Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"We're Allowing Them To Exist..."

As you might already know, today was an extremely busy news day with Al Franken FINALLY being allowed to win the Minnesota Senate race after nearly 8 months, Farrah Fawcett being laid to rest, DNA tests on Michael Jackson's kids coming back showing that his dermatologist is the biological father of two of them, and the list goes on. However, tonight I would like to focus on something a bit closer to home.

In 2006, then Blair County Commissioner John Eichelberger was elected to represent my district in the Pennsylvania State Senate after defeating then President Pro-Tempore Bob Jubelirer in the Republican primary, and Greg Morris in the general election. In the first three years of his term, he hasn't been that bad of a representative, and has found time to participate in many community activities, including many Eagle Scout Courts of Honor (but not mine). Given the political tendancies in the 30th District, it's not surprising that he's very popular (Very, very Republican area). Something to note: His campaign slogan was "I Like Eich," which, as I recall, was used (with the same spelling) in support of a radical politician (I'm pretty sure a Socialist) in the early 20th Century, but I don't remember any details. But I digress.

The reason that I bring all this up is something that Senator Eichelberger said 11 days ago that is just now getting out to the public. On June 19th, the Senator was debating Senator Daylin Leach, a Democratic Senator representing PA's 17th District, on the subject of gay marriage and homosexuality. Recently, Senator Leach introduced a bill to the Senate floor that would make PA one of the few states to allow marriage unrestricted by religious ideology. This was countered by Eichelberger's introduction of an amendment to the PA State Constitution that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. At one point in the debate, Eichelberger came out with this line: "They’re [homosexuals] not being punished. We’re allowing them to exist, and do what every American can do. We’re just not rewarding them with any special designation." We're allowing them to exist... wow. As if one day we could just get out of bed and say "We don't feel like letting the LGBTQ community live today" and we go out with our shotguns and gun 'um down. Sorry, Senator Eichelberger, but that's called GENOCIDE.

If, as The Beatles put it, love is all you need, we're forbidding a sizable chunk of our society from getting the only thing they really need if we narrow our definition of marriage. If they don't have what they need to live a good life, couldn't it be said that they aren't even living at all? And if that's true, aren't we actually NOT allowing them to exist? Also, I think he contradicted himself in a big way by saying "...And do what every American to do." If we're really doing that, since every American has the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," people of different persuasions should have all the rights of the straight, White, Christian, homophobic, flag waving Americans that the Republican Party caters to. Since we allow those people to marry and procreate, that would mean that we should afford the not so stereotypical among us the same rights, including the right to marry whomever we want to. So, according to the Senator's OWN WORDS, we should treat everyone equal and allow them to marry. He seems to back this up with his next sentence: "We’re just not rewarding them with any special designation." If you're not going to call them anything but American, that would mean that they have the same rights, right? Obviously, Eichelberger should stick to his talking points next time.

This whole saga with Eichelberger saying that he wants to forbid gay marriage while still preserving the rights of people that prefer to live alternative lifestyles kind of stirs up a topic that has been facing the entire country as of late, and one that typically breaks along party lines (with the notable exception of Dick Cheney, whose daughter is a lesbian). In recent months, several states, including New Hampshire and even Iowa, have legalized gay marriage, while states like New York and Pennsylvania are discussing it. Unfortunately, change has been slowed in many places by lawmakers who are unable or unwilling to let go of their political or religious beliefs long enough to realize the many benefits that come from more marriages, despite that whole "separation of church and state" thing. First of all, homosexual couples tend to stay together longer. This is extremely important in a country where nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Maybe they can teach our whole country a lesson, if they're given a chance. Benefit number 2 is the amount of money that's pumped into the economy for a wedding. If all 776,943 same-sex couples in the US were to get married, assuming a $20,400 average per wedding (the current average in the US) it would add over 15 billion dollars to the economy, giving us some much needed liquidity in the market. Denmark has allowed gay marriage for at least a decade, and they now have one of the strongest economies in the world. Thirdly, it would improve our standing in the world. The fact that we discriminate against homosexuals by not allowing them to visit their partners in a hospital, or have child custody if their partner bears children, makes us look bad when we're calling for the end of human rights abuses in Sudan, China, or elsewhere.

So, just by legalizing gay marriage, we could decrease our divorce rate, fix our economy, and improve diplomatic relations with foreign countries. What are we waiting for? The simple answer is we're waiting for more public support, especially those that are a tad more religious than the average "Joe Sixpack," whoever he is. While the public is starting to come around, it's a slow process. Somehow, we need to convince the Christian Right, including the John Eichelbergers out there, that just because something is immoral to an Evangelical Christian doesn't mean it's immoral to someone of a different faith.

If you agree with me that marriage is an inherent human right, and allowing marriage based on love and not ideology is a quick and easy way to fix several of the big issues facing our nation, I have a challenge for you. After you're done reading this, contact your state representatives, senators, and Governor, giving them the facts and asking them to either support current legislation to legalize gay marriage, or to introduce it if there isn't any. There are also various petitions that you can sign online that are sent to national representatives, one of which can be found here: https://secure3.convio.net/lambda/site/SPageNavigator/petitions/partners_for_health_care_fairness.

