Oh oh oh. Oh oh oh.

I may have sprained my cooterial region just now.

Three guesses as to how.

(And no, the answer is not “Contorting to try to put a ring on it.”)

Edited to add: Well, it appears they’ve disabled embedding on this.  Find it here.

My Platform, The Foundations

I’m really, really struggling (but in that pleasant way) to articulate to myself what I want to see in a Democratic Platform.

And I think I would boil it down to two sentences:

If you’re here, you’re “us.”  And we take care of our own.

Or maybe even one, if you like more touchy-feely shit.

We’re in this together.

Yes, Tennessee as a giant, unruly street gang.  And whew, does getting jumped in suck–six million people kicking the shit out of you.  But, once you’re in, you’re in.  We have your back.

A Noisy Gong, A Clanging Cymbal

It’s good to be wrong every once in a while.  It keeps you humble.  So, while I still think that my take on how gay marriage threatens “traditional” has a ring of truth in it

Why is gay marriage a threat to straight marriage?

One, because it suggests that you don’t have to sacrifice major parts of yourself in order to be married.  Not to get sidetracked but can’t you see how the “marriage as great sacrifice” meme gets played out every time some jackass says, “Gays can get married.  They can marry women just like the rest of us.”?  In other words, since marriage is not first and foremost about love and caring for the person you’re with, but instead about sacrifice, why can’t gay people just make great sacrifice, too?  But if gay people can marry who they want without having to sacrifice great parts of themselves, it suggests that no one has to do that.  Marry who you want; make arrangements that suit you.

But two, and I believe that two, though it goes hand in hand with one, is more crucial for understanding the secular opposition to gay marriage, two is that, if people can marry who they want in arrangements that please them, I believe it makes straight people who thought that marriage was about sacrifice feel incredibly stupid.  Here they were making choices that were designed to show how much they were willing to offer up to marriage, even if it meant that they’d be vaguely unhappy most of their lives, when all along they could have chosen to marry who they wanted and worked out an arrangement that pleased them.

And people will tolerate a lot, but they don’t tolerate feeling like they’ve been made fools of.  And what would be more foolish than to marry in order to show your willingness to sacrifice the things that made you happy when you could have married because you are delighted in the person you’re marrying?

–I had not given enough consideration to how marriage as an institution can function as a means of codifying and enforcing gender roles.  But between this article at Slate.com and the Family Action Council of Tennessee, I see now that I was wrong.

FACT, of course, makes this clear in their language about why gay people shouldn’t be able to adopt–“Generally speaking nontraditional couples do not provide the stability and the basis for development of a proper gender identity to the same degree and in the same way as married moms and dads. [emphasis mine]”–and in explaining what’s “wrong” with gay people–“Contrary to the reigning confusion today, a homosexual relationship is not an equal alternative to a heterosexual relationship—it is a dangerous lifestyle that is physically and emotionally destructive.”

It seems clear that, in FACT’s worldview, marriage is not, first and foremost, about formalizing a relationship that is beneficial to the two people who choose to enter into it; it is, instead, about providing the “best” environment for raising children.  And what happens in the “best” environment for raising children?  Children develop proper gender identity and learn correct values.  Again, nothing about the happiness or emotional well-being of the children.

Over at Slate.com,

After all, traditional marriage isn’t just analogous to sex discrimination—it is sex discrimination: Only men may marry women, and only women may marry men. Same-sex marriage would transform an institution that currently defines two distinctive sex roles—husband and wife—by replacing those different halves with one sex-neutral role—spouse. Sure, we could call two married men “husbands” and two married women “wives,” but the specific role for each sex that now defines marriage would be lost. Widespread opposition to same-sex marriage might reflect a desire to hang on to these distinctive sex roles rather than vicious anti-gay bigotry.

And I have to say, I think there’s something to this.  I do.  It helps me understand where folks like the FACT folks are coming from.

