Dear Media

If you support re-electing any President, it’s still OK to criticize them. That way they will do a better job the next 4 years.

You cannot assume that because I find fault with decisions made by this administration that suddenly I’m a “disillusioned liberal” who has come down from a position of exuberant (and unmerited) joy in 2008 to a bitter, cynical and unhappy 2012. I’m not.  But unlike the previous administration, I don’t find criticism of the President to be “unpatriotic”.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with this administration. There are things I dislike, and some I dislike intensely (the continuation of covert wars, the fact that Guantanamo is still open, the assassination of non-combatant American citizens far from any theater of war). I will complain about them, and loudly. But don’t mistake this for the grumbling of an individual who is looking to exchange this administration for someone on the opposing party: it’s not, it’s just me celebrating my right and responsibility to participate in this country’s political sphere. I hold no illusion that the opposing party would have acted any differently on the issues I am against.

And above all, stop spreading the inane theory that the “Hope” posters we raised in 2008 were an expression of “hope that Obama would fix everything for us.” I, for one, held hope that we were electing an administration that would allow US to fix the things that had been broken in the previous 8 years. And I, for one, am happy that this hope is being realized: not as quickly as any of us would like, but I know that slow progress in the direction of improvement is far better than a quick march towards collapse.

I, for one, still have a hope poster. And it’s going up again this year.

As I watch the President this week attempt to compromise on components of the ACA, I see someone who is listening to the other side and trying to reach a reasonable middle. I see someone who believes that everyone should have health care, and that women should not be second-class citizens, and that we can work together to achieve that goal.

Who do I see on the other side? Inflexible, rigid, distrustful dogmatists who deny the reality of women’s choices in the twenty-first century, and want their religious beliefs to be the law of the land.

Why would I want to switch my allegiance to them? Why would I have any hope that they will be the ones to improve my lot, or the lot of the poor? Or that of women, or of children? Or of the gay person in the military? Or the sick and underinsured? Or the gay loving couple who wants the same rights everyone else has?

Why would I give them my vote? They have taken too much from us already, by reducing the national conversation to a shouting match in which they can cede no points, because their points are 3,000 year old and written, quite literally, in stone.

I prefer to look to the future. See you at the voting booth.

At first blush, a good compromise

When JFK was in the process of being elected, there was huge concern that the Vatican would be setting the agenda in Washington, and (Catholic) President Kennedy had to reassure everyone that wouldn’t happen.

Half a century later the concern is that we’re not all respecting the Pope’s position on contraception… a position that by most accounts and surveys, even Catholics mostly ignore.

My tax money goes to support these tax-exempt organizations, and I’m offended by their position. Where’s my exemption? I don’t want to support their oppression, just like they don’t want to support women having reproductive choices. As soon as I get my exemption, they can get theirs.

But now my head is spinning a bit from the White House compromise on the insurance-covered contraception issue exemption for religious institutions. While I have yet to see the details, it sounds… like a great compromise? I’m not used to hearing the phrase “Democrats compromise on…” without parsing it as “Democrats shatter their spines bending over backwards on…”, but this seems extraordinarily reasonable, and well-considered.

The President said that “no woman’s health should depend on where she works.” Thank you, Mr. President, that’s exactly the heart of this issue.

And the Catholic Health Organization AND Planned Parenthood agreeing on an issue? That’s a first.

The Catholic Bishops came across poorly, and out of touch overall in this debate: “Sources familiar with White House thinking on the matter have said the administration is convinced approval from conservative Catholics is out of reach, and is trying to win over more progressive Catholics.” No kidding.

MN AU for Separation of Church and State

I am working with a group of people to form a Minnesota chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:  it’s a nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans. Founded in 1947, AU is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization based in Washington, D.C., that addresses issues such as religion in government and public schools, religious discrimination and free exercise, and reproductive and marriage rights. There are over 60 local chapters, but there is not yet one in Minnesota. We are starting one (in part) as a response to the MN Marriage Amendment, which we consider to be an unconstitutional entanglement of Church and State.

The first meeting of members of this chapter-in-formation will be on Thursday, February 23, at 7:00 p.m. at the Southdale Library, 7001 York Ave. S., Edina, second floor, Ethel Berry room. Come on over, we’d love to hear your views.

Check out the flyer!