Friday, June 22, 2012

Romney's First Gay Bashing?
I have thought about Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s high school bullying since the in-depth article in the Washington Post appeared on May 11th.  I have considered my own high school years.  Would I want to be judged now, some 20-plus years later over things that I did as a teenager?  No, I would not.  I have also considered that brain development is not complete until individuals are in their 20s.  Specifically, brain processes that manage impulse control and predicting consequences are some of the last to form.  Still, Mormonism aside, Governor Romney does not truly understand what it is like to be marginalized in a country that purports that everyone is equal, unless you are gay.
Washington Post writers gathered independent accounts from participants and onlookers of the alleged incident.  These accounts depicted Romney as the ringleader of the pack of teenage boys that attacked their classmate.  Nevertheless, Romney claims he has no memory of the attack.  For me, the most troubling part is that assaulting a classmate with a weapon (scissors) cannot be recalled.
We all have things in our past that we are not proud of.  Hopefully, we have apologized or attempted to right those wrongs.  However, every person who has ever been assaulted lives with that trauma for the rest of their lives.  Assault can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can haunt individuals for years.  A classmate, who was one of the attackers, recounted that he apologized to the victim after a chance meeting at an airport years after the incident.  This gay man (the victim) remained traumatized by the incident more than 20 years later.
Other classmates recalled that the victim was presumed by classmates to be gay.  Romney has claimed that he grew up in an age when being gay was not discussed, so he had no reason to believe that the victim of this assault was gay.  Over and over again in these independent accounts, classmates recalled that Romney disliked this young man because he seemed different, because he had long hair, because Romney did not believe that the young man fit in with their private school image.  I do not condone or defend any type of bullying, but this was not a verbal attack.  It was an assault…with a weapon.
Romney has lived a life of privilege. In addition, his Mormon faith has further insulated him from understanding the needs of marginalized groups.  Should engaging in bullying as a teenager disqualify someone from being president?  I don’t think so.  However, Romney cannot recall an assault that made such an impression on participants and onlookers that years later they recalled it in detail.  Either Romney is a liar or a person so out of touch that he believed this assault was deserved in order to make the victim conform to social norms; therefore, it was non-memorable.  I hope Romney is lying.  If not, I hope that the latter characteristic proves to be a fatal flaw for his candidacy.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Santorum Bows Out...For Now

On April 11th, Rick Santorum suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination for President.  Santorum reportedly returned home Easter weekend because his daughter’s health had worsened.  The suspension was a surprising development that came eight days after Santorum’s primary defeats in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Wisconsin.  After the primary results were announced, Santorum made a speech in which he declared that he was not going anywhere, that it was only halftime.  Santorum was expected to remain in the race at least until after the primary in his home state, Pennsylvania, on April 24.
Santorum was a long shot early on in the crowded Republican field, but became stronger as his opponents bowed out one by one.  Many initially perceived Santorum as a fringe candidate, the representative of the extreme right.
It is unclear whether the increased popularity Santorum enjoyed in the last few months was a true indication of support for his right-wing views or whether it was a product of anti-Gingrich and anti-Romney bias.  In addition, some states allow for all registered voters to vote in primary elections so Santorum’s increased support may have partially been a product of Democratic voters trying to prolong the Republican primary season.
On April 10, Santorum was interviewed by Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family.  Dobson also founded the Family Research Council, which has been branded as a hate group by the highly respected Southern Poverty Law Center for spreading disinformation (i.e., deliberate misinformation) about LGBT people.  During the interview, Santorum vowed to keep fighting for conservative values on the national stage and declared that his wife would have made a great first lady and STILL MIGHT.
Santorum has reported that he ended his campaign due to lack of funds.  He is currently soliciting donations to help defray debt from his campaign to be the Republican nominee for president.  Santorum reported that after his loss in the Wisconsin primary on April 3, his campaign debt increased to a level he was not comfortable with.
The popularity of Rick Santorum should scare all of us.  Here is a man that believes that the U.S. population should live under the archaic rules of the Catholic Church, rules that most American Catholics do not adhere to.  Santorum also enjoyed a great deal of support from conservative Christians who usually are reluctant to support Catholics.  Santorum wants to take this country back into the early 20th century, with draconian social measures.  I can only imagine that the rest of the civilized world is laughing at the U.S. once again, because a man with these values has a national platform for his views.  This is our country, and we need to wake up to the reality that the rights that we have fought so hard for are being threatened.  Are you listening?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Virginia Is For Lovers (But Only Heterosexual, Married Ones)

On March 1, 2012, Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland signed a law legalizing gay marriage that will take effect on January 1, 2013.  With Governor O’Malley’s pen strokes, Virginia is now bordered by Maryland and the District of Columbia, and shares the Delmarva Peninsula with states (i.e., Maryland and Delaware) with legalized civil unions or same-sex marriage.  Given Virginia’s historic role as the capital of the Confederacy, the delay in civil rights for all of Virginia residents should not be surprising.
As the march toward formalized contracts between same-sex individuals in the form of civil unions and same-sex marriage continues, the state of Virginia has been making news of its own as legislators have recently lashed out against women in legislation that can only be described as the legalized sexual assault of women who wish to have an abortion.  Isn’t that the term for having your body invaded with something against your consent?  But I digress…

It is particularly ironic that Virginia’s long-held tourism slogan is “Virginia is for lovers,” when state policies make it very clear that the tourism slogan should read Virginia is for heterosexual, married lovers.  Virginia is one of 29 states with a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.  This law in Virginia also impacts contractual relationships and prohibits civil unions and any marriage-like contract between two unmarried individuals.  This law is one of the most restrictive in the nation.
The law, which codifies discrimination, matters a great deal, because 2010 census numbers indicated that single Americans make up almost 46% of the U.S. population.  The percentage of single women is at the highest point since the late 1800s, with the percentage of single men approaching 1920s and 1930s levels.  Clearly, we are becoming a nation of unmarried people.  Since 2000, the one-person household is the most common in the U.S.  In addition, the number of unmarried individuals that are cohabitating increased 88% between 1990 and 2007.

