Thursday, September 9, 2010

Article III Standing

The world has truly lost it’s mind.  Economically, politically, philosophically, intellectually there is all manner of madness, dishonesty and demagoguery everywhere one might turn.  And there seems to be, recently, a dearth of truth - tellers, of courageous people who will take the risk of speaking the truth, an understandable development for there has never been a more concentrated, effective effort to stifle and silence the truth.  With more media, and more conversation than ever, there is no clarity.  No definition is immutable, no concept is unambiguous, no position is outside the parameters of “reasonable debate”.  As part of a national dialog, people declare their bigotry and hate, claim, against all evidence, their own victimization, typically at the hands of the disenfranchised and powerless, and hype fear of others to absurd levels. No challenge exists that cannot be described as an existential threat.

I gaze across this blasted, Orwellian landscape of of spittle-flecked outrage and convenient lies and I feel lost, hopeless in a world where everyone lies, everyone knows that everyone lies, and no one has the courage to call the liars to account.  I wonder where it all leads, what happens in the end when the truth is toxic, actions create outrage and to try to improve upon the situation carries an unacceptable professional risk.  When we speak of a procedural bias to the status quo, we actually know we are really describing a system that has evolved to protect itself from accountability.  But to admit as much is to admit defeat, so just as George Bush appeared on television every couple of weeks for YEARS to tell us that, in Iraq, we were “makin’ progress on the ground”, all around us we see discussions about proposed solutions, solutions that can never be implemented because someone would have to accept responsibility for their potential failure.

In this time of hopelessness and dysfunction, we need some kind of magic, something to serve as an amulet to ward off the worst of the deadly stupidity and angry, amorphous fear.  For me, lately, it has become a brief incantation, spoken softly under my breath to remind myself that no matter how thoroughly the game is rigged, to play is always to risk losing.  And what is that phrase that reminds me that at some point, even a corrupt system might work for those who do not hold an ownership stake?  “Article III Standing”.  Yep.  I know, vague, obscure to the point of meaninglessness, and with all we stand to lose, all we are losing even as we watch, it’s a forlorn hope in a small battle to hold back the darkness.  

But it makes me smile.  It is spit in the face of liars and haters, it will require them to expose their hatred for what it is, it just might cause everyone to take a step back and think twice before telling an unsupportable story to justify the unjustifiable.  What, exactly, is Article III Standing?   To quote Wikipedia:  

In the United States, the current doctrine is that a person 
cannot bring a suit challenging the constitutionality of a law 
unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the plaintiff is 
(or will imminently be) harmed by the law.”  

And as California’s Proposition 8 lawsuit wends it’s way through the appeals process, at some point one of the appeals courts is going to have to make a determination of the standing of the defendants under Article III.  They will be given ample opportunity to make the case that the marriage of people they do not know, who do not live near them, who will never have contact with them or their families, harms them.  Unlike the lies and fearful fabrications in the Proposition 8 campaign, they won’t be able to talk about what schools might teach, or what their church might have to accept.  They will have to support the long-standing claim that the mere marriage of two people of the same sex harms them, and the only relief the government can provide for this harm is to prevent that marriage entirely.

Just as we saw in US District Court, but even more explicitly, some poor lawyers are going to have to stand before a judge and the people of California and try to make the case that allowing other people to have access to the same civil marriage rights they have will cause them some kind of harm.  Since this is clearly, demonstrably and inarguably false, they will look like fools.  Even better, they will look like tools, cannon fodder in another rear-guard battle for institutionalized hatred.  Now, sure, I believe firmly in marriage equality.  Philosophically, that’s because I believe the concept of equality is as simple as it is necessary, but intellectually, it’s because the only real case one can possibly make against allowing people who love each other to marry is “I don’t like homosexuals, I think they are icky”.  And that’s just not good enough.  Nowhere close.

Who knows how it will play out.  Perhaps the court will see it differently, and allow these people the Standing to move the case forward.  But maybe, hopefully, there will be a larger benefit.  Many of the arguments being made regularly, that global warming is a hoax, that waterboarding is not torture, that stimulus spending is useless for creating demand, all the inherently intellectually dead or dodgy arguments used to fuel the endless ‘debates’ that prevent the implementation of even an attempt at a solution,  are arguments easily debunked in an honest conversation, and perhaps the people making them will see what happens when they are specifically challenged to defend them on the merits, and just maybe they will back away.  Some facts are simply facts, and for too long it has been possible to challenge them with specious and disingenuous arguments.  It’s time to demand a little more rigor, to enforce some kind of minimum threshold for veracity, and THEN see where the debate takes us.

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