There’s a disturbing trend that’s seemingly reaching every corner of the globe. A veritable tidal wave of populism, nationalism (particularly of the white variety), and protectionism is crashing down on the United States, the United Kingdom, and yes, even here in Canada.
At the root of the problem seems to be this notion that it’s every person for themselves That somehow if only everyone else would just get their shit together that everything would be okay. There are myriad problems with this attitude, but the first thing I notice it is that it does a wonderful job of highlighting a person’s privilege. There’s this attitude of, I’m okay, so why aren’t you okay? I got what I wanted, sorry about your luck, with an implied or sometimes even whisper-spoken “sucker” tacked onto the end.
Is this what we’ve become?
There’s a hole blown in the middle and everyone seems to have been forced to one side or the other, ready and primed to vote for the candidate who promises the loudest and with the most fervor that not only will you get dinner before sex but you’ll get a cigarette after as well. One thing is certain, someone is getting screwed and you don’t have to be a member of the party “for the people” or a very stable genius to figure out who.
True to my prediction in my last post, Doug Ford (a.k.a. Trump North, Trump Lite) took power in the province of Ontario and true to form he and his supporters have been wreaking havoc and showing their true colours. For the uninitiated, Doug Ford is the equivalent of a state governor (though how he got there is a little different and how the government behaves is a little different as well). Presently, he’s invoking the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a document in which there is a bevy of rights bestowed to all the citizens of the Great White North.
By Marc Lostracci [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)] via Wikimedia Commons
However, in order to get the damn thing ratified back in 1982, there was a notwithstanding clause added. This allows a federal or provincial government to essentially override the Charter for some (but not all) of its guarantees. If invoked, it only applies for five years (during which time there will be an election) but it can be re-invoked after that indefinitely. Québec has invoked it a whack of times, but they were never on board with the Charter in the first place.
In Ford’s case, a judge ruled that he violated a section of the Charter and that his legislation was therefore unconstitutional. He’s invoking the notwithstanding clause to get around the ruling he doesn’t like for legislation that no one voted on and he never even mentioned once on his campaign. You would think that if a citizen’s rights were being stripped it would be over something pretty egregious. You would think it would only be used in extraordinary circumstances. In #DoFo‘s case, you would be wrong. He wants to reduce the city council in Toronto by almost half – weeks before an election. Say what you want about the judge that ruled that by doing this he is violating a section of the Charter, using the notwithstanding clause to override this decision is akin to using a sledgehammer to drive a thumbtack into a sponge.
In other words, he’s being a colossal ass hat.
On top of that, he has promised to use the clause at every opportunity in the future. The clause shouldn’t even be a thing and should never be used. But, since it is and since it does, it should be used in the rarest of occasions. Is the size of Toronto’s city counsel extraordinary? Not even close. Do Ford or any of his lackey members of parliament care? Nope. They’re getting what they want and t’hell with the rest of you. If you are part of the 60% of those who voted (and the 75% of the total electorate) who didn’t want anything to do with them, I have a newsflash. They don’t care about you, and they sure as shit don’t care about your rights and freedoms.
As everyone knows, down in the U.S. it’s worse. You can’t even go 48-hours without hearing about how some level of government is abusing their power and giving a large portion of the population the shaft. For cryin’ in the sink, the Senate is all set to confirm a Supreme Court judge FOR LIFE who likely perjured himself during the confirmation hearings! For the love of God, I can’t figure out how anyone is okay with any of this, let alone millions of people.
Kevin McCoy [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Speaking of God, religion always seems to make its way into these conversations at some point, with those using The Good Book as a defense all trigger happy and ready to whip out a selection of examples that “prove” their point.
Well, I can do that, too:
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1
“So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8:7
“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Galatians 5:14
Funny how you can tell a lot about a person’s character by the bible verses they cherry pick. And people wonder why atheism is growing at such a fast rate? When did caring about your neighbours become a bad thing? When did experiencing happiness over another person’s success give way to resentment? When did selfishness become the norm? When did we start allowing ourselves to be governed by such ineffectual, petty swindlers?
Shealah Craighead [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
By Andre Forget – Andrew Scheer [CC0] via Wikimedia Commons
I’ve recently joined several Facebook groups dedicated to my immediate community. It’s a small village of a few thousand that sits within a bigger city of over a hundred thousand that sits within a bigger region of close to half a million people. These groups provide links to garage sales, buy or trade opportunities, local businesses, share success stories of the people that live within a few kilometers of me, give alerts to petty crime and other activities of concern, and are generally used as a forum to connect people who already share a small geographic space.
