Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes: In My Nephew's Own Words

My sister was so proud of her son, that she sent off to everyone one of his very first essays. I was so touched by his amazing level of intellect and empathy, I was moved to tears. My nephew is 12 years old and in the sixth grade, he is certainly growing up into such a wonderful, caring young man. I asked permission from my nephew and sister to reprint his essay, in his own words without any editing. I hope you find it as heartwarming and give you as much hope for the future as it did me. So without further adieu...................................

To Be A Doctor

When I’m old enough I’m going to be a doctor. I want to be a doctor because I want to save many different lives. I could go around the world and go to different countries. I’d also get standard equipment and a white coat. I’d be working in hospitals or possibly refugee camps in third world countries, or even a pharmacy.
To become a doctor it takes a lot of training and schooling. For starters, I’ll be a paramedic, but that takes about 6 months to 1 year of paramedic school. Then I’d probably be working in a pharmacy as a pharmacy technician and deal with medicines. Finally I’d become an E.R. doctor and really save lives.
When I’m an E.R. doctor I’d do a lot of work. I’ll be working on standard stuff like broken bones and minor illnesses. I’ll work on machines like the x-ray, the CAT scan and many more. I’d also work with surgeons to help them in surgery. I could probably be able to find out if something is a fake report of illness, or if something that happened to someone ties him or her to a crime. Finally pretty much the worst part is to write a report about anything major that happens in the hospital.
When I become a doctor, I will move out of the country. I’d move because the U.S.A. doesn’t have Universal Healthcare because I believe that everyone should have the right to treatment. There are only three countries I’d like to move to and they are, France, the U.K., or Canada. The only bad part is that I’d have to learn the history of the country and the language if it is different than mine.
If I get good enough I could help around the world. I’d probably get to go to the Middle East, Darfur, and/or go to where we are having a war. The reason why I’d probably go to one of these places is because they don’t have medical marvels. The only downer about this is I could get sick by an illness that is not common to my home country. Rarely, I could get in between a gunfight in a war scene.
When I get a lot of experience from being on an E.R. staff, I’d hope to accomplish a few things. First I would want to find a cure for a rare illness. Next, I would like to solve many different mystery diagnoses. Finally, I’d really like to be a major hero figure and role model to many different people. This is why I want to be a doctor.


While We Are On the Subject: Gay Marriage

I get a bit tired of hearing the debate about gay marriage. What is that all about? I mean, honestly.

I wanted to expand on my previous post where I stated, “Oftentimes, we have to look towards those that will “lead” and pull us out of archaic thinking that so often pervades our common views…

A perfect example of this was as recent as 1987, when the Supreme Court of the United States in “Turner v. Safley” when the Court had to decide what role marriage plays in American Law.

“After careful consideration, the justices outlined four ‘important attributes’ of marriage: First, they said, marriage represents an opportunity to make a public statement of commitment and love to another person, and an opportunity to receive public support for that commitment. Second, the justices said, marriage has for many people and important spiritual or religious dimension. Third, marriage offers the prospect of physical ‘consummation,’ which of course most of us call something else. And fourth, the justices said, marriage in the United States is the unique and indispensible gateway, the ‘precondition,’ for a vast array of protections, responsibilities, and benefits – public and private, tangible and intangible, legal and economic-that have real importance for real people…and after weighing these attributes, the justices ruled – in a unanimous decision that marriage is SUCH AN IMPORTANT CHOICE THAT IT MAY NOT BE ARBITRARILY DENIED BY THE GOVERNMENT [emphasis added]. Accordingly, they ordered that the government stop refusing marriage licenses to the group of Americans who had brought the case,” (Wolfson, 8).

This case involved the ability for prisoners to marry and what benefits this process would have for said prisoners. Interestingly, the Court never mentioned as one of the attributes that marriage must be between “a man and a woman.”

Evan Wolfson, in his book WHY MARRIAGE MATTERS makes yet another great argument when dealing with the “religious” aspects of marriage. He states, “In terms of marriage…for government purposes, what matters are not the long-planned, beautiful, and memorable religious ceremonies that are a part of many couples’ weddings, but the LEGAL PAPERS [emphasis added] those couples sign before and afterword. As joyous, spiritual, and important as the religious rites of marriage are for many couples, in our country the right to marry is, first and foremost, a legal matter that may or may not be witnessed by a religious officiant [sic] or celebrated by a religious ceremony, or performed by a judge or clerk in a civil ceremony, as the couple chooses,” (Wolfson, 105).

