“There once was a ship in the navy, that sailed the ocean wavy.
When sweeping for mines, her eyes were so fine, yet she did not see the reef, now before her.
While coral amoral, there still lay a quarrel between the ship, its hull and her sea.
The ship didn’t win, the props stopped their spin, her parts carved up for the grave.
The corals’ still there, a little worse for the wear, but for that, one thing we’re still a learnin. Lose sight of the reefs for our trees now burning and we drown in the waves, always churning.
Red sky in morning? Sailor, take warning. So begging your pardon for my obvious lacking for all that is fine in the art of limerick, the ship in question was the USS Guardian. With a crew of nearly 80, she was 223 feet long and weighed over 1300 tons. One of only fourteen such ships in the fleet, the Avenger class minesweeper was reportedly worth some $227M.
The reef in question is the Tubbataha Reef (some 400 miles south of Manila). It also happens to be a national nature park for the Philippines as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Covering more than 321,310 acres (or 502 sq miles(1), the reef is teeming with Life like few other places in our natural world.
Though it happened this past January, I hadn’t heard word-one on the mighty Guardian running aground atop the reef until just the other night. Early reports cite inaccurate navigational charts as the reason she ran aground. But whether the Navy charts were eight nautical miles off – or not – you would think a superbly equipped ship like the USS Guardian would have seen the living, breathing reef the size of this one darting out into its path. But then again, you and I both know how irresponsible those darn reefs can be.
So once again, for all of our sophisticated gadgetry, and as is so often the case with we Humans, we are presented with the image of our state-of-the-art minesweeper, embarrassingly parked atop of some of the most precious coral reefs left on the Planet. I’m sorry, but you can’t make this kind of stuff up. What late-night comedian has writers that good? Can’t you just hear the jeers and whistles from the other commanders the first time the Guardian’s captain screwed up his courage and walked back into the Officer’s Club at Subic Bay?
So OK. Inquiring minds want to know? What do we do to free our ship?
Duh – Let’s just wait for high-tide and float away from our mistake. By jove, that might just work.
Oh I know, let’s get some other ships and tow it off like a late model Chevy…
Good thought. But they tried and sadly, that didn’t work either.
So what’s a navy to do?
Elementary my dear Watson. You amputate, cutting the problem up into smaller bits in order to clear the wreckage.
And that’s what we’re doing.
The latest time-line suggests crews will be done with their work sometime in April. Estimates for the vessels demolition and removal are in the range of $25M. And that is not counting the fines the U.S. Navy will be paying the Philippine government for the destruction done to the reef and its ecosystem.
As fascinating as all of this is to a geek like me, I had not counted on being struck by a different kind of parallel between the Guardian and another guardian, namely the Supreme Court.
Unless you’re living under a shell under the South Borneo Sea, it was difficult to not have heard about the two cases heard this past Tuesday and Wednesday in front of the Supreme Court of the United States (SOTUS). Both having to do with gay rights, Tuesday was all about California’s Proposition 8 while Wednesday had to do with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
While there are plenty of sources as to what constitutes each case, let me do my best to accurately outline the cliff notes beneath the wreckage plaintiffs are asking the Court to disassemble in these two landmark suits.
Huffington Post reporters Sacks and Reilly summarize the case by saying, “Prop 8 was the California ballot referendum passed in November 2008 that banned same-sex marriage, reversing by popular vote the state Supreme Court’s decision just months earlier to recognize marriage equality.” (2)
Put simply, marriage equality was granted. People got married and then California voters changed the rules after the fact. Further entrance, denied.
NPR‘s Nina Totenberg writes: “the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. The law bars federal recognition and benefits for same-sex couples married in any of the states — and there are nine currently — where such unions are legal.
There are more than 1,000 federal laws that confer benefits of one sort or another on married couples — everything from tax savings to Social Security benefits, but DOMA excludes those benefits for legally married same-sex couples.
