Tuesday, October 11, 2011

News that Makes Emily Mad

For some reason, there's a ton of news at the moment that fits that criterion, but I'm just going to focus on a couple examples of persecution. The kind of persecution-for-politics that makes you shake your head and think, "Really? In this day and age?"

So, first up, there's an Anderson Cooper interview that has been floating around for a couple days. This interview is with Pastor Jeffress, who recently introduced Rick Perry at a Republican rally. Following Perry's remarks, Jeffress spoke to reporters and explained to them that while Mitt Romney is a "moral man," conservative Christians have an obligation to vote for a Christian over a non-Christian, and that as a Mormon Mitt Romney is part of a cult. That's right, he used the 'c' word. I've included a portion of Cooper's interview below, but it only captures about half the interview:

Never mind that the true name of the "Mormon" church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Never mind that in our belief system, we are a direct restoration of the Church from Christ's day. Never mind that Americans every where proclaim that they believe in religious tolerance. Nevermind all that - politics is politics.

Well, it's not like any of this is new, right? The same thing happened when Romney was running in 2007 and Mike Huckabee joined the race just long enough to persuade Evangelicals not to vote for a man whom he said believed Satan and Jesus were brothers. Of course, if Huckabee had done his research (or, if we give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he did, if he'd been honest), Huckabee would have known that in the beliefs of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Satan and the Savior are brothers in the same sense that every person on this earth is the brother or sister of every other person on this earth. In the sense that every married couple is comprised of siblings. So, yeah, not quite the message he made it sound like out of context.

So, none of this is new. Heaven knows I dealt with enough jackass bigots while I was growing up, who accused me of belonging to a cult or of following the religion that resulted from a con artist or of being insane for believing things that are no more ridiculous than the miracles any faith believes. And I'm not even part of the remnant of a heavily persecuted group of nineteenth century Mormons, who were driven (and tortured, raped, and murdered) from town to town by violent bigots, before they finally fled to a barren desert that was then outside US Territory. Only for the US military to declare war on them. And yes, that persecution started long before plural marriage, so don't try to excuse the persecution on those grounds.

So no, none of this is new. But that is precisely the problem. Religious intolerance is alive and well in the US, as it has been ever since the Puritans fled religious oppression in England, with the grand dream of oppressing other religions in a new land. It shows up among conservative and liberal Americans alike, and I'm just plain sick of it. Because really, isn't it time religious intolerance went the way of puritan fashion?

Ok, so you know one thing that has me angry at the moment, but there's more. Over the past couple months, I've heard a lot of mixed information about some of the recent voting restrictions that either have been passed or have at least been attempted in state legislatures. In most cases, it sounds like it's a Republican push, and in most cases it also seems to target those most likely to vote Democrat in 2012. But I heard such vague reports of these measures that I didn't know what to think. Frankly, I'm still not sure to what extent these measures will affect disadvantaged communities, and the following clip is certainly biased, as it comes from Rachel Maddow, who is brilliant but biased (then again, who isn't?). And yet, even if Maddow is only telling part of the story, for even part of the story to look like this is pretty disturbing:

If you don't have the time to watch the video, Maddow tells the story of a 96 year old black woman who has been voting in the South ever since she was old enough to qualify. Only recently did this woman discover that with new state legislature, her birth certificate, current lease information, and voter registration from previous elections combined still do not provide enough evidence of her citizenship for her to receive the necessary id from the dmv to register as a voter in Tennessee. According to Maddow, more than 500,000 Tennessee residents are in the same position, and not all counties have DMVs, making it extra difficult for potential voters to acquire the necessary id to register to vote. As a New York Times writer put it in his article by the same name, this just might be A Poll Tax by Another Name

Why was this woman's birth certificate turned down, you might ask? Because it contained her maiden name, and she did not have a copy of her marriage certificate in order to prove that her married name is legit. I hope you haven't been sitting here wondering what any of this has to do with gender - after all, we at NAW are concerned about oppression and persecution of any sort. But if you have been waiting for it, well here you are. Because she was born a woman, and because she chose to marry, this woman is now at risk of losing her suffrage. Her federal right to suffrage. 


  1. On the other hand, look what's happening in New Hampshire, specifically in Durham. Up there, if you sign a waiver stating that you're a New Hampshire resident and United States Citizen, you can register to vote the day of the election without any form of identification. My father (on the Durham Republican Committee) heard a firsthand story of a man from Kenya who was asked if he was United States citizen. When he said he was a Kenyan citizen, the poll officer refused to give him a waiver, and he became very upset. He assured the poll officer that "my professor told me I could vote, even though I wasn't a citizen!"

    Investigations commenced on voter fraud. The city of Durham, last I heard, was refusing to release the results. But dad, who has contacts in the political arena of Durham, told me that there were 16 registered voters living at a particular professor's house.

    I'm not saying what happened to our 96 year old African-American is right, but there must be some sort of balance. Finding that balance requires over-correction in one direction or the other. Regardless of which direction that is, we must hope the balance becomes more fine-tuned with time.

  2. Brennan, I appreciate hearing some of the other side of things. I feel like everything I've heard about this issue so far has been very biased, on one side or the other.

    See, I don't think that finding balances should involve over-correction on either side. Voting rights are so central to the very concept of America, that it's something you don't mess with lightly. It's something you think through carefully before changing a policy. Personally, I don't see a problem with requiring state ID for a person to vote. However, state id should include a former voter registration, and there should be enough warning for state residents to acquire the required id, and measures should be taken to make those ids more accessible. For instance, why not make them accessible in each town, one night a week, for a month leading up to the next election? Yes, it's a hassle to do something like that, but the alternative - preventing a citizen from voting simply because the citizen can't get to a DMV in another county - is far worse.

  3. I like that idea. But, as you said, others might see it as a hassle. I'm sure there are those who would also claim it's over correction, to the detriment of government workers. Others would say it doesn't correct enough. What if one is busy every Thursday evening, when the people are in town to give you the required IDs?

    It'd be much simpler if people were just honest enough not to try and commit voter fraud. Then these checks would be unnecessary. Alas, litigating morality is never a pretty picture.

  4. I've also heard one Congress member call for ONLY land owners to be allowed to vote, and another call for only veterans being allowed to vote. So, I spent 8 years working to build arms to defend the US, yet I could lose my right to vote because I'm not a direct veteran?

    Also, I think some of the immigration crack down is overkill, but just signing a waiver to prove citizenship to vote is too weak.