Friday, May 19, 2006

New Feature: Week in Review

Today, I’m going to start what will be a regular Friday feature on My Case Against God. It’s called Week in Review, and will include a few notable news stories from the past week. I’ll provide a snippet of the story, and offer a few hundred words of commentary. Topics covered will range from atheism to science to politics. Since this was a big week in terms of political news (at least with respect to the issues about which I care most), this edition of Week in Review will be dedicated to the latest happenings in Washington.

“Senate panel backs US gay marriage ban” was the headline that most caught my eye on Thursday. Here’s a snippet of the report:

A Senate panel approved a controversial proposal to write a gay marriage ban into the US Constitution.

The proposed amendment will go to the full Senate on June 5 for what is expected to be a heated debate on a ban backed by President George W. Bush.

"The American people support protecting traditional marriage, and we should give this amendment due consideration through the full legislative process," Republican Senator Sam Brownback said.

"We must continue to fight for the protection of traditional marriage."

The proposed constitutional amendment faces an uphill battle as it must be passed by two-thirds of senators, two-thirds of representatives in the House and then approved by two-thirds of the 50 US states.

However, the numbers of legislators, both for and against gay marriage, who say the matter is better left to the individual states, are too many to allow passage.

A previous attempt failed in Congress in 2004.

This disgusting, shameful bigotry represents one of the main reasons I refuse to support the Republican Party in any elections, be they federal, state or local. The head of the GOP, George W. Bush, has explicitly endorsed a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. With that, Bush, through his own intolerance, has tainted his entire party. As long as an anti-gay bigot heads the GOP, I will not vote for a single member of that party. Of course, Bush’s apparent homophobia isn’t exactly unique among Republicans. Senators such as Sam Brownback and Tom Coburn have long records of making venomous remarks against homosexuals.

Here’s the plain truth: There is no rational reason to oppose gay marriage. The most commonly cited objection is the religious one; that is, The Bible condemns homosexuality and thus the government mustn’t endorse it. Separation of church and state issues aside, that argument might work if The Bible had credibility, but it doesn’t. With respect to matters scientific, historical and logical, The Bible has proven reliably faulty. Many of my previous posts have touched on The Bible’s innumerable flaws, the most notable post among them being my de-conversion story. I won’t rehash all the same arguments you’ve read there, but I encourage you to refresh yourself. Suffice it to say I don’t take my moral cues from a book that alleges the reanimation of hours-dead corpses.

The other argument is that, if gays are allowed to marry, heterosexual marriage somehow will be subverted. I won’t waste too much time on this ludicrous argument, either, as it’s generally just a cover for the previously mentioned Bible argument. Does interracial marriage subvert same-race marriage? Does inter-religious marriage subvert same-religion marriage? Of course not. The notion that gay nuptials will harm straight unions is analogous to fearing square hamburgers will harm circle-shaped ones. As long as your version of marriage is incorporated within the definition, who cares what other unions also are included?

There’s nothing wrong with broadening the definition of marriage. Indeed, over the decades, it has been broadened beneficially on several fronts. The most notable, of course, is with respect to interracial marriage. Without definition broadening, the term “marriage” still might exclude interracial couples. That’s why the analogy between interracial marriage and gay marriage is legitimate. If black men marrying white women didn’t interfere in Sen. Brownback’s marriage, on what basis does he think one man marrying another would harm it?

Here’s a list of the committee members who, by vote, endorsed homophobic bigotry:

Arlen Specter

Orrin G. Hatch

Charles E. Grassley

Jon Kyl

Mike DeWine

Jeff Sessions

Lindsey Graham

John Cornyn

Sam Brownback

Tom Coburn

They are embarrassments to public office. They should be ashamed.

The other story in this edition of Week in Review relates to naming English as the US’ official language. The following is a snippet of this story.

The White House Friday backed a U.S. Senate vote making English the nation's official language, saying it's important for immigrants to become fluent.

Following emotionally charged debate, the measure was approved Thursday on a 63-34 vote. It now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives to work out differences in the proposal.

It declares that except for that which is already guaranteed by law, no one has a right to federal services in a language other than English, The Washington Post said.

"You want to make sure that people are fluent in English because you want them to be able to enter the mainstream of society, and you want them to do well," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

Opponents warned the measure could negate a number of executive orders and multilingual ordinances not officially approved by Congress.

On this particular issue, I side with the GOP. Let me be clear: I do not support the idea that immigrants must “assimilate” into American culture. I view that as racist, since it clearly implies that American ways somehow are superior to the practices of other cultures. I do not believe the US should be a melting pot; rather, I embrace the US as a “tossed salad.” By that, I mean a concoction of many things, none of which blends into the others. I don’t think people should dress alike, think alike, worship alike or engage in the same traditions. Multiculturalism is a beautiful thing…far better than the bland sameness wished for by xenophobes.

