with the Constitution. No two people read it the same way.


The debate at the Supreme Court reflects the divisions in our citizenry. Want to know what the country believes? Look at the Court. Personally, I don't find my VERY left-wing ideas represented there, which is true of the country as a whole.

Power to the people, y'all.


Sandra Gore said...

Interesting isn't it how philosophically "states rights" judges are those most eager for the Feds to dictate how states define marriage?
Too bad Judge Thomas doesn't remember that his white wife was illegal (known as anti-miscegenation laws) until ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1967.
It's the hypocrisy that burns me up as much as the Neanderthal mentality.

Anne R. Allen said...

It is astounding that the people who scream that the gummint can't take away their right to shoot kindergarteners when they're having a bad day are the same ones who want to restrict other people's rights to marry whom they please and make their own medical decisions.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

In my struggle to make sense out of this blatant unfairness, I stumbled on a book at Volumes of Pleasure yesterday (picking up another book, The New Mind of the South in case anyone is interested). I found The Righteous Mind, Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. He is a social psychologist who explains (I hope anyway, haven't gotten that far into the book) according to the blurb anyway, "how moral judgements arise not from reason but from gut feelings." I hope it helps because I feel a little crazy that this isn't just a no-brainer to fix this obvious wrong.

Churadogs said...

To me, here's the case:
1. Under the Constitution, as an American Citizen, do you have equal rights under law?
2.If you are gay, are you also an American Citizen?
3.End of discussion.

Now, let's all go get some lattes!