Saturday, May 26, 2012

Being Dad

Yesterday I sat for two hours in a full auditorium for the annual Herron High School awards ceremony.  I was there because Noah got a year end award.  It was an interesting experience and truly learned how much of a solid community this school has grown into.  As teachers approached the podium to read the name of the honored students they were honored by the cheers of the students themselves.  The close relationship of students and teachers is clear, but never more so than with the students who received most improved awards.  It appeared that struggling students were given the tools to get better, some seemingly by the pieces I gleaned from announcements, putting them on a track to success that might not otherwise has been possible.  For Noah his few seconds of receiving the certificate he did was unimportant.  He dislikes these kinds of things even for him.  What he did appreciate is the both his mom and Dianne and I were there to see it.  It got me thinking.  Today is the 34th anniversary of my dad's death.  He never got to see me accomplish anything in high school.  He wasn't there when I was part of the championship track team, won scholarships, or graduated from college and graduate school.  While I did have so many people in my life who helped me through those years, friends, teachers, my track coach and of course neighbors, I wished my dad could have witnessed some of my accomplishments.  So I was fretting about leaving early yesterday to go to the event.  Confirmation is tonight and I go on a trip to see my mom and attend my college reunion on Sunday.  I wanted to make sure everything was in place and that no last minute events were a problem.  But Dianne made it clear I have to be there and I am thankful I was.  Noah might not remember the award, but 35 years from now, when he is choosing to attend his child's ceremony or not, he may remember that when he saw me he smiled, hugged me and was happy to have me in the room.  I really didn't have a role model for being a dad of a teen and a quirky one at that.  But I think half the battle is showing up and as long as I have the choice, I am going to try and do that.  I miss my dad, even now, an entire lifetime removed from him being there.  He has been gone for almost 3/4 of my life.  But I will never forget a few moments he gave me that will last forever.  Teaching me not only how to play baseball, but watch it (I skill I still love), making a mock solar eclipse with a box, flashlight and tennis ball when we couldn't see it where we lived when I was really small, singing us to sleep with songs he loved, (I still know every word to " Mary's Vineyard" ).  I realize part of being a dad is being there.  In the moment.  I am glad that I can do that for my boy.  I am glad I was given the chance. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gay Marriage is about Religious Freedom

Marriage is an interesting institution that despite what some TV screamers say, has evolved a great deal over the years.  The most recent debate about who can marry was given rocket fuel propulsion this week when President Obama said he thought gay men and lesbians should have the right to get married after Vice-President Biden and later Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan both said they were for the right.  So for 4 days I have heard a great deal about the issue with a widely diverse group of politicians showing varied levels of agreement with the President and many on the right finding ways to demonize the same man.  One of the largest voices of opposition to gay marriage comes from the far right evangelical community.  To be clear, this group of people in our population want the government to limit the rights of a minority based solely on their understanding of their faith tradition.  Even if another segment of their faith tradition or another faith tradition sees the marriage of two people of the same sex as a sacred trust that is the small of a marriage between a man and a woman.  In fact I see this as a government making it illegal for religion to practice its expression of faith.

Now before I go on, marriage is a two-fold institution.  One is the sacred blessing of a faith tradition on the union of two (and sometimes more) people.  Like other rituals in faith communities they are defined by that religions understanding of their God, how to express that as a religious culture.  The other part of marriage is a legal one, one where the government extends family rights to a spouse.  Rights that are extended without question to a man and a woman who marry.  Let me be clear the government should not be involved in any way in the rules a religion uses to determine who they will bless with their marriage ritual.  If the Southern Baptists want to ban gays and lesbians from their churches that is not a government issue and if the United Church of Christ wants to bless the marriage of two men or two women the government should also not be involved.  That is not their role.

What the government can do however is to not try to determine who should marry and allow for those people married by clergy who happen to be the same-sex couples to be extended the same rights as opposite-sex couples.  Think about it, a man could meet a woman at the bar in the MGM in Vegas at 8pm, have 3 drinks with her, go dancing and wind up at a drive through chapel, get married and will have dozens of rights from the government, immediately.  However two women I know who have been together for more than 20 years can't even get some of those rights through civil unions, contract law etc.  How is that not discrimination and religious discrimination as their clergy blessed the union they have.

Now I understand that a religion or a denomination wants to be a gate keeper to their own sacred laws. I support that.  I would fight against the government coming in to tell clergy they must marry gay men and women to each other.  But that is not the point.  However, specific to Christianity I think the argument that their faith tradition has always held marriage as one man and one woman is not only inaccurate it is not Christ like.

As early as the 1970s historians have found references to Christian rituals to join in marriage two men including a story of two Catholic Saints, St. Serge and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who converted to Christianity and were martyred.  Read here.

