Sunday, March 31, 2013

With Liberty and Justice for All

There are some "social" issues that I have strong beliefs about. For example, abortion and the death penalty. I believe in the sanctity of life from conception to death. I do not believe that man has the god-given right to terminate a life, whether it is a life in the womb or a life buried away from society in a prison cell. I think it creates a scary world when we give one man the right to determine the worthiness of another man's life. Rather than diverge into a list of arguments to debate these positions though, I only mention them, to raise the point that although I have strong opinions on such controversial issues, I still respect the right for people to have opinions which differ from mine... despite how failed their logic may be.

Being so adamantly Pro-Life may lead some to the belief that I am a "Conservative."

However, an issue I feel equally passionate about is equality. Equality in the workplace and in the bedroom, and in every niche of society between the two. Equality in race and age, in gender and body types, in educational opportunities and socioeconomic status, and in sexual orientation.

Yes, this is a post about Marriage Equality, or more specifically the Defense of Marriage Act- the latest "trendy" social hot topic that has Facebook turning red, whether with a pink equality sign in support of Marriage Equality or images of the equality signs perverted into a cross to show opposition of overturning the law preventing government recognition of same-sex marriage.

Earlier in the week, I texted Jason to ask if he knew why so many folks on Facebook were changing their profile pics to the red & pink equal sign. He asked if I knew about DOMA. So... of course, I did a quick Google search and replied, "oh yeah, Defense of Marriage Act, I just didn't know what the sudden impetus was."

The truth is, even though I only learned about "DOMA" a few days ago, this has been an issue that has confused me for a long time. It confuses me both politically and religiously.

Politically. We are a patriotic family. My husband is a retired veteran, and the first 10 years of our lives together were spent with him deployed as often as he was home. I truly believe that our family dedicated our lives to the pursuit and defense of American freedom. However, that is in direct conflict with defending a government that strips so many citizens of a very basic human right- the freedom of choosing who we love.

I don't want to get into the debate of whether people are "born gay" or "choose gay." Although, I will throw something out there. I had a "girl crush" on Madonna for most of my teenage years, to be later replaced by Sandra Bullock. I can look at a woman and think, "Wow, she's beautiful." Yet, I do not feel a sexual attraction towards her. I did not "choose" to create that barrier; the attraction simply doesn't exist. Likewise, most of the people in my life for whom that barrier does not exist, for whom the object of their attraction is their own gender, I don't feel they made that "choice" either. On the contrary, most people I know struggled not to associate themselves with that ostracized sector of society and "chose" to shove away those authentic feelings until they just couldn't be contained any longer.

Thankfully, we are a society becoming slowly more tolerant of variations in sexual orientation. Unfortunately, as a government, we are not. My fundamental confusion on the issue politically is... Why is the government given the power to determine who we can or can't marry? I can marry someone of a different race. I can marry an illegal citizen. I can marry someone of a different religion, or no religion at all. I can marry a convict in prison. I can marry someone twice my age, or more. I can marry someone half my age, or even a minor with parental permission. I can marry someone that has been divorced again and again... and again. I can marry any human being on this Earth that I wish... unless we share the same number of X and Y chromosomes.

I am just at a complete loss on how this is possible in a country founded on principles of freedom. I don't even know HOW to debate the legality of such laws because it is such a flagrant disregard of the constitutional rights on which all laws of this country should be based.

A government that is allowed to create laws determining who its citizens can and cannot marry is just one step removed from a country that controls how many children a family can have. If you are unsure how that story ends, Google "female infanticide."

For me, the government issue is black and white. We are in the wrong, and it needs to be made right.

Religiously, this topic has so many twists and convolutions that there is no end to my confusion. The most common argument I saw against homosexuality this week involved Levitican law. Leviticus?! Just today, I sat down for Easter dinner with my husband (of my second marriage), he having been recently shaved and myself having had my hair cut just last week. We had ham for Easter dinner... with the fat... oh, and our clothes were of mixed fabrics. Ah hell, we just broke six Levitican laws right there, why even worry about sexual immorality?