But I also have to say that their fight then strikes me as futile in the end, because the change heterosexual marriage has made over the past 150 years is so enormous that I don’t see any way to undo it.  You can now marry–everybody who wants to–for love.  And, in fact, most people think that the reason you should get married is for love.  If you said, “I’m getting married to this girl because our parents arranged it” or “I’m getting married to this man to settle a bet he made with my dad” or “I’m getting married to this woman so that we can combine our family fortunes,” people would look at you like you were crazy.  When you say, “I’m madly in love with my boyfriend, but I can’t marry him because he’s white or Mexican or from a poor family,” people look at you in pity.  What kind of person nowadays lets that stuff get in the way of love?

We, as a society, have cast our lot with love.  We expect, at least heterosexuals expect to be able to marry for love.  We think people who get married should be in love.  (And we will, as a society, as long as civil marriage is conceived of as happening between two people who love each other, continue to open up the definition of marriage to include all kinds of configurations of loving adults.)

And yet, I’ve looked all over the Family Action Council of Tennessee’s website and I don’t see one thing about love.  Nothing about kids deserving loving families.  Nothing about (even only) heterosexuals deserving a loving marriage.  Oh, yeah, they talk about stability and welfare and tradition and good Christian values.

But nothing, nothing about love.

First, They Came for the Gays, Then, They Came for the Sluts

Oh, y’all, I was reading over at Pith about the Family Action Council of Tennessee:

… [T]hose who say the Republicans need to concentrate on the budget, education, and jobs correctly note that these need to be priorities…. too. But to assume that the legislature is only limited to dealing with two or three issues is nonsense. Values voters just won’t buy that should the Republicans ignore their issues and concerns. [Emphasis Pith’s]

In fact, Republicans should move SJR 127 and some of the other issues early in the next session in order to be able to concentrate fully on economic issues once the revenue numbers come out in late April. Moving these issues early does not mean Republicans don’t care about the other issues or that these issues are their only priority. No, it will show that they want to be able to focus fully on the economic issues once the revenue picture is clear and they know what they have to work with. Republicans getting these “social issues” off the table when budgetary work is limited due to the absence of revenue numbers is showing that when it’s time to work on the budget, it will be the priority.

And I was sitting here wondering just how indeed the Family Action Council could call themselves the Family “Action” Council and support SJR 127.  I’m kind of with Mack at this point; let it pass and then let those “pro-life” people have to explain to their voters how it did nothing to decrease the amount of abortions in the state.  “Oh, we’re saving babies.  The babies of the future!!!”  Yeah, that should go over real well with your constituencies.

But then I went to their website!

And whoa boy!  I cannot wait to see this nonsense start flying.  Let’s check out their positions:

Where families are healthy, societies are healthy. If we take a sweeping look over the history of civilization, we will find that the family has always been the foundation of societies. Noted historians Will and Ariel Durant have said, “The family is the nucleus of civilization.” Families were designed to be led by one husband and one wife and comprised of their children and dependents. If anything is added to or subtracted from this natural formula, families suffer, children suffer and society suffers. Undoubtedly, bad things will happen to families: death, disease and divorce. But our goal individually and as a society should be to maintain the natural, time-tested traditional family—because this is generally best for the welfare of the greatest number of people. As research demonstrates, family structure does matter: A family headed by a biological mom and dad is the best for children, parents and society as a whole.

Of course, because the readers of Tiny Cat Pants also read the Bible, we know that this is A LIE.  Yes, folks, we’re one position in and already they are lying.  Biblical families were not one husband and one wife.

But also, look at this language “If anything is added to or subtracted from this natural formula, families suffer, children suffer, and society suffers.”  Added to?  Is FACT standing in opposition to having your parents move in with you?  Sounds like it could be construed that way–as an unnatural addition.

