My father, an illegal immigrant from Greece, jumped ship from the Greek Merchant Marine sometime in the 1940s when that ship was docked in New York. He had grown up in a poor village, with no father, and a mother who could barely provide for him. He had apparently joined the Greek Merchant Marine as a way to escape the grinding poverty of his youth, and he wasn’t going to give up a free ride to America.
According to family lore, after entering in New York, he made his way to Chicago, where he gambled, drank and tom-catted around until, running out of money, he came back to New York. There he met my mother, became a citizen, raised a family of three boys, owned a small business for 40 years or so and passed away in the mid-1980s.
Oh, did I mention that my father hated immigrants?
He once saw some news footage of the Vietnamese boat people who escaped from the aftermath of the Vietnam War in small boats, landing on our shores in California. His comments included suggesting that we had enough immigrants here and that we don’t need any more.
In 1980, I was working for a car dealership in NJ which employed a man who had come to the United States in the manner described above (from Vietnam), and had gone through the work of attaining citizenship. His name was Nguyen Van Tram.
On the day after he finally took his oath of citizenship, we had a party for him at work, to help him celebrate his new identity as a American. On the TV in the break-room was film of the Mariel Boat Lift, where hundreds of Cubans were escaping their island for the same reason that the Vietnamese had left their country-an oppressive government and lack of basic freedom and opportunity.
Nguyen Van Tram, himself a desperate immigrant fewer than 6 years before, looked at the TV and, in the thickest of Vietnamese accents, proclaimed, “We gotta nuf immagrint awredy. We don need no mo’”.
For a nation that prides itself on being a melting pot, we, even those of us who are recent immigrants, for some reason all learn to hate immigrants.
A perfect example of this is the fact that many have been calling on the government to send the surviving Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Chechen immigrant who is responsible for the death of 3 people, including one child, to Guantanamo, labeling him an “enemy combatant”, and not entitled to hear his Miranda warnings. By the way, he became an American citizen in September of 2012.
Yet, for some reason, Timothy McVeigh, the confessed bomber of the Alfred Murrah building in Oklahoma City in 1995 in which he killed 168 people, including many children, was arrested, tried, found guilty, and put to death by our existing criminal justice system with no complaints about military tribunals and the like.
James Holmes, the Aurora shooter, who killed 12 people in a movie theater, is somehow similarly expected to be tried in American courts, with no one screaming for him to be sent to Guantanamo as an enemy combatant.
We, as a people, are so enamored of ourselves; our specialness, our exceptionalism, our roles as chosen people, that we even place our mass murders, as long as they were born here, above mass murders from other countries!
Walt Kelly, who wrote the “Pogo” comic strip in the 1970s said it best in the strip from Earth Day in 1971, referring to the damage that we were doing to the earth, but it applies here as well. Pogo, looking at the havoc we have wreaked said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
I have no problem with patriotism, but when it extends to killers, I think it’s time to rewind and decide if all objectivity has left the room.
It’s coming around folks, albeit slowly…
USA Today, April 24th, 2013 “General Electric has stopped financing gun purchases, highlighting the wide-ranging impact of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn. last December and the recent debate in Washington over restricting firearm sales. GE Capital Finance ceased providing consumer financing for new gun-shop customers in 2008, and recently extended the policy to existing customers.”
Liberal thinkers, like rising balloons, seek higher states, new vistas and loftier perspectives. They climb, inexorably toward that which they’ve not seen before, bravely abandoning fear and welcoming knowledge of new and creative things. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
Those others, their timidity revealed by their fear of heights, believe that all we have is all we need. They fear that which they do not understand. Growth, advancement and change terrify them. They shit their jammies and grab their weapons when the night goes bump, finding terror where none exists and trying to pierce our rising balloons with their GI Joe playthings. Their cowardice is demonstrated by their vicarious use of force for wit.
We’ll keep climbing and will soon be out of range. Then they will have nothing to shoot at but clouds, spent bullets descending like the droppings of birds.
Quarterbacks, judge not ballerinas; nor fools, brilliance. For these are beyond you.
George Bush, reacting today to the bombing in Boston by Chechen nationals, called for the immediate invasion of the Czech republic. Sarah Palin chimed in and added that we should start bombing immediately, in their capital, of Beijing.
My inclination to see your resplendence may be less indicative of your beauty than my predisposition to imagine it. My intimation of your exceptionalism may simply betray my ignorance of available alternatives. We should not be too sure of ourselves, babe.
