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The ICE raids and the legal processes which follow in their wake have been repeatedly criticized for their imperfections. Raids rely on sometimes dubious tips and on a database of employment information that has been proven to be flawed. Who is picked up and detained is often determined by who “looks” Latino or who fits the profile of an immigrant. Then the legal system essentially requires people to prove their citizenship if they claim to have been falsely arrested.
I’m not sure anyone expects a bureaucratic system in the U.S. to work without its glitches, but that is hardly the point. What our proclaimed system of rights and checks on government incursions on those rights must determine is whether the existence of the imperfections outweigh the injustice of their result.
For example, you may be comfortable with a death penalty which results in the wrongful death of one prisoner, but how about 100? Where is the line?
The unfolding record of ICE and our immigrant deportation protocol is increasingly crying out for some kind of relief. There is a human tragedy in people who are wrongfully deported and detained, to be sure. But the greater tragedy is the slow and eroding protection of rights based almost entirely on race.
This story, from the print and online versions of Hoy, recounts the experiences of Guillermo Olivares Romero. This U.S. citizen, who has a criminal record for burglary and forgery, was recently released after having spent two weeks in an immigration detention center. He was released only after ACLU attorneys produced his birth certificate, vaccination and health records, and school records.
Olivares had been refused entry into the U.S. on two previous occasions. In 2007, he was deported to Mexico after having served his time in state prison.
ICE claims Olivares said he was born in Mexico. One part of his criminal record also mistakenly lists his birthplace as the same. But would these bureacratic snafus (accentuated, no doubt, by Olivares’ own lack of skill at navigating the bureaucracy of the criminal justice system) have resulted in deportation if Olivares had looked different? If his name were John Smith?
Here’s the story as it ran in today’s Hoy:
Ciudadano regresa a casa después de ser deportado
29 de octubre, 2008
Sentado en la sala de su hogar, Guillermo Olivares Romero respira tranquilo después de los momentos que vivió cuando estuvo detenido por Inmigración a pesar de ser estadounidense.
“No me creyeron. A pesar de que muchas veces les dije que había nacido aquí. Me decían que yo era mexicano porque me parecía a los mexicanos”, dijo Olivares. “Estuve muy estresado. Ahora estoy tranquilo”.
Olivares salió libre el 9 de octubre, dos semanas después de haber sido detenido, cuando la Unión Americana de Libertades Civiles (ACLU) presentó su certificado de nacimiento, las vacunas y los archivos de la escuela.
Olivares señaló que ha sido deportado dos veces y se le ha negado el ingreso al país en varias ocasiones. Su encuentro con las autoridades migratorias inició en el 2000, cuando fue detenido al intentar cruzar la frontera con un primo que llevaba el acta de nacimiento de él, y él llevaba la de uno de sus hermanos.
“Ese día me regresaron a México y mi mamá me llevó el acta de nacimiento. Después pude pasar”, dijo Olivares, cuyo récord penal incluye robo y estafa.
En el 2007 fue deportado a México, luego de pasar un tiempo en prisión y ser transferido a Inmigración. En ese entonces, él le había dicho a las autoridades de que no era mexicano pero ellos aseguraron de que él había firmado un documento diciendo que lo era, según él.
Olivares se fue a vivir con unos familiares a Jalisco. En verano quiso regresar porque su padre estaba enfermo y no le permitieron entrar al país. Debido a la gravedad de su padre, dijo, cruzó ilegalmente y fue detenido y deportado el mismo día que murió su papá. “Mi mamá fue por mí y tratamos de entrar legalmente y ellos no me creyeron que era ciudadano a pesar de tener mi acta de nacimiento y que mi mamá [residente legal] estaba conmigo”, contó.
Virginia Kice, vocera de la Oficina de Control de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE), dijo a HOY que Olivares fue dejado en libertad pero su caso continua en investigación. “Este hombre repetidamente afirmó a los agentes de ICE que el nació en México y firmó papeles indicando que nació en México”, señaló Kice. “Los archivos del Departamento de Corrección de California, porque el tiene récord criminal, reflejan que él es ciudadano mexicano”.
“Su caso está pendiente de una audiencia en una Corte de Inmigración. Obviamente, nosotros continuamos investigando. En la corte se presentará evidencia para determinar si es o no un inmigrante”, agregó Kice.
