Archive for November, 2009

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A Day of *grumble* Thanks

2009/11/26

There is nothing harder in this life than trying to put together a list of things you are grateful for when you find yourself in a sensationally foul mood. When work is trying, when your health is nagging at you, when the world feels like it’s coming down around your shoulders, and all you want to do is find a nice dark space to curl up and grumble in, how can you be thankful for anything?

Then I realized, that even with my foul mood there were people who still wanted me around. Friends who listen to me grouse and grumble about every little thing and wait out the storm. Siblings who never let my mood get in the way of giving me grief to take me out of the funk. Nieces and nephews who don’t even notice my scowl when they wrap their arms around me and say, “Happy Thanksgiving, Aunt Jenn!” And then there’s my parents.

My parents are subtle in the ways they change the big things. Little stuff is big and loud, but the important stuff they handle with oddly silent and, on the surface, unnoticeable grace. My father will inevitably put the kids up to something to draw me out; either begging to make some special craft or just a game of cards (I have never been able to resist the cards), and then go on like nothing’s wrong. But my mother, probably my greatest source of strength, is the one with all the answers. She just hands me the cutting board and a knife and expects me to get busy. And I know, it’s not always about how you feel, it’s about putting yourself into something else and knowing that it’s what you can do for someone else that makes it better.

So, for my parents, for my family, for my friends, and for all the people in my life, I am eternally grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Forgotten Amendment That Defines a People

2009/11/16

The Gay Rights movement is Wrong. Now, before someone decides to take aim at me with whatever device they wish, I should explain. Not only is the Gay Rights movement wrong, but so is the Gay Marriage Ban and the ERA movements. They are all moot points thanks to a fantastic thing called Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

It’s right there, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States” pretty much covers the bases, I think. It does not say all persons who are also members of a religious order, or all persons practicing heterosexuality, or all persons who possess a Y chromosome. It says that all persons born and naturalized in this country and subject to the jurisdiction of this country are citizens of the United States. It also states that as a citizen of the United States no State can make or enforce any law that denies the basic rights and privileges of its citizens.

That means Kentucky cannot enact a law which would prohibit Jane Q. Public from holding a job for which she is eminently qualified simply because she is a woman. That means the Maine State Police cannot remove John Q. Public and Jack Doe from their home to enforce an ordinance which allows their landlord to nullify their lease on the grounds of their open homosexual relationship. It also means that the federal government and/or the state of Nevada cannot imprison native born Americans of Japanese descent simply because the government of Japan has declared war as proven by the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment is a beautiful piece of law, even if the rest of the amendment is just a case of kicking someone when they’re down.  The only problem I can see with the Fourteenth Amendment is the application and enforcement of it.  For instance, we enacted the Fifteenth Amendment to guarantee that a citizen’s race not be used to bar them from voting. And then again with the Nineteenth Amendment to guarantee that a citizen’s gender not be used to bar them from voting. Had we simply upheld the Fourteenth Amendment, neither of those pieces of legislation would have been necessary.

Now, the Fourteen Amendment was one of three amendments enacted after the Civil War as part of the Reconstruction Amendments. This amendment gave us a broad definition of citizenship, and overruled Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) which barred slaves, as well as their descendants, from being granted any Constitutional rights.

However, perhaps its most far reaching affect comes from the application of its Due Process Clause, as it has been used to assert the Bill of Rights to the states. This clause recognizes not only substantive due process rights (parental and marriage rights), but also the rights of procedural due process, which require that specific steps, such as a hearing, must be taken before a person’s “life, liberty, or property” are taken away.

And the part that should stick out in everyone’s mind is the amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. This clause requires the states to provide equal protection under the law for all people within their jurisdictions. Equal protection under the law for all people. It should be said twice. It should be said every single day, by every single person in this country. Thanks to our constitution, our living document, we are all granted equal protection under the law. It doesn’t matter if you a card carrying communist, a decorated war veteran, an English teacher, a Taiwanese immigrant, a gay man, a black woman, or a child suffering at the hands of an authority figure, we are all granted equal protection under the law. The communist shouldn’t be mugged on the street, the vet has the right to speak her mind on the street corner, the teacher should expect his marriage license from Hawaii to be valid in Idaho, the immigrant knows that by following the law they can one day become a citizen, the gay man has the right to exist unharmed in any town he chooses to live, the black woman can work in any field she trains for without regard for her race, and the child should know the feeling of justice and mercy in the eyes of the law. And the reason all of these things are true is the Fourteenth Amendment.

