Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jackson!

Today my baby is one year old. One year ago today I was in the hospital being induced and about one hour (and three hundred and sixty-five days) ago, Jackson made his appearance on planet Earth.

In some ways it seems like this year has flown by and in other ways it amazes me how much has happened in the year: we moved, sold and bought a house in a six-month long drawn-out process (and one of the worst selling markets in the past who-knows-how-long... What can I say? We have impeccable timing....). Jared started second grade, Camryn started kindergarten, Dave started a new position at work (again...).

I started teaching piano again (fine, it's only two students, but that's a lot for me right now), started a choir with a friend from school, started blogging =], thoroughly cleaned and organized my pit-of-an-upstairs-office several times (only to have it solidly trashed again within minutes by my crafts-loving five-year-old), systematically killed my formerly thriving patio container herb garden... twice, and finally come to peace with my current lack of organization.

Jackson has learned to roll over, sit up, cackle and giggle, play with toys, crawl, eat solid food, twist his parents around his finger, take a few steps, turn on the Roomba (vacuum cleaner), dump the cupboards and play with his older siblings. (Now if only he would master regular napping and sleeping through the night...).

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not one to get outwardly overly sentimental. I try to keep my emotions in check and stay pretty matter-of-fact. But I want to take a moment to say how much I love baby Jackson. From his huge blue eyes to his funny little pointed chin, his chubby little legs and his fat little feet, his infectious giggle and his funny da-da-da babblings, he is just the perfect little baby. (Jared and Camryn were also perfect babies, at least to this unbiased observer, in case any of you were wondering.)

My two older kids, Jared and Camryn, were only 21 months apart. After Camryn was born I went through a rough period in my life and it took me a while to feel ready to have another baby. Even after a break of 4 1/2 years (the gap between Camryn and Jackson), I really didn't know if I was ready for another pregnancy, more than a year of continually interrupted sleep, and the whole emotional gamut- let alone the physical exhaustion- that you experience when you go through the whole childbirth/child-raising process.

And then came Jackson. I'm not saying that Jackson was an easy baby... on the contrary. While he is very easy-going now, he was a little bit high-maintenance as an infant. He hated his car seat and screamed whenever he had to ride in it. He struggled to gain weight at first and needed to be fed all the time. He has never been a really fabulous sleeper. But he has been a perfect baby. Perfectly huggable, perfectly cute, perfectly loving and perfectly wonderful. (Yes, how I can say that, when he is personally responsible for thousands of hours of lost sleep is beyond reason.)

One thing I feel that I did better with Jackson is I finally got over my pretensions of trying to be a super mom and immediately jump back into life. I accepted having an infant for what it it really is: a total and complete life overhaul. But I also enjoyed it for what it is: a chance to step out of the typical rush and bustle of life and just enjoy snuggling, feeding and spending time with an amazing little person who is just beginning to discover the world for himself-- the chance to bask in the perfect, adoring love of someone who is completely dependent on you for every need and looks to you with complete confidence that you will always take care of him. I know it is a short-lived time. Soon come the terrible twos, the temper tantrums, the discovery of self and a whole host of other challenges and fun. But I am glad that this time around, during this brief window that he was tiny I didn't stress (at least not too much...) about my house being messy (believe me, it was). I don't regret cutting back the other kids' extra-curricular activities to almost zero and my own aspirations and expectations to a life-subsistence level. The time for an immaculate home and a full schedule will come again, soon enough (well, at least the full schedule part). =] To quote the poem "Song for a Fifth Child" by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton:

So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep.

Today I am thankful for a wonderful year of snuggles, rocking and smiles.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Missing It

Jackson has officially taken his first steps. In fact, he has taken three. But, I have only seen him take about 1.5, even though he has performed the feat of taking three steps several times. I keep missing the big moment, which always seems to be caught by the kids or my husband instead. Grrrr.

Jackson has also figured out how to shake his head, "No." He does this when he is done eating or when I say, "No" as he is dumping books off the shelf. (It is very cute-- the head shaking, not the book dumping.) He just hasn't figured out that when Mommy says no, it means I want him to stop.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturdays are for...

Saturdays are for...

sleeping in (and I did, quite late, thank you very much)
spending time with my hubby
watching football (or relaxing while said hubby watches football)
eating yummy food
spending time with kids
going on a date (with aforementioned husband)
taking Jared to his basketball practice
wasting time
watching movies
pretending I am going to do projects around the house
making simple or elaborate meals, depending on my mood

How do you like to spend your Saturdays?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What a difference a day makes...

And this mess is so big And so deep and so tall, We cannot pick it up. There is no way at all!"
-"The Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seuss


Dear readers,


I am ashamed to report that after a whole week of my fabulous home organization plan in action, I have fallen off the wagon. Before you get too concerned, please know that I haven't let everything slide. My laundry system is still in full swing. But my dish system has, alas, broken down.

