One love

6 09 2015

Given my One Law to Rule Them All stance, it’s really no surprise what I think of this whole Kim Davis situation:

Do your fucking job, and if you can’t do your fucking job, resign.

This is not even close to a hard call.

At least one good thing, however, and however temporarily, has come out of this: Sitnexto Kim Davis.

Now that is how you do parody.

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I fought the law

12 07 2015

On the one hand, we have someone who wants to get paid without doing the work:

“This morning, I [Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear] advised [Casey County Clerk Casey] Davis that I respect his right to his own personal beliefs regarding same-sex marriages. However, when he was elected, he took a constitutional oath to uphold the United States Constitution,” Beshear said in a Thursday statement. “According to the United States Supreme Court, the Constitution now requires that governmental officials in Kentucky and elsewhere must recognize same-sex marriages as valid and allow them to take place. One of Mr. Davis’ duties as county court clerk is to issue marriage licenses, and the Supreme Court now says that the United States Constitution requires those marriage licenses to be issued regardless of gender.”

Davis said the meeting was “cordial” and that the governor “respectfully disagreed with my position.” However, he said that he would continue to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

He also wants the governor to call a special session of the legislature to deal with the matter of not wanting to uphold his oath of office, arguing that the estimated $60,000 cost of that session is a “drop in the bucket compared to the cost of what we will lose if we don’t take a stand for what we believe in today”.

Which is, apparently, choosing to run for an office which duties you don’t care to perform.





Stories for boys

7 10 2014

Why is gay marriage gaining and abortion rights losing?

Paul Constant at the Stranger suggests its down to men: they don’t get abortions, so they can fill their own minds with their own views of the slutty whores who irresponsibly seek to evade responsibility for their whorish slutty irresponsible sex.

Gays and lesbians, on the other hand, have fought and marched and partied and litigated (and, unfortunately, died) their way into public consciousness as human beings deserving of the same rights as all other human beings.

There’s something to this. ‘Coming out’ is not just a personal affirmation, but a political statement, as is the chant we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it. Visibility matters in politics, especially visibility without compromise: as Arendt and Biko and Malcolm X noted, the oppressed must demand recognition as they are—Jewish or black or queer—and not merely ask to be allowed to assimilate.

We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.

That attitude underlay even the most anodyne of marriage equality ads, the ones featuring couples who’d been together for decades, who are raising children and puppies, who want only to love and care for their beloveds, til death do they part.  These ads were oft-accompanied by gentle music and soft focus, but the insistence remained: we are human beings who want to be treated as human beings.

That’s a tough message for the anti-same-sex-marriage folks to counter, which they themselves knew. It’s not enough to talk about stories or the nice couple next door, they said, we have to talk about principles! and preserving marriage! and the children! don’t forget the children! and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The fear of gay marriage worked only so long as homosexuality was a threat; once straight people got to know actual homosexual people, however, the abstraction couldn’t hold. The human story won.

Abortion rights don’t lend themselves so easily to such humanizing stories, however, and don’t end in thrown bouquets and candlelit dances. There are plenty of abortion stories to tell, which are being told, but they don’t follow the same arc as that toward marriage-equality.

There are all kinds of reasons for that difference, but a big one involves sex: marriage-equality folks rightly focused on love and commitment and fairness, on romance and weddings and families, and most definitely not on same-sex sex.

(Again, this is completely understandable: queer folk, especially queer men, have long sought to be seen as more than just sex machines, and as folks who just want what everyone else has. It thus made sense to omit from the ads & campaign speeches that a big thing most everyone has is sex.)

But ain’t no way to talk about abortion without talking about sex, and, unlike marriage, abortion isn’t seen as containing or domesticating sex, but the opposite; it is often seen, even among some who call themselves pro-choice, as enabling irresponsible sex.

By women, I mean. Of course, it is women who have irresponsible sex.

And so abortion gets caught up in all of our weirdness about women and sex and what counts as responsible and what should be the consequences and who should be the judge and wouldn’t you know it, none of that is as happy as the story of Caroline and Anita getting married after 50 years together or Jamal and Keith’s five kids dancing at their wedding.

I get what Constant is saying about the necessity of stories, but on abortion, I gotta side with the SSM opponents: “putting a face on the issue” isn’t enough.





Just gonna have to be a different man

17 06 2014

I am admittedly ambivalent on the prospects of Hillary Clinton running for president.

