We are All Now Safer in our Freedom

On the morning of June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a basic right, across the United States. The ruling in the case known by the name Obergefell v. Hodges was 5 to 4, showing a tightly split Court, but effectively invalidating all bans on same-sex marriage, whether brought into effect by legislation, referendum, executive order or lower court rulings. 

Here’s why this is good for people of all political and religious persuasions: 

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Why Kiev Matters

The struggle over Ukraine’s political system is important to the world for a lot of reasons. In short:

  1. It matters whether any human population has fair and transparent, democratically accountable government;
  2. Ukraine is a strategic crossroads, both for political and economic reasons;
  3. The tension over violence against protesters in Kiev could explode into a regional war that no one can afford;
  4. A peaceful resolution is an indicator of whether Russia and Europe can work together;
  5. Ukraine’s strategic value is partly to do with geopolitical spheres of influence, partly about carbon-based energy.

So, what is happening at this hour in Kiev matters to the wider world for moral reasons, for strategic political and economic reasons and because the outcome may determine whether petrostate hegemony will hold sway over the future of more than half a billion people. That authoritarian petrostate model—an outgrowth of both the Soviet dictatorship and the post-Soviet plutocracy in Russia—severely limits the power of individuals and communities to influence government, and to build a more humane, more collaborative, more sustainable future, from the ground up.

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The Problematic Case of PFC Bradley Manning

We have to ask ourselves, constantly and with serious attention to specifics, whether as we build our democratic universe of human relationships, we might be getting things wrong. Private First Class Bradley Manning took action that demanded that we do that. Some say his leaking of classified documents was treason (the courts do not say that); some say it was heroism (the courts do not say that either).

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Erdogan Declares Unilateral Authority over Speech, Threatens Violence

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has issued what the Guardian newspaper calls a “chilling warning”: he says “these protests will be over in 24 hours”. After calling nonviolent protesters “destroyers” and “enemies”, Erdogan declared “this episode is over”. He now has effectively declared his absolute, unilateral authority to accept or reject any and all attempts at democratic speech.

Observers across democratic nations allied with Turkey have expressed dismay and alarm at the unnecessarily counterproductive, violent and authoritarian reaction to what began as a sit-in protesting the destruction of a public park for commercial development. The extreme nature of Erdogan’s reaction has raised questions about whether his government somehow has existential ties to the commercial development plan.

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Why Taksim Square Matters

The mass protest movement that has flooded through Turkish society, over the last few weeks, is of great importance to the future of international politics, not least because President Erdogan’s reaction has been so ham-fisted and unacceptable. As the head of government of a NATO allied nation with a constitutional mandate for secular government, Erdogan, leader of a religious party, has always had to walk a fine line; the protest movement has shown how superficial some of his moderate language may have been.

With what is considered to be genuine popularity, Erdogan has accumulated what many believe is an unhealthy amount of power, and he has allegedly been impatient with dissent of all kinds. What Taksim Square represents for Turkey, however, is the first true modern movement in defense of stakeholders’ rights. And that, many believe, is the 21st-century liberation struggle which even the most advanced democracies will have to confront: freedom of speech is one thing, freedom of the press another, both necessary for any genuine democracy to exist, but without a real, and influential voice, for stakeholders, any process of decision-making must be described as less than entirely democratic.

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We are Citizens; the Time is Now

In the first State of the Union address of his second term as president of the United States, Barack Obama outlined an ambitious agenda, to reform economic and social policy, education, immigration, energy, gun control laws, and laws governing gender equality. He laid down the most direct and explicit challenge to lawmakers on climate policy, saying “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

The Congress has a choice on climate policy: comprehensive, market-based bipartisan policy, or an aggressive register of executive actions to tighten regulations and ensure US carbon emissions drop at the necessary rate. He called specifically for a “bipartisan market-based” approach, but left the specifics to lawmakers. Fortunately, thousands of citizens are already building political will for a bipartisan, market-based approach with none of the flaws of cap and trade. (Learn more here.)

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On the Inestimable Value of Citizenship

There are speech acts that negate their own validity. For example, the defense or promotion of violence in service of the sacred, or the notion that to oppose marginalization and stereotyping, specific groups need to be treated as inherently and universally hostile to one’s aims, no negotiations allowed. To be a citizen is about choice and responsibility, but it is never a valid choice—or an expression of any genuine personal freedom—to refuse it.

To refuse citizenship is a self-negating performative speech act, intended in every case to serve as a kind of comment on the state of affairs—”that’s not for me”, “my interests lie elsewhere”, “they’re all corrupt”, “I would replace the whole system”, etc., or, sometimes unwittingly (subconsciously, as a way of sloughing off the burden of responsibility): “I want those in power to have free rein”. To refuse citizenship is an act of cruel self-sabotage the bad effects of which seep out into the rest of society and undermine the health and wellbeing of the whole citizenry.

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