The “great drama of gay rights”

Douglas Farrow, a professor of Christian Thought at McGill, states in today’s Gazette that marriage “is about children and what’s best for children.” He continues: “the hidden premise of so-called gay marriages… is that children are a secondary issue at best.” (my italics)
I have already submitted my letter to the editor, but there’s plenty of rant to go around.
If marriage is about children, what happens to childless heterosexual couples in Farrow’s world? Do their marriages automatically dissolve after a prescribed amount of time without offspring? Despite Farrow’s definition of marriage, hetero couples do get married for reasons beyond procreation; in fact, many straight couples deliberately opt out of parenthood. There are also plenty of frustrated couples who cannot, for one reason or another, have children – does Farrow propose to compound their unhappiness by telling them they shouldn’t be married?
As for gay marriages and children, it seems to me that gay parents have a better motivation to marry for the sake of their children. Children of straight couples are related biologically to their parents, and therefore require no legal definition of parenthood, family or marriage to protect their interests. Children of gay parents, on the other hand, cannot be biologically related to both parents. What happens if disaster strikes – the biological parent dies or disappears, leaving the other, nonbiological parent with potentially horrible legal battles to maintain the relationship with the child.
I’m not sure what Farrow believes is the “hidden premise” of gay marriage – apparently it’s hidden from him as well – but surely there are plenty of gay couples who’s prime incentive for marriage is to provide a safe, stable, socially recognized family unit for their children.
It’s disappointing to read statements like these from a professor of Christian Thought. One would hope that some one with that level of education, not to mention “Christianity,” would (a) be more tolerant and accepting, and (b) at least be able to present a rational argument, rather than resorting to the language of intolerance. For instance, he makes sarcastic comments about the intellectual capacity of Martin Cauchon, to whom her refers as our “minister of justification.” A few more examples from Farrow’s article:
– “the word ‘fishers’ [was created] so as not to offend that largely fictional character, the lady fisherman”
– “the grand farce that is being played out in place of a marriage debate”
– “the great drama of gay rights”
– “the innocuous-sounding Act Respecting Marriage”
I have said before that the debate on marriage, gay or straight, should be considered outside the realm of religion. Churches, sects, congregations, and so on should have the right to choose not to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. But they should stay out of the legal debate – that’s what the separation of Church and State is all about.

Mea culpa (fortasse)

Interesting op-ed piece in the L.A. Times from Robert McNamara, who served as secretary of defense under JFK and LBJ. In the piece, McNamara admits that as SoD he was responsible for some pretty gruesome activities in Vietnam, including Agent Orange. His point is that the US should participate without reserve in the International Criminal Court and should operate under an international set of rules of war.
Chances are, of course, that McNamara’s voice will go ignored. The US has resisted participation in the ICC because it fears not only that American soldiers be under scrutiny and vulnerable to indictment, but also that “the court might prosecute the president or other civilian or military leaders.” In other words, US presidents would be afraid to order “legitimate but controversial uses of force to protect world peace.”
McNamara, who obviously believes that he personally could well be prosecuted, nonetheless advocates American participation, because he also believes “that the human race desperately needs an agreed-upon system of jurisprudence that tells us what conduct by political and military leaders is right and what is wrong.”
According to McNamara, the Bush league is concerned that the US administration, from top to bottom, could find itself hopelessly mired in “frivolous or unfair” ICC cases. McNamara points out, however, that it is possible for the US to get on board and then negotiate protection against such cases – which is apparently what Clinton had in mind when he signed the ICC treaty on Dec. 31, 2000.
Canada’s participation in the ICC, beginning with the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, is perhaps one more reason the US perception (when there is one) of Canada is less than generous. Militarily, Canada is an international, if underfunded and disregarded, player. We participate in UN-backed coalitions, for instance. And, if our cooperation with the ICC is any indication, we’re willing to subscribe to and live by an agreed-upon [international] system of jurisprudence.
But what do we know? We’re just a bunch of pot-smoking fag hags, right?