I’d dearly love to see a woman president, but if I thought Russ Feingold had half a chance in Hades of becoming prez, I’d vote for him in a New York minute.

She’s just too. . . conservative for me to get hepped up about her.

(That said, if she’s the nominee, you can be damned sure I’ll vote for her over Ted Cruz or Rick Perry or Scott Walker: “voting while sighing” is preferable to “smashing an icepick thru my eye socket”.)

In any case, she’s received a fair amount of (mostly negative) press on her tetchiness with Terry Gross, and, honestly, her inability to give a decent answer to mildly skeptical questions about her “evolution” on gay marriage is ridiculous. She changed her mind, it’s clear she changed her mind, and yet this woman who had adopted a wonderfully FuckIt attitude while Secretary of State somehow froze up when confronted with that known aggressor Gross.

Not that it’ll matter. She might get some grief about it in the primary, but chances are her opponents will also have “evolved” on the issue and will be unwilling to press her too hard. If she makes it to the general, it won’t matter at all: many Americans who today favor same-sex marriage probably had the same views about the issue in the 1990s as Clinton did, and thus won’t hold her changing views against her.

Hell, they might even feel reassured by her vagueness about exactly when and why her views changed, not least because the course of their own change is similarly vague.

Those of who pay attention to politics often want some kind of consistency or thru-line in their candidates and politicians; we want, in some weird kind of way, for them to be better than us—or, vainly, for them to be good enough to deserve our support.

But we’re not normal—most people don’t pay attention to politics—and it’s not at all clear that the characteristics we prize or deplore in politicians matters much to the folks who don’t tune in to the race before that last Labor Day before the election.

And for better and for worse, they’re the ones who’ll have the final say on who the next president is.





Na na na na, hey hey-a, good bye

26 06 2013

I have sympathy for people who lose political contests. I know what it’s like to be on the losing end—it hurts—so on those occasions in which my side wins, I don’t much feel like grinding down ordinary folk on the losing side. (Leaders and sundy celebri-pols are another matter. . . .)

But on the DOMA case, my reaction is pretty much We won you lost; good! (And to the leaders and sundry celebri-pols rending their garments over the decision, my reaction is: We won, you lost, fuck you.)

The winning or losing of elections is not in and of itself a matter of justice: it’s a sorting mechanism for governance which can may lead to (un)just legislation, but any justice is located in the fairness of the contest itself, not the outcome. If you lose, it sucks, but it’s not unfair; as such graciousness is called for.

And if you win, that’s great, but it’s not a triumph of justice; as such, graciousness is called for.

But some laws are unfair, and as such, graciousness doesn’t apply. The Defense of Marriage Act was manifestly unfair, preventing same-sex couples full coverage under the law and thus equal protection of those same laws. DOMA actively disfavored a minority of citizens just because a majority thought they were icky.

(Yes, I know SSM opponents say that’s not at all the case, but I don’t believe it.)

DOMA was unjust. Those who supported it supported injustice. Whatever else they think DOMA stood for, it stood for injustice.

Thus, my ungracious response to DOMA defenders: You lost. You deserved to lose. And you deserve no sympathy for the loss.





You put the load right on me

27 03 2013

I don’t believe in rights.

No, no, that’s not, mm, right. I don’t believe in natural rights, inalienable rights, rights granted by the Creator. . . you know Imma ’bout to tag-team this off to Bentham, don’t you?

Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense — nonsense upon stilts.

Rights are, instead, rhetorical artifacts, crafted out of history and philosophy and given heft in political culture. They haven’t always existed; they may not always exist. But, for now, we act as if they do, and grant them such privileged status in our theories of liberty (another rhetorical artifact) that a claim of right serves to silence alternate claims of expedience and desire.

(Or, y’know, start a fight  if one’s rights claim is countered with another. Then Mill is invoked: The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people, i.e., my right to swing my arms ends at your nose. And when that doesn’t work, well, that’s another post.)

Where was I? Ah, yes: the durability and privileged status granted to rights.

Which brings me to Prop 8 and DOMA and Constitutional rights and democracy.

I’m not a Constitutional scholar, nor even a dedicated Court-watcher (more of a Court-peeper, actually), so I have nothing to say regarding the juridical strength and weaknesses of the petitioners arguments before the Court. I do find issues of Constitutional interpretation interesting, mainly because I find issues of interpretation interesting (and will blow a gasket at Scalia’s claims regarding originalism), but, today, I don’t have anything to say on what the justices may or ought to say about the Constituion vis-a-vis same-sex marriage.

