Thursday, October 15, 2009

Can We Have A Conscience Clauses for JPs Too?: Justice of the Peace Denies Interracial Couple Marriage License.

So if pharmacists can deny birth control and doctors can deny tubal-ligations and nurses can deny participating in abortions, can judges deny marriage licenses to inter-racial couples?

Why not if that's what his conscience says? From TalkingPointsMemo, a story of a judge in Louisiana who denied an interracial couple a marriage license. For the sake of the children, of course:

"I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house," Bardwell said. "My main concern is for the children."

Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

"I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves," Bardwell said. "In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer."

Suffer just like our President?

It was back in 1963 that the Supreme Court ruled that the government "cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry." (Naturally, unless they are of the same sex, of course.)

Sounds like judicial officer activism to me!

UPDATE: Some other comments from around the web: MirrorofJustice, PlaygroundPolitics


Smith Uses Personal Narrative to Criticize Use of Personal Narrative.

"Abandoning the Most Vulnerable" is the title of a new article by Wesley J. Smith in The Weekly Standard, published on the 12th. In it Smith does more of what he does best: extrapolate an extreme example as fully representative of what is to come. But in this article, he also gets stuck inside his own logic.

He takes the case of Myrna Lebov, apparently killed by her husband, George Delury, in New York in 1995 and throws it up as an example of what will happen in Britain now that prosecutorial laws for those who assist suicide have been revised in the wake of the Debbie Purdy case. (Purdy, a multiple sclerosis patient, wanted to ensure that her husband, Omar, would not be prosecuted for helping her to travel to Switzerland for aid in dying once he returned to Britain, where aid in dying is illegal. She won her court case.)

But Smith trips himself up in the argument. Using the Lebov/Delury story - Delury was found to now have assisted his wife according to her will but in exasperation at the grueling work as caregiver - as an example of what will happen now that British laws have been adjusted - a bitter husband killing a suffering patient because of the trauma of care taking (the traumatization of Delury is something Smith chooses to brush over). Smith writes:

What do these guidelines teach us about assisted suicide? First, "death with dignity" is not just about terminal illness: It is about fear of disability and debilitation. A husband assisting the suicide of his wife, who wanted to die because their son became a quadriplegic, would be prosecuted under the guidelines, but he wouldn't face charges for assisting the suicide of the son.

Second, the guidelines prove that assisted suicide is not a medical act. Nothing in them requires a physician's review or participation.

Third, the court ruling and guidelines illustrate how the rule of law is crumbling. What matters most today is not principle, but emotion-driven personal narrative.

But arguing against use of personal narrative, and using a personal narrative to do so, is a little unconvincing. In the bait and switch, Smith fails to account for the failure of medical or social services to address the trauma of care taking Delury suffered. And he fails to note that Delury was indeed prosecuted for his role in his wife's death.

By legalizing Death with Dignity in the US, oversight and regulation will be brought to end of life care. By making Death with Dignity a "medical act," doctors and other staff members will be able to intercept and treat suffering patients and counsel burdened and traumatized caretakers. It is more regulation, discussion, and transparency that is needed in end of life care, not more opacity. By reforming health care to cover even the neediest of patients and by practically and maturely addressing end of life situations, greater regulation will prevent situations like that of Lebov and Delury.

In Britain, revising the laws on assisted suicide - though the revisions are imperfect - applies stricter oversight and prosecutorial reach on those who assist their loved ones in ending their lives. Malicious actions are not common. Preventing them is, however, important. So is respecting the wishes of suffering patients at the end of life and honoring the role that care takers play in ushering their loved ones to a humane end. I regret that Smith is unable to see the necessity of personal narrative in this debate.

For an ethicist, Smith seems to have sadly lost sight of argument logic as well.

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Undermining Choice.

I've been thinking about choice lately. Choice was the rallying cry of women across the country who wished to take control of their reproductive rights. So-called "pro-life" advocates countered that God was the decider of when a woman should have a child and that choice was not a woman's to have. By wishing to kill her "child," a woman was entering into the "culture of death" that came from turning away from God.

Now choice in dying, the rallying cry of Death with Dignity advocates, is being countered with the same anti-choice rhetoric. A comment on the CardinalPole blog (from my prior post) this evening regarding end of life issues in Australia gave me pause:

"I'm sick of "choice" as a principle," wrote Louise.

