Thursday, October 1, 2015

Guns Yet Again

Yet another mass shooting in the news today. Frankly, I am tired of blogging about these things.

I will state, very simply yet confidently, what the cause of these events is: the prevalence of guns. There are too many guns made, sold, bought, and owned in the US.

Ask yourself this: Will these shootings still be going on 100 years from now? I don't propose an answer because I am not in the business of predicting the future. I will only say that I hope that 100 years is enough time for a cultural change, for a nation to come to its senses and do something.

I don't know whether majority public sentiment supports tougher gun laws; but even if it does, the strong--very, very strong--influence of the NRA (National Rifle Association) in preventing any restrictions or regulation of gun ownership from being enacted is a major obstacle to reform.

Copyright © 2015.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Kim Davis News Story (Unfortunately) Goes On

The story of Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky county clerk who has been refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, goes on. The latest is, she evidently thinks she can skirt the ruling by a judge that she perform her job and issue the marriage licenses. So marriage licenses being issued by her office are having her name and even the name of the county whited-out; this, in Ms. Davis' view, makes them invalid, so her conscience can be clear because, according to her logic, she is not issuing the licenses.

If Ms. Davis has a conflict between her conscience and the duties of the job she was elected to perform, and which she took an oath to perform, it would seem that the simple answer would be for her to resign her job.

But she won't. Maybe she's enjoying the present situation too much to want to just silently pass from our sight.

I don't doubt that she's enjoying her fame (or notoriety); it seems she's getting more than her 15 minutes' worth of fame. With support from her Liberty Council lawyers, and Mike Huckabee, a presidential candidate, beside her, she can sob into the cameras and microphones and savor her new fame as the new darling of the Religious Right and the poster child for claims of "persecution of Christians." (She claims she and her family have received death threats but I'm at least a little bit skeptical of that.)

Copyright © 2015.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

More on Kim Davis (Kentucky County Clerk Refusing to License Same-Sex Marriages)

A recent development in the (unfortunately) ongoing saga of Ms. Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who has been refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is that she received a visit from Mike Huckabee, a former US state governor and currently a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

I think it is shameful and outrageous that Ms. Davis receives encouragement in her defiance of the law from a politician. This would seem to show that Mr. Huckabee has either no knowledge of, or no respect for, how the US system of government works. The US Supreme Court is just what its name suggests--supreme. As the Court's decision in the recent same-sex marriage case implies, there is no exception recognized for personal preference, even on grounds of "conscience"--even though many on the Religious Right have been arguing for, and trying to enact into state laws, exceptions on the basis of "religious freedom" which would simply mean license to ignore various anti-discrimination laws (for example, laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation)--and would thus translate to freedom to discriminate.

Mr. Huckabee, Ms. Davis, and others of their persuasion must realize that we live in a secular society. Our government is not one of religious law. They seem to wish for a government in the US which is based o n "Judeo-Christian" law and which thus would be a theocracy--even at the same time that they deplore theocratic societies and governments which are being established in Muslim areas of the world, such as ISIS, ISIL, boku haram, and so forth. The negative example which those authorities show us, of what theocracy means, seems to be a lesson lost to those who want a Christian theocracy in the US.

Copyright (c) 2015.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Kentucky County Clerk Refuses to Issue Marriage Licenses to Same-Sex Couples

An ongoing news story says that Kim Davis, the county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, has been refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the Supreme Court decision that same-sex couples have the right to marry, and other court rulings that she must do so as it is required by her job.

Ms. Davis claims that it is against her religious convictions; that  her religion says that same-sex marriage is wrong, and that she will go to Hell if her signature is affixed to a marriage license for a same-sex couple.

Well, I am not a Biblical scholar (and I suspect Ms. Davis is not, either), but I am extremely skeptical that the Bible, or Jesus, anywhere says that two people of the same gender may not marry. In fact, "Biblical marriage" (as these Religious Right types keep talking about) would require that a widow marry her brother-in-law--at least under certain conditions (Deuteronomy 25:5). Of course it is no news at all that these anti-gay, bible-thumping types pick and choose what in the Bible they care to pay attention to.

Of course Ms. Davis is entitled to believe as she wishes. But if she is unwilling or unable to perform her duties as the courts define them, then I'd say the answer to the problem is really very simple: she should resign her job, but this she refuses to do.

As long as the United States is not a theocracy (that is, we have a secular society rather than one governed by religious law), her religious objections to doing her job should not outweigh the definition of her duties.

Anyway, these are my words to Ms. Davis: You've had your 15 minutes of fame. Now go away.

Copyright (c) 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Guns--Yet Again

I have blogged about the problem in the US of gun violence a number of times. But the shootings just go on, so I go on thinking and writing about this same subject.

In England (or, to be more accurate, the United Kingdom, thus including Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales), they do not have large numbers of people killing one another with guns. 

Why? Maybe it's because it's illegal to own firearms in England. Remarkably (to us Americans), even the police in England do not routinely carry guns.
People in American who own guns often say that their gun ownership is a matter of their "freedom," expressing some sort of freedom and independence, or maybe self-reliance--even protection of themselves against a tyrannical government (and, after all, that is in keeping with the spirit of the very founding of the United States).
I think it's part of a lingering "wild west" mentality that we have in the US. In the nineteenth century, law enforcement in the West was often weak or ineffectual, so a man's owning a gun might in fact be necessary for his self-defense.
Today people who own guns say they want them for self-defense. The chief (and very powerful) gun lobby organization in the US, the NRA (National Rifle Association), believes the solution is more guns, not less; they want to see more people owning guns. Their argument is that people who currently don't own guns need to acquire guns to protect themselves against the bad guys.
Well, first of all, we have stronger law enforcement, nowadays, than they had in the days of the Old West, and I, for one, hope to rely on the police to protect me against the "bad guys." And I feel that, when everyone owns guns, we are less safe, rather than more safe. I think we see this every day in the US: people being shot during drunken rages in bars. Children getting their hands on their parents' guns and accidentally shooting themselves or others.

