Send it to the Nine

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a large mosque and Islamic community center three blocks away from Ground Zero– the site of 9/11. The proposal has several high-profile proponents (such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg) in addition to its noteworthy opponents (such as the Anti-Defamation League). The ADL put out a statement a couple of weeks ago which said that New York City “would be better served if an alternative location could be found.” The statement from the organization asserted that it is “not right” to do something that will cause the victims’ families pain or discomfort.

This is an ostensibly multifaceted situation. It seems to have many layers and levels, and it does. But once we move beyond the rhetoric and debate, there is a very simple answer. Right-wingers like Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani have come out against the proposal and expressed that, while it’s the PC thing to do, it’s completely inappropriate, offensive, and dishonorable. Newt Gingrich proclaimed on his website, in no uncertain terms, that this mosque should not be built because “America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.” The Tea-Partiers are all up in arms over this also. The American political right is entirely opposed the mosque being built. Why is this so interesting? Because this means that the same people who spend so much of their time fighting for their rights granted to them by the Second Amendment of the constitution have forgotten entirely about that amendment’s predecessor.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

It’s not a matter of being the right or wrong thing to do.

Maybe it’s insensitive. Maybe they could find other places to put it. Maybe someone will get offended. But Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, allowing for the mosque to be built is not only the PC thing to do, it’s the legal thing to do. In a society that is so tangibly affected by our country’s constitution, there is a definitive answer to this question. Regardless of the pompous, philosophical debate over this issue, the answer is short and simple: yes, the constitution says so. Perhaps this is one for the Nine.

Pick-and-choose is not an option.

A Disruption of School Affairs

A friend of mine lives in a particularly conservative city in south Texas; a city where 41% of the population is of Mexican descent and about 61% is Hispanic. When Arizona’s SB 1070 passed, my friend and twenty of his classmates organized a school-wide campaign to push back against the new law.

They taped up posters around school that displayed huge pictures of eyes on them with the subtext, “We See You, Latinos.” They put up mirrors around campus and underneath them, wrote, “Do I Look Illegal?” The whole thing was unmistakably caustic and sardonic; it was a powerful statement, the likes of which this school had never seen.

The high school’s administration ended the protest. My friend, along with two other students, got suspended; but not for displaying their political ideology, the administrators claimed, or because it broke with popular opinion. They suspended them because the protest “disrupted school affairs.”

That same day, during school hours, the school gym was being demolished by a crane. But that didn’t “disrupt school affairs.”

“(There shall be) no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Tell me, does the first amendment not apply to minors?

5 Reasons

What’s wrong with the new Arizona immigration law:

1) It encourages police officers to lie and come up with excuses to pull people over (eg. “broken taillight).

2) It’s 100% racial profiling. It encourages police officers to pull people over if they look Latino.

3) It’s an invasion of privacy.

4) It will create a black market.

4a) Because they can be pulled over and asked for their papers at any time, it will make it necessary for people to carry their immigration papers wherever they go.

4b) Once people have an incentive to further break the law, they will. Therefore, those who are illegal immigrants will find ways to get “immigration papers”, resulting in more crime.

5) It’s downright unconstitutional. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Mal-Intended Word Vomit

People like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and their sort take up their airtime by spewing hate-speech and expressing their senseless enmity towards all things different. When they’re not doing that, they are completely lying about something else. The nonsensical, rhetorical speeches they vomit up aren’t political commentary or partisan talking points. The things they say are bigoted, narrow-minded, and, for the most part, fabricated.

When challenged about these things, some hosts say that they are “entertainers,” and their job isn’t necessarily to present the news as it is. Others plead first amendment rights.

Well, Glenn Beck, here’s what I have to say to you:

Yes, entertainers have different societal roles than newsmen. Entertainers don’t have to tell the truth, and can blow anything out of proportion at their prerogative. It’s the job of the entertainer to amuse an audience, not to educate it. But if you have deemed yourself an entertainer, then you shouldn’t be working for a nationally syndicated news organization, and certainly not one whose single, cliché slogan is “Fair and Balanced, because that, Glenn Beck, would make you a liar.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

-First Amendment, United States Constitution

The constitution gives you the right to say whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want. The founding fathers trusted you to use these rights for the good of the people around you. But the Bill of Rights is not to be abused. If the second amendment is abused, people die. If the sixth amendment is abused, guilty people are set free. And if the first amendment is abused, the trust and security of our society is compromised. As a rabbi said in synagogue today, you can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater.

Don’t underestimate America.

On Healthcare Reform, Fall 2009

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

I often walk around my high school with a copy of the United States Constitution in my pocket. And every once in a while, I’ll take it out of my pocket and read that phrase, just to make sure that we’re living up to it. We live in a country that has relied profoundly upon these fifty-two words—a country that has been maintained for over two centuries by the resounding message of this passage. But the principles of the Constitution are like a house of cards, and when one part collapses, the entire house is in jeopardy. And these days, I worry that we have pulled out just too many cards.

For millions of Americans, a diagnosis can quickly become a death sentence. Health insurance companies have forgotten their real purpose: to help people when they get sick. Pre-existing conditions and health risks are the reasons why people try to get insured and go to doctors, yet this is precisely the reason why so many people are being denied converge. Over twelve million people in the past three years have been denied health insurance– because they were sick; yet these were the people who needed it the most. If an applicant chances to leave any condition off his or her mountain of health forms, many companies will deny any affordable coverage. Millions of women have not had mammograms and millions of adults have not been screened for colon cancer. Why? Because health insurance companies don’t cover preventive treatments. This is not justice; it is a mistreatment and manipulation of the American people.

Some argue that the American healthcare system should be left as it is because reform will cost too much money, or would rely too heavily upon taxpayer dollars. These are not the facts. The truth is that health reform, under President Obama, would be funded by the healthcare system that is already in place, using the same spending. In fact, the President’s program would eliminate wasteful spending and mistreatment of the system, decreasing the deficit, and decreasing the cost of a healthcare plan. It will not add to the deficit, and will be paid for without delay. Millions of people are losing their coverage at the time when they need it most. Leaving this system as it stands is not an option. This argument is illegitimate and baseless.

It is the responsibility of the United States government to provide its constituents with the opportunities granted to them by the Constitution. It is the government’s job to promote the general Welfare. Therefore, when the economy is troubled, it is the responsibility of the government to stabilize the various industries and stimulate the financial system. When our nation is attacked, it is the government’s responsibility to provide for the common defense, and protect us against those who seek to destroy us. And it is the government’s responsibility when millions of people cannot receive treatment because they are too old, too sick, unempowered, or simply unlucky, to secure the blessings of liberty, and insure us. In securing the blessings of liberty, it is the government’s duty to make sure that health insurance companies cannot drop your insurance because you get sick, or put a limit on how much care you can receive. And a strong, genuine public health insurance option to cover all Americans who cannot afford it themselves is a blessing of liberty.

Healthcare reform in 2009 is a Constitutional mandate.  The Constitution was signed by men who believed in big government and men who believed in limited government. But each individual who signed the Constitution in 1787 believed that the government, whatever its size, should secure the Blessings of Liberty. Healthcare reform, ethical policies, and a public option are the blessings of liberty. The Constitution is an ever-living document, and it is the duty of our country’s leadership to make sure that it serves its purpose in the 21st century.