Category Archives: Current Events

Words As Weapons

I’ve been meaning to get to this for a few weeks now, but wanted to clear my head before I dove in.

A CBS poll a few weeks ago revealed something interesting in how Americans perceive the LGBT community. With the Obama Administration, along with the military top brass teeing up the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, new organizations are polling to get the pulse of Americans on the issue.

In 1993, it was pretty clear most Americans didn’t no support gays, er, homosexuals to serve openly in the military. This word-play is precisely what CBS tested. When Americans were asked if “homosexuals” should be allowed to serve in the military, the numbers were much lower compared to when they were asked if gay men and lesbians should be allowed. The former is cold, clinical, and intellectual. The latter, “gay men and lesbians”, is relational, real-world, and person-oriented. See the poll results below.

What struck me most after seeing this poll is thinking about how different groups within America talk about the LGBT community. Browsing conservative Christian websites you read “homosexual, homosexual, homosexual”. They focus on behavior and consequences, and don’t even acknowledge gay people as people, but rather as someone with identity issues. Their narrative of the homosexual is one in which this person is alone, in the dark, simply waiting to fulfill a physical desire. No community, no meaningful relationships, or desire for intimacy. There is no inherent person hood in the way they talk about gay people.

What this poll shows is that the way in which people talk about others really determines how they view that person or community. It makes me wonder what those who will only say “homosexual” are trying to get at. Do they view it against their beliefs or “giving in” to larger culture to acknowledge gays and lesbians as people? The term, “homosexual”, in the ears of  younger generations seems a lot like older generations of Americans referring to African Americans as “colored people”.

I studied words and communication in college because I believe in the power of words. How we use them, the meanings that they carry shape our world and how we think about it. Words have the power to affirm, to grant person-hood, and they have the power to demean and destroy. Words can be building blocks and they can be weapons. It’s all in how we use them.

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Ted Olson: Why I’m Taking on Prop 8

Ted Olson is known for his rock solid conservative credentials and is regarded as one of the most knowledgeable constitutional lawyers in the nation. He has argued 55 cases before the Supreme Court and won 75 percent of the time. A Chicago native, Olson received his law degree from Berkeley Law in California, worked in the justice department in the Reagan Administration, and served as Solicitor General in the Bush Administration. His highest profile case was Bush v. Gore, the case which ended up at the Supreme Court and decided the 2000 presidential election. Shortly after Prop 8 passed in California, Ted Olson, along with his former opponent in Bush v. Gore, David Boies, have teamed up to show why Prop. 8 is discriminatory and violates the U.S. Constitution. As a Republican, it’s exciting to see a conservative who values the Constitution and puts fairness and equality over pushing a particular agenda.

There’s been a lot of discussion about Olson’s role in the case. Conservatives has questioned his loyalty to their “cause”, while gay rights advocates wonder whether Olson is in it to sabotage the case. Below is a short video on why Olson decided to take on this undoubtedly uphill battle. Be sure to check out this article from Newsweek called “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage”. The trial begins Monday, January 11 and video will be posted here.

Prop. 8 Trial: Grab Your Popcorn

ON Monday, begins the trial in California that seeks to overturn Proposition 8, which narrowly passed in 2008. The proposition overturned the California Supreme Court’s decision to offer marriage rights to same-sex couples…although the couples who married when it was legal were allowed to keep their status. I could go on and on about the detriment of propositions and referendums, however I’m more intrigued by the fact this trial will be taped and posted for the public to see.

We have all witnessed the extent of the “culture wars” in our society…all the hideous name-calling, back-biting, venom from both sides denigrating one another. Prop. 8 supporters tried to stop the taping because they were “fearful about being questioned about their personal, political and religious beliefs on the stand and having that televised”. Well if you really believe what you say, why fear? Stand your ground. Those people certainly aren’t afraid to do so outside of a courtroom. I’ve heard all the arguments from people who are against same-sex marriage. I can’t remember hearing ONE that came from a legal standpoint, grounded in the U.S. Constitution. That is the legal framework we work within in this country — like it or not.

Sure, the lawyers in support of Prop. 8 will have legal arguments. But I cannot wait to hear them. We’ll see what’s left when inflamed rhetoric and arguments derived from a fundamentalist and religious point of view are removed. Do I wonder whether cameras could compromise the ability for a “fair trial”? A little. Although an appeals court said that wasn’t the case. I’m more concerned with how fair it was for a majority to rip away the rights of a minority group. That, my friends, is what the U.S. Constitution was intended to protect against: the tyranny of the majority.

Be sure to visit The American Foundation for Equal Rights, who along with long-time conservative Ted Olson and David Boies – once opponents in Bush v. Gore – team up to challenge the constitutionality of Prop 8.