Friday, August 06, 2010

Law, Like Love

 From the San Francisco Chronicle:
The biggest open secret in the landmark trial over same-sex marriage [just] heard in San Francisco is that the federal judge who [decided] the case, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, is himself gay.
The title of this post comes from a poem (below)  by W. H. Auden. At first glance, the poem seems obscure, but in its first seven stanzas the poet lays out seven cases of what we might understand 'law' or 'the Law' to be. Gardeners might say that the sun and the seasons, the regular and eternal orbits of our planet and its sun, govern us. That is what law is. Auden then goes through the other suggestions: law is what old, experienced people say; law is what we feel, young people might argue; it's what the priest says, what the judge lays down; what scholars draw out of their line-by-line studies; what angry crowds say; what we, I, me, say is, in our heart of hearts...

I've always liked those lines: Law is only crimes / Punished by places and by times, as if to say, accurately enough, that without crime, there might be no law. Or indeed, that humans arbitrarily decide what is a crime at any given time and place in history and punish people for it -- such as executing people for being gay, locking them up, subjecting them to torture, destroying their minds with electric shock therapy, rendering them outcasts, terminating their jobs, treating them with contempt. This list I have written from worst to least, but all of these are punishments for being gay in many countries around the world.

Anyway, here is the poem. I have quoted it before on my blog and there are some more of my thoughts (oh, no need to cheer!) at the bottom.
Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
To-morrow, yesterday, to-day.

Law is the wisdom of the old,
The impotent grandfathers feebly scold;
The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.

Law, says the priest with a priestly look,
Expounding to an unpriestly people,
Law is the words in my priestly book,
Law is my pulpit and my steeple.

Law, says the judge as he looks down his nose,
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I've told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more,
Law is The Law.

Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Anytime, anywhere,
Law is Good morning and Good night.

Others say, Law is our Fate;
Others say, Law is our State;
Others say, others say
Law is no more,
Law has gone away.

And always the loud angry crowd,
Very angry and very loud,
Law is We,
And always the soft idiot softly Me.

If we, dear, know we know no more
Than they about the Law,
If I no more than you
Know what we should and should not do
Except that all agree
Gladly or miserably
That the Law is
And that all know this
If therefore thinking it absurd
To identify Law with some other word,
Unlike so many men
I cannot say Law is again,

No more than they can we suppress
The universal wish to guess
Or slip out of our own position
Into an unconcerned condition.
Although I can at least confine
Your vanity and mine
To stating timidly
A timid similarity,
We shall boast anyway:
Like love I say.

Like love we don't know where or why,
Like love we can't compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.
There are different forms of love, from brotherly love to the love between lovers, etcetera. Really, love, as Auden is getting at in his poem, is a form of respect. And so is law. Law is not the opposite of love, but it is "like love," something that humans find it is utterly impossible to exist without. Writing this poem in 1940, as the Second World War started, Auden had just lived through a decade in which he'd witnessed humans break all the laws, and shatter all that seemed to remain of love. But law and love are to humans as wetness is to water: intrinsic.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Mysterious Feline Watchdog

This mysterious white cat was sitting outside a filthy corner store in Washington Heights tonight. It did not move as I went in, nor as I came out a minute later, and I could not distract it from staring straight in through the door.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

President Barack Obama is 49 today. I see from the above photo that he still has to move his own furniture around... with Vermont Governor Jim Douglas not sure whether to help or not. Let's hope Obama doesn't have to cut his own cake!

Joking aside, I checked in on national political news again today, and as before, came away with the feeling that I had tripped over the corpse of a polka-dot pink elephant which had died of explosive diarrhoea: you do not believe what your eyes are seeing, even as the stench makes you retch and run away.

Many Americans — a majority, according to a CNN poll — now believe that Obama was not born in the U.S., and is not eligible to occupy the office of President. I am afraid that, despite the evidence to the contrary, and even if Obama lives to be 100, some nativist asshole will desecrate his grave with slogans from this enduring campaign of nonsense.

There has been some good news, news of the right and proper assertion of the U.S. Constitution in the stupid case of California's Proposition 8, the anti-same-sex marriage clause voted into that state's constitution in 2008. The judge in the case ruled today to strike Prop 8 down as it violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Consitution. It seems supporters of the ban on same-sex marriage could only muster two and a half morons to defend it. The internationally famous legal duo of David Boies (a liberal Democrat) and Ted Olsen (a conservative Republican who was President George W. Bush's Solicitor-General) demolished Prop 8 with ease.

But then I frowned. I frowned as I caught a segment of Fox News, where a right wing host was asking a Republican strategist how could Republicans explain better to the electorate what they would do if elected back into power in Washington — ah, my readers! When last was it, that e'er a Republican didst draw nigh unto that place of political power? Mine eyes do look, but canst not see! Was it perhaps thirty gazillion score years since last they held power? Nay, longer...

Perhaps under Capitol Hill, one day shall men find fossils... (actually there are plenty of fossils walking around in D.C.) An honest answer would be: "Well, Jed / Zippy, the electorate may recall that we just left off wrecking the country two years ago.  We shattered America's reputation around the world by the illegal invasion of Iraq. We created a massive recession. We lined our own pockets. We governed haphazardly and strewed scandals around the world. We ripped up the Constitution, applied no law to ourselves, and we stirred up stupid non-issues to distract everyone. In fact, to call what we did 'governing,' is like lipstick on a pig..."

Sunday, August 01, 2010 executives at a recent board meeting
After leaving a Barnes and Noble bookstore last night, I was thinking as usual about all the books I want to read. Then I also wondered what metaphor might adequately describe the now-perpetual sight in book stores of a huge sales drive pushing the new e-readers right next to all the books and members of staff which the same piece of technology will toss into oblivion in the next few years: it's certainly something like turkeys voting for Thanksgiving. 

Then I realized that the e-reader offered for sale by Amazon is called the Kindle... Perhaps it got its name thus?
Person A: Hey! I'm BORED. Let's start a fire!

Moron B: Oh, COOL! What will we use as kindling?

Moron A: Let's burn all these books! There's no need  for them anymore since we brought out the new e-reader! Say, we never did come up with a good name for it...uhhh...
Technology today is speeding so fast into a future still unknown that it seems at times that humans have hardly come up with the systems or ideas where all this processing power alone could be utilized. But then I thought about one area of technology that is as yet beyond us... Amazon also makes money by selling shoes. Would that there was an e-shoe, which when you put it on, you could then select from thousands of shoe styles...

Recently: Deep On Into Queens

At the edge of the Strack Memorial Pond, Forest Park, Queens: 538 acres of woody wonders!
The lonely skateboarder heads for home.
A strange apparatus near Atlas Park, Queens.
And one of the most prevalent sights in Queens: acres, miles of cemeteries. I've searched online to see what percentage of the borough of Queens comprises of graveyards; I think I recall that it could be as high as 30 percent. Also, I think I remember once speaking to a cop whose Queens precinct was 70 percent cemeteries. And, since we're on the topic of Queens factology: Queens has not voted for a Republican candidate in a presidential election since 1972, when voters chose Nixon. It seems they learned their lesson.