Tag Archives: civil liberties

Treading Water

I would like to talk about how we are merely treading water, but first I must say that I am very proud of the Washington State legislature for passing the Marriage Equality bill this past February, and Democratic Governor, Christine Gregoire, for immediately signing it. In collaboration with Ed Murray, the openly gay state senator, Gregoire proposed the marriage equality bill more than ten years ago as part of an anti-bullying bill. She was Attorney General at the time. The bill didn’t pass.

But now she’s Governor, and the once Republican senate is in the hands of the Democrats. Four Republican senators voted for the marriage equality bill after fierce lobbying by Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks and others. But what gets me is that the current Republican Attorney General, Rob McKenna (who is running for the gubernatorial seat this upcoming election, and who I consider an enemy of the state despite his outward persona of being a soft-spoken and objective enforcer of the law) had the unmitigated gall to bring the issue to a referendum on November’s ballot.

Didn’t he learn anything from the passage of California’s Proposition 8 and the ensuing battle over whether or not the general public should have a say when it comes to civil rights? Civil rights is not something that should be subject to a popular vote. It is a constitutional issue. Can you imagine if the Civil Rights Act were subject to a popular vote? It probably would have never passed. McKenna does the Constitution a huge disservice by allowing this marriage equality bill to go to a referendum of the people.

I also take issue with the LGBTQ community for not immediately filing suit (to my knowledge) to stop the referendum. Instead they now have to use their resources to persuade the general public that marriage equality is the right thing to do when the general public should have no say when it comes to civil rights. They have to do this in the face of one million (Mormon) dollars already raised to defeat the referendum. Thank goodness we do have a chance at success because Washingtonians are not overpowered by backward, ignorant Evangelicals like those who dominate the South and parts of the heartland. But that’s not what I was talking about. I’ve lost my train of thought. Does anyone remember?

“You were talking about treading water!”

Oh, yeah… treading water! Thanks. Sometimes I go off on a tangent and forget what I was talking about. And please don’t attribute losing my train of thought to old age, a “senior” moment, too many past psychedelic experiences, or anything like that, because many people of all ages lose their trains of thought now and then. When someone actually remembers what I was talking about it means they were listening, and that makes me feel really good.

By the way, I want you to know I have a “safe” word. It is “zebra.” If ever I start telling a story you have already heard, just say “zebra” and I will stop talking or start a different story. I will not be offended in the slightest. Why waste your time and mine if you have already heard it? It is a perfectly polite way to let a person know you have heard the story before. More than anything, I do not want to become my father, who is stuck in World War II and tells the same stories over and over, ad nauseum. So please, just say “zebra” if you find me doing the same. Now I’ve lost it again. What was I talking about?

“You were talking about treading water!”

Oh, thanks again. I really do rely on the kindness of strangers and friends to help me get back on the train. Which reminds me. This Trayvon Martin thing in Sanford, Florida. I have to add my voice to the many before me, both media commentators and everyday folk, who know deep in their hearts and will bet their asses that if Zimmerman were a black neighborhood watchman and Trayvon were a white teenager, under the same circumstances Zimmerman would have been arrested and charged with murder immediately (if they didn’t lynch him on the spot!) Maybe by the time this article goes to press, Zimmerman will have been arrested. But if so, only because the public outcry has been so loud.

My 95-year old dad lives in Florida in one of the most evangelical, conservative, Tea Party counties in the state. He says most of the community where he lives is outraged by the fact Zimmerman has not been arrested and charged. Most of them, according to him, agree that at the very least, he should be in jail and let a trial determine whether or not he is guilty of murder, manslaughter, a hate crime, or innocent. Florida is actually two states. One is made up of people as southern in attitude as neighboring Georgia and Alabama, and the rest are relocated northerners who were brought up in an entirely different environment. Florida will be a very interesting state to follow this next election cycle.

