Theirs is a repressive, hateful ideology June 14, 2016Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Politics.
Tags: Paul Ryan
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It is horrifying to see so many innocent lives cut short by such cowardice. Tonight, and in the long days ahead, we will grieve with the families…
As we heal, we need to be clear-eyed about who did this. We are a nation at war with Islamist terrorists. Theirs is a repressive, hateful ideology that respects no borders…
I’m certainly not going to minimize the problem of Islamist terrorists; and yet, they don’t hold a monopoly on repressive, hateful ideology. Take Paul Ryan, for instance. He has voted against same-sex couples adopting children in Washington D.C., opposed the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (which barred openly gay persons from military service), and supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. In other words, he has actively contributed to the denigration and demonization of gays in our society, and has helped perpetuate the discrimination and injustice they face. And then, when gays are targeted for violence, he condemns someone else’s hateful ideology.
Perhaps, instead of praying, the Speaker could try doing something actually useful: he could speak up in support of equal rights for all, and against the dogmas that divide us — domestic as well as foreign. Being clear-eyed about one’s own failings does take courage; but Paul Ryan is no coward, is he?
With him or against him May 17, 2014Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Religion.
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It was sixty years ago today that the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in public schools; and it was ten years ago today that Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. Michigan courts are attempting to follow suit, and you’d think members of a minority that had previously been denied equal rights for no reason other than prejudice would be sympathetic — but you’d be wrong.
Gay marriage would “destroy the backbone of our society,” said the Rev. Stacey Swimp of Flint at a Wednesday morning rally held by African-American ministers at First Baptist World Changers International Church in Detroit…
The ministers criticized people who compare the struggle for same-sex marriage to the black civil rights movement, saying such a comparison is offensive and historically inaccurate. Noting that millions of blacks were killed by slavery and public lynchings, Swimp said that backers of gay marriage who compare their movement to black struggles are being “intellectually empty, dishonest.”
Yes, gay people should wait until millions of them have been lynched to death before making a fuss about discrimination.
By the way, what exactly is the ministers’ problem with homosexuality?
“We believe in the Judeo-Christian conception on which America was founded upon,” said the Rev. Rader Johnson of Greater Bibleway Temple in Bay City.
Many quoted from the Bible and the history of Christianity to back up their beliefs. They also portrayed themselves as under attack from a secular culture that’s hostile to religion.
“God does not agree with this kind of behavior,” the Rev. James Crowder, president of Westside Ministerial Alliance Of Detroit, said of gay sexual acts. It’s “despicable, an abomination.”
Or, as Pastor Roland Caldwell put it:
Either you’re with God or you’re against him. If you’re against God, you’re against me… Anybody that’s an enemy of God is an enemy of mine.
And that’s why religion is so pernicious: it combines the (unjustified) belief that we know God’s will with the (immoral) conviction that obeying it is a virtue. This combination can produce positive behavior when what’s attributed to God’s will is actually good (amounting to doing the right thing for the wrong reasons); but so long as obedience is encouraged and critical thinking discouraged, there is always the potential to slide into doing evil (while thinking you’re doing good) — whenever someone decides to take the Bible seriously, for instance. Because the God of the Bible is fine with slavery (as the slaveholders of the South were fond of pointing out). And genocide. And stoning children.
If that God does exist, we should all be against him.
Letter to a successful white male May 11, 2014Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality.
Congratulations! You’re a successful white male. Or, as you might prefer to put it, you’re a successful person who just happens to be a white male — why would anyone think your gender and race have anything to do with your success? That’s textbook sexism and racism. You worked hard to get where you are. You never asked for special treatment, nor do you recall ever receiving any.
Of course, you don’t deny that women and people of color were once officially discriminated against in our society, with fewer rights and opportunities available to them as a matter of policy. But that’s all in the past. Today, the law requires that everyone be treated equally, and indeed, you yourself would never dream of discriminating against anyone, nor can you recall ever witnessing discrimination. If anything, the pendulum seems to have swung too far in the opposite direction: you’re always hearing about special programs and organizations and scholarships for the benefit of women and minorities, and everyone’s under pressure to increase “diversity” — who knows how many qualified white males have been discriminated against due to “political correctness”?
You naturally assume, then, that if women or minorities are underrepresented in certain fields, they must generally be less suited for them, or less interested in them, or less inclined to do the work necessary to succeed in them. Those who complain about being victims of discrimination are whiners, looking to blame others for their own shortcomings. Perhaps you yourself have suffered rejection in the past, say from astronaut school — at which point you didn’t accuse NASA of discrimination, you simply faced facts and got a different job.
