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Well, it’s certainly a good time for gay rights activists (of which I am one). In addition to the passage of the bill permitting same-sex marriage in New York, there is now a bill making its way through the United States Congress that will pave the way for both the repeal of DOMA and for the granting of numerous rights to same-sex couples at the federal level. Both of these, in addition to the recent polls suggesting a majority of Americans support various rights for GLBT citizens, gives us a lot of reasons to celebrate.

However, the battle is far from over.

In states all over the Union there are constitutional amendments and laws that bar same-sex couples from enjoying the same rights (and responsibilities, I might add) of straight couples. There are still a lot of people out there, including some very prominent politicians (*cough*Michelle Bachman*cough cough*) who remain wed to the idea of defending “traditional marriage,” whatever that means. If the defeat in California showed us anything, it is that we do not have the luxury of sitting back and enjoying the our victories. We have to keep taking the battle forward, making sure that we are granted the same rights as everyone else.

And one of the fiercest battles we will fight will be against conservatives, who say that they are being persecuted for their beliefs when they say they want to defend marriage. It is a travesty when the democratic principles of freedom of speech and freedom of religion are used in the support of beliefs that run counter to those very principles. I am not suggesting that we should take any sort of action to curtail the freedom of religious expression, but there does come a point where that crosses into hate speech, and that cannot be tolerated. Your right to practice your religion (no matter how bigoted or oppressive that religion may be) ends where it interferes with my rights to be with the person I love and want to build my life with. If you don’t want your church to grant same-sex marriages that’s fine, no one is going to force you, but don’t try to stop those churches that do, and most definitely don’t think that you will be able to stem the tide.

The gay rights wave is coming in, and there’s nothing going to stop it.

Another post from me today, on a totally different topic than the last one.  I think it’s high time that America as a whole realizes the absolute importance of nature to the health and well-being of both our country and our economy.  If this recent fiasco in the Gulf has shown us anything, it’s that we really don’t take our natural resources all that seriously.  Oh, we take them for granted, but it’s not the same as taking them seriously, by which I mean according them the respect and consideration that we should.  We have come to think of the natural world as something that we can tame, rather than taking into consideration that fact that there are other forces at work in Nature other than us.

I was reading an article in Harper’s the other day that discussed the fact that all too often we in the modern world think that we have complete control of Nature, that through our own ingenuity we have managed to bring the whole natural world under our power.  To me, that is merely hubris, a foolish bit of pride that ends up creating messes like that in the Gulf, or any one of the many mine disasters that have plagued our coal fields.  When will we understand that we disrespect Nature at our own peril, and that doing so is going to create messes that will be very expensive and difficult to clean up?

Now, I’m not saying that we should complete do away with our modern culture.  Even being a hopeless idealist that I am, I still realize we’ve gone too far to ever completely turn the clock back.  Still, I think that a little respect for the grand dame, Mother Nature herself, wouldn’t be impossible.  We should learn to live with Nature rather than trying to oppress it all the time.  I truly think we’d be a happier and more balanced culture, but that’s just me.  What can I say?  I’m an idealist.

I’m going to talk today about a subject that I will return to again and again, a phenomenon I like to call “The American Contradiction.”  What is this phenomenon, you may ask?  Well, it is basically the situation we find ourselves in today (and indeed, have found ourselves in for quite some time.)  Our national mythology insists that we are provide equal opportunity to all people, that we welcome people of all creeds, faiths, races, etc. with open arms.  That, I argue, is the mythology.  The reality, however, is that all too many Americans don’t welcome foreigners, especially those that are of a different colour or race than they are.  Indeed, they look on them as  pestilence.

The recent and numerous issues with the Mexican border and “illegal aliens” (the favourite term,) is merely the latest manifestation of this phenomenon.  The same thing occurred with the Irish and Italians earlier in the part of the last century, and has happened in many periods throughout American history.  Those who are deemed “foreign” or “unAmerican” (whatever that means,) are seen as threats to our economy, our livelihood and, in the much-flouted post-9/11 term, our “national security.”

This contradiction has, as I said, existed for quite some time, and it’s likely to continue for at least a little longer.  However, as the world becomes increasingly globalized and the borders between countries become more flexible and permeable, the pressure to resolve this essential contradiction that sits at the heart of American culture will only increase.  Much as the Tea Partiers and others would like to see this return to a “white” America, that simply isn’t going to happen anymore, and we’re just going to have accept the fact that immigration is part of our past and our future.  Perhaps we should put our money where our mouth is and open up those arms.  We might be surprised how much good can come out of it.

Hello out there in the blogosphere.  My name is T.J., and I’m currently a Masters student in the English Department at Syracuse University.  I’ve started this blog so I can give my take on the various political, social, and cultural issues that come up every day.  I hope that you enjoy these posts, and feel free to comment!