The Gay Marriage Round-Up: Thoughts from Around the Web

Same-sex marriage has been a major topic of discussion across the web, especially in evangelical circles. I thought it might be helpful to give our readers a round-up of some of the best and most interesting stuff around the web.

A flurry of posts immediately followed The Atlantic‘s story “The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss,” so that’s as good a starting point as any. In it are a number of arguments, many of them speculative, considering what sorts of things a gay couple may be able to teach a heterosexual couple. There are lots of statistics from various surveys and studies, but many of the claims for future knowledge come down to separating the sexes in order to learn what is ‘uniquely male’ and ‘uniquely female’ in relationship settings.

In direct response, First Things offered up the similarly titled “What We Can Learn from Same-Sex Couples.” Here, Glenn Stanton works through the research behind the provocative story from The Atlantic, in order to tease out the implications. The findings are less optimistic than the Gay Guide would have us believe, to say the least.

The Atlantic may just have been capitalizing on the topic, but they followed up The Gay Guide with a piece written by a gay member of the Catholic Church. She speaks to the difference between believing in God abstractly and believing in God concretely; the former is likely not tied to any particular church, while the latter has some visible historicity and beauty to it. Even as an evangelical, I certainly understand and appreciate the point of view.

While I don’t agree with the position of the person being interviewed, John Corvino still makes some really important points regarding debate, broadly speaking. Especially worth noting is his rejection of the idea that all positions are equally valid–a common yet absurd notion–which is an important reminder in fields other than gay marriage (often, same-sex marriage debates agree on but one thing: both sides can’t be right, and one position is clearly superior to the other).

If you’re not familiar with the topic at all, however, the above may have been overwhelming. Joe Carter offered up some definitions regarding LGBTQ issues, which are helpful for those who haven’t researched any of it. He also works through the positions of those who have embraced gay-marriage while still holding to some form of Christianity.

Not every question is new, however. On the topic of giving up the fight against gay marriage, at least publicly, Timothy Dalrymple simply asks: when is the cost too high? In answer to the question, Matthew Lee Anderson of Mere Orthodoxy points out that not every socially conservative movement has looked bleak; in fact, he argues that we should learn the right lessons from the pro-life debate, which is gaining traction. While there are clear differences between the movements, there’s something to this approach. Brad Littlejohn also addressed the question of a tactical withdrawal, but argues for a shift in those tactics, rather than running away entirely.

That’s a lot of reading. And some of it is pretty heavy. While I stand with the traditional Christian view on homosexuality, I also recognize that a lot of the ways that Christians have interacted with the gay community have been harmful, and I’d like to find a way to change that without sacrificing what I believe is Biblical truth. We should be known for our love, after all.

The State Of Our Union Is…Confused.

President Obama’s State of the Union address was nothing new.  As all politicians do, he called attention to a few high points of the past year, but primarily focused on the future, laying out a fresh list of promises that few people truly believe he can make good on.

The President took aim at Big Business, especially the medical and insurance industries, blasting them for making record profits while average Americans struggle.  What is more interesting is that he went on to warn Congress that now is not the time to gut funding for medical research that helps to save lives.  We have to wonder if the President is aware of how much of those record profits the medical industry invests in just the kind of medical research he wants to protect.

The real issue here, though, is not the specifics of where certain money is being spent, but rather an entire political philosophy.  When the President suggests that high profits for private companies can actually have a negative impact on society, and that any reduction in government-funded research is unacceptable, he is implicitly saying that the responsibility to do such research should be entrusted to the government rather than those private companies.  It would be better, in his mind, for the medical industry to hand over more of its profits to the government (paying more of their fair share, as it were) so that the government can do more of the same work that the medical industry is already doing.  I’m not arguing here that this is either good or bad.  The President’s underlying philosophy could be right.  I merely point it out because, sadly, the underlying philosophies of our politicians are rarely scrutinized and examined in light of other issues, which often leads to confused voters and even more confused politicians.

An excellent example of this political schizophrenia came from two of the President’s more praiseworthy statements.  In his best line of the night the President said, “What makes a man is not the ability to conceive a child, but the courage to raise a child.”  He went on to say that our rights as individuals are always wrapped up in the rights of others, highlighting the importance of community and cooperation.  Taken alone, these statements are excellent and any Christian on the conservative side of the spectrum ought to be able to endorse them wholeheartedly.  What may seem puzzling to some, then, is the President’s radical Pro-Choice agenda and his newfound but staunch support for gay marriage.

