Monday, June 27, 2011

What Justice Comes From Silence

Last week, we were forced by circumstance to engage the help of a lawyer in righting a wrong -- my son being unable to join his peers in their 8th Grade graduation ceremony, even though he had finally passed. It had been a rough year, and it looked like he might be held back, but through the good graces of some of his teachers, he was able to make up the necessary work to obtain the grades necessary to go to high school. Even so, the administration believed it would not be in his his best interests to allow him in the ceremony, saying it would "set a bad example." We thought just the opposite -- he had shown that their faith in him was not misplaced, and that when he put his nose to the grindstone, he could do the work.

After the school administration and the school district superintendent not only minimized out outrage over the snub, but were condescending about it, we hired legal counsel. Our lawyer, acting swiftly, as there was only hours until the ceremony at this point, was quickly able to determine that the district had violated its own rules regarding the situation, and was in breach. Fear of a potential lawsuit forced their hand, and we won. We got to see him graduate and mark a milestone in his life we both wanted to see.

The legal code of our nation, and the system of justice provided for therein, was a carefully crafted work, intended to provide the average citizen with legal protections from unreasonable government mandates and actions, to ensure that no person was made guilty before they could receive a fair hearing, and to allow even the most heinous criminal the privilege of a day in court. The system of jurisprudence that we have, flawed though it may be in some areas, still affords the vast majority of Americans the protection of their inalienable rights and the right to be heard where they stand accused.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sowing The Seeds Of Love

The forward march of humanity toward the future is retarded by the drag of thousands of years of ignorance and associated dogma. It is unfortunate that so much of human existence is predicated on developing and refining definitions of what is "right" and what is "wrong" in terms of what humans are and what they are supposed to be. Quietly, as each decade, each century, each millennium passes, those definitions are eroded, much as rock is battered to dust by wind and rain. The forces of nature and the intrinsic natural order of the universe are more powerful than the artificial structures erected by mankind to keep out the truth.

So it is that a momentous event, completed in the late hours of June 24th, 2011, has broken one more link in the chains that keep humanity from reaching its full potential. The state of New York, after much wrangling, voted to allow same-sex marriage to become legal. It struck a blow for civil rights, by proclaiming that members of the homosexual community are as much entitled to marry as anyone else. It was another moment affirming what we must know deep inside, but many are afraid to accept -- that human beings and their souls are not defined by their body structure, anymore than by their skin color, or the deity or deities they worship, or any other artificial measure we wish to create.

Advances in human society comes slowly, incrementally, and usually at great cost beforehand. Each group struggles against a tide of humanity that looks down on them, denigrates them, labels them as inferior or unworthy. Invective, rancor, epithets, and violence cascade down on them, and yet, even as it seems bleak and progress untenable, a strong, low, bass note begins to form amidst the tumult, growing in intensity, sweeping through the cacophony, subsuming the hatred, swallowing the fear. Like the seed buried deep beneath the soil, hoarding the precious drops of water that reach it, eventually the first tendril reaches out and breaks the surface, and a new birth of freedom and justice takes place.

New York, following in the footsteps of so many of its New England brethren, is that tendril, rising up into the warm air and gathering in the rays of the Sun, to further energize the growth of that seed of humanity. Another group may rise above the turmoil to assert its rights and privileges, and the plague of ignorance and the pestilence of hatred shall not find safe haven in their leaves anymore, but be cast upon the dust to blow away in the wind. Let the day be marked in triumph, for though much growth remains, this moment shows that where we sow compassion and tolerance and good will, we will reap the rewards of true humanity and fellowship, and our society will grow stronger for it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why Feminism Matters On Father's Day

My daughter is six-years-old. She is growing up quickly, into a world where women are under assault, physically, mentally, and socially. Rapists, anti-choice rabble, magazine editors, Hollywood directors, and Congressmen are trying to tell her she's not good enough as she is, that she shouldn't get her hopes up, that she has no autonomy over herself, that her only worth is as a mother and wife. The Women's Suffrage movement of the early Twentieth Century is now under assault by men who have watched their power erode every decade since, as women and minorities assert themselves and take the rights and privileges that are owed them by their mere existence as citizens of America.