One marine for each day of the week

So the US has sent seven marines into Liberia, bringing the total number of US military personnel there somewhere between 70 and 100. In an analysis piece I cannot for the life of me track down online, Barry Schweid (AP) writes “Bush and his politically conservative supporters came to power determined not to be drawn into what they called nation building.”
As Noah Leavitt points out, the US has a certain obligation to Liberia, given that the nation was the sanctioned destination for freed American slaves, and that since the 19th century, the US has been financially supporting the Liberian government (or at least promising that the cheque is in the mail).
Many of those who are opposed to US intervention in Liberia are citing Clinton’s Somali disaster as precedent. But, at the risk of repeating myself, it seems to me there is a more recent precedent in Iraq. The background is eerily familiar – current Liberian president Charles Taylor was educated in the US, his predecessor was trained by the CIA. Funding and political support from the US has been strongly influenced by Liberia’s relations with Cold War baddies.
Of course there are fundamental differences – in the case of Liberia, for instance, the US has ignored trade sanctions imposed by the UN to counter “diamonds [used to fund terrorism], illegal arms sales, massive refugee flows, the use of child soldiers and unspeakable human rights abuses.” Oh, and the diamonds? According to Leavitt, money from the Liberian diamond trade has been used to fund Al Qaeda, among others. So unlike Iraq, there are actual ties to those responsible for 9/11.
And of course there’s the one fundamental difference – in Liberia, US intervention is supported, requested and expected from the nation’s citizens, the UN, and all those pesky Europeans who refused to get behind the coalition.
Oh well, at least the US can’t get pissed at us for not sending anyone this time.

Whatever happened to separation of Church and State?

Bush, who is heavily backed by conservative religious groups, suggested he wants to take the United States in the opposite direction of Canada, where federal legislation endorsing same-sex unions could become law within months.
While Bush said people must “respect each individual” and “welcome those with good hearts,” that “does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on the issue of marriage.”
The US government, while condemning foreign governments for ruling with, through or by religion, is ignoring its own constitution. By denying same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexuals, the US is at once violating the fundamental rights of gay couples, and literally defining marriage according to Christian laws, not secular laws. If you consider marriage secularly, it has nothing to do with procreation, and more to do with taxation, legal responsibility, and social acceptance.
The US – which, granted, has to deal with a whole lot of Bible Belt right-wing fanatacism – is supposedly governing without the influence of the Church. However, the US President is openly discussing the issue of same-sex marriage in terms of his personal beliefs. Meanwhile, our Canadian Prime Minister-in-waiting, Paul Martin, is telling reporters that although he is a Catholic, his responsibilities as an elected representative come first.
Last night at the supper table, my son was asking Dr. T about his impending trip to Malaysia. It seems Colin has heard that in Malaysia, boys can’t kiss boys. Sign of the times – my son thinks this outrageous cultural standard is hysterically funny, and is currently struggling with the notion that people can tell other people who they can or cannot kiss…
God help me, I’m raising a bleeding heart liberal.

Maybe they’ll drop in for the weekend…

Iraq: reputedly mad dictator, government corruption, rumours of government-sponsored human rights abuses, rumours of terrorist networks, oil.
Liberia: obviously mad dictator, textbook government corruption, people beaten and shot in front of international cameras, no oil.
US position on Iraq: get in there and get rid of that madman before he makes trouble. Even if we’re not really sure he will make trouble. We’re pretty sure he’ll make trouble. Certainly we’ll tell everybody that we know he’ll make trouble. Bottom line – get in there and don’t come out til everything is under (our) control.
US position on Liberia: Weeeeeelllllll, we’re not going in until all this shooting people stuff stops. And some one will have to do something about Taylor before we even consider stepping off the boats. And if we do come in, we’re only staying for a minute – and we’re not all coming. We’re really kind of tied up… we’ll see. Consider this a definite maybe. But give our love to the UN.
Major difference (aside from the oil, which various people claim is not a factor): The rest of the world tried to get the US to slow down on Iraq. The UN tried to get the US to reconsider on Iraq. The citizens of Iraq, by and large, were not standing in front of news cameras begging the US to come save them.
In Liberia, people are carrying placards imploring ‘Uncle Sam’ to hurry the heck up. The UN is dropping not-so-subtle hints that they could really use some help, if anyone’s looking for something to do. The international community is actually asking the US to get involved.
I’m sure there are myriad levels of political incentives and rationales for the US global strategy, and it’s just me that doesn’t understand. But I can’t help thinking of my three-year-old son and what we call “the Yes/No game.”
At least we’re pretty sure our son will grow out of it.

