Legislating Flair

On my way back home from Arkansas, I was listening to the local Public Broadcasting Service station, and heard a story about the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that had passed Indiana’s legislature, and was signed into law by their governor. Admittedly, I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to legislation such as this. I wasn’t even aware that it was being brought up – much less passing the legislature and being signed by the governor of a state. I was even more shocked when I heard that similar legislation was being considered by the state I had just left (Arkansas), where the bill had passed one chamber of its government.

Now, I am not going to get into the specifics of the laws. For those still wondering, I am against legislation of this type – but perhaps not for the reasons that you may think. However, I am going to focus a bit more on why this legislation is completely off-base. Let’s start off with some of the statements of support concerning why this legislation was necessary.

“It is vitally important to protect religious freedom in Indiana. It was therefore important to pass Senate Bill 101 in 2015 in order to help protect churches, Christian businesses and individuals from those who want to punish them because of their Biblical beliefs!”  –Eric Miller, Advance America  (Indianapolis Star, 27Mar15)

Really?  Let’s take a little inventory on this statement. First, the individual making the statement is part of ‘Advance America’ which is formerly known as ‘Citizens Concerned for the Constitution’ a notoriously Right-Wing group that believes that President Obama is not eligible for the Presidency because he was born in Kenya – and also advocates that the President is not a Christian, but a Muslim.  Yeah.  That tired old “Secret Muslim” theory. That should be enough to tear the entire statement apart, just for “nutball reactionist” alone. However, let’s dig into the statement itself.

The legislation is meant to protect “CHRISTIAN businesses and individuals” (my emphasis added). The bill is not meant for others, though the article notes that there are some Judaic members that attended the closed door, private session that the governor held for the signing (so much for transparent government). So let’s amend Mr. Miller’s single-focus statement to something a bit more fitting: the bill is meant to protect business and individuals of a Judeo-Christian aspect. I would state Abrahamic beliefs as well, but that didn’t seem to fit – particularly with the folks who attended the private event surrounding the signing.

Ok, with this “clearly” established (as muddy as it really is) from Mr. Miller’s statement, let’s remember something here. Mr Miller is not Mike Pence, the governor who put his name on this piece of legislation, giving it life as a law. As befits a politician (unethical bastards that they are), Gov. Pence has spent much of his time stating that he didn’t see the legislation as “discriminatory” and would not have signed the bill if he thought that it was. So let’s have a look at the bouncing, new-born baby that this legislation is.

In essence, the bill is a response to a handful of incidents that have happened, where Christian businesses have been held to the fire for not catering to LGBT needs, such as catering weddings or providing floral arrangements for those same events. In essence, the bill, as it stands, protects a business from providing services to individuals that clash with the owner’s religious beliefs. Ok, seems not that bad, right?  Well, it provides the start of a slippery slope that COULD be utilized to turn LGBT members of communities around the state of Indiana into citizens with similar natures that the Black of this country had in the pre-Civil Rights era. Don’t believe me?  Let’s take a look.

Pre-Civil Rights, blacks could not enter the front door of certain establishments, having to go around back to where the kitchen’s back door was located to purchase a meal. In essence, they were told that because they were black, they had to go out back, buy a meal, and eat in the filthy alleyway. If it was raining or the weather was extreme in nature:  “too fucking bad, ni**er” was the typical sentiment. Under the bill, LGBT folks can be treated the same way.

Remember that scene from Star Wars Episode IV?  That is what can happen under this newly enacted law. But its fairly easy to tell that C3PO and R2D2 are not human. How do we tell who is LGBT and who isn’t? Well the Nazis solved this little problem by forcing anyone who was Jewish, LGBT, Gypsy, etc etc ….. well, in the words of Peter Gibbons from Office Space:

You know, the Nazis had pieces of flair that they made the Jews wear.

Ok, I admit, I am making an extreme version of a point. However, I do not think its far out of the ballpark either. When we talk about making legislation that protects a business owner’s or an individual’s “right” to discriminate….we’re not that far down the road from kristallnacht, in my opinion. However, I would like to point out the other side of this coin….

People absolutely do have the right to discriminate, as do businesses. There’s not much we can do about the discriminatory aspects where individuals are concerned, until they start to inhibit the free-rights of those individuals they are “discriminating” against. But in the case of businesses discriminating – there is an option. We don’t frequent their business any longer. Which is what many businesses and conventions – and even states (California announced that no state workers would be permitted to attend any business functions in the state of Indiana as long as discriminatory practices are condoned by legislation like this) have chosen to do. I travel during the Summers.  I have relatives in Indiana. I will come to the state of Indiana as little as I possibly can.

Its laws and legislative manners such as these that make me feel ashamed to be an American. Take that any way you like.  I actually raised my hand, swore an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States, and wore an active duty Air Force uniform for eight years. I believe I earned that right. I’m not LGBT. I’m a straight guy that loves the form of a woman in all its aspects. However, I have friends, family (chosen), and family (DNA-related) that are member of the LGBT community. And I cherish their rights, and their freedoms that allow them to openly (as much as they desire) be exactly who they are without fear. I defended that right when I wore my uniform. Its been a long time since I was in the military service, but that oath of enlistment still applies to me today, and into the future of tomorrow.  I may be one voter – but my one voice has others singing right along with it.