The blog comment led me to Bill Muehlenberg's recent rant about "abortion junkie," a response to a new book out, Impossible Motherhood, that chronicles a woman's "addiction" to abortion. Muehlenberg writes:

She’s still pro-choice. She still thinks it is fine to kill her own children. She still believes the lie that the most important thing in life is “in exercising our right to choose”. Sorry sister, I am not buying it. Is that how we absolve ourselves of every crime ever committed: I was just exercising my right to choose?

Hey, folks, let me clue you in on something: Hitler was exercising his right to choose. Stalin was exercising his right to choose. Pol Pot was exercising his right to choose. We have become so mentally disfigured and so morally obtuse, that we make absolutes out of something which was never intended to be an end in itself.

What we choose and why we choose is certainly important, but not the mere fact of choosing. If choice were an end in itself, then any old decision would do. I could either help an old lady across a busy thoroughfare, or push her in front of an oncoming truck. Hey, at least I exercised my right to choose.

Obviously, I don't deem abortion as murder because a fetus is not a child. Because I don't, I can't say I have much issue with the writer's 17 abortions. (Muehlenberg, for effect, almost sounds like if she had had one or two, all would be fine, but we know he wouldn't, which of course is the impossibility of compromise regarding the issue of abortion.)

If something isn't wrong, an inordinate amount of it isn't wrong necessarily. Those 75-hot-dog eaters are weird and unhealthy, I agree. But they're still legal.

Abortion is a legal service that the author can avail herself of as she chooses. I do however agree that she has serious issues. Abortion is no beautiful walk in the park and anyone who goes through it so many times should be addressed by a physician, psychiatrist, husband, family members, etc. I sympathize with a woman whose reproduction is so harmfully tied to that of her spouse and I hate it that her case and book are giving "pro-life" groups cause for "speechlessness" as Muehlenberg obviously exaggeratingly claims.

What does bother me is the disregard Muehlenberg has for a woman's choice, for a person's right to control their own body. He can equate Hitler's choice with a woman's choice for an abortion, or even with a terminal cancer patient's choice to hasten their death, all he wants but it's still a legal. Because he is morally opposed to abortion, I suggest he stay out of the clinic.

His odd equation of Hitler and others who have made evil, harmful, fatal choices to those who choose when to be mothers is ridiculous. And it echoes an email I received a few days ago from Liz Wheeler regarding my use of "anti-choice":

Your use of the term “anti-choice” is very misleading, and shows a significant misunderstanding of the term.

The term anti-choice by definition means “one who opposes ALL choices”, no matter what the topic of choice be.

Beyond the patronizing assertion that I don't know what anti-choice means, Wheeler is disingenuously trying to stop the use of the terms choice or anti-choice. Because it works. Because women - and most of us - respond to choice as a good thing, as our right. By undermining the legitimacy of that right and the use of the term, "pro-life" groups show that they fear personal choice or being labeled anti-choice.

Liz Wheeler, by the way, turned out to be an anti-abortion blogger.

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"Endorsing Suicides": The Assisted Suicide Debate in Australia.

Lest you think the US, Canada and Britain are the only countries struggling over the issue of assisted suicide, read up at CardinalPole for a conservative update of what's going on in Australia.

He is responding to an address given at The Sydney Institute and subsequently published in The Sydney Morning Herald by Ms. Susan Varga, an Australian novelist. Varga uses the address to cite the case of her mother's suicide as an argument for legalized assisted suicide (or euthanasia).

I may personally agree with Varga, that the choice to end one's life need not result from a mental condition that can be cured with drugs and counseling, but the commenters at CardinalPole, Varga, and indeed the blogger himself, are conflating terms. Depending on how the law in Australia is ultimately designed, those who rightfully choose to end their lives will be left with only violent means, as is the case in the US where Death with Dignity has been legalized.

I include the post not only because it shows the kinds of discussions that are occurring around the globe, but because it demonstrates this conflation of terms.

As well a number of points come out of this post that I have been all over of late regarding the discourse in the US:

*Death with Dignity, as legalized in Oregon and Washington, requires a mentally sounds, terminally ill patent to self-administer lethal drugs. The laws have safeguards to prevent violation. They have nothing to do with assisted suicide as the term is used by opponents.

*Pro-life groups are working to give more of their power, voice, money and resources to the second leg of their four-legged platform, "assisted suicide" - stem cell research, cloning and abortion being the other three legs. By muddying the language surrounding the issue, by claiming "slippery slope" arguments, by opposing the government and working to limit access, they are playing by the same book they have since 1973 and the legalization of abortion under Roe v Wade.

