Friday, February 27, 2015
Indiana, a Love/Hate Relationship
There are 4 beautiful seasons here. There's sugar cream pie, tenderloins as big as your head and mushroom hunting. Indiana is basketball, arts, industry, smart folks and natural wonders all over the state.
But I love it most because Indiana is where I was born, grew up, went to school, fell in love, married and it's where my family is (and probably always will be.) Early in our relationship, when he worked at NASA, I asked Clay if it would be possible, someday, to move back to Indiana. He traded rocket science for diesel engine science and made it happen, and I am forever thankful for that.
Lately, however, my Indiana pride has been waning.
We're a mess.
Mess Example 1: Education Nonsense. For the past year, Governor Mike Pence and our elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, have been been engaged in a very public battle. Ritz is an educator, librarian and long-time union representative for the teachers in the Washington Township Schools in Indianapolis. She is smart and wise, but she has one fatal flaw -- she is a Democrat in a Statehouse full of Republicans. She defeated the incumbent State Superintendent with 53% of the vote, and the Governor hasn't let her forget it. He continues to chip away at her authority while she continues to fight for sanity in the areas of high-stakes testing, teacher accountability and school rankings. It's a complex affair involving not only state politics but Federal funding as well. You can read more about the sad struggle here.
Indiana voters feel cheated.
Not good for the schools, teachers and primarily, our kids.
But it's not the saddest mess.
Mess Example 2: Gun Nonsense. Our District 69 State Representative, Jim Lucas, has authored several bills this session which make me sad and scared. Lucas has authored HB1143, which would prohibit a state agency from regulating the possession or transportation of firearms on land that is owned or leased by the state. So, despite the fact that park rangers don't usually carry weapons, you may pack your gun along with your sandwiches for a picnic in one of our beautiful state parks. You may slip your revolver between your books in your backpack and tote it around on any public university campus. You may even carry your weapon into the Madison State Psychiatric Hospital. Thinking about the implications of this bill, I don't feel one bit safer. Do you?
Lucas has also authored HB1144, which would repeal the law that requires a person to obtain a license to carry a handgun. Dear Rep. Lucas and The NRA, I've just got to tell you, licencing and education would go a long, long way toward convincing non-gun carrying/non-gun loving people like me that safety truly is your concern. The NRA was founded upon the platforms of safety and education -- I can't understand why that would ever change. How in the world can it hurt your cause to encourage people to be safer and smarter with their guns? It makes me shiver knowing that if this bill passes, a person could go into a shop (a WM, for instance) and buy a gun along with his pound of hamburger or a quart of oil. I can't drive a car, build a fence or catch a fish without a license or permit. Please, oh please tell me how eliminating licenses for guns makes me safer?
There there is HB 1244. Say I own a cupcake store. And say that I, as the cupcake store owner, would much rather you didn't bring your gun in my shop when you purchase a cupcake. Well, if something nasty happens while you are there, say, someone else comes in and wants to steal a cupcake while bandying a gun about, and the gun goes off and you get shot in the melee, you can sue me. All because I don't want guns in my little bakery. Conversely, if I post a cute little sign in the window of my shop which says, "Sure, come on in and bring your unlicensed gun with you, my NRA/ cupcake-loving customer," I would be immune from civil liability if you get shot. This is ridiculous nonsense. Not feeling safer. Not a bit.
Lucas' HB 1494 would prevent a doctor from noting in a patient's records that said patient is a gun owner. The doctor also cannot tell anyone that the patient is a gun owner. This adds a freaky little NRA twist to the already confidential Hippa laws. I don't know about you, but not once has my doctor ever asked me if I carry a gun. And let's see -- if I would have some sort of mental illness, and go into my doctor's office and tell her about the arsenal I have amassed at home and how I would like to shoot some folks I don't care for, wouldn't it be prudent for my doctor to tell someone? Like the police? Meh.
