Skip to main content

RFRAs: LEARNING FROM LED ZEPPELIN, THE PILGRIMS, AND LESTER MADDOX

TRYING TO RECREATE HISTORY
Have you seen/heard Stairway to Heaven performed by Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson at the Kennedy Center the night that Led Zeppelin was honored? If you haven't, take a few minutes and check this video out.


Powerful, huh? But now that The Rolling Stones have announced the dates for their tour of the US, I just have to say it. I cringe when I see Mick Jagger strutting on stage these days. I do. It's involuntary, like a gag reflex. Jagger has become a caricature of himself and it's sad.

Picturing Jagger strutting on a stadium stage to the signature strains of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction forces me to give a pass to Robert Plant for his antipathy toward the idea of a Led Zeppelin reunion. Plant's just not that shirtless guy wearing low rider jeans any more, screaming into the mic, brushing his shoulder length, curly locks off his face with an almost effeminate flip of the wrist. He realizes that he can't be that guy again without becoming a cartoon. You just can't recreate history. You can honor history the way that the Wilson sisters did at the Kennedy Center that night and the way that Plant does when he performs semi-acoustic versions of Led Zep hits in duet with Allison Krause. But trying to recreate those great Led Zep onstage moments, night after night, note for note and solo for solo, 40 years later? No. So Plant gave up the stadiums and the big money and found ways to be the Robert Plant of today. Like this...


What does all of this have to do with Religious Freedom Restoration Acts? Well, it's about understanding and honoring history. And while those who say that RFRAs honor American history, a closer examination suggests that, like Jagger's strutting, their idea of American history is cringe worthy.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM MISCONCEPTION #1
If you are like most Americans, you think that the Pilgrims came to the New World to escape religious persecution. Senator Tom Cotton of Open Letter to Iran fame recently repeated that meme in discussing his state's passage of a RFRA. Like most Americans, and like Senator Cotton, you'd be wrong. Repeating poorly taught history does not make it so.

The Pilgrims did initially leave England after that country's break with Rome in order to practice their own version of non-Catholicism. Since they would not join the Church of England, they had to leave. But they didn't leave to go to the New World. They left to go to Holland. In Holland, they were free to practice their religion as they saw fit. The Pilgrims were not being persecuted when they decided to ship themselves across the Atlantic from Holland. They were, however, poor. Unskilled labor working at low-paying jobs. And their kids were enjoying the less restrictive social life that their host country had to offer. So their parents, for economic reasons and to keep control of their kids, left for the New World.

You can make the argument that the Pilgrims left England for reasons related to religious freedom, but you cannot make that argument for their eventual decision to sail to North America. At that point, the only religious component to their flight from Europe was their inability to convince their kids of the worth of their cloistered, austere lifestyle. There are echoes of such frustrations today, the belief of some religionists that they are losing control of the narrative, especially as regards their children. I get it. It's disheartening when your children reject teachings that you hold dear. But giving religionists license to discriminate based on an imperfect understanding of the Founders intent is not my idea of the American ideal.
  
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM MISCONCEPTION #2
If you are as old as I am, you remember the civil rights struggles of 50 years ago.

(I do part with some of my liberal friends when I say that I consider the LGBT struggle today qualitatively different from that of black Americans back in the day. Yes, the LGBT community is discriminated against and that discrimination is is as wrong and as hateful as racial discrimination. But as a Jew, I can tell you that I have been discriminated against in my life primarily when I declare my Judaism. I can walk down the street anywhere in the world, I can even drop my pants and display my lack of a foreskin, and unless I declare my faith, I can pass. The same goes for the LGBT community. Unless they declare their orientation verbally or by their actions, they can pass. Black Americans don't have that option. The reason that they are discriminated against is literally written across their foreheads. Just sayin'...)

If you remember those struggles, you remember folks like Lester Maddox. Lester owned a restaurant in Atlanta. He swore that he would close it before he would allow it to be integrated. He stood in the doorway, waving an ax handle, to make his point. And he eventually did close the restaurant rather than comply with the law. States rights and private property were his mantras. The federal government had no business telling the Georgians what they could and could not do. And anyway, don't people have the right to associate with whom they choose on their own property?

Sound familiar?
1. States should be able to determine for themselves the definition of marriage.
2. And whether or not a state allows LGBT marriage, who a businessperson decides to serve is his or her own business.