At first, the only posts I noticed were the ones that made me feel good about the community I choose to call home. After a while, however, it became clear that there will always be those who either don’t care, are ignorant (willfully or otherwise), or are generally insensitive and unempathetic toward anyone that doesn’t fit their specific definition of a model citizen. The bad news is those people tend to be loud. The good news is they also appear to be in the minority.
So, I’ll be doing my part in these groups to hopefully return the notion of being neighbourly to the mainstream consciousness, at least locally, but if you want an example of a community doing this on a larger scale, look no further than the Bangor Maine Police Department on Facebook. They are a shining example of community and compassion and if even a few people from all our neighbourhoods took a page out of their book we’d all be better off.
Clearly the arguments pertaining to the separation of church and state as it pertains to the United States Constitution are nuanced and complex, as most arguments involving legal documents tend to be. Legal experts all the way up to the Supreme Court can debate, and many have, from here to tomorrow and still be no further along than they were yesterday. So it should not come as a surprise that when it comes to the general populous this debate rages furiously (and in circles) time and time again.
One observation I have is that there seems to be an over-abundance of people who refuse to see the bigger picture and acknowledge that as it pertains to matters of federal law it is a multi-layered and remarkably complex web in which it is all to easy to get tangled. I am certainly guilty of this, or have been on occasion, but also firmly believe that regardless of how the interpretation of law unfolds that there should be one indisputable characteristic: that the law is applied equally to everyone.
Another observation I have is that there are always people who will selectively interpret highly complex documents in order to further an agenda or attempt to force specific belief on others. There’s a certain irony to this when the U.S. Constitution is involved, seeing as parts of that document and it’s amendments were specifically written to allow everyone the freedom to believe whatever the hell they want even if you disagree and especially if you disagree.
A final observation, it’s really just different instance of the observation I just made, would be that there are a rather large number of Americans who apply this notion of selective interpretation to the Bible in an effort to tell another large number of Americans how they can or cannot live their lives.
This completely boggles my mind.
My friend Gordon over at Skeptophilia posits that, based on a recent survey done in the U.S., as many as 34% of Americans would support a theocracy. Granted, the question asked wasn’t, “Would you support a theocracy?” but still, the fact that so many people supported the idea of adopting Christianity as a state (34%) and/or federal (32%) religion is absolutely insane.
What’s really interesting about this is there wasn’t a mention of whichdenomination it would be or how it would be chosen. This actually makes me laugh, and it should, because it’s just that ridiculous. I am quite certain that it would be a remarkably difficult task to pin it down to one but if anyone’s taking bets put me down for a stack of Benjamins on Baptist. I am also quite certain that when it comes to specific interpretation of any version of the Bible that achieving consensus on everything in it would be damn near impossible.
So, to bring all of this together, what it all boils down to is that there are people who for one reason or another will fight tooth and nail defending the right for people to be able to believe what they choose and in the same breath use those very beliefs to attempt to dictate what other people – the ones who disagree with them – can and cannot believe themselves.
But this is a post about equality, so of course I’m going to point to the 2013 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to uphold the rights of all legally married couples – regardless of the gender makeup of the marriage. That’s right, if you are married, then the U.S. Federal Government will grant you all the benefits that this entails. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, gay pretending to be straight, or straight pretending to be gay (does that happen?); if you’re married, that’s good enough for the Feds.
Naturally, when the decision came down, a good number of people (see above observations) went completely batshit crazy. The more recent decision in the summer of 2015 even more people went batshit crazy (or maybe it was the same people and they were just louder, I’m not sure). Regardless, this made me angry. Really angry. I happen to be in the (barely) majority opinion that everyone should be treated equally. It’s not a new concept. In fact, almost a couple thousand years ago some guy named Mark told a nice story about some guy named Jesus who said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” [Mark 12-31] That’s a pretty cool concept if you think about it, and you can find it in all kinds of religions all over the place. They even gave it an awesome name: The Golden Rule.
Bernard d’Agesci (1757-1828), La justice, musée de Niort.
The funny thing is, as far as marriage is concerned, the U.S. Government has declared that it’s none of their business. Marriage is marriage as far as the laws are concerned. They’ll mark down your Social Security Numbers and the marriage certificate number and make the appropriate changes to their files. It’s actually quite a nice showing of equality, and if you’ll permit me one grandiose expletive, it’s about fucking time.
Remember: Equality means equal. There is no version of equality. There is no sort of equal. There is no equal, but… Equality is an absolute, and on that there is no room for interpretation.