This doesn’t mean I have nothing to say, of course. (D’oh!) Let’s talk politics! Yay! More specifically, let’s talk about the politics of rights-claims versus majoritarianism, and which is the better way to cement a political victory.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg has famously argued that Roe v. Wade was decided too broadly, that more and more states were moving to relax their abortion laws, and that by creating a federal right to abortion, the Court simultaneously energized the anti-abortion opposition and imperiled reproductive rights.

It is a plausible interpretation of events. I am not at all sure, however, that it is the correct one.

Which, roughly, brings us to the question: When ought claims be treated as preferences and run through majoritarian processes, and when ought they be treated as rights and granted (near) absolute status, safe from majority preferences?

I don’t know that there’s any good answer to this. On the one hand, I prize liberty, for which rights are a if not the crucial component, but I also prize representative democracy, in which majorities may legitimately impose their preferences on minorities. Turn everything into a right, and the collective may do nothing; disregard rights, and majorities become tyrannies.

It is demonstrably the case that majorities (or the fervent sub-majority among them) can get irritated when they are prevented from imposing their views on others, and, sometimes, may so strongly react against such prevention that the backlash may be worse than and last longer than would have the original situation.

So what’s a minority to do?

The Ginsberg approach argues in favor of the slog: get in and chip away, chip away, chip away, until the mountain pressing down upon you crumbles away. Once it’s gone, it’s damned well gone.

There’s a lot to recommend to this approach, and, on the whole, I favor it.

But that doesn’t mean one can’t or shouldn’t occasionally stick some dynamite into that mountain, yell FIRE IN THE HOLE! and blow that sucker to smithereens. Sometimes justice—oh, yeah, justice!—demands the weight removed in all due haste.

Sometimes justice says to hell with the backlash.

Justice, too, sits alongside and occasionally jostles rights and liberties in a democratic society. Minorities must have justice, but so, too, must majorities; is there any way to determine ahead of time who must carry the weight?

No, there isn’t. You go with what you’ve got, and if you lose in one arena, you try for the win in the other. If you think you’re right, if you believe your claim is a matter of liberty and justice for all, then you fight in every way possible.

That’s politics.

And a right to marry? I honestly don’t know if there is a right to marry, for anyone. But it seems that if that right is granted to some, then—liberty and justice for all—it should be granted to all.

~~~

h/t for that fantastic Michael Bérubé link—go ahead, click on it!—to Scott Lemieux, LGM





And you give him these keys, I don’t need them no more

18 03 2013

Michelle Shocked has lost it.

I saw her at the Guthrie, back in the day, a solo performance supporting Short, Sharp, Shocked. My memory of her is hazy, but she sounded good. She always had that strong, pure voice.

Well, at a show in San Francisco this past Sunday, she decided to substitute a politico-religious rant for a second set. Given Shocked’s lefty following, this wouldn’t have led to any reaction stronger than rolled eyes had she not said that same-sex marriage is a sign of the End Times and she worried that ministers would be forced at gunpoint to marry queer folk.

Then she told the audience to tweet that she said “God hates faggots.” At which point the audience began to leave.

A Seattle venue has canceled an upcoming gig, and, according to a commenter at The Stranger‘s coverage of the story, other clubs are shutting her out.

I don’t know what to think of this. I do remember reading an interview with her a loooong time ago (my first year of grad school), in which she talked about sabotaging her own studio session if she thought her record company were taking advantage of her, and of her triumph in taking less money from the company than they offered. Which I thought was odd.

(Maybe I misread her words, maybe I’m misremembering them, but while I liked her music her intensity made me wary. In any case, she seemed distressed at the prospect of fame.)

Anyway, a number of commenters at both the Yahoo and The Stranger stories seem more saddened by what they speculate is a mental breakdown than pissed off. I guess that could be seen as a compassionate response, but I’m not entirely comfortable attributing religious fervor or a political conversion to mental illness: it is possible to change one’s mind without losing it.

Still, whatever the cause of her change, I feel badly for her. I don’t know if she sabotaged herself on purpose, as a way to escape being “Michelle Shocked”, or if she didn’t know what she was doing, or if she sincerely thought a concert was the best place for a sermon, but the damage is  done.

~~~

h/t Kelly O, Line Out