On to position two:

All orphaned, unwanted or unborn children deserve loving homes, and there is no shortage of married couples eager to adopt them. But in our relativistic age, where marriage is seen as passé and gender confusion abounds, some cohabiting couples want to adopt in order to create a family. When the state becomes involved in the “creation” of that family, the vulnerable children who cannot be cared for by their biological parents need as stable an environment as possible. A stable home environment is “in the best interest of the child.” Generally speaking nontraditional couples do not provide the stability and the basis for development of a proper gender identity to the same degree and in the same way as married moms and dads. Experience shows that while moms and dads aren’t perfect, they provide the optimal conditions for a child’s spiritual, psychological and personal development. With so many married couples today on waiting lists to adopt unwanted unborn children, there is no need to conduct a risky social experiment with children by placing them with two parents who have not made a marriage commitment.

Hmm.  Really, no shortage of married couples eager to adopt them?  This fails the sniff test.  If there are children in need of loving homes and if there are married couples eager to adopt them, then why aren’t those kids in homes already?  Why, instead, are they sitting in foster care?

And don’t think we won’t be talking about this “development of a proper gender identity” nonsense.  That’s just going to require its own post.


Right to Life

Every person has the right to live—not just those who can defend themselves or are likely to have a good quality of life. The value and worth of each person is intrinsic to them and does not depend upon their status economically, racially, physically, or mentally. Thus the strong persons of societies have a moral duty to defend and protect weaker persons like the unborn and the mentally and physically handicapped. Sadly, however, in America approximately 1.3 million unborn children per year lose their lives to abortion.2 And some are even calling for the “active euthanasia” of disabled and sick newborns.3 No person has the right to decide whether another innocent person should live or die.

Blah blah blah.  You know what I think of this.

On to four, where it gets really good:

Religious Liberty

Our founding fathers envisioned a nation that enjoyed freedom of religion—not freedom from it. This is why the Bill of Rights protects not only our freedom to peacefully express our beliefs, but also our freedom to live by them, even in public. Religious liberty was never intended to require elected officials to leave their religious convictions at the door of legislative chambers. In fact, Article 9, Section 2 of Tennessee’s constitution states, “No person who denies the being of God or a future state of rewards and punishments can hold any office in the civil department of this state.” In addition, religious liberty was never meant to give dissenting minorities “veto power” over moral standards that are based on the majority’s beliefs. As George Washington, our first president, declared in his Farewell Address of 1797: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”4 Yet there are some who oppose the free and open exercise of religion in the name of tolerance, not recognizing their own religious hostility as a religion itself imposed on others. It is naïve to assume that an America purged of faith can continue to stand as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.  I’m sorry, but I just love this.  We have to endure a whole paragraph about how much they love the United States while at the same time they’re advocating a position in direct contradiction to Article Four, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution and celebrate a part of the Tennessee Constitution that is in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution.  What great patriots!

Anyway, Conservatives, I’m eager to hear how excited you are to have a religious test for people holding public office here in the State.  By what guidelines will we recognize folks as being religious enough?

But, here’s the real doozy.  I mean, because it’s one thing to ask people to vote against the rights and privileges of their friends and neighbors.  But it’s quite another thing to ask folsk to vote against themselves.

So, I ask you, Tennessee Conservatives, have you ever had sex outside of marriage?

Sexuality within Marriage

Sex outside marriage weakens family ties, even among consenting adults. Since sex was designed to foster intimacy and trust between a man and a woman, unmarried couples are playing with fire, enjoying sex for a while but trapping themselves in a lifetime of relational and emotional insecurities. Sex was also designed to produce children. Sexually active unmarried couples are putting their children at risk as well since, statistically speaking, cohabitating couples are more likely to split, leaving the child with challenging emotional scars and wounds. As for the husband or wife who is unfaithful to the other—whether through an extramarital affair, addiction to pornography or even a lustful desire for someone else—pain and mistrust will follow, often destroying families. Infidelity is the cause of about 30 percent of divorces today.5 Living faithfully within the boundaries of marriage protects everyone: spouses, children and society as a whole. While government cannot dictate healthy sexual practices, it can encourage a healthy understanding of sexuality by taking steps like promoting abstinence and curbing obscenity and the proliferation of adult businesses.