But to prove that I did actually follow this system to the letter for a week,
I have included pictures to prove that I could-- and did-- do it. (My favorite is the one of my kitchen table, complete with the "Let Go of Clutter" book, prominently displayed. Who needs those self-help books anyway? My system is way better than any of theirs....)

Just so you can compare, I included the following pictures after I broke down and did the dishes (I was getting tired of having to wash silverware as I used it...). The scary thing is that it only really took a little more than an hour to go from that (above) to this:

It just goes to show how vigilant you have to be. You can never let down your guard. The breakdown of even the best organization system is only ever one hour away....








Fact or Fiction?

Camryn: Mom, is 'The Parent Trap' fiction or non-fiction?
Me: Fiction
Camryn: Yeah, kids couldn't really get into someone's tent and do all of those things while they were sleeping.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Mystery...

Do you ever have one of those moments when you just start randomly feeling unsettled and anxious and irritated? I am having one of those moments. I don't understand why I am feeling this way, I just am.

Maybe it is because of the huge success of my new home organization system. I have a great new system for doing laundry: I leave the clothes in the washer overnight so they have sufficient time to ripen, then I put them in the dryer the next afternoon. By the time I remember to take them out, they have been sitting in the dryer for several hours/days. I then throw them into a pile in the unused corner of the upstairs hall (cautioning the children to make sure and step over them if they walk that way). This leaves the laundry clean and easily accessible to household occupants of any height.

My new system for dish-doing is a similar rousing success: I use paper plates until I run out. Then I use real dishes. They sit in various stations on the table/counter/sink until there are no clean dishes left. Then I run a load in the dishwasher and they sit in the dishwasher until I need a dish. I do have to mention that occasionally this system has been disturbed and I have broken down to actually empty and load the whole dishwasher in one sitting, but interruptions of this type are, thankfully, unusual.

My bathrooms have self-installed indicators that tell when it is time for cleaning to be done: when the orange algae starts growing around the faucet and the edges of the drain, its time for a cleaning! (At least within a week or two....) My toilets have a similar device installed: the pink/grey indicator ring and what I affectionately call the "whiff" test. (I'll spare you the explanation on that one, but it works particularly well for bathrooms with little boys.)

I am lucky enough to have "Franz," our vacuuming robot (or Roomba) who does all the vacuuming for me and thus relieves me of the responsibility of having to have a "system" for this area. This would make vacuuming almost a little bit too easy for an incredibly organized mom like me. Luckily, Jackson has determined that the Roomba is his favorite toy ever, and whenever he hears it going, immediately crawls to it and attacks it (or lays on it) with a happy vengeance.

I have an incredible system for keeping the kids school papers neat and up to date: they sit in their backpacks until about Wednesday afternoon, at which point I exclaim, "Oh crap! I forgot about Jared's homework"-- at which point I take the papers out of the kids' backpacks and set them in a pile on the counter, where they remain until late on Thursday night.

My kitchen floor gets a thorough mopping at least biannually; dusting is a yearly observance (we never miss a time!). When the weeds in the backyard get taller than I am, they are promptly attended to. I always know what we're having for dinner every single night by 7:15 pm, without fail (well, almost).

What can I say? It really is a mystery... with a life this organized, what possible reason could I have to feel down on myself?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Picture is Worth...

I finally found the USB cable for my camera (Translation: I never did actually find it, but I had Dave dig through our box of Random Computer Cables and Parts and find an extra). So at long last I was able to download pictures onto my computer (the last time was August...).

So for today's post, you get pictures of the kids from when we went to the Pumpkin Patch at the end of October. Don't we live in a beautiful place?


Monday, November 17, 2008

Jackson Speaks and Other Exciting News

In big news of today, Jackson said his first identifiable word! He has loved to babble for months (da-da being his favorite), but we have never been able to pinpoint that his words actually refer to anything in particular... until today. This morning Jackson was sitting in his high chair and babbling and I thought I heard him say "na-na." I went to his high chair, picked up a banana and held it up. "Is this what you want?" He looked at it, smiled and said, "Na," followed later by "na-na." Of course, tonight after Dave got home I tried to have Jackson repeat this feat for me and he just smiled and stared at me like "I have no idea what you are talking about." =]

In other big news, my friend Ranell had her baby today! I have been watching her kids for her since last night (she was going in to be induced early this morning), so I spent all day wondering how labor was going and if the baby had come yet. Baby Natalie came at 11:03 this morning and later this evening Connie and Michael got to go meet their new baby sister.

