Beware of Originalists

They hold an unrealistic and toxic philosophy that is dangerous for an ever-evolving society.

Originalists believe that certain documents (and apparently, they get to choose which ones) should be interpreted as they were understood at the time they were written. If it suits them. Oh, where to begin.

First of all, the documents they choose to apply this philosophy to are usually documents that have a legal and/or social impact upon us all, such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  And when I say “us all” I’m referring to those of us who are living and breathing and viewing our world through our current cultural lens with our current scientific and technological understanding.

The arrogance of Originalists leaves me speechless. The idea that they have any clue how any document was understood at the time it was written if said document is more than a decade or two old is beyond the pale. If Americans can’t even agree on whether a life saving vaccine is in our best interests, how on earth can we assume that we can crawl inside the minds of a group of men sitting in a room in Pennsylvania in 1787 and accurately determine their intentions?

And a better question might be, why would we want to? For the constitution to continue to be of any value at all to us, it needs to change with the times and the culture that it purports to regulate. The constitution itself provides a framework of how government should be run. It lays out our (increasingly skewed) system of checks and balances, and also explains how the states relate to the federal government. That’s the skeleton of it all. But the amendments are the vital organs, the tissue, the muscle that keeps the constitution relevant and vital and up to date. At least that’s what amendments should be doing.

All our amendments came about because we have learned some hard lessons over time. We have changed and grown as a nation. We’re dealing with things that the founding fathers couldn’t even conceive of back then.

We learned that freedom of religion is critical to a country that wishes to allow human beings to explore their own spiritual belief system, rather than forcing us all into a rigid box where we’re told what to do and what we should believe without question. While many of us seem to actively seek out that sort of treatment these days, it’s increasingly obvious that checking one’s brains at the door does not serve us well.

The second amendment didn’t come along until 1791 and is about the right OF A WELL REGULATED MILITIA to bear arms.  The founding fathers were a group of privileged white men in 1787, who could never have conceived of a toaster oven, let alone an automatic weapon (the Gatling gun wasn’t even invented until 1861). It had not even occurred to these men men to put anything about arms in the original body of the constitution. Do we really think that those men wanted to make it okay for people to walk into classrooms and fire bullets that spin so wildly that they don’t just kill, they mutilate beyond recognition, and they do so at such high speeds that they kill the maximum number of humans in the shortest amount of time?

And from a modern standpoint, are mass shooters, or for that matter, any individuals, considered to be a well regulated militia these days? How is that possible? Why would anyone want to make that acceptable?

When you consider that bloodletting was still being recommended as a viable treatment option by some physicians in the 1920’s, do we really want to look at the constitution as a rigid document that requires a 1787 mindset to be considered valid? Similarly, would you want to only be allowed to pursue the happiness as described in the Declaration of Independence if you had to look at it from a 1776 standpoint? Back then, you were lucky to live into your 40’s. Do you think their pursuit of happiness would align with ours? Do you think they’d have had the same opinions about a lifetime appointment to the supreme court had they known that our life expectancy today would be double what they were experiencing?

We have outgrown certain things in this country. We should modernize our constitution to allow for the importance of civic responsibility and public health. None of us should have to beg for equal rights. None of us should have to be hesitant to assemble, for fear of being mowed down by gunmen. Every single one of us should have sole autonomy over our own bodies, unless said autonomy negatively impacts public health. Voting should be easy. We have no need for an electoral college anymore. Gerrymandering should be outlawed. There should be a way to keep the internet accessible to all, and yet somehow regulate the lies and the misinformation that runs rampant therein. We need to re-implement the fairness doctrine, but make it applicable to the ever-increasing number of ways that we can now communicate. We need term limits for congress. Judges on the supreme court should not be appointed for a lifetime, and for the love of God, they should be held to the same ethical standards as other lawyers. When there is a conflict of interest, it should be mandatory that said justice recuses himself from the case.

Originalism is an unrealistic and toxic philosophy that is dangerous for an ever-evolving society. Six of the nine current Supreme Court judges are originalists to some degree. They aren’t thinking about modern times or consequences when they make their rulings. That’s scary, don’t you think? While we’re modernizing the constitution, we might want to put something in there to require that it continue to be modernized, because if Americans exist in another 231 years, they sure as heck won’t want to crawl into the twisted minds that are holding the reins of power today to decide how decent people should live in their version of the present.

