“America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.”
-John McCain (Concession Speech; November 4th, 2008)
and this other guy, I think you might have heard of him, said this:
“This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.”
-Barack Obama (Acceptance Speech; November 4th, 2008)
With that said, it’s hard to believe that I can still be reading this:
“Homosexuality is not a race, its a choice. Unlike with homosexuality, the Bible does not explicitly state that sexual activity between married interacial, hertero-couples is a sin. Trying to justify and protect a sexually deviant behavior is wrong. Period.”
-George (Some guy on a webboard)
Emily: prop 8 passed! praise the LORD!
Helen: separate state and church... what happened to not imposing your ideals on others?
Ana: There is NO such thing as separation of church and state... It comes from a letter, and it is refering to law not imposing the church..
Andrew: If you also want to legalize abortion, then gay marriage must be prevented because gay marriage legally brings down Roe v Wade.
-Facebook Status comments on November 5th, 2008 (full names are not given to protect identities)
I tried to find some literature or scholarly rhetoric justifying the passing of California Proposition Yes on 8 (“protecting marriage”- the most intellectually insulting euphemism I have ever heard), but in all God-given honesty, I could not find one single piece that can sufficiently summarize a rational and coherent motive to justify said proposition. So George, from a political action committee webboard and two girls on Facebook who have undoubtedly never heard of the words Leviticus, Old Mosaic, or probably even Jesus Christ, will have to suffice. Moreover, George and Facebook have unraveled the one thing the proponents of Yes On 8 tried so unsuccessfully to hide: the one motive behind all of Prop 8 was not our children (“Well someone please think of the children!”- Mrs. Joy, The Simpsons), it was protecting what one fat Roman fuck in the early days of civilization, jealous of Plato and Socrates, said about two dudes sleeping in the same bed with each other. Christianity, my friends (as John McCain would say), is the one thing holding us back from being a complete and rational society.
I didn’t want to write this now. I wanted it to wait it out a week or two, maybe even months. I wanted to soak up the events surrounding it, let people like Bill Maher, Cornel West, Salman Rushdie and other prominent social/political commentators point out the inherent contradiction for me: that on the same night that the first African-American citizen was elected the most powerful man on the face of this plane, three states were added to 27 others that strip away inalienable rights to a sect of people, subsequently establishing a counter intuitive mantra that while we believe “all men are created equal”, that’s not true if you’re different. Because different comes with the shallow and potentially dangerous territory of the desire not to understand. And, like so many of the most “righteous” and “moral” people in this great country of ours have continually shown time and time again, if you can’t understand something then it’s best to be afraid.
One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap Back for Mankind
All this progress that our local and cable news have been spewing about since last night has got me thinking. Why is that, even though the United States is so progressively behind the rest of the industrialized first world nations (i.e. Europe), we still stand to insist that we are the beacon of hope, equality and prosperity? We’re not like Switzerland, that has universal health care. We’re not like Italy, where gay marriage is legalized (and the fucking POPE lives there). We’re not like the Netherlands, where marijuana is legalized. We’re not like Canada where income inequality is virtually non-existent and there is actually a living wage (as opposed to a 450-1 dollar inequality between CEOs and their employees in the States). We’re not like the rest of the 1st-world, modern countries that all signed the Kyoto Protocol (with the exception of Australia due to their own standards of curbing greenhouse emissions) [EDIT: Apparently, Australia has joined Kyoto. Thank you Bill Wall for my daily Australian current events dosage]. As much as we love to brag that America is the land of equal opportunity, we’re nothing but the equivalent of scared Neanderthals hiding in the back of our caves, afraid of the sun; while the rest of the world is already reinventing the wheel. The one credit to America’s ability to change is given in the context of an aggressive hostility from its people. In other words, we have committed so many colossal fuck ups that it is amazing that we even got out of them. And while human nature is inherently angry, fearful and ultimately retarded, there has never been a case so specific and unique as the United States of America, because, remember, before we were a salad bowl, we were a melting pot, and within this melting pot, if you didn’t melt and become fondue, then you were casts out as goat cheese.