President Obama rightly acknowledged that a stable family structure is best not only economically, but also for raising healthy and productive children.  The redefinition of marriage is at odds with this truth.  In every nation that has officially redefined marriage on a large scale, marriage is disappearing.

More important is the issue of abortion.  How can you hope to encourage young men to think of fatherhood as something that requires courage when all the consequences and “dangers” of sex and pregnancy are so easily removed, and with no remorse?  When you continue to push the “easy way out” on the one hand, any calls for courage on the other hand ring hallow.

Moreover, why is radical individualism only a bad thing, and why are the rights of others only important, when it comes to gun control or higher taxes?  Why does the President not chide the radical individualism of the successful businesswoman who seeks an abortion because a child is simply inconvenient at the moment?  Why is she not to be reminded that her rights are tied up in the rights of others, necessarily limiting her choices?

Again, our current way of political discourse in America is not set up to handle these underlying philosophical questions, so I don’t place all blame upon the President or his party.  Mr. Obama may be wrong, but Conservatives and Christians in the media are failing to say so in an intelligent and persuasive manner.  We are all caught up in the culture of soundbites and shouting matches.  Worse yet, when we finally do tire of this unhelpful bickering, we retreat into the amusement of trivialities.  Senator Marco Rubio delivered a winsome, articulate, and at times passionate response to President Obama’s address on Tuesday night.  All day Wednesday, the biggest topic of discussion was Rubio’s 3-second, awkward reach-and-sip from a mini water bottle.  This mildly humorous non-event has received more attention than anything the President said in his speech.  That’s a sad statement.

I don’t exactly know where to go from here.  But I do believe that if conservatives and independents start demanding more thoughtfulness from their representatives while refusing to reward the escalating “cycle of soudbites”, things can only change for the better.

You can start right now by NOT posting that angry knee-jerk response to your brother-in-law’s annoying Facebook post.


The Newsroom

I am currently addicted to The Newsroom. As with anything created by Aaron Sorkin, the show is smart, funny, and pulls at the heartstrings. So far as I know, it is also the only HBO series that does not contain ridiculous amounts of nudity and violence (even the profanity is light). Newsroom is both engaging and entertaining. Seriously, it’s a really, really excellent show.

Now for the “but”… Continue reading The Newsroom

All the Married Ladies: A Response to Kate Bolick

Ever wonder how Conservative women compare with their feminist counterparts?

My latest piece is up at the newly launched today: a response to The Atlantic’s November cover article.

Though I was deep in the throes of giving birth, I couldn’t help smiling at the nurse’s shocked face. She’d noticed my wedding ring. “You’re married?” She paused, and I watched her count backward on her fingers. “This baby wasn’t conceived until after we were married” I gasped, as another contraction took hold. The look on her face made me laugh out loud, despite the pain. “You waited?” She was shocked. “I deliver babies every day and I never see married couples in here!”

I suppose her reaction shouldn’t have surprised me. I gave birth in a prosperous neighborhood, at a well-respected for-profit hospital. Even so, my story, which a generation ago would have been commonplace, now defies modern conventions across all economic levels. Women with lives like mine will only become more unusual as cultural attitudes toward marriage and parenthood continue to shift—and if The Atlantic’s November cover story is any indication, that’s bad news for all of us.

Read the whole article here.

Image from Flickr.


An Affair to Remember in Words Soon Forgotten

An entire year of planning goes into the brief, televised announcement. A network of hundreds of experts vet every point. Presentation is everything.  The words, carefully chosen, have the power to define the successes of the last year and set expectations for the next. But after countless hours of wrangling decisions, the audience gathered, the cameras turned on, and the show began. At 5:30am Pacific time, Mo’Nique and Tom Sherak announced the nominees for the 83rd annual Academy Awards.

Oh, and another big event happened Tuesday, too: President Obama’s State of the Union Address. At first, I thought Tuesday was merely a serendipitous convergence of the outlying regions of my geekdom. A film snob policy wonk who dreams of running away to the White House anytime she watches the West Wing can’t ask for a better news day. But more than just the sheer fun of it, Tuesday taught me something about the two events. They are more similar than you’d think.

Both events began as relatively small affairs. Article II Section 3 of the Constitution mandates that the president

shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

George Washington delivered the first on January 8, 1790, though then it was called the President’s Annual Message to Congress. It was 1, 089 words long, delivered to 81 members of Congress in New York City. It probably took seven to ten minutes for him to read it. Until 1923 when Calvin Coolidge’s became the first address broadcast over the radio, the address was a low-key speech between the president and Congress that laid out the president’s legislative agenda for the coming year. As in so many things, the advent of telecommunications changed its nature entirely.

