Wednesday, June 17, 2009


How is it that in 2009, a year in which we have our first black President of the United States and have nominated the first Latina for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, we TOLERATE racism in the federal government?

I won't be so naive as to ask how it perseveres; I get that. So long as we have people from different races we will always have some measure of racism. I've resigned myself to that sobering truth. I simply don't understand how we tolerate it in our government once it's discovered! This of course stems from the news earlier this week about Sherri Goforth, a legislative aide for Senator Diane Black of Tennessee. In case you had not heard, this woman, an employee of the State of Tennessee for more than 20 years, used her work computer and her work e-mail address to send an e-mail to a large number of recipients, many of whom were also public employees. This e-mail contained portraits of all 44 of our Presidents; that last one, of President Obama, was nothing black a black square with cartoon white eyes in it.

Now, this seems pretty innocuous and on some levels I would agree. Were this person to have made a joke like this in private, on their own time, I would have been in favor of a private reprimand (as it still makes the government look bad). But this racist gag was perpetrated on the clock using official resources. That means it violates all manner of workplace ethics and could be taken to represent an official viewpoint of her boss and the Republican Party of Tennessee. Senator Black is, on some level, the real target of my scorn. She has stated repeatedly that he will not tolerate this sort of behavior, and yet has chosen only to "punish" his aide by written reprimand; to the best of my knowledge there is no suspension and no termination. Why not? Senator Black, if you REALLY want to show that you will not tolerate racism, fire Ms. Goforth immediately. THAT sends a real message of zero tolerance that will be believed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

For the second time in seven months, every ballot counted in a presidential election points towards social and political evolution for country. But the on-going presidential election in Iran contains ramifications far beyond the identity of their next chief executive; the electoral process moves women's suffrage to heights unimagined even ten year ago.

Women are lining up to vote in record numbers and beginning to express a political voice and conscious heretofore hidden behind the religious and ethnic ideology. And make no escape about it; these women risk much to publicly demonstrate against a decidedly non-secular government.

So I prey for these courageous women that their faith and bravery are not forsaken but rewarded. And I prey that I might learn conviction from them to apply in my own life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Free Speech

I sat incredulous today after hearing that a 88 year-old man walked into the Washington D.C. Holocost Museum and opened fire. That shock worsened when I learned he denies the Holocaust, advocates white supremacy, and served time in Federal Prison as a result of kidnapping charges.

Let me start by stating, without equivocation, that the Holocaust inflicted on the Jewish people (as well as others) by the Nazi regime before and during World War II represents the nadir of humanity's self-abuse. The Holocaust IS a terrible blight on our history and must forever be remembered as an example of something we, as a species, must vigorously prevent until the end of days. There can be no doubt it was real, it was atrocious, and it was intentional.

Having said that, I worry that tragedies like today's shooting will intensify a public outcry for a prohibition on "Holocaust denial speech". While I think such speech is deplorable and needs to be out-shouted and corrected at every opportunity, I also think that folks must maintain their rights to speak freely until such time as their words threaten public safety.

I believe it no mistake that Freedom of Speech is guaranteed first by our Bill of Rights. The ability of our citizenry to voice all opinions and represent every possible viewpoint in debate must be preserved at all cost. While I agree that all of the rights preserved by the Bill of Rights can be limited as necessary, I also agree that the necessity must be severe and the must present a real threat to the public before such limitation.

I believe it our duty to find these haters, to repeatedly demonstrate the deceit and vitriol contained in their "beliefs", and to shame them away from the debates over and over again until they yield. But we must not take away their right to have such a skewed and flawed opinion, nor can we strip them of their right to voice that opinion. We must be better than that.