Stating the obvious

I am not planning to venture downtown today.
Yesterday, the first day of the WTO meeting at the Sheraton Centre, was pretty scary, not to mention stupid. Thousands of protestors descended on our downtown core to let the WTO know they’re against globalization. The protest very quickly became violent, and The Gap, Burger King and the Canadian Forces recruitment centre were left with smashed windows and, no doubt, terrified employees.
Several protestors and protest organizers defended their actions. One said that the three main targets were “legitimate” marks because they “represent the type of global capitalism perpetrated by the WTO.” Another said that the WTO stands in the way of generic AIDS medication getting to Africa, “so millions face death. That’s much more violent than a couple of broken windows.”
One prostestor said that the 200+ arrests made were “obvious overkill.”
I don’t think so. In fact, given the violence and obvious disregard for the safety and mental wellbeing of innocent bystanders, I think the protestors are lucky that only 230 or so of them were arrested, and will no doubt be released today, if they haven’t been already. They’re lucky they chose to inflict their reckless vandalism on a city that won’t lock them away forever, torture them, target their families for the crime of being related to a terrorist, bulldoze their houses, or simply shoot them on the spot.
How does “more violent than a couple of broken windows” justify the broken windows? Where is that invisible line that determines just how violent you can be?
I was listening to the radio yesterday morning, and fuming at the conservative, right-wing morning man’s rant about the WTO protests – what a bunch of unemployed, uninformed, idiots with nothing better to do. Get a haircut and get a real job. If you want to change the system, get into the system. And so on. I was >thisclose< to firing off an e-mail in response (something along the lines of peaceful protest being one form of working within the system) when the station's reporter on the scene came on, half-terrified, to say that the Burger King windows were gone.
In one fell swoop of a garbage can, the protestors destroyed a window and any sympathy I might have had for their cause.
You cannot credible protest violence with violence, regardless of some delusional scale of relative violence. You cannot claim to be fighting for human rights when you recklessly endanger humans who are doing nothing more sinister than wrapping a burger. You cannot expect anyone to sympathize with your cause when you randomly vandalize some guy's car just because it's a Porsche.
Some of the people involved actually had intelligent points. One woman said she was protesting because "democracy is where you give your opinion and constructive criticism… there's a lot of potential for fair trade – and consumer consciousness is growing." Another explained her beef with the WTO is that they don't appear to be addressing the issue of world hunger because "hungry people work cheap and hard. Hunger is good for the stock market."
Constructive criticism? Okay. Destructive violence? No thanks. If you want to tell the world about the downsides to world trade, fine. If you want to smash windows and scare the crap out of the people working cheap at the Gap, just get the heck out of my town.

So what was the point?

I’ve never really been passionate about the whole ‘one island, one city’ debate. My life as a Montrealer and a Verdunite has not changed significantly since the infamous merger. It likely would not change if the newly-elected Liberals make good on their almost-promise to inflict demergers on us.
However, double dealing gets my goat (and my tax dollars). Apparently, Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay and his executive are now mulling over the idea of extending taxation powers to the boroughs (which is what we’re now calling the former municipalities).
As I said, this issue has never been a hot one for me – but I do vaguely remember that one of the pro-merger arguments was that the island residents would be taxed on a more or less standard, proportionate, universal rate. Extending the perogative of taxation to the boroughs effectively destroys that argument – so we’re left with the same old disproportionate taxes, but without municipal muscle to back it up. Dollard-des-Ormeaux will be able to fix its potholes and so on, but will still be a little borough in a big city.
As a Quebecer, I’m naturally gunshy when it comes to referenda, but in the municipal merger case, I’ve always held that the problem is lack of public consultation. Pro- and anti-merger factions should be compelled to make their argument to the people who actually live on this island, and those arguments should include dollars and cents – just how much have we spent on mergers? What would it cost to implement demergers? What are the real, quantifiable benefits of ‘one island, one city?’ Give us some input, some facts, and some power beyond voting for ‘anyone but Bourque.’
Also in today’s paper: rich people say “money does, in fact, buy happiness. Also, nya na na na na.”

I got immense Satisfaction last night at the Stones concert. Of course, every concert I attend invokes the fantasy that some one on stage (in this case, Jagger) will look up into the stands, see me, and stop everything until I agree to come up on stage to sing and dance with him. Alas, this fantasy continues to be unfulfilled.
I sent the following as e-mail to CHOM this morning – Terry quoted me extensively, so at least my radio fantasy is partially fulfilled:
I just wanted to address the idea that the Stones are “old” or “past their prime” – this is not some pathetic come-back group playing to a half-filled house at Café campus. This is a vibrant, energetic group that still has what it takes to sell out the Bell Centre. The Stones are still writing, and God knows they’re still selling.
I think that the idea that they (and The Who, McCartney, and so on) are “old” is based on the idea that rockers are supposed to be angry young men from nowhere – but isn’t that because when rock really made it as a genre, that’s what the Stones et al were?
These guys started it – rock has only been with us since the ‘50s. It’s taken us 40 years to reach a point where there can be “old” rock stars. The Stones and their “contemporaries” from the 60s and 70s are still around because they have the talent, the perseverance and the following to keep going. They set the precedent 40 years ago, and they’re still breaking new ground, if only by being as old as my Dad and still kicking butt.
If they can still fill every seat in the arena, then I say more power to them! I could go on and on (for example, did people tell the elderly Picasso to stop painting, dammit, he was too old?) but for now I’ll stop there.

