The Battle: Proposition 8

If you would like to see how the most important Civil Rights battle of the twenty-first century is being fought, here is the live stream

California Supreme Court Oral Arguments
TOPIC: Proposition 8 – Same Sex Marriage
CASE: (13) Strauss et al. v. Horton (Hollingsworth et al., Interveners)
(and two other cases, S168066 Tyler et al. v. State of California et al.
(Hollingsworth et al., Interveners) and S168078 City and County of
San Francisco et al. v. Horton (Hollingsworth et al., Interveners))

The court issued an order to show cause in Strauss, Tyler, and City and
County of San Francisco directing the parties to brief and argue the
following issues: (1) Is Proposition 8 invalid because it constitutes a
revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California Constitution?
(See Cal. Const., art. XVIII, §§ 1–4.) (2) Does Proposition 8 violate the
separation of powers doctrine under the California Constitution? (3)
If Proposition 8 is not unconstitutional, what is its effect, if any, on the
marriages of same-sex couples performed before the adoption of Proposition 8?

“But He Said it First!”

In the hip-hop parlance that Michael Steele has promised to use to raise the GOP’s popularity, on Monday evening he became Rush Limbaugh’s beyotch. That’s not the point of this post, but I made the joke earlier and it got a chuckle, and in the parlance of nineteenth-century British literature (what I “do” for a living) the word “beyotch” does not come up very often. The phrase “smack down” is oddly appropriate, especially when discussing Jane Austen, but “beyotch”—not so much.

Anyway, the news from the GOP trainwreck on Monday that in an interview with D. L. Hughley, Steele, while claiming he was the de facto leader of the GOP, called Limbaugh an “entertainer” and “incendiary” and…who knows what else. It doesn’t matter because hours later he took it all back. What I found interesting, besides the sight of two black men discussing the GOP (it was like a bizarro episode of Seinfeld, and I actually mumbled, “I never thought I’d live to see the day.”) was Steele’s response to Hughley’s challenge that it was wrong for Limbaugh to say he wanted President Obama (black man #3 in the conversation in case anyone is counting) to fail.

Hughley did an admirable job of contextualizing Limbaugh’s statement, explaining that there is a difference between resisting ideology and wishing for failure. Steele’s response was classic and infuriating: “How was that any different than what was said about George Bush?” I couldn’t hear anymore for a minute. Here you watch it:

While everyone is focusing on Steele’s accurate characterization of Limbaugh (and now his spectacular failure to lead), I’m wishing we could get away with this logical construction:

A: You’ve said something bad
B: But he/she/they said it too

That can’t be the end of the discussion. Just because someone else might have wished for Bush’s failure eight years ago does not make Limbaugh’s wishing for Obama’s failure okay. Just because one person says or do something unethical, stupid, or wrong does not others can do the same thing without being challenged. It was an especially stupid thing to say to Hughley because in addition to the occasional guest spot on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” he’s been on CNN for about fifteen minutes. He wasn’t a political commentator with the opportunity to ask…oh wait. To ask whom? Steele never named a lefty liberal who wished for Bush’s failure. I’m not saying such a person doesn’t exist, but given how elected Democrats rolled over for Bush for eight years, I actually don’t think anyone did wish for Bush’s failure.

Of course all of this eclipsed by how well Obama and the left have been toying with Limbaugh and the right. What with Rahm Emanuel, their own tone deafness, and Robert Gibbs those beyotches are getting schooled every day.

On the Nose: Gail Collins on the Myth of Republican “Austerity”

All jokes about Govern Jindal’s Kennethesque speech aside, Gail Collins poses an important question:

Louisiana has gotten $130 billion in post-Katrina aid. How is it that the stars of the Republican austerity movement come from the states that suck up the most federal money? Taxpayers in New York send way more to Washington than they get back so more can go to places like Alaska and Louisiana. Which is fine, as long as we don’t have to hear their governors bragging about how the folks who elected them want to keep their tax money to themselves. Of course they do! That’s because they’re living off ours.

Her op-ed piece “The Dead Tree Theory” makes smart observations about the “wasteful spending” Republicans so like to point in debates about the budget.

On the Nose: David Brooks on Governor Jindal

David Brooks’s assessment of Bobby Jindal’s response to Obama’s address yesterday should be watched over and over again. It’s time for something new, and “new” does not simply mean someone who looks different from your average Republican. Now, I think Jindal is a better politician than the speech, but he, and the GOP, well…I’m not giving advice to the party that gave us Bush and tried to hoodwink us with Palin.

