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It’s Bush and Cheney, Damn It April 22, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About George Bush, About Human Rights, About Justice, About Repubicans, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
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Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.com, April 22, 2009


No one is more outraged than I am about the Bush administrations gross violations of domestic and international law and the Obama administration complicity in what amounts to no less than a cover-up.  The release of the infamous “torture memos” along with Obama and Rahm Emanuel granting immunity to both the lawyers who wrote the phony justifications for torture or the CIA agents who carried out the acts of barbarism, has us debating which level of subalterns should be held legally accountable.


While there is no doubt given the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg principles that no one who participated in these crimes against humanity should be let off the hook, there is a long tradition in American jurisprudence of convicting lower level criminals while those who had the power to make the decisions go scot free.  The Abu Ghraib convictions are a case in point.


While it is impossible not to support initiatives such as the possible indictment of the “Bush Six” by Spanish Justice Baltasar Garzón, the movement to impeach Justice Jay Bybee, and various other proposals for Congressional investigation, Commissions of Inquiry, etc.; if the focus is not on Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the others at the highest level of government, then there is virtually no chance that the kind of justice demanded by the events will be fulfilled.


Realistically speaking, given the strength of the neo- Fascist Right in the country along with the high degree of spinelessness if not outright complicity within the Democratic Party, it is hard to picture a scenario where criminal charges are laid and prosecuted against Bush and Cheney.  But I would argue that this is no time for realism, that the war crimes and constitutional violations that were carried out with impunity are too serious to overlook in the name of pragmatism.


As we reel in disbelief and disgust at the perversion of language and morality that are contained in the newly released torture memos, we must not lose sight of the enormity of the overall thrust of the crimes committed by the Bush/Cheney cabal, the warrantless wiretapping, the extraordinary renditons, the politicization of the Justice Department, the signing statements, the intelligence neglect that enabled 9/11, and – above all else – the deceit and lies that were used to justify the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, the consequence of which in terms of death and human suffering is beyond comprehension.


There is an old Negro spiritual that we sung during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s: “Keep your eyes on the prize …”  The Prize is no less than the indictment and conviction of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  From there we move on to lesser but no less guilty culprits.

Same Sex Marriage: Is the Separation of Church and State a Fundamental Issue? November 13, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in About Human Rights, Human Rights.
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© Roger Hollander, 2008-11-13


(dedicated to Keith Olbermann)


In light of the negative results for same sex civil rights in California, Florida, Arizona and Arkansas elections on November 4, I suggest it may be helpful to take a political/philosophical/analytical look at the issue.


My thesis is the following:


Prejudice and bigotry aside, the greatest obstacle to resolving the human rights issue of same sex marriage is the unfortunate historic “marriage” of church and state in the marriage business.


Those who practice religious beliefs have the right to define in their own terms what a “marriage” between two human beings is.  What they don’t have a right to do is to impose that definition on anyone else, least of all the state.  Nor do they have the right to put into practice within their own communities a definition that violates human rights.  This is true regardless of the degree to which their views are honestly held versus being based upon veiled bigotry.


From the point of view of civil society, what is generally referred to as “marriage” has to do with certain civil rights (inheritance, taxes, adoption, etc.) and restrictions (age, bigamy, incest, etc.).  In a secular democracy where human rights are respected, these rights and restrictions need apply to everyone (it is a large part of the problem that the fundamentalist religious right in North America does not believe in or advocate secular democracy, rather they are intent upon imposing a theocracic form of government, not that different from their Islamic counterparts).


It has been the con(fusion) of the religious and civil concepts via state sanctioned religious marriages that has been the root of the problem.  This reality reflects itself in the fact that many who oppose same sex marriage have no problem with civil unions.


This, of course, is not to underestimate the impact of bigotry, religious or otherwise, on the issue.  However, it is important to have a clear political analysis with honest, clean and understandable definitions.  Just as it has been crucial with respect to women’s reproductive health rights that the issue be defined as pro-choice and not pro-abortion; it is essential that those who favor same sex civil rights recognize and take into account that anti-gay bigotry is one thing, and the fundamental issue of the separation of church and state is another.


From a pragmatic political perspective, had the No vote for Proposition Eight prevailed in California, then perhaps it would have turned out for the good to have fought the battle on the grounds of “gay marriage.”  Furthermore, it is understandable that men and women who are gay and Lesbian should feel entitled to the same rights and the rest of the population, even if the social institution of concern is morally or politically flawed.  A gay or Lesbian pacifist, for example, would not be in self-contradiction advocating for equal rights in the military.


Nevertheless, in the long run I believe it is always best to struggle on the grounds of reason and justice even if it is going to entail a long and arduous battle.  Plato said that we should judge the actual by the ideal and not the other way around.  Separating religious union from civil union should therefore should never be lost sight of as the fundamental objective; it should be the long term goal regardless of tactical manoeuvres that may make sense along the way.

In an ideal world civil union would be the broader category; every couple who wished to be considered legally a single unit by the state, regardless of sexual orientation and regardless of religious affiliation, would be required to have their union performed and sanctioned by the state.  Amongst that larger population, those with religious beliefs would be free, in addition, to be “married” by their church authority.


In and ideal world, a church that believed that “marriage” should only be between a man and a women, might only consider as “married” those both within and outside their community who meet that definition, but would in no way discriminate against same sex couples either within or outside their communities, who have entered into state sanctioned civil unions.


A final tangential thought.  When I was a student in the 1950s and 1960s, I could not have conceived that in my lifetime we would see the election of an Afro-American President in the United States.  I regret to say that at the moment, I find it just as hard to conceive of the election of an openly gay or Lesbian President in my children’s lifetime.  It is my fervent wish nonetheless that History will prove me wrong once again.