Saturday, June 28, 2008

2008 Ware Sermon

Well, the Ware Lecture is expected to be good. So the expectations are high--and it's almost certain to be good. Sometimes it's wonderful.

Tonight it was... amazing. More a sermon than a lecture. Incredible.

Inspirational. Not just a standing ovations, but people clapped until their arms hurt. I watched our minister take noted frantically -- and scrap plans for the fall sermons. My wife was in tears.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Moral Cowardice and Civil Disobedience

The essentials of Civil Disobedience are threefold; acting from a moral belief, one violates the law, and one accepts the consequences of that violation. Gandhi's presentation of the concept of satyagraha was that moral force itself makes your case. You stand before the judge, you express your moral stand and you force him to either accede to your moral point or to punish you. If punished, you accept it, and you presume that the media and popular opinion will (perhaps not now, but in time) move to correct the injustice. Martin Luther King Jr took the same path... as Henry Thoreau had before Gandhi. This is not new, it's not rocket science. It's not hard in theory, it's only hard to do in practice, because you put your body and liberty on the line.

There are three (I've heard five... but not seen it in print) counties in California where the county clerk has decided to refuse to have the clerk's office perform same sex marriages. Now, that's against the law, and while I disagree with the act, the decision to take that stand is--presumably--a moral stand. Or should be. However, in each case, it turns out that the clerk is a moral coward.

Not one of them is actually making that stand. Instead, they've refused to have any marriages performed by the clerk's office (in those counties). They're still issuing licenses for same sex couples, as required by law. But if their action was a moral statement, then one would expect that they'd simply refuse to issue same sex couples licenses at all. No, all they're doing is refusing to perform any marriages--and thereby they avoid the legal consequences, because they're not in violation of the law. They don't have to perform marriages. They do have to issue licenses, and they do have to not discriminate in the services offered to the public.

(I'd like to reiterate; I disagree with their stance. I'm simply doing the moral calculus here. Personally, I'm delighted that same sex couples in those counties are getting marriage licenses.)

Bottom line? The clerks aren't committing real civil disobedience. They're not acting based on their moral beliefs. They're simply engaged in a gratuitous act that's most analogous to a tantrum. They're not acting in a moral and consistent way, and they're not willing to face the consequences of acting on the basis of their beliefs.

Thin, thin stuff there. Not enough moral force there to light a single candle.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One Wonderful Afternoon (Equal Marriage Support Experience)

Unitarian Universalists in San Diego County (and I suspect throughout California) rallied today to celebrate Equal Marriage being a reality. We gathered at the county administration offices where marriage licenses are issued and marriages performed to support and celebrate those getting licenses today.

I couldn't get there this morning; my wife had a hell of a schedule and I had to take one son to a dentist appointment. I'm told there was a rush at and shortly after 8 am at the San Marcos office. I got there at 1 pm.

There were no protesters. None. There weren't any at any time during the day. There were a couple sheriffs (and cars) there, but they had nothing to do (other than to gently and politely point out that we were blocking one sidewalk at a time when we were with three couples at the same time and in the process sort of spilled out over the whole walk).

It was wonderful. Weather aside (it was marvelous), it was a real delight to be there. Couple after couple came in and they were immensely pleased that folks they didn't even know were there to celebrate with them, had come out to spend the day cheering them on.

The gay couple who'd been together 42 years, and were so happy that they could at last get married, officially.

The lesbian couple in their late 20s, with their twin daughters, utterly delighted with the roses they were handed and the bubbles someone was blowing.

The guys who were part of the local LGBT Alliance leadership and were there for their license, getting a church wedding Sunday (one of three we heard about for that Sunday at that church).

The older ladies who arrived with two daughters (soon followed by granddaughters... one with her young son), who were initially put off. They saw us, didn't read the signs or shirts.. and thought we were protesters there to harass them. They told us that their daughters planned to sort of push through and protect them. You can imagine the rollercoaster of emotions for all of us when they realized we were there to support them and celebrate with them--tears in both their eyes, one daughter's, and both of the UU ministers with us, of relief and joy. They were so happy when they came out of the building.

Any one of those would have been worth standing in the sun for four hours. Each couple so joyful when they had their license (and in some cases, marriage done).

No protesters. Not one. Remember, this is northern San Diego County--the not-long-ago John Bircher underbelly of red Orange County, where dirtballs like Tom Metzger and the (so called) Minutemen were and are a reality. This is the county which, we're told, holds a disproportionate number of those bankrolling the attempt to amend the California Constitution). They didn't muster a single protester.

The sum total of negativity? Two events. One was two guys who walked in dressed pretty similarly (we were actually wondering if they were a couple who were in for a license). As they left, the one was on a cell phone and commented (but not very loudly) "gay marriage is wrong." The other was almost at the end of the day, a single middle-aged woman who asked what the signs were about. When I explained, she asked "And you're supporting that?" When I said "Absolutely," she sort of shook her head and said "You need to repent," and walked away.

We had several people ask questions--people who seemed to be making up their minds about what they thought, and whether this was ok... I just hope that the fact that people were out, happy and pleasant and civil, including clergy, supporting it, made them really consider their votes.


But it's not really all joy. Ignoring that there's this absurd ballot measure. One of the ministers told of getting a call yesterday; a chaplain in a hospice where a man was dying. He and his partner of 24 years wanted to get married--legally--while they could. But it wasn't possible. Because the deadline to start, legally, was today (in San Diego, where licenses were only issued starting today--a few counties stayed open late yesterday to take advantage of the 5 pm deadline), that couple likely didn't make it to the altar. The fellow in hospice wasn't expected to live another day.

The delaying of this did that to them. It's wonderful that it's finally here--but it's too damned late for some.

Do what you can to help ensure that the amendment effort fails, or it will be too late for others, too.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

New wheels... some day.

I have relations who are going to find this surprising. I grew up in a family full of engineers; cars and tinkering with them were, well... the norm. Heck, even my little sister is an engineer. I'm the sport--literature, history and... good lord... theology too, now?

I've never been about cars. Not the normal American guy who read car magazines and wanted to rebuild the engine or restore a classic car. Oh, I could maintain one; I kept an old Dodge Dart running and road-safe for years. But I didn't care that it was a Dart, or how it looked. It was transportation. Automobiles--all of them--have always been just transportation, to me. In a distant way I can appreciate the aesthetics of some, in about the same way that I can distantly appreciate the aesthetics of the ensembles that some designer has models strut down a walkway. And with about as much interest (read: minimal).

All that's ever interested me were transportation and user value. Enough space to transport stuff. Enough comfortable (enough) seats for the people who would be riding in it. Safety. Reliability. Economics. Efficiency. (I did say I came from a family riddled with engineers, right?)

So I'm sitting here marveling that I've gone and put down a deposit on a car (as opposed to going out and looking to buy one when I actually needed one, and had to get one (I live in not-urban core SoCal; public transportation is only beginning to maybe be meaningfully available to me... and only enough that I could use it some of the time). No, this one's not even going to be available to anyone until late 2008, and ours won't be available to us, in all probability, until 2010 (we're #3017 on the list).

The aesthetics of it, I can see, are quite modern and very, very functional. My younger son's reaction? "Want!" (Ok, so he's part of the mainstream genepool of the family...). Me? It's the insane level of efficiency that grabbed me. I've been tantalized by the Prius of a friend and it's 45-50 mpg; it's so much more fuel efficient than my van. But this? 230-300 mpg makes a Prius look like a gas guzzler. At last I'll be able to get green transportation.

Of course, it's not going to replace the van. I'll be watching closely to see when they start building a four seater model.

I did say I came from a family of engineering geeks, right?