Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Feeling cross over felling crosses

Only a lawyer could find reason to declare two pieces of wood unconstitutional. It came to light this week that the ACLU, representing an anonymous plaintiff, is doing just that. A few days ago vandals cut down a wooden cross on the sand dunes near the Monterey Beach Resort. The City of Monterey may be unable to repair or replace it due to legal opinions that a religious symbol on public park land is unconstitutional. The cross, which stood for several decades, along with a second cross above Carmel River Beach, was erected to replicate a historic event.

In December 1769 the Portola land expedition, suffering from malnutrition and illness, failed to connect with a supply ship. Before returning to San Diego, they erected two crosses, one overlooking Monterey beach, and another overlooking Carmel River Beach. They were not intended primarily as religious symbols, but as easily constructed markers that would be recognized by ships at sea. Buried under the crosses were messages reporting on their situation.

The principle of separation of church and state is intended to prevent government from forcing citizens to participate in religious activities, and to prevent churches from having undue influence over the affairs of government. It does not require that every square inch of public property must be sterilized of any religious reference.

The crosses overlooking local beaches were never intended to promote religion. Their actual historic meaning is more secular than religious. In no way do they require anyone to participate in religious worship, nor do they influence government business. Therefore they should satisfy constitutional requirements.

The fact that some people find Christian symbols offensive is not sufficient reason to remove them by legal or illegal means. Seeing offense where none is intended is nothing but a thought self-generated by the mind that is offended. It has no objective substance. Our community should not have to sacrifice cultural artifacts for the sake of a few who cannot put them into historical perspective. Nor should we reward the vandals who cut down the Monterey cross by allowing legal squabbles to obstruct repairs.
Addendum: September 30. The Monterey Herald has posted photos of the day the cross was dedicated, indicating it was erected as part of the city's bicentennial celebration. Click here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mental Manipulation.

Watch this brief commercial from the Republican National Committee and see if you can spot the ways they're trying to manipulate you.

The ad begins with a thinly veiled accusation that Washington Democrats are blaming citizens for opposition to health care reform, when they're actually trying to correct misinformation that has spread like a California wildfire.

The ad then builds on this misinterpretation of misinformation by presenting a seniors "Bill of Rights" relating to healthcare. These rights include:

  1. No cuts to Medicare to pay for another program.
  2. Make it illegal to ration health care based on age.
  3. Prevent any government role in end-of-life care.
  4. Stop bureaucrats from getting between seniors and their doctors.
The implication is that Democrats have proposed doing all of these things. But if you listen carefully, Mr. Steele never actually says Democrats are doing that - because they aren't! Had Mr. Steele said they were actually planning these things, the RNC could no doubt be fined or sued for false advertising.

Instead, the RNC has left those accusations to the far-right opinion commentators who are not obligated to tell the truth. These people have thrown the public into a panic over proposals that don't exist, at least not in the form described. The RNC ad simply gives a wink and a nod to the rumors and implies they are true.

From what I've seen, the Democrats have no reason to disagree with the RNC's points. In fact, these are exactly the sort of things health care reformers are working to accomplish! As I noted in my previous Mental Note, this isn't about telling the truth. It's about defeating the Democrats.

AARP has posted an excellent article Health Care Reform: The Assault On Truth which corrects the Republican distortions in clear language. I'm sure the AARP is more concerned about seniors than the RNC, because all of its members are over the age of 50, and cover a broader range of the political and economic spectrum.

As for the RNC's "Bill of Rights" I think Congressional Democrats should call the GOP's bluff, and pass a resolution endorsing those very same points. After all, Mr. Steele says in his commercial these are "things we can all agree on." I just wish the GOP would acknowledge that Democrats already agree.