A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Let's Talk About It

Sex.  It's not really a word most Mormons are comfortable discussing in public.  Myself included.  But since it's "just us girls" tonight while the men are at Priesthood session of General Conference, let's talk about it.  Sex Education is a vitally important public health issue.  This is especially true for women!  Stephen Colbert was joking about one of the recent attempts to limit access to birth control, and he noted that there's only one way to avoid becoming pregnant: "Be a man."  The joke reveals that often the consequences of sex seem to fall disproportionately on women and girls.

So, one of the reasons that I'm not voting for Mitt Romney is that he thinks "abstinence only" sex education is what should be taught in public schools.  That is simply bad public health policy no matter how you slice it.  Recent studies of "abstinence only" programs have found that it DOES NOT discourage teenagers from having sex.  It actually just discourages teenagers from having SAFE sex.  Abstinence education doesn't work.

Believe me when I say, I do believe in personal abstinence.  Mormons follow the law of chastity, which means no sex before marriage.  But as my conservative friends are always telling me, government can't force people to do things.  The government can't force teenagers or anyone else to do this.  What it can do, is equip young Americans with the knowledge to have safe sex if they are going to have sex.

I think a lot of Mormons are uncomfortable with sex education because, deep down, we feel like it is encouraging people to have sex before marriage.  Somehow, we think that we are transmitting the message to our kids that "it's okay, everybody's doing it."  I've heard this analogy several times, but I think it's helpful to think of comprehensive sex education as a tetanus shot.  We all get our tetanus shots (and other immunizations) and once I have kids you can bet I will be signing them up for these shots too.  Giving your kids tetanus shots  doesn't encourage them to step on rusty nails.  But in the event they do, it gives them protection.  I encourage you to think of sex education the same way - it doesn't encourage kids to have sex (and this has been statistically proven), but it does encourage them to have safe sex - reducing unwanted pregnancies (and abortions!) and decreasing risks of STDs.

Don't know why I picked this topic.  But there you go.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crushing the DREAM

"What happens to a dream deferred?" asked Langston Hughes in his famous poem.  He theorized that it could "sag like a heavy load" or "explode."  The immigration issue in American politics seems to be a hot-button one. Many people feel strongly that illegal immigrants should be given a chance to come out of the shadows and pursue their dreams.  Others have a strong "Americans First" policy and oppose all forms of amnesty, instead focusing on deportation of illegal immigrants and border security.

This post is the first in the "Why I'm Not Voting for Mitt Romney" series (see the ground rules here in my original post).  I'd like to talk about why I disagree with Governor Romney on immigration.  Governor Romney opposes the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (aka the DREAM Act).  You can read about the details of this proposed bill here.  This bill would allow children, whose parents brought them here illegally when they were children, to attend college or join the military in the U.S. and put them on a path towards citizenship.  An aside here, I think for once, a cause I support has hit upon an apt name for this bill that makes it difficult for opponents to speak against it.  Who wants to crush dreams?  Yet, Governor Romney opposes the DREAM Act, saying it would increase illegal immigration and be an amnesty.

First of all, the DREAM Act would apply only to those illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for five years already.  I don't see how we can encourage illegal immigration when these people are already here.  Secondly, as Mormons, "[w]e believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression" (Articles of Faith 2).  Not supporting the DREAM Act seems to be punishing children for the sins of their parents.  The DREAM Act applies to illegal immigrants who were brought here when they were minors.  Do you really think that a three year old is culpable for the transgressions of his or her parents? 

Some of the stated reasons that people have opposed this bill include that it will require states to grant instate tuition to illegal aliens or require taxpayers to fund the education of these students.  However, the latest versions of the bill have not included provisions regarding in-state tuition.  Also, the program would stipulate that these students would not be eligible for federal grants.

More broadly, opposition to "amnesty" for illegal immigrants seems wrong to me.  Do you really think these people are just going to go away?  Many of them have lived in the United States for years, and see it as their home.  They are not simply going to leave.  People who oppose bills to grant illegal immigrants citizenship seem to think that these people had some kind of choice between coming here legally and coming here illegally.  The simple truth is that many more people want to come to America than are allowed to come legally by the current immigration system.  If you were living in poverty with no opportunities for education or jobs, wouldn't you want to come to America, even if it meant breaking the law?  It's a dangerous thing to do, but wouldn't you risk it for your family?

We Mormons believe in obeying the law.  However, giving these people a chance at citizenship does not have to mean that they are not punished for breaking the law - they should pay a fine, pay back taxes, and get in line behind those who followed the rules.  I believe that the punishment should be commensurate with the crime, and exporting people to a life of crushing poverty and zero opportunity seems a heavy price to pay for crossing a man-made border to improve one's life.  

Increasing border security, while it may seem like a good goal, is somewhat of a red herring.  We will never be able to fully secure our borders from anyone - there's just too much territory to cover, and too many ways that people can come here legally and stay illegally.

To be fair, Governor Romney does support increasingly legal immigration, which is laudable.  However, I just can't support his position on the DREAM Act.  This is a chance for innocent people to become educated or support our armed forces.  For this among many reasons, Governor Romney will not be getting my support this November.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why I Won't Vote for Mitt Romney (Even Though I Just Did)

I've decided to do a series of posts about why I am not going to vote for Mitt Romney (who I think will be the eventual Republican nominee).  This message is somewhat undercut, however, by the fact that I actually voted for Governor Romney in my state's primary today.  I know this is completely and utterly the wrong reason to vote for someone, but nonetheless it was cool to be able to vote for a fellow Mormon.  I'd feel the same way voting for Harry Reid (actually, I'd probably feel better about voting for Harry Reid, who should probably get his own series of posts).

The point is, I voted for Mitt Romney as the lesser of three evils.  Of those Republican candidates still standing, I think Mitt Romney would make the best president.  Plus, I promised my roommate I would vote for Romney if Santorum or Gingrich were still in the race by Super Tuesday.

However, stack Romney up against Barack Obama, and I feel it's a pretty obvious choice on who to vote for.  Romney and I share cultural and religious history, but my political beliefs line up on President Obama's side.  So I'm going to do a series of posts on why I'm not voting for Romney.  Before I start, I want to make two ground rules very clear:

(1) Mitt Romney is a good guy.  I don't have anything against him other than policy positions.  He seems to be a genuinely good husband, father, and friend.  I truly admire his faithfulness to his wife throughout her battle with M.S. (*cough cough* unlike Newt Gingrich *ahem*).  This series will simply be used to lay out the political issues on which Governor Romney and I disagree.

(2) While I may quote scripture or modern-day prophets in these posts, I do not make a claim that my political belief system is the only "Mormon" perspective or that my political beliefs are inherently "true."  I think that Mormons can be Republicans, Democrats, Independents or anything in between.  Politics and religion intersect for me because they both stem from my personal beliefs which are deeply held but which should never be forced on others.  In not voting for Governor Romney, I am not judging his righteousness or adherence to the beliefs of Mormonism (see point #1).

Next up: topics.  I'm thinking about doing a post later this week on immigration and how my views differ from Governor Romney's, but I would welcome any suggestions as to what types of policies I should examine.  I hope also to include some posts about areas where I agree with Romney.