I’m sure people don’t need another history lesson, but for the sake of George and the Facebook morons, let’s just recap:
- Wars of the East of Mississippi in 1775- Wars of the West in 1917
- Blankets full of small pox and dysentery
- Genocide, massacres, dead baby scalps, imposition of treaties, forced displacement (or the one long giant fuckfest known as the Trail of Tears)
- The Manifest Destiny: Quasi-Religious doctrine claiming God wanted us to expand to the West and "kill all dem damn injuns". Tens of thousands were slaughtered within the first two years. (Sound familiar? West with East and Injuns with Iraqis).
-Hispanophobia/"The Black Legend": Tracing back all the way from the Spanish Empire, Hispanophobia materialized behind the folklore of "The Black Legends", where Spaniards were viewed, by Anglos, as "unusually cruel, avaricious, treacherous, fanatical, superstitious, hot blooded, corrupt, decadent, indolent, and authoritarian...The Black Legend informed Anglo Americans judgements about political, economic, religious and social forces that shaped Spanish provinces from Florida to California". Subsequently:
- The Texas Revolution
- The Chicano Movement
- The United Farm Workers
- The Brown Berets
California Gold Rush- Chinese were quickly sent to Central Pacific Railroad to work in large groups with no money. Apparently, slavery as an institution in the states began to waver away, since the popular consensus understood that it was immoral. So let’s just get another sect of minorities and pay them less to nothing instead.
-The Workingman's Party/Supreme Order of Caucasians: Chinese blamed for low wages. Anti-Oriental groups begin to spread with 64 chapters in California alone.
- The Chinese Exclusion Act: Excluded Orientals from setting a foot on the soil of the US, under penalty of imprisonment or deportation. Act was continued in 1892 with the Geary Act and in 1924 with the Immigration Act of 1924.
- Executive Order 9066: Just when you thought it was over, anti-Japanese American bill was signed (not unlike Executive Order 66 in Revenge of The Sith, except Jedis got their revenge three episodes later; we're still waiting for ours).
- Black People!!!: The most ever present of all discrimination in the United States, the reason why (if you are black), so many people nod their heads to you as they walk up and down the street. It’s most likely a symbolic gesture saying, “Hey, my bad”.
- Slavery: So there was this little thing called slavery back in the day, where thousands of Africans were shipped over to serve as slaves. In 1860, there were about 385,000 slave owners out of 1.5 million white families.
- Reconstruction: Jim Crow laws, racial segregation, disenfranchisement, exploitation, violence, and murder all were committed for a span of a century; in a time where Americans were fully aware of the American ideals established in our Constitution, but still, African-Americans were nothing but second class citizens. It was not until the beginning of the American Civil Rights movement where things finally began to change, culminating one night ago, where Barack Obama became the first African-American President.
And now, November 5th, 2008, after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865, woman's suffrage, interracial marriage, the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Fannie Lou Hamer, Mario Savio, The Brown Berets, Matthew Shepherd, etc., we still can't find it within ourselves to look at our own afflictions and inherent prejudice and say, "No". Instead of steadily walking the righteous path, we stumble blindly forward in a cycle, consequently repeating history.