If this is true and there were gay unions blessed by the church as late as the 18th century the argument of marriage being a static thing in at least the last 2000 years is simply wrong.  It takes a number of arrows out of the quivers of the far right.

I wish government didn't have to be involved in marriage.  But the role of family is so important in our society that government must be.  So why should government define who can be married if consenting adults share a vision to build a life together?  One can make good arguments for the public good to keep close relatives from getting married.  One could even make a public good argument about multiple marriages, but I know I can't.  But if you can legally enter into a contract you should be able to and when you peel back the religion of marriage it is a contract, why shouldn't you be able to marry?  I don't understand the arguments against that.  Can someone help?

Monday, May 7, 2012

The GOP the Grand Obsolete Party

This primary season has really been interesting this year.  The economy is chugging along but not hitting on all cylinders.  The President is vulnerable and the Senate could be in play for the GOP if they play their cards right.  However the remarkable failure of the Republicans to put forth quality candidates and are attacking giants in the party with tea party insurgents.

The GOP at least has a nominee, Mitt Romney.  We knew he would be the guy, he was next, it is how the party does it.  But when you look at the number of people who ran you have to ask, "Is this all they have?"  We can start with Mitt, virtually every endorsement of him from others in the party have looked like hostage tapes where downed airmen are reading propaganda but stealthily sending secret code.  Go back and look at George Pataki as he seemed to force himself to make a statement.  Recently a far right radio host pressured Romney's campaign over an openly gay spokesperson.  The day after the spokesperson resigned that same radio host said something like, if he can't stand up to me how will he stand up to Putin.  Amazing.  This is the standard bearer.  But he was one of only 3 grown ups in the race,    he and Tim Pawlenty, who exited before the first ballot was cast, and John Huntsman, who doesn't tow the conservative line, were the only candidates who would not be an embarrassment to the party if nominated.  Think about it.  Think of the people who ran.  Rick Perry, his awe shucks approach to facts and his failing memory on the trail was only trumped by his connection to the most far right Christian groups that led him to have a day of prayer for rain in Texas.  Michelle Bachmann who has a dedicated following of comics just looking for crazy things she says from asking for the investigation of Democrats as anti-American activities to the much debunked idea that immunizations cause mental retardation or autism.  Ron Paul, who doesn't even belong in the party, who can't get people to listen to him so his supporters in New Hampshire would crash other candidates announcements.  Paul too has crazy ideas in the most anti-government ways but he seems to fail to get anyone but a small minority excited.  And these are the guys in office.  We saw businessmen get into the race too, sort of, Herman Cain was on a book tour but at first seemed serious.  His ignorance of much of the world was a strike against him early but when confronted with his failures he would go learn and form an opinion.  But it was too much for him so instead of stepping away and work to become Commerce Secretary he embraced ignorance as virtue with his Ubeki beki beki beki stan comments and his implosion in a sit down interview.  It was sad that a sex scandal took him out of the game, but I am worried about what he would have brought to the table had he stayed in.  The other businessman was the massively ignorant and arrogant Donald Trump who deserves a wing in the museum of crazy.  His toying with the race including wanting to host a debate was stunning, was there no one in the party to stop him?  I however am still waiting for him to release birther information.

Then to two conservatives or sort of that left office in Congress with a stain of scandal and failure.  Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.  I don't have to write much about these guys, who made it further than most.  But I will say, looking at these guys as leaders of the party are like taking the milk that was spoiled last week out of the fridge and thinking it magically became fresh again.

But while some in the party want to recycle candidates for President they are attacking the elder statesmen of the party.  Two long-term Republican leaders in the Senate Richard Lugar and Orin Hatch both have been attacked as liberals because they dare to work with Democrats.  The last GOP Presidential candidate also faced this kind of attack two years ago.  The irony is that John McCain's campaign theme was "Country First", but in the GOP it is now "My version of the party first"  and the vision comes not from the rank and file but from well funded SuperPacs that carpet bomb states with negative ads to attack the patriots who have served for years.  Meanwhile, the leaders of the party be it the Speaker of the House, Bohner, or Rense Prebius the party chair seem to not have a problem with the lying attacks.  Apparently they feel this is what democracy means.

Well, as a liberal democrat it is fun to watch, but it is an uncomfortable feeling when one of the two major parties are falling apart in front of us.  Perhaps we need a new party, like Kadima in Israel.  Bring back the old Concord Coalition, bring well meaning patriots together to form a real party that does put country first, and perhaps we can have a discussion.  

I Don't Wear My Kippah at WalMart

Several years ago I was sitting in a cafe with someone who suggested I take off my kippah.  The neighborhood we were in was a predominantly...