Monkey Business; or, Why the “New York Post” Cartoon is a Good Thing

Okay, it’s not actually a good thing. Depicting the author of President Obama’s stimulus package as a chimpanzee shot for assaulting a white woman is not a good thing. Regardless of who authored the bill, it’s HIS bill and it’s not okay to compare black people to monkeys, chimpanzees, apes, or gorillas. It wasn’t okay to do it to the Jews. Or the Irish. It’s just not okay. And it makes me wonder who was in the room when the decision was made. Seriously. Who thought this was a good idea? I mean this isn’t like saying something offensive on television without thinking. Someone sat down and drew that cartoon and someone else put it on the page. And yet a third person proofed the page! That’s at least three people. Come on!

And like The New Yorker, the The New York Post initially refused to acknowledge that freedom of the press does not mean that the press has pure motives. It’s not as if the cultural biases that infect us all magically disappear once one puts on the hat of journalist.

I’m not at all surprised at the denial and confusion. No one ever thinks they’ve committed a racist act. Even racists don’t call themselves racists with any earnestness. It’s also not surprising that for every person who gets it, there is at least one person who is offended by those who are offended.

But I’m telling you it’s a good thing. For far too long, far too many people have been able to wander around thinking that racism is a problem of the past, and the election of the first black president sent a vocal segment of society into denial: “See! Racism is over. If they just work hard, black people can do anything!”* The Myth of Meritocracy reigns. Pollyanna rules! Of course anyone paying attention knows that it will take more than the a month of a black president and his perfect black family to rid the world of bigotry.

In fact, their presence in the White House is causing the opposite effect in certain corners of the country. I think of it as a kind of Racial Turrets Syndrome (RTS) that plagues those who have studiously avoided any genuine conversation (or confrontation) about race. The more they’ve been in denial, the more apt they are to release CDs like “Barack the Magic Negro.” The only way for this to be cured is for it to come out. Sunlight really is the best disinfectant. These outbursts force us to have conversations about difficult subjects and serve as indicators of how far we have, and haven’t, come since we elected Mr. Obama. It allows us to have an open, if sometimes messy, debate about a topic many of us would like to avoid.

The trick is to actually have the conversation. Those who “get it” don’t get to feel smug (because trust me, even if you “get” this, you’ve missed something else) and must learn to explain without preaching, to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person and explain our point of view without demonizing the person who is on the other side of the conversation. Those who find themselves criticized need to take a deep breath and open their minds to the idea that even good people make comments or gestures that are offensive.

The other reason this is a good thing is because it might finally help people learn how to apologize. The New York Post has shown us the wrong way:

It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.

Period.

But it has been taken as something else — as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.

This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

In the first place, apologies should not be offered defiantly. Secondly, intent is a given in our culture; even those who intend to offend get to say they meant no offense. The New York Post should have simply said the piece was careless and did not recognize the power of such imagery and then apologized for being sloppy and, yes, racist. It happens, and the sooner the offenders own it and learn from it, the better off everyone will be.

Now just because a thing is called racist does not make it so. I actually felt very sorry for the poor cable anchor who used the term “Colored People” when talking about the NAACP. “Colored People” is dated, but the organization is called The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People!” He apologized, but he didn’t need to–at least that’s what I think. Maybe you think something different. Perhaps the NAACP should change its name. It’s a thing we can chat about. See how that works?

*It’s worth noting that some of the people making this claim are black people.

I WANT MY MARY!!!

It’s quite simple.

20th Century Fox owns “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

They released the first season at a pretty high price.

They released the second season at reasonable price.

Same things with season three.

And Season four.

Then nothing

for years

Enter Oprah and her show reuniting the cast members.

New York Times reports that the seasons five through seven will be released

eventually

Today, Amazon.com makes a big announcement that the remaining seasons are available…

if you buy all seven seasons.

That’s right.
If you bought the first four seasons.

You’d have to buy them again to get the final three.

Fans are pissed. I am a fan. Therefore I am pissed

Right on the Nose: Hendrik Hertzberg on Wages vs. Salary vs. Compensation

Hertzberg poses the right question in The New Yorker*:

…why is that a manual worker gets paid wages and a middle manager or cop or teacher earns a salary, but a corporate boss condescends to accept “compensation”?