Ring Them Bells, Freedom Has Come and Gone
Yes on 8 preached the idea of "traditional" marriage. I find it hard to exude scholarship, or even authenticity, when discussing such an obscure, indeterminate, and ambiguous subject that is the institutionalization of love. Love is an emotion; it is not an inanimate object, it is not something you can grab, fix, cut up, study, or have detailed, scientific data and facts to fully understand its skeleton and nature. Love is a concept not created by God or what silly little man with a pen and a robe; it's a feeling, and when we experience it, we know what it is without having to truly define it. Yes on 8, contrarily, believe that, "Yes", we can label what love is. If marriage is the single most symbolic form of true love between any persons, then it should be between a man and a woman. Why? Because it's tradition. If I am the only one that sees the backwards and, let me be frank, fucked up logic here, then I'd like some Oxycontin to calm me down. Tradition, much like the concept of love, is ambiguous; in other words, it is another term that relies solely on the culture or society that inhabits it (i.e. cultural relativism). However, one can argue that when Yes on 8 speak about tradition, they're talking about Christian tradition. Let us, for the sake of argument, pretend that our country and its founding fathers wanted the Bible and its scripture to dictate laws. Even then, what the Bible does say about marriage is very vague. In Genesis 2:23, Adam and Eve are created. Theologians cling onto the fact that Adam was a man and Eve was a woman and that was God's intent, therefore it must be that marriage be between a man and a woman. That equation is like having the transitive property with two variables. It is, essentially, illogical. Moreover, in Ephesians 5:22, theologians point out the rules of a successful marriage. The long short of it is that married couples should love each other to keep their marriage lasting. Yep, not exaggerating. So what's the real Christian tradition of marriage? I think Jon Stewart, in his own rant about the illogical step backwards in the passing of Yes on 8, said it best:
"Yes. Traditional marriage. When your theft Lord decides for the purpose of increasing his work force, that you, a pig farmer on his estate, will marry one of the sloth women who cleans out the castle sess pit. Doesn't matter which one. So he bribes the Archbishop to bind you in marriage and the King, who was passing through the village on his way to a witch burning, takes advantage of the right of premanocta to deflower your bride. Then you have eleven children, three of whom survive before dying of the plague at age twenty-six. Tradddition!"
-Jon Stewart (The Daily Show, November 3rd 2008)
Undoubtedly, the proponents of Prop 8, like any other opposition against the right step to progression, won this with fear; and if I have learned anything about politics based on my short 22 span on this Earth, anyone can win or pass anything with the proper application of fear and children. In a truly Roveian move, Yes on Prop 8 pulled the right levers by attributing marriage equality with the threatening of children; they won this by pandering with that inherent bigotry that makes us believe in the deep, inhabited fears of homosexuals around children. While most logical people will find this repulsive and, arguably, immoral, some have found it to be clever, effective, and most resourceful. What drives a sect of people to practice such hateful rhetoric and implement such disreputable methods? Institutionalized religion. Namely, in this country, Christianity.
Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet
In retrospect, I question myself over how naive I was when believing that California would be the third state with enough foresight to continue on with progressive thinking. It is only clear to me now that the deck was stacked up against No on Prop 8. With two or the largest Christian organizations in America contributing vast sums of money (The Knights of Columbus and the Church of Latter Day Saints [I know what you're thinking. Mormons protecting traditional marriage?]), the signs were never more ubiquitous and hope has never been so truncated.
Let me be clear, in an attempt to not only be seen as a blasphemous, anti-religious, hate monger. I fully understand and accept the positive qualities of religion. Human beings, intrinsically, are built with the capacity to believe, hope, and ultimately have faith. Faith has been a prominent characteristic in the progression of human kind. Moral crusaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. used faith as a catalyst to bring about equality and freedom to those who sought to have it. Yes, faith, when applied properly, can be a very strong resource.
The amount of bloodshed, wars, murders, rapes, hostile take-overs, and discrimination in the name of Jesus, Allah, Muhammad, Vishnu, Buddah, Mick Jagger, etc. have been staggering in human history. In Christianity alone, we have the Crusades, The French Wars of Religion, and the Thirty Years War. In Islam, the term Jihad ("to strive or struggle") is recognized all across the world, and has been applied throughout the history of the world in the battlegrounds of early Persian and Byzantine Empires. More exampels include the Reconquista, or the Recapturing, in which, for 800 years, Christian Kingdoms of Iberian and Muslim States destroyed each other. The modern day war for the State of Israel rages on between zionist Jews and extremist Muslims. The Shinto, a relatively peaceful tradition, promoted the religious concept of hakko ichiu, the idea that an emperor is divinely ordained by the touch of God, which began the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Religion, I put forth, does not hold a causal influence over the beginnings and outcomes of travesties against morality and humanity. While many other factors come into the equation, it is ultimately the indelible characteristic in human beings to equate anything that is outside of our cultural perspective as threatening, consequently enhancing our inability to understand and our ability to fear, dread, and ultimately rebel against. Religion is only the medium for which for this inherent characteristic to come forth, and regrettably, as Marshall McLuhan said, "the medium is the message".