I leave you with a quote – which tells me precisely why I need to stand up and shout my opposition to legislation such as this; why I must take a stand for people that I am not a part of; and why I mentioned the slippery slope earlier.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. –Martin Niemoller

The typical cry to such actions is “Never Again!” Governor Pence; the state legislature of Indiana — you needed to heed that statement. Congratulations, you have started us down the Path to wearing flair…

Remembering Freedoms

I sit here, watching the light rain falling outside, and have some Night Ranger playing in the background. The backbeat and guitar takes me back to my late teens and early twenties – a time when I was a very different person than I am today. My focus was hardly that of which it is today. Politics and religion had very little room in my life. I had no worry about a collegiate education. My focus was on living each moment like my hair was on fire. Full steam, straight ahead… I was playing soccer and helping out with plays at the local independent play-house. And I was learning…

Strange how that thought is a major part of my thinking for that time period in my life. I was learning. Many of the folks at the play-house were introducing me to classic literature, and I even found someone to show me a bit about energy play. But Paganism did not even enter into the conversation for me. I had vague perceptions that I thought there was more than just God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit – as I had been taught in Catholic boys schools. But I was not interested in developing that part of my thinking.

After exhausting my collegiate options through poor attendance and poor scholarship on my part, the only option I had left to me was the United Staes military. I joined. I was taught to do things the way the Air Force wanted, but there was always that area of my life I kept off to the side. The side of me that wanted to ask more questions, seek more answers, and accept people for who they presented themselves as. A slightly naive way of looking at the world – but one I have never seen the need to remove.

I still accept people at face value. I still expect them to be who they say they are. The ones who have done so in openness and honesty, have remained my friends throughout. The ones who haven’t – I try to dig past the facade and see who they are. After all, every person has layers to them – parts of themselves that they hide from the glare of the public light. Some just reside deeper in their cloaks than others. I never consider that someone has lied about who they are – merely that they had a reason for being cautious. Yes, I try to see the best on people….

When I started meeting people in my local area that were on the same Bulletin Board Systems that I was – I found out just how much people could hide from the world in an online personality. Nine Hells, I have done – and still do this to some degree. Everyone does. We always want to present one side of who we are to the world at large. It takes a while to walk around that online presence and determine the three dimensional aspect of a person.

Take Facebook for example. Or any other online platform. People put their best social foot forward, and sometimes that’s only their sandal. Not the foot that is in it, or the leg that the foot is attached to, or the rest of who they are. They don’t want the world to know that they are overweight, or that they are not as pretty as they think others may imagine them to be, or they have a fading hairline (that’s me!) as they move further into their living years. And honestly, no one can blame them for that. Its the way our society works – we judge people based on how they look – rather than on who they are.

There’s no question that a thin, large breasted woman is pleasing to look at for guys – at least from a physical perspective. I’ve looked at many a pleasing figure in my time. But its not what makes the person interesting to me. The physical appearance is pleasing, but it is only a single dimension of who that person is in my eyes. And honestly, its not even close to being the most important. There’s intelligence, wit, personality, the ability to carry on a conversation, the ability to listen, the smile, the eyes….all of that attracts and excites me far more than a person’s physical appearance. The physical appearance is not that big of a deal to me…I do not need or want a supermodel on my arm. I would rather have the person with the physical flaws, because there’s so much more to them than just their physical appearance.

Yet our society plays up on the physical attractiveness of a person as being a primary factor on who is the most ideal mate. We see it in the movies, we see it in the product advertising that is on television, we see it in the television shows. A person with an attractive woman/man on their arm is considered to be “lucky” and is to be envied. And yet, I envy the guy with the nerdy lady on his arm, having wonderfully intelligent conversations, and enjoying tons of fun with witty banter.

Why do I bring this up? Because we have freedoms to make choices. We can choose to find what is pleasing to our eyes, pleasing to our ears, pleasing to our touch. Here in the United States, we live under a doctrine that gives us the freedom to make those choices, to explore avenues that some may consider to be “taboo”, to sate our curiosity….and we maintain a military to defend those rights, not just for us, but for anyone. Those individuals that choose to defend this country and its Constitution give up the right to be judged under that same Constitution. They give up many of the freedoms we enjoy here – to defend those very same freedoms. And in the end, some give more than just a few years of their lives in this position of service. Some give their limbs, and parts of their bodies. Others pay the ultimate price with their lives.

…and that is what Memorial Day should be for, in my opinion. Not to thank a current military member – but rather to thank those who paid these terrible prices. I am free to explore my Paganism, in ways I never comprehended earlier in my Life. I am free to be who I am. All thanks to people who paid that price for me. The very least I can do is remember them.