Saturday, October 25, 2014

Exciting, Bold New Colors!

There's some changes that need to be made, here. If I'm going to start blogging again--due to the idea of starting a blogging network that includes these fine gentlemen as the ringleaders--then obviously some updates need to happen. Since it's inception, I've never heard anything but complaints about the visual aspect of my blog. Alright, fair enough. Thanks to my good friend, and our--as far as I know--only regular reader outside of the United States, ឡេង​ ធារី, we've updated our style. She wanted a change in color scheme. Following this blog's tradition of bowing to reader requests (that's how it got started in the first place) I've decided to update it. Feeling that would not be fair to the many other readers who have before suggested I change the blog, I decided we'd make a little bit of a game out of it. Here's how this is going to work:

We're going to do a color scheme of the month. This color scheme will be decided by you, the readers. Towards the end of every month, a short post will come out, and I will indicate to you to post color scheme suggestions in the comments. Assuming we actually have any readers that put suggestions in, on the first day of the month, a poll will be put up as to which color scheme should be adopted for the following month, which readers will then vote on. That poll will close on the same day that I post to start receiving color scheme ideas. Beginning the new month, whichever scheme has the most votes on the poll will be put up as the color scheme for the blog.

Any questions? Feel free to ask. Oh, and we'll go ahead and start accepting ideas for the new color scheme now. Put them in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Where's the Argument?

You (Americans) probably know, and may have forgotten from your consciousness by now, about the Supreme Court decision to ignore the cases made by several states concerning laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman. In a sense, they just dismissed what is probably currently the largest social policy issue of our day as not being worth their time. This infuriated me. I couldn't believe how they could just dismiss the case. You won't even give the states the right to defend themselves in this--a foundational social policy matter?

I guess the biggest think that irks me about it is that I don't even see where any sound argument in support of gay marriage comes from. The only thing I could think of that would make a law preventing gays from marrying would be the 14th amendment, in particular the 1st section:

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.

Let's examine where this would supposedly come into the debate over gay marriage. My assumption is that they are referring to the final clause "nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." The argument then being that a law that makes gay marriage illegal denies gay persons equal protection of the laws. This is all just my guesswork, since I haven't actually heard the arguments in court. But it's kind of the general idea I've heard floated before. If any of you have any insight on what the actual argument is, I'd love to hear it. Because this version of the argument is absolutely indefensible.

Traditional marriage laws afford perfectly equal protection. Anyone who chooses to, as long as they are consenting adults, can get married. Nothing is stopping them. Homosexuals can get married. Nothing in a law that prevents people of the same sex getting married to each other denies any person the right to get married. No part of the 14th amendment is violated. And as far as I can see, no other part of the Constitution is either. So what right does any court of America have to declare such a law unconstitutional?

I could see some sort of argument presented in which they claim that the definition of marriage is ambiguous, and therefore have some sort of ground to argue the equal protection clause. It's a narrow ground at best, and it disappears when we look at the history of this debate. In 2008, the voters in the State of California chose to vote in favor of an amendment to their state constitution that cleared up any ambiguity by stating that marriage could only happen between a man and a woman. The courts declared this amendment unconstitutional--with such an amendment, the only way it could be declared unlawful is if it directly violated the federal constitution. Trusting Wikipedia on this subject, the Supreme Court again dismissed the case when it was appealed to its level--at least this time based on the fact that the proponents had no legal right to appeal in federal court rather than just dismissing the case altogether. The argument that it violates equal protection clauses is only based in a flawed understanding, then, of what marriage is.

I will refer you to the religious argument, since that is a major part of my belief on the subject. Yes, I do allow my religious views to shape my political views. In The Family, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, marriage is definitively defined as between a man and a woman. It goes on to describe several other details about how family should be run. I won't go into all those details here, but I invite you (even you readers who are members of the church) to read through this Proclamation to the World here.

Above and beyond that, however, is the very root of why the government is involved in marriage as a civil institution in the first place. Ryan Anderson articulates this better than I can, so I'll turn you to this video. It is an hour long, though, and should be followed up with the 30 minute Q&A session that follows--understanding that you don't necessarily have an hour and a half at your disposal, I'll do my best to summarize. Anderson talks about the reason government is invested in marriage--basically, why should the government care about tracking and legalizing marriages? Government's interest in marriage, he argues, comes from wanting to support the most basic and vital social unit. Government doesn't care about contracts between consenting adults to be exclusive sexual partners. Rather, government cares about supporting the best institution that allows for procreation, and the best environment for helping the children to become responsible adults. That institution is marriage--between a man and a woman. Married couples get federal benefits, not because they've agreed to be sexually exclusive partners, but because a married couple has been proven by social science to be the best environment for bearing and raising children. He also debunks the myth that a gay or lesbian couple is just as effective. The government has no reason to want to grant the same benefits to a gay or lesbian couple as a marriage.

What I've been trying to figure out now, is where's the argument? What support does any argument for laws banning gay marriage have? I haven't been able to figure it out.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Welcome Back!

When last we wrote on this here blog, I was about to head out for my mission. I didn't know if this blog would continue to get posted on. I never got around to having my mom post up my mission letters on the blog--she probably would have forgotten how to do it anyway, bless her heart. Anyway, I actually left, fully intending to never bring this back up again--which is why I haven't bothered to post in the last 3 months since I've been home. But one thing has led to another, and here I am, back into the blogosphere.

The interesting thing about being back, though, is that I don't really want to be back. And by that, I don't mean blogging again; I don't want to be home from my mission. I know that my mission is over. I can acknowledge the fact that it is divinely appointed to be over, that there is a lot that I need to be doing here. I even love what I'm doing here at home--working at the MTC, back in school studying neuroscience--but that does little to fight off this hole that keeps looming of being finished with my mission. The difficulty of transition to RM has been different for me than from what I had heard--people talk about companion withdrawals, awkwardness around girls, being "normal" instead of talking to everyone you see about the gospel. Those things haven't been a problem for me (I was always awkward around girls, so you can't hold that one against me). I've gotten over that stuff pretty quick. But I haven't, not in the slightest bit, gotten over Cambodia.

For 21 months (3 were spent in the MTC), I lived in a foreign country. I lived in a place that was very different from me in all kinds of ways, a culture and a lifestyle completely different from my own. And I fell absolutely, completely, 100% in love. Words just simply can't express it. I'll try, but I'll fail miserably. There is no other way to say it than just pure, abiding love. I'm taking a class that is designed for helping teachers at the MTC understand how language teaching goes on in that institution compared to what the academic field prescribes. During the first class, our teacher asked us to turn to each other and truly share about who we are--not just the "what's your name, where are you from, what's your major" fluff we usually share on first meeting new peers. During that time, I realized something: there's nothing for which I am more passionate than Cambodia. As I shared, I had to keep my emotions in check. I quickly moved on to sharing about my major, and that was when I realized it. I love neuroscience. It truly is my passion--that's why I'm planning on making a career out of it. But even neuroscience takes 2nd chair to Cambodia. It's not even a question.

My roommates here at college are busy pursuing dating--as they should be. They are return missionaries. Their first priority should be finding an eternal companion. But as they talk about which girls they are finding interest in and discuss going on dates (and actually going on dates), I am left wondering. Who is there to love that can take the place of an entire country?