May 30 2009

Either You Support Discrimination, or You Don’t

Posted by Steve Ross in Shelby County

Really, it’s that simple.

Opponents of the proposed Shelby County Non-Discrimination Order, protecting members of the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) community may want to shift the debate from public policy to scripture, but scripture ain’t public policy, period. Either you support discrimination, or you don’t. End of story.

Wendi Thomas had a great article about this Thursday.

This puts Joe Ford, the only African American member of the County Commission to vote against the order in a strange position. He now has to reconcile his support for Civil Rights legislation, some of which helped him and many other African Americans rise up from oppression into positions of power, against his opposition to, what amounts to the very same thing for a group of people who have no protections, and can be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity with impunity.

I don’t think Joe Ford really supports discrimination. I think Commissioner Ford got caught up in the scriptural argument, and forgot that one of the things that makes America great is the separation of church and state, and that scripture ain’t public policy.

As Thomas notes, Commissioners Chism and Harvey abstained from the vote last week. It is my hope that they will see just how simple this issue is and vote for civil rights protections for a group of people who are currently living at the whims of their supervisor’s potential prejudice.

Finally, I just want to say one more thing about the whole argument against protections for members of the GLBT community. The video below was produced by the Commercial Appeal in their report of the demonstration held in opposition to the Non-Discrimination order last week.

First, this order isn’t about giving and “special” protection, it’s about giving equal protection. Should people be fired or affected in some way that hampers their ability to make a living due to their sexual orientation? What ever happened to judging people based on the quality of their work? Also, this order doesn’t cover most of the incorporated areas of the County. It does cover County Government employees, and contractors that do work with the county. That’s it.

Secondly, this proposition has NOTHING TO DO WITH GAY MARRIAGE, or relationships, or anything other than providing discrimination protections for a group of people who are currently without a safety net. People who tell you this is about protecting a group based on their life choices know NOTHING about the issue, but just for fun, let me ask all the straight folks out there who are against this ordinance this simple question, “Did you wake up this morning and DECIDE to be heterosexual?” I’m sure you made or are making a choice as to whom you will be heterosexual WITH, but I know I didn’t “choose” to be heterosexual, I just am. I’ve never once met a person in the GLBT community that made a conscious choice as to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Saying members of the GLBT community made a choice to be who they are is a sign of ignorance.

In the end, it still comes down to this simple question, “Do you support discrimination or not?” If not, then you are duty bound to vote for this order. If you do, I would submit that you’re going to have a helluva time later on in life. Discrimination knows no bounds; eventually it will come to your door. If you support it now, you may find yourself the one without a safety net. Will that change your mind, or will you do what you’re asking members of the GLBT community to do and just deal with it? I think we know the answer to that question.

May 29 2009

It’s About the Victims

Posted by Steve Ross in Memphis, Shelby County

For weeks now we’ve been hearing about the city’s failure to maintain staffing and round the clock operations of the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center (MSARC). Wednesday, the Shelby County Commission moved a resolution out of committee that would allow the County Mayor to present a proposal to operate MSARC. The resolution was added on to the committee meeting Wednesday, and as of yet, has not been put on the online system. Hopefully the text will be available online in the coming days.

While the possibility of the County assuming responsibility for MSARC has some promise, the reality for the victims of rape and other sexual assaults in the area is that they will not only have to suffer the consequences of a horrific crime committed against them, but they will also have to navigate a system that is broken.

According to the 2008 preliminary FBI crime report Memphis had 210 reported rapes in 2007, and 201 in 2008. RAINN has some startling statistics about the reality of this crime. Only 60% of rapes are actually reported. If this statistic holds true here, the number of rapes in Memphis is somewhere near one a day.

Considering that just 60% of rapes are actually reported, can you imagine how much the number of reported rapes could decline when victims, already suffering from severe emotional and physical trauma of the assault, are faced with the possibility of dealing with an agency that has been allowed to fall into disrepair? What are the long-term physical and emotional implications for the victims of this crime? What about the public safety element? If rapes aren’t reported the people who commit this crime cannot be held to account. This situation is devastating for a community that has, unfortunately, become accustomed to such failures from the City.

In most instances, my first reaction to news of this nature would be to look to the responsible authority and demand accountability, but this is not about politics or politicians, it’s about taking care of the victims. If the City can’t or won’t fix the problem, then they need to cede control to a body that can and will. In the meantime, victims of sexual assault are left with a system that once was a model for care, but has become a victim of neglect.

For more information also see this article from Sunday’s Commercial Appeal.

May 28 2009

Celebrating the Life of Martel Ross

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Yesterday, my family gathered to celebrate the life of my Grandmother, Martel Ross. She passed away on Saturday at age 88, after several years of declining health.

This was the first time I remember seeing my brother, father, mother, aunts, uncles, cousins and their spouses in one place since 1989 when my parents divorced.

My grandma was a very intelligent, opinionated, and vocal person, which explains a lot about me and the rest of my family. She was also one of the most loving and supportive people in my life, no matter how stupid or ill-advised the choices I made.