But people must be able to communicate. I cannot have a real relationship with my neighbor if he and I speak different languages. A national language doesn’t have to be a means by which assimilation is achieved. It can, and should, be a means by which people from different backgrounds communicate with, learn about and grow to understand each other. Clothing, practices and beliefs do not impede relationship building; on the other hand, inability to have a conversation halts it in its tracks. On this basis, I support the proposal, even though I remain wary of its supporters’ intentions [After all, many of them are the same folks who quake in fear when statistics are presented indicating Caucasians one day will be a minority in the US.]. I support a national language in the name of multiculturalism. Whether the result will look more like I hope it to be or James Inhofe hopes it to be remains to be seen.

11 Comments:

Blogger Delta said...

First off let me say that I'm looking forward to this Week In Review. I think it'll be very thought-provoking and practical.

I completely agree with your position on homosexual marriage. It's hard to even address because it's just so ridiculous.

I don't know exactly how I feel on this language issue though. I haven't put much thought into it, and I don't think I really intend to, since it's simply political chum to keep the public distracted from important issues. And I think you're definitely correct in suspecting that the GOP has alternative intentions, namely the hope that they can stir up enough hate and racism to keep themselves in power. But in the past few minutes I've thought about it, I think I'm against it. There's no real reason to eliminate the foreign-language accessibility of government bodies. It costs nearly nothing to do. Imagine all the old and poor mexican and asian immigrants who would no longer be able to get help from the government in their language. They can't learn the language. Many of them may be too old to learn something new and shit, many poor immigrants have to work constantly to keep themselves and their family fed. They don't have time to learn english when their job only requires them to know how to do some sort of manual labor. English should be a required course in public schools because it is important to be able to communicate to each other, but foreign languages should not be abandoned in a heartbeat at the expense of poor immigrants and for the benefit of the GOP's image in the slave states.

3:27 AM EDT  
Blogger Drunken Tune said...

First off, I think the "gay marriage" issue is a load of bull. Those who advocate civil marriage are just another group in the bigoted "separate but equal crowd." One of my good friends is a lesbian, and when she grows up I want her to be happy with her partner when she finds someone she loves. I want my friend to have the right to marry her partner, and I want them to grow old together, with all the legal protections that come with their marriage. I want them to feel that their marriage was a sacred or holy act that is above an exchange of vows and a piece of paper. Years from now, if I'm married to some very attractive woman and my friend still does not have that right, I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but there will be a feeling of insurmountable injustice taking place.

Secondly, I support the second amendment that is coming to the floor, but am angered by the inane proposed amendment so many people stand behind. It's politics, and fairly obvious that it's on the floor for the next elections. The second one recognizes that English is the common language of Americans, but not the national language. It's a matter of semantics, but it still matters to me. Allowing people to speak any language they wish to is intrinsically libertarian, and to have this still available, I believe the government should compensate for this and should help those who need the government’s help. It costs next to nothing, and calling English our common language is self-evident. There's no need to have either of the two, but I pick the one that's inclusive, not politiking.

11:35 AM EDT  
Anonymous bernarda said...

"I want them to feel that their marriage was a sacred or holy act that is above an exchange of vows and a piece of paper."

What kind of religious nonsense is that?

Marriage is nothing more than a legal arrangement. It always has been. Look around a bit, in the developed world or elsewhere.

Families try to arrange suitable, ie advantageous, unions for their offspring.

Holy or sacred, my ass.

2:49 PM EDT  
Blogger Drunken Tune said...

I am advocating something far from religious, bernarda. In American society, marriage has evolved connotations that give two (or more with polygamy) people a feeling of safety and security and allow a large group of people to come together and celebrate people proclaiming their love for each other, then finishing it off with a statement of companionship, then consummating the marriage. It's more than a legal relationship, at least in the State's culture.

Civil unions are a legal arrangement in a courthouse, far from the hoo-ha involved with getting everyone you love together to show your commitment to someone else. In essence, it denies a minority of people who should be equal under the law everything that comes with marriage and sets them on a "separate but equal" footing. I want my friend to have the right to these feelings of a sacred bond that other Americans have the right to experience during marriage, even if I don't believe it's truly holy or sacred. It's her right. It's not religious nonsense. If you read my post with a clear head, you'd see that I'm only wishing that she could have the same feeling, rights, and recognition this country's government allows heterosexual couples to experience.

You simplify marriage too far, bernarda, and remove all the cultural underpinnings of it. The last time I checked, many people marry each other, at least in countries such as America and countries in the EU, people marry each other because they wish to spend the rest of their lives together, grow old together, form a family, show their friends and families that they're forming a bond, and they wish to receive benefits from their governments. This is no statement of religious nonsense, but it is far from your supposed "[f]amilies try[ing] to arrange suitable, ie advantageous, unions for their offspring."

Next time, speak on level terms instead in insulting what I have to say because you misconstrued the meaning of my comment.

4:13 PM EDT  
Blogger TheJollyNihilist said...

First off let me say that I'm looking forward to this Week In Review. I think it'll be very thought-provoking and practical.

Thanks for the encouragement! I got the idea as I was mulling possible topics to address; I realized that I wanted to cover several, rather than limit myself to one.

