In the main, South Florida -- with the exception of the defeated and unlamented Rep. Alan West -- is a reasonably sane chunk of political real estate. We can be counted on to provide reliable majorities for progressive Democrats and, for the most part, to shun extremists from either side of the aisle. While geographically, the distance between Boca Raton to the state capital, Tallahassee, is just a hair under 450 miles, politically, it is measured in decades. Here in Broward and Palm Beach we tend to be insulated -- if not isolated -- from much of the lunacy which affects our beloved Sunshine State -- and a goodly chunk of the nation as well.
As a result of our relative political equanimity, we tend to get blown away by some of the more incredulously "Talibanistic" things various legislators propose and occasionally even enact. Less than 3 weeks ago, Florida voters were faced with no fewer than 11 proposed hard-right amendments to the state constitution. These proposed amendments -- 8 of which the voters narrowly rejected -- would have done everything from allowing more state funding of religious schools and severely restricting abortion rights, to banning the required purchase of health insurance and the ouster of three Democrat-appointed Supreme Court justices. Once voters began reading between the lines of these legislatively-drawn amendments, our isolation and insulation began to erode. Soon, revulsion set in. And were it not for the fact that in order to be passed a constitutional amendment requires 60% of the vote, we could have been saddled with some pretty outlandish new laws.
One thing this past election cycle pointed out -- in enormous 36-point font -- is that there are some really crazy people out there -- and not just in Florida. We learned that there are people who have no problem giving voice to such inanities as:
- "Rape is God's will."
- "Legitimate rape does not lead to pregnancy."
- "Osama bin Laden is alive and well."
- "Hurricane Sandy proves that there is no such thing as global warming."
- "If he is reelected, President Obama will confiscate all guns," and
- "If he is elected, Alan Grayson will remove Bibles from people's homes."
Strikingly, few responsible Republican leaders -- including its titular head, Mitt Romney, chose to distance themselves from these remarks. They likely felt that taking people like Todd Aiken, Richard Mourdock, Allen West or Todd Long to task would alienate voters on the right; something they were loathe to do. Well, it gives me endless joy to report that all those giving voice to these inane fables were defeated, and now must go out and find jobs in the real world. There is hope for the future.
At the same time, there are still more crazy people doing crazy things than one might care to imagine.
As of today, 49 out of 50 states (Vermont being the lone exception) have submitted petitions to WhiteHouse.gov, calling on the president to allow states to secede from the United States, peacefully. Texas, which has attracted more than 116,000 signatures and is currently selling "SECEDE!" bumperstickers (one for $2.00/three for $5.00) is leading the charge. Interestingly, Texas is one of seven states (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming being the others) without a state income tax. Let 'em secede; the first thing they'll have to do is institute a tax, which won't win them too many fiscal plaudits . . .
In addition to the secession nonsense, there is an unbelievable law on the books in Kentucky; one which is about as "Talibanistic" as you can get. Enacted in 2006, this homeland security law actually requires the state's citizens to acknowledge the security provided by God Almighty -- or risk 12 months in prison.
The law, which is the brainchild of 41st District Representative Tom Riner, states,
"The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God as set forth in the public speeches and proclamations of American Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln's historic March 30, 1863, presidential proclamation urging Americans to pray and fast during one of the most dangerous hours in American history, and the text of President John F. Kennedy's November 22, 1963, national security speech which concluded: "For as was written long ago: 'Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.'"
The law requires that plaques celebrating the power of the Almighty God be installed outside the state Homeland Security building-and carries a criminal penalty of up to 12 months in jail if one fails to comply. The plaque's inscription begins with the assertion, "The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God." Unbelievably, the Kentucky Supreme Court has refused to review its constitutionality, despite its clear and obvious violation of the First Amendment's separation of church and state.
Rep. Riner, who is an ordained Baptist minister, told Fox News that "The safety and security of the state cannot be achieved apart from recognizing our dependence upon God."
Also in 2006, Riner, who is a Democrat, had "In God We Trust" written in large letters above the daises of his state's House and Senate chambers. He was also instrumental in passing a measure to erect a monument with the Ten Commandments in front of the State Capitol. And he sponsored the legislation that permitted the Ten Commandments to be displayed in other public buildings, as long as they appeared with "other historical documents." Over the past several years, legal challenges to Riner-sponsored legislation have cost the state and various municipal agencies more than $160,000 in legal fees; they still owe more than $400,000 for a 2005 case (ACLU v McCreary County) in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Ten Commandments could not be displayed in public buildings.
From what I understand, the Taliban also demand that people believe in their God . . . or else. And while it is true that the punishment for not believing in God in the proper manner is much less harsh in the Bluegrass State then in, say, Afghanistan (a year in prison versus stoning), it is nonetheless suffused with the same noxious fume of theocratic intolerance. I for one find it incredible that at the same time in which state after state is seeking to follow Kentucky's example and legislate "proper religiosity," there are more than 33 bills in 20 state legislatures (including those of Kentucky and Florida) debarring state courts from using Sharia or international law in making its decisions . . . as if there were any such problem. To me, this is the living, breathing definition of inconsistency at best, damnable hypocrisy at worst.
What was that about secession . . .?
©2012 Kurt F. Stone