A Tale of Two Flags

I’m told there was a shooting, a lot of shooting. This happened in the South of the United States. A lot of black men and women died as a result. I’m told it was motivated by this belief that dark skinned people are inferior. The assault was allegedly committed because if action wasn’t taken, black people could take over the world. The aggressor felt he had no choice and it was time to take it to the real world.

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union and started the Confederate States of America. Other southern states followed and launched the American Civil War. More American causalities resulted from that war than all the wars the United States ever engaged in combined. And in the end, slavery was over and all the states that once seceded, came back.

I’m probably the only person who thinks the Civil War wasn’t necessary to achieve this. The Second Industrial Revolution that exploded in and around that period would have taken care of the problem as one tractor and other machines would have shown a much better option than housing, feeding and caring for slaves. But, hindsight is twenty/twenty. We’ll never know.

Anyhow, after the Civil War, some of the southern states that flew a new flag, kept it. Sure they put the United States flag above it, but in one form or another, the Confederate Flag was either flown in whole or some of its design sewn into the current state one. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia all have part of the Confederate Flag within their current state flags. And Mississippi has the Confederate Flag in its entirety, sewn into its current flag. South Carolina, the first to secede way back when, has a state flag with nothing confederate about it. However, South Carolina also flies the Confederate Flag whole right on capital grounds. Up until recently.

On June 17,2015, motivated by hate and false conspiracy theories and a whole bunch of other bunk, twenty-one-year old Dylan Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat with the people there, all black, who were holding a Bible study group. He stayed for about an hour, engaging in the discussion of scripture. Then, from survivor accounts, Roof stood up, pulled a pistol, started talking about how black people were raping or something and started shooting. In total, he killed nine people then fled. He’s since been arrested and will surely go on trial for this crime, rightly so.

Later, pictures surfaced showing Roof holding guns, burning the United States Flag and yet, holding the Confederate Flag rather proudly. Combined with his words and actions on June 17, it’s an open and shut case why he did it. And this has resulted in some calls to consider removing the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina Capital, if not everywhere else.

Okay, so, let’s sum up. The Confederate Flag was first used by states that seceded from the Union and the primary reason for secession was in defense of their desire to continue to enslave black people. The enslavement was necessary, so they claimed, because it was part of their economic model. And this was true. Yet they couldn’t see it was good economics for everyone but the slave. Or didn’t care. Years after the war, over one-hundred-years after the war, the flag to many of, at least, my peers, took on the meaning of “rebel”. The racist elements were somewhat ignored and it took on a new life, some states keeping it as part of history too. And yes, some people who flew it, drew it or used it did so like Dylan Roof. Because they believed in the same crap.

The actions of Dylan Roof seem to have reminded everyone what that flag was originally designed for, the racist elements have resurfaced and a debate about removing the Confederate Flag has begun. The governor of South Carolina called for the removal of the one flying over the capital. Other states with it in or around their flags are discussing it. People within and outside of those states are drawing up sides. Even retailers are removing it. Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sears and E-bay have all stopped selling it. Apple is removing games on Itunes that display the flag. And the United States National Park Service has stopped selling them. It’s hard to keep up how fast it’s disappearing. Is this a good thing?

I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt. I’ve always wanted to visit Rome. I’ve always wanted to see the Vatican and Mecca. And closer to home, I’d love to tour the ruins of the Aztecs. My only regret in life has been not to have done more traveling in my youth, prior to starting a family. But it is what it is. I’m not above playing catch up in retirement.

Surely if I get to Egypt, which is my first choice for exotic adventure since I was nineteen-years-old, I’d see statues of Thutmose III on display. I’d see the bust of Djoser and inscriptions about Userkare, Amenemhat I and Piye. I’d see as much as possible. I’d see several depictions of Pharaohs holding the crook and flail as well as the remains of pyramids built for egos. All of this would be on display, encouraged to see and take home replica souvenirs. And yet, consider that Thutmose III was a conqueror. Djoser started the ego pyramid thingy. Userkare and Amenemhat I appear to have earned their time on the throne through usurpation. And Piye ruled Nubia before deciding he wanted Egypt too and took it militarily.

If I get to Rome, I’ll see the remains of that once great city too. And I’ll be encouraged to take home souvenirs of emperors long dead, some of which ruled with iron fists and little mercy. The Vatican and Mecca have their own soiled history of conquests and the Aztecs used to rip out the hearts of living people and offer the bloody pumps to the sun, committing this act thousands of times per year. Don’t forget your souvenirs.

