Monday, November 24, 2008

Rob you with a fountain pen

"Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men
Some will rob you with a six-gun
And some with a fountain pen."

"Pretty Boy Floyd"-Woodie Guthrie, 1940

Seems like the current economic meltdown is an echo of this song. And it's reminds me of another.

"The bridge at midnight trembles,
The country doctor rambles,
Bankers' nieces seek perfection,
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring.
The wind howls like a hammer,
The night blows cold and rainy,
My love she's like some raven
At my window with a broken wing."

" Love Minus Zero/No Limit" -Bob Dylan

Does it seem that the American Dream of home ownership has been stolen for too many? The method was an old one -- old as the ancient English Laws of Enclosure. Back then the villagers were denied access to the Commons. That's where they had for generations grazed their livestock. And so, without a way to feed their families, they were forced to borrow from the lands "new owners". And when they couldn't pay it back, their homes were seized: Tricked out of ownership to the homes their fore bearers had built.

And isn't this what we're seeing now? Home owners tricked into an inflated, artificial real estate market so they would borrow against the equity they had obtained in their homes. The Commons of our nation destroyed or privatized. And now, as the economy trembles, and families lose their livelihoods, these home owners find that what they've borrowed is more than the deflated value of the homes they promised as equity. So those loans are being called in by the banks. Nothing really changed, except the color of the ink on a ledger. Robbed by a fountain pen!

But this is America, and it can't happen here. Right? So what are we doing about it?

The Congress passes legislation to save the system that created the fraud! 700 billion strong! And more and more and more.
And who is getting the money?
The bankers' nieces, seeking perfection no doubt, on their balance sheets.

The wind will definitely howl like a hammer this Thanksgiving for too many. And I expect these poor folk have about given up expecting "all the gifts" that those wise men in Washington will bring.
And now America is like some raven,
At my window with a broken wing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Marriage is a Civil Right

Judith and I have been friends since we were 14. Our marriage, at the age of 21 in 1969, has been the longest relationship of our lives. Through the trials of raising three children, 8 years of partial separation, lots of growth challenges and changes, it is still the prism through which we view our daily existence. But this post is not about our marriage, or our relationship. It's about what that long struggle has meant to us in the context of civil rights.

Despite my excitement about the Democrat's win during the last election, I was extremely disappointed in the outcome of the California ballot initiative called Proposition 8. Voting Yes for Prop 8 added the definition to the state's constitution that "marriage" will be restricted to one man and one woman. I was disappointed because I support marriage, and I believe the benefits of same-sex marriage far outweigh the detriments, and that Prop 8 will destroy the fabric of true, consensual marriage.

My context is a combination of morality, practicality, and realism, and while I sympathize with the feeling of voters who voted for Prop 8, it's important in my mind to put things into perspective.

For the great majority of couples in the world, marriage is still a form of bondage for the women. For a large segment of world society, the wife is still legal chattel - an object of slavery - with the owner of the chattel always defined as the male member.

Polygamy is another standard accepted form of marriage in many countries. It almost always defines marriage as a relationship between one man and multiple women.

Arranged marriages, from birth is yet another.

During the days of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, marriages were arranged and conducted at the behest of the government for the sole purpose of increasing the workforce, and the children of those marriages were removed from the couple (who seldom were permitted to co-habitate) as quickly as feasible.

The fact that the Western countries have -- over time -- successfully re-defined a concept of marriage to include equal rights between members of the marriage is an anomaly when compared to the state of marriage in most of the world's nations.

The U.S. and other Western countries -- by moving the legal path of marriage towards equality -- has strengthened individual freedoms, so that people now have a choice to take on their roles. These countries have strengthened the fabric of society by building a more just framework for raising children, for recognizing individual and family contributions, and for rewarding functioning family structures.

But traditional marriage, as found in too many other countries, is a means of restricting the rights of a particular underclass of citizens who happen to be women.

Proposition 8 -- the constitutional amendment that has been approved by the voters of California -- runs counter to the trajectory of civil rights. By defining marriage as an exclusive state -- solely recognized as a relationship between members of the opposite sex -- Prop 8 reinforces a status quo in which social mores' are more important than human rights.

It removes individual choice and it separates and castigates individuals who have freely choosen to enter into binding marital relationships. These kinds of relationships have been a constructive part of our society for millenniums, and interjecting a state-sanctioned formulation that excludes certain individuals is detrimental to the very family values these proponents profess to support.

Marriage is not simply a relationship between man and woman, and it should not be defined as such: It is a relationship between the society and individuals, shielding the relationship from state intervention and providing it with a legal framework for protecting its members for the benefit of the society.

Proponents of Prop 8 contend that legal domestic partnership is the equivalent to a socially sanctioned and legitimized marriage. But they might also look at the historic results of similar laws that once defined separate-but-equal states in this country, and the laws of apartheid in other nations. Those histories demonstrate that when two classes of citizens are defined by the state, they result in unequal treatment and the destruction of the very institutions that the laws were purporting to protect.

Individuals of age who freely join together in a relationship to build upon family values should not be struggling with the extra weight of this civil rights fight. Our families, who are already facing so many obstacles in holding together their relationships, should not be pitted one against the other over the sexual orientation of their neighbors -- gay, straight, or otherwise. There is too much that needs to be done to improve our society for the benefit of our children.

Proposition 8 was clearly an anti-civil rights proposition. The California state constitutional amendment that it promoted now needs to be repealed -- for the benefit of all of our families.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Good singing!

Time for Change?

This morning Judith woke up and began singing this old Bob Dylan song. I imagine her standing in line to vote, and starting to hum this little ditty. And then, slowly, voices begin to join in with her. And eventually, we get it done.

Thanks Bob Dylan!
If you want to sing this hymn, the words go like this:

When The Ship Comes In

Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin'.
Like the stillness in the wind
'Fore the hurricane begins,
The hour when the ship comes in.

Oh the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking.
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking.

Oh the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they'll be smiling.
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand,
The hour that the ship comes in.

And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they're spoken.
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean.

A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline.
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck,
The hour that the ship comes in.

Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin'.
And the ship's wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin'.

Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they'll jerk from their beds and think they're dreamin'.
But they'll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it's for real,
The hour when the ship comes in.

Then they'll raise their hands,
Sayin' we'll meet all your demands,
But we'll shout from the bow your days are numbered.
And like Pharaoh's tribe,
They'll be drownded in the tide,
And like Goliath, they'll be conquered.

Copyright ©1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music