The Election and Big Social Issues
Monday, 10 November 2008
You’ve probably been doing it too, mulling over the results of last week’s vote. The social implications of the election of Barack Obama are stunning to think about. Although it will take awhile for the effects of having a black president to bear fruit, anticipating the possibilities give us all renewed – what was that word? Oh, yeah, hope - for something better than the small-mindedness, meanness and greed that have been the hallmarks of governmental, business and society for the past eight years.
Ever since the founding of our republic, few social issues in politics have been bigger than race, but drugs, abortion and marriage aren’t far behind and they were also on some ballots this year.
Michigan became the 13th state to legalize marijuana for medical use, and – here’s the big news – Massachusetts became the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot for personal use. An ounce or less in that state will get you a $100 fine now.
There has been hardly a peep of objection that I can find about what was once a hot-button issue and it’s about time. One can only hope the other 49 states follow along in due course, eliminating an entire class of criminals - the social users of marijuana.
Humankind has always found ways to sometimes alter its consciousness and marijuana is one of the least harmful; it certainly causes less mayhem than alcohol which is legal just about everywhere.
The worst outcome for me is weight gain when I get the munchies. I’ve been smoking pot or eating brownies and cookies laced with it, now and then, since I was about 16 years old, and I can’t imagine how I would have survived the first few months after my marriage broke up without it. A joint in the evening after work helped keep the miseries at bay until I was ready to get back to living.
The only reason I don’t do it these days is I’m too lazy to bake and smoking it makes me cough for an hour. I miss it, especially for listening to music, and for just getting silly sometimes, so I’ll probably give it another go soon, if I can control the coughing.
It’s long past time for marijuana to be decriminalized, if not legalized, and Massachusetts is leading the way.
South Dakota rejected a measure to ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest and serious health threat to the mother. Colorado refused to change the definition of “person” to include any fertilized egg, embryo or fetus. And California defeated a measure requiring parental notification and a waiting period before abortion for minor women.
Abortion is a serious issue. Fewer is better and prevention is a smarter way to go, but I’ve got some personal experience with this – legal and illegal – and have listened to the arguments on all sides for decades. I’ve even produced few television programs about the controversy.
After all that, no one will convince me now that abortion is not a personal decision and a medical issue; the government has no business regulating it. Hurray for these three states.
Same Sex Marriage
Three states, Arizona, California and Florida, passed measures banning same sex marriage.
So let’s sum up the big social issues: we took a tiny step toward decriminalizing marijuana, tamped down proposed inroads toward banning abortion and elected a black president. But we don’t want a certain kind of people to have the same right as everyone else to express their love in the most time-honored and traditional way we have, not to mention gaining legal rights to inheritance, joint ownership and health decisions that go with marriage.
How stupid is this? The Mormon church, headquartered in Utah, apparently put a lot of effort and money into defeating California’s Proposition 8 and I could write several posts about separation of church and state, religious dogma versus civil law, imposing minority religious beliefs on majorities and one state’s attempt to influence (and succeeding) another state’s local election issue, etc.
I’ll skip all that except to say that contrary to what some christianists insist, the United States is not a Christian nation. My heart swelled with joy when former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in endorsing Senator Obama, publicly remarked:
“Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is, no. Is there something wrong with some seven-year old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president?”
- - Meet the Press, 20 October 2008
Back to gay marriage. To paraphrase Powell, what is wrong with being gay in this country? Why does anyone care? What possible difference could it make to any heterosexual person if a gay couple marries?
Never mind, I know the reason: Americans have always been puritanical about sex and they relate homosexuality pairing to sex instead of to love and affection.
It is important to ask too, among those other questions, how anyone who voted for Barack Obama could not see the parallels between breaking the presidential racial barrier and gay civil rights.
The votes in Arizona, California and Florida are a setback for these rights, but if we can elect a black president, there is hope that the day will come when Americans will see how outrageous it is to believe they can tell people who they may love and marry. It cannot be soon enough.