The good news is that every place I’d love to visit no longer has ruling, conquering Pharaohs or emperors, squashing people under them who have less power. None have human sacrifice. None call for holy crusades or conversions by the sword, aggressions against people seen to be less worthy of life if they do not. It’s all history, and treated rightly so.

This is what I think about the Confederate Flag. Take it down from capital buildings. Remove any remains sewn into current flags too. It’s history. And it’s a sore spot we never want to go back to or present as “active”. But by all means, let it fly over Confederate historical landmarks and monuments. And let the monuments stand too. It’s history. Don’t destroy history. I feel like Indiana Jones about all this, “That belongs in a museum.” I say this addressing state governments. Feel free as a private person with your private property to fly whatever you want.

Surely each state will have to decide for itself. I’d like them to make the right decision. It’s history, put it with the other history. And feel free to sell souvenirs.

And a few days after the take down the Confederate Flag controversy, another flag was being pushed up the pole. One with pretty colors. The Supreme Court voted five to four in favor of legalizing gay and lesbian marriage across all fifty states. And the crowd went wild.

Two camps sprang up: Those in favor (most of the country) and those not. The “nots” have two divisions within it, crossing lines often: Some object on religious grounds. Others object on the fact that the Supreme Court overstepped it’s role, granted itself too much power. I’m happy to say that personally, I only know one person using the religion card. The other dissenters fall into the other camp which means we can talk about it. And although I can respect those who want to maintain integrity in how laws are made, I’m okay in this case with the way gay and lesbian marriage was fashioned.

Justice Scalia argued against the equality in marriage because it wasn’t the Supreme Court’s job but the day before, had no problem telling Congress Obamacare was garbage. He’s consistent when he wants to be. It appears Justice Scalia is willing to change job roles when it fits him.

There’s this hero of mine, Thomas Jefferson. And yet, a fallible politician. Twice he ignored the Constitution but the outcome is to our benefit. These twice violations were the Louisiana Purchase and sending the newly formed navy to combat the Barbary Pirates from North Africa. He was asked on what Constitutional grounds he made the Louisiana Purchase and kind of said it was for the good of future generations whether they knew it or not. And after years of the United States paying tributes and ransoms to the Barbary Pirates, when he took his turn as president, he ceased payments and launched the navy to stop the aggression, not bothering to notify Congress until the fleet was too far away to be called back.

And finally, on January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln through executive order, not bothering to seek approval from Congress, released the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves of states that seceded from the Union. That, too, turned out to be the right choice. Even if some states still dig that Confederate Flag.

As long as we require government, decisions will be messy, boundaries will be overstepped. I risk extreme criticism with this next sentence. I’m okay with it if it always falls on the side of more freedom. Yes, admittedly this is a slippery slope. But let’s also be realists. How often does it happen? And how often are the results so tragic that a war is going to break out? I’ll say it once more, I’m okay with it if it always falls on the side of more freedom. And because of this, the Supreme Court made the right decision favoring gay and lesbian marriage in all fifty states.

The final thing to note is that fellow Libertarians have been complaining that letting gays and lesbians marry isn’t the point. The point is that government should not be defining social contracts between consenting adults. I agree. But government is involved in social contracts, giving out benefits and licensing for married people. So as long as this is happening, government must recognize same sex marriages too. If you want to change all this and get government out of marriages, file a petition. Get the ball moving. Or just join the Libertarian Party where all freedoms all the time are being pursued. We even got souvenirs.

Those Troubling Consenting Adults

Everybody’s doing it. Well, maybe Morrissey isn’t doing it. For some reason, every interview he does, the lame nut holding the microphone feels the need to ask that question. And on each occasion, he’s dismissed it. It has nothing to do with his music, he says. It isn’t important. Good for him for holding out so long. Seriously, who cares? Just keep performing for us. Keep showing us your talents. I don’t care who you’re sleeping with or not even engaging in it.

Which gets me to thinking. Be afraid. Be very afraid when I say that.

What busy-bodies we are, going about whispering suspicions, gossiping about truths. What is the bigger trash? People magazine or it’s consumers? Perhaps I judge too soon. It might be innate jealousy to see others having all the fun. I’m afraid that I am probably correct; in that, we’re always going to be a species that meddles in each others affairs. The prime governor is that in most cases, the greatest blow is against a self-esteem, by either being the target or throwing rocks at the innocent. Because we are of such character, jealous and wanting to be saviors, we have created a second governor – Government. Government should be instituted to protect the rights and property of the people. But what happens when politicians stray from that simple premise? This one is the fire George Washington feared.