Looking around the Fellowship Hall of the First United Methodist Church of Paragould, AR, yesterday afternoon, I saw my family together, being a family together, with all of the good and bad things that being a family entails. I saw the influence of my grandmother on the lives of these people who helped raise me, and who I grew up with, and it reminded me of what makes our family so special. We may be an odd collection of strong, mouthy, people, but when it comes right down to it, we love and support each other. That’s what family is all about.

During the ceremony that followed, the pastor shared stories about my grandmother that had the entire family laughing. Grandma had an amazing command of the human condition, and all the things that go along with it. Most importantly, she wasn’t afraid to share her insights, and that is perhaps her greatest strength.

After the ceremony, the remaining Rosses gathered to do what we always do when we’re together, eat and talk and laugh and love each other, even if we drive each other crazy sometimes. It reminded me of something I’ve forgotten over the years, something that can get lost in a tangled weave of the now, and all the things that seem to get in the way as we navigate our lives, and that is the importance of family. You can’t pick them and you only REALLY get one. I’ve forgotten this over the years and now have come to the realization of its importance, and impact in my life.

Physical mortality may be a part of the human condition from which none of us can escape, but regardless of the foundations of faith upon which you are grounded, I think we can all agree that a part of immortality comes from the impact and influence you have in the lives of the people around you throughout your life that lives on long beyond your years. So while my grandmother may be gone physically, she lives on in the hearts and minds of both her family, and those who were lucky enough to have her in their lives.

I love you Grandma. Thank you for all you gave, of your heart, mind, body and soul.

May 22 2009

Memorial Weekend Randomness

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

I’ve had a lot of time to myself this week. After writing the epic trilogy that was both a labor of love, and a classic example of the OCD I suffer when writing and editing my political posts (4000 words took two whole days) I decided I needed to do some things around the house.

I hate house chores. I just do, and even plugging in some music and just banging away at them is torture. But that’s just what I did, and it gave me some time to clear my head.

For as long as I can remember, music has been a huge part of my life. I majored in it in college, even though I never finished, but since about 1989 I’ve had a pretty distinct soundtrack. Sure, I’ve picked up new music since then, but there are some constants that I’ve kept around and that remind me of different times and places. It’s been kinda cool.

For me, long-term memories are usually associated with painful things. This week, while some of those came up, I found myself remembering the silly, funny, and interesting things that the music I’ve managed to keep around brings rushing back into the forefront of my mind.

I’ve always been a sentimental fool. Not really sure why, I just am. Over the years I’ve tried to mask that sentimentality with a touch of gonzo unfiltered access to the very first thing that pops into my head, appropriate or not, to any willing, and some unwilling listeners. It’s a way to shield myself from the things in my head that often send me into a self-destructive, sad place, where nothing ever quite goes the way I want it to.

I think everyone does this to a certain degree. We make these emotional walls to keep us safe from others, and more often, ourselves. We create these pre-programmed responses to situations that don’t require thought or reflection, and plow ahead with what has to be done by whenever or whatever. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing but I know that at a certain point, you start losing some of yourself to these programmed responses, and start turning into something you don’t even recognize.

Sometimes, it’s good to just let the self-reflection wash over you and sweep you out wherever it takes you. I spend a lot of time thinking about stuff, though I don’t write about much of it. Most of the time it’s politics, but not always. Sometimes it’s just random things from my past, or loose plans for my future involving things I want to do, places I want to go, people I want to meet (usually not specific people, but something more like an archetype of people). I don’t know if my thoughts are evenly distributed between the past, the future and the now, but I would guess it’s more about now and tomorrow.

The past is that past and it can’t be changed. Tomorrow can, and even though I get these pangs of past that wash over me, I keep looking for a better future, hoping that I can make some small impact before fate, or God, or whatever, takes me from this physical plane.

But just because the past can’t be changed, doesn’t mean we can learn and grow from it. The past holds the culmination of all the spiritual and intellectual knowledge, we as a species have cobbled together. We wouldn’t be where we are if not for the past, and while the past holds a lot of pain, it also holds insights into the future for us as individuals, and as a species.

Monday is Memorial Day, a holiday originally established here in the US to remember the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. For as long as I can remember, the Memorial Day weekend has also been the unofficial beginning of summer. In Little Rock, where I spent my adolescence, Memorial Day weekend was celebrated at Riverfest, a 3 day festival that featured live music, and that I worked for several years before moving here to Memphis. Even though the closing concert had a patriotic medley by performed the ASO, and fireworks display, I never had much awareness of what Memorial Day was all about until sometime in my mid-twenties.

It was at that time that people I knew from High School started coming home from their enlistments in the military to attend college. Some planned to go back after school and serve as an officer, some had other plans, but many of them had a different view of Memorial Day. Sure we had cookouts and parties and all that stuff over the weekend, but Memorial Day, Monday, was a time for them to give thanks to all that those who fought and died for our country. It was a time of celebration and reflection of the people who help us maintain this grand experiment we call a Republic.

So as you celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, take a moment, after the coals have cooled on the grill, and the friends and neighbors have gone home, to reflect and give thanks for the unselfish sacrifice that so many have given over the years to help ensure that you have all the rights and liberties you have today. As General George S. Patton said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

Without them, America would be a very different place. Cheers, and have a great weekend.

May 22 2009

Feel Good Friday – February Stars

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized