January 2010

One of the most infuriating events of 2009, the murder of abortion doctor Georges Tiller in Kansas, is still taking its course as the shooter finally confessed to the murder in court, supposedly rolling in an easy first degree murder conviction. Tiller, a hero to women, providing late-term abortions to those in precarious situations in and outside Kansas, who had already been shot in the arm, saw his life end violently and abruptly while attending his regular Sunday Church service.

Now a key event to the most radical fringe of the pro-life movement such as Operation Rescue, the murder of Dr. Tiller, which should have raised the question of the limits to which the government is going to restrict abortion rights and the infinite dangerosity floating around doctor’s lives, is carrying in its wake a dangerous miscarriage of justice: the soon-to-be-convicted shooter has been allowed by the defense to present his case as being « morally justified ». From RHrealitycheck.com’s Wendy Norris:

Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert ruled Tuesday that Kansas law does not recognize the “necessity defense” — a legal claim that a defendant is justified in breaking the law to thwart a greater imminent threat. Roeder admitted to news reporters last month that he killed Wichita physician George Tiller May 31in the foyer of a church to prevent him from performing abortions.

The judge said allowing the personal beliefs of defendants to justify unlawful actions would “not only lead to chaos but would be tantamount to sanctioning anarchy.”

For months, the Army of God, a militant anti-abortion group linked to murders, clinic arsons and domestic terrorism, has egged Roeder on to claim Tiller’s death was Biblically justified.

However, that ultimate aim has not been entirely lost.

Wilbert said he would “leave the door open” for Roeder’s defense team to argue to jurors that his religious beliefs about abortion compelled him to act.

Let’s be clear. There is such a thing as an absolute truth ; morals may be subjective, and conditioned by religious (or non-religious, for that matter) beliefs, but the role of the law is to rise above such subjectivity and provide an objective, stone-cold compass for the entirety of society to live by. The law is not a tool to be easily manipulated by successive governments, it is not meant to serve a specific personal, religious, or political ideology. The law is, in itself, the absolute ; and every society that proclaims order over chaos and humanity over disenfrenchisement is unequivocal regarding murder. Killing another human being is wrong on all possible levels, and will be subsequently punished. The fact that murder is also the first cardinal sin in all three monotheists religions is no coincidence. Murder is where one would draw the line on their soul, specifically when said murder was premeditated, such as Doctor Tiller’s case, where Scott Roeder was driven by ideology.

Because the Constitution clearly states that every man is innocent until proven otherwise, and that all citizens are entitled to a fair trial, when evidence is strongly held against the defendant, the defense usually seeks for circumstancial evidence that could have explained the desperate gesture that murder is, from self-defense to temporary insanity, from a difficult childhood and everything in-between. Even the very question surrounding the controversy of the death penalty circles around the belief that regardless of the situation, no matter how righteous one feels, killing someone is a display of social inadequacy. In order to provide nuances and allow space for difficult situations, second degree murder and manslaughter created a hierarchy in a crime resulting in the death of an individual, the classification resting on the responsibility and the intent of the defendant.

However, the court is creating what can only seem as a precedent – is there such a thing as « morally justified murder » ? Would it then be considered somewhat alright by legal standards to play God with people’s lives for as long as they do not follow the ideology we put our faith in ? Is this not how the current climate of terrorism presents itself, the coercion of an entire population into bending to another’s cultural and religious beliefs in the name of a set of morals we do not understand ? If murder can be justified, will it then cross into misdemeanour territory, a minor glitch into someone’s role in society, a try-out at rectifying and regulating the course of political and social action ? Is that a gateway into legalizing mob justice ? What is it, the Far West circa 1812 ? As Wendy Norris continues to explain, the “necessity defense” course of action is nothing new in the pro-life movement – a group called the Army of God (sic) once used it to justify their violent actions as being a “defensive force” as described in the Christian Dominionist version of the Bible.

As a woman, would I be morally justified into killing members of Operation Rescue as they are in direct infraction with my own human and civil rights, or are we backpedaling to the times when women are considered to be void of any soul? If citizens can not turn to the judicial branch of their nation to protect them from harm, is there such a thing as a legal state anymore, or should we just go ahead and assume that the Bible holds supraconstitutional value in the United States?


Sebastiàn Piñera: his son's taste in music might also become a problem.

On Sunday night, Chili elected a new president, with outgoing socialist leader Michelle Bachelet passing the flame to right-wing teeth-baring Sebastiàn Piñera, a controversial new influence over the Latin American country due to an extremely wealthy bank account and paradoxal views on Augusto Pinochet, the former tyran accused of genocide and providing shelter to Nazi war criminals.

Piñera is a bundle of contradictions, from his Berlusconian input on the economy to his self-proclaimed « humanist » conservatism, that he seems to wish closer to Helmut Kohl’s than Silvio’s. However, his own fortune being estimated by Forbes to be of approximatively 860 million euro, the 60 year old football club owner and Harvard graduate paints a picture of himself ranging from affectionate grandfather to greedy businessman with a shady historical conscience.

