-- Jami Floyd, on the politics of Big Love
Snyder v. Phelps pitted the free speech rights of a group of arguably mean-spirited but dedicated religious zealots against the asserted privacy rights of a sympathetic military family. Classic case. Sounds like a tough decision; but it's easy.
Let's all stop and take a deep breath to reconsider the news of this week.
The Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Same-sex marriage has become one of the most contentious issues of our time. There is one thing, however, proponents and opponents would likely agree upon: these battles being waged in the states are all part of a larger war about what we stand for as a nation. Is ours a limited democracy — retrenched, traditional and exclusionary? Or is our democracy expansive and inclusive — one that evolves over time? On Wednesday, the Obama administration placed itself on the side of an expansive and inclusive democracy.
For over a month, we’ve been talking about revolution in the Middle East. It started with a man who set himself on fire, desperate, after police confiscated the produce he sold without a permit.
Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old university graduate without a steady job, was trying to support his family. His self-immolation has left him burned from head to toe, in intensive care, wrapped completely in white gauze bandages. But he spurred his country to action, leading to transformation in Tunisia and demonstrations that spread across North Africa to Egypt. And now the world turns its attention to what will happen next in Yemen, Libya and Bahrain.
On the front page of Tuesday's New York Times: Democracy protests in Iran, Yemen and Bahrain. But I want to talk about Iraq. As I mentioned on this page last week, the U.S. miscalculated badly there, spending hundreds of billions of dollars trying to bring democracy to the Middle East. But, in an ironic twist, as the winds of change sweep through the region, true democracy has not come to Iraq.
History teaches that real change is organic and comes from within; it cannot be imposed from without.
Champions of democracy the world over welcomed the departure of Hosni Mubarak, Friday, with a massive display of joy. Protesters across Cairo savored their victory, and correspondents on TV channels worldwide fought back tears (some, in fact did cry) as they reported the story of a revolution.
I was inspired, instead, to turn to Brother Webster -- as in Webster’s Dictionary, for a little reminder of what all the hoopla was about:
Revolution |n. (pl. s)(Origin Latin revolutio.) a fundamental change in power that takes place in a relatively short period of time.
Given this definition – “a fundamental change in power” perhaps the celebration is a bit premature. I hate to be a spoilsport, but I’m fairly confident that military regime is not what the youth of Egypt had in mind over these last three weeks. And “revolutionary change” is certainly not what has come to Egypt – not yet.
I have been watching the events in Egypt over these 18 days and it was clear that the country had risen together for a single cause — the removal of President Hosni Mubarak. But as I have suggested before, a revolution does not a democracy make.
There can be no orderly transition of government in Egypt in the midst of chaos. The protestors have made their point. They have won the day: Murbarak has resigned.
Halle Berry may not choose her words as carefully as a politician, but this is the realpolitik she is talking about. She may not be as eloquent as a preacher, but this is the painful process of self-identification that people like us remember. This was a place where skin color and the fullness of your lips and the broadness of your nose could give you away. And, if we are to be honest about it, as Ms. Berry was, America is a place where these factors still determine too much.
Having a constitution and respecting that constitution are clearly not synonymous. Without legitimacy, a constitution is nothing more than words on a page. The importance of a constitutional system has less to do with the actual words in the document than the commitment that the people have to respect it. A large number of Egyptians clearly do not think their Constitution has secured what it promises.
I love football. And for good reason. My father had no money for college and would not have gone but for track and football scholarships.
But this is the first year he and I didn’t watch the Super Bowl together. My father now suffers from Parkinson’s disease. I believe — and his doctors do too — that repeated concussions triggered the disease.
There is great alarm in America about a great many things in Egypt, including the treatment of journalists during recent anti-government protests. The ugly truth, however, predates the Egyptian crisis of the last ten days and spills far beyond the streets of Cairo. Eighty-seven journalists were murdered worldwide in 2010. And that's not taking into account the journalists who have been assaulted, kidnapped, harassed or otherwise suffered violence in the line of duty.
In the week since the State of the Union, it seems we analyst-types have dissected every word; but perhaps as many people have taken the President to task for words not spoken: poverty, race, gun control.
For me, there were two more words noticeably absent: Guantanamo Bay.
Too often, the stories black and brown (and women) filmmakers want to tell cannot get a green light. Studios do not want to take the chance on a story that is out of what they perceive to be the mainstream. So, come Oscar time, you don’t see diversity -- in front of the camera, or behind it.
Last night I watched with 100 of my fellow political junkies as President Obama gave his third State of the Union address. We tweeted along, in earnest, with mostly substantive commentary, though the tweets were laced with wry humor about John Boehner's emotional reaction to Obama's remark about his boyhood and whether Vice President Biden himself was tweeting.
I said on this page yesterday that, for Obama, this speech needed to be a big transformational moment, a speech that would evoke FDR and Kennedy, one that would remind us why we voted for him in the first place.
No doubt, even a great speaker, like President Barack Obama, will be tinkering with his State of the Union speech up to the last minute. So, here is my humble advice in two words: Think Big.
Simply put, this appearance creates appearance problems. It adds to the politicization of the judiciary. And so, I am forced to consider — with all due respect — whether Justice Scalia should be speaking to the caucus, and whether Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court should speak publicly, at all.
I remember my background check. I thought it was intrusive, a violation of my privacy and unnecessary.
Now, 17 years later, the U.S. Supreme Court has passed on the very question that's been sitting at the back of my mind, ever since: Does the government have the power to insist that federal employees candidly answer intrusive personal questions — including whether they have received treatment or counseling for illegal drug use?
For the Supreme Court, the answer was so clear, it was a slam-dunk: 8-0 voting yes.
Experience suggests there is little chance the attack will produce significant new legislation, let alone change a national culture that has been accepting of guns since its inception—unless we try something new and different.