Jennie Pasquarella, abogada de ACLU que defendió a Olivares, dijo que este caso es un ejemplo de las fallas de Inmigración. “Lo que hicimos fue escribir una carta diciendo que ellos no tenían la autoridad de detenerlo porque él es un ciudadano americano”, explicó Pasquarella. “Entregamos copia de su acta de nacimiento, copia de sus vacunas y archivos de escuela y a las dos horas me llamó un oficial y me dijo que lo dejarían salir”.
Sin embargo, Olivares tendrá que presentarse ante un juez de Inmigración el 6 de enero.
Here is a round-up of some of the Latino-related news of the past week or two.
• “NPR Town Hall Offers Frank Assessment Of Race” (NPR)
This short but illuminating summary of some of the work NPR is doing in trying to uncover how American voters “bring race into the voting booth.” One of the struggles with race we have in this country is our inability to discuss it. While this isn’t solved merely by discussing it (but rather by providing each other the kinds of tools we need to listen and critically analyze), this NPR project is nothing if not educational.
• “Guest workers win in court over low pay” (Christian Science Monitor)
The courts are finally standing up for the rights of immigrants, in this case, those imported into this nation as labor. This story provides some solid coverage on the issues, while sounding like a concerned citizen who just learned this kind of abuse was so common.
• “White supremacists target middle America” (USA Today)
Wow. It’s important to keep the spread of white supremacist hate groups in perspective. When it comes down to it, they don’t represent more than the smallest fraction of the total U.S. population. And, for tht reason, they’re not the problem with race in this country. Still, you might be part of a white supremacist online community and not know it. Nah, you know it.
• “Supreme Court to Decide ID-Theft Case” (Wall Street Journal)
Recently, some poultry workers caught in an ICE raid were sentenced to federal prison for identity theft. Their crime was making up a social security number to get a job. That’s it. No attempt to impersonate another person, since they didn’t even know whose number they had chosen. Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case which will decide if this unknowing version of identity theft meets the standard of a felony under the current law.
• “U.S. to miss deadline on Mexico border fence” (Reuters)
You knew this was coming. Maybe if they had better workers…
• “Hispanic baby boom has Texas ramifications” (Dallas Morning News)
This story from Texas describes the current trend for other parts of the Southwest as well. Check out the comments after reading, you’ll be in for a treat.
• “As US economy sours, some migrants return south” (Associated Press)
More on the continuing economic exodus of labor migrants.
• “Economic strife drives Latino vote” (Los Angeles Times)
This interesting profile of Latino voters makes them look awfully “American” when it comes to their voting interests, doesn’t it?
One of the failures of the left has been their inability to claim the language of patriotism while the right has made it synonymous with their obectives. This isn’t too surprising. After all, some element of the left is troubled by any form of nationalism. Many, many more are aware of the death and imperialism which has historially followed this kind of rhetoric making its use not only troubling, but also morally questionable. But most, I think, are just uncomfotable with the unspoken assumptions behind it, about who is or isn’t part of this nation.
The following post from one of my favorite blogs is an exceptional take on this:
From the Associated Press/Yahoo:
Public schools become focus of gay marriage ban
By LISA LEFF and JULIET WILLIAMS, Associated Press Writers
Wed Oct 22
SAN FRANCISCO – A girl in pigtails bounds into the kitchen after school and asks her mother to guess what she learned that day. “I learned how a prince married a prince, and I can marry a princess,” she exclaims to her mortified mom.
This television advertisement for a ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage in California urges voters to “protect children” by approving the measure.
There’s not a word about education in Proposition 8, but what public schools will be required to teach about same-sex marriage has emerged as the central issue in the campaign.
The measure’s supporters warn that teachers will be forced to tell young children about gay marriage if the measure fails on Nov. 4.
Opponents of the measure say that’s deceptive because schools already are required to teach tolerance of gays and lesbians, and the ballot measure won’t change that.
“I’ve seen the spots on the TV, and (legalized gay marriage) just isn’t going to require any kind of teaching of personal relationships or lifestyle,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, who has joined the state’s largest teacher’s union in opposing the measure. “That’s just not an accurate statement or portrayal.”
