Monday, July 1, 2013

Week of 07/01/2013

Steps Forward And Back
– by David Matthews 2

The events of the past few weeks have taken society both forward and back.

First, we have the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court once again wrapping up their session with some controversial decisions concerning same-sex marriages.

The ill-named Federal Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) was gutted by the Justices in a 5-4 decision.  The law came about because of rumors in 1996 of California allowing same-sex marriages, and the fear was that once California allowed it, the other states would be forced to recognize same-sex marriages.  Turned out the “fear” was a little premature – by about ten years and from the other side of the continent – but it was certainly more than enough to force a law through Congress and the White House at breakneck speed.

The majority of justices cleaved a fine hair with this decision.  One would have expected them to use the Fourteenth Amendment to cut down the whole law as being a violation of the equal protection clause.  Instead, they used the Fifth Amendment concerning due process and just compensation, and targeted federal benefits only.  Granted, there are over a thousand benefits according to the Government Accountability Office that are involved, but that still is just for the federal level.  The individual states can still decide which “legal union” they want to recognize, which in this commentator’s mind smacks of the old Civil Rights days of whether states would recognize marriages involving mixed races or mixed religions, or even marriages determined by age.

Then there was the decision surrounding California’s “Proposition 8”, which the voters approved in 2008, which outlawed same-sex marriages just months after their state’s Supreme Court declared them constitutional.  The state giveth and the people (once again led on by fear, this time by the Mormons) takeith away.

Here the decision is a little more convoluted.

First, the justices punted.  There is no other way to put it.  They didn’t decide on the arguments of the case, but on the standing of the appeal.  They essentially kicked that can down the road so that another bunch of justices will have to take up at a later time.  And you can be certain that the religious extremists will remind people of that at every opportunity!

This is where it gets confusing.  First a federal court strikes down Prop 8.  Then the appeals court reverses it, but only after the state refused to file the appeal.  It seems the governor’s office decided the original decision wasn’t worth the effort, so they refused to appeal the verdict.  So then the sponsors of Prop 8 decided to file the appeal on behalf of the state, which they weren’t authorized to do but did anyway.

And that, it turns out, is what the Justices balked on.  Usually when the Justices do that, it’s the person trying to fix the problem that ends up being screwed, because the Justices claim that the plaintiff had no standing.  However, in this case, the plaintiff actually won, because they had the standing; it was the party claiming to represent the State that screwed up.

While we’re at it, maybe the California Bar should look into that case, because the council there basically carried out some serious misrepresentation that got them spanked by the highest court in the country.  Don’t forget that we’re dealing with people that seem to have a real hard time being told “no”.

Basically what this means is that for the states that allow it, same-sex marriages are legal, and those marriages are entitled to the same federal benefits as those in opposite-sex marriages.  It’s a win-win for supporters of same-sex marriages, although it’s really not the win that they deserved.

The bible-thumping “Family Values” Fox News faction, of course, are beside themselves on this.  How could the same justices that gutted fifty-year old civil rights laws for them turn around and betray them like this?  How could the same justices that gave them what they wanted deny them these victories?

Like the sideshow charlatans they truly are, the pompous con and neo-con pontiffs are putting on quite the hysterical show about these two decisions, pretending the channel America’s Founding Fathers as if they were mediums on the Psychic Friends Network.  The world, in their self-righteous minds, is coming to an end because men and women are being “allowed” to marry in same-sex unions in open defiance to “their” perceived dominion.

In other words, it must be one of those special days of the week that ends in “y”.

Obviously they would not agree with me on this, but for the rest of the thinking populace this is a step forward in terms of freedom.  Granted those are still baby steps, but steps forward nonetheless.

And yet with this step forward in tolerance and freedom, we have also taken a much larger step back when it comes to a woman by the name of Paula Deen.

Now unlike some others that have spoken up about her plight, I won’t try to pretend to not know who Paula Deen is.  I do watch the Food Network and also the Cooking Channel, not to mention Fox’s own MasterChef where she has made a celebrity appearance or two, so I know she’s a cook that specializes in high-cholesterol cooking… at least until she revealed to have Type-2 Diabetes.  She’s not one of my personal favorite cooking personalities, partially because of that matronly Southern demeanor.

And, from what I understand, it is that older “Southern demeanor” that she is being excessively persecuted for.

From what I understand, this is the length, width, depth, and extent of Ms. Deen’s “crime”: once upon a time she used the “Dreaded N-Word” in common discussions.  Nothing written, nothing on video, nothing said in a public appearance that could be documented and presented as concrete evidence.  Simply common discussions.

And not even recent conversations!  This is all supposedly “way back when”… as in “way back when such a word was used frequently by many people especially in places like the South”.

For this reason – and for this reason alone – she has lost her show on the Food Network.  Her products or her sponsorship have been pulled from K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target, Smithfield Foods, Home Depot, Caesar’s Entertainment, QVC, J.C. Penny, Sears, and Walgreens.  Her upcoming book through Amazon, previously #1 on the request list, has been pulled by her now-former publisher.

All of it because of something she said in the distant past!  Not recently, like in the case of Alec Baldwin on Twitter.  Not through a subordinate, as was the case with Don Imus on his radio show.  It was something she said in the distant past, in conversation, at a time when it was considered acceptable for people to use those words.

Let’s get brutally honest here… Paula Deen is being persecuted for something she said in the past, and doing so using today’s standards instead of those of the time!  And that is wrong!

Imagine insurance companies denying you coverage because once upon a time you used to smoke.  Imagine banks refusing to give you a car loan because you admitted thirty or forty years ago to having a lead foot.  Or an employer firing you today because you admit you used to do “wild things” when you went on Spring Break decades ago.

That is what is happening to Paula Deen, folks.  She is being punished by Corporate America for something she admitted saying in the distant past.

And who among us has not said something offensive in our past?  A racist saying?  A sexist comment?  A question about one’s intelligence or weight or sexual orientation?

Turn on Cartoon Network on the weekends at 11:30 pm and you’ll see the same dreaded “N-Word” being uttered by celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson.  Any calls for Samuel L. Jackson to suddenly be deprived of his livelihood for something that he said just a few years ago and is regularly repeated on Cartoon Network?  Any demands for Mister Jackson to denounce and apologize for using that word in a recorded medium?  I don’t think so.

This isn’t even political correctness anymore.  This is political bullying, not to mention out-and-out hypocrisy, especially in light of this past week’s court decisions!

How can you expect people to show tolerance and understanding for one group when another is being mercilessly punished for something that was said in the past?  You don’t win any supporters when you do that.

This is not a matter of “apples and oranges” here.  Progress is about moving forward, not backward.  You don’t punish people for actions done in the distant past, especially when those actions were previously considered accepted.  If you can’t do that yourself, then you have no right to demand that for others.

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