Monday, November 23, 2009

Mission statement (work in progress), take 2

To remain actively engaged in life.

To look at the world with wonder, and embrace my natural desire to understand it more fully.

To embrace the full spectrum of my emotions, rather than running from the ones that make me uncomfortable.

To take full responsibility for my choices.

To try my best to understand others, fully realizing that everyone has hopes, fears, desires, and the other things which drive me.

To seek out kindred spirits, and to intensify life with and through mutual respect and understanding.

To maintain a true and independent identity by being true to myself above and before all else.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The free market

The other day, I was paying for groceries with my debit card at one of the self-checkout lanes of a grocery store. It occurred to me that the entire process is incredibly bizarre.

After all, I walked into the store with nothing of value, left nothing of value behind, and left with enough food for a week. I did this without dealing with a single representative of the store or its interests. And this was perfectly legal.

Paper money works essentially the same way; but at least when cash changes hands, this is an exchange of a physical good which has a definite worth determined by the market. The only thing you have to have faith in when accepting cash is that it will be worth what you think it's worth when you decide to spend it.

With debit cards and the like, there is a virtual, rather than physical, exchange of money; so there are two layers of good faith involved in the exchange: faith in cash, and faith in the digital systems' ability to properly represent cash flow in a virtual environment.

Does it really make sense to rely on these two factors? With the state of the economy, the public debt, and the projected budget deficits for the next several years, it seems as though our nation's financial course is unsustainable. It's not difficult to imagine the total financial collapse of the Federal government, which would result (among other things) in a massive devaluation of American cash. Computer systems, furthermore, are accessible to all the immoral computer geeks of the world.

In short, on a daily basis, we place an enormous amount of faith on these two factors which seem fundamentally unworthy of our faith. Is this a sensible system; and, more to the point, is it a sustainable system?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Separate but equal?

The fight over same-sex marriage in America rages on.

With the vote in Maine three days ago, gay marriage has now been forbidden by the people in 31 states - every state in which the issue has come to a popular vote. In other words, no American electoral majority has ever supported gay marriage.

Many liberals would be quick to point out that it's important to keep this in perspective, remembering all the progress that has been made, and keeping in mind that the demographic momentum is in favor of same-sex marriage, since young people mostly think gays should be allowed to marry. Others would point to the vote on the same day in which Washington was added to the list of states whose voters have approved "everything but marriage" - civil unions with all or nearly all of the protections afforded by marriage - as a heartening sign.

Many would even go so far as to say that the fact that civil unions appear to be a more attainable goal makes them a more worthy goal. The pragmatist in me understands this line of thought. The pursuit of marriage equality in America is, even today, an incredibly daunting task. Large percentages of the electorate still view homosexuality as not just immoral but sinful; so they naturally believe that it is their duty as Americans to stop any attempts to normalize it, and that by doing so they are saving America from damnation.

These people are willing to do incredible mental gymnastics to find justifications for their opposition to same-sex marriage that appear logical to the average person. But it's much harder to logically justify opposition to civil unions, since they can't be seen to involve a redefinition of traditional marriage. The effect of this fact is that, in places where a slim majority opposes same sex marriage, a slim majority also supports civil unions. And of course, equality of legal recognition for gay couples seems far more important than the terminology; so it seems reasonable to forget about marriage (at least for a while), and focus on getting civil unions.

But let's think, for a moment, of the implications of legalizing civil unions, rather than marriage, for same-sex couples.

The logic of civil unions rests on the precept that homosexual relationships should only be legally recognized by setting up a separate system, for them to use, where normal people would get married. Civil unions, therefore, accept that a homosexual relationship is fundamentally different from what is normal and acceptable in polite society - and that, to reflect this, we must use a different set of legal protections for their relationships. All this, while proclaiming that we are affirming their equal rights.

But how can we possibly affirm equal rights through separate legal protections? Amendment XIV of the United States Constitution says, in part, "No State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." For a long time, racial segregation in America was justified by saying that as long as the public services afforded to non-whites were equal, it was alright if they were separate, if society demanded so. In the 1954 supreme court case Brown v. Board of Education, the court unanimously ruled that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Cannot the same be said of separate legal codes to recognize relationships?

This is why I am a supporter of gay marriage, rather than the more pragmatic civil unions. Granted, I generally think there are far more pressing issues facing America, and the world, than the question of who can marry who - that's why this is the first blog post I've written dedicated to the topic - but that doesn't make the current situation regarding marriage in America any less unjust. It is my sincere hope that the American electorate can manage to get its head out of its ass and realize the clear and unequivocal truth - that gays have, and have always had, the right to marry; and must in turn be given the legal ability to do so.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mission statement (work in progress)

To live.

To look at the world with wonder, and embrace my natural desire to understand it more fully.

To remain at all times open to the fluctuations of my mood; to accept all emotions that come to me as parts of the same unified whole.

To seek out kindred spirits, and to intensify life with and through mutual respect and understanding.

To maintain a true and independent identity by being true to myself above and before all else.

Monday, November 2, 2009

cathartic release

forever and a day
by zach freier

you walked with me
that night through the
empty city streets
under a sky blackened
by clouds.

neither of us knew
the way, but i didn't
care, because
as long as we were
together, i was where
i needed to be.

but every time i
looked at you, you
seemed fainter, your eyes
dimmer, your face
more transparent, and
i knew you were leaving.

i asked if you remembered
all the times you said
you'd always be
there for me,
forever and a day.

you turned to look
into my eyes one last
time, and told me that
i didn't need you,
that even if i
don't know my way,
i'll always walk
in the right direction.

i closed my eyes as
you said you'd always
love me, and when i opened
them, you were gone.

i am lost without you.