Friday, September 4, 2015

Glass houses and the rule of law

It's getting political around here lately, I know. I promise, once I have a computer with a working webcam again, I will return (mostly) to your regularly scheduled baby cuteness, crafting explorations, and assorted Nolan family updates.

But for today... Kim Davis. The court official from Kentucky who closed her office and refused to issue *any* marriage licenses rather than comply with a Supreme Court ruling and multiple orders from lower circuit court judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Mrs. Davis has been incarcerated on a charge of contempt of court. Her lawyer has recently made a statement (here) that should have anyone with a working brain up in arms. Short version? She's being compared to a Jewish person living in Nazi Germany.

Just think about that for a sec. She is being held up as a modern day martyr, painted as a victim on a level with people who were murdered on a mass scale, because she refused to do her job. Her job which, so far as I can tell, does not require her to sin.

I was waiting on a friend's okay to share a response they had read, because it was simpler and better stated  than anything I'm going to come up with, but I don't feel I can wait on this any further, so I'll just make my own. Fair warning, I am LIVID over this. I usually prefer to let the political stuff percolate for a bit longer before I open my mouth, just because it takes me that bit of extra time to order my thoughts well, but this directly insults and minimizes the history of four people whom I love fiercely, and I cannot be silent.

If anything had the power to make me ashamed to call myself a Christian, it would be self-aggrandizing bigotry like this. She is not a martyr, people, and shaking our heads and turning an embarrassed eye while she allows her attorney to present her as one is no different from openly supporting her rhetoric. Let's not forget that professing a belief in God as described in the Christian Bible is damn near an unwritten prerequisite for even running for an elected office in this country, let alone winning one, certainly anything on a state or national level. The idea that Christians are being "persecuted" in this country would be laughable if it weren't so disgusting, we have never been so free and protected as we are here and now. It is that very freedom which allows people like Ms. Davis to think that their religious beliefs give them the right to ignore the law.

Kim Davis is not being persecuted for her faith. She is an elected public official who refused, in the face of a lawful order from the highest court of the land, to do her job. She closed down her office, sent all her subordinates home (forcing them to flout the law as well, whether or not they actually support her views), and refused to issue any marriage licenses at all, rather than issue them to same-sex couples in compliance with the law of the land. And yes, before anyone says it, I'm aware that Kentucky law still defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Federal law trumps state, and the Supreme Court has come down on the side of gays having the same right to marry as everyone else. Render unto Caesar, anyone?

 "But don't you believe that Christians have a duty to protest against laws they feel compel them to sin?"
(Because someone's going to ask, so here we go.) Of course I do. If the law of the land required me to commit murder, I would refuse. If it required me to submit sexually to any man who took a fancy to my body, I would refuse. If it required me to give over my minor children to the total control of the state, I would refuse. (Oh, wait... home school... so, already doing that.) I absolutely believe that people of good conscience and sound mind have a moral obligation to assess the laws as written and enforced, and respond accordingly. And by "respond accordingly", I mean don't put yourself in a position where a compromising law would apply to you. For example, the Amish do not run for public office, as doing so would require the use of modern technologies which violate their beliefs, and if elected, would possibly involve them in military activities. For avowed pacifists, that's a problem, so they just don't put themselves in that position.

If you believe that same-sex relationships violate God's law (I don't, and I can argue the relevant Scripture as well as anyone), then it's really, really simple to avoid that sin. Don't be in a same-sex relationship. Last time I checked, the law does not require Mrs. Davis to join in marriage with a woman, have sex with a woman, shake hands with a woman, or even trade air-kisses. It requires her to issue marriage licenses to couples who meet the requirements of law to wed, which, following the recent Supreme Court decision, same-sex couples most assuredly do. The law says not one word about the issuing of a marriage license being indicative of the court officer's *support* of that marriage, and in fact we expect our elected officials to do their jobs as required by the law, irrespective of their personal beliefs. Therefore, even by her own definition, her job does not require her to sin, it just plain doesn't.