When people with power decide they don’t like your choices, they can put limits on them. Ultimate Busy-Body Bloomberg is making it his personal mission in New York to save everyone from sugary goodness, loud music, smoking and so on. There are personal choices that government has no business being in. Examples are use or abstinence of drugs, what you choose for personal protection, gambling, assisted suicide, pornography, cohabitation, fornication or religious choices. It’s Nobodies Business if You Do said Peter McWilliams, regarding consensual behaviors.

The most intimate behavior a person can engage in is sexual relationships. These acts tend to be conducted in the most private of places, out of sight from anyone not wanting to be there. Yet, in America, the home of the brave and the free, we actually have laws on the books against certain sexual behaviors. Sodomy, lewd and lascivious cohabitation, gross indecency between a man and a women, gross indecency between and man and a man, gross indecency between and women and a women, etc. Other than Sodomy, none of the others are exactly defined. It operates on the “I know it when I see it” interpretation. Be afraid. Be very afraid should law enforcement define your act as “lewd” or “lascivious”.

Alan J. Sanders did a great job in a recent article on the subject of Shame. There are ways of dealing with behaviors you deem unacceptable that don’t involve law enforcement. Feel free to shame your neighbor who has nightly visitors, but don’t send him to jail over it. Remember, if you can put on your grown up pants and tolerate a behavior you disapprove of, your neighbor may do the same of yours. We can all live a lot more free.

Tolerance.

Tolerance.

Tolerance.

Tolerance.

But a national debate was raging this week over a sexually charged issue and there was a great lack of tolerance. This one went deeper than just the act of petting and the physical side of things. This involved whether or not same-sex marriages should be legal. Here we have another consensual behavior being impeded by government.

On March 26 and 27, the Supreme Court of the United States took up the subject of same-sex marriage. From discussions of California’s Prop 8 to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), SCOTUS had to actually hear arguments on whether or not gays and lesbians could marry. The answer to this seemed so obvious that on the first day of hearings, I took out a pad and pen and went to town for an hour. But I couldn’t believe I actually had to write out a defense in favor of it. I now know what it was like for abolitionists in 1860, or a fighter for the allowance of black/white marriage in the 1960s (odd we get stupid every hundred years, and in the 60s – coincidence? Another article perhaps. One for the Skeptical Inquirer). But after several starts, stops and head shakes and deep sighs, I erased everything and typed one word: “Yes”. I think it was my best piece to date.

What gay and lesbian couples want is to have the same one-thousand-plus benefits married couples have – property rights, legal rights, insurance, right to pensions, etc. Jeff Rhodes noted some of the benefits they already have. (And I must say, isn’t it nice to see, as he said, “Gay couples in committed, permanent relationships have become widely accepted in the public eye, in the media, and in the hearts and minds of many, if not most, Americans.” That says a lot about how change can come without government). But special treatment is given towards those listed as “married” which, to date, can only be One Man, One Women. Rhodes notes you can Will an estate to anyone but that means doing so ahead of time. An untimely death without the net in place does not auto-default to the partner as it does in a heterosexual marriage. Also, when filling out taxes, there’s only an entry for married or single. If you can’t say you’re “married”, you don’t get the government benefits. The current system is more akin to a separate black and white drinking fountain. Looks equal but it ain’t.

The definition of marriage is the issue. If gay and lesbian couples could call their relationships “marriages”, they’d get government goodies. And I think it’s more the cake and cookies than actually giving a damn about a term. But let’s roll with it anyhow for shits and grins.

There are those on one side saying that the term should remain defined for One Man, One Woman because it’s a tradition and that same-sex marriage should be called something else. Civil Unions, or something will satisfy them. But I don’t think those saying such have looked into this very well. Since it’s the Judeo-Christian group that seems the most opposed to changing the definition, I wonder, do they know it’s already been done?

The great Norweigen, Annette Davis, reminded me that we’ve already re-defined the term marriage. The Religious-Right says, “One Man. One Woman” But they must be quoting some other manuscript because the Bible is more like, “One Man. Many Women.” King David had many. Abraham had his share. And King Solomon had seven-hundred! God was cool with it. And the women here were referred to as wives. That, is Biblical marriage. Even outside the Bible, polygamy was widely practiced. Mormons are the only ones doing it Biblically correct.

So the Judeao-Christians have already re-defined it by making marriage a monogamous relationship. It seems to me that the only argument left is that the Bible specifically makes it a no-no to even have sexual relations with the same sex. Here’s the kicker: The Bible is  not in any way a guide book to American government. In the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by John Adams, it is written: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”

The final argument against same-sex marriage is that if we change the definition to allow this, perhaps men will one day marry their Corvettes. Well if you’re afraid of that (and really, in the end, what would it matter to me anyhow?) define marriage as between Homo-Homo-Sapiens. There. Done.