If only candidates and incumbent leaders would simply tell the truth, say what they truly believe and not what their Evangelical, liberal, conservative, progressive, or moderate, bases want to hear. If only Obama would come out decisively for gay marriage, universal health care, and a definitive “no way, no how” to the XL pipeline. If only Romney would stop saying “ya’ll” when he is campaigning in the south, pandering to their Confederate heritage and red neck good ol’ boy mentalities. But no! They have to say what they think their bases want to hear. They can’t take the chance of losing votes. Obama will talk around an issue in a most slippery way without committing himself for fear he will offend one demographic or another. Romney and the other clowns in the GOP primary race are less elusive. They absolutely change their stories from one state to another. But I digress. I was talking about… what was it I was talking about? How absurd these “stand your ground” laws are? How they lead to vigilantism and a never-ending cycle of revenge?

Someone commits murder under the guise of the “stand your ground” law and are exonerated because of it. The family of the murdered victim seethes in anger, or at least I know I would, because justice has not been done. A frustrated and distraught relative, a cousin or uncle, waits until just the right time and gets his own justice by shooting the murderer. The father of the murderer, in a fury, shoots the relative. On and on, back and forth it goes, until we have regressed to the days of the Hatfields and McCoys. Shootout at the not-OK corral! But I digress. I was talking about gay marriage.

“No you weren’t. You were talking about treading water!”

Oh, yeah. Thanks. Treading water. Why do I feel that I am merely treading water? That most Americans, except the very wealthy, are treading water? Is it because the first cost-of-living increase in three years for recipients of Social Security now gives them a whopping $45 extra in disposable income? Does the government think that is enough to cover the increases in utilities and food? Give me a break. Do you think we are all stupid?

Most of us barely have our heads above water. One slight increase in what it costs to maintain a healthy family sinks our heads even further until only our nostrils can take in any air. Those who can afford it, buy a hybrid car, thinking the outlay of money will be offset by the moola they save by getting better gas mileage. So what happens? Gas prices increase. They end up spending as much on gas as they ever did with their less-than-efficient previous car. If they’re lucky, it’ll be a wash. If not, they’ll sink even further, bobbing up and down, sucking in air when they surface periodically. Maybe they are fortunate enough to have a snorkel nearby as they await a true increase in the standard of living.

Suckers! Don’t you know BP and the other oil companies care not a whit about your well-being? They say, “No matter what happens, we are determined to get at least $10,000 a year out of you for what you spend on gas. If automobile companies increase the miles per gallon of their cars, we will make sure the price of gas increases as well. But come hell or high water… most likely, high water… we will maintain or better yet, increase our profit margins.”

Same for utilities, food, shelter, clothing… just when you think you have your head above water, just when you’ve put up a sign above the toilet that reads, “yellow’s mellow, but brown goes down,” just when you’ve cut out the coupons from all your junk mail and cut back on going out to dinner or to a movie from once a week to once every two months; just when you’ve run around the house turning off all the lights and electronics that aren’t being used, just when you decide to bicycle and not use the car at all; just when you make your family wear sweaters all day so you can turn down the heat, or when lo and behold, you get a tiny raise… that’s when some behemoth corporation will raise prices on you, whether it be utility bills, bank and credit card fees, gasoline, or a box of cereal. That’s when you realize you will really never get ahead; you will merely stay in one place treading water. You tilt your head back trying to keep your face above the surface. The smallest wave ripples toward you and for a moment you choke, but it passes and you are still breathing, but just for the moment.

The poor and what’s left of the middle class are barely afloat. Their arms and legs grow weary. They will soon drown in the seas that are owned by the one percent. And it should anger us all to the point of constant protest and peaceful mayhem because there are answers, there are solutions. They are simple and easy to understand. It has to do with eliminating avarice from our corporate institutions and their owners, with or without their cooperation. It has to do with what is fair and just. It has to do with putting the good of the many over the unbridled greed of the few. It has to do with Socialism for the necessities and highly regulated Capitalism for the luxuries. Both can co-exist in a Democracy.

Phew! The train has pulled into the station. I am getting off here. I am going home to put on my bathing suit, my goggles; my fins… go to the pool, and practice treading water for a while. I’ll carry on conversations with my Canadian friends, all of whom, including the conservative ones, think we Americans are nuts. I am confident that the word “zebra” will be used a number of times. In the meantime, be good all my hippie and hippie-at-heart brothers and sisters. Get ready for a rousing spring and summer and always swim against an oppressive current.

Namaste,
Phil

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