To combat anti-gay discrimination, California schools have addressed topics such as gay households, homophobia and sexual orientation for years, well before the state Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal this year. But how school districts choose to deliver that instruction is decided locally instead of mandated by the state, according to educators and legal experts.
Supporters of Proposition 8 — which would overrule the state Supreme Court decision — received fodder for their claims earlier this month. With parental permission, a public charter school took 18 first-graders on a field trip to San Francisco City Hall where their teacher and her female partner had just been wed by Mayor Gavin Newsom.
“The other side’s argument is (Prop. 8) has nothing to do with education. Our argument is this has everything to do with education,” said Chip White, a Proposition 8 spokesman. “It’s already happening.”
An estimated 52,000 children are being raised by two mothers or two fathers in California, which is one of 12 states with comprehensive anti-bullying laws that apply to gay students and children with unconventional families.
Some elementary schools have acquired books depicting families with same-sex couples, middle schools have taught students not to use anti-gay slurs, and high schools have sanctioned gay-straight alliance clubs. And school districts have been found liable for not taking steps to prevent anti-gay harassment.
The mother-daughter campaign ad refers to “King and King,” a children’s book about two princes marrying that became the subject of a lawsuit in Massachusetts, the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. The parents of a second-grader sued after the book was read in class, but the school district successfully argued that advance notice of the reading was not required because the book was not part of the sex education curriculum.
Critics of Proposition 8 point out that many schools in California already use “King and King” and other books to discourage discrimination against gay students or children with gay parents.
“The education code already has a high expectation that school districts are going to create an environment where respect for human dignity and acceptance of differences, including sexual orientation, are promoted,” said Laura Schulkind, a San Francisco lawyer who represents school districts across California. “I don’t see how the legalization of gay marriage or the passage of Prop. 8 changes that obligation.”
The need for such awareness training was brought home to California in February, when a 15-year-old who sometimes wore feminine clothing and talked about being gay was shot to death at his Oxnard junior high school. A classmate has pleaded not guilty to murder and hate-crime charges.
“We have to address harassment and bullying, and there is no way to do that in America without talking about gay people,” said Debra Chasnoff, an Oscar-winning filmmaker who has made four documentaries to address anti-gay harassment in schools.
The opposing sides have debated what, if anything, schools must teach about marriage now that gays have the right to wed.
The state education code specifies that marriage should be discussed in sex education classes. But school districts are not required to hold the classes and parents can have their children excused if the course conflicts with their moral values. The vast majority of California districts teach sex ed.
“Current state law does not require school districts to teach anything about marriage or same-sex marriage,” Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley wrote in ruling on Proposition 8’s ballot arguments. He added, however, that the state “may require” such instruction in the future.
Robin Sinks, the health education specialist for the 90,000-student Long Beach Unified School District, does not think what is taught in California schools will change much regardless of what happens on Election Day.
Teachers in large, diverse districts now strive to make their sex education lessons relevant to straight, gay and bisexual students, Sinks said. “We’re talking about really refraining from using things like, husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, those kind of things, and just say ‘partner,'” she said.
Gary Marksbury, a history teacher at Lakewood High School in Long Beach, plans to let his students debate Proposition 8 during a mock election, but he is so strongly opposed to gay marriage that he donated $1,000 to support the measure.
Marksbury said California should give parents more latitude to pull their children out of courses that offend their religious beliefs. “In today’s world,” he said, said, “it seems like tolerance is a one-way street for some people, so if you don’t like the idea of same-gender marriage you are immediately labeled a bigot.”
California gives local districts authority — and in the case of sex education, the imperative — to adopt curricula that reflect community mores while meeting certain standards. So what students hear about homosexuality in Long Beach schools may be different from what they learn in the more conservative Central Valley.
Wendy Robertson, a teacher at Forest Park Elementary School in Fremont, is not worried about having to explain same-sex marriage to her pupils. During her 17 years teaching kindergarten, Robertson says no one has ever told her to talk about any kind of marriage with her pupils.
If one of her pupils asked if he could marry his best buddy, Robertson said her answer would be age-appropriate.
“I would say, ‘Wait and see, you have to be grown-up first,'” she said.