Likewise, the Oscars began as a modest brunch in the ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood in 1929. Douglas Fairbanks and William C. deMille hosted the event. It was a private affair (tickets were $5 per person), and fifteen people were honored for their work from 1927 – 1928. Everyone knew who’d won because the winners had been announced three months earlier. For the next few years they withheld the names until the late edition newspaper the night before, and in 1941 they introduced the sealed envelope to increase suspense (and attendance).

Both events scarcely resemble their modest origins. I had the chance to attend the Oscars last year, and it’s a machine worthy of the most robust entertainment industry in the world. An Oscar nomination means millions in DVD sales, an Oscar win even more. The entire gathering is a showcase for studios, a runway for designers, fodder for the gossip mills, and the best networking opportunity of the year for filmmakers. Try as other awards might, they don’t compare to Hollywood’s big night.

Not that the Oscars mean much when it comes to the quality of the winning films. Though there’s plenty of pomp and circumstance about the value of the craft and prestige of the selection process, any organization that would nominate James Cameron’s Avatar for Best Picture has left artistry and cinematic excellence off its priority list. They may be bigger than ever, but the Oscars are just advertising with a black tie dress code.

The same could be said of the State of the Union Address. Every year since Woodrow Wilson set the precedent of delivering the address in person, presidents have had the annual chance to lend their voices and charisma to their legislative agenda, and for most of the 20th century it has been more for the benefit of the national audience than Congress. The event has become a campaign stop in our bloated campaign seasons that force politicians to start running for reelection before they’ve had a chance to move in to their offices. As such, it’s nearly impossible for the State of the Union to transcend mere branding of the party in power.

President Obama’s State of the Union was more of the same. I seriously considered running my review from last year’s address because so much of the speech was, point for point, repetition. That’s hardly the president’s fault: at best, a great State of the Union Address is a laundry list of policy achievements and goals sprinkled with sparkling rhetoric. It’s a pep rally for the presidency, and like the Oscars, has lost most of its true significance over the years. For the next few news cycles, pundits and politicians on the right will try to follow Representative Ryan’s example and paint the president as a leftist radical bent on the financial ruin of America, while in reality this speech was even more fiscally conservative than last year’s address (which didn’t seem possible). Left-leaning commentators will tout the bold proposals of a successful president and try to remind voters of Representative Bachmann’s nonsensical, bizarre response to downplay Ryan’s points. And so it goes.

But like the Oscars, the real story is much quieter. This was a good year for President Obama. He’s accomplished an extraordinary amount of items on his agenda, the Recovery Act and Affordable Care Act both seem to be helping Americans while both are still in need of some tweaking to increase their effectiveness. Despite some fairly paranoid focus on competing with China, the speech reminded its audience that America remains strong and is likely to continue to be despite doomsayers on both sides. But the best moment of the speech is from its beginning.

What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.

If we can manage that in the midst of vigorous debate, we’ll be fine.

Well, that and if True Grit wins Best Picture.

Social Justice and the Cross: A False Dichotomy

Something’s rotten in the state of Christendom.  In the third century, Cyprian was bishop of Carthage.  The church had recently survived the Decian persecutions and Cyprian controversially urged his congregants to welcome back into the body of Christ those who had denied their faith under duress.  Then plague struck North Africa.  As the collective personas non grata, Christians found themselves blamed for the devastation.  In 257, Emperor Valerian opened new persecutions against Christians, including the execution of Pope Sixtus, the exile of Cyprian, and the ordered execution of all Christian leaders.  In the midst of this chaos and persecution, Cyprian did the unthinkable: he ordered all Christians of Carthage to do what no one else in the city was willing to do.  He ordered them to take on the suicide mission of caring for plague victims.  These were people who actively supported the murder of Christians, and the believers faced nearly certain death by tending to the needs of the victims dying of plague.  And yet under Cyprian’s leadership, they did so willingly.

The face of Christian charity in America is somewhat different.  Today, we find ourselves embroiled in modern entanglements of post-Enlightenment theology and the ever-present problem of greed disguised as self-interest.  When books like Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger find serious challenges from books like Successful Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulation, and a prominent Mormon with several daily talk shows on TV and radio instructs Christians in the theological legitimacy of social justice, Christians have strayed from the radical charity of the early church.  While most thinking Christians thankfully dismiss both anti-biblical extremes, we still find ourselves drawn into a debate that bogs down radical actions of Christian charity.  Humanitarian and theologian Christian Buckley argues

Just as the masses left Christ two thousand years ago when His call became difficult, His ways became unpopular, and His perspective became detested, we are being challenged to walk away from Christ’s humanitarianism.