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Sitting Beside Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

She had so much to lose by coming forward.

Yesterday morning, I’m sure I knew on some level that the hearings regarding Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged assault of Christine Blasey Ford were about to begin. But I pushed that out of my mind. I mowed my lawn. I vacuumed. I took a bath and got ready for work. It was a typical day for me. At least that’s what I was allowing myself to pretend.

Driving to work at 2 p.m., I could no longer maintain that comforting level of dissociation. I listen to NPR on my commute, and the hearings were still in full force. By that time, I was listening to an outraged, belligerent Brett Kavanaugh.

I tried to keep an open mind. If I were falsely accused, I’d be furious, too. If people were ruining my reputation on national TV, I’d probably show my a$$ a little, too. And guilty or innocent, I’m willing to concede that the man has been through a lot.

Here’s the thing that I couldn’t ignore. When he was asked if he’d urge the president to allow the FBI to investigate, he refused. If you’re truly innocent, what do you have to hide? Why wouldn’t you allow a bevy of professionally trained law enforcement officers look in to the situation? If you’re innocent, the FBI would help you prove that, without a shadow of a doubt, and then you could waltz into your life-long Supreme Court appointment, vindicated, with nary a bad stench wafting behind your judicial robes.

He talked about a Democratic conspiracy. He talked about the revenge of the Clintons. But he did not want an FBI investigation, which would surely expose those things. True conspiracies are rather easy to expose. Why wouldn’t he be calling for proof? I sure as heck would, if someone were trashing my good name.

As I arrived at work, I knew that I’d have to hear Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony as well. So I pulled up a Youtube video of it, and to my horror, it was more than 4 hours long. But I had to watch it all.

Okay, I admit I fast forwarded through the lunch break, in which the cameras were trained on empty chairs. Same with the 15 minute break. But still. That was a lot of testimony.

I felt obligated to listen, with a critical ear. Fair’s fair. But it was a hard thing to hear.

And after all that I heard, I believe her.

If she were lying, why would she risk exposure by urging further investigation? If she were lying, why would she risk failing a polygraph test (which apparently she cried all the way through for good measure)? She had so much to lose by coming forward. She’s lost her home and her anonymity and her safety. Even if someone were paying her off, it would never be enough.

So as the testimony wore on, I found myself imagining that I was sitting beside her, holding her hand. Because what she did was incredibly brave, and no doubt terrifying. I’m sure millions of women who watched were sitting beside her in spirit, too. Because she was speaking for all of us. #WhyIDidntReport

If the Republicans ram Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination through without further investigation, I think historians will see this as the point when our democracy officially died.

This country is standing on a very dark and ominous precipice. No matter which way this goes, we’re never going to be the same.

Ominous

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#WhyIDidntReport

It’s not polite to rock the boat.

These are very triggering times, boys and girls. And they should be. They should be. Because Trump’s piss-poor attitude about Christine Blasey Ford is just a reflection of our general cultural ignorance regarding the subject of sexual assault and abuse.

One of the most outrageous things to come out of Trump’s pie-hole (and let’s admit that that bar is already set pretty freakin’ low) is, “Why didn’t somebody call the FBI 36 years ago?”

Um… because the FBI doesn’t deal with the abuse of traumatized teenagers? Because 36 years ago, nobody gave a shit about girls being sexually assaulted? Because to this day, it’s an uphill battle to get justice in these situations?

Gee, I dunno. Why on earth didn’t she report Kavanaugh 36 years ago?

Let me jump on the bandwagon with the thousands of others out there who are attempting to patiently explain #WhyIDidntReport.

Forty-Three years ago, when I was 11 years old, my stepfather began sexually abusing me. This went on for two years, until, at age 13, I broke a board across his knee and told him that if he ever touched me again, I’d kill him. And he knew I meant it. I knew I meant it. I’ve never been so certain of anything in my entire life. He never touched me again.

That was the closest I ever came to justice. Other than that, he got off scot-free. And he didn’t do me the courtesy of dying until I was 27, so I could have reported. But I didn’t. Here are some of the millions of reasons why:

  • I was a good girl, taught to respect my elders. He was the adult in the situation, so even though what he was doing felt awful, to my young mind, it must be right. Right?

