Santa, make me proud again
If it is not too much to ask, this holiday season I'd like my country back. It's really what I want most. I think about it every day, without...
Special to The Times
If it is not too much to ask, this holiday season I'd like my country back. It's really what I want most. I think about it every day, without fail. I understand it would be easier to get me an iPod, but that joy would be short-lived compared with helping me be proud of my country again.
I'd like to be proud that we are leading the world in reducing our share of the pollution that contributes to global warming before every year's weather pattern mimics the catastrophes of 2005. Instead, the evening news reports of the recent United Nations global-warming conference show to the world the U.S. delegation marching out of the room like a petulant child, rather than stepping up to acknowledge that we produce a fourth of the world's greenhouse gases and should be, at the very least, setting a positive example for other industrialized countries to follow.
I'd like to be proud that we are offering all the medical and scientific expertise we have at our disposal to help bring an end to the epidemic of HIV/AIDS that has killed more than 25 million people worldwide. Instead, my government withholds desperately needed funding for AIDS treatment unless the treatment promotes abstinence as the only solution, limiting access to condoms and condemning the very people who need our help most.
I'd like to be proud that people around the world can look to the United States as a beacon in the struggle for human dignity. Instead, my president defied the will of the global community to go to war for the principle of providing the rights and protections of democracy and then threatened the first veto of his administration to defend and advocate the use of torture, the moral antithesis of what we say our nation stands for.
And on a very personal level, as a lesbian, I'd like to be proud that my elected leaders do everything in their power to see that our federal and state constitutions protect the ordinary rights that all our citizens should enjoy. I'd like to have faith, especially at this time of year, that if our government goes to war to provide rights for those who have been oppressed in Iraq, surely it wouldn't act to deny those very same rights and protections to millions of Americans like me.
Instead, I and other lesbians and gay men wake up each day in this state and in this country of ours not having such basic universal rights as the right to employment and housing, the right to make medical-care decisions and have hospital visitation rights for our partners and children, and the right that every parent wishes for his or her child: the right to marry, have a family and be part of the fabric of the community.
We go to work each and every day as journalists and judges, as nurses and firefighters, entrusted to protect the rights and freedoms of others, yet not entrusted with many of those rights and freedoms ourselves. South Africa, a nation that not many years ago practiced apartheid, now provides more human rights to its citizens than my country does to its citizens.
The America I grew up loving used to stand as a symbol of hope, of equality, of liberty and justice, not only for the rest of the world, but for its own citizens. I love this country, but the America I live in today makes me long for unwavering and principled leaders who will stand up for their citizens the way Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin stood up earlier this year in the House of Commons to support civil-marriage equality for his country's citizens:
"I rise in support of a Canada in which liberties are safeguarded, rights are protected and the people of this land are treated as equals under the law. ... Our deliberations... will be about the kind of nation we are today, and the nation we want to be. ... The Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] was enshrined to ensure that the rights of minorities are not subjected, are never subjected, to the will of the majority. ... These rights must never be left vulnerable to the impulses of the majority. We embrace freedom and equality in theory ... . We must also embrace them in fact. ...
"The Charter... declares that as Canadians, we live under a progressive and inclusive set of fundamental beliefs about the value of the individual. It declares that we all are lessened when any one of us is denied a fundamental right. ... We are saying, proudly and unflinchingly, that defending rights — not just those that happen to apply to us, not just that everyone approves of, but all fundamental rights — is at the very soul of what it means to be a Canadian."
That's all I want for Christmas.Anne Levinson has served as a judge, as chairwoman of the Washington State Utilities & Transportation Commission and as deputy mayor of Seattle.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.