We draw Christian charity battlelines and accuse each other from across no man’s land.  We obsess over one question: Should we serve people in order to share the Gospel with them, or is service sharing the Gospel with people in need?

In Humanitarian Jesus: Social Justice and the Cross, authors Christian Buckley and Ryan Dobson present the answer to this modern quandary by examining the Body of Christ, both His physical incarnation and the actions of His followers.  In the first half of the book, Buckley lays out the main points of both arguments, service for evangelism and evangelism as service.  He marks the major turning points in each movement and presents biblical support for both and exposes the weaknesses of each approach.  But the argument culminates in the obvious conclusion: you can’t have one without the other.  Evangelism and charity must be united for either to be authentic.

Dobson and Buckley interviewed dozens of Christians who serve as exemplars of how to act on our Savior’s instructions.  From missionaries to social workers, surfers to abolitionists, the interviewees make a compelling case for the futility of the false dichotomy of service versus evangelism.  Jerry Wiles, president of Living Water International, says it best:

It is more effective, and, to paraphrase an African head of state, “You can’t minister to dead people.  You can’t do health care to dead people.  You can’t educate dead people.  You’ve got to have them alive first.”  The first thing is to bring physical life.  It is true that if you just bring the water without the message, you just extend their physical life.  It’s not a matter of either-or with us.  It’s both – and in every case.  It’s not a choice… I don’t think that’s ever the option – the gospel or good works.  I don’t think we have to make that choice because God’s going to provide a way to bring the gospel when you engage people and meet their physical needs.

It’s hard to argue with a man who’s dedicated his life to ensuring access to safe drinking water for people around the world.  It’s even harder to do so from a country that uses hundreds of millions of gallons of safe drinking water to fill our swimming pools.  Interview after interview in the book comes to the same conclusion: There should be no division between evangelism and service.

During His ministry, Christ didn’t divide evangelism and service.  Neither should we.  Buckley and Dobson didn’t need to write a book to make this argument.  This isn’t an argument that needs winning; it’s an argument that needs living.  Being right isn’t enough.  We must, as Saint Paul exonerated the church at Ephesus, “walk in a manner worthy of our calling.”  As my priest, Father Matthew Weber says,

We cannot be whole Christians without both these things.  We cannot be whole human beings without both these things.

Followers of Christ brave enough to dive into the trenches of radical Christian service understand that truth.  Those of us who sit comfortably in the industrialized world continue to bicker.  We need to sacrifice our greed on the altar of grace, take up our cross and follow Him, proclaiming His name all the way.  We’ll then find then that there is no division between evangelism and service.  We’ll find there is only Christ.

What Decided Perry v. Schwarzenegger

Everyone’s talking about the wrong thing.  The Prop 8 trial Perry v. Schwarzenegger recently concluded in a flurry of punditry that had little if anything to do with the case.  While most media personalities spent their time aimlessly speculating or just provoking controversy, anyone who wants to understand why and how Prop 8 was overturned should read Judge Vaughan Walker’s decision.  Walker writes with such clarity and elegance that anyone seeking the details and conclusions of the trial can easily gain a working understanding of the issues involved.  And if our country is going to address this complex legal issue, more people need to do so.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger rests on three plaintiff claims, all of which hinge on the Fourteenth Amendment.  The prosecution charged that by amending the state constitution to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples, Proposition 8 violated the due process clause, the equal protection clause, and qualified homosexuals for heightened scrutiny, elevating their status as a persecuted minority and requiring the justice system to intervene.  The defense had to address these charges and, as Judge Walker ruled (and I can verify, having been present for part of the trial), did a pathetic job.  To be fair, proving that Prop 8 wasn’t religiously motivated is probably impossible.

The three charges rest on each other.  First, the prosecution had to prove that homosexuals had been singled out for persecution on non-secular grounds.  Thanks to the literature, websites, and mass emails disseminated by groups such as Protect Marriage, NARTH, and 1man1woman, this was easy to prove and impossible for the defense to refute.  Most information these groups spread during the 2008 campaign for Proposition 8 linked gays (discreetly at best, overtly at worst) with pedophilia.  Never mind that pedophilia, by definition, is adults preying upon children who have yet to develop a sexual identity, and therefore the sexual orientation of the adult is irrelevant to the situation.  Ironically for the proponents of Prop 8 who were willing to say whatever it took to convince a slim majority of Californians to vote for the proposition, given the hyperbolic nature of the opposition’s arguments, Walker had no other option than to grant that homosexuals qualify for heightened scrutiny as a group singled out for religious or moral, but not secular reasons, for government-sponsored discrimination.