*Opponents to the legalization of Death with Dignity continue to confuse depression as a cause for suicide and depression as a cause for utilizing Death with Dignity. DwD users are already dying. In their cases, depression is a symptom

*"Pro-life" groups oppose choice in dying because it betrays what they call the sanctity of life, or rather, God's control over suffering. We have no choice, they say, an echo of their opposition to women who worked for choice in reproduction. Same argument, same play book, different end of the life spectrum.

To be clear, I strongly support treatment for depression. But depression is not an issue with regards to Death with Dignity in the US. I don't buy what many "pro-life" groups call the "culture of death," nor arguments that erosion of one "pro-life" issue will lead to a "slippery slope." Choice is a right, not a slippery slope.

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Georgia Ordered to Return Seized Funds to Assisted Suicide Org.

The Georgia ledger-enquirer reports that the state has been ordered to return $330,000 in seized funds to Final Exit Network, an assisted suicide advocacy group.

The funds were seized following the arrest of several group members who intended to help John Celmer, a terminal cancer patient, hasten his death.

For more on the case, see here, and here.

Note: a sole commenter on the ledger-enquirer site states that preventing assisted suicide is equivalent to violating one's religious freedom.

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I Thought Secularism was Already Dead.

From ChristianityToday, an interview by Sarah Pulliam of Hunter Baker, author of the new book, The End of Secularism, which makes the case for returning talk of faith and God to the public square:

Why should Christians oppose the exclusion of religion in public discourse?

Secularism goes a lot further than the separation of church and state. Instead of saying that these things have to be institutionally separate, secularism says that religion has to be privatized and taken out of public life. Secularists argue that if we stop talking about God, we will create greater social harmony. But religion is not a hobby. To act as though God doesn't exist is fundamentally dishonest.

Second, it's unfair. [According to secularists,] you have Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, all of which orbit the sun of secularism. That's utterly fallacious. Secularism is really a competing orthodoxy. And if that's the case, why should one of these competitors be allowed to declare itself the umpire?

Baker's justification for "reintroducing" Christian ideals into politics and public discourse? The success of Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. His case against secularism? The Anabaptists:

Your book focuses on secularism's impact on politics and science. How has it impacted church life?

There are those like the Anabaptists who believe religion is very private and should have nothing to do with politics. Their view is, "We are not part of this world; we are purely concerned with our spiritual obligations." Many Christians buy into the idea that their religion should be private and purely devotional and not have application to life in the wider world.

Let me get the backs of my religious ancestors here: Few faiths have done more to serve than the Anabaptists and the Mennonite Central Committee. While Anabaptist do indeed eschew political participation (with some exception: a Paraguayan governor now comes from Filadelphia, the Mennonite community in the Chaco, and many US Mennonites and Amish are know to rally behind and vote for a candidate who will protect their independence) they have worked tirelessly to aid the poor, respond to disaster, and bring basic services to those without. Both here in the US and in every far-flung country you can imagine. The Mennonites (and other Anabaptists) take the bible literally and therefor see service as part of their faith. But, I digress.

Baker goes on to note how Christianity protects against Totalitarianism, apparently missing the Bush years completely. Then whines about how Christians, apparently quite persecuted in the US, ahem, are not inferior members of society.

One should be free to [use biblical arguments] in the public square, not just at home, not just in Bible study, and that should be a perfectly acceptable ground on which people can make their decision.

We should not have to hide because we have a religious point of view. It's not unfair to have a religious point of view, and a religious point of view is not an inferior point of view.

I have great sympathy for the articulation of faith as a motivation for service to the poor, the infirm, the ill and elderly, as a motivation for justice and personal rights, as motivation for the defense of compassion, justice, and equality. What I have no patience for is the barter of that service - the promise of needed goods, food, and medicine - as a tool to bring the vulnerable into the church. It's the "You let me bring you to God and I'll give you some food" approach that offends. It is a commerce that I find loathsome everywhere but particularly where it is most skillfully practiced by predominantly Christian service organizations, in Africa and other "third world" countries.

Here in the US, the problem with how "religious talk" is currently used in the public square is not that it's discredited by the public but that it is uncritically digested and used for ulterior purposes. In a culture where "God's plan" is quite successfully used to keep women from making their own role or reproduction choices, used to justify unfounded wars, used to keep the poor in their place, used to promote the dominance of particular races, we have greater problems than preserving the prominence of religious talk per se in society.