Traffic Rant, Part II

My first traffic rant was essentially oriented toward highway driving; today, I want to address the particular phenomena of rush hour traffic. I have no idea if these occur elsewhere, but in Montreal, these are ubiquitous, kind of like The Second Cup.
1. The Colour-blind
In my original rant, I chastised the blind (or assumed to be) for switching lanes without checking to make sure some one (in particular, me) was not already in the destination lane.
Now, driving in and around downtown Montreal during rush hour, lane slalom is really more of a sport, and I can overlook it. However, drivers who cannot differentiate between red and green traffic lights are a hazard to themselves and others.
Here’s a hint: if the light at the top is lit, it’s red, and you should stop. Also, it’s generally recommended that you obey the lights facing you, not those off to the side, which are more likely regulating the flow of traffic from another direction.
2. Side-liners
These are the people (for lack of a better term) who for some reason believe that the “extra” lane, the one just off to the side of the highway, beyond the solid yellow line, is God’s gift to them, personally. The rest of us recognize this lane as the emergency vehicle lane. I mean, let’s face it – if God cared about traffic, don’t you think he’d inflict some kind of poetic justice on idiots who decide they’re as important as, say, an ambulance?
3. Grid-lockers
There are a couple of places along the route to the industrial section of the West Island where all it takes is a couple of people (there’s that word again) to completely tie up traffic.
What happens is, there’s a four-way intersection governed by traffic lights (see above). If every one pays attention, then traffic can move relatively smoothly. But then one jerk decides to drive into the intersection, since the light is green, regardless of the fact that cars are backed up into the intersection. So our jerk ends up parking in the intersection, and has nowhere to go when the light turns.
Naturally, the people (!) behind this jerk have advanced as much as possible, so reversing is not an option. Meanwhile, the light at the next intersection hasn’t turned (or the scenario is being played out there, too), so the cars in front of the jerk can’t move forward. As a result, people coming to the intersection perpendicular to the jerk cannot move forward, despite the green light. This is why people in California carry guns.
Okay, I’m feeling better now. So, anyone else have traffic or pedestrian beefs?

The Rant for the Day

Today’s topic is “Every one else is an idiot behind the wheel.”
I believe it was George Carlin who observed that every driver believes s-he is doing fine. Anyone who drives faster than me is a maniac, and anyone who drives slower is an idiot.
Well, there are several reasons that I think all the other drivers on local highways should have their licenses revoked. Some of them should just be shot.
1. Driving hazards
Perhaps because all cars are now equipped with daytime running lights, drivers seem to think there’s no need for them to ever turn on their lights during the day. Which means that in the middle of a torrential downpour, every car is invisible. Oh, sure, you can see the cars coming in the opposite direction, across the median. But cars in the same direction are totally obscured by rain, spray and darkness.
People, the daytime running lights only apply to the headlights! From behind, no light. When driving on a highway at high speed (and it is still high, even when ‘reduced’ to accommodate the weather) it is extremely important the the driver behind you knows you’re there. So turn on the lights when the rain starts. Hmph.
2. Tailgaters
Once again, this one’s related to the speed at which we’re all zipping along. When there are only two cars on the road, I can appreciate the frustration evoked by the other car slowing you down needlessly (see point 3). However, when there are many, many other cars, in front and beside, calm down. The person directly in front of you is not responsible for the slower traffic, and all you accomplish by driving into their trunk is to freak out the driver. When there are loads of other cars in both lanes, where is that person supposed to go, anyway?
The lights-in-rain thing is a matter of ignorance, perhaps, but tailgating is not only dangerous, but also damned arrogant. What makes you think that you’re so much more important that your fellow drivers? Do you really have the right to aggressively force people to move out of your way? Frankly, it’s overaggressive drivers that make others slow down, so chances are the reason things are slow in the first place is at least partially the result of idiots who tailgate.
3. Oblivious Hat Wearers
The other side of the speed demon coin is the slowpoke. Okay, fine, drive below the limit. It’s your right, and you are obviously not breaking any laws. But for cripe’s sake, get the heck outta the fast lane! If you’re driving 110 kmph along the highway, you are not ‘fast.’ Let’s face it, the tacitly accepted limit is 120 – so 110 may make you faster than the tractor and hay wagon, but you’re setting yourself up for tailgating if you mosey over into the fast lane for no apparent reason.
Which brings me to…
4. The Blind
I like to consider myself open-minded, but blind people should not drive, political correctness be damned.
I have to assume these people are blind, otherwise, why the *&$%# are they switching lanes when I’m already occupying the lane into which they’re moving? Particularly when there’s no one for miles behind me, and they could easily wait a second until I’ve passed them. Grumble. Snark. Grr.