T.A. Barnhart's blog

Background checks & the democratic process

Oregon State Senator Floyd Prozanski, chair of Senate Judiciary Committee, advocates for expansion of background checks to cover private gun sales.GOP legislators are complaining that Senate Dems are rushing SB 9721, the background checks expansion, through without sufficient public hearings. The complaints began on April 1st, about one hour after the Senate Judiary Committee held – a public hearing.

Few bills get multiple public hearings. Even the most controversial get a public hearing in the chamber where the bill started, a work session to vote the bill out of committee, and then a debate on the floor of that chamber. Should the bill clear all those hurdles, the process begins on the side of the building. And that doesn’t take into account lobbying, citizen activism, and other means of commenting and attempting to influence the bill.

So “only” one hearing before moving to a work session is not unusual. Sen Floyd Prozanski, chair of the Judiciary Committee and a co-sponsor of the bill, even delayed the work session to allow for a fair hearing of amendments to the bill. If his goal was to rush the bill through, he would not have done so.

On top of which, Tuesday’s public hearing for SB 9721 was actually the third public hearing for expansion of Oregon’s background check law. On May 13, 2013, the first iteration of this bill, SB 700, was given a long hearing by Sen Prozanski; on February 6, 2014, SB 1551 had a lengthy hearing – the second attempt to close the loophole that lets a gun dealer sell a firearm without a background check just by doing it “privately”....

Indiana welcomes you to the culture wars

Indiana's religious freedom law sanctions discrimination that differs from ISIL only to a matter of degreeA Facebook friend listed a long list of issues that have outraged him – education, the banksters, cops gunning down black kids – and wondered why so many liberals were getting het up over the discrimination of gay couples trying to buy wedding cakes and the like. Aside from the fact that many liberals are angry about those issues and not just the bakeries, the new law passed in Indiana deserves our outrage and immediate, and unconditional, national attention.

The root of the Indiana “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (a big tip o’ the hat to Prof Orwell for that name) is the desire of christianists in the United States to replace civil law with their version of biblical fundamentalism. As we know from observing any nation that allows hardcore religionists to implement their absolute views as law, disaster will follow for those who do not bow their knees and heads to the god the zealots declare to be the almighty. In Indiana, the RFRA is the next, and most extreme, step in that project in our country.

The RFRA doesn’t simply allow discrimination for no reason other than “my beliefs”; it sanctions the demolition of civic law in the name of a god worshipped by a powerful minority. The RFRA underminds the United States Constitution in exactly the way James Madison and other Founders feared: a minority “faction” imposing its ideology over the majority. This goes way beyond bakeries and other businesses refusing to serve certain folks they don’t much care for.

This is about our country surviving as a society based on laws, politics, and a...

Unlearning racism

I am not a racist. That does not mean I do not have racism embedded inside me. I know for a fact that I do. I have all kinds of isms lurking inside my head. That’s part of being human. The reason I’m not a racist, or a sexist, or other ist, is that I choose to recognize the isms, and I reject what they represent.

Unfortunately, that laudable attitude does not extract the isms. The ugly concepts still reside. Also, ignorance. Lots of ignorance. Some of the ignorance I’m aware of: I don’t know what words or phrases to use to talk about people in my community that describe them, their circumstances, etc, without demeaning them, victimizing them, other-izing them, etc. I also know there are things I don’t even know I’m ignorant of.

As Donald Rumsfeld noted, I have unknown unknowns to go along with my known unknowns.

I have much to unlearn. In unlearning my isms, I have other things to learn in their place. I will need to ask people directly for help. More importantly, I need to participate in the work people are doing in various communities. I need to become a partner so that I don’t merely unlearn/learn words and phrases; I need to learn the true nature of people’s lives and experiences.

Becoming politically correct is of limited utility (a good thing to do, regardless). What matters most is to have knowledge and understanding of people’s lives. The latter is the best way to learn the former.


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