The whole experience just reminded me of almost one year ago when I had Jackson. Ranell watched my two older kids while I went to the hospital to be induced. It's amazing how quickly (and slowly...) the year has gone by. So much has happened since then... we sold and bought a house, moved, Jared started 2nd grade, Camryn started kindergarten, Jackson has learned to crawl (even up and down stairs). And still so much is the same: we are still loving living here in the Northwest, trying to survive busy work schedules, getting Jared off to school in the morning and enjoying wonderful moments amid all of the craziness of everyday life. It still never ceases to amaze me... the wonder of a new person coming into the world.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

One-Armed Woman

Today after dinner I loaded the entire dishwasher using only one hand. (Thank you, Jackson.) Yes, I am amazing. =] It is astonishing what unique skills you discover about yourself by having kids that you never knew you had before:

Doing all kinds of things with one arm (while a baby is perched on your other hip).
It is possible to nurse a baby and cook dinner at the same time (only under duress, mind you, but possible, just the same).
How to sleep and nurse simultaneously.
How to tell by noise alone what your kids are doing in the other room.
Going to Costco with three kids (Enough said, all hats are off-- holding the screaming child or toting the baby in the front pack, whilst reading the shopping list, checking the mailer for coupons, calling for the one who has wandered to the samples... truly multi-tasking at its finest).

I could think of more, but it's late. Do you have any amazing skills parenting has taught you?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thank you for helpful husbands

In lieu of a longer post, I want to do a quick "I am grateful" post. Today my husband got up with the kids and let me sleep in until past 11:00. (Baby Jackson had a bad sleep week, so this was extraordinarily well-timed). Then he helped me weed and mulch the front yard. And then... he made Tomato Soup for dinner- no not Campbell's- REAL tomato soup: red onion and garlic sauteed in olive oil with fresh basil and heavy cream. Are you jealous? You should be. =] It was fabulous. I will post the recipe when I get around to it. As I am typing this, he is giving Jackson his bottle and putting him to bed. As many of you know, my husband has a crazy job with insane work hours and lots of pressure. He doesn't always get to spend as much time at home as he would like. But he knows how to make it count when I need it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Traumatized

So I guess I will finally get to the real reason that I have been avoiding blogging and really, just being online in general for the past several days. As many of you know, I am an ardent supporter of Prop 8 in California. While I did not expect it to pass, I was thrilled that it did. In the weeks leading up to the election I tried to do what I could to discuss the issue in the circles where I have influence. I am not someone who likes to cause conflict, so for some time I have avoided political discussions with anyone but close and trusted friends, but I felt so strongly about this issue that I have been posting about it on my blog, facebook, email groups and pretty much wherever there is someone who will listen.

This was not an issue that was initially very intuitive to me. I really struggled on this. It seemed like there was a definite case to be made for allowing same-sex marriage-- was it really going to impact me? Even if it did, did I have any right to tell them they couldn't? My conclusion finally was that, YES, it was going to impact me and not only did I have the right, I had the responsibility to stand for marriage between a man and a woman. As a result, I have spent WAY too many hours researching and studying this issue (as my disastrously messy house will testify) and then writing about my conclusions on it (which you can read in other previous posts, if you are interested). Throughout the whole process, I tried to be respectful and non-argumentative in my posts, recognizing that there are many people who feel deeply about this issue on the opposite side.

I was disappointed (although not terribly surprised) at the protests following the passing of Prop 8. However, I respect the right of others to peaceably assemble and voice their opinions. (Although it does beg the question, "Where were all these protesters BEFORE the election? Aren't they a little late?") But some of the aftermath has passed outside the realm of "peaceable" in my book... Forcing closure of a house of worship? Threatening and harassing those who donated money to the campaign? Defacing property? Calling for (and getting) the resignation of a California Musical Theater official because he contributed to the campaign? Maybe I'm just strange, but these actions seem, well... intolerant. Besides that, I think it adds more credibility to the argument that if gay marriage is allowed it will cause religious persecution for "hate crimes" if religions don't recognize gay marriage as equal to heterosexual marriage. See what has happened already....

I also think it is funny that Mormons should be the main target. We were only part of the coalition. Don't you think it would be more appropriate to boycott California than to boycott Utah? Californians actually voted for the law. Besides that, the Mormon church did not donate money to the campaign. It asked its members to support it, but that's all it could do: ask. It was entirely up to the members' free will as to whether they supported it or not, either with their time or money. There was no force or coercion involved. In fact, many members publicly oppose Prop 8.

But back to me (the focus of this blog, right?).... I know that whenever you enter the political arena, you are asking for disagreement and debate. I'm OK with that. I have participated in many heated discussions and debates, some of which were enjoyable and stimulating. I guess I was wrong in two things: 1) I thought that when the polls closed, the issue would too-- that when people voted it would actually mean something. (OK, big miscalculation there.) 2) I thought that political discussion could happen without attacking the people involved in the debate.

I guess I just wasn't been prepared for personal backlash for daring to state my opinion. In the past little while I have had several unpleasant encounters online with people who feel compelled to use my stance on a political issue to attack my intelligence, my character or my spirituality. (Most of these people are also LDS, strangely enough.) This is not the same as the many people who have challenged me on the issue or debated whether my viewpoint is logical. I have no problem with someone saying, "Have you thought about this point?" or even "I respect you as a person, but politically I think you're out to lunch." There are many people I could say that same thing to: I respect and enjoy them as people, but we have very different views on political matters.