The test case involves a couple from New York, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, who had been together for 42 years prior to their marriage in 2007. When Spyer died, however, the federal government, acting under DOMA, required Windsor to pay $363,000 in estate taxes that she would not have owed if her spouse had been of the opposite sex.”(3)
This one is simple too. You can have a marriage license and in the eyes of the federal government, it don’t mean a thing. All citizens but as Justice Ginsberg aptly observed, if you’re gay and married, all you’ve got is “skim milk”.
Dr. Martin Luther King once observed that the arc of history is long, but always bending towards what is right. In 1968, one year after the SOTUS ruled that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional, public opinion polls showed 72% of the public disapproved of the practice. Yet the Court ruled in favor of the Constitutions protections of the minority.
In recent days, I’ve heard a goodly number of opponents to marriage equality speak to preserving the institution of marriage. What is that institution? Historically, it’s meant arranged marriages, children being married for purposes of commerce or tribal politics, one society or another endorsing polygamy over monogamy, races marrying within themselves or only within their religious group. So what happened? The institution of marriage evolved like everything else in this world. So let’s be cautious about broad brushing marriage as if it were some Norman Rockwell painting of a country church with a white picket fence. We have evolved and so too, have our social mechanisms.
Whether the topic is immigration, marriage equality, religious tolerance, reproductive rights, gun control or voter suppression, I am led to ask the same question I heard Corey Booker ask, “Are we, as Americans, defined by the power of the People or by the people in power?”
Good question. Powerful question. Injustice angers me and it should. I’d be nothing if it didn’t. I assert my belief that we will never realize a more perfect union when people like me are denied the one union that strengthens the social fabric like no other. How are ‘We, the People‘ equal if someone else can say that I am not? I did not choose to be white. I did not choose to be tall and I did not choose to be born as I was, loving who I do. But I have no standing?
So many in so many places have been voicing their opinions on the warfare of extending civil rights to all Americans – in this case, my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. My point in writing to you this week was not to minimize the oppositional voice of some within the ranks of organized christianity by citing the Constitution’s stated objective in separating Church and State. Rather my purpose is to bring the focus of the conversation down from the 30,000 foot view and into what my life looks like as I sit here, writing on my yellow legal pad in our living room while Rick is off bringing breakfast together on this Easter morning.
I care not for the glare of any spotlight. I view my responsibility as a story teller with great reverence and respect. It is important that you know Rick and I have been wearing wedding rings for years. It is mine to routinely show kindly courage when someone sees my ring and asks my wife’s name.
As convicted as I am to seeing the day when I can file a joint tax return or face my death, peaceful in the knowledge my social security money will flow to Rick, I want nothing more than to have my nation echo respect for the Love that fills my Soul when I hear the voice of the guy that has loved me for the past 28-years (this month) whisper to me in the darkness of night, “I love you”.
We have been through sickness and health, we’ve been richer and poorer. There is nothing we aren’t richer for when we are together. But for the grace of my other halfs’ family, we’ve done it alone. That day is setting. I truly believe I see a new dawn coming to our shores.
Like it was for the crew of the USS Guardian, sometimes we need help in taking things apart in order to free the larger good from the reefs of intolerance. America. I love you. I stand for you. Like Washington, Lincoln and Kennedy before us, I work to be equal amongst you — all of you.
If it is true that the fulfillment of our Souls only comes through struggle, then let each of us remember the next part, the part when reconciliation and healing carry the day. We get there together. You may ask, do I think fighting for my civil rights is as important as it is for me to fight on behalf of yours?
Good question. The group FUN answers in a powerful way. Though the official video has a long non-musical preamble in setting a reference for the struggles of a House Divided during (and after) the Civil War, I haven’t been able to get the drum line of the song out of my head. Turning it up every time it comes on the radio, I share it with you now. Enjoy FUN as they sing their powerful anthem on the cost of war – civil or otherwise. I’ve exercised privilege in selecting the Youtube version of the song with visuals from the movie, LORAX.
Click on the Lorax and join the march.
Album: Some Nights was released: February 21, 2012 on the Fueled by Ramen label.