His premise is as removed from an objective understanding of contemporary public discourse as can be. Religion has a tradition of being used to bludgeon "the least of these" in modern America. Until that changes, until churches of all variety begin to effect positive change, as the Anabaptists have done, and to stand for true defense of moral rights, little trust among liberals and progressives will be fostered.

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Public Opinion and the Law: 75% of Canadian Physicians Favor Legalizing Euthanasia.

Canada's been feverishly and publicly debating the legalization of euthanasia (or physician assisted suicide or death with dignity or aid in dying) for months now. Today CBCNews reports a poll of 2025 physicians or medical specialists that shows 75% support the legalization of euthanasia. Per the article:

Of 2,025 medical specialists who answered a poll on the subject, 75 per cent said they were "certainly" or "probably" in favour of legalizing euthanasia, as long as the practice were strictly regulated.

The president of the federation of medical specialists, Dr. Gaétan Barrette, said doctors already see some form of euthanasia in the course of their work.

"Eighty one per cent of doctors do see the practice of euthanasia given the circumstances in their practice," Barrette said. "They hear their patients, they see their patients, asking for it."

The federation said Quebec society is overdue to hold a debate on the issue.

Barrette says the results of the survey prove that the specialists are in step with Quebec society.

A recent Angus Reid poll found that 77 per cent of Quebecers support the move to legalize euthanasia.

Barrette says the debate over euthanasia is similar to the one 20 years surrounding legal access to abortion.

I take away two great points from this quote: that the legalization of euthanasia is "similar" to the fight to legalize abortion. And that both doctors and society approve of the legalization.

If the public and doctors approve, what could prevent euthanasia from being legal in Canada? The vocal, powerful, well-funded, and entrenched "pro-life" conservatives! And if legalization occurs, can we expect the same limiting of access that has proven so successful among "pro-life" groups? Both there and here in the US, I would venture a yes. Dr. Tiller, harrassed and ultimately killed for performing a legal and life-saving service to women, serves as a sad and visceral example.

The article continues to quote Barrette:

He said doctors hesitated to perform abortions despite the wishes of the public.

"Society was ahead," he said. "Doctors came after, and then governments legislated much later after [the] Superior Court had to rule [ on the issue]," he said.

A clear law on euthanasia is needed, Barrette said.

Only when guidelines are in place can doctors, patients and their families make an informed decision on the course of treatment for someone who is terminally ill, he said.

In the US, where public opinion regarding the legalization of Death with Dignity may well lag behind government ruling (as with civil rights, abortion, and gay rights), we've learned that a democracy does a terrible job of protecting the rights of minority groups. Racism, "family values," and homophobia have dominated the culture and prevented public opinion from correcting great injustices via law. The courts and government have had to step in.

On the legalization of euthanasia in Canada, the opposite seems to be the case.

You can find more on the fight for assisted suicide in Canada here, here, here, and here.

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Health Care Reform: A Deadly Plan to Change the Voting Demographic.

Since the first rumblings of health care reform began early in the new year, with the release of Obama's proposed budget which included an allotment of funds for health care reform, I have been waiting for the charges that health care reform is out to kill the older voters who trended toward voting for McCain.

Much has been made of the nation's demographics in relation to tea baggers and their compatriots. The shrinking of the Republican party, which has, for all practical purposes reduced it to a party representing the South, has revealed a stark generational divide in the country. Yes, ideas of Obama ushering in power for the "culture of death" and other outlandish accusations have been common, most notably "pro-life" groups have shouted about the abortion holocaust, "death panels," and Obama's support for euthanasia.

Yet few have tied health care reform and such hyperbole directly to an all-out effort by Democrats to use systemic killing as a means of changing the voter demographic, at least not that I have seen. SultanKnish makes the little leap:

Obama's strongest base of support was among voters age 18 to 29, which is a fancy way of saying voters who didn't have enough experience with lying politicians to know better and were easily awed by stadium rallies, social media and stylized posters. Over 30 it was already a dead heat, and over 50 the voters trended McCain's way. And 2008 only worked because of a large youth vote turnout, a demographic that traditionally doesn't do big voter turnouts. To win in 2012, Obama must either maintain that level of youth turnout or somehow reduce the voter turnout by senior citizens. A tricky problem either way, one that nationalized health care is meant to solve.