In the course of my debates I have sincerely tried to never attack a person, to be polite and to express my view without demeaning other people. I hoped that this could be a two-way street and that "tolerance" for opposing views would go for both sides. My hopes have frequently been disappointed. I have had people recently call me stupid, ask me if I can really be a Christian, tell me that I am "like a lemming" and (my favorite) accuse me of being "one of those people" who went to BYU, doesn't have any non-LDS friends and only reads the Ensign. (Humorous, given that I am trying to read 4 books concurrently because a bunch I had on hold at the library came in at the same time. Makes it hard to get to The Economist.... I have to admit that on the crime of attending BYU, I am guilty as charged.)

I like to think that I have tougher skin than this, but I have to admit that I was really shaken up. I was not expecting this, especially not the stuff from other Mormons! I like to think that people can disagree-- even vehemently-- without descending to personal attacks and rudeness. I am emotionally worn out. I am tired of being called names. I am tired of being nervous every time I open my email or log in to facebook that I will be bombarded with messages telling me how stupid and intolerant and hateful I am. I am tired of people telling me how horrible my viewpoint is without even pausing to listen to what that viewpoint is. So, even though I know the battle on this issue is far from over, I am trying to lay low for now and recover.

National Blogging Month?

So I heard from a friend that it is National Blogging Month. I have a whole bunch of friends who are "taking the challenge" and doing a blog post every single day this month. I made up my mind at book club on November 11th that I was going to try it (from Nov. 12th to Dec. 12th). And here is where I am.... I really have a lot to say. I just haven't had time to write it and I'm trying to find the right "voice" for this blog. Do I want it to be my journal? My public commentary? My "post pictures of the kids" place? All of the above? None of the above? I really over-analyze things and this, alas, is no exception.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Funny Kid Quotes

Jared and I had a conversation about how old I am. I asked him if he could guess what year I was born in.

Jared: "Hmmm, 19.... um, 1988?
Me: Nope, it's lower than that.

After a bunch of guesses and clues, he finally figured it out. I then asked him to guess Dad's birth year.

Jared: "Hmmmm, 18........"

---
Camryn brought home a wedding card from Kindergarten. Her teacher has lots of leftover anniversary/wedding/birthday cards she lets the kids use. When she showed it to Jared, he said,
"You should save this for when somebody you love gets married." Camryn: "Yeah, that's why I'm saving it for Denmark." (Her friend that she says she is going to marry.)

---
Camryn: If we are still alive when Jesus comes again, we should make him a special treat.
---

Jared: The biggest pumpkin in the world was 1000 lbs.! That's almost as big as dad!
---

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why I Support Prop 8 in California

My mom recently sent an email detailing the political and philosophical reasons she has for supporting Prop 8 in California and opposing same-sex marriage. I thought it clearly stated some of the reasons that I support Prop 8 and at least the issues that we should be discussing when addressing same-sex marriage.


-K

.....

Why I Support Prop 8
By Laurel R.
November 2, 2008

I am definitely supporting Prop 8. At the same time, many of my friends are just as adamantly against Prop 8. I have spent much time thinking about and discussing the topic as I have worked to solidify my views and understand the opposing view points.

I saw the most compelling “no on 8” commercial to date. The commercial featured Diane Feinstein sitting very authoritatively, looking directly into the “faces” of the audience, and saying (paraphrased) that: “Prop 8 isn’t about marriage, children, or personal beliefs. It is about discrimination. We can’t allow discrimination. Vote No on 8.”

In the context of today’s society where anti-discrimination and tolerance are the highest of moral values, one would have to agree with her. If discrimination against same sex couples where the only issue at hand I would feel morally compelled to oppose Pro 8 myself. However, Prop 8 isn’t just about discriminating against gays. It is about the future of marriage and traditional families, about children and re-engineering the society in which they grow up, and it is about discrimination against those who don’t favor same-sex marriage.

I support Prop 8 for a number of reasons:

1) My political/philosophical view on the proper role of government and its right to infringe on personal liberty verses its obligation to prevent discrimination and infringement of liberty

I don’t believe the proper role of government is to prevent discrimination at all costs. It is to preserve the common good by enacting laws that are in the best interest of society as a whole while still preventing any minority from having their rights trampled. Good government should be an appropriate balance between tyranny and anarchy.

On the tyranny extreme, laws are enacted that oppress individual freedom of belief and choice in preference to a single view of what is right or desirable. Tyranny can be in the form of a dictator, a well-meaning but misguided government, or it can come in the form of religious tyranny where the beliefs of one group trample the rights of another.

When the pendulum swings to the anarchy side, society is governed by total self-interest without any external restraint. Anything goes; all individuals have unchecked rights and the results are a breakdown of social structure to the point where ultimately individual rights are again trampled by lawlessness or by the emergence of a group in society powerful enough to again impose their agenda on others, swinging the pendulum back to yet another form of tyranny.

