Holy Crow! The Independent Local!

Holly at Dakota Rural Action posted a link to this site this morning, which had completely escaped my radar.

The Independent Local

The point of this site is to provide news and commentary by South Dakotans, for South Dakotans.  An independent voice that is actually owned and operated by people of this state, rather than giant media conglorporations from the coasts.

Of course, we already do have some wonderful news and opinion sites that fit this bill, but a brief perusal has me impressed with this relative newcomer.

Check it out!

Oh My God! He's Got a Gun!

Hat tip to Cory at Madville Times.

I can’t help but display a little snar-casm at the headlines about Tea schools going into lockdown over a guy getting ready for hunting season.

The man unknowingly caused the lockdown. He was apparently holding a gun while on his property, which is located by the school, preparing for duck hunting and that’s when someone called police. [“Tea Area Schools Experience Friday Lockdown.” KSFY.com. 25 September 2009.]

Note to Tea: Yes, we should protect our children.  And yes, it’s important to have a policy in place to do so.  But please note that even though you are pretty close to being swallowed up by Sioux Falls, you’re still a part of South Dakota. And South Dakota is still largely a rural state with an extensive hunting tradition.

The freak-out was reported (trumpeted?)on KELO’s website as a great practice for locking down the school, with the following quote from Superintendent Jerry Shutz:

What we did, just how we prevented them from getting in, that’s very important. Actually, what I saw this morning just reinforces my comfort that we have security measures in place….[Johnson, Eric. “Tea Schools Get Practice in Lockdown Policy” 25 September 2009.]

Whom did you prevent from getting in, Mr. Superintendent? And why was it necessary, after making sure you prevented “them” from getting in, to have the police then sweep all three schools to “look for anything suspicious”?

Was it really necessary, I wonder, to scare the bejeebers out of a whole bunch of students and parents by locking down the schools and checking IDs and continuing to limit access to the building after the lockdown expired, and after it became clear the reports were nothing to be concerned about?

I’m a parent, and I’m concerned about my child’s safety.  I’m also concerned about people who are in positions of authority freaking out instead of remaining calm when there’s a possibility of something amiss.

Now, I wouldn’t do this or recommend doing this to anyone else.  But is there anyone else who feels at least a little temptation to call the Tea Schools hotline and report a guy with a fishing pole?

End of Days! Now Showing at the Yankton Middle School!

Got an interesting brochure in my mailbox this morning:

Revelation 1Normally, I just toss this kind of stuff, but I had to look through and see what kind of end-of-days goodness they’re going to cover–a plentiful amount, it seems.

revelation 2But wait! There’s more!

revelation 3But the best part of all is where it’s being held–the Yankton MIDDLE SCHOOL.  Excuse me, but why is a public, taxpayer-funded, supposedly separation of church-and-state adhering building being used to host a seminar for a bunch of people who are actually EXCITED for the WORLD TO END?

revelation 4They even have a “Kids for Jesus” program free for those ages 0-8–you know, because it might be a little scary for young children to see their parents excited for their young lives to be cut short in order for the whole family to “Meet Their Maker!”

Let me make clear my position on this apocalyptic crap: People who want the world to end are DANGEROUS.

I don’t see how extremists who think it’s OK to blow themselves up, kill “non-believers,” and become martyrs are that far from people who hold seminars about the joys and excitement the end of the world (Coming Soon!) and how great it’ll be when all those groups they supposedly “love in the Lord” get their due (that is, Burning in Hell!).

Protest anyone?  Calling the Yankton school board, anyone? I know our schools are hard-up for cash, but this is a completely unacceptable use of a public building by a bunch of religious extremists, and it needs to be stopped, now.

The number for the Yankton Superintendent of Schools Office is (605) 665 3998.

UPDATE! I just called the number above, and the parent organization, “Amazing Facts,” did NOT make clear to the school district’s business office what their program plans were.  The folks at the district office were VERY helpful and pleasant, and they were also quite surprised to find out what was appearing in local mailboxes.

Remember if you call to be polite! These are friends and neighbors we’re dealing with!

The Un-holiest Marriage

After the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision last Friday to legalize gay marriage in that state, and after this morning’s veto-breaking vote in the Vermont legislature to make same-sex marriage legal there, voices are sure to be raised, mostly on the religious right, about “defending marriage” and “defending the sanctity of marriage.”

While I’m proud of both these states for the measures they’ve taken to ensure equal protection under the law, it seems to me that the “problem” with gay marriage stems from the un-holiest marriage of all: states have for too long been in bed with the churches in the matter of marriage, and it’s time the states filed for divorce.