To his limited credit, SultanKnish also points to segregation and redistricting as other means of voter suppression. This, however, a plan to kill off the oldest - and most conservative - voters in the country, is a devious explanation. One that spins logic on it's head.

Health care reform will of course most benefit the elderly, the sick, the disabled, the poor, the young and the terminally ill. It defies logic, fact, and eventuality. And I expect it will be more prevalent in right-wing rhetoric as the weeks carry on.

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Dignity and Choices Symposium: Starting to Unpack.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I was in Washington DC to attend the first Dignity & Choices Symposium, sponsored by Compassion & Choices, the nation's largest aid in dying and end of life care advocacy organization.

What I came away with - insights, education, materials, new acquaintances and understandings, topics for research, and project ideas - is impossible to capture in one post. So throughout the day (and beyond) I will be unpacking my experiences from the symposium, session by session, in posts interspersed with my usual blogging. (Next week, when I attend the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Conference in Scranton to hear Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schiavo, Phill Kline, former AG of Kansas, and Dr. David Prentice, of the Family Research Council speak, I hope to do the same thing.)

But to quickly summarize my overall impressions from DC:

*For a first symposium, the event was surprisingly well-organized and the speakers were of a particularly high caliber of ability to speak to aid in dying and surrounding issues

*All age groups were represented; the group, both attendees and speakers, was racially diverse; from C&C board members to hospice workers, from journalists to lawyers, from ethicists to pastors, from women's group members to advocates for the elderly, the group, though lacking statical depth, possessed breadth of occupation and interest in end of life issues

*For a symposium focused on how to compassionately end life, attendees were surprisingly positive, cheerful, life-loving, and affirming - much to any detractor's chagrin. Don't laugh at this comment; I anticipated some sort of over-exuberant political correctness - the issue demands sensitivity and maturity that uncountable societal entities, including the media at large, churches, our government and social service organizations, all fail to muster with consistency - and some overly-dramatic, maudlin reverence for death or those who face it that would be more acceptable than an obituary section of the newspaper but less so than a Hallmark card. The tone of the event was spot on: professional, action-oriented, information-filled and accessible.

Expect much more from me on the Dignity & Choices Symposium as the day and week carry on.

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Is Kevorkian Violating Parole?

Eric John Sponheim at RighteousHarvest today uses the occasion of NPR's reporting from the last time the Dow got over 10k to ask if Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the euthanasia advocate once called "Dr. Death," a title now belonging to Australia's Dr. Philip "Suicide Test Kit" Nitschke, is violating the terms of his parole by speaking about assisted suicide:

In recent months, he has begun to flirt with violations of a condition of his parole requiring him to refrain from commenting publicly on issues involving assisted suicide. One wonders what types of internal discussions parole authorities in Michigan are having about this, particularly after Kevorkian addressed a sold-out audience at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania in September.

It's a timely question, he states, because the issue of assisted suicide is everywhere. As proof of the ubiquity of the issue, Sponheim cites an article by Paul Walsh in today's Minneapolis Star Tribute on the revocation of the license of a male nurse who participated in "suicide chat rooms":

Using the online aliases "Li Dao'' and "Falcon Girl,'' a male nurse from southern Minnesota participated in international suicide chat rooms and presented himself as an expert in suicide techniques, according to documents compiled by the Minnesota Board of Nursing. At least two people using those chat rooms ultimately did commit suicide.

In an order made public this week, the board said it has concluded a months-long investigation of the man's behavior and revoked his nursing license.

Sponheim is correct in noting the nurse's case as an example of the heightened alarm being cast in the media concerning "assisted suicide." The term has come to be used for a number of various scenarios which demonstrate it's prevalence in the discussions concerning end of life issues, health care reform, and the status of Death with Dignity bills in US states. The problem is with conflation of these varied scenarios under one term, "assisted suicide."

Kevorkian is currently being used as a straw man by opponents to aid in dying. He represents an unregulated form of life-ending practices that have little to do with what Death with Dignity advocates are working for. Death with Dignity, as legal in Oregon and Washington, is reserved for those who are terminally ill, mentally competent, and able to self-administer lethal drugs. The bills actually protect doctors from prosecution for prescribing the lethal medication.

Aid in dying advocates wish to stay far away from Kevorkian, a proponent of assisting terminal or disabled patients who wish to die by administering injections or pills for that purpose. His seemingly slap-dash manner of determining the mental competence of patients and administering the lethal drugs himself flies in the face of what aid in dying advocates hope to legalize. And his practices only inflate opponents concerns over depression, sanctity of life, quality of life, and state regulation issues.