  • I was 21 years old before it occurred to me that what he did wasn’t my fault. No one ever told me that. (It’s not your fault, either, by the way.)

  • I was afraid that if I spoke up, I’d be taken away from my mother and thrown into foster care, where the abuse would continue, this time by strangers.

  • I didn’t want to bother anyone. It’s not polite to rock the boat.

  • I was afraid that if my stepfather went to jail, we would become even poorer than we already were, and we were living in a tent at the time.

  • I didn’t want my mother to get into trouble.

  • Because I was just a kid, ill equipped to take on the whole world.

  • I didn’t want the world to know my humiliation.

  • I didn’t understand how the law worked.

  • I saw on TV how women who went to court about these things where treated like whores and emotionally abused by the defense lawyers.

  • I was shy.

  • I had such low self-esteem I didn’t think I deserved justice.

  • I didn’t want to think about it.

  • I wanted it all to go away.

  • When I told my mother, she said I was “making too much of it.”

  • When I told his adult son, he didn’t do anything.

  • When I told a counselor at school, he didn’t do anything.

  • I was all alone in this.

  • Most of my female friends had been abused at some point, too. They didn’t report, either.

  • Because as time wore on, I knew I was less and less credible.

  • Because it would be my word against his, and he was a white male.

  • Because attitudes like Trumps are the rule, not the exception, and because of that, we get Supreme Court Judges like Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

I could go on and on. But if you are the kind of ignorant asshole who doesn’t feel that all of the above is enough, then there’s no convincing you. So I’m done.

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Given the subject matter, I felt that only a self-portrait would do. But this was an extremely emotional photo to take.

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F*** the Freedom Foundation

The cockroaches have begun to scurry out of the woodwork.

Wow. That didn’t take long at all. Ever since Janus v. AFSCME was decided by the supreme court to defund and defang unions to the detriment of the working man, the cockroaches have begun to scurry out of the woodwork.

One such cockroach-like group is the highly funded Freedom Foundation. They just submitted a public records request for the contact information of all the employees in my union and many others across the nation. They plan to send mailers to our homes to try to talk us into opting out of our unions. They are also showing up at workplaces, and they actually plan to go door to door to our homes, to get us to opt out.

If you visit this shady organizations website, you’ll see steaming piles of b.s. such as “We have a vision of a day when opportunity, responsible self-governance, and free markets flourish in America because its citizens understand and defend the principles from which freedom is derived.”

Yeah, because bureaucracies are KNOWN for their responsible self-governance. Good grief. If the free market systems of the world didn’t instinctively screw workers over, then unions wouldn’t exist in the first place. The only reason we HAVE any freedom whatsoever is because of unions.

Stay strong, folks. Don’t drink the kool aid. And if the Freedom Foundation comes knocking on your door, remember that you’re well within your rights to tell them to get the hell off your property. That’s what I plan to do.

Union Beg

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You Just Got A Lot Less Free

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled against you, me, and everyone else in the Janus vs AFSCME case. Now, everyone in the public sector, regardless of the state in which he or she resides, is in a “right to work” state.

Basically, it means that people in union jobs in the public sector no longer are required to pay union dues, and yet they will get the benefit of union services. That sounds great unless you scratch the surface. If fewer of us pay union dues, the unions will spend more time financially struggling, and less time protecting workers.

Why should you care? Trust me, I lived in Florida, a “right to work” state, for decades. For the past 4 years, I’ve been in Washington, a collective bargaining state, and the differences were blatantly obvious.

For starters, I am now earning 3 times as much for doing the exact same job. In Florida I was barely making more than minimum wage, and had no benefits to speak of. Here in Washington, I get holiday pay and sick leave and have medical and dental and vision insurance. I have retirement. In other words, I can survive.

In Florida, when we were exposed to lead paint, our supervisor told us to drink more milk. That was supposed to take care of lead poisoning. Here, our health and safety is so focused on, it’s the opposite extreme, meaning I have to wear a hard hat every time I step out on the sidewalk. But at least I won’t be hit by a low flying plane!