Compensation. I have to say, I get a little dizzy with disgust whenever I hear that word used to describe some C.E.O.’s pay envelope. “Compensation package” is even worse. What, exactly, are these people being “compensated” for? Are they victims of crime? Or is it the long hours, the loneliness, the inability to spend time with their children—so much more terrible than the plight of a middle-aged immigrant mother working double shifts as an office cleaner? Or the fear of having their company go on public assistance, in which case, thanks to Obama, their welfare payment will be slashed to less than $10,000 a week? Or the fear of getting laid off with nothing but a golden parachute to put food on the table and lifetime use of the private jet to get around on?

The poor dears.

*pointed out by a friend

Right on the Nose: Bob Herbert on Barack Obama

Bob Herbert compares President Obama to a master chess player:

There is always a tendency to underestimate Barack Obama. We are inclined in the news media to hyperventilate over every political or policy setback, no matter how silly or insignificant, while Mr. Obama has shown again and again that he takes a longer view.

Semper Fi

The battlefield has its own values, starting with courage. Sexual orientation falls somewhere below musical taste. —Owen West (Iraq War Veteran)

More often than I care to admit, I wonder how I will answer the question, “What did you do during/when/in response to____?” when young people of the future ask me about culture and politics of my time. I have a rich imagination, and in it, in the future, I imagine that young people will care about who did what in the past in the same way that I wonder what the adults around me did during the 60s and 70s. This is not my only motivation for making the decisions that I do, but when I read of past atrocities or large cultural failings, I wonder what “the people” did to respond to the crisis. While I try to be aware and involved because I think this is the way the world works best, I also speak up, butt in, write letters, and opine because I want to be able to say that I did something, that I didn’t just sit silently, twiddling my thumbs, watching DVDs while horrible things happened around me. Even if my efforts fall on deaf ears or don’t change anything, I need to know I tried.

I’ve been thinking this quite a bit in the past few years as the civil rights crisis for GLBTs has grown and grown. Even being raised in a conservative Christian home, I have never been able to understand homophobia. And that’s what all of the fuss and lawsuits and propositions are about—-fear of homosexuality. People can dress this fear up with religion and tradition and protecting children, but I’m not buying it, and more and more I’m saying so aloud. I have to. I would certainly expect my white friends to stand up against racism in all of the subtle and explicit forms that it takes, so, as a heterosexual woman, I feel it’s my moral obligation to defend GLBTs, those I know, and those I’ve never met…and even those who perpetuate stereotypes in ways that make me cringe (I’m talking to you gay actors who put on cultural black face for a laugh and a paycheck).

It’s not always easy. Many people I love disagree with me, and we have to find respectful ways to be honest with one another without a lot of finger pointing and yelling. I’m not doing so well; at a certain point, I just dissolve into tears, which really isn’t fair to the person on the other side of the argument. I can’t help it, though. It is beyond cruel to support or participate or even believe in efforts that oppress people. Perhaps it is because I’ve been single for the vast majority of my adult life that this hits me so deep. I cannot imagine finally finding “true love” and being told that I’m not allowed to have it because of some wrongly interpreted Biblical passages or because it breaks with tradition or because it’s not “natural.” Lord help us. Really, Lord help us. We are using Your Word and Your name to beat one another up again—-just like we did to women and blacks.

Will we never learn?

Maybe we can. Owen West, a Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq (he’s a commodities trader now), has a smart, concise piece in the New York Times ( “An About-Face on Gay Troops”) about why it’s time to repeal “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell.” It’s the kind of piece I love because its argument relies on logic and looks to history rather than using rhetoric as a crutch. The argument is simple: it has been proven that sexual orientation (just like race and ethnicity) does not get in the way on the battlefield. Even Colin Powell and former Senator Sam Nunn, the two main crafters of the “don’t ask; don’t tell” legislation, believe it’s time for a change. Let us hope and pray that even as the military lead the way in racial integration, it will become a model for how heterosexual culture can treat GLBT citizens with respect by allowing them to live their lives with the same freedoms we all enjoy.

We all know that Semper Fi (short for semper fidelis) is the motto for the Marines and that it means “Always Faithful.” Owen West’s editorial is a moment when the motto fits perfectly.