When Mildred and Richard Loving were fighting Virginia for the right to be married though being of different races, a respectable judge in the commonwealth expressed an absurd, yet seemingly acceptable, bit of logic: God put geographic expanses between people of different races, because he obviously intended that they not intermarry.
You can feel that judge straining to make the law fit his beliefs.
But as Mildred Loving said, 40 years after the Supreme Court found laws against interracial marriage to be unconstitutional, ”Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others.”
But may ”the people” impose? I’ve always presumed that in a representational democracy, the people and the government were one and the same. Lately, I hear plenty of shouting that tells me otherwise. The ”government” is either an inefficient bureaucracy incapable of worthwhile action, or a nearly omnipotent force out to crush dissent, depending on the critics’ narrative of the hour. The ”people,” on the other hand, are a divinely infallible juggernaut whose sole motivation is to work for the betterment of all good and godly folks.
As Ralph Richardson declares, playing aristocratic Alexander Gromeko in 1965’s Doctor Zhivago, as Bolsheviks seize his home for ”the people”: ”I’m one of the people, too!”
Currently, there is another push to vote on my civic status, a push being made on behalf of ”the people.” Should I be able to marry the man I love, with whom I’ve made a home, the one who will likely be there to carry home my ashes – or I his — for the mantel one day? Apparently, our marital rights are important to others as well as to us. How touching.
Obviously, that’s a vote I can well do without. I’m guessing the D.C. Human Rights Act will concur. Still, if ”the people” are to start voting on the issues of the day, we certainly shouldn’t stop at one group’s civil rights.
With all that’s come to light about Catholic clergy sexually abusing minors, we the people must have an opportunity to vote on an initiative to proactively protect the young people of the District from these potential predators. I propose a ballot initiative to create a new designation for Catholic clergy in the city: potential sex offender. It’s certainly not discriminatory, as Catholicism is not an immutable characteristic. Catholic faith is most certainly a choice. If you don’t want to be labeled as a ”potential sex offender,” simply choose another faith.
The next measure on behalf of the people will read, simply: ”Within the District of Columbia, parking laws for Saturday and Sunday will be identical and will be enforced.” Why let the city be steamrolled by churchgoing drivers? Accommodating cars around churches on Sundays is akin to chaos. Allowing a Sunday exception devalues all our traffic laws. And God obviously prefers order – just look at ”intelligent design.” Not that this initiative of ”the people” has anything to do with religion, of course.
Another issue that gets our goat – yes, I’m speaking on your behalf, fellow people – is dogs. Why, oh, why do so many people who own dogs seem to be ill-equipped to care for them? That puppy needs play dates, daycare, organic chow, a new harness, a tracking chip, vaccinations, and on and on and on. It would be a great and noble act for ”the people” to criminalize dog ownership for anyone who cannot prove a net worth of at least $1 million.
Considering the Equal Rights Amendment never made it into the Constitution, we might be able to get away with a people’s push mandating that women must shave their legs or wear pants, right? I know you’re thinking this might be tricky because women have a slightly disproportionate advantage among ”the people” and therefore hold more votes. Not so if only hippie chicks are voting against the will of the people!
Wow, I’m really digging this feeling of power. So let’s keep going.
Not recycling? I’m sure we can mandate one-to-two-year prison terms. And let’s recall all the councilmembers and the mayor. It’s not that they’re doing a bad job, we just need to remind them who’s boss. We’ll vote them back in afterward.
The Constitution might allow you to bear arms, but I think some former felons are excused from full rights. Some jurisdictions don’t even allow them to vote after having served their sentences. That must clear the way for the people to decide what dangerous items they may be able to possess in D.C. We the people should vote on a slate of items. No guns, no knives, obviously. No hammers or bricks. No shoes, if Baghdad has taught us anything. We’ll have to get back to that, because the list has so many fantastic possibilities.
Those are the only initiatives I can think of at the moment that need the people’s votes. I’m sure I’ll think of more later. It’s just that it takes time to think of issues to subject to the will of the people directly when those issues are already being addressed by my representational government or, more likely, they don’t affect me in the least.
Will O’Bryan, Metro Weekly’s managing editor, was born as the Stonewall Riots ended, making him a Stonewall Baby, he insists.