For too long the word “marriage” has referred both to what churches do and what states do, and that’s a serious problem because it allows some religious groups to walk all over the rights of people who are not in any way affiliated with their religion in the name of “defending” their own limited definition of marriage and  family.

While a couple can get a marriage license and obtain a civil marriage without going through a church, the rules of churches still apply (or did, and still do in most states) about who gets that license and who gets turned away.

It works well for these churches to have their traditions and beliefs codified into laws because it lends the weight of the state’s apparatus to enforcing their views even outside their congregations, but it’s not working so well for a lot of the rest of us.

Iowa’s Court decision was elegant in that it addressed (without being asked) the religious view of marriage and made clear that the decision will not force churches to do anything differently than they are now.  It simply says that if the state is going to be involved in the marriage business, the state has a constitution to uphold that promises equal protection under the law for all its citizens.

It’s incredibly sad to me that so many states have been quick to amend their constitutions “in defense of marriage,” as if the sanctity or stability of any two people’s marriage will be threatened by someone else having that piece of paper, no matter their gender. The driving forces behind these amendments are religious people and organizations who seek to maintain their long-standing hegemony over marriage, civil or otherwise.

It’s a pretty good business, having a sizable corner on the marriage market–especially if you have politicians in power who codify laws to encourage the teaching of abstinence-until-marriage to kids.  Then, not only do you get to say who can get married, you also have a corner on the permission-to-have-sex market, and a better shot at getting indoctrination access to the progeny those marriages create.

Pretty sweet deal for the churches, but it runs way afoul of the separation of church and state, which is one of the fundamentals of our democracy.  States should not be in the marriage business, but if they are, they should not be in the business of codifying church-based prejudice simply because what the state does and what churches do (marriage, that is) are called the same thing.

I have to wonder, after Iowa’s decision, how we can reconcile our, or any other state’s, “one man-one woman” constitutional amendment with the equal protection guaranteed to all from the time of each Constitution’s ratification. Are we heading down the slippery slope to “all people are created equal, but some are more equal than others?”

Too, lots of folks are going to be hollering about “liberal judges”–silly in Iowa’s case because those justices were appointed by Republicans.  The reason judges are appointed rather than elected, and the reason their terms are not limited is to avoid the tyranny of the majority, and to prevent the sorts of decisions that get made along partisan lines in preparation for an election cycle.

The thing Iowa and Vermont have in common is their propensity, even considering some pretty strong conservative undercurrents, toward doing the right thing when the chips are down.  When your constitution says it’s going to give equal protection, then you honor that contract and you fulfill its promise, even if you know there’ll be backlash, even if your own heart isn’t sure.

I’d be surprised if all those Republican-appointed Iowa justices were as sure of their own feelings as they were of what the Constitution called them to do.

I don’t believe that states are going to get out of the marriage business anytime soon, but I think these decisions are good steps toward differentiating between a civil contract and a religious ceremony, fulfilling the promise of equal protection, and–yeah!–and creating a more perfect union.

Two News Articles, Considered Together

Scanning the internet headlines this morning, I came upon two articles from The Washington Post in quick succession, and wanted to bring them together in this post.

The first I read, out of sheer silliness (having played the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game myself), was this, from MSNBC: “Microsoft study confirms ‘Kevin Bacon’ theory.” The gist of the article by Peter Whoriskey is that,

With records of 30 billion electronic conversations among 180 million people from around the world, researchers have concluded that any two people on average are distanced by just 6.6 degrees of separation, meaning that they could be linked by a string of seven or fewer acquaintances. [2 August 2008]

The second article, linked to the first, was “Rampage Attributed to Hatred of Liberalism.”

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., July 28 — An out-of-work truck driver accused of opening fire and killing two people at a Unitarian Universalist church apparently targeted the congregation out of hatred for its support of liberal social policies, including its acceptance of gays, police said Monday. [Mansfield. Associated Press. 29 July 2008]

I wanted simply to juxtapose these articles by putting them together in one place and present one thought: the man who committed this atrocity was not nearly so separate from the people he shot as he might have assumed.

That the shootings took place in a church his wife once attended suggests that his connection to the people he injured and killed is probably even closer than six or seven degrees. You can hate a “movement,” or even simply distrust it, as Wendell Berry did, but the movement is not the people.

The people are your neighbors, your community–you are connected to them no matter where they live, or what church they attend, or what movement you subscribe them to.