Why Gay Rights Are Not The New Civil Rights

Supporters of same-sex marriage love to make analogies to the African American Civil Rights Movement. Analogies are rhetorical devices that require careful scrutiny. While I do not find the attempt to connect bans on gay marriage to miscegenation laws persuasive, nevertheless there is nothing inherently wrong in trying to find parallels between these two social movements. In that spirit, let me offer my own reflections on what we can learn by comparing them. Continue Reading »

Middle-East Meets Middle-Earth

Thank you Netanyahu and may God give us more [people] like you to destroy Hamas!” What’s this? The ravings of a fundamentalist Jewish settler in Gush Etzion? Congratulations from a Christian Zionist hunkered down in his bomb shelter somewhere in the Deep South? Continue Reading »

For and Against Liberty

In 1969, Canada’s Criminal Law Amendment Act, known as Omnibus Bill C-150, was granted Royal Assent. Introduced two years earlier by Pierre Trudeau while he was still federal Justice Minister, the bill had sparked heated debate in the House of Commons and the popular press, because it proposed, among other things, to decriminalize homosexual acts, permit abortion and contraception, and allow government-regulated gambling. In the midst of shepherding this bill through the parliamentary process, Trudeau famously asserted that “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” and that “what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.” Continue Reading »

Unsolicited Advice On How To Find A Mate

In one of his lesser known comedies, playwright Neil Simon depicts the irrationality of undiluted physical attraction through the love-struck yearnings of Norman. A ’60s radical, second in his class at Dartmouth, and writer for a subversive magazine called Fallout, he falls hopelessly in love with the Star-Spangled and athletic Southern girl from Hunnicut who’s moved into his San Francisco apartment building. “I’ve become an animal,” he tells his friend Andy. “I’ve developed senses no man has ever used before. I can smell the shampoo in her hair three city blocks away. I can have my radio turned up full blast and still hear her taking off her stockings!” Continue Reading »

How We Portray Suffering and Suicide

Those of us who have never experienced severe physical disability have no clue about the depth of suffering it can cause. But NPR’s megastar talk show host Dianne Rehm does, up close and personal. Her husband John had severe and progressive Parkinson’s disease, leading him to suicidal despair. John asked his doctor for assisted suicide. Told that was not possible, he starved himself to death—a process that euthanasia activists call “voluntary stop eating and drinking,” or VSED. Continue Reading »

Winning at the Supreme Court, Losing in the Court of Public Opinion

With all the furor and dishonesty over the Supreme Court’s decisions on contraception and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it’s a good moment to think about what kinds of structural weaknesses the center-right has in public debate and what can be done to address some of those weaknesses. The truth is we don’t speak to nearly enough people often enough. Come election time, millions of Americans are not prepared to listen to conservatives—and the fault lies not with those Americans, but with the right. Continue Reading »

The Uses of Monarchy

Hereditary monarchy is not exactly a growth industry in the 21stcentury. But those who imagine monarchy to be useless in a democratic age might consider the case of Spain (a stable democracy that has just gone through a royal transition, with King Juan Carlos abdicating in favor of his son and heir, Felipe). It’s an intriguing tale involving an unlikely cast of characters: President Richard M. Nixon; General Vernon Walters; and the Spanish Caudillo, Francisco Franco. Continue Reading »

Rebuild Penn Station!

Yes, it sounds like a pipe dream. Rebuild Penn Station? Why imagine that’s possible when New York can’t even build a new subway line or bring a direct rail link to any of its three airports? Paralysis is the general rule. More than a dozen years after 9/11, the rebuilding of the site is still only half finished. But maybe, just maybe, rebuilding the old Penn Station is possible. And if possible, surely a civic necessity. Continue Reading »