as anyone who hasn't sworn off of TV, the internet, social media, print, and water cooler conversation knows, the state of Indiana passed their own version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
lots of religious conservatives are applauding it, lots of liberal / progressive folks are decrying it.
the feds already have an RFRA of long standing, many other states also have RFRA's, so why is this a big deal?
folks who are against it say it's a thinly disguised pretext for discrimination against gays, Mike Pence says it's a simple matter of extending the protections against federal overreach that are provided by the federal RFRA to the state level.
sparking a discussion of "how do sculptors even *do* that?" and many pictures of Bernini works. Along the way, someone labeled this one "a Vestal Virgin, carved during the Roman Empire". I immediately recognized that this was wrong.
Writing about the current mess in Yemen, Fareed Zakaria says, in part:
This is the pattern that has produced terrorism in the Arab world. Repressive, secular regimes — backed by the West — become illegitimate. Over time they become more repressive to survive and the opposition becomes more extreme and violent. The space for compromise, pluralism and democracy vanishes. The insurgents and jihadists have mostly local grievances but, because Washington supports the dictator, their goals become increasingly anti-American.
Since we have learned little from this history, we are now repeating it.
So, what are the chances that we might learn to stop supporting secular dictators (in Egypt and elsewhere) any time soon? And why doesn't it matter that we also support sectarian dictators (in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere)?
for some reason, I recently found myself looking into the famous Margaret Thatcher quote. You know the one:
There is no such thing as society.
It's a sort of counter-intuitive, and maybe disturbing, thing for the Prime Minister of a major nation to come out with. So, I wanted to understand what she was on about.
The quote comes from a much longer interview (which is worth reading) with Woman's Own, a UK lifestyle magazine. I'd like to present the original quote in a slightly larger context:
There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.
When I read this, my first reaction to was find myself, to my own surprise, to be in profound agreement with Margaret freaking Thatcher.
My second reaction was to ask, "What is that, if it is not society?".
Reading the whole piece, what I think Thatcher is after is the idea that "society" is not some entity floating out there in the ether, separate from the people who make it up, and from which people can simply expect a lifetime of benefits without also incurring a reciprocal obligation.
With which, as it turns out, I agree.
What I think gets lost in the debate between "conservatives" and "liberals" and whoever else wants to chime in is that, ultimately, what we are talking about is the question of *whether, and how, we are obliged toward each other*.
When we talk about "society" having an obligation to take care of the less fortunate, we are talking about the obligations that exist between some of the people in that society towards others.
When we talk about the obligations of the less fortunate to not expect "society" to do everything for them, we are talking about a more or less reciprocal set of obligations that exist between the same, or similar, sets of people.
The claims each may make, in both (and all) directions, are claims made by some people, on other people. And, the claims made are legitimate *because they all participate in a common society*.
A point that is often made at this juncture is that that is all well and good when we're talking about relationships between private individuals, but by god government has nothing to do with it.
Which makes me then ask, well what the hell is government if it is not the instrument by which a society manages its common life?
That's all I got for tonight. I have no grand conclusion to draw, I'm just trying to figure it all out.
Mister Doctor and I were driving down a winding road the other day, and he asked me what the beautiful shade trees along it were. "Sycamores", I said, "what in Europe are called plane trees." He confessed that when he was young and heard of "plane trees" he was befuddled, not knowing if the grownups were talking about "just plain trees", or trees that had something to do with airplanes, or if they were flat, or grew on the plains, or what. We also talked about how confusing it can be when British and American English have two different words for the same thing, and I said I was confused for years by British books that referred to "limes" as large European shade trees. Mister Doctor had just assumed they meant citrus trees, but I said no, they're actually linden trees.
I promised him I'd look up why sycamores are called "plane" trees, and how linden trees got to be "limes" -- and so I did, and now I shall share with you.
For the entire history of the United States, those who were already here have viewed with alarm that arrival of immigrants. In particular, the arrival of immigrants from new places. Currently, the focus is on Hispanics. Before that it was the Chinese and Japanese, before that the Italians and the Irish. In the earliest days of the republic, it was the Germans.
Always the concern expressed has been that the new arrivals have a different culture, and will destroy the existing American culture. And/or that they will set up enclaves of their own culture and fail to integrate with the national culture. Certainly the American culture has absorbed bits and pieces from the cultures of all of the groups who have immigranted. But historically, the second generation integrates relatively well, and by the third generation acculturation is essentially complete.
So the question is, have there been cases where a new group has failed to integrate eventually? I can only think of one off the top of my head: the Amish. Any others?
The whole voting rights act brouhaha suggests, to me, a good candidate for a 28th Amendment:
No citizen of the United States of America being 18 years or older in age shall be deprived of the right to vote in any election for federal office. No conditions other than citizenship or having attained the age of 18 years at the time of the election shall be placed on the right of voting.
Reword as you wish, and/or as need be. As long as the intent, which should be obvious, is preserved, I'm fine with it. If there is an objection to the intent, I'd like to know what it is.
And, short of that and for the record, in compliance with the spirit of the 14th Amendment, I'd like the base of representation for any state that places any condition on voting to be reduced by the number of people who were prevented from voting based on whatever conditions were applied.
But what I'd really like is not to stop short of that.
If you're a citizen and you show up or mail in your ballot, you get to vote.
I like the NCAA men's basketball tournament, I really do. Not as much as I used to for a variety of reasons. These days, it gives me yet another chance to beat the ever growing drum of folk* calling out the NCAA on its hypocrisy, greed, cartel-like behavior, and just general awfulness. Quite frankly, the whole thing is UnamericanTM if you really think about it (if you disagree - you're wrong!).
It's been sliding this way for a while now, but I imagine by 2020 college athletes will, at least, be able to profit off of their likeness by striking individual endorsement deals with whomever will pay them to hock or sign whatever it is. Perhaps they will be able to play for the college that agrees to pay them the highest salary, and the NCAA will share profits from the Marchy Madness (and bowl games) with the players in the tournament. You know, capitalism! Not seeing too much of a downside here.
After all, at bottom, the players on scholarship are paid, just in kind. Not sure what handing over actual $$ to them changes. It might actually improve things, and perhaps we can dispense with the hand wringing that occurs when, say, "storied" programs headed by Hall of Fame Coaches run aground because of academic scandals (I'm looking at you Messrs. Boeheim and Williams; and probably a few others).
All that said, brackets baby! Brackets. I'm rooting for Kentucky just to see an undefeated season that the spawn of hell nice gentlemen Laettner, Hill and Hurley spoiled almost 25 years ago against the future of college basketball, UNLV.