As a father, since the birth of my daughter, my leanings toward the equality of women has naturally risen above it's previous levels. My daughter is growing up in this world, and as her father, I am charged with ensuring not only that she is raised to be tough, strong, and intelligent, but with making sure that the world she grows into is not corrupted for women. I am forced to confront the societal ills more forcefully, as I cannot countenance women being returned to their status as second-class citizens in a male-dominated society. She deserves all the blessing of her humanity, and she is a person like anyone else, not an object to be coveted, taken, shamed, or shackled.

It is not just the purview of the father to look out for a daughter. Every woman, of every stripe, in every place, deserves to have the respect of every man. It is a woman we have to thank for our existence, and that should be enough, but beyond our mother, women are our sisters, aunts, grandmothers, teachers, doctors, nurses, soldiers, scientists, and fill every level of human society with their knowledge, their strength, their caring their compassion. Man and woman are equal measure of humanity, and while some men would argue the point, it is only because they have latched onto dogma and steeped themselves in their own need to be superior.

On this Father's Day, let us not forget how all fathers got their opportunity to be such, and let us not forget that our fatherhood does not stop at the door, especially where it comes to our daughters. We, having helped to create a human being, must nurture them, and provide them an environment in which to thrive. This means we must be vigilant, must be engaged, must strive to build a better world for them than the one we inherited. Father's Day is not a day for rest, but reflection, and action, if those Father's Days to come are to be worth celebrating.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Anthony Weiner's Bad Day

A lot has been written and said and repeated and trumpeted and blathered about in regards to the shenanigans of Representative Anthony Weiner. I was trying hard to resist writing about the incidents involving him, believing that there was little more I could add to the general cacophony. Yet, as days have passed, as new information has come out, and as the import of the events that have transpired has sunk in, I am left wondering: what does it all mean?

I come to the unalterable conclusion that this is the ultimate teachable moment for our society in regards to many things: morality, the Internet, government, humanity, duty, honor. Within the tangled skein of these events, lie the truths we seldom wish to confront or take action toward. It is a tableau of the virtues and vices that both ennoble us and plague us simultaneously.

I won't pass judgment on Rep. Weiner. As the Biblical admonition from Jesus goes, "may he who is without sin cast the first stone." I may not be a public persona, but I have done many things of an indiscreet nature that I am not proud of. Many of us have, and whether we admit it or not, we know it in our heart and our soul.

I have no reason to believe that we can populate our government with angels and saints; we will have to accept that fallible humanity will be led by fallible leaders, and that hopefully personal failings of honor are not symptomatic of deeper failings of morality and duty toward humanity. We must take each of us as we are, and hope that those we elect to represent us can truly represent our best interests, as well as those of our state, our nation, and humanity as a whole. we cannot ask of them to become paragons of virtue, though we would wish them to, perhaps to salve our own conscience.

So let this moment be a warning to us: the world is more complicated by leaps and bounds than it ever has been, and our personal failings are magnified by the environment we now inhabit. We must turn away from our sanctimoniousness and turn toward each other, if we are to survive. Let that start now, and let Anthony Weiner have been the one to lead us in the right direction.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Belief Versus Biology

Strange to say, it has been my pleasure of late to engage some anti-choice adherents in spirited discussion of the nature of human biology, pregnancy, birth, and the definition of a human being. I use the term "discussion" rather than "debate," for to be a debate, there has to be some agreement upon the basic grounds, and that is where the discussion of abortion breaks down, because both sides have very different definitions of what constitutes a human being, or a baby, or development. This is what hampers any attempt to find common ground. In the end, the discussion is more about biology and belief.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Oh Sons And Daughters Of Israel!

I am indebted to one of my on-line friends, Emily L. Hauser, for a great deal of good information and insight into the current social conflict in Israel. I will not rehash her take on events there, but suggest you read her excellent blog to receive the unadulterated version. It has brought me, though, to try and formulate my own opinion on the subject; normally I do not delve into the conflict.