There once was a time when our country split in two and those two parts ran around fucking murdering each other. It was far from civil. But it was a war, and we all know the monumental debate that it settled. Those who know a little bit more about the non-Civil War know there was a second monumental debate that it settled, separate from slavery.
Back in the day states had a tremendous amount of power to make and enforce their own laws. They still very much do, as evidenced by the voter suppression and abortion restriction laws passed by red state legislatures in the past decade (courtesy of Project Red Map, which I plan to gab about in a future post). But until the 1860's the Constitution remained unclear as to which truly superseded which. When the dust settled from the 600,000 Americans killed by their fellow countrymen, the answer became crystal clear: federal law is the supreme law of the land. And for the most part, somewhat surprisingly, that was abided by without much continued debate for a long time.
In the 1960's there was a vile piece of shit in Alabama who somehow tricked the state into electing him as its chief executive. That feller's name was George, and George didn't deserve the oxygen he breathed. George also wasn't too bright and apparently didn't get the memo about those two settled debates 100 years prior. Enamored with the composition of melanin that his skin possessed, George decided that only others with his same pigmentation were entitled to a higher education. A federal judge disagreed. George disagreed with that disagreement and he stood in the doorway of the school himself to block them differently pigmented folks from entering. National Guard troops arrived. George stood down.
Most Americans know at least that general outline of the story. But what many may not know is that the Wallace incident was the closest a state had come since the aforementioned war to openly defying a federal law or court order, but it stopped short of an open defiance because he stepped aside. Even George Fucking Wallace wouldn't stand in the way of the federal government, thus stand in the way of constitutionally protected freedom.
1998 was a pretty good year. Elliott Smith released XO and Outkast released Aquemeni. The Shape of Punk to Come came out that year too. The Big Lebowski, Rushmore, Buffalo 66! (just kidding… I hate that fucking movie) But none of those things supersede the year’s greatest event… the moment Governor Wallace breathed his last breath. What a glorious happening it was.
Unfortunately for Alabama, and the United States, and freedom and liberty however, the ghost of George lingers. When a disgusting shitbag named Roy Moore, 'Chief Justice' of the 'Alabama Supreme Court,' (quotation marks are fun) a month or so ago “ordered” probate judges in the state to not give out marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples even after a Federal Circuit Court Judge and the US Supreme Court told them they had to, it was infuriating but kinda sorta easy to laugh off really. After all, I doubt even a majority of the judges would obey, and this will all be settled in June when the SCOTUS declares marriage equality the law of the land anyway.
But then his body of bigoted judges made it official. They issued a direct order to all judges in the State of Alabama that marriage licenses are not to be given to same sex couples. Alabama, the land of Wallace, is now the first state since the Civil War to openly defy a federal law or court order. Is it worse than what Walrus Ass did because technically it goes further? Maybe, maybe not. It doesn’t change what will happen in June. There is virtually no chance that Alabama will continue to protest after the Supreme Court unequivocally overturns every gay marriage ban. But still, what it represents puts a spot of tarnish on our 'shining city on the hill.' A fucking big one. This is going to sound cliché but I don’t give a shit… what ARE we as a country if we are not free? And if there is no rule of law what is left? Republicans love that term… rule of law, but they almost always use it in the context of empty rhetoric.
Just because nobody really tried before (because it didn’t seem remotely possible even as recently as 10 years ago) doesn’t mean that marriage equality isn’t guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. How could it NOT be? How does EVERYONE not see that? Motherfuckers of the Alabama Supreme Court: you are on the WRONG side of history… history that will memorialize you as a national laughing stock. Congrats on that. You’re famous.
Separate But Equal
Throughout most of my adult life I’ve made a point to mostly surround myself with individuals of like mind. Suffice to say, that’s not the best way to see the world through others’ eyes and understand other points of view… which I think is important to being a well-rounded thinker. Even still I did not actively seek to rectify that situation, but kind of organically fell into a (mostly online) friendship with a small group of evangelical Christians. It happened as a result of reconnecting with an old grade school chum in my late 20’s, who became a born-again sometime in my/our early 20’s.