Nevertheless, you keep hearing talk about “privilege” and “unconscious bias” from people who seem unimpressed by your logical reasoning. In order to silence the agitators, perhaps there is some scientific way to demonstrate the absence of discrimination in our society?
We could perform a controlled experiment. For example, we could send emails to university professors from fictional prospective students seeking to discuss research opportunities prior to applying to a doctoral program, varying only the name of the fictional student to signal gender and race — and discover that faculty ignored requests from women and minorities at a higher rate than requests from white males (particularly in higher-paying disciplines and private institutions). Or, we could send fictitious resumes in reply to help-wanted ads, varying only the name on the resume to sound either white or African American — and discover that white names received 50 percent more callbacks for interviews. Or, we could ask university science faculty to rate a fictional student application for a laboratory manager position, varying only the student’s name to be male or female — and discover that the male applicant was rated as significantly more competent and hireable, and was offered a higher starting salary and more career mentoring, than the (identical) female applicant. And so on.
Please understand: the fact that you are privileged does not mean you don’t deserve your own success, didn’t work hard for it, or ought to feel guilty about it; nor does it mean that you are to blame for the inequities of our society. There are, however, things you can do to help. You can support programs that encourage young women and minorities to pursue fields where they’re underrepresented and lack role models and encouragement. You can make an effort to seek out qualified women and minorities when considering candidates for a job, conference, etc. You can avoid perpetuating unjust stereotypes.
But before all that, before we can fix our society and make it more just and equitable, there’s a simple yet crucial step you can take right now.
You can acknowledge the problem.
In return for our chains March 8, 2014Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Freedom.
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In 1890, when American women had no right to vote (the Nineteenth Amendment wasn’t passed till 1920), and marital rape wasn’t considered a crime (which remained the case in some states until 1993), Voltairine de Cleyre gave a lecture entitled “Sex Slavery”.
Let Woman ask herself, “Why am I the slave of Man? Why is my brain said not to be the equal of his brain? Why is my work not paid equally with his? Why must my body be controlled by my husband? Why may he take my labor in the household, giving me in exchange what he deems fit? Why may he take my children from me? Will them away while yet unborn?” Let every woman ask…
From the birth of the Church, out of the womb of Fear and the fatherhood of Ignorance, it has taught the inferiority of woman. In one form or another through the various mythical legends of the various mythical creeds, runs the undercurrent of the belief in the fall of man through the persuasion of woman, her subjective condition as punishment, her natural vileness, total depravity, etc.; and from the days of Adam until now the Christian Church, with which we have specially to deal, has made Woman the excuse, the scapegoat for the evil deeds of man…
At Macon, in the sixth century, says August Bebel, the fathers of the Church met and proposed the decision of the question, “has Woman a soul?” Having ascertained that the permission to own a nonentity wasn’t going to injure any of their parsnips, a small majority vote decided the momentous question in our favor. Now, holy fathers, it was a tolerably good scheme on your part to offer the reward of your pitiable “salvation or damnation” (odds in favor of the latter) as a bait for the hook of earthly submission; it wasn’t a bad sop in those days of faith and ignorance. But fortunately fourteen hundred years have made it stale. You, tyrant radicals, have no heaven to offer, — you have no delightful chimeras in the form of “merit cards;” you have (save the mark) the respect, the good offices, the smiles — of a slave-holder! This in return for our chains! Thanks!
Majority opinion June 30, 2013Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Freedom, Law.
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In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld (Bowers v. Hardwick) a Georgia sodomy law that criminalized private sexual acts between consenting same-sex adults. The case was decided by a margin of 5 to 4.
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote:
I believe we must analyze respondent Hardwick’s claim in the light of the values that underlie the constitutional right to privacy. If that right means anything, it means that, before Georgia can prosecute its citizens for making choices about the most intimate aspects of their lives, it must do more than assert that the choice they have made is an “abominable crime not fit to be named among Christians”…
I cannot agree that either the length of time a majority has held its convictions or the passions with which it defends them can withdraw legislation from this Court’s scrutiny…
That certain, but by no means all, religious groups condemn the behavior at issue gives the State no license to impose their judgments on the entire citizenry. The legitimacy of secular legislation depends, instead, on whether the State can advance some justification for its law beyond its conformity to religious doctrine… A State can no more punish private behavior because of religious intolerance than it can punish such behavior because of racial animus…
I can only hope that… the Court soon will reconsider its analysis and conclude that depriving individuals of the right to choose for themselves how to conduct their intimate relationships poses a far greater threat to the values most deeply rooted in our Nation’s history than tolerance of nonconformity could ever do. Because I think the Court today betrays those values, I dissent.
The Court reversed its ruling in 2003 (Lawrence v. Texas), invalidating all remaining sodomy laws — making same-sex sexual activity legal in all U.S. states. The case was decided by a margin of 6 to 3.
On June 26, 2013, the Court ruled (United States v. Windsor) that Section 3 of the “Defense of Marriage Act” is unconstitutional, and that the federal government may not discriminate against same-sex married couples.
The case was decided by a margin of 5 to 4.
An Islamist lexicon March 17, 2013Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Language, Religion.
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The Muslim Brotherhood is extremely concerned:
The 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), taking place from March 4 to 15 at UN headquarters, seeks to ratify a declaration euphemistically entitled ‘End Violence against Women’.
That title, however, is misleading and deceptive.
Does the Brotherhood mean to say that the UN declaration is not actually aimed at eliminating the disenfranchisement, maltreatment, and subjugation of women? Well, not exactly.
That title, however, is misleading and deceptive. The document includes articles that contradict established principles of Islam, undermine Islamic ethics and destroy the family, the basic building block of society, according to the Egyptian Constitution.
This declaration, if ratified, would lead to complete disintegration of society, and would certainly be the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries, eliminating the moral specificity that helps preserve cohesion of Islamic societies.
A closer look at these articles reveals what decadence awaits our world, if we sign this document:
1. Granting girls full sexual freedom, as well as the freedom to decide their own gender and the gender of their partners (ie, choose to have normal or homo- sexual relationships), while raising the age of marriage.
2. Providing contraceptives for adolescent girls and training them to use those, while legalizing abortion to get rid of unwanted pregnancies, in the name of sexual and reproductive rights.
3. Granting equal rights to adulterous wives and illegitimate sons resulting from adulterous relationships.
4. Granting equal rights to homosexuals, and providing protection and respect for prostitutes.
5. Giving wives full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment, obliging competent authorities to deal husbands punishments similar to those prescribed for raping or sexually harassing a stranger.
6. Equal inheritance (between men and women).
7. Replacing guardianship with partnership, and full sharing of roles within the family between men and women such as: spending, child care and home chores.
8. Full equality in marriage legislation such as: allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, and abolition of polygamy, dowry, men taking charge of family spending, etc.
9. Removing the authority of divorce from husbands and placing it in the hands of judges, and sharing all property after divorce.
10. Cancelling the need for a husband’s consent in matters like: travel, work, or use of contraception.
These are destructive tools meant to undermine the family as an important institution; they would subvert the entire society, and drag it to pre-Islamic ignorance.
The Muslim Brotherhood urges the leaders of Muslim countries and their UN representatives to reject and condemn this document, and to call upon this organization to rise to the high morals and principles of family relations prescribed by Islam.
So, ‘End Violence against Women’ isn’t really a “misleading and deceptive” title for the UN declaration, after all. On the other hand, I think I might have spotted a euphemism or two creeping into the Brotherhood’s heartfelt protest (which could non-euphemistically be titled ‘More Violence against Women’). Here, then, is a handy lexicon listing some common Islamist code words along with their actual meanings:
undermine the family: make it harder for men to control their wives and daughters
complete disintegration of society: a society where women are free and equal members
intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries: concern for the wellbeing of all inhabitants of Muslim countries
the moral specificity that helps preserve cohesion of Islamic societies: brainwashing, ignorance, and coercion
decadence: anything not prescribed in the worldview of a 7th-century tribal warlord
(via Butterflies & Wheels)
Dominion over the faith of others September 2, 2012Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Freedom, Politics, Religion.
The Republican Party’s 2012 platform talks an awful lot about freedom and equality, but it seems to apply them rather inconsistently. For instance, it says this:
We are the party of the Constitution, the solemn compact which confirms our God-given individual rights and assures that all Americans stand equal before the law… We will strongly enforce anti-discrimination statutes and ask all to join us in rejecting the forces of hatred and bigotry and in denouncing all who practice or promote racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, or religious intolerance.
But just a few paragraphs later, there’s this:
… Congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of States and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions… We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of States which have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other States to do so.