To pull some antiquated Old Testament scripture out of context to defend an argument is futile to me. It's the same thing that happens when someone wants to use the Bible to tout the virtues of women being subservient to men, or the the "right" to beat children. Read just a few scriptures before or after the one being referenced and often the entire context of the argument will change.

However, let's say that's not always true. Let's say that there are many scriptures in the Old Testament referencing God's disgrace towards homosexuality. Let's say that God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah purely based on the sins of one man laying with another. Even if we could say that, what does it matter? Unless you are of the Jewish faith, why are you using Old Testament arguments to defend Christianity?

I will be the first to admit that I have tried to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations many times, and failed every time. I will be the first to admit that I am of wavering faith often, and by no means exalting myself as a Biblical scholar. However, isn't the very essence of Christianity based on the premise that Old Testament law is no longer relevant? The crucifixion of Christ is what opened the doors to all, not living in allegiance to antiquated laws.

So then, let's carry this discussion into the New Testament. I imagine there are scriptures there too that could be used to defend morality against homosexuality. And if there are not, I am sure there are scriptures that are vague enough to be twisted into such. I'm sure this is true of many acts of immorality, from which we only want to highlight those that don't apply to our own lives. (Well, homosexuality must be a bigger sin than pre-marital sex, right?) However, when did the Christian God become one of such exclusion and hatred?

Jesus lived among the sexually immoral. He brought others into his faith by inclusiveness, not judgment and damnation. Today, Jesus would be in hospitals and hospices visiting AIDS patients. He would be volunteering in homeless shelters, talking to women who believe their only option for survival is prostitution. He would be driving by the strip clubs that proliferate around military bases, offering rides home to the drunken Sailors stumbling out of their doors at 2 a.m. He would be offering love and compassion, not only to those who lived like him and believed like him, but more importantly, to those who did not.

Ultimately, I believe in tolerance. I think the person who believes homosexuality is immoral and same sex marriage is an abomination has every right to his or her opinion. Likewise, I believe those who support Marriage Equality are equally deserving of their opinions. I do not believe that either side of the argument should be judged or persecuted for their beliefs. I see just as many Christians being condemned for their close-mindedness in social media as I do Equal Right supporters being bashed for Pro-Gay views. Neither side of the battle is in the right. Tolerance is the only answer.

The most truthful statement I have seen from this whole debate came from Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor who authored The Purpose Driven Life:

Disagreement, fear, hatred. Agreement, love, compassion. No matter which side of the argument you do or do not support. No matter which side of the argument I do or do not support. That is our belief. That is our right. And I do not believe the government should sit in a sovereign position to determine it for us.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Good Day

Yesterday was... A Good Day.

It was a self-centered... and a self-centering day.

It was a day of peace. A vacation from life. And I want to take a few moments to reflect on it before delving back into the chaos of my everyday. There is a very chaotic week indeed ahead of me, so even though Spring Break is next week (beginning at 1:00 p.m. this Friday to be precise), it was a good day to take a break.

I "stayed in bed" until 10ish. Jason and I often get into a semantics debate between the definition of "sleeping in" and "staying in bed." Having been awoken several times by the cadence of noise that accompanies an awakened two-year old, I refuse to say I "slept in." Jason would disagree. Either way, it was a great luxury to be in bed so late on any given day, even weekend, with my schedule as of late.

I had an appointment to get my hair cut at noon (and  had to drive an hour into civilization to get there). According to their file, it had been nearly a year since I last had my hair cut (and permed at the time). It does not seem like it could possibly be that long ago. But either it's another testament to me being too busy and life rushing by far too fast... or I had blocked out the horrible experience entirely. I don't feel like the cut is exactly what I wanted but it looked good and I am for the most part happy with it... not so happy with the fact that I know it's one of those "do's" that will never look the same as when the stylist did it. And although not a bad experience, I did leave with the feeling again that the higher-priced salons just aren't worth it for me... only in part because of the $50 small bottles of shampoo & conditioner she tried to guilt me into... or the very weird way in which she kept whispering in my ear about vitamins as she washed my hair.

