Sunday, May 30, 2004

THE BODY OF CHRIST

I grew up in Corpus Christi, which translated means the body of christ. One of the big problems in the city used to be the lack of higher education. We had a community college and a 2-year college. Most people were poorly educated and didn't really see the point of striving for good grades in High School unless they knew they could eventually move out of Corpus. Now there is a 4-year college - part of the A&M system - and that helps tremendously.

The problems with the city now are mostly cultural and are due to 3 factors that dominate in the city: the petroleum industry; the military; and the Catholic church. The city's economic fate is closely tied to the military base and the oil corporations, and a large segment of the population is employed by one of those entities. This has led to an acceptance of capitalism, environmental deregulation and military ideals that is difficult to overcome. Combine that with the influence of the Catholic church and you have my hometown.

So there really is no influence by unions or environmentalists in the city. The air is often poor. Streams and beaches are often dirty. There is a lot of poverty but it is accepted as simply the way things are, or God's will, or both. There is a Houston feel - people drive everywhere and large parking lots leading to warehouse-style chain stores dominate each side of the main freeway through the city. Most males get clipper-cuts and drive trucks or SUV's. American flags and jesus fish cannot be avoided.

It still votes Democrat, but that has more to do with race than philosophy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

SHAFTER

Shafter is called a "ghost town," but the only ghosts I saw were the translucent souls of long deceased silver miners. Shafter is located on highway 67 about an hour south of Marfa and half an hour north of the border communities of Presidio-Ojinaga. Here are some graves at the Shafter cemetery ...
MARFA

Marfa is an odd town in West Texas. It claims a population of between 2,000 and 3,000 and sits in the desert about an hour south of I-10 and maybe an hour and a half north of Big Bend National Park. The town itself is in a relatively flat area but it is surrounded by some of the highest mountain ranges in Texas. The people that have been there the longest seem to be mostly Mexican, and probably employed on nearby ranches, or maybe at one of the nearby greenhouses. Newer residents are mostly white, progressive and either wealthy 40-somethings who wanted a second home in a real western setting or younger and bohemian.

Here's the town's water tower ...


There are only a few buildings in the town, but they include: a bookstore that sells espresso drinks and pastries; a Town & Country gas station that serves a wide-variety of breaded, deep-fried foods; several art galleries, including a lot of modern art; a Dairy Queen; an upscale restaurant that includes vegetarian options; a couple of bars with boarded up windows and neon signs that say simply "beer" or "air conditioned;" a pizza joint that could have been relocated from South Austin complete with concrete floor, its own t-shirts, and 20-somethings making pies with roasted garlic and feta cheese; and a Dollar General.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

MY SPEECH TO GAY MARRIAGE RALLY IN AUSTIN TODAY

I am not a fan of the institution of marriage. It has been a pretty oppressive institution, particularly to women. Plus, my parents were divorced and maybe shouldn’t have been married in the first place. But there are some really great marriages, and it is an institution that provides hundreds of privileges to couples. Marriage is not a place, like a school, but our struggle today is similar to the struggle for school desegregation last century because African-Americans weren’t just fighting for access to a building they were fighting for access to an education, the privileges that came with education, and the dignity of equality in the eyes of the law. I doubt I will ever get married, but I will fight for my right to marry.

So what legal reasons can be given to deny us that right?
o Perhaps it is that marriage is a privilege created for a man and a woman, not two men or two women. But then denying that right to same-sex couples is really a form of sex discrimination.
o I don’t think a court will accept the arguments that denying the right to marry is about conduct or procreation. It is true that gay couples can’t procreate, but not all straight couples can.
o Then there is a particular interpretation of the Christian bible that should be written into our law. It is a higher law, after all. That’s fine, so let it govern your life don’t force it upon everyone else. Separation of church and state.

There is no good legal argument against same-sex marriage, which is why the right wing wants to change the Constitution. There is no principle in the law that would deny marriage to gays, indeed the law gets in the way sometimes with all its talk of equal protection. So the right-wing wants to pull this principle out of their religion or out of their deepest insecurities and stick it in the Constitution.

Some people say they are trying to put morality in the law. But I think whether or not to allow gay marriage is a question of morality. I believe it is morally wrong to treat people as second-class citizens. It is morally right and just to expand and respect civil and human rights.

