For four days, Democrats reminded us what it is to dream of a better world. The old lion, Ted Kennedy anchored the week, reminding us that Democrats have long championed the dream of a better America that can and should be built by a nation blessed with advantages and resources which most nations can’t imagine. Michelle Obama gave a voice and face and a family context to a new generation of leaders taking up the challenge to dream and achieve.
Then Hillary Clinton, who defines relentless assault on the glass ceiling and social injustice, and Bill Clinton, who delivered the dream of improved social programs along with a balanced budget, set the stage for Barack Obama to take up the challenge of recapturing and carrying forward the dream which has been squandered and lost for eight years.
But while Democrats this week dream of moving society forward, improving the lives of all people, and discussing important national and international themes, there are bigots at home, dreaming just as hard about turning back the clock, to enshrine discrimination, and to make personal fortunes pandering to popular fears and ignorance. A news item this week revealed that a Washington D.C. hate group, “ProEnglish”, paid more than $1 per signature to put a measure on the ballot this fall in Nashville, Tennessee, to outlaw foreign languages there.
Think about that – no foreign languages permitted in Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville is one of the world’s great music cities. People may not know about all the recording studios, songwriters, music lawyers, and other industry related activities there that draw business from around the world. But around the planet, people know that Nashville is home of the Grand Ole Opry, and other music programs on radio and television.
Now a group of Washington D.C. bigots wants Nashville voters to thumb their noses at foreign tourists who come to Nashville to hear the music, attend the show tapings, take tours, and spend tourist dollars. They want Nashville to take down foreign language signs helping tourists find their way, and to end production of foreign language guidebooks, maps, informational flyers, and all the other things that help tourists spend money.
Sure, this may cost Nashville, and Tennessee, tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tourist income. But it’s worth it to the bigots to get a law outlawing foreign-ness in Nashville. It’s worth it to the bigots because they will pocket millions of dollars raised in the campaign to promote the ballot measure. They profit handsomely whether the measure passes or not.
Does this sound ridiculous to you? Are Southern voters really so provincial that they might vote against their own interests just to show that they support bigotry? Before you snicker at them, look in our own back yard. A ballot measure, funded mostly by out-of-state, for-profit businessmen, is on our statewide ballot this November. Proposition 8 (really, proposition HATE) is created for the express purpose of rewriting the California Constitution to make discrimination legal and mandatory in California. Proposition Hate is on the November ballot for one reason – to make a profit for the businessmen who are promoting it. Not surprisingly, the biggest boosters of the measure are the men who run for-profit corporate churches.
Many of these churches have websites on which we can read how they are willing to explicitly misstate things in the Bible in order to create false “biblical” support for their for-profit bigotry. For example, on the website of Skyline Church, there is the statement that: “The Bible defines marriage as a covenantal union of one male and one female”. Think about that for a moment. Is it from any Bible you’ve ever read? One-man-one-wife? Is that what the Bible said about: Solomon, David, Gideon, Esau or Lamech (how many biblical heroes can you name who had more than one wife)?
Can you find any place in the Bible where Jesus actually said marriage should be between one man and one woman? No. Because when Jesus lived and taught, lots of men had multiple wives, and nothing in Jesus’ message condemned even polygamy.
Well, what about that famous quote from Jesus, “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Matthew, 19:6. Actually, in that passage, Jesus was talking about divorce, not marriage. But can you find any for-profit corporate ‘Christian’ who preaches that we need a constitutional amendment to outlaw divorce? Of course not. Because preaching to outlaw divorce would be unpopular and wouldn’t lead to more donations, “prayer offerings” and church purchased mansions and vacations (I mean “missionary trips”) to exotic locales.
Defining marriage as one-man/one-woman should be completely permissible for any religious group which chooses that definition. But Proposition Hate does more than that. Proposition Hate wants to outlaw EVERY other religious view. Traditional Judaism allowed multiple wives. Many Moslem societies allow multiple wives. Religions outside the Judeo-Christian tradition allow multiple wives – including religions from societies as disparate as Native American and African. Orthodox Mormonism encourages polygamy.
Whether any of us agrees with such religious beliefs is not the point. The point is that the promoters of Proposition Hate want to make their religious belief the only legal belief in our state. And as the Skyline Church website says: “Winning a defense of marriage vote is of prime importance in the short term.” Yes, Proposition Hate is only the first shot in a war to end religious freedom and impose other religious beliefs on the State.
The Skyline Church website is clear about the ultimate goals of the Proposition Hate crusaders. They tell us what the problem is: “The reason for our present dilemma is…a spiritually impotent church, which…allowed and caused ungodly persons to be elected, who in turn selected unbiblical judges.” That’s right, the problem is that the church “allowed” ungodly people be elected. The solution is to not allow anyone who disagrees with this bigot doctrine to be elected. The solution is an end to letting the voters choose their own candidates!
The bigots who rake in “prayer offerings” and other contributions to promote Proposition Hate explicitly reject Jesus’ message in John, 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The profiteers of Proposition Hate want to impose their religious rule on America, in open denial of Jesus’ teaching.
In his acceptance speech, Barack Obama said working for the dream would not be easy. Working for a better future will take more than hope and money. Our dream of a better world, more education, better health care and greater equality for people of all sorts, will require our active effort to achieve.
While we dream of such progress, the profiteers dream of huge paydays, funded by people trained to fear difference, to fear change, and to fear the unknown and the misunderstood. Because they are businessmen with plans and systems for running fundraising campaigns, they will always have an advantage over just plain citizens who have to go to work every day and work at democracy in their off-hours. Whether it’s outlawing foreigners in Nashville or Proposition Hate in California, these are just their current profit-making campaigns.
Our dreams are the right dreams, dreamt by the slaves escaping Egypt and those escaping southern plantations. Dreamt by the rude farmers at Concord Bridge and the women marching for suffrage. Dreamt by the workers sitting-in at auto plants and students sitting-in at lunch counters. But they are ephemeral, constantly in peril from the profiteers of Hate and fear. As much as we need to work nationally to elect Obama President, we need to work locally to defeat Proposition Hate and its pseudo-Christian profiteer promoters.
by Tom Hall
Tom Hall is a family law attorney. He is originally from Boston, where he grew up in the Cambridge Friends Meeting (Quakers), thinking that religion was a progressive force. During the Vietnam War, he organized draft counseling centers and worked with groups training people to participate in highly disciplined nonviolent demonstrations (real disciplined nonviolence is just plain maddening to police forces who count on demonstrators giving them reason to get ‘messy’ during public demonstrations). After the war, he became just another yuppie working to make himself a comfortable life. The Bush administration has shocked him back into social concerns. Tom can be reached at [email protected]
Recent articles by Tom: