Wednesday, September 02, 2015


The second Mrs. Vache Folle is a citizen of Ukraine (not "the" Ukraine, they don't even have a word for "the") and a permanent resident alien in the United States. She passed her citizenship test a few weeks ago and is waiting to take the oath and become naturalized. 

In order to bring Mrs. VF2 to the United States (she was living in Ukraine when we met), I had to declare to the government that I intended to marry her, and in order to keep her and her daughter here, I actually had to go through with it.  We went to Vegas and got married before a JP a few days after they arrived in America.  I absolutely had to get some state to "legitimize" our relationship within 90 days or they both would have become undocumented aliens and subject to deportation.

Because Mrs. VF2 decided to stay at home and study English full time at a local community college for a while, I found that getting her and her daughter insured required me to have that stupid piece of paper from Nevada.

To make matters worse, the US government assumes that anyone who marries a foreigner and brings them to America does so fraudulently; therefore, I had to prove that Mrs. VF2 and I were really, genuinely, honest to gods married.  Three times.  First time, you get a conditional green card.  Then after two years you have to produce a bunch of documents and be interviewed to show that you are really married (not just on paper).  I sent in affidavits from friends and neighbors, evidence that they lived with me, evidence that we had bank accounts and bills and insurance together, evidence that we parented together.  The US government did not believe this evidence because we didn't own a house together, and real married people don't have arrangements like ours where only one spouse is on the title.  So we had to appeal.  I had to get Mrs. VF1 to make out an affidavit explaining that we still owned the house together because it was "underwater" and we couldn't sell it or change the title.  The government was satisfied until we had to prove our marriage yet again when Mrs. VF2 applied for naturalization.

I wouldn't have bothered to get the paper from Nevada if I didn't have to.  I don't see what business it is of the State of Nevada or New York or the USA whom I love and with whom I share domestic arrangements.  Of course, that piece of paper allows me to compel my insurers, my employer, my stepdaughter's schools, hospitals and others to recognize our arrangement.  It gets me favorable tax treatment and keeps my spouse from testifying against me.  It is not what makes us married, as the US government says, but it sure does confer a lot of rights vis a vis the government and private persons that I never thought much about before. I see why same sex partners are keen to get these rights, and I don't see any good reason for the government to privilege one kind of domestic arrangement over another even if they are in the business of documenting and registering such arrangements.  We all ought to recognize and affirm our neighbors' rights to make these arrangments without compulsion of law, but we are basically a**holes who can't be trusted to show each other basic respect.  The documenttaion and registration of domestic arrangements is justified to the extent that it strengthens the institution of the household, whatever its composition, and not as a means of regulating what households are supposed to look like.  

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

What Kind of Racist Are You?

I grew up in the Deep South.  When I was child, we had segregated schools, water fountains, bathrooms, you name it.  Then we became technically "integrated" and had to work a little harder to maintain segregation.  I remember that my family started going to a private swimming pool when the public pool was integrated so we wouldn't have to swim with black people.  The N-word was part of everyday vocabulary.  I absorbed racism from the culture even though nobody ever sat me down and gave me explicit instructions as to how to be a racist.

As I became a more sophisticated and educated person and encountered a wider society, I became less and less racist.  I decided at some point to try to be a better human being, to face reality, and to be less stupid.  It required a conscious effort, however, and many years after I had departed the South I would find some irrational racist idea popping into my head.  The biggest steps for me were (a) acknowledging that I had this indoctrination,  and (b) realizing that it was not enough just to claim to be "color blind".  Pretending that racism doesn't exist doesn't make it go away in yourself or in society at large.  I don't claim to be racism-free.  I think of myself as a recovering racist, and I know that I need to be self aware and on the look out for subconscious biases and irrational ideas.