I really didn't think Pro 8 would get through. Of all of the above mentioned social issues, it seemed the clearest cut as far as being a social right. I've listened to the arguments, and I've heard about the campaigns, but I just assumed people would use their hearts and brains to make a decision towards tolerance and acceptance and not fear and prudery. I feel sadness for some of my friends and certain family members whose long term same-sex partnerships can not be acknowledged or respected by the society they live in.
Posted by: lilalia | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 03:06 AM
I could say that I'm ashamed of being a Californian, but since I don't believe much in borders anyway, I won't. Borders, lines on the ground, don't stop hatred. I'm afraid that Prop 8 would have passed if it had been a national referendum. And that's where the shame is...
Posted by: Steven | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 05:37 AM
I agree--the US is NOT a Christian nation--it was founded in order to be a haven from religious persecution, not to sustain more of the same. Quite a few of our founding fathers--Jefferson and both Adamses, to name a few, were not Christian; they were Unitarian. To be anti-Muslim is unamerican!
I am sorry that my state (Florida) was one of those to vote against gay marriage--60% was required; the vote was 62%. Saddened, but not surprised.
Abortion--I went back and read (for the first time) your post from 2007 on the issue and perused the brouhaha in BlogHer. As a member of the club of women who underwent illegal abortions, I empathize with your experience. At the age of 20, I knew I was willing to risk dying rather than have a baby. I finally told my parents about it 12 years later...They were stunned that I did not tell them for fear they would disown me!
Posted by: Nana | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 05:48 AM
Can you imagine the money to be made from $100 fines for possessing a small amt. of pot? Boggles the mind......sorry, but I need to lighten up after the past few months! However, there is one other thing that has been on my mind since that historical day......when will the media & lots of other folks get past the black-white issue? I'm praying that it will get to the back pages & the late, late news very soon. But I fear with the public so hell bent on stirring the pot (no pun intended), that the media will not let us get on to more pressing concerns like the economy & lost jobs. Give us strength. Dee
Posted by: Dee | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 06:19 AM
I look at the issues above and all are questions of personal morality and choice.
I think a lot of the people in this country just plain damn need to grow up and realize that morality cannot be legislated. Didn't we learn anything from Prohibition?
George Santayana wrote: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
Here we go again! Sighhhhh
Posted by: Kay Dennison | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 06:53 AM
I find it ironic that the Mormon Church was behind that gay marriage amendment. This is the Church that practiced polygamy. Some offshoots of the Church still do, even though it's illegal. Morality is in the eye of the beholder and the Mormons should cast the moat out of their own eye first. You couldn't turn your TV on in Arizona without seeing an ad of pretty white people being interviewed saying marriage is between a man and a woman. It was sticky sweet.
At least Tucson voted for Obama and against that hateful proposition. The culprits are in the Phoenix area - heavily Mormon. And Mormons in our legislature try to pass other stupid laws like making it legal to carry a concealed weapon anyplace. Go figure.
Posted by: Darlene | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 07:07 AM
The gay marriage bans upset me the most. I felt good about the abortion ban rejections and didn't know about pot measures but would have thought pot should be legalized also. It's crazy that it's not legal given alcohol prohibition never worked either. It would do a lot to end some underworld crime profits although there are other drugs that aren't so easy to justify legalizing and they'd just make it all on them.
I am not sure our struggle between religious freedom and christianists is yet fully understood or seen by either side. Those who are in the forefront of these political movements on the supposed side of Christ don't appear to even read his words. You'd think they'd be on the forefront of programs to raise up the poor and provide medical care for all if they understood what he was talking about with helping the weakest. You'd think...
Another thing that got me which is something from after the election but when they jumped all over obama for saying something about seances and Nancy Reagan in the same sentence. He was joking, phrased it regrettably given the climate of our times, but they acted like he'd terribly insulted her.