Producer: Jeff Bhasker, Emile Haynie, Jake One. Official Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQkBeOisNM0
January 5, 1941 – March 30, 2013
Matt Schudel, The Washington Post, writes: “A son, Matt Ramone, confirmed the death to news organizations. Mr. Ramone had been hospitalized in February for an aortic aneurysm.
Phil Ramone [he] won 14 Grammy Awards, including three for album of the year, and was recognized as one of the music world’s most prolific and skilled hitmakers. A onetime classical violinist who put down his bow for the soundboard, Mr. Ramone was sometimes called “the man with the golden ears.”
He never developed a signature production style, like Phil Spector’s “wall of sound,” preferring to merge his taste with that of the artist. He sought instead to bring out the essence of each performer, regardless of musical style, working seamlessly with a wide range of artists, from B.B. King to Sinead O’Connor, Tony Bennett to Dusty Springfield, Billy Joel to Luciano Pavarotti. He was the producer of Amy Winehouse’s final recording — a duet with Bennett in 2011 on the standard “Body and Soul.”
As ever when it comes to many things musical, I encourage you to click on the logo button below and visit MY ELECTRONIC JUKEBOX (a WordPress blog) for more on Mr. Ramone.
Forever in-tune will he always be.
Excerpts from article by Matt Schudel, The Washington Post. Picture by (Michael Tweed/ASSOCIATED PRESS) – Oct. 24, 1983. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/phil-ramone-hitmaking-music-producer-who-won-14-grammys-dies-at-79/2013/03/30/f7991d46-9960-11e2-b68f-dc5c4b47e519_story.html?wprss=rss_obituaries
SOURCE and ATTRIBUTIONS: USS Guardian – http://abcnewsradioonline.com/world-news/us-navy-minesweeper-stuck-on-philippines-reef-to-be-cut-into.html and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2298550/USS-Guardian-U-S-asks-time-tries-dismantle-giant-wooden-minesweeper-vessel.html
For a Video Report on the USS Guardian incident – go to: The Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC): http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/vp/51356699#51356699
and (1) Read more about the Tubbataha Reef at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tubbataha_Reef
(2) For Prop 8, read “Supreme Court Proposition 8 Case Arguments Cast Doubt On Gay Marriage Ban “ by Mike Sacks and Ryan J. Reilly: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/26/supreme-court-proposition-8_n_2950615.html
(3) For more on the Defense of Marriage Act (1996), go to Nina Totenberg’s story on National Public Radio: http://www.npr.org/2013/03/27/175295410/doma-challenge-tests-federal-definition-of-marriage
PHOTO CREDITS: PIC: USS Guardian in better days: http://news.softpedia.com/news/US-Minesweeper-Stuck-in-the-Philippines-Will-Be-Cut-Into-Pieces-325312.shtml; Tubbataha Reef: http://img.ibtimes.com/www/data/images/full/2013/01/23/337867-tubbataha-reef-and-other-beautiful-coral-reefs-of-the-world-photos.jpg; USS Guardian stuck on reef in Sulu Sea off the coast of the Philippines: http://www.stripes.com/news/navy/pics-the-uss-guardian-is-cut-to-pieces-from-a-reef-in-the-philippines-1.212146; Final Pieces of US Minesweeper being removed from Reef: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130328/DEFREG02/303280013/Final-Pieces-U-S-Minesweeper-Being-Removed-from-Reef?odyssey=mod_sectionstories; Justices of the United States Supreme Court: http://www.glaad.org/news/supreme-court-returns-work-will-hear-marriage-equality-cases-march; Blind Justice by Bennett in Christian Science Monitor: http://filipspagnoli.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/blind_justice.jpg; Martin Luther King Jr and the Samaritans Question graphic compiled by dan4kent:; http://www.lushquotes.com/quote/martin-luther-king-jr_MTA1NjYz.html and http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/sherri-fisher/200907052951; Martin Luther King Jr Faith and the Staircase: http://i356.photobucket.com/albums/oo1/KeepLaughingK8/quotes/MartinLutherKingJr.png; lorax-character-mr-5 (Source): http://tinsel.tv/the-lorax-stills/lorax-character-mr-5/ (a WordPress blog)
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