And, finally, Lucas is sponsoring Senate Bill 433 in the House, which is authored by our State Senator, Brent Steele, and which "repeals the prohibition against manufacturing, importing, selling, or possession a sawed-off shotgun." How did Representative Lucas know just what I was asking Santa for this year?
But this gun nonsense, although it troubles me deeply, is still not the saddest thing going on in the statehouse.
Mess Example 3: Hate. On Wednesday, the Indiana Senate passed SB 101 by a margin of 40-10. That's 40 Republicans and 10 Democrats, in case you were wondering. Republican authors stated that the intent of the bill was to "increase legal protection for those with strongly held religious beliefs."
Specifically, the law will allow freedom from prosecution to a business owner who would rather not provide services to customers whose lifestyle choices run contrary to the deeply-held religious ideals of the business owner.
More specifically, it lets businesses refuse to serve gays and same-sex couples.
Hmmmm. So, digressing for a moment, and following the logic of the Indiana General Assembly, as the owner of the cupcake store, I must allow a gun-toting customer to enter my shop and show off his weapon while he chooses his pastries and scares the ever-living shit out of me. On the other hand, I can refuse to sell cupcakes to two lovely women or two lovely men who come in to choose sweets for their wedding reception, because that's what Jesus would want me to do to save my soul. Because that's how Jesus would have done it. Because Jesus was like that, you know -- always rejecting those who had been rejected by society. Always trying to steal a little joy.
(Sidebar for an important question: What does the Christian cupcake store owner do if the gay couple have matching holsters and sidearms?)
This bill is a gateway to further discrimination. Simple as that.
Say I am a Catholic cupcake buyer. I know that there are certain other religious groups that don't care for my belief system -- to the point, they think I'm going straight to hell. Is it OK for them not to sell me a cupcake when I go into their store? What if I was Jewish? Or Muslim? Does a Westboro Baptist Church mindset give you the right to refuse me service because my religious values challenge your own?
Say I am a Catholic cupcake seller. And say I don't much care for the views of the Westboro Baptist Church folks, primarily because they think I am going straight to hell not only for being a Catholic, but also for enjoying a beer at the Indianapolis 500. (I know this is true, because I read it on their posters outside the track last May.) But if they wanted a cupcake, I'd sell them a cupcake. Because normally, as a cupcake shop owner, I wouldn't be asking someone how they worshiped their creator as I handed them their treat. I also wouldn't ask my customers who they sleep with, who they voted for for President and how their last poop was, because those things have absolutely no bearing or impact upon my business, and I'm fairly certain they have no bearing on my salvation. In fact, if I were a smart cupcake shop owner, I would welcome all people of all races, religions, creeds, ethnicities and sexual orientations. That attitude has a bearing on my salvation. And, I would sell a lot more cupcakes that way.
Everyone knows that cupcakes are love, right? And love is God. And by selling everyone I meet a cupcake, I'm protecting the cornerstone of my religion: love. Because God is in the cupcake. More importantly, God is in the face and hands of every person who comes to my shop seeking that love. If I am judged and thrown into some fiery pit because I sold a cupcake to someone whose lifestyle is contrary to my faith's teachings, I will shut up about this and you will never hear from me again. (I also know that if I am condemned for a loving cupcake sale, I will go to hell a lot quicker for a lot worse things. Good thing I don't much believe in that sort of hell anymore.)
This Senate Bill is not about religious freedom, it's about hate. It's about hiding behind a religious state-sponsored billboard in order to surreptitiously hate others.
And I would go so far as to say that it's criminal for the State of Indiana to continue to foster and legalize hate among its residents. Which would make SB101 a hate crime. Which would make the State of Indiana in violation of Federal law. Do you think some smart lawyer could take a run to the Supreme Court with that?
That's really not what I want. I want to get Indiana out of the national spotlight. I want the Washington Post and the New York Times to quit writing about the messes in state government and this congressional session and go back to writing about our huge tenderloins.
I want us to be a state of educational progress, safety and inclusion.
That would make me love Indiana again.