From heightened scrutiny, the other charges naturally follow.  The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the U.S. states says

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Because the facts of the case allowed the court to consider homosexuals under heightened scrutiny, Walker found that Prop 8 denied same sex couples equal protection under the law.  Heterosexuals may marry, but Prop 8 denied homosexual couples the right to choose and marry a spouse.  From there, the due process violation logically follows.  As Walker writes

Due process protects individuals against arbitrary governmental intrusion into life, liberty, and property… When legislation burdens the exercise of a right deemed to be fundamental, the government must show that the intrusion withstands strict scrutiny. (109-110)

The defense asserted four main points: Prop 8 maintains California’s current definition of marriage as opposite sex only, it affirms the will of the voters to exclude same sex couples from marriage, it promotes stability in relationships because opposite sex relationships usually produce naturally-conceived children, and it promotes “statistically-optimal” child-rearing households.  As Judge Walker states on p. 10 of the decision

The state does not have an interest in enforcing private moral or religious beliefs without a secular purpose.

Therefore, the defense had to prove that the state had a secular purpose in enforcing Prop 8.  They primarily relied upon the procreative argument, that the state has a vested interest in promoting relationships that naturally produce children.  However that claim crumbled quickly, especially when one of only two witnesses the defense produced (neither of whom was admitted as an expert witness) admitted that though it may be ideal for a child to be reared by a male and female parent, recent research supports the theory that two loving parents, regardless of gender, provide a healthy environment for a child.  From start to finish, the defense paled in comparison to the prosecution in terms of factual information, expert testimony, and consistent argument.

The most interesting part of Walker’s decision for the larger debate over same sex marriage is his argument about marriage’s identity.  Until the early 20th century, most states in the U.S. operated under a legal marital practice known as coverture, which meant that the state viewed a married couple as legally one person, and by default, the husband.  The woman’s legal rights such as property ownership, the ability to enter legal contracts, even the right to retain wages she earned outside the home, were all ceded to the man.  With the abolition of coverture, as well as the introduction of no-fault divorce, Walker argues, marriage became a union of co-equals whose gender was legally irrelevant.  Given that the defense failed to prove the state’s exclusive interest in naturally procreative relationships, Walker concluded that the state need not differentiate between opposite sex and same sex couples when it comes to marriage.  Rather, Walker argues, the state’s interest is in legally fostering the establishment of stable households, regardless of how children are produced or whether children are included in those households at all.  Unless the state requires couples to be able to procreate, there is no reason why it should deny same sex unions when gender roles in opposite sex marriages are indistinct.  Because marriage is a fundamental right (Walker cites cases from Griswold v. Connecticut to Loving v. Virginia to Turner v. Safely), and fundamental rights cannot be subject to a vote, Prop 8’s voter support is not cause enough to maintain it.

This is only just the highlight reel of what is an intensely fascinating case.  I highly suggest that you download the pdf and read it for yourself if you’re interested.  I don’t have space here to cover even half the legal issues it raises, much less the cultural impact of those decisions.  And, as fascinating as this case is, its scope is far too narrow to capture the real constitutional crisis behind same sex marriage.  Article IV of the Constitution contains two clauses, known as the full faith & credit clause and the privileges & immunities clause, both of which make it difficult to know where the states’ constitutional right to define legal and social contracts such as marriage ends and the federal government’s duty to ensure that citizens in each state are afforded the same civil rights and liberties as fellow citizens in other states begins.  That will take another court case, and another trip through the federal system to see what the nine members of the Supreme Court think.

Regardless, this controversy isn’t over.  It really won’t matter what any state or federal judge does until the Supreme Court rules on Article IV.  So settle in for the long haul!  It will be a fascinating, bumpy, constitutional ride.’

Year of the Mommy Blogger

If 2010 is the year of the pro-life woman, 2016 should be the year of the smart “mommy blogger”—because, if the GOP wants to ensure its own long term success, today’s politically-inclined mommy bloggers will likely become tomorrow’s candidates.

Sarah Palin’s popularity is proof that the conservative grassroots are ready and eager to rally around a female candidate from outside the Beltway.   And, if the tea party movement continues strong, chances are good that one of today’s young, politically savvy mommy bloggers will be the next decade’s conservative champion.