So via him, again – mostly online, a friendship with a few of his just-as-Christian friends sort of fell into my lap, and I decided right off the bat to make it a purposeful endeavor. I knew it could only be a healthy thing to hear more dissenting opinions. It would make my worldview more complete, and help hone my debate skills to boot. And for the most part it has panned out that way, and has generally been a positive, if not often stomach-churning experience. Countering their extreme right-wing views can indeed be infuriating, and the ultra, ultra religious stuff has at times blown my mind, and at times caused me to very overtly question the sanity of each of these new friends… as well as several of their friends.
See, these guys are bible literalists. And to be honest, before I met them I didn’t even really know there were, in this day and age, educated folks in America around my age who believe things like the 6,000 years ago 6-day creation, Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, and dinosaurs and humans living together. These guys do. It’s boggling. And as I’ve learned – and will get into a bit in the next and final section of this post – it’s surprisingly (or to my surprise at least) somewhat of a 20th century phenomenon.
One of the guys I’ve grown closer with than the others… mostly because we have guitar playin’ in common and both have a bit of a twisted sense of humor, but he is super Christian and super Republican. As one could imagine, we’ve had some pretty heated debates on the internets. I have… you know… strong opinions and stuff. I suppose that’s putting it lightly. But we usually kiss and make up. That’s all over as of a couple weeks ago.
I can tolerate a lot of bullshit rhetoric, and that’s mostly because I always (humble-brag) (ok, just regular brag) have relevant, fact-filled arguments to counter said rhetoric. And I almost always keep it civil, do not resort to name-calling, and make a point to mention when I do happen to agree with a point made. But when I feel a line has been crossed I hit back, and what I do not abide is the denial of civil rights. LGBTQ rights is the civil rights issue of our time, and frankly the civil rights argument is the only one that even matters in the marriage equality debate.
I don’t really care what a person has been brought up to believe and/or what they think their religion’s texts have to say on the subject. I don’t even give a fuck if a pack of wild gays brutally murdered their family (ok, I actually do care about that, because murdering families ain’t cool)… this is about personal freedom and liberty. Those are huge buzzwords for the republicans, but it’s entirely hypocritical. Those words only mean something to them when freedom and liberty achieve the results that their personal views support.
So my (former?) friend, let’s call him Harvey, says ‘well they can have all the same rights but it just won’t be called marriage.’ NO! That’s separate but equal, and that’s Jim Crow, and that’s fucking bullshit, Harvey! Harvey purports to be a big-time defender of the Constitution, and of personal freedom. In reality it’s mostly a gun thing (partly because he likes playing with them and partly because of misplaced paranoia about having to be ready to overthrow the tyrannical, Obama-led government at a moment’s notice).
Harvey is a good man. A good husband, and father, and musician, and other things. I understand he’s a man of strong faith and I respect that very much. I can even kinda sorta look past his hardline anti-choice stance because I get the serious moral issues that presents within all religions. Yes, choice is a personal freedom and liberty issue just like marriage equality, and I do poke Harvey on it quite often too, but the difference is the bigotry. I take his bigotry personally. I don’t even think any of my gay friends give too much of a shit about being able to get married, but I don’t want to live in a goddamn country that doesn’t legally allow them to. Religion does not afford a free pass to discriminate.
So what really set Harvey off this time? What set him off enough to ‘unfriend’ me and not even respond to the message I sent him attempting to reconcile? I’m not 100% certain, but I imagine it was a combination of two things. When he countered one of my “it’s about freedom, stupid” comments, he actually argued that if everyone has the freedom to marry whoever they want then men will want to marry goats. Yes, somebody in real life – an educated somebody – used the ‘slippery slope to legal bestiality’ argument and wasn’t kidding. Mind boggling, right? Well it wasn’t the first time, sadly, and I said something to the effect of 'if you use that bestiality argument one more time I’m going to begin questioning whether there’s a brain in your skull at all.' So yeah, that probably pissed him off.
What was probably more damaging, though, was when I told him 'Jesus does not approve of your prejudice!' That must’ve made him furious, and at the time that was the result I really wanted. But you know what… Jesus doesn’t fucking approve. The Jesus of Nazareth that appears in the Bible couldn’t give a rat’s ass about who a person loves or fucks or marries. He was far too concerned with all that hippy peace, love and charity shit to pass moral judgment on who somebody chooses to love.