In Florida, I could be fired for no reason at all, and it happened to people all the time. In Washington, even the people who should get fired almost never do. But at least you can sleep at night, knowing you’ll have a job tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong: They still try to screw you over in Washington State. They just don’t succeed as often. Thanks to unions. And that’s something to hold on to. But now, that’s gone. Greedy people will stop paying their union dues. (I’ll keep paying. They’ve saved my bacon too many times to stop supporting them now.) Without our support, the unions will get stretched thinner and thinner until they break.

And that’s what the conservatives are counting on. You elected them. Now look at what is going to happen to you. The statistics in the image below are all too true. And the crazy thing is, even if you aren’t in a union job, these statistics trickle down to you as well.

Okay, I’m not explaining this well. (I tend to be less coherent when I’m upset.) Check out this video and you’ll understand. It’s 3:35, so only a few minutes of your time to realize just how screwed this conservative-packed supreme court just made you.

Welcome to our new reality. Think about that next time you enter the voting booth. And happy 4th of July.

#UnionStrong #FreedomToJoin

RTW-Is-Wrong

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A Message to the World

Hello. I’m an American. Never in my life did I imagine that I would say this, but I am ashamed of the state of my country. I am embarrassed at the face we are currently showing to the world. This is not who we are.

Never again will I look at another country and assume that all its people agree with its government. Because I don’t. Never again will I think of the resident of another country as possessing a stereotypical characteristic based on that person’s place of birth. Because clearly, I no longer fit in here.

In recent months I’ve been seeing a great deal of ugliness. I’ve seen Americans spewing hate. I’ve seen selfishness and greed and intolerance. I’ve seen ignorance deified and intelligence vilified. I’ve seen science discounted and fantasy encouraged. I’ve seen violence. I’ve seen misogyny. I’ve seen fraud. I see more and more lies every day.

I am so sorry that things have gotten this way. I didn’t vote for Trump. I wouldn’t have approved any of his cabinet members or his choices for the Supreme Court. There is not a single thing that this man has done that I agree with. Not one.

I’m particularly mortified that his immigration policies are making so many people live in fear. This is not acceptable to me. I am a second generation American, and the vast majority of the people who live here are descended from immigrants. We have absolutely no right to do what we are currently doing.

We also have no right to treat the Native Americans the way that we do. If anyone should have moral currency with regard to how we treat the land here, it should be them. They should not be beaten down for wanting water that is safe to drink. Shame on us.

We, of all people, should not have the right to negatively impact women’s health at home or abroad. We should also appreciate the good work that other members of the United Nations do every single day. We should be good stewards of our environment, because what we do affects the entire planet.

I just want you to know that many Americans still believe in human rights, freedom, justice, the environment, freedom of speech, science, peace, and respect for all people who do good in this world. I want you to know that those of us who feel this way will not remain silent. We will speak out for the values that we all strive to maintain. Our voices might get drowned out by those in power, but please don’t stop listening for us. We are here.

Because what you’re seeing now is not who we are.

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Inclusion

Yet another reason to love Seattle. I just read in this article that they’ve unveiled several rainbow crosswalks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and they will last long after this year’s Pride festivities are over and done with. And then the Supreme Court ruled that same sex marriage is legal nationwide. That’s the best thing to come out of the Supreme Court in many years.

Whether you approve of homosexuality or not (And frankly, you approval isn’t asked for or required. It would be like asking if you approve of someone’s eye color.), these developments are good for everyone. Here’s why:

Anyone who has survived past 6th grade knows what it’s like to be excluded, isolated, treated like you are an outsider. Everyone has experienced that pain. Because of this, I will never understand people whose moral or political policy is one of exclusion.

We don’t have to agree with people to accept them for who they are. They should not need some sort of inspection stamp to allow them to be included in the human race, with all the rights and privileges thereof. Forcing anyone into the realm of pain and isolation lacerates the very fabric of society.

As long as someone isn’t doing you any physical harm, why would you want to perpetuate negative energy? Why not allow everyone to feel welcome, included, and even embraced by the communities of which they are a vital part? How hard is that? There can never be too much love in the world.

If you hate certain groups, or feel they should be treated less decently than others, you may want to take a long, hard look at yourself and consider what pollution you are putting out in the world. Because the funny thing about pollution is that it doesn’t discriminate. Sooner or later it affects us all.