There is a whole spiritual tradition that goes farther back than Christianity and it's so taboo that you'd thought he said Nancy was a lesbian. :) I thought how he meant it was that if he tried to contact Reagan to get his advice, it'd require a seance and then he'd be in the trouble Nancy got in for using astrologers or psychics. Since I have used psychics, have gone to astrologers (no seances but some psychics say they contact the other side), I didn't see what he said as an insult to Nancy anyway. He did apologize but the right was all over it for a good reason-- in their eyes.
That point being one of the bigger differences between democrats and republicans (not all in either case). We might not do something ourselves, but unless it hurts others, we are in favor of freedom and not judging others so quickly. Another of those values that Christ actually talked about.
Posted by: Rain | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 07:21 AM
Marijuana should have been legalized a long time ago. I have worked for many years in shelters for battered women...and I have never met a woman battered by a pot-head...but I did meet too many battered by a drunk. I have also met many people with MS & other diseases that use marijuana with great results. I'm so glad you posted about it.
Posted by: Matty | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 08:02 AM
Abortion- You forgot to mention something good that happened this election year. Colorado defeated a proposed "Personhood" amendment that would have given constitutional rights, like due process, to fertilized human eggs. Colorado voters saw this for what it was- a sneaky way to get around Roe vs. Wade.
Same sex marriage- I see a replay of Loving vs. Virginia in our future.
Posted by: la peregrina | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 08:25 AM
"...I could write several posts about separation of church and state"
"What possible difference could it make to any heterosexual person if a gay couple marries?"
Now...let's put the two together and get the government the heck out of marriage. Marriage is a religious estate. Unions recognized by the state should be, as any for-profit or not-for-profit entity, a civil union, a legal entity. Of course, there are differences between the way the state treats different types of legal entities; but, unions between individuals should just be another type of legal entity with its own set of statutes.
I would leave it to each church to decide which unions it cares to recognize as a religious estate.
Posted by: Cop Car | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 09:30 AM
la peregrina--While I'm here, I would point out that Ronni wrote, above, "Colorado refused to change the definition of “person” to include any fertilized egg, embryo or fetus." Perhaps you missed it in scrolling down.
Posted by: Cop Car | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 09:32 AM
Oh, Thank You !! I thought I was the only person over 20 years old who felt this way about so many things. Between Ronni's great blog and the comments, I am reassured that others join me in all this.
I have loooong been of the opinion that if the cigarette and liquor lobbies weren't so strong and wealthy, we would have legalized marijuana and other so-called "dangerous" drugs many years ago. Probably in the same year that the infamous Prohibition was repealed.
I'm a firm believer that prostitution should never have been dealt with as a crime. Many societies from the beginning of recorded history, and probably before, regarded it as a recognized "profession". My guiding principles are, "Keep Your Laws Off My Body and Your Religious Beliefs to Yourself -- and I'll Offer The Same Respect to You" -- a life-style and belief system that I have adhered to for nearly 72 years now.
Posted by: Miki Davis | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 10:27 AM
When are we stop referring to the President-elect as our "black president" Like many of us he is of mixed racial origin and as such could be described as "a mutt" (his own words or "white" or "mixed race".
Why don't we just refuse to apply racial descriptions to ourselves or anybody else. In the 21st century, the old categories ("caucasian" "Asian" etc.) are meaningless. When did you ever hear George W. referred to as "our white President"
Posted by: mythster | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 10:42 AM
"la peregrina--While I'm here, I would point out that Ronni wrote, above, "Colorado refused to change the definition of “person” to include any fertilized egg, embryo or fetus." Perhaps you missed it in scrolling down."
D'oh! Yes, I did and you are right I was scrolling instead of reading. Since Colorado is my home state I wanted to make sure this information did not get overlooked. I'll try to slow my reading self down from now on.
Posted by: la peregrina | Monday, 10 November 2008 at 11:06 AM
You're preachin' to the choir, Ronni. Preachin' to the choir. And I love it!
Posted by: Nikki | Wednesday, 12 November 2008 at 08:51 AM