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The Election and Big Social Issues

Posted Nov 10 2008 4:51pm

category_bug_politics.gif You’ve probably been doing it too, mulling over the results of last week’s vote. The social implications of the election of Barack Obama are stunning to think about. Although it will take awhile for the effects of having a black president to bear fruit, anticipating the possibilities give us all renewed – what was that word? Oh, yeah, hope - for something better than the small-mindedness, meanness and greed that have been the hallmarks of governmental, business and society for the past eight years.

Ever since the founding of our republic, few social issues in politics have been bigger than race, but drugs, abortion and marriage aren’t far behind and they were also on some ballots this year.

Marijuana
Michigan became the 13th state to legalize marijuana for medical use, and – here’s the big news – Massachusetts became the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot for personal use. An ounce or less in that state will get you a $100 fine now.

There has been hardly a peep of objection that I can find about what was once a hot-button issue and it’s about time. One can only hope the other 49 states follow along in due course, eliminating an entire class of criminals - the social users of marijuana.

Humankind has always found ways to sometimes alter its consciousness and marijuana is one of the least harmful; it certainly causes less mayhem than alcohol which is legal just about everywhere.

The worst outcome for me is weight gain when I get the munchies. I’ve been smoking pot or eating brownies and cookies laced with it, now and then, since I was about 16 years old, and I can’t imagine how I would have survived the first few months after my marriage broke up without it. A joint in the evening after work helped keep the miseries at bay until I was ready to get back to living.

The only reason I don’t do it these days is I’m too lazy to bake and smoking it makes me cough for an hour. I miss it, especially for listening to music, and for just getting silly sometimes, so I’ll probably give it another go soon, if I can control the coughing.

It’s long past time for marijuana to be decriminalized, if not legalized, and Massachusetts is leading the way.

Abortion
South Dakota rejected a measure to ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest and serious health threat to the mother. Colorado refused to change the definition of “person” to include any fertilized egg, embryo or fetus. And California defeated a measure requiring parental notification and a waiting period before abortion for minor women.

Abortion is a serious issue. Fewer is better and prevention is a smarter way to go, but I’ve got some personal experience with this – legal and illegal – and have listened to the arguments on all sides for decades. I’ve even produced few television programs about the controversy.

After all that, no one will convince me now that abortion is not a personal decision and a medical issue; the government has no business regulating it. Hurray for these three states.

Same Sex Marriage
Three states, Arizona, California and Florida, passed measures banning same sex marriage.

So let’s sum up the big social issues: we took a tiny step toward decriminalizing marijuana, tamped down proposed inroads toward banning abortion and elected a black president. But we don’t want a certain kind of people to have the same right as everyone else to express their love in the most time-honored and traditional way we have, not to mention gaining legal rights to inheritance, joint ownership and health decisions that go with marriage.

How stupid is this? The Mormon church, headquartered in Utah, apparently put a lot of effort and money into defeating California’s Proposition 8 and I could write several posts about separation of church and state, religious dogma versus civil law, imposing minority religious beliefs on majorities and one state’s attempt to influence (and succeeding) another state’s local election issue, etc.

I’ll skip all that except to say that contrary to what some christianists insist, the United States is not a Christian nation. My heart swelled with joy when former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in endorsing Senator Obama, publicly remarked:

“Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is, no. Is there something wrong with some seven-year old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president?”
- Meet the Press, 20 October 2008

Back to gay marriage. To paraphrase Powell, what is wrong with being gay in this country? Why does anyone care? What possible difference could it make to any heterosexual person if a gay couple marries?

Never mind, I know the reason: Americans have always been puritanical about sex and they relate homosexuality pairing to sex instead of to love and affection.

It is important to ask too, among those other questions, how anyone who voted for Barack Obama could not see the parallels between breaking the presidential racial barrier and gay civil rights.

The votes in Arizona, California and Florida are a setback for these rights, but if we can elect a black president, there is hope that the day will come when Americans will see how outrageous it is to believe they can tell people who they may love and marry. It cannot be soon enough.

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