Are people in England, barred from owning guns, less safe than Americans?  Well, they have a much lower rate of homicides. In a decade, they have fewer than the US has in one year. Are they somehow less free? I'm not sure what the metric is to determine that, but I suspect not.
The legal/constitutional difference between the two countries is that we in the US have the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which says,
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
For quite a while jurisprudence generally held that some restrictions on gun ownership were permissible under the Constitution and the Second Amendment. However, recent decisions by the US Supreme Court, which these days is frequently dominated by conservatives, have overturned many gun-regulation or -restriction laws. And, regardless of what issues of interpretation the Amendment may raise, the pro–gun ownership lobby feels that the Amendment confers an absolute right and admits of no abridgements whatsoever.
Interpreting the law is never as simple and clear-cut as some people want to believe. So, some rulings that guns may be restricted might help. Even better, it is in principle possible to amend the Constitution with a new amendment that would basically repeal the Second Amendment. But I doubt that this will happen any time soon.

Note added 8/26/2015: Please check out this link to some interesting statistics on gun violence in America. 
Copyright © 2015.

Friday, June 26, 2015

US Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

It was just announced today: in what the news inevitably would call a "historic" decision, the US Supreme court has ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, and also that a state must recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state.

I was a bit surprised at this decision--even though many pundits had said that it was a likely outcome--because the current makeup of the Court is quite conservative, with the likes of Justice Antonin Scalia who, to my way of thinking, has often shown himself to be extremely conservative (not surprisingly, Scalia was one of the four justices who dissented from the majority decision).

There are those who say that this is "redefining" marriage, and that marriage is a thousands-of-years-old institution. To that I'd like to reply that marriage was "redefined" in 1967, in the famous Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, which ended bans on inter-racial marriage.

There was a time, maybe 30 years ago, when I did not advocate gay marriage. My position was, "Why should we try to ape heterosexual institutions?" Well, I have long since changed my mind because now I recognize that permitting us (gay people) to marry is to validate our relationships and our love. It is a big step toward permitting us to feel that we are equal members of society, rather than in many ways second-class citizens.

Of course this decision will not go down well with some people. Given that some prejudices run strong in some areas or among some people, and given how gun-happy America seems to be, my fear is that, in one of the "Bible Belt" states, such as Texas, Mississippi, or Alabama, two people of the same sex getting married might get shot while they are trying to "tie the knot."

Also, those same states will find ways to drag their feet and otherwise avoid issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, just as for 150 years they have evolved a repertoire of ways to keep African-Americans from voting. It seems that prejudice--what they'd call preserving their way of life--can spawn a lot of ingenuity.

Copyright (c) 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Blackhawks, Blackhawks, Blackhawks. . . .

Every day, for several days, the top story on the TV news here in Chicago has involved the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team.

First it was the day's results as to whether the Blackhawks had won or lost the most recent game they were playing in a six -game championship playoff.

Then it was that they had won enough of the six games and thus won a championship and the accompanying trophy called the Stanley Cup.

Then, yesterday, "The Cup" was being paraded around Chicago with stops at various neighborhoods and locales.

Today, no such news, but the news is about a parade planned for tomorrow having to do with celebrating the Blackhawks' victory and winning "The Cup."

These daily news segments have shown jubilant hockey fans and have consumed about 15 minutes--that is, half of the 30-minute newscast. And I refuse to believe that there were not other things going on in the world that were as newsworthy as this, or more so. To me, to magnify a local concern in this way, so that it is so paramount, seems very provincial.
I wish and hope that this Blackhawks stuff will stop after the parade tomorrow; but, given the TV news people's propensity to milk a story for all it's worth, and to keep a story going longer than I would have thought possible, I very likely will not stop hearing about the Blackhawks even then.

Now, I have to say right off that I am not into sports in the least, and absolutely do not get sports fandom. Maybe in that regard I'm a little like the character of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory in that I fail to understand a certain chunk of our culture, or our society's values, assumptions, and folkways.

To many people it would need no explaining, no analysis; but I am grappling to understand the phenomenon or fandom. I know that people identify with a sports team that is associated with their city, just like they identify with their school (college or lower school), town, country, and so forth. (In the Unites States, several of the 50 states seem to engender in their citizens a sense that they have a special identity.)

But how is one augmented when his (or her)  team wins a game or a multi-game competition? Is it that important for people to be able to say, "Our team beat your team," and thus, presumably, they are made better, or made to feel better?

The matter of group identity has always interested me, and as I see it, it is often not a good thing. We know that sometimes there is fighting between fans of two competing teams. Fans of one team have sometimes been attacked by fans of an opposing team. I think it's like two enemy nations going to war.

Group identity is always a process of identifying and labeling ourselves as "we," and some "others" as "they." This seems to be a very human, and maybe fundamental, trait of the human species. Think about national rivalries, religious wars and persecutions--as well as sports team rivalries.

Copyright (c) 2015