I'm a big fan of what's going on in Alabama. They recently passed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, a “clean” abortion ban(auto-play warning on that link) that only contains an exception for the life of the mother; no rape exception, no incest exception, no “health of the mother” exception. The people who passed it have said that they are presenting it as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that discovered this then-previously-unknown right.
I probably should qualify what I mean by being a “big fan” of it. It clearly articulates the value of human life from the moment of conception, and provides severe penalties for doctors who perform the procedure contrary to the law. Would I have written the law this way? Possibly; it's easier to add exceptions to a clean bill than try to remove them, when they were part of the bill the way the legislature voted on it. Do I think it has a chance that it will take effect? Not one little bit; there will be an injunction while the bill travels through the courts.
Personally, I believe that rape and incest are horrible, terrible crimes, that are not improved by committing another violent act. I also realize that, as a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” a law will probably end up having those exceptions in it. We don't have to imagine any exception being exploited; I'm sure Georgia doctors can and will ultrasound not quite right, so the heartbeat isn't found. I believe their police reporting requirement for invoking the rape and incest exceptions is an excellent step; many people who commit these terrible crimes don't just commit them once, and getting these criminals off the street will prevent further victims.
A common argument against those who wear the “pro life” label is that we seem to only care about unborn life. That couldn't be further from the truth; and, in reality, that characterization is often made by political groups trying to marginalize us when we've just made a good point. Most “pro life” people I know also support fostering and adoption (when they're allowed to), work programs, and end of life care as well. What they do not seem to get is this - the key to being truly pro-life is valuing life from womb to tomb. Re-read the last sentence of the previous paragraph; that's a statement that values life! Until we can figure out a way to un-rape someone, preventing future rapes by the same perpetrator is something we can actually do. If you want to move beyond “thoughts and prayers,” there's something concrete.
Life begins at conception; the closer we get to protecting all human life from that point forward, the better off we will be.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Daniel J. Summers
Yesterday marked 16 years since the al-Qaeda sucker-punch known as “9/11” reached our shores. We are now far enough out that, if you were to survey high school seniors, very few of them would be able to speak of memories of that day. In a way, that's a good thing - even adults have trouble processing evil of that magnitude. In a way, though, that means that they've grown up with an ever-present threat of terrorism within our homeland; we have always been at war in the Middle East, and getting on an airplane has always been a tedious process.
As we observe this particular anniversary, we are a few days past the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall; we are watching Texas's recovery from Hurricane Harvey last month; and we are watching Hurricane Irma thrash through Florida up into Georgia, having devastated several islands in the Caribbean on her way up. Katrina was blamed for 1,833 deaths, while Harvey currently stands at 70, and Irma is at 26. Of course, these numbers are adjusted when emergency workers are able to fully assess the aftermath; but both Harvey and Irma will have U.S. death tolls less than 10% of Katrina, despite Harvey bringing (unexpectedly) more water and Irma bringing way more wind. These lower death tolls are not just dumb luck. We have poured lots of resources into identifying the threats these hurricanes pose to our mainland and territories, and we can give warnings far further in advance than we could 12 years ago. We evacuate people in harm's way, and we provide a strong law enforcement presence to protect the homes of those who evacuated.
What does that have to do with terrorism? The goal is the same - preservation of the lives of our citizens. To do that, we rely on intelligence to give us as much advanced warning as possible. We warn our citizens of danger, and we do our best to mitigate its effects. Unlike weather, we do have the capability to eliminate this threat before it makes landfall; however, like weather, sometimes unexpected shifts occur. In these intervening 16 years, we have had occasional attacks that have been carried out, but we've had others that have been thwarted before they could be. As this post-9/11 effort continues, approaching the 20-year mark, let's continue to pray for those who are defending us. Pray for their success, for their safety, and for them to complete this mission honorably.
There is one other way in which terrorism and the 2017 hurricane season are similar. I think I speak for all of us when I say “No way, José…”
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
Another American election year has come and gone. Four years ago, many thought our nation made a great stride in electing our first black president, and that we had eliminated racism. We didn't get very far into the following year before we realized that no, there was no substantive change; anyone who was opposed to the president's policies must be motivated by racism. Would 2012 bring any changes? I believe it did, and not the way we could have predicted at its start.
