Lawmaker’s Regret

law-01In honor of the Supreme Court ruling that no American majority has the right to force their cultural beliefs on any equally American minority, I have compiled a list of the dumbest (and occasionally most hilarious, thank you dumbest!) laws currently on the books.

Lawmakers are only people, and it is human nature that we people think we know best, until somebody knocks us upside the head. Here’s hoping that in the future our lawmakers can take a step back and think before that act, so that they will not look like complete idiots in hind site.

My Top Twenty most self-serving examples of misuse of the law in an attempt to force one group’s cultural and social customs on everyone else, thus failing the test of time:

  1. In my home state of Alabama, it is illegal to wear a fake mustache that causes laughter in church. Did so many people actually do this that we needed to put it into law? A mustache epidemic! We also recently passed a law stating that laws cannot be written based on books from foreign countries, not realizing, of course, that the Bible was written in a foreign country. Not precisely what they were going for.
  2. In Arkansas, a man can legally beat his wife, but not more than once a month. Imagine the debate that went on in the legislature. Not enough, I need to beat mine weekly! Can we compromise on once every 2 weeks? How about more often in the longer months?
  3. Also in Arkansas, they passed a law providing that school teachers who bob their hair will not get a raise.  I must assume they thought that all school teachers were female and prone to lascivious acts.
  4. In Delaware, six-year-old girls may not run around without being fully clothed.  Rather an extreme case of blame the victim.
  5. Florida wins on volume alone! In Florida:
    1. Having sexual relations with a porcupine is illegal. (Who would do this twice? or even once?)
    2. One may not commit any “unnatural acts” with another person. Now why, exactly, were they so obsessed with this that they spent the time necessary to pass a law? Surely they could have spent their time more productively. Methinks they protest too much! I would also like to know who decides what is natural and what is not?
    3. Next, unmarried couples may not commit “lewd acts” and live together in the same residence.
    4. It is considered an offense to shower naked.
    5. Oral sex is illegal.
    6. You may not kiss your wife’s breasts.
    7. Men may not be seen publicly in any kind of strapless gown. I’d also love to know what precipitated that one.
    8. They recently passed a law making it illegal for pediatricians to council against gun violence. Not so funny. Money and power were involved in the passage of that particular law, rather than care for actual children.
  6. In Georgia, members of the state assembly cannot be ticketed for speeding while the state assembly is in session. Gotta love self preservation.
  7. In Indiana, my favorite nurse’s home state, it is illegal for a man to be sexually aroused in public. But would the evidence not vanish as the arrest was being made? I wonder if the witness would actually show up to testify. So, witness person, while you were staring at this man’s groin, you noticed…
  8. Owensboro, Kentucky has made it illegal for a woman to buy a hat without her husband’s permission. Could she receive one as a gift? Or borrow one? What would the punishment be, because you know said husband would not want to loose the services of said wife if she were jailed? And would he not be the one paying the fine? Wouldn’t he just pretend she had permission?
  9. In Louisiana, rituals that involve the ingestion of blood, urine, or fecal matter are not allowed. I must agree with the people at that this problem would solve itself over time.
  10. Massachusetts has made it illegal for a  woman to be on top during sexual activities. I would love to have heard that debate in the legislature as well. And how do we enforce this? It is also illegal in Mass to go to bed without first having a full bath. (I am trying to think how these two might relate: wash her, and lay her out… Sounds a bit satanic.)
  11. In Michigan, a woman isn’t allowed to cut her own hair without her husband’s permission. See #8 above.
  12. In Montana, it is illegal for married women to go fishing alone on Sundays, and illegal for unmarried women to fish alone at all. How dare they be unmarried! Let them starve!
  13. In South Carolina it is perfectly legal to beat your wife on the court house steps on Sundays. Is the assumption that you won’t beat her too badly in public, because you would be embarrassed? Have you seen the things people are willing to do in public?
  14. Tennessee is the last hold out: interracial marriages are still illegal.
  15. Vermont women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth. What was the downside that they were so afraid of that they had to put this into law? That the sweet old lady might bite someone? It is also illegal in Vermont to deny the existence of God. In a country where our Constitution guarantees us freedom of religion, they made it a crime to deny the existence of God.
  16. Virginia, where I grew up, has my favorite self serving edict: There is a state law prohibiting “corrupt practices of bribery by any person other than candidates.”
  17. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, 14 states persisted in believing that the law could determine who a person was allowed to love and marry.
Children born today will grow up in a country where there has always been marriage equality. They will be appalled, and perhaps shake there heads and laugh us old people, that we ever thought making a law dictating who someone could love was a good idea. LoveWins.

Bullying, and the Battle for Equality

Hasardous waste-01This week I have been called immoral, evil, ignorant, and bigoted. I was told I care nothing about children (this after almost 30 years as a pediatrician). I was told that I was going to burn in hell. It has been a very odd week.

None of these things sounded much like the me I know and love.

Each time I was simply standing up for what I believed was right, and the “adults” with whom I was conversing were so astonished when I did not simply cave to their obvious superiority that they went straight to name calling, rather than reason.

I could almost feel the thrill they took in shouting their beliefs from their shaky mountain top, refusing to even consider a different viewpoint.

I am a grown up, I can hold to my beliefs and not shed a tear, but oddly… it still hurt.

So how must it feel as a 10 year old, when enormous adults are towering over you, talking at you and not giving you a moment to speak for yourself? How, when the popular kid in class, the one with all the social power, calls you a dork and shoves you into a wall? How, when you know you are different and different is immoral, ignorant, and hell bound, if only because it does not sanctify their views and might poke a hole in the fragile balloon of their security?