In this argument, Wolfson makes sure that the reader understands the difference between RITES (as in religious) and RIGHTS (as in governmental). The First Amendment of our Constitution demand the separation of church and state, which is why, if a couple wants to get married in front of a judge or clerk – they may do so and they still maintain all of the rights and responsibilities as those that choose to have their ceremony in a church, synagogue, mosque, et.al. There is NO difference from a LEGAL standpoint, though an argument can be made that there is a huge difference in the eyes of their religious beliefs.

This point of view is even held in high esteem by many in the religious community…. “The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and other denominations have spoken in support of civil-marriage equality…Reverend Peter Gomes of Harvard University’s Memorial Church explained in a speech at the Massachusetts Statehouse, ‘Religious views in these constitutional matters-no matter how deeply felt-are irrelevant,” (Wolfson, 107).

The Reverend’s words are profound and extremely daring…but they focus the attention back on the constitutional question of marriage, while leaving the religious implications at bay, since they have no place in the civil-marriage argument.

Next, I wish to deal with the how pervasive the religious right has polluted the issue of civil-marriage. In 2004, U.S. Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), placed into the Congressional Record* what a Federal Biblical Marriage Amendment might look like (as many fervent religious followers believe in having God’s Law as the law of the land). Here is what it said:

‘Marriage shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. That is from Genesis 29:17-28.
Secondly, marriage shall not impede a man’s right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. That is II Samuel 5:13 and II Chronicles 11:21.
A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. That is Deuteronomy 22:13.
Marriage of a believer and a nonbeliever shall be forbidden. That is Genesis 24:3.
Finally, it says that since there is no law that can change things, divorce is not possible, and finally if a married man dies, his brother has to marry his sister-in-law.’

*Codifying “Biblical Principles” of Marriage, Congressional Record, February 25, 2004.

I felt it was important to include this piece, only because it illustrates the way an argument can be framed. I do not believe that the MAJORITY of religious followers even slightly agree with these tenets. But, if there are those that wish to bring the Bible into the secular society in order to deny a group of people the right to be civilly married, then these passages from the Bible must also be examined as a reason to change the law. You can’t have it both ways. If you want to object to gay marriage on religious grounds, then you must also accept that these passages are important in the foundational marriage rites according to the Bible, and live by them as well.

To the question of “why change the definition of marriage?” It is not anyone’s intent to change the definition of marriage (except perhaps the US Congress). As I stated in my previous post, the definition of marriage is INCLUSIVE, and not exclusive to just a man and a woman. Again, I refer to Wolfson (190), who puts it so elegantly: “Ending the exclusion of gay people from marriage would not change the ‘definition’ of marriage, but it would remove a discriminatory barrier from the path of people who have made a personal commitment to each other and are now ready and willing to take on the responsibilities and legal commitment of marriage.”

And finally……There were many times in our country’s history where people were denied the right to marry. “Previous chapters in American history have seen race discrimination in marriage (ended only in 1967), laws making wives legally inferior to husbands (changed as late as the 1970’s and 1980’s), resistance to allowing people to end failed or abusive marriages through divorce (fought over in the 1940s and 1950s), and even a refusal to allow married and unmarried people to make their own decisions about whether to use contraception or raise children (decided in 1965),” (Wolfson, 190).

So, yes, marriage has changed. It is not as it was in the days of the Bible, and it is not the same as it was as late as 1987. It has evolved as we as a nation have evolved. There is no reason to believe that this issue is any different. I have presented my point of view in response to what my brother Jimmy states. I love him dearly – we just see things from quite different perspectives. Though I disagree with my brother’s position – I still love him. I doubt we will ever see eye to eye on this, which is sad….but I want my relationship with my partner to be as equal (in a civil-marriage sense) as any married couple. But as they say, “separate but equal” by its very definition is NOT equal.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Definition of "IS" "IS"

My brother has decided to present what the definition of “is” “is”. Based on the blog I presented earlier titled: “Breaking News: Change Can Happen,” my brother gave his viewpoint on the issue. Flawed as his view may be, he is entitled to it, but I have an opportunity to correct his errors:

Jimmy said:
“He was elected, at least in part, on his position and he has let down his constituency.”