Good government finds a balance between tyranny and anarchy. Its guiding premise is to protect the common good while protecting individual rights as much as possible. For example, in a free world, anyone could drive a car. But in our society, we are selective about who we allow to drive because we believe that eliminating the right of certain people to drive protects the common good or safety of society. Hence people with impaired vision are not allowed to drive. People who are too young are arbitrarily banned from driving or limited in when or who they can drive because of their potential inexperience or immaturity of judgment. The fact is that some people are discriminated against who could actually drive and be accident-free, causing no harm to themselves or society. Discriminative laws treat them differently than the majority of society by limiting their freedom drive in an interest of protecting the public as a whole.

Discrimination is an unavoidable reality of life. Individuals, as well as government, must discriminate to some degree. Governments in particular, discriminate in order to protect the common good. The problem arises from the fact that 1) it is hard to find the perfect balance between protecting individual right to choose and protecting the common good, and 2) society as a whole will never agree on what that perfect balance is.

Perhaps one of the things that frustrates me the most about the entire Prop 8 debate is the simplistic implication that supporters of Prop 8 want to impose their religious and moral beliefs/values on others and arbitrarily discriminate against those who don’t share the same values. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Marriage is a private contract between two people in a committed relationship. For some, it may also be a religious contract. Many people would argue that government has no business regulating marriage at all. However, in our society, the reality is that government makes laws on who can marry and who can not. By definition, those laws are discriminatory. People who are too young can’t marry. Siblings or other people too closely related can’t marry. Why does government intrude or “discriminate” in these matters? Because it is generally believed that those prohibitions are in the best interest of preserving and protecting society. Experience has shown that those laws are beneficial despite the fact that they do limit freedom of choice.

Obviously we live in a society where “government” has the right, and perhaps the obligation to “discriminate”. In a “democratic republic” like ours, government (by definition) is the will or “good judgment” of the majority of the people. The success of a government is predicated on that majority being able to choose wisely both in terms of seeing the long term consequences of a particular decision and in balancing their respect and protection of minority rights. Therefore, the debate about Prop 8 isn’t “does it discriminate against anyone?” The issues are:

1) “Does it unfairly discriminate against a particular group of people?”

2) “If it does discriminate against a particular group of people, is the discrimination necessary or warranted in order to preserve and protect society as a whole?”

3) “Is there a way to find a fair balance between both issues or opposing sides?”

As one vote in that democratic republic, I feel that society is best served by continuing to define marriage as “between and man and a woman”. I further feel that the traditional model of a mother and a father raising children is the ideal way to nurture and raise the next generation. Therefore, while society needs to accommodate the “exceptions” to that model, I believe it should simultaneously do everything it can to promote and support the traditional family as the preferred vehicle for long-term societal well-being.

There are others who genuinely believe that there is no qualitative difference between a homosexual marriage and a heterosexual marriage and that one is no better able to facilitate strong families and child-rearing than the other, and therefore, there is no reasonable grounds for discrimination in marriage. That is the real issue at hand. Time and space don’t permit a careful review of all the sociological evidence or historical precedent for either of those viewpoints, but the seriousness of the issue certainly warrants a careful individual study. Is preserving the traditional view of marriage in the best interest of society or not? If we disagree, let’s disagree on that rather than on the simplistic “never discriminate against the minority” issue.

A comparison has been drawn between the civil rights movement of the 60’s and the gay rights movement of today. There is no comparison since absolutely no social good was served by discriminating between races. That form of discrimination had purely negative consequences on society, resulting in unwarranted abuses. The current issue is based on the firmly held opinion that children are more likely to thrive in a traditional family with a father and mother, and that situation ought to be promoted by society—not out of desire to discriminate against any particular group, but as the best way of fostering a social structure most likely to result in stable and secure children.

The “discrimination” attached to this ballot measure is strictly limited to prohibiting domestic partnerships from being called “marriages”. Consenting adults are still free to choose to have a committed same-gender relationship. They still receive equal protection and insurance benefits under the law. Therefore, Prop 8 provides a fair compromise to both opposing positions by keeping the definition of traditional marriage while protecting the rights and benefits of same-gender couples. There is a big difference between arbitrarily imposing social and religious values on people and allowing our chosen form of self-government to work: namely, that the majority respectively decide what is in the best interest of society and then implement that decision in a way that has the smallest negative impact on the minority group that don’t share that viewpoint. I believe that preserving the traditional definition of marriage in conjunction with the existing domestic partnership laws does that very thing.

Opponents don’t buy into my belief that research and experience show traditional families are best. But, conversely, they haven’t provided enough empirical evidence to convince me that this new “social experiment” of redefining families is harmless either. Given there plainly is not definitive proof available from either side, if we must error one way or another, I’d prefer to error on the side of history and tradition—let’s not redefine marriage based on current social trends, but maintain the traditional definition until more definitive data can be collected. Civilization after civilization have used the traditional models of families (or variations thereon) as the basic structure of society. There is also sufficient evidence to suggest that when homosexual relationships became rampant it was on the “tail end” of that society’s existence, not on the front end.