From the New York Times comes this editorial on the draconian (and horrifically offensive) tactics of Arizona’s modern incarnation of the old Southern racist lawman, Joe Arpaio.
A War on Janitors
The Wild West weirdness of the nation’s immigration policy reached new extremes last week in Mesa, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb where the county sheriff, Joe Arpaio, has gone off the rails as the self-appointed scourge of people without papers.
About 2 a.m. on Thursday, Sheriff Arpaio sent out a strike force of 30 detectives and 30 members of his volunteer “posse,” with semiautomatic weapons and dogs, to look for illegal janitors. Acting on a tip to the sheriff’s immigration hotline, they raided Mesa’s City Hall. They raided the public library. They raided the local headquarters of Management Cleaning Controls, the company with the janitorial contract for city buildings.
Three janitors were arrested at the library. Thirteen other people were picked up at their homes. All are “illegals,” according to the sheriff’s office, which keeps a running total of its immigration arrests on its Web site.
In most other parts of the country this would be seen as a stunning misuse of firepower, a waste of resources and a bizarre intrusion by one government agency onto another’s turf. Neither the mayor nor Mesa’s Police Department had been warned about the raids. And the city had already been investigating the company’s hiring.
But this happened in Maricopa County, where for months Sheriff Arpaio’s deputies have been staging high-profile sweeps, stopping drivers and pedestrians and demanding their papers. The crackdowns have terrorized and infuriated Latino residents of Phoenix, America’s fifth-largest city, where citizens say they have been stopped and harassed for the crime of being brown-skinned. They have spurred lawsuits and led the Phoenix mayor and others to plead for a federal investigation.
Sheriff Arpaio’s crusade is unconstitutional and repugnant. But it is where the rest of the country could be headed. Immigration has vanished from the presidential race, but its problems are still with us, distorted by opportunists and poisoned by fear.
The system has too few visas, too many shadow workers and no way to bring a huge and vital undocumented labor force into compliance with the law.
The new president will not only have to stand up for something better; he will have to stand against the repulsive scapegoating that hard-liners like Sheriff Arpaio, who is up for re-election next month, have waged for short-term political gain.
He will, in short, have to reassure immigrants, Latinos especially, that America’s welcome is secure.
Arpaio is only the most vivid and extreme demonstration of a new racial reality exemplified daily in this country, from major cities like Los Angeles to towns like Potsville, Iowa. It is time more of us spoke out against such human rights abuses, in particular these kinds that proclaim their rightness in their adherence to laws. They detract from any meaningful reform policies relating to the migration of international labor, nurture a climate of fear and repression among Latinos, and violate the ideological spirit of our nation, in both law and substance.
In this final post on California’s Proposition 8, I want to urge those of you who are gay, lesbian, transgender, or allies of the same, to do what you can do to assure this measure is defeated in November.
For those who do not know, Proposition 8 seeks to amend the state Constitution by adding a section which would read: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. It is an attempt to overturn the May 2008 decision of the state Supreme Court which legalized same-sex marriage.
As I wrote last July, the coalition of groups against same-sex marriage is diverse in it potential reach. Composed of religious and conservative groups, they also reflect some of the broad racial/ethnic diversity of the state of California. As a largely grassroots organization (or, more appropriately, a coalition of grassroots organizations), with exceedingly deep pockets, they have been poised for some time to whip up fear and support among traditionally ignored voting blocs and get them to the polls in November. Among these constituencies are poor and working-class people of color whose sole regular institutional participation ins usually within their local church.
Last summer my fear was that the “No on Prop. 8” movement would not reach out effectively to these groups, leaving them with no other channel of information than the steady stream of fear from intolerant zealots. I continue to have this fear. Poor and working-class immigrants and people of color are often ignored in political campaigns. It is not surprising, therefore, that they also tend to vote in lower numbers. In an ironic twist, the state of the economy and the campaign of Barack Obama are both contributing to a projected increase in these groups’ participation this fall. Where will they fall on Prop. 8 in California?
My hope is that they vote to reject this measure out of a clear recognition that it is the right thing to do.
Those of us from marginalized communities are intimately familiar with the daily kinds of pain (physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual) inflicted upon those who are not regularly considered part of “we the people.” For the immigrant who chooses to come to this country in search of economic survival, this realization is often expected but no less tragic. For them, the thin veil of American’s image of themselves is nothing but that as they are faced with a daily existence marked by regular forms of discrimination and the feeling of being on the invisible margins. But their participation in this society can have a healing effect.
