Thursday, February 19, 2004

We Need A Marriage Bank?

I'm writing this over the Valentine's Day/ President's Day weekend. The word now is that, at Mayor Gavin Newsom's direction, San Francisco will issue as many as 2000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples before the courts consider an injunction to stop them. Nearly a thousand have already been married in civil ceremonies authorized by the mayor's office and conducted by volunteers who have given up their three-day weekends for the honor.

And kids these days say we baby boomers had all the fun. Look out, there haven't been this many outraged bigots since those poor tired white people were deprived of Rosa Parks' seat at the front of the bus in 1955.

At least the white riders of that Alabama bus could justifiably whine that they were deprived of a seat. What with seats on a bus being a limited resource and all, you can strain your imagination and visualize how some white guy could get all up and righteous that HIS personal racially reserved seat had been usurped.

But today people declare that the "sanctity of marriage" entitles heterosexuals to have all of it even when there's no shortage! And were only talking about civil marriages! Nobody is forcing churches to recognize any of these same-sex marriages.

Speaking of the sanctity of marriage, the last I heard it was still a violation of the US Constitution for either state or federal US government lawmakers to promote the sanctity of anything or anyone in legislation. So why has the California legislature done so, we wonder idly and pointlessly, with un-bated breath and without question mark.

To me, the really interesting question lies with the clash of morality and legality. This subject is usually subsumed under the categories of "civil disobedience" and "human rights" and in my humble opinion grossly over-simplified at every turn in accordance with the ideologies of the simplifiers.

Not that I am a stranger to simplicity. Hey, I took Philosophy 105 and got me a C+ for the section on John Stuart Mill. I learned to spell "Stuart."

What I'm trying to say is, the courts have to figure out whether what Gavin Newsom is doing is legal. He says California's law is illegal under the state's constitution, and that he's only upholding the latter. In which case he is merely the only California mayor to take his oath of office literally in this regard.

But there is no question in my mind that he has done what is morally right. Morality falls heavily on the side of the oppressed, and no matter what Christian Fundamentalists may think Christians aren't oppressed in this country. To encapsulate, Christians are to same-sex marriages as white folks were to de-segregation. You can be one of the ones who get in the way, or not.

In the words of Jesus, "Get thee behind me, Satan." When you are oppressed I'll stand with you. When you are the one doing the oppressing you need to hear it plain and simple, so you can know when to get down off people's backs.

Speaking of getting the plain-and-simple out, and such: I've been obsessing about the practices of certain Christian missions lately, thanks to some semi-private input I've recently received. I'm talking about the practice of requiring poor people who are invited to a "free" meal to attend a church service beforehand.

This practice is wholly legal and justifiable to the extent, and just to the extent, that the meals are intended exclusively for Christians, and that we all are prepared to agree that non-Christians ought to fend for themselves. Let sinners, secularists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, whatever, set up their own "free" meals for their own poor people, right?

But it has come to my attention that there are some who would go out of their way to call non-Christians to these feasts, without setting aside the church-attendance requirement for them. I just want to go on record, as saying that exploiting the hunger of poor people to promote your religion is immoral and reprehensible. Please don't.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Wes Dreamed of Being a Baseball Goalie

Let's talk about baseball!

A lot of people think I don't care about baseball, just because I don't like to play it or watch anybody else play it, or hear about baseball games and scores, or know when the season begins and ends, or know how to play baseball.

But how wrong they are. I care, every bit as much as I care about all the other great joys of life. E.g., the daisies of the meadows, the smiles of little boys catching and gutting their first fishes, fishes in general. Oh, I don't know, kites are good, mom, apple pie, rhubarb roasting on an open fire, whatever. Baseball is like one of those kinds of things to me. I actually think about baseball a lot, even when it's not happening, like now.

Parts of baseball I especially like to think about are the bat parts and the running parts. I don't like to think about the catching parts because of a certain traumatic experience that occurred to me as a kid. My grade school had my gym class play baseball and it so happens I am a myopically challenged person who requires glasses (the technical term in baseball jargon is "four-eyes.") The teacher disallowed my glasses on the playing field for the very reasonable reason that if I were hit with a baseball it could shatter them and sends shards of glass through my eyes and on into my brain leaving me a vegetable.

So I was put out to one of the "fields" (I think it was the "right" one) to look for and catch fly balls, without my glasses. But I couldn't see this one fly ball that came at me so instead of catching it, it caught me, right in the head. Good thing I wasn't wearing my glasses at the time or it would have been just like I just told you, with me being a vegetable and all, and the shards! But it still left an emotional scar for life. Ouch!

In spite of that trauma I still want to talk about baseball. I want to share my excitement about the recent ruling by Seattle Municipal Court Judge Jean Rietschel that dismissed charges against some men for scalping Mariners tickets on the streets, on the grounds they were the victims of selective enforcement of Seattle's anti-scalping law.

Now I don't understand anything about Seattle's anti-scalping law. What I especially don't understand about Seattle's anti-scalping law is, how is scalping wrong if capitalism is right? I mean, there are crimes occasionally associated with scalping like theft and counterfeiting and fraud, but we have laws against those things already. Why do we have to throw a net out broadly for scalpers? Isn't that like arresting people who drive in order to put a stop to hit and runs?

I have lots of questions like that. Why doesn't the Ninth Amendment to the US Constitution ever get a nod in courts? That's the one that says a right of the people doesn't have to be on the list to count. I think we need an Amendment Nine and a Half that says, "We really meant Amendment Nine."

According to a Seattle Times story, Judge Rietschel based her ruling in part on her opinion that the scalping arrests would not have occurred had the Mariners themselves not pursued them by hiring off-duty Seattle police to look for scalpers. Also she pointed out the Mariners allow scalping on their own website by letting sellers use fake out-of-city addresses to get around the city ordinance. I guess that's OK to the Mariners because they get a cut of the on-line sales.

Here's what I'm really excited about: It can be done, people! It's possible to win a case of selective enforcement in Seattle! There's hope for the rest of us yet, that the courts might protect us from the selective enforcement of city and state ordinances by police in the hire of businesses.

There shouldn't be ANY police in the pay of businesses. When an off-duty police officer uses his power to arrest while in the pay of anyone but the taxpayers proper accountability is skirted and government authority is subverted. The power to arrest belongs only in public hands under public direction.

Hooray for small steps toward sanity.