Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Controversies Abound: Paul Hamm, Dick Cheney, and More

Should Paul Hamm give back his gold medal? I think not. Oh, to be sure, there’s a part of me that says, “I don’t want something that I got because of a judge’s mistake,” and an acknowledgement that, had everything been done as it should have been done, I would, in fact, have received the silver medal, and not the gold (if I were Paul Hamm). On the other hand, mistakes by officials happen all the time in sports; and once the contest is done, unless the rules provide otherwise, the results are final. I certainly understand the feelings of the athlete from South Korea who would have won the gold medal if the routine had had the same start value in the finals as it had in the preliminary round. Who would willingly accept a bronze medal when “entitled” to the gold? But that’s life. As I always told my students, “Life’s lesson number 17: Life’s not fair. Get used to it.” Oh, and the same goes for Svetlana Khorkina and Alexander Nemov. The competition is over. You didn’t win. Do you have a life away from the field of competition? Then get on with it. (If you don’t, visit your local parish priest. I’m sure he can give you some worthwhile suggests…)

Meanwhile, Vice-President Dick (why isn’t he ever referred to as “Richard?”) Cheney has taken a position on the question of gay marriages that is different from that of President George W. Bush. The Vice-President is reported to have said, “With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is freedom means freedom for everyone... People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.” He also is reported to have said, “The question that comes up with the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction or approval is going to be granted by government? Historically, that’s been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that fundamental decision of what constitutes a marriage.”

What if the nature of the relationship being entered into (and for which the word “marriage” was being claimed) was not a same-sex union, but one of polygamy? I wonder how people would think about the issue if this was the question. (I’m not talking about the practice of groups such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who live “holed up” in the communities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hillsdale, Utah, along the Arizona-Utah border; and “marry” girls barely into their teens to much older men, whether the girls are “ready, willing and able” or not.) What if a state wanted to allow one man to marry more than one woman (polygamy), or one woman to marry more than one man (polyandry), as long as all the parties involved were at or above an age of consent (say, 18 years old), and freely entered into such a relationship, attesting to the same before the solemnization of the union, and with the same “waiting period” required for the purchase of a handgun? Would that definition of a “marriage” be acceptable? Those who remember their U.S. history classes may recall that, as a condition for entry into the United States, the territory of Utah had to amend its constitution to outlaw the practice of polygamy. What if the wraps were taken off? Could the voters of Utah approve a law, under the rationale (which I agree with, for the most part) of state’s deciding questions of this type, making polygamy legal? Where do we go from there?

You may or may not agree with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and their questioning of whether Senator John Kerry, the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States, should have received the decorations and awards that were given to him – including a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts – but there’s more to think about in their latest campaign commercial. Sort through the links on their web site (or just click on the following link here), and read the testimony submitted by Mr. Kerry when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 22, 1971, and made claims to have knowledge of, and to have participated in, war crimes during his time of service in Viet Nam. (In an amazing development, Sen. Kerry’s testimony is recalled in an article about the prisoner abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by none other than the Viet Nam News Agency.)

Personally, I find the statement of one of the Swift Vets, Paul Galanti, to be chilling. He points out that he endured, as did others who were also prisoners of war, torture by the North Vietnamese; and that one element being sought by their captors was for the prisoners to sign documents admitting that they had participated in war crimes. Mr. Galanti was a prisoner of war from January, 1966, to February, 1973. He says of the testimony, “John Kerry gave the enemy for free” what he and others refused give even after being tortured. Anyway, it makes me stop and think…