English should be a required course in public schools because it is important to be able to communicate to each other,

Agreed. That's basically why I support the proposal. I don't care if my neighbor dresses differently, thinks differently, believes differently or behaves differently. But, I do want to be able to converse with him. How else will I be able to learn about his culture, and he learn about mine?

7:36 PM EDT  
Blogger TheJollyNihilist said...

First off, I think the "gay marriage" issue is a load of bull. Those who advocate civil marriage are just another group in the bigoted "separate but equal crowd."

I completely agree with you. Separate inherently is unequal. Either marriage for everybody, or "civil unions" for everybody. That would be true equality before the law.

One of my good friends is a lesbian, and when she grows up I want her to be happy with her partner when she finds someone she loves. I want my friend to have the right to marry her partner, and I want them to grow old together, with all the legal protections that come with their marriage.

It's such a common-sense point of view. I'm really stumped as to why so many bigots are so staunchly opposed to gay marriage. Their's is an indefensible position, informed only by intolerance and hate.

Secondly, I support the second amendment that is coming to the floor, but am angered by the inane proposed amendment so many people stand behind. It's politics, and fairly obvious that it's on the floor for the next elections. The second one recognizes that English is the common language of Americans, but not the national language. It's a matter of semantics, but it still matters to me. Allowing people to speak any language they wish to is intrinsically libertarian, and to have this still available, I believe the government should compensate for this and should help those who need the government’s help. It costs next to nothing, and calling English our common language is self-evident. There's no need to have either of the two, but I pick the one that's inclusive, not politiking.

As a matter of fact, I would prefer "common language" wording to "national language" wording. Whenever I hear the term "national language," my defenses immediately are raised with respect to National Religion.

7:45 PM EDT  
Blogger Alon Levy said...

Agreed. That's basically why I support the proposal. I don't care if my neighbor dresses differently, thinks differently, believes differently or behaves differently. But, I do want to be able to converse with him. How else will I be able to learn about his culture, and he learn about mine?

The current system's much better at ensuring that than the proposed one. Second-generation immigrants, as well as first-generation ones who come to the US as children, speak fluent English.

In contrast, continental Europe has ethnic ghettos that would have people clamoring for Detroit's racial integration. The one European country that's relatively good at making sure people can communicate with one another, Britain, is also the one that has no official language and tries to accommodate minority languages as much as possible.

For another good case study of a failure of a national language to break down language barriers, consider China. Since at least the Revolution, it has tried to promote Mandarin unity, teaching only Mandarin at schools and pretending that other Chinese languages are mere dialects. After almost 60 years, barely half of China speaks Mandarin, and even among literate urbanites, fluency is nowhere near 100%. In fact, lately some people in northern China have to learn southern Chinese languages such as Min or Cantonese if they move south.

7:15 AM EDT  
Blogger TheJollyNihilist said...

Alon,

Thanks for the interesting comments. Apparently, you agree with me that the ability to communicate is essential. Also, obviously, you oppose the national language measure. Here's my question: What do you think would work better? What is the best way to ensure just about everybody can communicate with just about everybody else? As I said, I can look past differences in belief, behavior, dress and thought. But I need to be able to communicate with my neighbors. How can the government facilitate this?

8:43 PM EDT  
Blogger The Comment Pimpette said...

Excellent post!

This whole banning of gay marriage is just unbelievable! Why shouldn't same sex partners be allowed to have the same legal protections as "pro-creational" couples? Just unbelievable.

I also agree with you on the national language. Having a national language is definately not forcing anyone to assimilate to our ways, not having one is forcing us to assimilate to all of the immigrants.

7:38 PM EDT  
Blogger TheJollyNihilist said...

This whole banning of gay marriage is just unbelievable! Why shouldn't same sex partners be allowed to have the same legal protections as "pro-creational" couples? Just unbelievable.

Because the US is largely homophobic. In the '40s and '50s, the US' racism was apparent with respect to interracial marriage. Public opinion polls showed widespread disapproval. Now, in the new millennium, the US' homophobia is apparent with respect to gay marriage. Let's face it, humans are a notoriously intolerant group. Perhaps we need to evolve a bit more.

I also agree with you on the national language. Having a national language is definately not forcing anyone to assimilate to our ways, not having one is forcing us to assimilate to all of the immigrants.

For me, it's all about communication. I don't care how they dress or what traditions they observe. All I want is to be able to have a conversation with them. I think a national language is one way to reach that goal.

10:31 PM EDT  
Blogger Alon Levy said...

Here's my question: What do you think would work better? What is the best way to ensure just about everybody can communicate with just about everybody else? As I said, I can look past differences in belief, behavior, dress and thought. But I need to be able to communicate with my neighbors. How can the government facilitate this?

I don't think it can, beyond what currently exists in the US and Canada (note that although Canada has two official languages, its language policy is about English vs. French, not English vs. immigrants' languages; in practice the status of English in the US and in English-speaking Canada is the same). English-only laws at work can and do work, but to my understanding they're already on the books.

4:42 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home