I also support Prop 8 because I believe it to be the only way to prevent discrimination against those who do value and support traditional marriage. Whether or not Prop 8 passes, same-gender couples, and even open promoters and advocates of homosexuality are not going to be persecuted, prosecuted or jailed. However, I believe that reverse discrimination will occur (and is occurring) on the other end of the spectrum. Even now if you support gay marriage you are “open minded”. If you oppose gay marriage for what ever reason, you are guilty of “hate speech”. The freedom of speech and choice for those who oppose gay marriage will be severely compromised if marriage is legally redefined, which brings me to my second reason for supporting Prop 8:

2) My concern for the reality/long term consequences that I believe will ensue if prop 8 doesn’t pass.

There are a number of consequences I believe will inevitably follow if marriage is redefined to allow for same-sex couples. Children in public schools will be taught about same-sex marriage on an equal or (depending on the teacher) higher footing that traditional marriage. Lawsuits targeting people who choose not to “facilitate” same-gender marriages or activities based on personal moral conviction will increase. Ministers or religious organizations who preach against same-sex marriage or institute policies that don’t give equal rights or resources to homosexuals may be targeted for prosecution or loose their tax-exempt status. The list goes on.

The opposition to Prop 8 claim that those are “untrue scare tactics” and that there are laws that specifically will keep any of those things from happening. I can’t decide if the people who say that are just na├»ve or stupid. There are two compelling arguments that indicate the above concerns are not just scare tactics, but very real concerns:

All of those things have already happened/are happening in states and countries where same-sex marriage is legal. Many of them are already happening in California , in spite of the so-called “legal protections”.

Laws change. Case in point: compare the 1% cost originally imposed for Social Security to the approximately 14% it escalated to down the road—laws change rapidly as the political and social climate change. Closer to the issue: California law clearly defined marriage as between a man and woman (prop 22). Yet it only took one lawsuit making its way to the supreme court to have four judges overturn that law and make same sex marriage legal. Given precedent, the fact that there are laws that ensure clergy will never be forced to violate their religious convictions does not provide much protection when a single lawsuit claiming discrimination would negate that protection in a flash.

Consequence #1: A disintegration of civil liberties for those who oppose same sex-marriage.

Examples:

  • Several mayors of Canadian cities have been taken to Human Rights Tribunals for refusing to declare Gay Pride Days in their cities.
  • A Catholic high school in Ontario was forced by the Ontario Supreme Court to allow a homosexual student to take his boyfriend to the graduation prom, even though the church-run school has strict prohibitions against condoning any kind of homosexual behavior. Note: this was a private school, not a public school.
  • A lesbian couple in the Vancouver arranged to rent a hall for their wedding reception from the Knights of Columbus, a Catholics men's service group. When the group discovered that the marriage was going to be between two women, they cancelled the rental agreement, stating that their religious beliefs prevented them from accommodating a same sex wedding. Even though they paid to reprint the wedding invitations and for the rental of a new hall, the couple still sued the group in the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
  • A couple in Prince Edward Island who operated a bed and breakfast in their own home refused to rent their bedroom to two homosexual men. They were charged and convicted of discrimination, and rather than fight the matter in court, they closed their business down.
  • A gynecologist in Vista , Calif. refused to give his patient in vitro fertilization treatment because she is in a lesbian relationship, claiming that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. The doctor referred the patient to his partner, who agreed to do the treatment. The woman still sued under the state's civil rights act. The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in May 2008 and ruled that he didn’t have the right to refuse treatment in August.
  • A same sex couple in Albuquerque asked a photographer to shoot their commitment ceremony. The photographer declined, saying her Christian beliefs prevented her from sanctioning same-sex unions. The couple sued, and the New Mexico Human Rights Commission found the photographer guilty of discrimination. It ordered her to pay the lesbian couple's legal fees ($6,600).

I have not taken time or space to provide documentation for the above real situations, but have listed them merely to illustrate the types of concerns that exist. Various arguments can be made as to whether or not any of these individuals or groups were right in opposing gays or homosexuality. However, the real issue is not whether they were right or wrong, but whether the law should be able to compel them to participate or not. If society so adamantly believes that all homosexuals should have their freedom of choice respected, doesn’t it hold that reverse discrimination is also wrong: that individuals who oppose homosexuality should have their choice, opinion and freedom of speech protected?

Consequence #2: A wholesale increase in homosexuality because of societal indoctrination.

The argument is made that homosexuality is not a choice, but is something people are born with, and therefore should be respected on equal grounds as heterosexuality. Given the homosexuals I know personally, I would agree that there are some people who naturally have homosexual tendencies. Without arguing over the origin of those tendencies, let’s accept the fact that some people may naturally be inclined that way. Let’s accept the fact that some of those people are going to deal with that reality by being promiscuously homosexual. Others are going to find committed, monogamous homosexual relationships. Still others are going to deal with it by living celibately. Obviously, how homosexuality is handled becomes a moral issue which has nothing to do with Prop 8, and which will always engender disagreement.