One further point... and I'd say this falls squarely under getting the plank out of one's own eye before remarking on the speck in another's... Mrs. Davis? Is on her fourth marriage. Her **fourth**. The same Scriptures which she uses to support her defiance of the Supreme Court ruling also mention that divorce is unholy except under very specific circumstances, and that remarrying after divorce is committing the sin of adultery. I fail to see how her fourth marriage, by literalist reading of Scripture, is any less problematic than the same-sex marriages the law now requires her to license.

From where I stand, the walls of Mrs. Davis' house are formed from a perilous amount of glass, and she's the only one throwing stones.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Privilege Check

So I saw this on Facebook yesterday. And I had a moment of conflicting reactions, because of course all human lives matter equally. Duh, right? So I had that moment of "Yep", and my hand started heading for that share button.

And then my brain went, "Hold on there, cowgirl, privilege check."

Because, yes, all lives matter. But...

People have an instinct to demand that others notice them, acknowledge their story, validate their existence. When someone tags a post with #blacklivesmatter or #zebrastrong or #redinstead or whatever cause is dear to their hearts, there is a need to wave and shout and remind the universe that we exist too. That the lives we care about matter too. And they should.

Because we live in a society that has made the claim that all "men" (used here to represent humanity as a species) are created equal. That every human life is precious. We have come as a culture to the intellectual realization that even though those words, when originally set to paper, didn't really mean all people were created equal, but actually just meant all rich, white, straight, male people, they SHOULD mean that all human lives are equal. Equally worthy, equally valuable, equally precious.

The problem is that all our laws, our unwritten social rules, our habits and assumptions, they're all geared for the old system. And in that old system, various groups of people have been consistently treated as lesser. Less valued. Less worthy. Less human. Minorities when the ethnic majority is in charge. Women when the men are making all the rules. Non-believers when the religious leadership has the power. Children, because even a slave is bigger and stronger than an 8 year old. That's why even today incarceration rates for minorities are so horrifically out of balance, why women (all other factors being equal) still get paid less than their male counterparts for the same work, why we still fight over commandments on courthouses and prayers in Congress, why in this land of freedom and civil rights, it is still both legal and socially acceptable to hit, verbally demean, and publicly humiliate children in the name of "discipline". (Think about that, seriously. It's legal to hit kids, as long as you call it discipline, when committing the same assault upon the body of an  adult would likely result in someone calling the police. And see? There's one of my near & dear causes taking over.) Point being, when the old habits meet the new mindset, there is friction. There are people who feel the need to say "Hey, don't forget us, we matter!", because the old system says they don't, but the high-minded cultural ideals say they should.

When someone feels that need to wave their arms and shout "HEY, WORLD, I MATTER!!!", it tells me they feel unseen. Unheard. Small. Pushed aside. Ignored. I know what that feels like, and I don't much care for it. So I try, really hard, to resist the urge to shout back "I MATTER TOO!!!", because it doesn't always have to be about me, and because of my skin color and growing up with relative wealth, it very often is about me, or the people I focus on. Someone else asserting that the lives they care about matter says not one word about the lives I hold dear mattering any less, just that their lives matter equally and they feel like no one is paying attention. So I try to take a breath, keep my mouth shut, and listen for a while. Acknowledge those lives that someone feels are being swept under the rug. Validate those feelings of powerlessness. Make eye contact, communicate that they are equal in my sight. (And that's a tough one, because autism & eye contact are not great bedfellows!)

Because I want my children to grow up in a world where those high-sounding words aren't just words. Where all human lives matter to an equal degree. I want them to see their mother taking that moment to pause and acknowledge another's situation, so when they grow up, they will remember that they matter, but so does everyone else. I want them to learn, when someone screams out "I MATTER!!!", to respond not with "I MATTER TOO!!!", but with...

I see you. I am listening.

Tell me your story.