We are fighting in the streets now, for equality not based on religious views, skin color, sex, or sexual preference. I wonder if the people demanding they be respected even though they are Muslim, or Black, see that their fight is the same as those that demand equality even though they are gay. Do the women ( and the Pope! ) fighting for equal pay see their battle as a part of the never-ending fight for all humans to respect each other as equals?

Can we ever get to a point where we realize that no one wins, as long as someone else looses?

That someone else’s success does not subtract from or in any way prevent ours?

As usual with social change, evolution must start with the children. Children are pure potential; their minds are open, interested, and willing to love. A baby looks at any face with wide open eyes and an ear-to-ear smile, not caring what color or sex that face is, what church they go to, or whom they love. We as their parents and teachers sometimes ruin that. We damage their beautiful, open minds and darken their young hearts, forcing our reality upon them. We teach them to smirk and squint, to judge and condemn.

If we want our children to be happy and fulfilled, to be able to think and create, and to be open to the opportunities the world puts in their paths, we must examine our own thoughts, pack the ugly ones up and cart them off. When we catch ourselves starting to say something unkind, we must stop. When we find ourselves treating someone as if they are less, we need to realize that this gives permission for another person to treat our child as if he or she is less. If our children see us treat every person with respect, they will know they also are deserving of respect, simply because everyone is.

Take the positives from our separate cultures and celebrate them, but allow that other cultures have positives too.

Be proud of our accomplishments, but also find it in our hearts to congratulate others on theirs.

Step up when someone is cruel.

Understand that we are not fighting for Gay Rights or Black Justice or Women’s Rights, but for Equality. We cannot hold onto our own rights if we do not grant everyone else theirs. It makes no sense to insist that a person respect our beliefs and then turn around and denigrate theirs. It is immoral to campaign for Black justice then go home and vomit up ugliness about gays or women; to fight for equal pay for women then turn around and gossip about the mixed race marriage down the block.

Until we can give respect, we ourselves do not deserve it, and our children will follow in our path.

When we stand up to our own bullies (especially the ones squatting in our own brains), we teach our children how to stand up to theirs, and they will be able to grasp and hold the life we wish for them.

Perhaps now is a good time to remember the words of Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.



Hey Mom, Chris has Two Dads!

rainbowweddingbandsI was asked recently what people should tell their children about gay marriage. Apparently there are many opinions on the interwebs. My initial thought was, why is this a problem?

Then I remembered my mother and her friends gossiping about the man next door who – gasp! – had married a Philippino! And later, about the woman down the street who was, dear lord, divorced!! I remembered hiding around the corner, listening, soaking it up and feeling, for a little while, that I was somehow better than their kids. They were less, so I must be more. One small dark spot was added to my soul.

I have given it some serious thought, because this really is a big deal: having respect for every other person as your absolute equal is essential to living a true, honest life and valuing your own individuality and potential. You cannot despise another person without letting rot into your own core.

So here it is:

Tell them marriage is a contract between two people who love each other, promising that they are and will always be on the same team. They will take on life together to accomplish whatever goals they have in mind, whether it be building a home, raising children, or saving the world. From that moment on they will have someone to stand beside them on their path, and guard their backs in times of trouble.

Tell them that marriage is both a cultural tradition and a legal contract. People celebrate marriage in as many ways as there are societies. They arrive on elephants, walk down aisles in churches, and stand under tents together to celebrate their joy in finding a partner. What matters is the validation of this contract with the people closest to them as witnesses, not the details of the particular tradition.

Marriage is also a legal contract, recognized by the laws of the land, and effects everything from how a married couple holds their money and owns their home to how taxes are paid and medical decisions are made.

You didn’t honestly think your kids would care which parts go where, did you? Your problems are not their problems, until you make them so.

What to say?

So, when your child comes home and announces that their new friend Chris has two moms, or two dads, the proper response is “… and?” in the exact same tone of voice that you would use if they announced that Chris had a mom and a dad. “Did you like them? Were they nice to you? Did you have fun?”

Problems start when society’s prejudices poke their nastiness into your child’s innocent brain. Humans don’t deal well with change, and in the matter of gay marriage change is certain. In the same way the fight for racial equality or women’s rights made tiny people do horrible things, the inevitability of equal marriage rights under the law is making people ugly. The future will view them in the same way we now view the forced feeding of women fighting for the right to vote, or the beating of Black men and women fighting for the right to an equal education, but for now we have to deal with their influence on our children.

No two people ever travel the same path, but fear pushes people into a dark pit that demands that their path is the right one, the only proper one, the one that everyone should travel. For them to be secure there cannot be options. These fearful people tend to be loud and righteous, and fling their knives without caring where they land and what damage they do. If you want your child to grow strong and straight, and not be ruled by fear and bigotry, you will need to do damage control.

What to do

Apologize for people’s narrow minded bigotry, and let your child know that you are glad they told you about that ugly thing they heard, or that they were confused. Explain that some people are damaged on the inside, and judging others makes them feel better, like putting a bandage on a wound; that some people are not terribly smart and cannot figure this stuff out; and, worse, some people actually choose not to think, because it is easier.

Explain that this is not acceptable behavior, and you hope that they will not be so thoughtlessly cruel to someone just because they can.

Explain that you hope they will follow their own path bravely, stand up for what is right, and not feel any need to shrink who they are when confronted with bullying and bigotry. Reassure them that your wish for them is to find someone to partner with who loves them, supports them in their choices, and can grow with them through the years of their lives; not someone of a predefined age, skin color, religion, or sex. Explain that you love them, and loving them without limits illuminates that dark pit so that you can love the rest of the people sharing their world a little better, respecting their lives and choices.