Court Announces Various Elaborations
My goodness. It has been a most interesting week. There were many happenings in the political sphere that I wish to comment upon.
Let us begin with the most recent event and move backward.
These really probably should have been three separate blog posts, but I am a little rusty in the timely delivery department. So, fair warning. This one might be a little long. Ready? OK. Let’s get to it.
Suddenly, there are rainbows everywhere! So, please allow me to throw another one in the mix.
OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s get down to the matters at hand. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made some pretty newsworthy rulings this week. The last one, on Friday, certainly caused the most ebullient displays throughout the country, and indeed the world. In a 5-4 ruling the Court decided that same-sex marriage is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. This is, of course, celebrated as a great victory by those who have been actively pursuing legal recognition of same-sex marriage for decades. How much of a victory is it, though, really.
Prior to this ruling, so-called gay marriage was already recognized in the vast majority of states. All but 13 had either passed legislation recognizing same-sex marriage or had their bans nullified by district courts. Also, many of those 13 states did recognize “domestic partnerships” or “civil unions” or otherwise worded legal situations which amounted to much the same thing. It makes me wonder if perhaps the proponents had been a little more patient, then the Supreme Court would never have had to even get involved.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I support the end result here. I have no problem with gay and lesbian couples wanting to have their committed, healthy, loving relationships officially recognized by “The State” (remember this phrase). In my estimation, anything that raises the amount of positive energy in the world, as does the deep, abiding love of a committed couple, can only be a Good ThingTM. I’ll save my more general thoughts on the institution of marriage for another post.
While I do not go quite so far as Justice Scalia who, in his dissenting opinion, declared that “The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me,” I do agree with his further statement. “It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.” He goes further, saying, “Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ ‘reasoned judgment.’ A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”
This is what concerns me about this decision, not that it allows two men or two women to marry one another, rather that it usurped the democratic process, one that was well on it’s way to reaching the same place anyway. I was actually rather pleased with the way that process was progressing. As a believer in limiting the overreach of the Federal Government in affairs that, in my humble opinion, rightfully belong to the States, I looked on the whole thing with immense satisfaction. Regardless of whether I thought, as I do, that marriage equality should prevail, I also believed that it was a question best left to the States. After all, it is the State governments, not the Federal one, who issue and approve marriage licenses. The most the Federal Government should have been allowed to do is insist that all states recognize as legal all marriages duly licensed by the other states, as is provided by the “Full Faith and Credit” clause in Article IV, Section 1.
I also have some reservations about the logic employed in the majority opinion. I find the critiques raised by the dissenting Justices quite on point. Have a gander if you care to. (Highlights From the Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage)
So, in short, Yay for Equality! Not so yay for Constitutionality.
The other momentous decision handed down this week bolstered the framework of the Affordable Care Act. With a vote of 6-3 the court upheld the provision of tax subsidies to assist people of low means who used the Federal Exchange to obtain their insurance. This seems like common sense, right? It is a Federal framework after all, right? Well, opponents of “Obama Care” latched on to a particular phrase within the law to claim that, in fact, this was not the case. The whole thing rested on the interpretation of the phrase, “and exchange established by the State.” See, I told you we’d get back to that phrase.
In this matter my sympathies are actually with the Obama Care opponents. Maybe not for the same reasons, though. I support the proposition that, in a modern, civilized, nation, no one should have to suffer economic ruin due to medical necessity. However, I am not convinced that the Affordable Care Act was the best way to get there. I think it is overly complex, insufficiently understood, and poorly executed. Regardless of my opinion of Obama Care, however, I found the majority decision of the Supreme Court perfectly logical in this instance. Had the phrase been “a state” rather than “the state” I would have had to agree with the petitioners. However, the term “The State” is, in my understanding, all encompassing, including all levels of governance.
Image Over Substance
The last thing I wish to express an opinion on this time around is the topic that was all over the news at the beginning of the week, until Friday’s proclamations bumped it. That, my friends, is the issue of the Confederate Flag and its propriety or impropriety in the public square.
First, I want to say that I think it is absolute baloney to link the actions of an unstable individual with the visibility of any one symbolic image. If the Confederate Battle Flag has such potent mystical power all on its own to warp the minds of impressionable youth, then every fan of the Dukes of Hazard would be raving lunatics.
In any event, after the horrific acts of a disturbed individual the press latched on to the Confederate flag as a visible symbol of rampant, institutional racism implicitly condoned by those states which continued to fly it from their public buildings. As tends to happen in this era of ready outrage and short attention spans it soon became the cause célèbre to bloviate about the impropriety of such a divisive symbol. The issue has come up before, but never with quite this much fervor. In fact, someone has taken it upon themselves to remove the flag from in front of the South Carolina state house. (Washington Times article)
What makes me shake my head at all this Sturm Und Drang is the reaction of many businesses, Amazon, Walmart and Ebay have all removed merchandise with the flag on it from their offerings. (Although they continue to allow the sale of Nazi related merchandise) Apple has removed all Civil War games from the App Store. Even the Gettysburg National Military Park has removed Confederate Flag merchandise from its bookstore. (Washington Times article) I think that’s taking things a little too far. Also, what purpose does it serve?
I think we all need to take a breath on this one. The “Stars and Bars” has historic and cultural significance to many. Likewise, there are many negative associations attached to the flag. For many the flag represents a rebellious, individualistic, spirit, a belief in state’s rights, or even a personal link to a past in which their family legacy resides. For others the Confederate Flag represents nothing more or less than slavery, racism, and oppression. Both sides have valid points which should be acknowledged. Here’s a pair of interesting articles from Politico on the matter. (Why the Confederacy Lives) (Dylann Roof’s Rebel Yell)
I do think it is time for the flag to be removed from state courthouses, legislatures and capitols. The Confederacy was dissolved a century and a half ago. While there is an argument that can be made for individuals who wish to display or incorporate the Stars and Bars in their cultural identities, there is no reason for the governmental body of a member state in the United States of America to continue to venerate the banner of a vanquished rebellion.
Someone I follow on tumblr posted “Those who choose to REMOVE history are bound to repeat it.” To which I answer, Those who continue to cling to history will never move past it.
Beyond the public sphere, however, is it really necessary to completely wipe the image from existence? is this White Washing (yes I used that term.) of the past really accomplishing anything? Does eliminating a symbol that has various levels of significance and contradictory associations do anything to address the underlying issues? Does this knee-jerk, quick fix, low hanging fruit, style of activism do anything to effect any real change in the hearts and minds of people?