October 25, 2006

George W. Bush: Traitor

UPDATE -- CALL IT MARRIAGE: In part, excellent:
HELD: Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed same-sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.
Call it marriage. That's what it is. At a very quick glance, the Court appears to get the main point right, but it also seems to avoid the apparently insurmountable problem of terminology:
At this point, the Court does not consider whether committed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, but only whether those couples are entitled to the same rights and benefits afforded to married heterosexual couples. Cast in that light, the issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people.
From a bit further on, this is the line the Court is treading:
13. The equal protection requirement of Article I, Paragraph 1 leaves the Legislature with two apparent options. The Legislature could simply amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples, or it could create a separate statutory structure, such as a civil union. Because this State has no experience with a civil union construct, the Court will not speculate that identical schemes offering equal rights and benefits would create a distinction that would offend Article I, Paragraph 1, and will not presume that a difference in name is of constitutional magnitude. New language is developing to describe new social and familial relationships, and in time will find a place in our common vocabulary. However the Legislature may act, same-sex couples will be free to call their relationships by the name they choose and to sanctify their relationships in religious ceremonies in houses of worship. (pp. 57-63)

14. In the last two centuries, the institution of marriage has reflected society's changing social mores and values. Legislatures, along with courts, have played a major role in ushering marriage into the modern era of equality of partners. The great engine for social change in this country has always been the democratic process. Although courts can ensure equal treatment, they cannot guarantee social acceptance, which must come through the evolving ethos of a maturing society. Plaintiffs' quest does not end here. They must now appeal to their fellow citizens whose voices are heard through their popularly elected representatives. (pp. 63-64)

15. To bring the State into compliance with Article I, Paragraph 1 so that plaintiffs can exercise their full constitutional rights, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes or enact an appropriate statutory structure within 180 days of the date of this decision. (p. 65)
My initial judgment is that this outcome is good, but not good enough. To grant all the rights and benefits of marriage, but to refuse to use the word to refer to same-sex unions, reveals the continuation of discriminatory and indefensible attitudes. Since in fact it will be marriage, then call it that.

Aside from the atavistic racists among us, do we refer to African-Americans as "compatriots" or "colleagues," rather than as "citizens"? It's the same issue.

Do it right. Call it marriage.

The release of the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage is expected later today. Given the impending arrival of this news, I've republished below an essay from February 1, 2004, about certain issues raised by this subject. In fact, as we all now know, Bush did explicitly endorse the Federal Marriage Amendment after this piece was written.

I hadn't read this article myself in quite a while. I was very struck by this paragraph, in light of events over the last year in particular:
Welcome to George Bush's America: an America which spits in its own face, which disgraces a history which expanded the rights of all people, and which now dares to lecture other countries -- and even to impose our will on them through military might -- all in the name of "democracy" and "freedom," while our President himself acts directly against our own recognition of individual rights and equality on the most fundamental level.
Bush's support for the Federal Marriage Amendment is only one of many instances of this phenomenon. To that particular abomination, we must now add the Military Commissions Act, which not only destroys habeas corpus, the most fundamental right upon which all our liberties depend, but also damnably embraces torture. Keeping in mind what torture actually is, my earlier argument was, if anything, seriously understated.

Many hawks accuse those who dare to disagree with our decision to invade and occupy Iraq or with Bush's foreign policy in general of being "traitors." The manner in which they do so is unconscionable and recklessly careless. But, for the reasons explained in this essay and many other pieces I've written, the word "traitor" can be applied with full and complete accuracy to Bush himself. I grant that it is altogether extraordinary that our President should be the greatest betrayer of the fundamental principles underlying our form of government to be found in the United States itself, but that is the truth of the situation in which we find ourselves. It is our curse to live in such extraordinary times.

Given my support of state-sanctioned gay marriage, I should perhaps mention the following. In terms of popular labels, it would probably be closest to the truth to describe my overall political position as being leftist-anarchist-libertarian. Theoretically, I unquestionably find anarchism to be the preferable alternative. History demonstrates over and over again that once any state is granted power, it will always seek to expand that power, until it finally tramples all traces of liberty underfoot, if it does not destroy them altogether. But as I indicate, that is only theory. For this historical moment, and certainly for another several hundred years at least, states as organizing political entities are here to stay. We shall see if the human race manages to survive them. With regard to the gay marriage issue, my argument is informed by an approach I have referred to as "contextual libertarianism" -- which I have described in some detail in this essay (which discusses general considerations and foreign policy), and in this follow-up (which concerned whether pharmacists should be allowed to refuse to provide contraceptive devices because of their personal views; for the reasons I explained, I maintained they should not).

I will be writing more on the following point shortly, so now I only mention this glancingly: for anarchy even to be possible (and to be a positive good, rather than only immensely destructive), a profound transformation of human consciousness would be required. I don't mean that fancifully; I intend it quite literally. The disavowal of a single overriding authority -- a power that commands the obedience of all under its sway, under penalty of law -- could only rest on a radically different conception of our own nature and, of equal importance, of how we relate to one another, in contrast to the ideas almost all people accept today. In fact, I think evolution may take us to that point at some time in the future; there are small indications supporting that possibility to be found here and there. But I doubt it will occur on any significant scale when you or I will see it.

Here's the earlier essay.