In modern day society, religious scripture is still used to create hostile take overs of land and property, but as time passed by, we have learned to curb our inhibitions when it comes to slaughtering other people (well, most of us at least). So they tried a new tactics: politics. With a bible in one hand and a microphone in the other, the Bible dissimulated itself into being a book of applicable philosophy rather than being what it really is: a book of short stories and fairy tales. Consequently, many of America's colossal blunders was strongly inspired, if not caused by, the teachings of the Holy Bible. For example:
"Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly."
"Races are God’s will and therefore amalgamating them is against his will."
-Genesis 11:6-9, Deuteronomy 32:8, Acts 17:26
"Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it. For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever."
Sexism (Salma Hayek said it best)
“The whole book is gender bias. A woman is responsible for original sin. A woman cuts Samson coif of power. A woman asks for the head of John the Baptist. Read the Bible again sometime. Women are painted as bigger antagonists than the Egyptians and Romans combined. It stinks."
–Serendipity (Dogma, 1999)
And while the Bible largely preaches the practice of slavery, the stoning of women, the death of Jews, and the death of anybody who eats fish, shaves a beard, believes the world is round,or believes the galaxy is heliocentric, there is only one line about homosexuals, and it's from the same guy who also wrote about everything said above:
"And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
Evidently, the dangers of religious scripture still reign supreme today with no end in sight. The most hazardous of all, however, is a trend that has been exponentially picking up steam in the past few decades: the idea that Christianity, a religion starting in the Middle East and took hundreds of years to get here, is intrinsically and unquestionably American by nature. The Christian Right has not only hijacked the Republican Party, which was once a cogent, prudent and prideful party, but, as a consequence, has also taken over the nation as a whole.
One of the Facebook Morons (Ana, I think) referred to Thomas Jefferson’s Wall of Separation Letter to Danbury Baptists, where Jefferson outlined his desire to never mix government with the world of God. While Facebook Moron 2 (as I will refer to her as for now on) states that Jefferson never wanted government to interfere with the practice of religion (give them tax breaks sure! Let them rape children! Sure! But never interfere), and this is true, she purposefully ignores the vice versa. Jefferson, without a doubt, hated dogma. As much as Franklin, Madison, Adams and the majority of founding fathers that wanted nothing more than to protect America from zealots. For example:
"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own"
-Thomas Jefferson (Letter to H. Spafford, 1814).
"I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue. The scriptures assure me that at the last day we shall not be examined on what we thought but what we did."
"The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles? "
-John Adams (letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 20, 1815)
"Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects."
-James Madison (letter to William Bradford, Jr., Jauary 1774)
Jefferson even wrote his own bible known as The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. While Facebook Moron #2 would have you believe that Jefferson was always a good moral Christian who hated gays, impregnated slaves, and never mixed different crop seeds in his farm , Jefferson was more of a rationalist than the Facebook Morons will ever be. While the Facebook Morons have information and knowledge at the click of a button, Thomas Jefferson developed his own sense of moral through reason, rationality and that American ideal that we so love to brag about called equality. In his own Bible, Jefferson took out the supernatural qualities of the old and new testament, believing that these stories led to misinterpretations and can eventually lead to a whole sect of people taking these stories to be literal (Boy was he wrong. Who could actually believe Jonah sleeping in a giant fish for 200 years, or all languages coming from a tower called babel, or Noah getting every insect on this planet and making them fuck, or how God sent his only son to planet earth on a suicide mission only to come back as a zombie three days later. I mean, who actually believes that shit?). So despite Jefferson’s asinine assumptions about the irrationality of human beings, he wrote a book that focused on the principle qualities that make believing in Jesus so admirable: Love, peace, humility, compassion and understanding. Jefferson practiced in deism, believing that the teachings of religion can come from reason and rationality, as opposed to a blind faith in supernatural events such as prophecy and miracles, ultimately knowing that such interpretations come from humans, usually in an authoritative standpoint. As Thomas Jefferson, Jesus and the ideology of deism preaches, God’s greatest gift to humanity is not religion, but the ability to reason.