I really, really want Harvey to understand that. Will he ever? I don’t know. Will we ever be friends again? I’m not sure, but I’ve not written him off for good. Only time will tell.
How Did We Get Here?
Let’s not only pick on Harvey, because Harvey is far from alone. Extreme zealotry has run rampant, and it must loosen its ever-tightening grip on our government if we are ever to grow as a nation. It’s terrifying how grey the lines have become these past years. You have federal elected officials now loudly declaring, in a multitude of ways, that the Bible will guide their official words and actions as public servants more than the Constitution will. And you know what… that wouldn’t even be so much a problem if they were actually talking about the teachings of Jesus Christ, but that’s not what they mean.
What they mean is the fire and brimstone shit. They mean that everything considered a sin in the insane Old Testament – or more accurately, everything they perceive to be considered a sin in the insane Old Testament - should be illegal in the United States… even if that means denying Constitutional rights. Sound crazily un-American to you? Especially from a party that wraps itself in the American Flag at every turn? Yeah, me too.
The Democratic Party, with all of its flaws, is the only party concerned with affordable health care for everyone, a strong social safety net, a chance for every single child to have a quality education, a fair immigration policy that welcomes in people who want to play by the rules and contribute to our melting pot. You know… stuff that the Jesus guy would’ve supported. I’ve always been a left-leaning guy, but there was a time when I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself by identifying as a Democrat. I liked the romanticized notion of being an Independent. But frankly there’s too much at stake these days for all of us sane folks to not be united against the crazy. I love Bernie Sanders as much as the next lefty, but we do not need him Nader-ing up the 2016 election and that’s all there is to it.
So why would anyone who considers him or herself to be both a good Christian and a good American choose to be a Republican? I’m not quite sure, but I endeavor to find out and write about it in a future post. I’m not completely in the dark; I do have the 30,000-foot view. I know that Ronald Reagan ruined America (in many more ways than this one). I know that he embraced the Moral Majority while president, and a rapid blurring of the lines between church and state ensued. But it’s more than that, because Republicans have managed to trick tens of millions of very not-rich rural voters into believing that they and only they speak for Christians, when in reality there is very little Christian about the GOP’s agenda.
Tax breaks for the rich? No universal healthcare? No food stamps? No minimum wage? Guns are awesome and should be carried and used by every man, woman and child? Not only are all those things not Christian, they are the exact fucking opposite of Christian. So what exactly is it that Republicans were able to zero in on with fundamentalist Christians to make them so rabidly anti-'liberal?' I heard a piece on the radio the other day about a book that was written recently on how Christians and corporate America forged an alliance in the 1930’s, and that alliance has steadily been growing ever since. I’m looking forward to reading that book as soon as I can figure out the correct Google search for a book I neither know the author or the title of. I bet many clues to the mystery lie in that text, but that also can’t be the only factor.
What I’ve come to better understand somewhat recently is that the Republican Party, very brilliantly and somewhat subliminally, convinced American Christian bible literalists that they are the party that will – through their policies – help to accelerate the Apocalypse. Trigger the Rapture. The REAL fire and brimstone shit. This is how they mentally justify wanting to either dismantle the government or push it past the brink so it literally explodes. This is how they mentally justify denying climate change, even though deep down they (at least the somewhat educated ones) know it’s real (they HAVE to). This is how they mentally justify not caring if the poor and indigent die off. This is why they so vehemently and unapologetically support Israel at all costs… of course the Jews having complete control of Israel is key in the Rapture’s sequence of events (then of course those Jews end up dying if they don’t accept Jesus... ‘thanks for your help, but sorry Jews… rules are rules!’).
This may seem like ‘yeah, maybe, but so what,’ but think about this for a second. It’s 2015 and we have a political party whose actions in elected office are motivated and driven by their belief in an imminent Biblical apocalypse. I don’t know about everyone else, but that revelation scares the fucking shit out of me. If voter apathy continues to increase we just may see such policies in action. Even with control of both houses right now they’re still only really powerful enough to obstruct, but think of the power they’d have with both houses AND the White House. You think about it; I need a break. For blood pressure's sake. Let's eat cake.