Well, Good For North Carolina!

state-flag-north-carolinaAccording to the Greensboro News-Record, today, the House of Representatives of North Carolina passed an anti-bullying law, which includes race, religion, physical appearance, sexual orientation, and gender identity.  The Governor of North Carolina, Beverly Perdue, says that she will probably sign the bill, which narrowly passed by a 58-57 vote.

North Carolina will join 11 other states that have anti-bullying statutes that protect gay students.

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Hate Crimes Legislation vs. Marriage Equality

Appalled is the only way to describe my reaction yesterday when I saw the C-Span clip of Virgina Foxx, the Republican Congresswoman of North Carolina’s Fifth District during the debate of the hate crime legislation. This former college president and English professor said that the fact that Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay was a hoax. (She has since tried to backtrack on her words.) The fact is gay people in this country are attacked and killed because of their sexual orientation here in the U.S. In some cases, gay people are targeted because they seem to some to be “easy pickings” and the real motivation for the attack is pure harassment or robbery or even rape.

There was a rash of attacks on gay people here in Houston in the 90s, one of which was the murder of Paul Broussard, which happened near where I lived. If you’ve never read about this case, I recommend that you read this article or for a slightly different perspective look here.

It only takes reading the gay press online to know that these attacks are still happening today. I can’t say what percentage of gay people have experienced physical attacks or the threat of being attacked, but I would guess that it’s a high percentage, from attacks in schools to attacks in the street to attacks at home.

In spite of all these attacks (I’ve experienced it myself as I’ve mentioned on my about page), I don’t really support hate crimes legislation. If someone is attacked, they are attacked and the perpetrator should be punished. If someone is murdered, the killer should be tried and punished according to the law, not because of who was killed but because murder is murder no matter who the victim is.

I agree with some in Congress who ask how do we determine which groups should be covered under hate crimes. Ours is a democracy and everyone should be treated equally, no slippery slopes.

And that is the rationale of those people who are against hate crimes legislation: they do not want to have to give special treatment to certain groups.

But where is that rationale when it comes to Marriage Equality? Those who are against marriage equality certainly favor the idea of a special status for heterosexual people. And those against same-sex marriage are not just limited to the evangelicals and other Republicans.

How would all of those who voted in favor of the hate crimes bill have voted if the bill were for legalizing same-sex marriage? I doubt that the majority would have voted for it. While many of these representatives may feel they are doing the right thing, this type of legislation is not the answer to stopping the attacks and murders of gay people, nor of any other group of people. It’s no different than putting that metal plate over the construction hole in the street. You can drive over the hole, but it’s still there and eventually needs to be fixed.

The only real “fix” here is to change the attitudes of individuals and of society as a whole. It’s very hard to change ideas when they have been pounded into someone’s head from an early age.

But the government can do that by making laws that bring equal rights to all citizens. (We’ve seen this when slavery was abolished, when women were given the right to vote, when mixed race couples were allowed to marry.) I don’t know if people who have not been denied rights can understand this. I’m pretty sure that most women can understand this; I’m pretty sure that people of many ethnic minorities can understand this; I know that almost every gay person knows this. Even with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of our elected officials are still heterosexual white men, and most of them do not understand what it means to be discriminated against and do not want to understand it. Because if they were to make the playing ground equal for everyone, they might lose some of their power.

Putting specific groups into hate crimes laws does not make people of those groups any stronger. It weakens them by saying they need special protection, and in reality, is a way of keeping them second class citizens.

Instead what the government needs to do is enact and enforce laws, such as for marriage, labor, and immigration, that give all citizens their due rights under the Constitution.

We can only hope that people like Virginia Foxx, who are against giving special status to any citizens through hate crimes legislation, would also realize that by expressing that viewpoint, they are advocating equal status for all citizens and, thus, would support bills that provide that equality: legislation in favor of same-sex marriage and the elimination of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

Who Are These Republicans Nowadays Anyway?

After all the viciousness that the McCain and Palin have been putting forth in their campaign speeches, finally, but finally, today McCain had to admit that “Obama is a decent man”, only to be booed by many of his supporters for saying that. However, what I liked about it was there was sincerity in his voice and on his face when he answered the questions about Obama, something we haven’t seen from him in the debates. What is unfortunate is that the Republican campaign has spent so much time and energy before today revving their voters into almost a rampant frenzy. Where do they get all their ideas anyway?

My mom and dad were Republicans. I grew up thinking the Republicans were the good guys and the Democrats were the bad guys. My mom didn’t like JFK, mostly I think because he was Catholic. I remember her telling me about when she was a girl there was a KKK in or around Dorrance. Back in the 1920s, the KKK was a big political force in the U.S., but of course, in places like Kansas in those days, there were very few black people, so there had to be someone to be the scapegoat–someone to blame–someone to discriminate against–so it was the Catholics. I don’t know if my grandparents liked Catholics or not, but my mom sure didn’t.

She also said that only the Democrats got the country into wars. I guess that was because FDR was President when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. was forced into WWII. She always loved George W. Bush, but when your mother is in her 90s, you just don’t say, “But Mom, I thought you used to say ‘Only Democrats get us into wars.”

I always liked Eisenhower. Still to this day, I think of the 50s as the “good days”, even though I was just a little kid, and I know that for most little kids as long as they can play, have enough food to eat, and don’t get abused, childhood is “the good days”. I remember seeing “Ike” in some parade in Salina, maybe when he was running for his second term. And, of course, Ike and Mamie and the baby are buried right there in the Eisenhower Center, where I’ve been many times.

Bob Dole was our county attorney. Because Dad was township trustee, I’d sometimes go with him up to Russell to the courthouse to Dole’s office. Mom and Dad were also the Republican precinct chairman and chairwoman some of those years, so sometimes Bob Dole would come out to the farm campaigning, both for when he was still running for county attorney, then later when he was running for congress from Kansas’ Big First District. If I remember right, Kansas still had 6 congressional districts at that time (now it has just four). I still have the letter of congratulations from him from when I was sent to Kansas Boys’ State at KU. I always thought and still think that he is a pretty good guy. He did after a McCain-like marriage situation. He divorced his first wife, and a lot of people said it was because she was good enough to be a politician’s wife–a Washington wife. She eventually got married to a farmer from Sylvan Grove, and I would see her off and on when I was working over there in the summers. Then later, he married Elizabeth. She’s now a Senator from North Carolina and probably get beat this year, but why either of them wants to stay in politics at their age is a wonder.

I guess I liked when he ran for President the first time, but the first time I remember voting was for John Anderson. I guess by that time I’d already started thinking more about the realities of what the political parties stood for, but I still wasn’t ready to vote for a Democrat. By the time, Jimmy Carter came around, I had more idea of which side thought more like I do, and I haven’t changed my mind much since when Ronald Reagan’s time when all these religious right people started getting more and more control in the Republican party.

But really, it’s hard to tell who these people are; they’re not at all like the Republicans from earlier years that I remember. For sure, those on either side of the political fence could get very argumentative about their positions and put their feet in the ground about where they stood on the issues. But where does all this hate come from? They don’t even seem to care about the issues. Actually, some of things I see from them at rallies looks more like Serbians or other Eastern Europeans, when they were fuming about their former neighbors, who were of a different ethnicity. Or like what I’ve seen on old news reels of some of the German people lashing out against the Jews during Hitler’s early years, before WWII.

It’s really frightening.

I know there are probably still lots of good Republicans out there, but at the moment, the ones who the McCain-Palin campaign are attracting to their events act more like doberman pinschers guarding the junkyard fence.