I remember when my grandmother became a citizen of the United States. An immigrant from Mexico who had lived and worked in the U.S. for her entire adult life, the decision to become a citizen after five decades of being a green card holder came, partially, from a recognition that she wanted to have a voice in the political machinations of this country. While it had become “home” to her long ago, the organized anti-immigrant and anti-color campaigns of the Pete Wilson governorship were too reminiscent of earlier times in the state for her to sit by without some (however minor) political role.
I am glad she will be voting against Prop. 8. Though she is a naturalized citizen, though she attends church every week (and sometimes more), she know there is nothing gained in a society marked by discrimination. She know this makes us all weaker in the fight to make this nation live up to its ideals.
In reality, a vote against Prop. 8 is a fairly conservative move. Same-sex marriage rights still uphold the socially-constructed and politically-sanctioned valorization of marriage as a social institution. It doesn’t challenge that fundamental bias, instead opening up more of the population to nurture it. I suspect someday our society will begin to question whether or not civil authorities need to be in the marriage incentive business at all but for now, that is the dominant model.
I say this to highlight the fact that for many, support of same-sex marriage is not stretch, even if they “morally” disagree with being lesbian or gay. Many people understand the difference between a law that forces a discreet morality on people in a free society versus one that allows for people to choose their own morality. A classic argument of the civil rights era was that racial integration was being legislated and that it was bound to fail since you can’t force people to not be racist. Even so, an end to segregation did not compel anyone who was racist to not be. They didn’t even have to tolerate “mixed” settings. They could go on in their daily live keeping themselves and their children in a white bubble. But, over time, by society stopping to valorize this morality of a few on the majority, its contradictions became increasingly clear. It is time for us to do the same with homophobia.
This week’s worth of post were not meant to convince the fervent supporters of the ban on equal marriage rights. Such a debate is largely impossible to have. But they are not the majority of this state. The majority are fair-minded people who place social and political equality on the level it deserves. They want us to be a healthier, more just, more equitable society. They only need to be reminded, when they are faced with the opportunity to do so, how important it is to take that step.
For more information, click here.
California’s Proposition 8 seeks to amend the state Constitution by adding a section which would read: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
Such an addition to the state Constitution would discriminate against gay and lesbian couples because they would no longer enjoy the equal rights they now share with heterosexual couples, namely, the ability to marry in civil ceremonies, have that marriage recognized by civil authorities, and enjoy the public recognition and benefit of being married. This is, of course, the rub. People who support the measure do not want parity between gay and lesbian couples and heterosexual couples. They “celebrate” the “legal equality” of the state’s domestic partnership regulations with the state’s civil marriage ones, but still disagree with the legality of same-sex marriage, an even “more equal” move. What is beneath the seemingly contradictory stances?
Simply put, support for Pop. 8 is about homophobia. It is about a largely irrational fear of gay, lesbian, and transgender people in our world. Its supporters are engaged in a move to maintain a social system which embodies homophobia, what many call heterosexism.
When it comes down to it, this is the basic position of the “Yes on Prop. 8” effort. They view the increasingly public visibility of homosexuality and its accompanying rising levels of tolerant acceptance as an attack on their vision of a society based on their conceptions of right and wrong. And for once, they’re right. Unlike those other moral questions (like murder or crime, like democracy versus fascism) this one does not threaten the larger social contract, except when we do not preserve equal marriage rights. When your vision includes having to dictate “morality” for other people rather than protect their freedom to decide for themselves what is “moral,” then history shows your vision will, eventually, be dismantled.
Where they’re wrong is not in their analysis but in their chosen position, a reflection of the some of the most destructive kinds of cultural arrogance and fear which have marked our history with pain, death, and oppression instead of fostering in it freedom and equality.
