Sunday, October 9, 2011

News Tidbits: Maddow on Gay Marriage, Alabama Immigration Law, Occupy Wall Street

A number of disparate news stories that have caught my eye in recent days, which I'd like to mention as the week ends:

1. I like Rachel Maddow.  But I do think James Peron makes a valuable point about her misgivings re: marriage equality and the end of gay culture.  As I've noted before on this blog, while affluent gay folks living in educated, powerful cultural centers of the nation entertain the question of whether gay culture is waning (and/or should wane), a large number of us live in the heartland.  Where just being gay and out of the closet is still problematic and sometimes dangerous, especially for younger folks.

And where--as Peron points out--gay couples often struggle economically in ways that gay folks in the nation's elite cultural centers seem unable to imagine.  And the economic struggles are very often related to the lack of legal protections and lack of rights enjoyed by our fellow gay citizens in the privileged sectors of the country.

2. I know that Godwin's law seeks to deter us from using Nazi references freely.   But I've just read Tatiana de Rosnay's Sarah's Key, which focuses on the infamous French "Vel' d'Hiv" roundup in 1942 (which sent more than 13,000 Parisian Jews to their deaths in Auschwitz, many of them children, and was euphemistically and disgustingly called OpĂ©ration vent printanier).

And I cannot help thinking of what "civilized" Europeans did to the Jews during the Hitler years when I read Jay Reeves' article about the draconian new Alabama immigration law and its effect on children.  I spent some time during my college years working in a volunteer program organized by the chaplain's offices of Loyola (New Orleans) and Spring Hill College, which provided daycare for children of migrant workers in south Alabama.

I saw first-hand how these hard-working people, many of them undocumented immigrants, lived: in shacks with no amenities, as they harvested food crops for the rest of us to eat.  Back-breaking labor in the hot sun, day after day, for which they were paid little.  Work no one else wants to do.

And because the parents were usually in the fields all day long, working to make enough money to feed their families and send some money back home when they could do so, the migratory children received no schooling, and were sometimes locked into the shacks all day long to protect them.  In some cases, these migrant-workers' shacks burned down with the children inside. 

The program in which I worked tried to provide breakfast and lunch, basic education, and, above all, supervision and safety for these children during the day.  It turns my stomach to see what one American state, in a supposedly civilized nation, is now doing to these same children, some years down the road from my brief experience working with them.

3. And finally, David Morris on five rules for an economy that works (by way of commentary on the Occupy Wall Street Movement):

  • Corporations are not persons.
  • Money is not speech.
  • Tax financial transactions.
  • Tax all income as ordinary income.
  • Declare a moratorium on foreclosures.

These are principles consonant with the social teaching of many religious bodies including the Catholic church, the United Methodist Church, and so forth.  At the heart of the social teaching of many faith groups is the insistence that economic structures should exist to serve people and their needs, and not vice versa.  And so I think that those (like Tom Beaudoin in my posting of earlier today) who note the theological underpinnings of the Occupy Wall Street movement are right on track in noting that this movement has a strong theological basis.

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