Let’s address the social issue: while agreeing that homosexuality tendency is not a choice for some, I would submit that it is a choice for most and that a larger number of people become homosexual after experimentation and/or indoctrination. One of the more interesting pieces of research examined the high number of homosexual students on sports teams. Students were carefully surveyed to determine how many of them identified themselves as homosexual prior to participation on school sports teams. These results were compared to the number of them who were self-proclaimed homosexuals after several years of participation on the sports team. The findings showed that when non-homosexual students participated on a team with even one homosexual student, after several years of close association, many of those non-homosexual students began to identify themselves as having a homosexual identity or tendencies. However, when non-homosexual students participated on a team that didn’t have any other homosexual students, very few, if any, students “became” homosexual. The research concluded that the majority of young people are not naturally born homosexual, but are persuaded to experiment with and then accept that life style.

Holding the view that same-sex marriages are generally a less effective environment than the traditional family for raising children, and believing that homosexuality can be and is being promoted with exponential results, it stands to reason that those of us who share that opinion would be anxious to slow the spread of this trend down as much as possible. An area of greatest concern to supporters of Prop 8 is that fact that with the legalization of gay marriage, homosexuality will be taught in the public school. Again, opponents claim that is not going to happen, but it is pretty easy to look up the education code that requires schools to teach children about marriage and see that it is an inevitability. There is a big difference between teaching children to be tolerant of different viewpoints and indoctrinating them to accept homosexuality as equally acceptable. That indoctrination is already rampant in many schools. Legally defining marriage as being equal to heterosexual marriage would be the nail in the coffin in terms of indoctrination. Lawsuits in Massachusetts in which the courts ruled that parents did not have the right to object to homosexual curriculum and “pull their kids” out illustrates that concern.

Because homosexuality is a moral as well as a social issue, I believe parents should be able to teach their children according to their beliefs. There is never room for abuse or intolerance of alternate lifestyles, but we have passed the point where, under the guise of “open-mindedness”, we as a society are not only allowing it, we are promoting it. I pay government to educate our children. By education I mean reading, writing, math, history, etc. I expect students to be infused with the “less tangible” kinds of education, such as character development, values, analytical reasoning, etc as well. However, I do not pay schools to become a tool for social engineering and change. When I see the hours spent in California classrooms promoting special interest agendas such as gay rights and diversity at the same time anything remotely connected to traditional moral values or religious ideas is prohibited, I have to take a stand. Fair is fair.

My third reason for supporting prop 8:

3) I believe homosexuality and gay marriage also constitute a moral issue as well as a social issue.

I do believe that legalizing gay marriage has moral ramifications as well as the social ramifications discussed above. I personally believe that marriage was defined by God and that families should ideally include a man and a woman. Biological creation supports that conclusion. I have never seen two men or two women naturally produce a child. However, I also believe historical precedent and social theory and research support traditional marriage. I am deeply offended by people who discount the other issues addressed relating to Prop 8 because they happen to correspond to my religious or moral values. I believe that either reason #1 or #2, in the absence of reason #3, is sufficient to validate supporting the issue. Please don’t discount my opinions under the guise of that I am foisting religious values on the world.

If you don’t agree that the traditional definition of marriage has the highest prognosis for producing stable children then let’s agree to disagree on that. If you don’t believe that government has the right to promote those policies believed to foster the public good for society has a whole, let agree to disagree. If you don’t believe that people who are opposed to homosexuality are in more danger of having their rights trampled than those who favor homosexuality then let’s agree to disagree.

My first day out knocking on doors for Prop 8 I had barely mentioned prop 8 to a guy when he said, “I am not voting for prop 8. I am gay”. He then asked what group I was working with, assuming I was against prop 8. When I said, that I was on the “Yes on 8” side, he laughed and said, “then I can’t work for them. I’m on the other team!” We laughed, ‘shook hands’, and went our own ways with mutual respect for each other. I didn’t love and accept him less. He didn’t accept me less. We disagree on the issue. We disagree on our moral perspective. We disagree on the social ramifications. But we left friends. Too bad the entire world doesn’t work that way. It would be nice if we were all free to exercise our right to participate in the government freely. Yes, the majority will generally prevail. Who that majority is may likely change with the times. But in an ideal world they would do it respectfully, considering the minority’s rights and position. There is a big difference between that and using the guise of tolerance, acceptance, fairness, anti-discrimination to push a social agenda.

So, yes, I support Prop 8…and proudly so. I understand and respect those who honestly don’t. I don’t respect those few who really don’t care at all about marriage rights or the future of society, but have a gay social agenda to promote. I likewise don’t respect those whose sole support of Prop 8 is a desire to force their religious beliefs on others. However, I believe that the majority of people on both sides of the line genuinely want what is best for society. I believe it will be a close race, with a somewhat higher probability for the “No on 8” side prevailing over the “Yes on 8.” I will be sad if that happens, however, that is a risk we always take when buy into our concept of government where the majority of people make the decisions.

