Friday, May 21, 2010

Nuance. or the Lack Thereof

I received an email from "The March of the Monahans".

It rang no bells in my head, though it sounded vaguely Tea Party-ish.  My spam filter is generally pretty good, so I tried to recall if I'd joined a Facebook group or followed a link while researching something else but I came up empty.  Even after reading the main text and glancing at the links, I can't remember how I got on their distribution list.  But it's sparked this post, so I suppose I should be grateful.

Corporate Personhood seems to be the basis of the trek these brothers are making across the USofA.  They are trying to drum up support to amend the Constitution to end corporate personhood, saying that the Supreme Court  "made people second class citizens to corporations."

I've been trying to understand the nuances of the phrase. Knowing 2 law mavens (one retired, one studying) I have access to some fine legal thinking.  The issue has been dissected in the Wall Street Journal and the town weekly and on the nightly news and the daily radio talk shows.  The lawyers who are interviewed try to find answers in 10 word soundbites, but the questioners have their own agendas and control of the microphones.  Nuance, always in short supply in our public discussions, seems to be necessary here.  I'm having a hard time finding any.  The law is precise, parsing actions and speech, but the logic behind the Supreme Court's decision may just be so nuanced that I am hearing it as blather.  Or maybe I'm just dense.  In any event, amending the Constitution seems like a blunt instrument being used in a delicate situation.

Gabrielle Giffords is my Representative in the House.  She's a Jewish girl, a business person, and she's married to an astronaut.  She has thoughtful positions on the issues, and since she ran against a guy who said "if it's in the Bible it's good enough for me" in response to a question on evolution she pretty much had my vote from the beginning.  Yesterday, there was a gentleman of a certain age holding a clip-board outside the library.  He was soliciting signatures from Democrats and Independents to place Gabby's name on the November ballot.  Republicans were not able to sign, but Independents were.  I asked him about that, wondering why an Independent like me should have a say in selecting a candidate for the Democrats, and he read me some verbiage from the notebook he was carrying, but there wasn't an answer there that I could hear.  I tried to engage him in a conversation about it, but his eyes glazed over almost immediately.  So much for my ability to find nuance on a personal level.

The Arizona state legislature refused to bring a bill increasing the sales tax to a vote.  They were willing to put it to the voters, though, and on Tuesday they got their answer.  Yes, we would bite the bullet and save ourselves from the sorry mess we are in by adding one cent to our sales tax for the next three years.  The tax begins almost immediately.  The analysis has been one-dimensional: the schools mobilized and fought for the proposition and they get the credit for its passage.  Once again, the nuances are lost.  My Yes vote had the effect of saving our schools and health and public safety providers from further cuts, but its genesis was not in "save our schools" or "keep our public hospitals open."  I was trying in the only public way available to me, to send a message to our legislature.  And what is my message?  Of course, it is nuanced ..... do not underestimate the voters or our willingness to take on some of the burden of restoring our state budge to some semblance of balance, do not underestimate our ability to understand the facts and figures, and do not underestimate our ability to recognize that this is exactly the kind of business you were elected to consider and act upon.  Their fear of being voted out of office should they support increasing taxes trumped any kind of effort to solve the problem themselves.  Time and energy and money were spent to hold an election which could have been avoided if they had just done their jobs.  By sending it to the electorate, they avoided having to analyze and explain, with nuance, how conservatives could see the need to bump up the state's revenues, even though that meant a tax hike.  In an effort to save their jobs, legislators would have had to present cogent arguments, nuanced arguments, to the public.  We'd have gotten smarter and they would have earned their keep.

But, it seems, that is just too much to ask.