Opponents of gay marriage are clearly not supporting civil and human rights – that is irrefutable. There is nothing about denying equality to people that could be interpreted as favoring human rights.

But this fight for gay marriage is another in a series of struggles for equality that have gone on for a number of generations.

The movements for civil right for people of color that forced reform from above in Brown v Board. The fight for women’s equality that created a climate in this country that I believe helped win Roe v Wade.

It has been difficult, and there is SO much more work to do, but there is a wonderful history in this country and in this world of struggle followed by reform. Every time there was a major step forward there were laws to overcome and people who tried to slow progress or turn it back. But there were also people like us who pushed things forward and refused to compromise. That’s why we are on the right side of history and that’s why we need to be here today.
WILL JOHN MCCAIN MOVE AMERICA TO A ONE PARTY SYSTEM?

There is a lot of talk about John McCain running as vice president with John Kerry. I just watched Democratic Senator Biden gush over McCain as he responded to reports that Kerry is still exploring the possibility of a bipartisan ticket. This all just reinforces the fact that Americans have few significant choices to make at the ballot box as long as the Republicrats are in power. I admit now that sometimes there is good reason to vote for a Democrat, but those reasons are less and less compelling.

So if there is a Kerry-McCain ticket, perhaps it will be the beginning of the end of the two-party system in this country. Think of it, we could elect a president much sooner since we'd only have to vote in the primaries. We wouldn't have to talk about majority and minority leaders in Congress. And the ruling class in this country could be united as never before.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

MAYBE IT IS THE YEAR OF LESSER-EVILISM

I haven't seen a lot of enthusiasm for Kerry from even mainstream liberals. I take this as a reason to vote for Kerry. If almost everyone understands they are voting for the lesser evil, perhaps more people will be willing to vote for him one day and speak out against him the next. This would be the best of all possible worlds - a "liberal" in the white house harassed by complaints that he's too conservative, too much of a warmonger, and too supportive of Ariel Sharon. The goal for some might be to win back the white house, for me the goal would simply be to continue a global movement leftward and start a national movement leftward.

Bush will be worse, not by much, but small differences in rhetoric and philosophy can result in huge differences in practice. Kerry probably won't push privatization as much as Bush would and probably would feel more pressure to abide by international standards.

On the other hand, how can we be sure Kerry won't merely further pacify the left and set us up for something worse in 4 years? That is a challenge, but one I don't think the American left can get around by hoping Bush's extremism will continue to radicalize more and more people. The risks are great either way, but I've concluded they are less by going the Kerry route.

What about Nader? He's disappointed too many times. My support was his to lose. I was doing everything I could to find a way to like him, but it just isn't working this year.

Monday, May 03, 2004

I DON'T WANT TO VOTE FOR JOHN KERRY

I never had really high hopes for Mr. Kerry, but he's proven to be more disappointing than I could have imagined. He is the alternative to W, but he intends to increase our presence in Iraq, cut taxes on corporations, and not much else. He apparently has some plans to create jobs, but I'm not sure what his plan includes.

I have a theory that may be horribly wrong, but I've yet to abandon it. Perhaps Bush should win the election. In isolation he does seem marginally worse than Kerry, but in context another 4 years of Bush might accomplish exactly what progressives want. So far W has managed to turn much of the world against U.S. policies - most Europeans believe the U.S. is a bigger threat to freedom than anything else now. He has also kept the American liberals angry and in the streets - a group of folks who would surely look the other way if a Democrat were in the whitehouse. Because of Bush we are isolated and left wing governments are becoming more popular throughout the world (e.g., the Socialists in Spain). Four more years of Bush might bring us that much closer to an end to American imperialism.

Some might argue that this is a selfish thought from someone who really hasn't suffered that much from the policies of George W. Bush. I'm just not convinced that Kerry will do anything to reduce the suffering of Iraqis, Palestinians or poor Americans, but I do feel that Kerry will find a way to extend and strengthen bad policies (especially foreign policies) in a way that Bush wouldn't be able to do. He isn't an evil Republican, after all, he's a well-intentioned liberal who we ought not criticize lest we want to give a boost to the evil Republicans (and he speaks French, which should keep the European left-wing in check).