In other words, discrimination and bigotry towards homosexuals is to be applauded and supported.
On the subject of religious freedom, the platform invokes Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute,
which declared that no one should “suffer on account of his religious opinion or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion…” That assurance has never been more needed than it is today, as liberal elites try to drive religious beliefs — and religious believers — out of the public square… The most offensive instance of this war on religion has been the current Administration’s attempt to compel faith-related institutions, as well as believing individuals, to contravene their deeply held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs regarding health services, traditional marriage, or abortion.
But the current Administration has not been attempting to compel anyone to use a health service, marry, or get an abortion in contravention of his or her religious beliefs; the Administration has merely been attempting to ensure that these options are available to those who want them. Whereas Republicans are saying that if something goes against their religious beliefs, no one should be allowed to do it.
It’s a shame they didn’t read the rest of Jefferson’s Statute:
That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time…
Brain-dead ethics May 5, 2012Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Ethics, Law, Religion.
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The rate of organ donation in Israel is lower than in other countries, partially because some religious authorities forbid harvesting organs from someone who is irreversibly brain dead until cardiac death (at which point organs are usually unfit for transplant). In an attempt to increase the organ supply, a new Israeli law gives priority to patients in line for transplant if they (or their families) are registered as donors. In Haaretz, David Shabtai cries foul:
Yes, physicians are necessary to diagnose death, utilizing advanced technologies and relying on their expertise to do so. But identifying those vital qualities that characterize life and differentiate a living person from a corpse is something that medicine cannot do. These questions demand a philosophical response, an ethical value judgment as to what it means to be alive. In modern society, these questions demand legislation that reflects the value judgments of the community it represents. In Judaism, this is a question of Jewish law, and as in many areas of Jewish law, reasonable people reach reasonably different conclusions.
I’m not sure Shabtai understands what “reasonable” means. It is not reasonable to base one’s medical definitions on the scriptural interpretations of rabbis (instead of scientific evidence), or to base one’s ethics on the presumed will of some absolute authority (instead of a concern for people’s well-being). Not all value judgments are equally valid or deserving of equal consideration from the legal system. Should a Christian Science community that denies life-saving medical treatment from its children be immune from prosecution?
Shabtai, however, goes on to condemn the new law as — you guessed it — religious discrimination:
Jewish law is full of conflicting opinions on virtually all issues, and determining the moment of death is no exception. While Jacob may follow the opinion that does not equate brain death with death, Isaac may adopt the opposite approach. Both Jacob and Isaac, ready to uphold the esteemed value of saving lives, may be willing to donate their organs after death even as they disagree on when that point begins. Both can and should be willing to help each other to the best of his abilities and according to his beliefs and conscience.
The new Israeli law, however, ranks Jacob and Isaac differently when it comes to eligibility for receiving organs, and this seems particularly unfair. Both are willing to do whatever they can to save lives, including postmortem organ donation. Both reject the idea of killing one person to save another. Both oppose removing organs from a living person, even to save a life. Because of current medical limitations, however, most organs are harvested from brain-dead patients – patients whom Isaac identifies as dead but Jacob considers alive. Isaac therefore signs up as a potential organ donor, while Jacob cannot. It is not Jacob’s unwillingness to donate that is at issue, but rather his religious convictions regarding the particular circumstances by which organs are most often harvested.
The incentive offered in the new law, by pushing Isaac toward the top of the waiting list, unfairly punishes Jacob for his religious views. While nobly intentioned as a means of increasing the organ supply, practically this new law institutionalizes religious discrimination in medical treatment. Such a notion flies in the face of the Hippocratic tradition that has guided medical practice since its inception. Treating patients differently based on their religious convictions is something that good people should not tolerate.
But patients are not being treated differently based on their religion: preferential treatment is given to anyone registered as an organ donor, which is a perfectly relevant criterion that anyone can meet. Anyone who chooses not to contribute to the societal effort, for whatever reason, faces the same consequences. For comparison, Israel also has laws granting various benefits to military veterans and reservists — do those laws unfairly discriminate against people who didn’t serve in the military for religious reasons? Refusing to grant people special privileges due to their religious beliefs is not discrimination — in fact, it’s the opposite of discrimination.
By the way, why are those religious people who refuse to be donors — because they believe it’s wrong to harvest organs before cardiac death — nevertheless happy to accept such organs harvested from others? That sounds hypocritical to me, but I guess it’s “reasonable” in Shabtai’s world.
If only more people made good use of their brains while they’re still alive.