The gun issue has been obfuscated by the amateurish reading of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. For those who like to quote things that they have never actually read, here it is, in its entirety:
“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”.
Please note, very carefully, that no-where in this Amendment does it use the word “citizen”. It uses only the word “people”. All you strict Constitutionalists please take note. The Framers certainly knew the difference between people and citizens, and purposely chose one word over the other. There is no citizenship test for gun ownership.
I’m not going to argue about the whole “militia” thing, because the wording is so vague that I won’t presume to know what the Framers meant when they wrote it. I am willing to accept that this amendment does in fact say that the government can’t “infringe” on the right of the people to bear arms. I have no problem conceding that that’s what the founding fathers intended when they wrote it.
The problem is that for those who like to quote this simple passage, the concept of judicial review seems to escape their thinking process.
In this same Constitution, the Supreme Court, as well as lower courts, has been given the power to interpret all law. In Article Three, Section 1, (Yes, there are parts to the Constitution that are not amendments) the founding fathers decided:
“The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish”.
In Section 2 of the same Article:
“The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority”.
What this means, very simply, is that the authority of the Supreme Court and lesser courts to interpret laws came BEFORE the amendments, which would, in my mind, make that authority even more substantial and fundamental. It was one of the first things that the founding fathers decided was necessary in order to establish the country they were trying to form.
What is particularly distressing about all this is, first of all, gun proponents, when citing the Constitution (usually attempting to use it as some ersatz weapon of patriotism), seem to forget that, if applied simply as written, without the interpretation of the courts, the Constitution does not limit ANYONE from having any kinds of weapons. Strict reading of the Second Amendment does not limit what types of arms, or what types of people can own and use them.
So, for all the NewsMax Constitutional scholars out there, strict reading of the Second Amendment says that a convicted felon, released from prison yesterday on an armed robbery charge, can walk into a gun store today and order a dozen hand grenades. Or an AR 15. Or a rocket launcher. Or any other item that comes under the heading of “arms”, which are conspicuously undefined in the Constitution.
For those of you who are saying that I’m taking this argument to the level of ridiculousness for simple rhetorical purposes, I submit the following from Find Law, which is a web site for legal pros, published on April 11th, 2013.
“A New Orleans judge ruled last Thursday that a law forbidding felons from owning firearms infringes their rights to keep and bear arms”.
And so it begins, (commencing eye-rolling incredulity). Click here for the article
A judge in Louisiana is fanning the flames of these self-described Constitutionalists by giving them exactly what they have been demanding. He is using the Constitution, not as a living document, but as a dead piece of parchment, written in a time when “arms” constituted flint lock rifles, knives, swords and spears, and using it as prevailing, contemporary law 240 years later, when we have “arms” that can fire a 50 caliber bullet over a mile, at hundreds of rounds per minute, not to mention the aforementioned hand grenades and rocket launchers. He is similarly using this document to enable any murderer, robber, terrorist or child molester to have one.
To repeat. As of now, a Louisiana judge, interpreting the Constitution as it was written, without applying any of the judicial wisdom we’ve acquired in 240 years as a Republic, has advised anyone, citizen or not, felon or not, terrorist or not, anarchist or not that they may buy and use whatever weapons they can find, with no interference from the government of Louisiana, based on his reading of the US Constitution.
It is, according to this judge, their right to bear whatever arms they choose, irrespective of whom they are or what their intentions might be.
Even if they just feel like taking out a few six-year-olds on some bright, sunny morning.
After all, it’s right there in the Constitution-all you have to do is read it.
President Obama, on Friday, apologized to California Attorney General Kamala Harris for having commented on her looks during a fundraising speech the day before. Here’s the quote:
“You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake,” said Obama. “She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country — Kamala Harris is here. It’s true. Come on. And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years.”
A few days before, a NY Times article ran an interview with Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, describing her new book, “Lean In” and the struggle women face with glass ceiling issues, citing the oft repeated contentions that women don’t get enough big, important jobs and don’t get paid as much as men.
The news media have been all over this, with various questions and suggestions as to the insidious marginalization, by men, of women by virtue of their continued objectification, one oft-spoken example of which is that President Obama never refers to men as “good looking”. (Actually, he does exactly that, quite often).
As with most platitudinous utterances, when these kinds of assumptions reach a critical mass, they become ostensible truisms. When uttered, those within hearing distance nod their heads in sycophantic accord, as if this is settled science, no less valid than the earth revolving around the sun.