If the government wasn’t handing out special benefits to a special arrangement of people, we might not be having this discussion. Step One is to get government entirely out of this. Let free people define their own relationships among each other. End government benefits for every consenting, adult relationship. Everyone could keep their definitions of marriage.

Government benefits for special groups cause war between the sides. Affirmative Action divides White against Black. Tax breaks for those with children irks those without. Benefits for a businesses with a “green” heating system pits them against businesses that can’t afford it.

A solution to ending government benefits and meddling in consensual behaviors could be to reduce political positions to part-time. This would force them to hold real jobs, live in real neighborhoods, see and meet real neighbors (real people) and live under the laws they write. Then, perhaps, they could meet once a year to discuss real issues facing the country. There wouldn’t be any time for lobbies to grind them over until they role over.

I would have been more fulfilled, making Christmas cards with the mentally ill, then having to write these words today. But leave Morrissey alone. Butt out of the sex-lives of everyone over the age of eighteen. Leave gay and lesbian couples alone and let them marry. Let the word marriage evolve and change. It’s been done before and the world keeps spinning.

POST SCRIPT

A friend of mine showed concern that the Catholic Church would have to recognize these marriages, and perhaps, perform them if this definition was changed. I pointed out that the government could easily now force women to be priests. Allowing same-sex marriages isn’t going to change the fact that government has the power to pick and choose how peaceful people assemble and associate. We’re dealing with the same problem. Government approves some relations, denies others.

Harry Browne wrote an excellent article discussing such things. I direct you to it for further reading on how even the best of intentions go wrong in government hands.

Look! Is That A Squirrel, Or a Gay Marriage Protest?

Average Americans are earning $8,000 – $10,000 a year less now than they were in 2007.  The value of the average home (where members of the middle class hold most of their wealth) is $35,000 less now than in 2007.  Record numbers of Americans depend on government handouts just to get by.   Unemployment is still historically high and has been for a decade.  If you count those that are no longer even looking and those that are underemployed, which the government doesn’t report, the rate is at record levels.  Despite spending trillions more, annually, than the American taxpayer can possibly supply, the US Government was incapable of reducing spending even back to last year’s record levels of spending, proving that the US population is no longer capable of self-sufficiency – forcing us to borrow until the credit eventually runs out.  Healthcare costs are up 32% following the passage of the “Affordable Care Act” two years ago.  The new normal for gasoline pricing is $3.50 – $4 per gallon.   The economic opportunities of the poor and minorities are fewer than ever before.  The rich get richer because their ability to withstand the economic drag of government interference is far better than that of the poor.  The poor – and many in the middle class- are just out of luck.  Ask a group of twenty-two year olds what they plan to do upon graduation from college and you will likely get a lot of worried facial expressions, but few confident answers.

But the big concern today is over whether the union of two men or two women can be legally called “marriage.”  Mind you – neither the federal government, nor any state or territory of the United States prevents gay people from loving each other.  No law prevents any person from living with or sharing a life with the person of their choosing.  No law prevents comingling of wealth, visiting one another in the hospital, or passing on a personal estate to the loved one of your choice.  Even states with statutes restricting the definition of legal marriage to opposite sexes recognize legal same-sex marriages from other states.   Many states allow for adoption of children by same-sex couples, and nowhere is the legal parenthood or guardianship of these couples questioned or at risk.  Gay couples in committed, permanent relationships have become widely accepted in the public eye, in the media, and in the hearts and minds of many, if not most, Americans.

Despite the public activists’ outcry, what is in question here is NOT a restriction of civil rights.  It is a question of the allowable use of a word.   So why do gay “rights” activists continue to fan the flames?  Why must they shout and protest and invite hostility from those that, for whatever reason, are uncomfortable with the idea?  Most “traditional” “conservative” Americans, when asked say something to the effect of, “I’m OK with people doing what they want, but why does it have to be in my face so much?”

Is it possible that the gay community MIGHT get a lot further by toning the rhetoric down a bit.  It would seem that what gay couples should be striving for is the normalization of who they are.   Acceptance doesn’t come from setting yourselves up as a group of victims and organizing loud protests and demands of drastic changes to the traditional morays of the culture.  Real acceptance comes from the quiet assimilation into the mainstream.   You know – like normal people.

All of us, regardless of who we are or how we form our families, would be much better served by focusing on the REAL issues that threaten our way of life and not the distractions of semantics.

Should Same-Sex Marriage Be Legal?

Yes.

And I don’t even have a law degree.