-Laurel Rogers

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Marriage as a "Public Good"

(This posting is from an email debate attempting to explain why my stance against same-sex marriage is not just trying to force my own religious beliefs on others.)

Yes, I am against same-sex marriage. I believe that the government has no right to interfere with homosexual relationships but I also think it is not in society's best interest to promote them as "marriage." I think a distinction needs to be made between something being legal and being promoted by the government. I agree with your argument that the government shouldn't tell people how to live their lives, but to me, that is what we already have: people are free to choose whatever lifestyle/sexuality they wish and the government doesn't dictate what they can and can't do.

So what about mixing religious belief and public policy? In the end, while I personally feel that homosexuality is wrong, government cannot and should not base public policy on my personal feelings. I also feel that cohabiting before marriage is wrong, but I'm not asking for government to outlaw that any more than I am asking for them to outlaw homosexuality. Just because I believe a certain way doesn't mean I should "enforce" my belief on everyone. But I think there is a distinct difference between behavior that is allowed or legal and behavior that is promoted or encouraged.

Why would the government want to promote or encourage certain behaviors in the first place? Shouldn't government be neutral? I believe, in general, it should be. But government can decide that a certain behavior has a beneficial effect on society enough to warrant "promoting" it. You would call this a "public good" in economics: something that benefits more parties than those personally involved. One example of this is home ownership: data has shown that homeowners tend to be more stable, take better care of their homes/neighborhoods, contribute less to crime and so forth. More home ownership is a good thing for everyone- not just those who own the homes- so the government has created policies to encourage home ownership (tax deduction of interest, FHA loans, etc.). The government doesn't encourage me to buy a home vs. rent because it likes me and wants the best for me (although it sounds nice...): it does it because it is better for EVERYONE.

The problem with a public good is that the tendency is to "free ride" on benefits from others instead of putting out effort to do the beneficial thing yourself, which results in the public good being under-provided. Take immunizations: if I am immunized there is a benefit to me but also a risk (I could be the one in a million who contracts the disease, I have to be stuck with a needle, it costs me money to get the immunization, etc.); but when I am immunized it also benefits everyone around me by reducing the likelihood of me spreading the disease. If enough people are immunized, then someone who doesn't want to take the risk themselves can "free ride" on all of the other people who are immunized without a large risk of contracting a disease... but this only works as long as there enough people still getting immunized to keep the non-immunized people's risk low. If people were to base their decision of whether to be immunized solely on their own personal comfort vs. risk, fewer people would be immunized than would be desirable for society as a whole. So government promotes immunization so this "public good" is not under-provided. (I might note that this view of mine is not uncontested: there is a very outspoken minority that strongly believes that government support of immunizations is wrong and dangerous and that the government is only promoting immunization to keep drug companies making money).

Traditional marriage has many benefits that are a "public good," similar to home ownership: people who are married are more stable, less violent, live longer, more healthy, etc. The most important of these "public goods" provided by marriage are those involving bearing and raising children. Families are the seedbed of society: how children are raised largely determines how successful they are, how much education they get, how much they contribute to the economy, whether they live productive lives, or whether they fall into poverty and crime. (There is a study by William Galston, a former advisor to President Clinton, that shows that you only have to do three simple things to avoid being poor: finish high school, marry before having a child, and wait until age 20 to have a child. Only 8% of people who do these three things are poor, compared to 79% for those who do not.) Marriage between a man and a woman fosters a stable environment for reproducing and raising offspring, decreases the rate of children growing up in poverty, among numerous other benefits. Because of this, it is in government's best interest to promote marriage for the common good of society as a whole. As I see it, it shouldn't matter to government whether two people love each other. The only reason government should get involved in promoting certain relationships is if those relationships are shown to create a beneficial effect for society beyond the two people involved.

So to summarize, my position that government should not declare that homosexual relationships are the same as heterosexual marriage is not based on my personal religious values. It is based on social and biological observation. Biological observation shows that a man and woman are required (at least at some point in the process...) to create a child. Social observation has clearly shown that children do better when raised by a married couple. There is also increasing evidence that it is in a child's best interest to be raise by a man and a woman, who fulfill different gender-specific roles in parenting. The UN Convention on the rights of children even has as one of the rights of a child (in Article 7) "as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents." The reason that marriage recognized by government is not so much for the personal benefit of the parties involved as it is for the benefit that their union will potentially make to society as a whole.

I guess what I don't see is why there is a need for government to promote homosexual marriage as a public good. Yes, there would be benefits to the individual couple (most of which are already guaranteed by domestic partnership laws). But I haven't yet heard a good argument that homosexual marriage qualifies as a public good for society that benefits all. I could be mistaken, but I think it is a risky social experiment to take without very carefully weighing the pros and cons in a public forum of debate and, hopefully, consensus. None of these criteria have been met by the California Supreme court simply overturning the existing law.

So that's the long and short (or, more accurately, the long and long) =] of my opinion.