While the stereotypical mommy blogger is better known for her potty-training rants than for her politics, an increasing number are intelligent, well-educated former professionals who left the full-time workforce in order to raise their children.  Advertisers are beginning to realize that moms are among the web’s most influential demographics, and, thanks to factors like the tea party movement, Sarah Palin, and the rise of digital activism, moms are finding it easier than ever to put this newfound influence to use.  Sure, some only blog about their families, but many offer a good mix of the personal and political—and they’re not afraid to act on their political opinions.  The popularity of mommy blogger gatherings like the BlogHer Conventions proves that they’re willing to learn how to write and act more effectively for a good cause, and it likely wouldn’t be difficult for existing conservative training organizations like the Leadership Institute to expand their recruiting efforts to include conservative moms who blog.  Imagine the impact Sarah Palin might have today if she’d spent the past decade learning the ideas and methods that can make or break a leader—and imagine the candidates the GOP might have in ten years if it started training smart, conservative mommy bloggers today.

The digital world provides a unique place for these women, whose unpredictable schedules and need to be centered in one physical space are perfectly suited to online interaction.  They also care deeply about the social issues that have kept conservatives and liberals squabbling for decades. This interest is far from idle or theoretical, and they tend to be well-informed about issues that may affect them and their families—a combination that makes them ideal potential activists.  While it is difficult to determine whether the “mommy-blogosphere” skews left or right, we do know that online moms are a force to be reckoned with and that their influence will continue to grow.

Mommy bloggers are, in other words, exactly what the Republican Party needs. As Ben Domenech writes,

Traditionally, one of the biggest reasons conservatives have a male-dominated Chamber of Commerce and local sports hero representation in the lower chamber is that they have a hard time finding female candidates for higher office. This is not because there are insufficient conservative women — as you may know, the gender gap is really just an example of the expanded racial gap than anything else (white women voted for McCain by a margin of 53-46) — but it’s because conservative and especially Christian women tend to choose to abandon their careers, or shift to part time work, the instant they have kids.

This is not a bad choice for them, and probably a good one for their families, but it’s one that deprives the GOP of a lot of very good candidates — a situation which is only becoming more challenging for Republicans as women overwhelmingly surpass men in educational achievement.

My thought, then, was that if Republicans were smart, in every district where they find a Democrat who has a 60+ edge, and the GOP has no obviously active candidates or farm team members in need of some seasoning, a general rule ought to be: run a Smart Mom.

Domenech is right, but I’d like to push his suggestion a step further: Republicans should not only recruit “Smart Moms” for 2012, but should develop a more long-term strategy of incorporating them into the ranks of the GOP elite.  Now is the time to identify and develop the smart mom bloggers whose involvement in the grassroots can help prepare them to run for office in 5-10 years.  It’s a long term strategy with minimal investment and enormous potential.

Many of today’s mommy bloggers are too young and too busy raising families to run for office, but that won’t be true for long.  It’s not too early to think about helping them become candidates in the future.  Additionally, as advertisers are discovering, online moms are an enticingly untapped resource. Thanks in part to the recent surge in popular pro-life female candidates, there’s never been a better time for homemakers to weigh in on online political debates—and there’s no better time for them to prepare to be the GOP’s next best weapon in a few years when their children are grown.’

The Hobgoblin of Little Ideologies

Conservatives just ain’t what they used to be.  From the Big Brother program of unwarranted domestic wiretapping to military spending in Iraq that was so great it wasn’t even reported on the annual budget, the Republican party has been wandering far from its small government roots.  Of course, a party betraying its ideological ideals is as old as the Republic herself, and shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been following US politics for more than about five minutes.  But recent legislation from Arizona is about to take that dichotomy to a new level.

Last week, Arizona enacted SB 1070, a law designed to aggressively enforce federal legislation prohibiting undocumented workers.  Section E of the bill states, that a cop “without a warrant, may arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.”  Subsequent portions make it clear this is not granting permission, but instituting a mandate.

At first glance, this may appear to be a simple case of a state stepping in where the federal government has failed.  After all, the feds have thousands of miles of border to patrol, but Arizona need only concern itself with its own.  And in the wake of horrific violence boiling over the border from Mexico’s drug war, it seems that Arizona’s new immigration law is a reasonable approach to a dire situation.

There are several problems with that perspective, however.  First and foremost, as the circumstances of the law’s drafting dictate, is the practical effect of the law.  This law does nothing to stem the tide of illegal immigrants pouring over the Arizona border each year.  Requiring that law enforcement check documentation on anyone “the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States” necessitates racial profiling, no matter what other clauses or revisions of the law proclaim.  In Arizona, the threat of illegal immigration comes from Mexico, and the only practical application of the mandate is a specific targeting of those who appear to be of Mexican heritage, whether in language or appearance.