And I don’t mean to be catty… Okay, I do a little, but come on!  You think there’s no one at FACT doing this stuff?

So, think about that, my friends.  In order to protect the children, we’re going to have to take steps to make it illegal for you to have sex with who you want when you want.

I do, however, wonder if David Fowler himself will be the one who stands in our bedrooms to make sure we only have procreative, married sex.

I, myself, volunteer to be the one who watches David Fowler watching you have sex, just to make sure he’s only looking on in disgusted, prudish judgment of others and not enjoying it at all in the least.

What could be worse than the nanny state?  How about the prudish busybody state?

Is It Just Me or is the Internet Busier Lately?

1.  I’m loving Pith lately.  I’ll admit it.  There just seems to be a little crackle there the past few weeks which has turned me into a more frequent reader.

2.  I just got the most awesome phone call, filled with nothing but the sound of my lawn mower purring like a kitten.

3.  When my phone rang, it said, in Supermousey’s voice, “Aunt B’s phone is ringing.  Pick it up!  Pick it uuupppp!!!!!!!!!!!” which startled both of my co-workers.  This is not nearly as funny as when it does that at home and the dog runs around trying to see if Supermousey has indeed come to visit.

4.  Y’all, I am trying to keep this issue on the forefront of TCP and I’m sorry I’m not doing a better job.  I am just freaked right the hell out about it so it’s hard for me to talk about effectively.  Kwach writes today about imposing your discomfort with other people’s choices (in the sense that they would choose to get married, not that they would choose to be gay) on the law of the land and she touches on the “What if they take our kids?” theme again, which makes me all light-headed and angry to think about:

I feel that it’s important to point that out, because, according to Dan Savage’s op-ed in the NYTimes today, there are a whole lot of people in a whole lot of places who’d like to have you think otherwise. And, should they be successful in that endeavor, children like ours may go the way of the Dodo.

As she points out, there’s just something really, really disgusting about arguing that, since gay people commit suicide at higher rates than people who are heterosexual, it makes them unfit parents, when oppressing gay people, by, in part, denying them their families, is indeed what drives them to suicide.  It’d be like me going over to my neighbors’ and slashing the tires on their car and then arguing that I oppose their owning a car, because their cars are constantly unsafe.

Well, fucking duh.  I wonder why that is?

5.  NM informs me that, even if it turns out that Spam is just alien meat pretending to be a pork product, she cannot eat it.  I can’t find it now, but it reminds me of the bloggers who discussed which imaginary animals were okay for Jews to eat.  Like you probably couldn’t eat a minotaur because it is half-human, but you could eat a goat fish.  Oh, I found it!  But I see there’s no ruling on Spam (which of course is obviously not treyf if it is really a pork product, but if it’s just an alien pretending to be a pork product… So, clearly, we either need proof it’s pork and not alien before knowing for sure and I’m not believing you, Hormel!)

6.  Are you reading The Rotund?  If not, you’ve missed another great post.

Guide Resources to The Folks Who are Doing The Work

Y’all!  I conducted my very first real interview for Tiny Cat Pants, where I had some questions, found someone who could answer them, and asked her my questions and learned stuff from her!  Is this what citizen journalism feels like?  I just don’t know.

Anyway, in continuance of my quest to discover what we’re doing for born babies, to keep them alive and healthy, I’ve been reading and thinking and asking questions.  And I did some actual research.  The state, as you may know, has this “1st for Everyone” initiative in which they are pushing to lower our infant mortality rate, which, according to the Tennessee Department of Health’s website (pdf, sorry), is almost 9 per every 1000 births across the state and for African Americas is almost 17 per every 1000 births.

One of the reasons this number is so abyssmal is that, according to the latest news, almost 15% of babies in Tennessee are born prematurely.  As you know, babies born prematurely often die.  In our state, however, “often” varies a great deal by race.  Again from the Department of Health’s website:

Black premature babies were almost twice as likely to die in infancy as white premature babies. For black premature babies the infant mortality rate was 66.1 per 1,000 live births versus 34.9 for white premature babies.