I will be among the first to say there is a contextual and historical difference between being nonwhite in U.S. society and being lesbian, gay, or transgender. That isn’t because of biology or levels of oppression (what Chicana writer Cherrí Moraga called the “oppression olympics”). This is an analysis based on the role played by whiteness in U.S. history and in the way it continues to work as a definitive element of both our national culture and social formation. Racism and homophobia have differences, rooted in the past and present, which are worth understanding. That said, the tactics of oppression, inequality, and discrimination used in a system of racism compared to those used in a system of heterosexism are like different instruments in an orchestra, each playing their own part of a grand symphony. They are connected, and often reliant upon on another, building with each other in one common cause.
The eloquent and critically sophisticated Martin Luther King expressed this in the previously quoted “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” when he wrote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” His sentiment was itself a reincarnation of the sense of unity and common struggle expressed in the slogan “An injury to one is an injury to all.” That mantra came from the International Workers of the World (IWW), one of the most radical labor unions in U.S. history, who first worked to mobilize all workers despite their job or job status. One was rooted in Christianity; the other in labor theory. Both are a bold recognition of mutuality–of the ways in which all of us, our hopes and our struggles, are interconnected.
This same fundamental analysis is reflected in the grand narrative of the U.S. past, but in its inverse. That story has been expressed as one of increasing and expanding liberty and freedom for all, from the extension of voting rights to the end of legal sex/race discrimination. At the heart of this narrative structure is the assumption that “democracy” can only be real if it truly involves those who are governed. When the U.S. began as a nation, roughly 15% of the population had the right to vote. That’s it. Restrictions based on wealth/property, gender, race, and age, to name a few, made this the case. In time, this became proof of the lack of democracy in the nation. Accordingly, in this framework, the extension of rights to African Americans, to women, to Native Americans, were all connected, even to the rights of the landed, white male. The vote of one made the vote of all the others more real, more meaningfully democratic.
What we are faced with in the proposed measure is the antithesis of this humanistic truth, observable in the struggles of our past. Homophobia–like all fears–is isolating and reductive where humanism is expanding and interconnecting. It rests on the rejection of our commonness and mutuality. It requires a person to define those whom they fear as so different from themselves as to be “other,” foreign, dangerous, or immoral. Their threat is that they are not you. Conversely, the homphobe selectively defines their “self,” as well, choosing a set of ideas and constructs that make them who they are, facilitating the delicate game of identifying “us” and “them.”
This homophobic measure forces an historical comparison with the other kinds of oppression which nurture it and, in turn, which it nurtures. The most obvious is with the diverse and sustained effort in our shared past to maintain racism as a system of exclusion and inequality. Towards the end of its institutional decline, the supporters of racial inequality had reached a point where they recognized their cause was no longer popular enough to assure its blind support by the public at large. The United States has become increasingly “infected” with the notion that black people were as equal as whites. They had also become increasingly conscience of the ways racism, as a system of exclusion and oppression, ran against the idealized tradition of this nation.
At that moment, the historical record is increasingly filled with examples of racists trying to justify racism on grounds other than race. They used arguments about state’s rights to say it was the will of the people in th South for Jim Crow to be the law. They celebrated “separate but equal” saying it was not about inferiority, just difference. They accused the federal government of trying to force social change when “the people” were not ready for that change. They did what they could to make the rational argument for their irrational fear, all the while strategizing to sell it to the larger public. Does any of this sound familiar?
One of the topics I cover each year in my introductory Latino history class is the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the first federal law effectively barring a racial group from immigrating to the U.S. After its passage, people from Latin America continued to immigrate to the U.S. and had no legal impediment to their movement. So why is it important to Latino history? Well, in short, it was the first legal step in a course that nurtured racial hatred and violence against all workers of color; that led to outrages like the deportation of over one hundred thousand United States citizens because of their Mexican heritage; that even, in many ways, fostered the kinds of draconian ICE raids we suffer today.
When the irrational fear and hatred of homophobia is allowed to continue to exist in institutional and systemic ways, then we are all inured by it, whether we be gay, lesbian, transgender, or straight.
For more information, click here.
California’s Proposition 8 seeks to amend the state Constitution by adding a section which would read: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
The coalition of religious and conservative groups who are aligned with the “Yes on Prop. 8” effort are bold-faced, unethical liars. There. I said it. It’s that plain and that simple.