So, why is it that we have forgotten about this wonderful piece of law? Ask anyone why they have their freedoms, and at best, they might be able to say the Bill of Rights. But no one remembers the Fourteenth Amendment, no one can say with conviction, they are a citizen of these United States and their rights have been defined by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Instead of asking for a new amendment, instead of demanding special legislation affording you specific rights and privileges, why not demand that your government uphold equal protection under the law for all “persons born or naturalized in the United States.” Stop trying to fight the church to get recognition for gay marriage, because a belief cannot be legislated. Instead, require the court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, because it is in direct opposition to the Fourteenth Amendment, and seek out legal recognition for all unions, equally. As a citizen of the United States of America it is your privilege, your right to equal protection under the law, and it is your duty as a citizen to protect the those same rights of other citizens.

Equal protection under the law is too important a concept in this country for anyone to forget. The Fourteenth Amendment gives this amazing thing as our right, guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of American. And united, we should all demand that it be upheld.

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Soundtracking Life

2009/11/10

Music has always played a huge role in my life, but so have words. Some of my earliest memories involve books and music.

I started reading at a fairly young age, somewhere around three years old. My parents aren’t entirely sure exactly when I started reading, because it was such an organic process for me, and not something I was really ever taught. My folks believed heavily in reading to all of us kids, even when we were little. I’m fairly certain we had the entire Little Golden Books catalog, and I know my brothers had every single Richard Scarry book published at that time. But the books I really remembered as a small child were the Read-A-Long books I used with my handy dandy Walt Disney Mickey Mouse  Record Player.

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See, I was a HUGE Disney fan when I was little. Heck, I’m still a fan of classic Disney (the new stuff just doesn’t seem to have the heart anymore). So, my folks could count on at least an hour of not having to figure out what to do with me by setting up the record player and taking down a couple of these little gems. And by having my own record player, I would never again climb inside their console stereo system to “get the music out.”

Perhaps it was my early introduction to stories with a soundtrack that made the connection between words and music for me, but I will almost never read in the silence. There must be music, and the music must fit with the words on the page. This has since transferred over into my writing. When I write there is always music, and it is always tailored to what I am writing.

I was reminded of the importance music has on my writing when one of my favorite authors was discussing how she put together the playlists she includes in her series of books. There was also a discussion with some other writers that brought this topic to mind. It was about how to get oneself ready to write, especially when dealing with a difficult scene/chapter . That was when I realized, it’s not even just what you’re writing, it’s who you’re writing. Just like in the movies, every character has their own theme music.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go through life with our very own theme music? People would always know it was you, and what kind of mood you were in, just by the tone and pacing of your own private theme. Some people even go so far as to make up themes for the characters in their lives, and just play it inside their heads when they are around. Not that I know anyone who does this (insert angelic expression here).

Important moments in my life also revolve around music. I can vividly recall my grandfather introducing me to the world of Big Band music via Tommy Dorsey, or as I called it, songs without singers. My mother playing us her old 45’s to teach my brother and I how to dance for a  sock hop. My great grandmother humming the Old Rugged Cross and Nearer My God to Thee as she cooked in the kitchen, or made the beds. Learning how to play unusual songs on the bells (it’s a walking xylophone) in drum corps. The great sense of accomplishment I had the first time I was able to finger the banjo fret board without any buzz playing Skip to My Lou. How heavy synthesizer music reminds me of all the colors I was able to make my hair with the aid of Jello in the 80’s. And a thousand other moments, each with their own soundtrack playing in my head.

So, it stands to reason that if so many of the moments of my own life have musical cues, then so too would the characters in my writing. I find that the music has to be changed, depending the point of view I am trying to convey. In that respect, I am soundtracking their lives, making their memories come to life with a song.

Next time you get stuck writing a difficult scene, try to imagine the theme music for your character(s), or something to match the mood you are attempting to express with words. It really is amazing how effortlessly the words can flow when they have the right rhythm leading them home.

Good luck and happy writing!

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