Mayor Jerry Sanders was elected by his constituency to make decisions on the “behalf” of said constituency. This is a representative democracy, and there are times when decisions are made that are in the interest of society as a whole and go against what said constituency wishes to have. Oftentimes, we have to look towards those that will “lead” and pull us out of archaic thinking that so often pervades our common views. Leaders like Abe Lincoln, which gave us the Emancipation Proclamation, would be a good example of this practice.

Jimmy said:
“My opinion is that marriage is what marriage is. It has a clear definition (see below)...”
“Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This


Pronunciation [mar-ij]


1. the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.
2. the state, condition, or relationship of being married; wedlock.
3. the legal or religious ceremony that formalizes the decision of a man and woman to live as husband and wife, including the accompanying social festivities.”
"Basic meanings of words (especially foundational words) do not change over time...they just don't."

Interesting choice to use this “specific” online dictionary. Let us now see the ENTIRE picture…
mar•riage (măr'ĭj) n.
a. The legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife.
b. The state of being married; wedlock.
c. A common-law marriage.
d. A union between two persons having the customary but usually not the legal force of marriage: a same-sex marriage.
2. A wedding.
3. A close union: “the most successful marriage of beauty and blood in mainstream comics” (Lloyd Rose).
4. Games. The combination of the king and queen of the same suit, as in pinochle.
[Middle English mariage, from Old French, from marier, to marry. See marry1.]
- http://www.answers.com/topic/marriage

mar•riage ˈmær ɪdʒ - Show Spelled Pronunciation[mar-ij] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1. the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.
2. the state, condition, or relationship of being married; wedlock: a happy marriage.
3. the legal or religious ceremony that formalizes the decision of a man and woman to live as husband and wife, including the accompanying social festivities: to officiate at a marriage.
4. a relationship in which two people have pledged themselves to each other in the manner of a husband and wife, without legal sanction: trial marriage; homosexual marriage.
5. any close or intimate association or union: the marriage of words and music in a hit song.
6. a formal agreement between two companies or enterprises to combine operations, resources, etc., for mutual benefit; merger.
7. a blending or matching of different elements or components: The new lipstick is a beautiful marriage of fragrance and texture.
8. Cards. a meld of the king and queen of a suit, as in pinochle. Compare ROYAL MARRIAGE.
9. a piece of antique furniture assembled from components of two or more authentic pieces.
10. Obsolete. the formal declaration or contract by which act a man and a woman join in wedlock.

- http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/marriage

Main Entry: mar•riage
Pronunciation: 'mer-ij, 'ma-rij
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English mariage, from Anglo-French, from marier to marry
1 a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage b : the mutual relation of married persons : WEDLOCK c : the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
2 : an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially : the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities
3 : an intimate or close union
-Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary

Jimmy failed to present the whole picture – which isn’t unusual, most people do this in order to make their point of view more salient.

Words do change in definition, or come to have more meaningful definitions over time. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, we have what is called an ORDER OF SENSES. Here is the definition.
“The order of senses within an entry is historical: the sense known to have been first used in English is entered first. This is not to be taken to mean, however, that each sense of a multisense word developed from the immediately preceding sense. It is altogether possible that sense 1 of a word has given rise to sense 2 and sense 2 to sense 3, but frequently sense 2 and sense 3 may have arisen independently of one another from sense 1.
When a numbered sense is further subdivided into lettered subsenses, the inclusion of particular subsenses within a sense is based upon their semantic relationship to one another, but their order is likewise historical: subsense 1a is earlier than 1b, 1b is earlier than 1c, and so forth. Divisions of subsenses indicated by lightface numerals in parentheses are also in historical order with respect to one another. Subsenses may be out of historical order, however, with respect to the broader numbered senses”

Therefore, the definition of marriage DOES include "being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship” and can ABSOLUTELY be used in conjunction with the legal issues that may arise from said definition. Just because the U.S Congress arbitrarily decided to state that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” does not make it so.

Of note…
Marriage is an interpersonal relationship with governmental, social, or religious recognition, usually intimate and sexual, and often created as a contract, or through civil process.”