Never mind that more than a century of judicial precedent forbids such a targeted audience for scrutiny.  Never mind that it trespasses upon the civil liberties of citizens and non-citizens alike.  The only practical, feasible application of the mandate is that law enforcement is required to demand documentation from those who appear to be from Mexico.  No amount of boilerplate prohibitions on racial profiling or the follow-up patch enacted on Friday will change that.  According to the bill’s sponsor, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, the follow-up law’s changes were clarifications “just to take away the silly arguments and the games, the dishonesty that’s been played.”  But they’re not silly arguments, and they should trouble conservatives who value minimalist government intervention in the lives of individual citizens most of all.

Constitutionally, Arizona’s law doesn’t have a judicial leg to stand on.  From Chae Chan Ping v. US (1889) to Lozano v. Hazleton (2007), US courts under conservative and liberal justices alike have consistently ruled that while a state has the right to secure its borders in pursuit of its responsibility to protect the general welfare of its citizens, only the national government can legislate or prosecute instances of immigration.  Though Arizona’s law is redundant by nature (federal law has already defined what constitutes illegal immigration and SB 1070 doesn’t add anything new to that definition), it is clearly inconsistent with the parameters of state power set by the Framers of the Constitution.  A state may not legislate on issues of immigration, no matter what that legislation entails (likewise, a state may not ignore federal immigration legislation, as some ‘sanctuary cities’ pretend they can without consequence).  Though a state’s right to defend itself is consistent with conservative ideology, to do so at the expense of the liberty of citizens and a massive expansion of government power of surveillance certainly is not.

But this law is not about protecting Arizona.  It’s a desperate attempt, groping in the dark against terrors we know we can’t fight alone.  It’s understandable.  When an American citizen is gunned down on his own property by criminals who are in the country illegally, and the federal government is distant and disinterested, it’s hard to blame the state for retaliating on its own terms.  But as robust as this law seems in the face of illegal immigration, it only creates more problems.

Law enforcement’s already daunting job in stemming the tide of violence from Mexico’s drug war as its spills over the border will be made even more difficult by this law.  Faced with this new mandate to investigate immigration status from traffic stops to “local civil ordinances” (anything from complaints about loud noise to an unkempt front lawn), officers will need to choose between focusing on peacekeeping and fulfilling the new law. 

Though proponents argue against its negative effects on fighting crime, the law cripples law enforcement at its most basic level.  Officers will lose their ability to distinguish between perpetrator and victim.  Instead of stopping the human trafficker alone, this law mandates that his victims be given equal treatment.  Considering the US’s weak anti-trafficking laws (you get more jail time for pirating music than forcing a child into prostitution in this country), if the traffickers are clever, which they are, they can exploit that weakness and suffer lighter legal consequences than their victims.

This law will also drastically set back the most effective method of policing in marginalized communities, community policing.  Cops depend on the immigrant community in hot spots to provide evidence to help them catch violent criminals.  With Phoenix’s new status as the kidnapping capital of the country (and approaching the second in the world), community policing has never been more important to Arizonans.  This law makes it impossible for police to maintain the trust they’ve built with non-violent undocumented workers who serve as valuable sources of information.

The law also creates a humanitarian crisis.  Its provisions (which were not amended by Friday’s revisions) are written so broadly that they mandate arrest for anyone found with undocumented workers who are suspected of aiding them.  In practical application, clergy, medical workers, or even good samaritans giving them a ride are subject to criminal investigation, detention, and prosecution. 

This analysis only scratches the surface of the problems with Arizona’s new immigration law.  It would take far more space than is available here to plumb the depths of its inadequacy to prevent violent criminals from fighting the Mexican drug war in the US, or the law’s contribution to the growing racial cleavage in the border states between immigrants from Latin America and those of us whose ancestors immigrated only a couple hundred years earlier. 

In addition to these weaknesses, the law is ineffective in its goal of solving the problem of illegal immigration.  It is but the first step in a legislative attempt spearheaded by the misguided State Senator Pearce to make Arizona so inhospitable to people of Mexican descent that they won’t come to his state.  Next on his agenda is a bill that would require public school teachers to report children of illegal immigrants to the state in order for the state to calculate the cost of their education, then take action to bar them from public education services.  The fact that such attempts in two other states were struck down in recent years doesn’t seem to matter.  He is already in the process of enacting legislation to remove bilingual teachers from ESL classes in schools in Arizona.