Jefferson and the rest of the founding fathers were right from the start. In order to create a harmonious and peaceful democracy, with the inclusion (if need be) of religious institutions, then said institutions can never be dictated by dogma or anecdotes, but by the ideology of deism. In David Zarat's "Religion and Democratic Ideology in 17th Century England", the author points out the backbone in which Jefferson, et. al. used to develop their idea of a society that coexists with the institutionalization of faith. Zarat points out that, especially in Christianity, all sects are highly intolerant and authoritatian, not only with rival sects, but with even their own members. Zarat believes, as Jefferson believes, that the primary struggle for democracy was truncated by the inability for institutionalized religion to separate religion and politics. Instead of democratic societies, we saw "Godly States and Christian Commonwealths". Consequently, according to Zarat, there was no room for the concept of reason. Reason is the central ideal to democracy, and without it, the idea of equality and freedom cannot exist. Instead, Christians (Protestants mostly) would follow "the one true word of God", which ultimately led to nothing but a shattered society and bruised citizens.
Zarat presents an alternative story, or an episodic context, in which he pinpoints the marks of ideolational change, mostly focusing on points in history where authority was challenged. Zarat uses the English Civil War as an example of how religion practiced through the concept of deism led to a successful democracy and a peaceful society. In the 17th century, after the failures of the conflicts between religious sect were apparent, people started to experience "doctrinal anxiety", or a "crisis of authority", in which members of each religious sect would question the benefit and truth of the respective scripture they believe in. The transtion from the 17th-18th century presented a huge shift in deism (again, the idea that we should start looking to nature for God, and subsequently we will find rational and reason). Deism presented a huge shift in political and religious discourse, in which the idea of tolerance and acceptance became widespread throughout Europe. Zarat concludes that, at this point in European history, the consensus of the citizens put down their arms and all yelled that timely mantra: "I don't know". There is no need for bloody wars if we can all accept, with reason, that no one knows what the hell they're talking about. Thus reigned in a new age of democratization. Something that has been spreading for over four centuries and has now reached a sudden halt due to the revival of fundamental religious scripture.
The First Breath After the Coma
Reason, not religion, is the basis of our American institution. With reason comes, not tolerance, but understanding and acceptance. Americans, with our inherent desire to fight, rape and pillage, backed by the pseudo-philosophies of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Corinthians, and Ezekiel (but never Jesus), have, for all of its existence have never come to sufficiently use reason when it mattered. Of course, when we look back in retrospect, we realize what we did wrong and how to fix it, but we never stare adversity in the eye and challenge it with the ideals that our founding fathers wanted us to use and spread at our conception. Prop 8 is just another example of America's unwillingness to progress. While we put a Black man in the Oval Office yesterday, we have a stark contrast symbolized by the incessantly illogical rhetoric of the Facebook Morons, and judging by the 52 percent who voted yes, they are the tyrants of such misconceptions. While I do believe most people are rational and will barter with reason, Facebook Morons are prime examples of what makes this country continue to delve down the deep pit of idiocracy. Their pseudo-religious beliefs provide the backbone, fear tactics, guilt by association and ad hominem attacks are the bread and butter of their arguments; straying a large mass of sheep (or average people) to vote their way. It's not that all people hate homosexuals, interracial marriage, African Americans, Asian Americans, Women, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, etc., it's just that the proper application of fear and doubt have been so expertly placed that most people will vote YES just to be safe, rather than sorry.
As grim and cynical I am about the current state of this particular issue. I come to remember that Barack Obama is our new President. Although his opposition to Prop 8 was soft, I can see in him that all his rhetoric about equality, hope, change and progress are not just verbal commodities being sold to the eight year idealess American people, but he actually believes it. Reason, hope and equality are characterstics threaded in the very fabric of American culture. It can never be erased, torn, burned, or withered away by the shallow whims of misguided individuals. In the end, it only stands to endure and triumph. In the end, hope is bulletproof.