Sunday, April 15, 2012

States' Rights

I have never been a fan of States’ Rights. I suspect that if we ever became willing to grant too much authority to the states they would return to many of their past practices that were so egregious they had to be overturned in the first place. Slavery comes to mind, but more importantly for the moment, lynchings. There was a time when lynchings were common in parts of the country, especially in the southern states. Black people were lynched with some regularity and more often than not those responsible were not held accountable for what they did. While lynching may be the best example of states’ rights gone too far it is by no means the only one. Consider what has been going on in some of our states for the past couple of years.

Wisconsin is a good example, what with Governor Walker attempting to ram through anti union laws that were so outrageous it led to massive outpourings of anger and he will most likely be recalled. Ohio, too, is having similar troubles with their Republican Governor. Michigan is even worse, in that unfortunate state it is now possible for the Governor to appoint special authorities with dictatorial powers to completely override democratically elected officials, fire them at will, and literally have absolute power. Florida has attempted to enact laws so distasteful their Governor is the least popular of all Republican Governors.

Many states have now passed laws, or at least attempted to, to disenfranchise voters by the thousands, older voters, younger voters, minority voters, all those who would be likely to vote for democratic candidates. How well they will get away with this remains to be seen but there is no doubt about what it is they are attempting. Similarly, under Republican Governors in different states there have apparently been at least 90 anti-abortion bills of one kind or another, some of them so ridiculous as to make you wonder if the people there are even sane. Arizona perhaps leads the list of such states, having just passed a bill that basically says birth begins even before conception (or some such nonsense). Tennessee is perhaps worse when it comes to stupid bills, having just passed a bill making the teaching of evolution more difficult and legalizing the teaching of creationism in the classroom. They even have a bill that prohibits teachers from demonstrating hand holding as hand holding, they say, is a gateway to sexual activity. Left to their own devices there is no telling how many terrible, harmful, and stupid bills might be passed into law.

Possibly the worst example of all are the bills passed by now in some 26 states that have to do with the “Stand your ground” theme. The case of Trayvon Martin is the classic example. Trayvon Martin, 17 years of age, walking home with a bag of skittles and a soft drink was followed by a self-proclaimed community watchman (vigilante) armed with a 9mm handgun who apparently confronted him and in the altercation that followed shot him to death. There were apparently no very good witnesses, the perpetrator claimed self-defense and was allowed to just go free, no investigation, nothing. If it had not been for a massive outcry from the general public, even from some international sources, nothing whatsoever would have been done about this. Is this not completely reminiscent of days gone by? These stand your ground laws are little more than the functional equivalent of the lynch laws that were in effect and just ignored. If you are allowed to shoot and kill someone because you feel threatened and can plead self-defense and go free, is that not an invitation to take matters into your own hands knowing you will go unpunished? In my opinion these laws are little more than declaring open season on Black people, especially young Black males who in seems are always perceived as threatening. It is not clear if anything will be done to perhaps do away with such laws. They would presumably have to be overridden by the Federal government, as in the case of the laws attempting to disenfranchise voters, and also laws having to do with the restrictions on abortions. In short, the Federal government may have to intervene in some states to protect them from themselves, Tennessee and Arizona probably being by far the best examples. It seems that it is particularly in the area of civil rights that states are the most prone to overact and need to be monitored.

Another issue along these lines that troubles me has to do with Gay marriages. I believe that Gays should have the right to marry if they so choose. There are now several states where Gay marriages are legal, but there are even more states where such marriages are illegal. Does it make sense that Gay marriages should be legal only in some states? I don’t believe this makes sense at all. The same thing might be said of legalizing marijuana, death with dignity, gun ownership, and other things as well. It doesn’t make much sense to me to have American citizens considered criminals in one state but perfectly respectable citizens in the next state when they are engaging in exactly the same acts. I don’t imagine anything can be done about any but the most obvious civil rights violations but I think it would be a better country if there was more agreement on some of these basic issues.

This nation was founded by many men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.
John F. Kennedy

1 comment:

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