These graspers of all that appears obvious suspend critical thinking by doing so, however, since there are facts which betray this group-think. Some of them are:
1. When a woman goes to college, gets a degree in computer science, works in her industry for five years, gets married, has children, quits her job for 5-10 years to raise those children, then re-enters the workforce at 36, with 10 years less experience, as well as experience that is 10 years out of date, she will likely get paid considerably less money than her male counterpart. This happens often enough that it leads to #2.
2. When employers see a 21 year-old female college grad apply for the same job as a 21 year-old male college grad, they have no choice but to consider the possibility that, after investing 5 years in the training of both of those employee, #1 could occur at any time, with no obligation on the part of the female to forgo doing so for the benefit of the company. That woman has the right to leave to raise her family whenever she so chooses. This is as it should be, but as long as it is a possibility, the employer is obligated to his company (and often his shareholders) to maximize the value of every employee. This puts women at a long-term pay disadvantage.
3. Women, as group, statistically are more inclined to value their home life at an equal level to their working life, and are often not willing to work the extra hours and sacrifice their family life for the benefit of the company, as many successful men are often willing to do. This is not a value judgment as to whether they should, but is statistically accurate.
Now, let’s talk about those women who have broken that oft-cited glass ceiling. I’ve picked five, in an effort to comment regarding the justification or lack of same for President Obama committing the offense of referring to one of them as “good looking”.
When a person’s looks are important to them, but they are not trying to stand out from the crowd and be noticed for their personal attractiveness, you can usually tell.
Elena Kagen, one of our youngest Supreme Court justices.
Hillary Clinton, who exudes brilliance, professionalism and strength.
There are many successful women for whom the opposite is true. Examples:
Here is one of Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo.
Not only is she quite attractive, she also doesn’t seem to mind wearing business attire that is quite a bit brighter in color and sleevelessness than most men would consider, wouldn’t you say?
And in this widely distributed glamour shot of Ms Mayer, she is, dare I say, damned hot, in her very tight, figure-revealing, bright-red dress. Hoo-waa, indeed!
Next, we have the aforementioned Ms Sandberg, ready for a rough and tumble board meeting in her red business suit. Yeah, I think I once saw Bill Gates wearing that same outfit.
More of Ms Sandberg, attempting to look sultry, showing off her well-toned arms, again in red. Could she have gotten that idea from Warren Buffet’s wardrobe?
Finally, the woman without whom this tirade would not have been necessary, Kamala Harris:
Here she is looking quite respectable in what appears to be a business suit. The color, white, is certainly favored by Harry Reid, John Bohner and Joe Biden whenever they give speeches, isn’t it?
And at last we come to the ubiquitous glamor shot that so many of these women feel the need to ensure is available to the public. Like it or not, this picture shows just how “good looking” Ms Harris really is. And she is.
All these women chose to look the way they do in these pictures, in bright colors, with lots of attention to their hair and make-up. The decision whether or not to look attractive to others was theirs to make. It is no accident that these women look pretty. It is no accident that they want those around them to recognize that they are pretty.
The point of all this should be quite obvious. If women want to be treated EXACTLY the way men are treated, with virtually no attention to their looks, then they have to stop bringing attention to their looks. If women want the EXACT opportunities that men have, then they have to treat their careers the same way men treat theirs.
It’s tough to try to regulate what people notice about you. If you exude intelligence, you should expect to be reminded of it on occasion. If you exude physical beauty you should expect the same. If you exude both, you should expect both!
In the 1960s, women complained that if they were too attractive, they were by extension assumed to be stupid-the “dumb-blond” syndrome, if you will. All that men supposedly cared about were looks, Mad Men style. If a woman achieved any degree of success, she was assumed to have “slept her way” to the top. In writing this piece, I understand the sensitivity that many women might still hold as a result of this period in our not-to-distant past.
Today, we have these five, among countless millions of highly successful women; having overcome the difficulties associated with careers and family life and achieved previously unheard-of academic, corporate and financial success. They, quite obviously, also spend some time on their appearance, yet there are some who would have us ignore the fact that they do.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that men and women will ever be so equal as to be interchangeable. What a horrible thought that would be: to have women look, act and dress so much like men as to be indistinguishable from them.
It’s a good thing for men and women to have equal opportunity. It’s a horrible thing to think that while striving for that equality of opportunity, we lose sight of the fact that, by our most fundamental instincts, by our most basic drives that help to propagate society itself, we don’t always see each other only as co-workers or view each other by what we’ve achieved, but as beings who embrace the sentience to acknowledge that, irrespective how important you might be, sometimes you might also just look nice.