On many social and civil rights issues, Piñera proves to be more open-minded than many conservatives on the northern hemisphere, especially concerning gay rights – he was the first political leader to give civil and administrative recognition to homosexual couples. The « humanist » has also tried to take a stand regarding the complexity of Chili’s past by declaring that no previous employee of the Pinochet administration would ever have a seat in his government – whilst adding that « working under Pinochet does not constitute a sin ». A hasty addition to a political discourse trying to bring about cambio (change) and disruption from previous governments, socialist and conservatives alike, when it is no secret that his brother, José, was Minister of Labour under Pinochet and has made a name changing the retirement system from repartition to unabashed capitalization.

So who is really Piñera, and does he personify a strange and potentially harmful change for South America ? Supported by similar-minded parties National Renovation (sic) and Independant Democratic Union, Piñera is a nice-looking facade for a business-oriented neo-conservatist right-wing ideology modeled after its northern american twin, and will benefit from an interest economic growth in 2010 and 2011, evaluated at 4.5%, that will definitely help bringing about the cambio Piñera is so fond of. This change will however not be mild in any way – the free trade market wished by Piñera and on which he built his own wealth under the dictatorship (by introducing the concept of credit cards to Chili) is one that is radically different from the economy based on socialist platforms that has been implemented by successive governments ever since the fall of Pinochet.

What Piñera is sure to bring to the plate is a renewal of left-wing forces that will no longer take their leadership and popularity for granted. Does that mean the era of whispering Pinochet’s name in-between corridors and purging the governmental apparatus of any former Pinochet members? Is Piñera helping Chili get out of the guilt of the tortured and murdered? Although he committed himself to the condemnation of human rights violations and subsequent ICT convictions, undermining the very nature of those used as tools in the dictatorship might send the wrong message, that of trying to wipe Chili’s historical slate clean. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen.

Two weeks ago I was flying out of JFK airport in New York City and quietly lining up to pass security. A young couple was curled up in a corner and obviously finding it hard to separate from one another, as the young man was leaving back to Europe after spending the holidays with his loved one. Several security officers watched the heart-wrenching scene with humid eyes. Airports are often the scene of failed and reconciled relationships, a huddle of bad and good romances, a place to find each other and leave.

Liam Neeson recruiting a future Al-Qaeda suicide bomber in Heathrow during the holiday season

Despite JFK’s bad rep, this time it’s Newark Liberty that decided to coerce people into separating, leaving, and emotionally distressing them. A Rutdgers University student was told to back the hell off of his girlfriend while saying goodbye as his crossing a security line was a “disaster”, according to Senator Frank Lautenberg. Facing a fine of up to $500, the doctoral student may receive worse a penalty, as Lautenberg decided to act tough on love: “I’d like to see if we can bring this under federal jurisdiction, as opposed to just a misdemeanor and a $500 fine, that’s a slap on the wrist. He maybe thought he was being a Romeo, but he added to our woes, to the unease about travel. An example has to be made of this.” Whether it is customary for Newark Liberty to be the center stage of unabashed PDA, the story does not say, but after the shoe bomber on the Detroit flight, what security officers are looking for are not necessarily explosives or liquids over 200ml, but whether or not one is likely to feel their heart swell at the idea of being in an airport. Who knew potential terrorists had all watched Love Actually on repeat during their training?

Let’s outlaw romance. Let’s make it illegal to be in love; let’s frown upon any declaration, demonstration, and institution that proves, shows, illustrates, depicts love under all its shapes and sizes. Let’s make love impossible to be found in the most distraught of places; let’s teach mistrust and isolated individuality, let’s push empathy back in the darkest places of our memory, where it is unlikely to be found and thus summoned when a fellow human being is weak enough to ask for our help. Let’s not feel anything that could be considered spontaneous enough to be admired, let’s consider all those furtive little feelings as corruption, intrusion, and ultimately, destruction.

I would be stupid enough to think that after the year – hell, the decade – we have all been through, and the tough years awaiting us, love could be the only thing we could all rally around, something strong enough to keep us warm during an El-Niño winter, and carry us on through the days of record unemployement rates and shattered dreams. Last week, New Jersey – also home of Newark Liberty Airport – voted (14-20) against gay marriage, refusing tens of thousands of couples the right to institutionalize their union, to adopt their own children, to create a safe home, and to feel part of a big nation, to be recognized as a useful citizen. Most importantly, what the New Jersey Senate voted against – like Maine, New York, Florida, California, Arizona before them – is the right to simply declare your love. Simply. Publicly. The right not to die alone. The right to give your loved one a phone call while arrested or drafted. The right to protect the children together. The right to feel like a family.

If keeping America safe is to protect it from everything that made it what it is, and shield every citizen away from the only thing that can help them not lose their minds, if the war on terror is actually a war on human emotions, then the only safe thing we can say, is that we’re on the path towards more fear, more isolation, more failure, the biggest downfall of all. Fasten your seatbelts, turbulences ahead.