I have identified several categories of American racists over the years.  The smallest category (thanks be to God) includes folks who are openly racist and proud of it.  These include subcategories of people who have animosity toward black people and regard them as evil and people who, while claiming to bear black people no ill will, regard them as inherently inferior on some dimension or another.  I include them in the same larger category because the impact on society is pretty much the same.  The patronizing variety is not always distinguishable from the hateful variety, and the former often enables the latter.

A larger category includes people who are racist but who are at least somewhat embarrassed about it.  In times like the present a lot of these folks jump into the first category if they perceive safety in numbers.  Some identifying characteristics of this category are incessant whining about political correctness and queasiness about the dating habits of the Kardashians.

The largest category is comprised of folks who are racist but don't seem to know it.  They tend to deny that racism is a problem and get really upset when people bring it up.  Identifying racism is worse than racism itself, and uppity black folks who complain about being discriminated against or having their relatives or neighbors murdered by police are said to be "fanning the flames" of nonexistent racism. As far as these folks are concerned, we have just the right amount and maybe too much racial justice.  The consequences of racism are, in their view, black folks' own fault.  They can be frequently heard to preface statements with "I'm not a racist but..."  They think that black people want them to feel guilty even though, as far as they are concerned, they never did anything wrong to a black person (how could they have what with having arranged their lives so as to have as little interaction with black people as possible?).  They are willfully clueless.  Black peoiple don't need their guilt; black people need them to open their eyes and acknowledge the truth.  This category is the most insidious and probably the most harmful.  These people stand in the way of solving the problem because they deny that it exists and that they themselves contribute to it.

Then there are folks like me who are in recovery.  Maybe we are helpful.  Maybe not.  At least I hope we do less harm.

There is also a theoretical category of persons whose hearts and minds are unsullied by the defect of racism.  My dream is to pass over into that state.

The Return of Vache Folle

For the last few years I have been too busy and, to tell the truth, too depressed to blog.  I went through a painful (as opposed to delightful) divorce, a difficult remarriage accompanied by stepfatherhood, and overwhelming financial difficulties.  I suppose that not blogging was just another manifestation of the crippling social phobia that I experienced.  Moreover, my extreme self loathing made it seem clear to me that nobody could possibly give a rat's patootie about my disjointed and incoherent ramblings.  What do I know?  Less than nothing.  What do I have to contribute?  Less than nothing.

Now, however, thanks to modern medicine, I am no longer crippled by anxiety, depression and phobias and I can once again delude myself into thinking that my thoughts are worth writing down.  I started by posting on Facebook short statements of my opinions on political and social issues.  I quickly discovered that a disturbing number of my Facebook "friends" were overt racists, homophobes and other varieties of reactionary troglodyte.  I had to start whittling them down until I only have a few whose posts I can tolerate.  On the positive side (at least I think it is positive), I rediscovered the urge to think about things besides the quotidian and to write down some of my thoughts and opinions for what I hope will become a readership in at least the double digits.

I still advocate freedom, but I no longer see the state as the only or even primary enemy of liberty.  I would not "push the button", as they say.  Pushing the button would just leave the existing power structure in place and would, in all likelihood, lead to a reduction in overall liberty.  Sure, our feudal overlords would have liberty out the wazoo, but the rest of us would have just as much liberty as they let us.  I suspect that this would be less liberty than the dreaded state allows us now.

I am looking to optimize liberty, to provide for the most liberty for the most people, to expand the concept of liberty beyond mere freedom from interference by the state.  Maybe this makes me "collectivist" in that I care about other people's liberty almost as much as my own and recognize that those of us who are not in the likely feudal overlord category need to band together and collaborate.

I don't know that it makes much difference whether the agency that threatens our liberty is "governmental" or "private".  The lines seem blurrier than I used to believe.

I probably won't always write about my brand of libertarianism.  Who knows?  Maybe I will devote a lot of space to gardening or what it's like to live in a house full of Ukrainians, half of whom speak no English.  Or to religion or to what it's like to be mentally ill. I just know that I feel a need to express myself in some manner.  Thank you for enabling me by allowing me to imagine that someone might actually read this.