We are near the conclusion of a presidential election cycle which means most of us are awash in a sea of “spin.” The daily barrage of half-truths and outright lies is almost too much to bear. At some point, we just kind of turn it off and tune out. But it’s worth remembering that this is exactly the kind of campaign being waged right now with respect to the “Yes on Prop. 8” effort.
Here’s an example. The short paragraph I began this post with is the entire text of Prop. 8. That’s it. The measure has nothing to do with education, adoption, or economic policy. It has nothing to do with a church–any church–and its rights to do whatever they like. Nothing.
Yet you would not know that from the “Yes on Prop. 8” campaign. Their website (which I won’t link here but is really easy to find) describes the California Supreme Court decision which made same-sex marriage legal as overturning “the will of California voters.” This might seem like simple truth, since California voters passed a proposition in 2000 defining marriage as between “a man and a woman.” But it’s spin. As discussed in the previous post in this series, the process the court performs has nothing to do with “our” consensus as voters on a given position and everything to do with our consensus on a constitutional government. We demand that it is their job to make sure our government respects the laws and values as reflected in our Constitution. That’s what they did.
If we relied on the “will of the voters” to be our standard of Constitutional interpretation then segregated schools would still be the norm. When the U.S. Supremem Court issued their famous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the vast majority of Americans supported segregated schools–and not just in the South. The point of the courts is to make their decision apart from all that, and the “Yes” folks know that. They just want to piss you off. And anyway, when did the “will of the voters” become such a static thing? Rather than just ask people how they feel about same-sex marriage, they have to make sure you don’t think about it and instead think about how much you don’t like so-called “activist courts.”
Isn’t what we’re doing in this proposition voting on whether or not it is “our will”? What sense is there in opposing a measure whose consequences you support because you don’t like how those consequences were arrived at? Why can’t we discuss the values of same-sex marriage without resorting to tactics of fear?
And that’s what helps us see the truth of the effort. The one overriding reason this side lies in order to mobilize support for their cause is that their entire cause boils down to one simple position: gay and lesbian Californians should be discriminated against in the law. They need people to turn off their commitments to equality, to decency, and to common sense. They need people to ignore the months of legal same-sex marriages in the state with no other consequence other than happy, married couples. Most Californians don’t agree with their belief, but they can be moved to vote yes if they are inundated with enough lies and half-truths to obscrue the truth of the measure. And that’s exactly what is happening.
The ads funded by the “Yes on Prop. 8” effort communicate a steady stream of bullshit meant to incite fear, hate, and some of the worse tendencies in the electorate. They say that legalized same-sex marriage means “schools will now be required to teach students that gay marriage is the same as traditional marriage.” (It should be, and I hope it is, but this proposition will not be the nail in that coffin.) They say churches will loose their tax exempt status. They say a lot, but none of it is true. Californians already know that when same-sex marriage became legal, the sky didn’t fall, the earth didn’t open up, and soceity as we know it didn’t begin it’s decline.
They are joined by more “academic” efforts as well. Groups like the Family Research Council (FRC) issue regular mailings filled with the most biased and least truthful form of dissemination of academic work, all in the name of promoting discrimination. A visit to their website shows a list of reasons to oppose the measure–all relating to adoption and the rearing of children. First of all, whether you like it or not, same-sex couples can adopt in the state of California (but not without some forms of local discrimination). If you don’t like that, try working in some public social work capacity and see what conditions tens of thousands of children are living in. You should read the research on what makes a good home for foster and adopted children, often the solution to this anti-child society. It has NOTHING to do with whether or not the parents are of the same gender or not and everything to do with the kinds of love and support they can give.
The FRC uses very specific research which studies, for example, children who are raised in single-parent households without a father, and then extrapolates it to form conclusions about two-parent households where the parents are both moms. If they were in my class they’d get an “F” for that kind of work. It’s an unfair use of research, and an unethical tactic in a political campaign.
The worst part of all of this is that these groups are supposed to be the moral and ethical ones in society. Many of them are religious and religiously affiliated. In the real world classroom of our society, they are all earning an “F” by allying themselves with a cause that is so discriminatory it can not face the substance of its very narrow stance. (I’ll say it: if Jesus were around he’d be for same-sex marriage, too!)
By spinning a campaign based on everything but the direct issue at hand, these groups are signaling voters that there is something wrong. That something, is the “Yes on Prop. 8” campaign.
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