Remember, questions and comments are always appreciated. :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

An Introduction

Before I post anything on this blog, I guess it would be best to give an introduction of what brought this about. For months, I've struggled to find a good place to share my feelings about various issues or events. I quickly decided that Facebook wasn't that place, since all of my friends would be pretty much forced to read what I write, and I plan to write things that could be considered controversial. Therefore, I thought it best to find someplace more voluntary, such as this blog. I thank my good friends Emily and Trevor for indirectly encouraging me to start this by starting their own. I'd like to remind them that "imitation is the greatest form of flattery." :)

I chose the name of this blog for a number of reasons. First of all, Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors, and he is best known for his various theories about the meaning of life. Second of all, I work in a library, so books make up a significant part of my life. Third, and maybe most important, is that it fits so well with what I hope this blog will become; A true conveyance of my personal views and beliefs on Life, the Universe, and Everything.

To start off this little endeavor, I'm going to start with an event that happened this week, which has since been swept under the rug, what with at least three celebrities dying in just three days. While I could spend my time discussing the deaths of such legends as Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, or Michael Jackson, or the quasi-revolution in Iran, I am instead going to focus on the story of Gov. Mark Sanford from South Carolina. As you probably remember, Gov. Sanford disappeared last weekend without telling anyone where he was going. His staff kept telling the media that he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail (the AT to us backpackers). However, early this week a state vehicle was seen outside an Atlanta airport. I believe it was the next day when a reporter caught him getting off a plane from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he was supposedly trying to "break the bubble" that all politicians are caught in when they're protected by tons of security instead of interacting with their constituents. The interesting stuff happened that afternoon, when he admitted to being unfaithful to his wife, AFTER apologizing to everybody he could possibly think of, including his wife, kids, state, country, and his staff for about ten minutes. It then came out that he and his wife had been separated for two weeks. About that same time, a periodical called The State released emails that it had acquired. These emails were sent between Sanford and his mystery maiden, now identified as María Belén Chapur, a journalist who covered the 9/11 attacks, for almost a year. These emails contained "juicy" language that got rather graphic at times. Needless to say, people from both sides of the aisle are calling for his resignation.

Now that I've quickly recapped everything, let's get to the fun part, my opinion. When this all started with him just "hiking in the woods", I knew something was amiss. In fact, as soon as I heard that he was missing, I turned to my dad and said that he was probably spending quality time with his mistress, purely as a joke. Five short days later, it turns out that he was actually with his mistress! Naturally, I found it a hilarious coincidence that I actually predicted something that no one else knew. However, this is a serious issue for many people, so I will try to treat it as such.

One of the main issues that people typically bring up when something like this happens is morality, specifically the morals of the Christian faith, which forbid sleeping with a woman that is not your wife. Of course, this is also the faith that allows wars as long as they at least in part involve converting "heathens" to Christianity (The Crusades, both World Wars, the Vietnam War, and arguably both Gulf Wars are all good examples of these). Anyway, that's beside the point. Since at least a plurality, if not a majority, of the country, and the world, is a part of the Christian faith, it's beliefs and ideas are rather dominant in our political system. Therefore, when a scandal breaks, everyone whips out their pocket size copy of the Ten Commandments and seemingly banishes the person or people involved to a long, painful, fiery death and an eternal afterlife with the huge burning guy with horns who lives in the Earth's core. This has happened to Gov. Sanford. Everyone believes that because he slept with another woman, he is unfit to be Governor anymore. I disagree. Sleeping with other women happens (not to me, but to many other people). If something like this happened in a European country, for instance, NO ONE WOULD CARE. However, in tis country something like this typically takes up at least a week of cable news, unless something more "THRILLING" happens, like what happened on Thursday (pardon the MJ pun). I believe that this is wrong and it really shows that we live in a kind of theocracy, in my opinion.

While I don't believe that Sanford should resign for sleeping for another woman, I do believe that he should not be trusted to run his state. Why you ask? I believe that his actions in the last week showed a tremendous amount of immaturity, incompetence, and unaccountability. When the governor of a state just runs off without telling anyone where he's going, he should be removed from office. What if something bad had happened? Maybe a hurricane hits South Carolina head on... All the staffers and emergency personnel are running around looking for a leader, and they can't find one because Sanford didn't put anyone in charge! People could be stranded on rooftops while people in Columbia scramble around trying to figure out what to do without any real leadership. Just imagine Hurricane Katrina, just in South Carolina! Also, if he can run away once, what is stopping him from doing it again? South Carolinians can't trust him. Therefore, I agree with the people that have asked Sanford to resign, though I disagree with their reasons for doing so. He supposedly returned to work today, and shows no signs of resigning.

Another thing that makes the entire Sanford story even more interesting is the Governor's previous statements about politicians who were caught with mistresses. He called for Pres. Clinton to resign during the impeachment hearings of the mid-90's. He called for, I believe, the Speaker of the House (a fellow Republican) at the time to resign shortly thereafter because of an extramarital affair. Then, he goes and gets involved with a woman in the kind of relationship that he denounced a decade ago. The fact that he could be considered a hypocrite might increase the public pressure on him to resign.

That's about all I have to say on this topic for now. I anxiously await any feedback, whether in the form of question, comment, death threat, or the like. Just keep it respectful. Remember, you chose to read it. I will try to keep you updated if there are any developments in this story, and hopefully post my opinion on another issue or event in the coming days. I thank you for reading this post, and to show you my appreciation, I'll leave you with a quote. Enjoy.

"Life... is like a grapefruit. It's orange and squishy, and has a few pips in it, and some folks have half a one for breakfast." Douglas Adams