By that reasoning, we're back to Maddox. And that just won't fly. The reason that federal laws can trump states' rights is to protect the rights of minorities, not ratify the will of a misguided majority. Never doubt that Georgians were in the majority sympathetic to Maddox. Two years after he closed his restaurant to avoid integration, he was elected governor of Georgia. And once you enter the public sector in business, civil rights trump religion. (Or used to. We'll see what happens once gay marriage hits the Supreme Court. If corporations are people and corporate money in politics is not a corrupting influence and corporations can have religious beliefs, anything is possible.)

One last note...

Misconception #3 is that traditional marriage is the union of one man and one woman. You can't cite the Bible while you are saying that. How many wives did David have? Seven? Did Solomon? 700? Indeed, the history of marriage is not as clear cut as you may think, even into the 19th Century. Look it up sometime.

Comments

  1. 1st the reason why we are in this whole stinking mess is because the IRS has a 'Loophole' for marriage....You are right Ira... the second problem arises for an argument that the Bible says marriage is between One man and One woman is from two Scripture verse taken out of context 1 Timothy: 2, 12 ...the bible never says anything about the # of wives or husbands....the Supreme Court will rule that the Gays & Lesbians have a right to marry...it is only right in a Secular Society that they are allowed to....Government involving itself in something it never should have been involved in...maybe a 'Flat Tax' would have been better (not condoning it) a VAT tax might have been better....but lets not change the subject...lol...Happy Passover to you and your wife... : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have an idea how much you hate the IRS, Richard. But the State stuck its nose into marriage well before the IRS was founded. The benefits of marriage enshrined in tax policy was only one of many ways that the government used faulty religious doctrine in the public sphere, and not the first.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

CHÉ OLIVE / LE ZINC, CREISSAN: RESTAURANT REVIEW

No, it's not Chez Olive. It is indeed Ché complete with red star and black beret. I have no idea why and I wasn't about to ask. The French are the French and not to be analyzed too closely when it comes to politics, especially these days. Creissan is the next town over from our village of Quarante. We pass through it often and Ché Olive is right there on the main road at the entrance to town. (One of the signs still says Le Zinc. Olive says he prefers Ché Olive though.) Olive opened it a couple of years ago after leaving the Bar 40, Quarante's basic local watering hole that's undergone a bit of a renaissance lately. We hadn't heard much about Ché Olive from our usual sources for dining recommendations. So we just kept passing by. For reasons not central to this review, we decided to stop in for lunch on a mid-week in late December. The bar is cozy, the restaurant open and bright and modern. Newly renovated and perhaps a bit sterile. We were the f

THREE YEARS IN FRANCE - AN AMERICAN EXPAT'S REFLECTIONS

Have you wondered what it might be like to pick up and move to another country? Americans are lured to retirement havens in Mexico, Costa Rica, or Panama. They say that Eastern Europe is beautiful, safer than the evening news might suggest, and relatively inexpensive. Southeast Asia is hot, but it's cheap. Remember, though. I'm not talking about investigating a vacation home, time share, or other form of shared ownership. I'm talking about a permanent, sell out and ship the furniture sort of  move. For most Americans, the thought has never crossed their minds. Think about it. Think about moving from one state to another, from one town to another, even from one neighborhood across town. Add the need to learn a new language - if you aren't multilingual already. Add the need to deal in a new currency and the need to learn the ins and outs of currency exchange. Add metric measurements. And a new healthcare system. And a new bureaucracy to navigate. Daunting? You betcha!

AU LAVOIR, COLOMBIERS - RESTAURANT REVIEW

We live in a town that doesn't do very much to encourage growth or tourism. The streets are rough and bumpy, the tinted glass has been broken out of the street light nearest our house since we moved in three years ago, and the fountain in the square was activated this week for the first time since we arrived. Oddly enough, many of us like it that way. Quarante is a quiet little village, not on a main road to anywhere, but with a fine baker, two excellent butchers, and a bar that serves edible if not exciting food. We could use an ATM (cash point, money wall...) and a gas (petrol) station but otherwise, most of us are happy that Quarante is a backwater. Colombiers, on the other hand, seems determined to do everything possible to turn itself into a crowded, overdeveloped, cash hungry example of all that folks like us are looking to avoid when we move to the rural south of France. Ugly apartment blocks? Check. Newly constructed condos with a 'view', meaning you can see a tin