News

Getting down to essentials

Who, me?

Although this is the inaugural edition of the new Capitol Weekly, you should know that the editors have already committed a Bustamante — in other words, an exceptional public blunder. They asked me to write for them. I’ll honor this foolhardy request, but first, let’s clear away debris surrounding my “politics.” This is probably necessary because I was an editor at California Journal for more than 22 years, and during that time, the nonpartisan magazine and its staff were accused, variously, of being either whacked-out lefties or blind reactionaries. The real record needs to be set straight.

So, here are a few basic litmus tests, and readers can decide which tags — if any — I deserve. Admittedly, these are brief riffs on thorny issues, but they give a sense of how I view the world. Just don’t expect new ground to be broken.

Abortion: Distressingly complex as an issue and way beyond pro-life/pro-choice labels. Bottom line, I believe life begins at conception, and terminating a pregnancy ends a life. I’m deeply troubled by abortion as a “lifestyle” choice made because a kid comes along at an inconvenient moment.

That said, the decision to have an abortion — dreadful to its core — falls to those who sired the child, hopefully with plenty of help from family, doctors, clergy and whichever deity they worship. You and I have no role in that drama. Pro-life advocates want abortion made illegal because they feel government has a moral obligation to look after unborn children who can’t protect themselves. In other words, if it’s a crime to kill a child the minute it’s born, it should be a crime to kill it the minute it’s conceived. There is truth in this argument, which is one reason the issue is desperately complicated.
But let’s take the blinders off and not kid ourselves. Abortion is killing, and killing is wrong on any count. Yet there are times that — as a society — we sanction it, however reluctantly. The death penalty comes to mind. So does the decision to go to war, which always — always — involves the slaughter of innocents.

Gay Marriage: Debate over this “issue” has been superheated beyond its significance. Yes, gays have suffered discrimination, but in their zeal to correct a wrong, they sometimes compare their cause to the civil rights movement. I don’t buy it. Gays are not, have not been subjected to the daily, ingrained and inescapable humiliation visited on, most significantly, blacks.
Meanwhile, opponents insist that allowing gays to marry damages to the sanctity of marriage itself.

Let me introduce you to an acquaintance (call him “Mack”). Several years ago, “Mack,” a real person, divorced his fifth wife less than a year into their marriage and just before the birth of their daughter — a child “Mack” did not bother to visit for the first two years of her life, or until one of his adult children bullied him into it.

Someone needs to explain why it’s okay for “Mack” to hitch up for the sixth time without violating the sanctity of marriage, but it’s not okay for a lesbian couple to wed after 30 years in a monogamous, respectful and loving relationship. I think it is okay. In fact, I can’t even imagine why anyone else would care.

Gun control: Want a handgun under your pillow to make you feel safe? Pleasant dreams. Want a shotgun or hunting rifle to kill food or shoot trap? Rip ’em off. Want to savor the memory of your Navy days by converting an anti-aircraft emplacement into a garden sculpture? Decorate away. But that’s it. It’s not in a community’s interest for Joe Citizen to own a functioning weapon of war. You need an operational assault rifle like you need active M-18 Claymore killing zones in your front yard.

Teacher tenure: A nameless Sacramento-area school has three teachers for a certain grade — Mother Teresa, Florence Nightengale and Vlad the Impaler. Every parent dreads the year his or her kid enters this grade because a third of the students are assigned to Vlad — who, by the way, has been tenured since Van Buren was president. School administrators are unwilling to go through the Byzantine process for removing Vlad, so he stays, doing psychic damage to children year after year. If we really want to address the evils of tenure, make it less complicated to drag Impalers out of the classroom. On the other hand, don’t make young teachers sweat job security by extending the time it takes to gain tenure.
Well, do I fit neatly in a pigeonhole? Doubt it. Meanwhile, this is the last time I’ll write about me. The subject matter is too boring.


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