Tag Archives: human rights

What’s government for?

In the simplest terms, our country was founded on an idea that every person has a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  This was derived from John Locke’s similar belief in “life, liberty, and property.”  It is the government’s duty to protect these rights.   Police protect our lives and property domestically, and the armed forces protect us from foreign threats.  But the government is so much more that just police and military.  Forming and living in societies has allowed us to move away from hunting and gathering and subsistence agriculture.  By division of labor, we’re able to specialize in a trade, send our young to schools, and have more leisure time.  Currency developed to make transactions simpler (What you don’t want my chickens?)  Government has grown to regulate agriculture, balance the rights of laborers and corporations, preserve our natural resources, monitor food and drug safety, provide a social safety net, and on and on.

Today, among recession, unemployment, skyrocketing health care and education costs, multiple foreign wars, growing support for LGBT equality, and many other issues, we’ve seen the rise of the Tea Party.  Now, I used to be an objectivist/Libertarian.  I thought “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” were brilliant.  But those books showcase an unrealistic utopia.  No one had a sub par education because they were born in the wrong neighborhood, there wasn’t a stay at home mom left with nothing when her husband decided to abandon his family, mental illness didn’t exist.  The Tea Party wants to cut government spending so they can have lower taxes.  Too bad for you if you don’t have insurance or want to marry your same-sex partner.  The Tea Party supports a strict adherance to the Constitution, nevermind that the preamble specifically says to “promote the general Welfare.”  Our country wasn’t founded to create millionaires or laud people who were lucky enough to be born into healthy, wealthy, intelligent families.  America is for everyone.

If you’ve ever played a sport or were part of any type of team, you’ve probably heard the saying that a group is “only as strong as the weakest link.”  If our country is a team, the homeless, unemployed, ill, etc are our weakest links.  We cannot progress as a whole and leave these less fortunate behind.  Our country supports public education because an educated populace is important for a functioning democracy, our economy needs trained workers, and academically engaged children are less likely to become teen parents or criminals.  I think this rationale extends to other government-run social welfare programs.  We cannot expect people to be good citizens when their basic needs such as housing, food, and health care are not met.  Of course we must find a balance in these programs to make sure we are teaching men to fish, not just handing out fish.  And yes, there are charities that care for these needs but they’re not in every community and not everyone is welcome (for example, some shelters turn away gay or transgender people).

I hate myself for saying this, but I do agree with the Tea Party on one of their points.  We should be auditing government for waste.  Are consultants overpaid?  Do politicians need the lavish offices and expense accounts they have?  Are we sending Social Security checks to dead people?

For me it comes down to this fundamental question: Can government achieve what liberals and progressives want for a price that conservatives can accept?

 

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Imagine

Imagine a 13-year-old girl gets married in New Hampshire.  That’s the only state where it’s legal to marry that young.  Now imagine she and her husband can’t file their federal taxes together because no other state allows 13 year olds to marry.  Imagine her husband gets injured on their vacation to Indiana, and she can’t visit him in the hospital because in Indiana you have to be 15 to get married.  Imagine the couple decides to move to North Carolina, and they have to pay for separate rental applications and credit checks because you have to be 14 to get married in North Carolina.  But this is just your imagination, this 13 year old and her husband will have the rights of marriage where ever they go.

You might be repulsed by the idea of such a young girl being married, but it’s legal.  And because it’s legal where they got married, the federal government recognizes their marriage and every other state recognizes their marriage.  Because they’re straight.

In 1996 our government passed the Defense of Marriage Act.  It ensured that the federal government and other states didn’t need to recognize same-sex marriages, even if they were legal in the state where they were performed.  Same-sex marriage is now legal in five states and more states are moving in that direction.  Gay and lesbian couples married in those states face the problems I described above.

Fifty-five years ago the Supreme Court decided in Brown v Board of Education that separate is “inherently unequal” and required the integration of schools.  Education is a state’s right, but when it came down to discrimination, the federal government took a stand.  Likewise, marriage is a state’s right, but the LGBT community needs fairness and equality.  DOMA must be repealed.

Please contact your elected officials and demand marriage equality.

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Why do gays and their allies…

… find it so important to convince everyone that being gay is not a choice?

One of my (gay) friends asked me this last week.  He had a good point: Religion is a choice, yet it’s a protected status.  I also saw the question come up on Yahoo! Answers.

I’ve been pondering this amidst all the hoopla surrounding the Prop 8 decision.  Supporters of Prop 8 and opponents of marriage equality in other states make this argument about how the legalization of same-sex marriage will affect their children’s education.  Kids will be taught that it’s *gasp* okay to be gay and okay to want to marry someone of your own gender.  What these arguments say to me is that these people fear their children will become homosexual if they learn that being homosexual is okay.  So here’s where the “being gay isn’t a choice” argument comes in.  Don’t make some BS argument about protecting your kids from being “indoctrinated” and “turning gay.”  So, in my mind, that’s why it’s important for people to understand that you don’t just “turn gay” because you wanted to.

2-13% (research varies) of the population is gay.  Your kid might be one of them.  They might come out sooner and be happier about who they are because they learned that it’s not wrong to be gay, but learning about it didn’t make them be attracted to people of the same sex.  Straight people didn’t need to learn about traditional marriage to cause them to be attracted to people of the opposite sex.

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