Saturday, March 8, 2008


From the Archives. (August 2006) Just finished reading Tracy Kidder’s Mountains beyond Mountains, which my reading group will discuss tomorrow night.

Kidder writes about Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard-trained physician who has devoted his life to curing infectious diseases in the poorest part of Haiti and other vulnerable areas. A prescient insightful enlightening book about a man with a self-described “hermeneutic of generosity.”

Farmer, an admirer of liberation theology (although he ultimately rejects all ologys), observes that “We should all be criticizing the excesses of the powerful, if we can demonstrate so readily that these excesses hurt the poor and vulnerable.”

He asks
What happens when the destitute in Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti, wherever, are moved by a rereading of the Gospels to stand up for what is theirs, to reclaim what was theirs and was taken away, to ask only that they enjoy decent poverty rather than the misery we see here every day in Haiti? We know the answer to that question, because we are digging up their bodies in Guatemala.

He also notes that “All the great religious traditions of the world say, Love thy neighbor as thyself. My answer is, I’m sorry, I can’t, but I’m gonna keep on trying.”

I didn’t realize until reading this book that human-rights abuses of previous American prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay were deemed unconstitutional way back in 1993, after US soldiers quarantined and abused HIV-positive Haitians there.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about how state’s rights rears its ugly head whenever bigots object to being told that the law will no longer sanction their bigotry.

Take 1868, for instance. This is when the federal government required all states to eliminate slavery and swear allegiance to an American Union.

Now some southerners will argue till the bacon grease and turnip juice seep out of their very pores that the Civil War was a “war of Northern aggression” that was never about slavery at all, but the obvious truth of the matter is that racists reacted to this ruling by asserting state’s rights and insisting that they did not have to abide by objectionable federal laws.

They did the same during integration, arguing that Brown should not be forced on states that oppose integration.

Today, like-minded South Dakotans assert that they can declare abortion illegal even though federal law recognizes the legality of this clinical procedure.

And I can’t even keep track anymore of how many states are scrambling to pass so-called marriage protection legislation that sanctions the withholding of benefits to a minority of our population.

(And then there are the states that fund stem-cell research and living wages.)

I listened to Schoolhouse Rock as a kid and so know that the preamble to our constitution states that it exists to form a more perfect union, establish justice and insure domestic tranquility.

No mention of God in there, but article 1, section 9 makes it clear that no bill of attainders may be passed.

Tech. Law Journal defines this as “a legislative act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without a trial.”

Now, I know this is my own unusual take on this definition and I know I am not a lawyer but, um, if those anti-inclusive-marriage laws don’t single out individuals or groups for selective punishment/denial of benefits, then I don’t know what does.

James Madison (Federalist No. 44, 1788) wrote that

Bills of attainder ... are contrary to the principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation ... The sober people of America are weary of fluctuating policy ... They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential [um, Christianists?] and snares to the more-industrious and less-informed part of the community.

Anyway, I was curious and checked out my state’s preamble. Yes I know I am smack dab in the Bible Belt, but was still surprised by how often the thing endorses Christianity.

So here you go:

We, the people, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings to us and our posterity, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution.

I am, frankly, appalled.

LISTENING TO: Me’shell N’Degéocello covering Dolly’s Two Doors Down

SANG IN SHOWER: Gillian Welch’s Wind and Rain

BEST-OF SPAM SUBJECT LINE: For Carders, Spammers, Hackers, PPC cheaters, Child Porn webmasters, Doorway makers, Botnet owners.

Um, are these the virtual seven dwarfs?

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