We are at a point in this country where the accusation of racism is a joke. (Read that closely - the accusation is the joke.) “I don't like my coffee black.” “RACIST!” (As it happens, I do, SO THERE!) There's even an entire meme based around it. More and more Americans are seeing these over-hyped charges of racism, looking at the actual thing accused, and realizing that the racism just isn't there. Noticing differences among ethnicities and cultures is not racist; in fact, if we don't notice these differences, how in the world are we going to incorporate them into the American melting pot/salad bowl?
Alfonzo Rachel, host of ZoNation, made an interesting point in his video released after the Republican National Convention in September. The whole thing's good, but the crazy part starts at 3:01.
If you can't watch the video, it's a clip of MSNBC's convention coverage, starting with a soliloquy from Touré.
But more to what I want to talk about - two main points. You know, he loves this line of “our rights come from God and nature” which is so offensive to so much of America, because for black people, Hispanic people, and women, our rights do not come from God or nature. They were not recognized by the natural order of America, they come from the government and from legislation that happened in relatively recent history in America. So that line just bothers me to my core.
You want to talk about offensive lines, sir? You just dropped one. That has got to be some of the most ridiculous talk I have ever heard. It's almost like you believe that the Constitution created God! God-given rights are rights whether a government recognizes them or not, and this is not limited to America; our founders merely recognized these rights that are inherent to all humans.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I've been to Georgia and Mississippi pretty recently, and I'm pretty sure I saw people of all races living, working, and playing together harmoniously. I don't see anything in that speech about government being the grantor of rights; in fact, it almost looks like he's referencing the white-guy-written Declaration of Independence as if it's a good thing. Huh. If Touré wants to stand on the shoulders of a legacy, it certainly isn't Dr. King's.
The race card has been overplayed, to the point where it has lost its value. That, I believe, is a good thing; the only people keeping racism alive in this country today are those who claim to see it lurking in the shadows of every conservative's innocent words. However, these continued accusations run the risk of causing a backlash, and becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. There's a guy I know who says “If I'm going to be accused of something, I want to be guilty;” if the innocent are going to be accused of racism, they may find little motivation to even try to be sensitive of those of other ethnicities or cultures. This could lead to the further coarsening of our societal debates, which would be a bad thing.
May modern-day racists continue to be exposed for the fools that they are, as the rest of us see Dr. King's dream lived out in our nation.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Daniel J. Summers
Can you believe the state of Georgia executed a man where 7 of the 9 witnesses against him recanted? If you find that hard to swallow, you should; it's simply not true. The reality is that 34 witnesses testified against Davis - 34. It is true that 7 of them altered their testimony in some way; however, those alterations included:
2 statements with subtle differences before the trial; these discrepancies were both addressed during the trial, and the witnesses did not say they lied or were coerced at all.
2 statements were impossible to believe (according to the judge); they didn't match with the other testimony, and one of them even conflicted with Davis' mother's testimony.
2 came from affidavits where the defense refused to put the affiants on the stand, rendering them unable to be cross-examined. The judge did not allow this.
1 was a credible recantation, but the judge felt his testimony was of limited value for the prosecution.
So, rather than 78% (7/9) of the witnesses recanting, as claimed in the popular version of the story (picked up and perpetrated by those who are philosophically opposed to the death penalty in any case), we're looking at 3% (1/34) of the witnesses recanting. Now, for those who are opposed to the death penalty, that's still 3% too much; but, when you have someone who shot someone else once to knock them down, then came back and shot them again, while standing at point-blank range above them - 3% is within the margin of error. Even if everyone opposed to death penalty lied to keep him alive, you'd expect the percentage to be higher than that.
Lest you think I'm making this up, the documents are available for public perusal. Part 1Part 2
I know that many of my friends are feeling sorrow and anger over this execution; hopefully having the facts will help you feel less sorrow or anger. In this case, you may object to the method, but know that it was not applied inappropriately in this case.
This is no time to elect a president whose international experience is limited to speaking to adoring European crowds who want to see the United States retreat from the world ... until they require our help in the next crisis that threatens them.
This election cycle, the traffic in the world is very heavy ...and dangerous; it's no time to give a kid with barely a learner's permit the keys to the car.