February 1, 2004

Our contemptible Panderer-in-Chief comes a bit closer to revealing his hatred for individual rights, equality before the law, and the founding principles of the United States:
After three days of private strategy sessions, the Republican leaders of the Senate have decided to scale back two of their major legislative initiatives: the energy bill and a measure that would impose strict caps on jury awards in medical liability cases.

The decision came at the annual retreat of Republican members of Congress, which featured presentations by lawmakers and pollsters, entertainment by the comedian Dennis Miller and a speech on Saturday by President Bush. ...

Mr. Bush's 11-minute talk, delivered in a folksy style to an admiring audience of lawmakers, spouses and their children, was the only event at the retreat open to journalists. The question-and-answer session that followed was closed to reporters.

But during the session, Mr. Bush took the opportunity to clarify his position on an issue dear to some conservatives, a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, according to both Representative Marilyn Musgrave, Republican of Colorado, and a White House spokesman.

Mr. Bush said that if necessary, he would support the version of an amendment sponsored by Ms. Musgrave, the spokesman said. The specificity of his comments moved him a small step closer to backing an amendment.
But they stopped short of satisfying some of the most determined Christian conservative groups. Many argue that a Massachusetts court ruling in favor of gay marriage makes an amendment an urgent necessity, and some are holding out for stronger language banning same-sex civil unions as well.
Oh, please. Of course, he'll support a constitutional amendment -- "if necessary," which in this instance, as in every other one, means "if I conclude that my political well-being and my reelection require it." I commented on the philosophical implications and meaning of Bush's stance on this issue before, where I offered Bush my personal judgment of eternal damnation. I repeat that judgment again. In fact, if there were a punishment greater than eternal damnation, Bush has now fully earned that punishment as well.

In case you haven't seen the text of the proposed amendment, here it is:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.
To appreciate the depth of the perfidy in which Bush is engaged, a brief historical review is required.

With a few notable (and deplorable) exceptions, all of the amendments to the Constitution expand individual rights. The first ten amendments -- the Bill of Rights -- are widely recognized as an important, indeed essential, check on the powers of a centralized government.

The Thirteenth Amendment famously states: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

The Fourteenth Amendment provides: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The Fifteenth Amendment states: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

The Nineteenth Amendment provides: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

The Twenty-Fourth Amendment states: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax."

The essential meaning of these amendments is clear: all people of the United States are fundamentally equal, and possess identical basic rights -- and they are not to be denied the equal protection of the law on the basis of race, sex, or any other form of discriminatory treatment, such as a poll tax.

But now, for the very first time in our nation's history, our President himself has said that he will support -- "if necessary" -- an amendment which would enshrine in the Constitution itself second-class citizenship for an entire group of citizens, made up of many millions of people. And he would do this because those people have one single trait for which Bush and certain of his supporters have an irrational, baseless, indefensible dislike, or even hatred.

Make no mistake about this: even if one believes that the state has no business in marriage to begin with (which is my view), the fact is that in this country, and in this world at this time, the state is involved in marriage in countless ways. And it is nothing less than the most revolting form of discrimination for the state to provide benefits to one group (heterosexuals) while denying those same benefits to another group (homosexuals). And to do this solely because one particularly powerful pressure group, the Religious Right, has a visceral dislike for gays and lesbians is beneath contempt. And to enshrine such irrationality and discrimination in the Constitution itself earns the proponents of such a loathsome idea an eternal date with the devil.

To make this point absolutely clear -- and to cut through the truly vile evasive tactics used by Bush and his supporters on this issue -- let's rewrite the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, as some people might have wanted it to read only a few decades ago:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a Caucasian man and a Caucasian woman. Neither this constitution nor the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon couples made up of one Caucasian member and a member of any other race, or any groups of mixed races.
Do you find that sickening? Does it make your stomach turn? Does it make you want to vomit -- to contemplate such an abomination being added to the Constitution of what had been the noblest nation in mankind's history?

You ought to have the same reaction to what Bush and the Religious Right are proposing. In principle, there is no difference between the two examples. Both examples deny equality to one group on the basis of a single characteristic, a characteristic which another group finds "distasteful," or "sickening," or "disgusting."

Welcome to George Bush's America: an America which spits in its own face, which disgraces a history which expanded the rights of all people, and which now dares to lecture other countries -- and even to impose our will on them through military might -- all in the name of "democracy" and "freedom," while our President himself acts directly against our own recognition of individual rights and equality on the most fundamental level.

There ought to be a punishment worse than eternal damnation. If there is one, Bush and all his supporters with regard to this issue fully deserve it, several times over.

If Bush were ever to demonstrate any degree of honesty with regard to his loathsome and vile beliefs, and if he were to support any version of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment fully and explicitly, no other country and no one at all on the face of the Earth should listen to instruction or leadership from the United States on any issue at all -- and it will take decades, and some new political leaders who demonstrate a basic understanding of the principles which once animated this country, to earn the United States any degree of respect in the future.

But Bush has already come so close to committing this act of profound betrayal, that I think this will probably be his legacy in any case. I do not know what country Bush thinks he is leading -- but in terms of the principles that he apparently believes in, it is absolutely not the United States of America, not in terms of the philosophical ideas which served as the foundation for this nation. In this sense, Bush may well be the most un-American President we have ever had.

And if that is not worthy of a place in Hell, I do not know what is.