So, I tracked down Barbara Clinton, the Director for the Center for Health Services at Vanderbilt University (and in the spirit of full disclosure, I serve on the Board for the Center, so tracking her down wasn’t very difficult and, of course, I think the work the Center is doing is awesome and important) and asked her about what we can be doing better or more effectively to lower these numbers.

The thing that concerned me when I looked at the State’s website is that there seemed to me to be a lot of victim blaming.  Oh, if only these women had stayed in school or gone to the doctor more regularly or not been teenagers, they wouldn’t have suffered the death of their children.

I asked, “To me, this rings a little false, like the problem is just that these women won’t get their acts together.  Is it really as simple as getting women to shape up or is there something systemic about women’s lack of access to healthcare? ”

Barbara replied (via email):

Three of the explanations for the shockingly high rate of infant mortality (Adolescent pregnancy, Use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, Mothers with less than a high school education) appear at first glance to be related personal choices that women make.  However these factors are community and culture driven.  For instance, there is research that suggests that young girls with limited horizons, who do not believe they will succeed in education, job, etc, may opt for an early pregnancy because it is a clear and important life role.  Their “limited horizons” are community driven in so far as they are linked to inadequate and poor quality adult role modeling and guidance, schools that do not respond to their learning styles, neighborhood crime, etc.  In the case of early teen pregnancy, the evidence suggests that it is not uncommon for the other partner (the man) in the pregnancy to be significantly older, raising questions of power and intimidation.

The other causes you mentioned (Maternal infections during pregnancy, Preterm deliveries, Low birth weight babies, and Poverty) are clearly related to access to health care, use of health care, quality of health care, and financial resources.

I then asked what the State Legislature might do to help turn this around and Barbara replied:

Support community based, peer to peer interventions that address health issues by being embedded in community culture.  For instance, the Vanderbilt Center for Health Services (CHS) Maternal Infant Health Outreach Worker (MIHOW) program partners with medically underserved communities to improve the health of mothers and the birth outcomes and health of children.   MIHOW’s trained “natural helpers” are trained community women who assure that families utilize preventive care and parent in ways that assure good birth outcomes and healthy infancy and early childhood.  Approximately 50% of the participants across the south are African American.  In Nashville, current participants are approximately 90% Latina but two new MIHOW programs will be launched in January 2009 to serve the African American community.  Funding will come from  the TN Governor’s Office in partnership with United Neighborhood Health Services.  One is.  Data from MIHOW programs currently operating in Memphis and the state of MS suggest that the  program is reducing low birth weight and the indicators that lead to infant mortality.

I’m thrilled to be able to give another plug for the MIHOW program, especially because it is not about going into communities, telling them what they need, and then inflicting your change on them, but about communities identifying a need themselves and coming to MIHOW and saying, “Teach us to do this in our community.”

I am in love with believing that people know what their own problems are, even if they don’t know how, exactly to fix them.

But the thing that I think is important about her response is this: She’s not asking for more government programs.  She’s asking for the State to throw its resources behind programs that are already in place, that already work.

And, it’s important to note, if the State doesn’t throw its resources behind programs like MIHOW, they will still continue.  Not as broadly as they might, but they will still be there.  (And so could use your support.)

I have been thinking a lot about what we might do while we’re waiting for the Democrats to get their acts together (which Mack keeps insisting means while we’re getting our acts together) and I think the thing is, which is the obvious thing, we’ve got to have a vision for how we want the state to be and we’ve got to put our time and resources into achieving that vision.  If we can’t do it with the Democratic party as it (fails to) exist right now, then we’ve got to do it without them.  If we can’t do it with the Legislature as it exists right now, then we’ve got to do it without them.

The thing I’m strugging with is just what exactly, for me, “it” is.  Insisting that, if you’re born, you have a first birthday seems like a small part of it.