The distinctions between what Kevorkian stands for and the contemporary aid in dying movement may seem inconsequential - that's what opponents want you to think - but they are direly important. The former is the practice of helping patients in crisis end their life regardless of government regulation, the latter is a movement to ensure that those suffering at end of life have a regulated, legal choice in how they die.

Most succinctly, the difference between Kevorkian and the aid in dying movement is not necessarily philosophical but sustainable. The legalization - and regulation - of Death with Dignity tends to elevate end of life care, as studies from Oregon show. Kevorkian's practice only inflames opponents and leads to law suits, an end that does little for those facing the end of life without legal options.

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Obama's Got Work to Do, Says Joe Barton (R-TX)

Speaking of the Heritage Foundation, Republican Representative from Texas, Joe Barton, is a guest blogger over there, writing about Obama's health care objectives:

The president also said that “not a dollar of the Medicare Trust Fund will be used to pay for this proposal.” What the House is doing is rather different. H.R. 3200 cuts $400 billion from the Medicare program to finance this new proposal. A Republican amendment directing that any savings to the Medicare program be used solely to improve the access and affordability within Medicare was defeated with just one Democrat voting for it.

So it’s hard not to conclude that contrary to what the president said he wants, many Medicare dollars will be used to pay for the Obama health care program.

The argument Barton makes is worked out through some pretzel logic. Republicans know that their constituents - older, white - support Medicare and therefore they tip-toe around a position of supporting the entitlement, making it more efficient, and denigrating Democrats for trying to achieve health care for all Americans, even the brown ones. They also know that health care reform and the president are very popular.

Barton goes out of his way to not slight Obama; rather he saves his vitriol for congress:

President Obama has made some forthright and specific promises about what his health care package will and will not do, but simply saying so doesn’t make it so. He has a big job ahead convincing his congressional supporters to match their actions to his stirring words. I hope he succeeds, and I’m ready to help him.

This sort of cooperative mouth service would carry father if Republicans actually were willing to look at true compromise, not their own unhelpful version thereof. Putting a foot down and expecting your opponents to meet you there is not compromise.

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My Demographic Other.

Since the election of President Obama, there has been much media and online talk about the verging demographics of the country. Tea baggers have been accounted as a particular demographic of society that is white, over 50, typically male, and anti-government.

Those who support government "entitlements" and moving in a more progressive direction tend to be younger (I'm 40), and female or minority. While this is a coarse parsing of the demos and vast exceptions hold true, I agree that the older, white population of the country tends to view our government's responsibilities vastly differently than I do.

To make it all more personal, today I found a blogger who seems to represent my demographic other.

Rick is a veteran, white, male, over 50. A Kansas resident and former veteran, he is a member of the American Legion, the Kansas Rifle Association and a pro-life voter with strong ideas about interpretation of the constitution.

He maintains two blogs, one is Ricks Blog: Pro-Life, Anti-Euthanasia, and Related, which covers social issues and sources such sites as LifeNews, a staunchly conservative, "pro-life" publication that updates subscribers on abortion, "euthanasia," conscience clause, and health care reform issues - often with such bias that facts slip away.

His other site is The Constitution of our Forefathers, dedicated to preservation of the Constitution as our founding fathers had intended, as interpreted through a "traditional" lens that includes Republican or Libertarian ideals. He often sources the conservative Heritage Foundation and chronicles gun rights throughout the country.

Most of us who are concerned about the political direction of the country, about social services, individual rights, and the US' just international participation tend to talk to, listen to and read only ourselves; it lets us affirm our belief set as we move through our own particular issues. We tend to call out social, financial and foreign policy conservatives as stupid, misinformed, or small minded. I'm as guilty as anyone of discrediting my voting adversaries.

I note Rick here because until I better understand what motivates him to speak out about issues, to cling to ideas that to me seem antiquated and backwards, and to passionately maintain two blogs, I won't be fully addressing or thinking about the issues we face together. That's engagement.

Rick is probably a great neighbor; he is likely fine company for a beer at the local. I don't suspect that he is much unlike the people I know and love from down home. He is my fellow countryman who had in the past dodged bullets so I could mouth off about women's rights and personal choice. Spending time with his blogs can't hurt - and probably helps me think about "the other voters" in this country in a more realistic way.

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