Hear no evil September 14, 2011Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Religion.
Four (male) cadets have been dismissed from the Israeli Military’s officer training academy for walking out of a commemorative ceremony. Why did they walk out? Because the event included women singing solo, and the cadets’ religious beliefs forbid them from hearing such things. The matter has been appealed to the Supreme Court.
So, should the military allow religious soldiers to skip a ceremony if attending goes against their faith? Phrased that way, the answer must automatically be no: granting special privileges exclusively to religious people discriminates against the nonreligious. “Freedom of Religion” doesn’t mean that we must allow people to do anything their religion tells them to do; it means that everyone shall be treated equally, regardless of their religion (or lack thereof). The rule “all soldiers must attend official ceremonies, except for religious soldiers” is just as discriminatory as the rule “all soldiers may apply for officer training, except for religious soldiers.” If the military is entitled to require its personnel to attend certain ceremonies, then no one should get a pass merely because of their religious beliefs.
Of course, sometimes it is reasonable to allow exceptions to a rule due to special circumstances, such as medical reasons: an epileptic soldier could be exempted from participating in ceremonies that include flashing lights, for instance. But again, all such exceptions should apply to religious and nonreligious individuals equally: religious people’s preferences do not deserve special consideration merely because they are religious. If some soldier wants to claim that hearing women sing gives him an uncontrollable urge to commit rape, that’s one thing (though such a person needs professional help and shouldn’t be in the military to begin with); but merely saying “that’s what my religion tells me to do” is not a reason that deserves any special consideration.
Some may say: Why make a mountain out of a molehill? Can’t we show some flexibility for the sake of social cohesion and harmony? Can’t we respect other people’s beliefs, even if we disagree with them? But this conflict has far-reaching implications, and must be confronted head-on. The general problem is that religion (like all dogma) causes well-intentioned people to do morally repugnant things, while thinking they are doing good. The dismissed cadets are certain that they occupy the moral high-ground, since they are obeying God’s will; but the worldview that is actually promoted by their actions is one where women are considered impure vehicles of temptation and sin, to be controlled by men (who apparently cannot control themselves). Needless to say, this view is baseless and dysfunctional, and must be unequivocally opposed. The cadets need to understand that refusing to hear a woman sing just because she is a woman indicates a moral failing, comparable to shunning blacks or gays. The fact that such bigotry is supported by religious beliefs doesn’t make it any more respectable — it merely discredits those beliefs.
If you don’t get this, I don’t want you leading an army.
If by whiskey July 17, 2011Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Logic, Religion.
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Richard Elliot Friedman and Shawna Dolansky have written a book called The Bible Now, reviewed by Adam Kirsch for The New Republic:
They have set out to explain “what the Bible has to say about the major issues of our time,” in particular “five current controversial matters: homosexuality, abortion, women’s status, capital punishment, and the earth.”
What, for instance, does the Bible have to say about homosexuality? Leviticus (20:13) seems pretty clear: “And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death: their blood shall be upon them.” Well, that’s what it says, but what does it really mean?
Friedman and Dolansky use [other ancient Near Eastern texts] to establish “the wider cultural context” of Leviticus, from which it follows that “what the authors of Leviticus … may be prohibiting is not homosexuality as we would construe the category today but, rather, an act that they understood to rob another man of his social status by feminizing him.” Why, then, does Leviticus, uniquely among ancient Near Eastern law codes, prescribe death for both partners in homosexual acts? Friedman and Dolansky argue, quoting another Bible scholar, that it is because Leviticus “emphasizes the equality of all. It does not have the class distinctions that are in the other cultures’ laws.”
This is a remarkable performance. Before you know it, a law that unambiguously prescribes death for gay men has been turned into an example of latent egalitarianism. Friedman and Dolansky imply that it was not homosexuality the Bible wanted to condemn, but the humiliation of the passive partner. And since we no longer think of consensual sex acts as humiliating, surely the logic of the Bible itself means that homosexuality is no longer culpable: “The prohibition in the Bible applies only so long as male homosexual acts are perceived to be offensive.”
But of course, one of the main reasons why people still perceive male homosexual acts as offensive is because the Bible declares them an abomination. Though I’m sure that will now change, as soon as “the wider cultural context” is more widely known…
Speaking of controversial matters: in 1952, Mississippi lawmaker Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat gave a speech on the floor of his state legislature, explicating his position on the prohibition of alcoholic beverages:
My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:
If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.
But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.
(via Why Evolution is True)