If marriage and civil union policies in Virginia do not catch up with its neighbors, and states in the Northeast, it will be left behind when businesses are considering expanding into the state.  Why would a company choose to build new branches in a state that actively promotes unequal civil rights for unmarried individuals?  How do you attract the best and the brightest when people do not want to live in a state that continues the long history of denying certain individuals their constitutional rights?

Based on the current political climate, it seems that the only individuals that the government of Virginia cares about are heterosexual, White, married men.  We’ve come a long way baby…except that we haven’t.  I fervently hope that I am wrong, but I don’t expect it to change anytime soon.  3/14/12

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Prelude To A Three-Way? The nomination process is in desperate need of a makeover

I will admit my biases upfront and note that I have no intention of voting for the Republican nominee for President in 2012.  However, this Republican presidential nomination process has given me much to ponder.
Last week, the second full week of January, the Republican race was filled with so much excitement that each new day seemed like a telenovela, a limited-run, Spanish-language soap opera.  Coming into the week of January 13th, the race seemed almost over.  Many commentators had already declared Mitt Romney as the eventual Republican nominee.
On Monday, January 14th, fresh off of a very disappointing finish in New Hampshire, Jon Huntsman Jr. declared that he was dropping out of the race for the Republican nomination.  It was unfortunate to me, that an intelligent well-spoken man, who has served his country well in many capacities, could not garner more support for his candidacy.  Although some of his more modern views were unpopular with the Republican base, Jon Huntsman Jr. stayed true to his beliefs.
On Thursday, January 17th, Rick Perry also declared that he was out of the race, and endorsed Newt Gingrich.  After rocketing to the top after declaring his intent to run for President, Perry badly damaged his aspirations by his poor debate performances.  Perry’s endorsement of Gingrich seemed to make the nomination process into a two-man race between Gingrich and Mitt Romney.  However, moments later to everyone’s surprise, after recounting the caucus votes, Iowa caucus officials declared that Rick Santorum won, with some ballots missing, and reversed the previously-declared victory of Mitt Romney.  Could this possibly turn the race into a three-way battle between Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich?
After turning on the debate moderator in the Thursday night debate (January 19th), when he dared to question Gingrich’s personal life, Former Speaker Gingrich enjoyed the support of the debate crowd and surged to a victory in South Carolina in Saturday’s primary.  As I am writing this article, Gingrich is gaining on Romney in Florida.
To me, this nomination process has highlighted a number of issues: the challenges of Super PACs-the legacy of the Citizens United ruling; the meteoric rise and fall of several candidates; the importance of debate performances; and last, but not least, the disconnect between the average middle-class citizen and Republican candidates.  So will it be the billionaire, the condescending Washington insider, or the long-shot conservative?  A better question may be, why do so few get to choose the candidate for so many?
Do we really believe that Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina are representative of the rest of the voters in the United States?  While Florida is certainly more diverse, she is definitely not representative of the rest of the country either.  When are we as a nation going to devise a more representative selection process for candidates for the nation’s highest office?  This year, more than ever, it has become clear that this nomination process is in desperate need of a makeover.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Brave New World of 2012 (January 9, 2012)

During this past holiday season, which for most is the busiest time of year, you may not have been keeping abreast of the news.  It appears that this is exactly what Congress and President Obama were counting on as they passed and signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act.
This bill greatly expands power in the Executive branch of government by allowing authorization of the indefinite detention of American citizens in military custody, for aiding or supporting terrorist activity, without charging them or putting them on trial until the end of the war on terror.
This provision in the NDAA tramples all over the Bill of Rights, specifically the rights identified in the Fourth (unreasonable arrest without probably cause), Fifth (guarantees due process), and Sixth (guarantees rights:  to speedy trial, to know charges, to legal counsel, and to face accuser) Amendments.  All of this is occurring under the guise of fighting the war on terror.
While President Obama issued a signing statement saying that he disagrees with the provision in the bill that expands the power of the Executive branch, he chose to sign the bill despite the vigorous objections of civil liberties advocates.
We should not take this provision lightly.  Can you imagine a return to the McCarthy era or worse when the definition of “terror” and “terrorist activity” could be defined to mean almost anything?  One has only to look at some of the inflammatory language coming from the Republican presidential candidates in this highly-partisan political environment to speculate what could be classified as “terror” under a new Republican presidential administration—perhaps war protestors, the ACLU, a civil rights group that defends Muslim Americans from the bigotry and intolerance of their neighbors?
What about the LGBT community?  Many of the Republican presidential candidates have already signed the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) pledge, which states that if he or she is elected, he or she will appoint a presidential commission to investigate the harassment of traditional marriage supporters (i.e., organizations who advocate for civil rights).
Not only do they want to roll back the civil rights the LGBT community has gained in the past few years, many of the Republican presidential candidates have pledged to investigate civil rights organizations.  With the broad new powers authorized under this piece of legislation, it is not a stretch to imagine that some of these same organizations could be branded with or threatened with the “terror” label.
I signed a pledge of my own this morning with the ACLU, to fight what I believe is this illegal and unconstitutional provision in this piece of legislation.  However, I have to admit that I paused for a second.  What if one day, a few years from now, we are labeled anti-American and supportive of terror for trying to fight this provision?  We cannot allow that to happen!  I don’t know about you, but I am going to fight so that day will never dawn.