I tried taking a picture while it was still looking hair-iffic, but I just couldn't accept any of the shots as post-worthy... exacerbated by having seen pics of myself posted from a Boy Scout ceremony last week... ugh.

And this is the better picture!
Anyway... my next stop was to the pottery studio to pick up bowls from a project the Key Clubbers did, and they look absolutely amazing. I am so excited for the kids to see how the turned out.

Then, I went to Lane Bryant and tried on a ton of clothes, almost all shirts, as normal, since I apparently have dwarf legs and require petite pants even though I am the perfectly average height of 5'6. (Tangent much?) Surprisingly I found several tops that I liked... and that fit well... and that were appropriate for work... and were 40% off. Score! It's not a financially smart time for me to be out clothes shopping right now... but the clothing goddesses were just too generous for me to reject their gifts this time. Besides, there are only so many times that I can keep rotating the same outfits... the product of a very stuffed closet, but unproductive wardrobe as far as comfort and fit anymore...

I also found new pj pants for the "Pajama Fashion Show" for Relay this year. They are purple with  loud flowers all over them. Most perfect for the occasion.

I had already decided before leaving town that I would catch the 5:05 showing of "Admissions." I lovelovelove Tina Fey. The movie was great, well-casted and interesting plot, humorous and heart-felt at the same time.

Lastly, I grabbed a Starbucks and read two chapters of my latest novel. Catching a movie at 5 and Starbucks at 7 as good timing; both were pretty deserted. I had the entire lounge area to myself and obnoxiously kicked my feet up on the leather couch with me to read. (I am rather easily pleased by the small surprises in life... and Starbucks).

The night ended finally watching "Pitch Perfect" with Jason and Cameron, after Benjamin went to bed. It was as funny as I thought it would be, though very predictable. A slight misfortune was that pretty much every good quip by "Fat Amy" had already been included in the previews. She is such a dynamic oddball; I can't wait to see what she's next.

And although, Benjamin cruising into our bedroom playing on my iPhone was our 5:50 a.m. wake-up call this morning, I was able to soak in a hot bath and finish my novel, then crawl back into bed for a few hours (but not "sleep in"), thanks to a husband who is much more of a morning person than I am.

It was a good day.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I Almost Make a Difference

One of the duties privileges I inherited with my role as Key Club advisor was to host the high school's bi-annual Red Cross Blood Drive. The early drives in my tenure averaged about a collection rate of 65 pints. The number went down when more strict weight requirements were adopted for females and then back up when sixteen-year-olds became eligible to donate (with parent permission). Now, I average 90 pints per collection. We have to park a Bloodmobile with 4 extra beds outside the auditorium door to handle the overflow. And at the end of the day, I still have to turn away students that we just couldn't fit in. It's a pretty amazing day... twice a year.

"A great day to save lives," I (borrow from Grey's Anatomy and) post to Facebook the morning each drive.

There are several kids that I know just from the blood drive- kids that I have never taught. It's such an easy and meaningful way for kids to get involved. It's surprising some times to see who signs up to give. And give, and give again. I had two brothers that with this blood drive became "Gallon Donors" for giving their 8th pint. I have always said that my bottom-line sense of achievement doesn't come from reaching the "goal" set upon me by Red Cross, but by feeling that I have instilled in some kids the desire to continue being blood donors long after their high school years.

In honor of my Sweet 16th Blood Drive I tried to give blood for the first time. I like to make it sound like a noted occasion, but the truth is... I finally just built up the nerve. And, I tried to do it very early in the day before I lost the nerve again. Alas, it was not to be done though because my iron was too low. After expressing my shock at the abnormally high number of girls being turned away for low iron, I joined their number. It had not even been a consideration to me that I would have low iron. I know I don't eat any semblance of a healthy diet but I (wrongly) presumed that just by eating more than enough, my iron level would certainly be more than enough. I was even contemplating whether I should Double Donate since it might make me "unavailable" to supervise the drive for a longer period of time. Wrong. The only "battle wounds" I had for the day were two pricked fingers. Sadly, when they picked the second finger for a re-count, it was even lower than the first! (12.0 vs. 12.3)

No, I have absolutely no ideas why I posed as if I were throwing gang signs.