Good Job, Mississippi! #SB2681

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The Mississippi House of Representatives voted today to remove the discriminatory language from the religious freedom bill and set up a committee to study writing a new one. You can read the amendment here. Now the House version has to be reconciled with the Senate version, and that could go all sorts of ways, but I suspect the House version will be adopted.

I think this is a compromise to allow the people who were supporting the original bill to keep the issue in play, and now they have up to a year to build support for some form of religious freedom bill. People who oppose it have the same amount of time to organize. Thanks to everyone who read, liked and shared my posts on this issue, gave me feedback, and helped me on other social media. I’ve made my position on the need for state religious freedom legislation clear. Given where we started, the House bill is reasonable enough, and I’m happy to finally be writing a political post that says something positive about Mississippi.

The House amended this bill because people scrutinized it, and because Mississippians pressured them to change it or vote it down.  That says to me we’re making progress. So good job, Mississippi!

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Glad it was this one.

I hadn’t intended to post this afternoon because I wanted the two pieces I published this morning to have the front pages all day. I had no idea when I made that decision that Part Time Monster would be freshly pressed today, so I will make this short. Congratulations, Diana. On Teaching Our Children: White Privilege, Ageism, and Maintaining an Open Dialogue is worthy of the recognition.

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Some personal political opinions.

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This is not a political blog, but I will post on political topics here from time to time. So, fair warning.

Just in case you weren’t already aware of this, I am a leftist and I care about leftist things. So, you can breathe a sigh of relief at the fact that I have very little to say about American party politics beyond the fact that the party system is broken. I have quite a bit to say about equality, though. We do not have enough equality in the U.S. 

Since this blog is devoted to pop culture and smartassery 90 percent of the time, I am only able to write about two or three political topics. That means I have to prioritize. When I bother with politics at all, my political blogging has to be about things that really matter to me. Here are my three top priorities:

Marriage Equality. This is at the top of my list because it really bugs me that two people can be in a long-term relationship — a real partnership — and if one of them is hospitalized, the biological family can have the healthy partner escorted out of the hospital and make decisions without consulting them. There are also issues with insurance coverage, federal benefits, and inheritance that are being decided in the wrong way on the basis of sexual orientation. I am as sorry as I can be about the fact that same sex marriage offends some peoples’ religious sensibilities, but this is not a religious question. It is a legal question, and we have a secular legal system. When I look at how far the country shifted on this issue in 2013, what I see is a turning tide.  This issue will remain at the top of my political agenda until we have a consistent legal standard in all 50 states.

Poverty. We have class problems in this country, and we are in denial about them. We need to recognize class for what it is, and start talking about it in clinical terms. Investing $2000 in the stock market does not make you a capitalist. $200,000 a year in income does not put you in the same social category as Bill Gates. Bourgeois manners do not make you middle class. Economic inequality will be dealt with in the next decade or two, one way or another, because our economy is so unbalanced that we cannot sustain the status quo indefinitely. It would be better for everyone if it were dealt with by policies rather than by mobs. Just in general, mobs are vicious and destructive and not accountable to anyone. They suck. Please, let’s find a way to deal with our economic problems that doesn’t involve mobs.

Spying. This is here because everyone knows it’s going on and it is a good conversation starter and it is easy to make jokes about. I really consider the whole privacy debate to be over, and my side lost. Effectively, the strength of your 4th Amendment Rights is contingent on whether or not you can pay for them. Still, there is some value to beating a dead horse because it is a good way of explaining to younger people what society could be like, and what we’ve lost over the last few decades.

If I had more time and space to blog about politics, I would also be talking about the drug war, the school-to-prison pipeline, and a lot of other things.

The internet is great for spreading ideas and coordinating, but if you want to do something that matters politically, you have to be willing to do it in your own community, or else you’re wasting your time.

I have no interest in writing political stuff just to hear myself talk and feel smart. I can get those things from writing book reviews.  My political posts are written with the hope that they will have an effect. By which I mean, they will motivate people to get out and do stuff.

image: A Pondering Mind

Not Acceptable.

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This is this is the excerpt of Mr. Robertson’s GQ interview that troubles me enough to write a post about it [emphasis mine]:

As far as Phil is concerned, he was literally born again. Old Phil—the guy with the booze and the pills—died a long time ago, and New Phil sees no need to apologize for him: “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”

I don’t care about the fact that he’s framing this as a folksy way of saying “oh, I just witness to people and let them do what they do.” That only makes it more insidious. What I care about are his actual words, and if you don’t already know what those words really imply, take a look at the image at the top of this post.

Whether Phil Robertson himself intended his words as a threat or not is beside the point. The words are a threat because “Let God sort them out” is such a well-established phrase that anyone with half a brain who reads it makes that connection without being told what it means. We’ve all seen the t-shirts.

The full phrase seems to have originated in 1209, when it was used as a greenlight for a massacre. I first started seeing it associated with U.S. Special Forces imagery on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and tattoos in the 1980’s. I have no idea whether it’s an official patch or not. My point here is that it is so ubiquitous, and has been for so long, that it is acceptable for me to say, to Phil Robertson and his defenders:

“Aw, c’mon man. You know what that means.”

And even if you and Phil Robertson are so ignorant that you honestly do not know what it means, well, guess what? Millions of other people do, and we are tired of that bullshit.

If you are an American, you live in a country where people are subjected to physical violence because of their sexual orientation, and it is something that is happening right now. Not 10 years ago or 100. If you are a decent human being, that should make you uncomfortable or angry or something. At the very least, it should make you think twice about defending Mr. Robertson.

Not a First Amendment issue

Free speech only applies to government censorship. A&E is NOT a a government agency. Therefore, there is no free speech issue here. CNN says so. My friends at Scholars and Rogues say so. Think Progress also says so, and the U.S Courts say the same thing in slightly more difficult language. Everything they say tracks with my understanding of First Amendment rights in this country. If I thought otherwise, I would certainly tell you.

The same applies to the free exercise of religion. No government involvement equals no free exercise issue.

And one more thing. Since when did owning up to the fact that someone you like said some stupid shit in GQ become such a big deal that it’s worth bringing the Lord and Savior into it? Using religious freedom to defend this guy doesn’t help the situation. It trivializes martyrdom and makes a mockery of freedom of conscience, is what it does.

Image: Shadows in Eden