Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish Foreign Minister: end ban on gays in NY St Patrick's Parade

"...They need to celebrate Ireland as it is, not as people imagine it. Equality is very much the center of who we are in our identity in Ireland," said Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore, speaking yesterday with prominent New York Irish gay community leaders and groups at the Irish Consulate on Park Avenue in NYC.

"This issue of exclusion is not Irish, let's be clear about it. Exclusion is not an Irish thing..... I think that's the message that needs to be driven home."

After a financial debacle more serious than America's, Irish elections last month catapulted Fine Gael into the leadership of Ireland. They replaced Fianna Fail (relegating them to third place status), which had been the largest party in Parliament since 1932. The winds of change are strong according to Gilmore: The new government is committed to a constitutional convention to draw up a new constitution for Ireland in time for the 100th anniversary of 1916 Easter Rebellion. The government plans to introduce a provision for same sex marriage. (Civil Unions are currently available for legal for same-sex and heterosexual couples in Ireland)

"Ireland has changed," said Gilmore. "..For the majority of Irish people being gay is no longer an issue."

While often perceived as having a very conservative approach to sex and gender issues, the Irish actually have a very 'progressive' past: in medieval Ireland, women had the right to divorce their husbands, own property, and figured prominently in Irish legend and history, including Queen Maeve and St. Bridget. The 12th century historian Gerald of Wales records ceremonies for same-sex male unions taking place as early as the 1100's. The 16th C. English Poet Edmund Spencer was appalled by Irish men, writing that they were "a bunch of lascivious bisexuals who offered themselves freely to both women and men." Spencer recommended the extermination of the Irish race but was himself burned out of his famous castle in County Cork.

The imposition of a strict Puritan code under the Elizabethans, Cromwell, and the Victorians; the loss of 1/3 of the population during an Gorta More (the Great Hunger); and the resultant alliance of independence-minded Irish with the Catholic Church against Protestant Ulstermen resulted in a strong social ethos of conservatism in matters of gender and sex - at least on the surface.

But those of us who really know the Irish, know that the real Ireland is emerging once again...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Michele Bachmann: Ignorance knows no bounds....

In previous posts, I have complained about young people’s lack of grasp of history, and thus, their inability to place current events and political proposals into some sort of context. As serious and problematic as that is, it’s even worse when a current Member of Congress and Presidential aspirant repeatedly displays a thorough ignorance of American history.

Many news outlets have picked up on Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann’s recent trip to New Hampshire. Speaking to the Republican Liberty Caucus in Manchester, NH, Bachmann addressed her crowd by stating,

“You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world at Lexington and Concord. And you put a marker in the ground and paid with the blood of your ancestors.”

I know that when I was in school, I learned that Lexington and Concord were in Massachusetts. That Paul Revere rode out from Boston, Massachusetts. That the early Revolutionary War skirmishes – the Tea Party, the Boston Massacre – were in Massachusetts. How does a Congressman and Presidential wannabe get this wrong?
One could be charitable and assume she misspoke – but this was the second time in two days she made that claim. Speaking a day earlier in Portsmouth, she said the same thing.

When called out on her lack of grasp of basic American history, she responded on her Facebook Page by saying,

"So I misplaced the battles Concord and Lexington by saying they were in New Hampshire. It was my mistake, Massachusetts is where they happened. New Hampshire is where they are still proud of it!"

Her cavalier dismissal of her own ignorance is disturbing…as is her unnecessary and snide insinuation that somehow Massachusetts is not proud of its heritage.

If this was a one-time occurrence, or occurred late in the campaign season when candidates are exhausted, it would be easy to write it off as a simple error. But Bachmann exhibits a scary tendency to rewrite history over and over in order to whip up passion among her base.

In a speech given to “Iowans for Tax Relief” in January of this year, Bachmann included these incredible statements:

“For 21 generations in America we have listened to Lincoln’s words…”

“We republished the Mayflower Compact in the Declaration of Independence…"

"[In our first years as a nation]…it didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter your economic background– once you got here, we were all the same”

Is this woman serious?! Is she completely ignorant of American history, or does she simply not care what she says in order to attract the votes of the under-educated?

Since Lincoln was President in the 1860s, 150 years have passed. Squeezing 21 generations into 150 years would result in a new generation every SEVEN years. I realize that the age at which girls are becoming fertile is dropping, but even this is a little hard to grasp.

There is not a single phrase from the Mayflower Compact included in the Declaration of Independence.

And when African slaves came here, they were considered 3/5 of a person. Catholics were forbidden from holding office in New Hampshire, and non-property owners were forbidden from voting in many states. The Irish were greeted with NINA signs, and American citizens of Japanese ancestry were put into concentration camps. Native Americans in the east were marched to Oklahoma.

We were not “all the same” once we got here.

Bachmann acknowledged that slavery took place, but she countered that,

“… we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States”

Huh? You mean the founders who (a) owned slaves, (b) specifically voted DOWN an anti-slavery clause drafted by Jefferson in the original Declaration, and (c) who were all DEAD when the Civil War was fought?

I’ve collected a series of Bachmann quotes that establishes a pattern of ignoring or rewriting facts to fit her political goals. Below are some of the most astonishing for their shear stupidity:

“Unelected bureaucracies will decide what we can and cant get in future health insurance policy. Thats why theyre called death panels.” (They were not called death panels – that’s what Sarah Palin called them)

”And what a bizarre time we’re in, when a judge will say to little children that you can’t say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it.” (No Judge has ever said a child could not say the Pledge of Allegiance, and no Judge has required that children should learn about and ‘try’ homosexuality)

”I’m very concerned about the international moves they’re making, particularly … moving the United States off the dollar and onto a global currency, like Russia and China are calling for.” (Neither Russia nor China are calling for an international currency. In fact, our current trade situation with China is difficult precisely because China tightly controls the value of its currency)

”I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another, then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.” Ummm….if you’re not blaming this on Democrats or Obama, why did you say that?

“The President of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day.”
(Bachmann does not understand that the original report was expressed in Indian currency – rupees – where the exchange rate is 45:1)

And my favorite:

“I just take the Bible for what it is, I guess, and recognize that I am not a scientist, not trained to be a scientist. I’m not a deep thinker on all of this. I wish I was. I wish I was more knowledgeable, but I’m not a scientist.”

Taken together with her previous quotes, Bachmann reveals her hand: Theology, not science or facts or history, drives her program. She parrots a re-written version of American History that has been developed by a narrow fundamentalist agenda seeking to portray America as a Divine Gift to the world, and the GOP tea partiers as the righteous remnant battling the socialists, the ungodly, the blasphemous, the homosexual, and all who think ‘differently.’

If this is the new and representative face of GOP, scary times are indeed ahead.