[Image credit: capitolhillseattle.com]
[Image credit: capitolhillseattle.com]

My Hobbies are None of Your Business, Boss

Just when you thought the Supreme Court couldn’t sink any lower in its conservative white male support of corporations over the human beings they are supposed to represent, along comes this foolishness with Hobby Lobby. Their landmark ruling on that lawsuit means that your employer now has the right to impose his beliefs on your body. HOW DARE THEY???

The owners of Hobby Lobby have very strong religious convictions. Good for them. They have decided that contraceptives are a sin. Fine. Then they shouldn’t take contraceptives.

But they’ve taken the concept one step further. They’ve decided that they have the right to impose their beliefs on the at least 15,000 women that they employ nationwide. Thanks to the Supreme Court, they are now allowed to provide these women with health insurance that will not cover birth control.

This won’t stop these women from using birth control. I guarantee you that. But it will impose a financial hardship, and I have no doubt that Hobby Lobby pays its employees pathetically, as that seems to be the retailer trend these days. In many cases it will cause these women to seek out more affordable but less effective alternatives, and this will impact their health and the very structure of their families.

Here’s what no one seems to be saying. If my boss tried to have a conversation with me about my health choices, if he tried to give me advice on what I should do when I’m off the clock, if he even dared to suggest that my private life were any of his business whatsoever, I’d sit him down, look him straight in the eye, calmly inform him that I’m a grown-ass woman and he is not my father, and then I’d tell him to shut his pie hole.

And that should be the end of the conversation. There should never have been a single court in the land that would view this as a legitimate lawsuit. It is a sad day in this country when there is legal sanction to treat employees as if they are children. You pay me, and part of that pay is in the form of health insurance, in exchange for my hard work. A fair trade. It has been that way since the emancipation proclamation. What I do after receiving that compensation, even if it involves sacrificing goats under the light of the full moon, has nothing whatsoever to do with you.

One thing is for certain: I won’t ever spend another penny in a Hobby Lobby. And since the vast majority of their customers are women, I hope all women with sense will do the same thing. If I were a competing retailer, I’d take advantage of this opportunity to make it perfectly clear that I, unlike Hobby Lobby, respect a woman’s right to make her own decisions. Now THAT store would have my undying loyalty.

And believe you me, if there were a way to also boycott the Supreme Court, I’d be doing that, too. They are completely out of control. Sheesh.

body rights

[Image credit: Hikaru Cho]

Upset that Everyone Now Has the Same Rights that You Do? Oh, Simmer Down.

Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal, Fundamentalist, Atheist, anywhere in the spectrum, all Americans have to abide by the US constitution. There’s nowhere that says you have to like it. So feel free to pitch a tantrum. I just wish you’d do it in the privacy of your own home, because you are messin’ with my celebration here!

I’m never wild about getting political on this blog, but when the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act the other day we witnessed history, and I couldn’t be more proud. At a time when politicians on both sides of the aisle, lawmakers, and bureaucrats in general are behaving in a shameless, corrupt and despicable manner, it does my heart good to know that sometimes they still manage to get things right. And this administration has done more for LGBT rights than any other in the history of the world. Yay!

Opponents of this decision will use California as an example, and say that the federal government should have no right to overturn the decision of the majority of the people. California voted against proposition 8, thus depriving a segment of the population their right to marry, and saying only marriages between a man and a woman are legal, and that should be that, right?

To that I say poppycock. If you had asked the Germans to vote in 1935 to deprive the Jews of every single right imaginable, they would have. That wouldn’t make that action any less of an utter slap in the face of civil rights. So I’m THRILLED that the federal government doesn’t care what you want, California! There are times when what you want isn’t the right thing. Sorry.

Everyone should have the same rights. No group should be singled out. And every year, on the anniversary of this fateful day, and as more and more states make gay marriage legal, more and more people will pull their heads out of their behinds, look around, and realize that allowing people to marry whom they love has not in fact brought about the destruction of life as we know it. It hasn’t oozed into the very foundation of individual marriages, causing some sort of irreparable damage. It hasn’t caused children’s heads to explode. And it certainly isn’t going to loose the four horses of the apocalypse.

So enough with the free floating anxiety. Relax in the knowledge that civil rights seem to actually matter in this country, at least every once in a while.

Confetti