What Pearce and his fellow Arizonans who favor such draconian legislation fail to realize is that the only way to ‘solve’ the problem of illegal immigration is to enact policies that help law enforcement crack down on violent criminals in the country illegally, encourage undocumented workers to follow proper channels to achieve legal residency, and put their children on the path to citizenship.  Other states are doing it.  Texas Governor Rick Perry, no friend to namby-pamby liberal amnesty plans, has pursued policies that will allow just those transitions, and Texas has a longer, more porous border than Arizona and has dealt with an incredibly complicated relationship with Mexico since long before Arizona was recognized as a territory.

In short, it takes more than a kneejerk reaction to fix this legitimate problem.  As conservatives often say in response to gun control policy, ‘if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have them.’  Likewise, Arizona’s new law will ensure that the only people in the state illegally are those who do not fear the police, that Arizona’s police will lose even more power to stop them, and that Arizona’s Hispanic population, whether citizens, residents, or undocumented immigrants, will lose another piece of their liberty based on nothing other than their ethnic identity.

Give me your tired, your poor, indeed. ‘

All Roads Lead to the Domestic Goddess

My mother-in-law’s first gift to us as an engaged couple was a culinary torch.  Talk about intimidating!  It may as well have been a ratcheting box wrench; I had no idea people used torches in the kitchen.  My grandmother was a model and showgirl.  When my mom left home, she didn’t even know how to make scrambled eggs.  My parents left their first church when it decided that Paul’s injunction against women speaking in church ought to be taken literally.  Needless to say, I come from a family with unique traditions when it comes to gender roles.

Don’t get me wrong.  I was raised to be a rebel, not a stereotype.  My mother enraged her female friends in the 1980s by insisting on being a stay-at-home mom (‘homemaker’ was her job title and she refused all others) at a time when society demanded a woman to prove her independence by sending her children to daycare.  I pride myself in being a Hill woman – we’re descendents of Texas revolutionaries, we live forever, and we don’t take crap from anyone.  Not knowing our way around a kitchen, wearing shoes, and choosing to have babies on our own schedules are our badges of honor.  Fortunately, I found a man who knew that and still wanted to marry me.

But you marry a family as well as a spouse.  I knew that my mother-in-law, the woman who makes Martha Stewart look like a no-talent hack, would expect me to pick up where she left off.  My culinary repertoire consisted of 30 minute meals of no more than five ingredients, most designed for the food stamp budget my parents followed when I was young.

Imagine my surprise when I found that my rebel sensibilities melded with traditional feminine arts.  It started with the gift (from my mother-in-law, of course) of a cookbook.  My husband and I teach at a private school.  For the uninitiated, private school teachers tend to make far less than their public school counterparts.  Low teacher pay for public educators is something of a joke already, so you know where our finances are.  The idea of making my own pasta sauce for a fraction of the cost of a jar of Prego appealed, so I decided to give the book a try.  I was shocked to find that I loved cooking.  Pasta sauce led me to other cuisines, which eventually led me to that culinary torch.  And after reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, then researching the connection between human trafficking and our food sources, our resolves were strengthened.  We signed up for a local CSA box, dedicated ourselves to cooking from scratch, and have never looked back.

But my search for social justice led me down other roads as well.  What about other industries?  Other than food, the clothing industry might be the most outrageous violator of human rights in modern consumer society.  In addition, I love flipping through the catalog for Anthropologie, but to buy the items I love, I’d need to quit my teaching job and do something that has profit as a goal for a living.

And so I ended up asking for a sewing machine for Christmas.  Yes, me.  The daughter of a non-traditional feminist.  The granddaughter of a model for Seventeen who rejected society’s restrictions on her behavior.  The great-granddaughter of a woman forced to quit high school, her one great dream, to be forced to marry an unfaithful man for monetary reasons.  I’m only the second woman in my family on my mother’s side to earn a college degree.  If my own mother hadn’t beaten me by two months, I’d have been the first to earn a graduate degree.  And here I am, passing the time by crocheting a hat.

What happened?  The same thing Michael Pollan observed in his recent book In Defense of Food.  Liberal and conservative forces can align, every once in awhile, to bring us to the same conclusion.  I’ve seen women make their own clothes and cook dinner for their husbands because that was expected of a woman.  I do these things too, but the path that led me here is different.  I love my husband and want to cook him delicious food, and take pride in it, too, but he far outranks me in the culinary arts.  He had an excellent teacher.

The long and short of it is that I hate the term ‘domestic goddess’ and yet I find myself chasing it.  My search for fairly traded goods, nutritious food, and personal responsibility led me to the activities I’ve mocked all my life.  But instead of chasing them for their own sake, or for the sake of some outdated icon of feminine idealism, my rejection of those things led me back to them.  That leads me to believe that there’s not really quite so much difference between the two competing ideologies as I thought. ‘