Thoughts on a Week in June, 2015

For America, to say that it has been an extraordinary week in June would be a gross understatement.

From grief, elation to indignation, people have reacted publicly to the drama unfolding before a mourning congregation at a historic house of worship in Charleston, South Carolina, its contrite body of elected officials at the state capital of Columbia, and the nine ideologically-discrete justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. However, what remains far less sensational, yet far more relevant is each person’s own reckoning of his or her personal outlook.

Will these news headlines truly change your life for better or for worse, if at all? Will you resolutely stand on your side of this nation’s persistent social and cultural divide, either in claiming a decisive victory or refusing to concede defeat? Or will you simply let history take its course, and continue to mind only the minutiae of your everyday existence?

Seek your own answers. Here are mine.

Obamacare. So much for the clever lawyers hired by the opponents of the Affordable Care Act, who sought to pull the rug under Obamacare by arguing over the semantics of one word, the “state.”

Insurance buyers living in states that have not set up their insurance exchanges can breathe a sigh of relief. They will still receive subsidies from the federal government, a true “state” in the general sense of the word.

An interesting development may well be that, for states too small to sustain their own exchange programs, they may allow residents to buy insurance through the federal government website.

To the sworn enemies of the ACA on Capitol Hill, many of whom I suspect to be beholden to the interests of corporate medicine, I plead you to listen to your own, mostly under-privileged constituents, who are receiving medical care for the first time. If I were to be unemployed, as I was for a time, I would certainly count myself among them.

The Confederate Flag. I spent some my formative years in Cary, North Carolina, a quintessential southern town just half an hour from Raleigh. My father, a naturalized citizen, spoke of his admiration for Martin Luther King Jr. and his fear of the Ku Klux Klan, which was based in that state. I had childhood friends, black and white, who watched “The Dukes of Hazzard” religiously, if only for the jumps over the rustic ravines made by one orange Dodge Charger dubbed the General Lee, emblazoned with the rebel flag.

The arrangement of a red field, a blue cross in a saltire and the white stars of the Confederate states did not intimidate me then, and it does not impress me now. Whether it is flown on a pole or displayed in a museum case, it remains what it is today: a relic.

When I saw its once-ardent supporters in Columbia now crying for its removal, in light of the racially-motivated murders of nine parishioners in Charleston, I could not help but to detect a whiff of demagoguery, well into the prelude of the 2016 presidental elections, for which South Carolina is a key early-primaries state. Well, that's southern politics for you.

When staunch segregationists hoisted the Confederate flag atop the dome of the South Carolina capitol in 1962, it was their denial of civil rights to their disenfranchised African-American compatriots that was abhorrent, not their banner of choice. To this day, when the far right continue to sublimate their exclusionary agenda by extolling their guns, the Bible and the U.S. Constitution, it is their policies that are to be challenged in the democratic process, not whatever flag they happen to be waving – which is always the Stars and Stripes.

Same-Sex Marriage. This is part of a global LGBT movement that added the word “cisgender” to the OED, yet another label to define me as someone who is born a man and is naturally attracted to women, as a man. Did I get that right?

To the religious right I say: Stop being paranoid. Stop spreading the false fear that your parish priest or minister would be prosecuted for refusing to officiate gay weddings. They’ll be sued, probably, by their would-be clients, but the state is not out there to get them. Religious freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment, is still alive and well.

The gays are not there to destroy the institution of marriage. They want benefits for (and from) their spouses, custodies for their children, and rights of inhertance across state lines, rights to which any married person is entitled.

This Supreme Court decision is ultimately a victory for the lawyers, who’ll have more pre-nuptial agreements, living wills and divorce settlements to handle than ever. Surely they’ll be there, when some members of the clergy conscientiously object to perform their rites for some stubborn same-sex brides and grooms, who insist on having a “traditional” church wedding.

To the same-sex brides and grooms, I say: Forget your tradition. Embrace your modernity. Like slavery, apartheid and segregation, there is nothing inherently hallow about tradition, if it is tainted with injustice.

And yes, I’m happy for you. Now please get on with your lives responsibly, and stop creating more confusing labels for me.

-- CW, 26 June 2015


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