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It canít be stopped

Your superior correspondents were thinking last week, what if the landmark Supreme Court decision of 1954, Brown v. Board of Education, never happened? Maintaining that " separate but equal " was un-American (not to mention bullshit) breathed life into a slowly building civil rights movement, leading to the Montgomery bus boycott and finally exploding in the early í60s with demands for justice. We still have a ways to go, but those among us who remember legal segregation have a strong sense of how much has been accomplished.

Now comes a Supreme Court decision striking down anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional. For Superior Nation, this could well be our Brown v. Board of Education. Antonin Scalia certainly understands this or why else would he write such a reactionary and ill-advised dissent, railing about the " homosexual agenda " (which, if the phrase means anything, merely amounts to equal rights for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation).

Meanwhile, in the Great White North, our Canadian neighbors seem to have clearly seen the light and are moving ahead with legalized gay marriage. Equality and fairness is on the way in North America, and as any student of history will tell you, it will not be stopped. Bill Frist and his right-wing cohorts, clamoring for a Constitutional amendment to narrowly define marriage, are doomed to be on the losing end of this one. We always thought that the only kind of Constitutional amendment worth considering is one that expands the definition of freedom.

Although we live in a time when fear seems to be ascendant, fear is ultimately a loser. Thatís because deep down inside, the people of the United States, when forced to choose between playing to our fears and petty biases, or standing up for fairness and equality, will finally take the right path.

Since Stonewall and Harvey Milk, ACT UP and Queer Nation, weíve been openly talking superior behavior. Hearts and minds have been changed, and people are smartening up. P&J have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly things are moving now. How many people do you know who think that " Donít Ask, Donít Tell " makes any sense at all? How many people do you know who think " The Defense of Marriage Act " has anything to do with the defense of marriage?

Yes, thereís still a struggle ahead, but the walls are falling and maybe it will only be 10 years from now when all but the most extreme reactionaries among us will wonder how we had these laws and wrongheaded social views about sexual orientation. Itís coming and it canít be stopped.

Ship of fools

Phillipe and Jorge journeyed to Block Island this week, laughing all the while at the Providence to Newport ferry, Ocean State. Not only did this celebrated launch fail two inspections, but in a Gilliganesque maneuver, it smashed into the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier on its first foray on the briny.

What your superior correspondents find absurd, among a host of choices, was that the Coast Guard called the incident a " minor marine incident. " Sorry, folks, but when a supposedly competent captain rams a sizeable boat into a gigantic cement barrier, we find it a bit more than " minor. " (A reliable source, who was having drinks at the Hot Club the day after the episode, reports that the craft made it through the hurricane barrier without trouble that time, eliciting a round of applause from the assembled early evening bar clientele and a toot from the craftís horn in response.)

Welcome aboard the Ocean State. Itís a three-hour tour.

Going to the streets

As we were going to press, word Dcame that Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline and Police Chief Dean Esserman are about to announce the creation of a nonviolence street workers program. The initiative, to be unveiled Thursday, July 10, is being done with The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence in South Providence. Since similar efforts have reduced violence in Boston and other cities, we have hopes for what the street workers might be able to accomplish in Providence.

As many of us enjoy summer barbecues, beach outings, and the like, we should remember the threat that street violence poses in neglected parts of our cities. There would be a huge hue and cry if these kind of conditions were found in Barrington and other privileged areas. But because poor neighborhoods are the ones that most suffer from violence, our society remains in collective denial about how we are failing innocent young people and other residents. The good news is that people can make a difference when they work together and use a little creative thinking.

Fittingly, the street workers program was to be announced at the park located at the corner of Dudley Street and Prairie Avenue in Providence. Representatives of the Dexter Foundation, a financial backer of the program, were slated to be on hand. Several residents, who have been victims of violence, have also been invited. Those whoíve helped to get this effort off the ground deserve our thanks for challenging the complacency of our age.

Calm Don

P&J like the breath of fresh air that new guv Don Carcieri has brought to the State House, but itís time for The Don to take a chill pill in regard to the state budget. Screwing state employees and cutting education aid is simply not the way to solve Little Rhodyís woes, and getting lectured about fiscal austerity by a former overpaid CEO just doesnít wash.

We might suggest that The Don sit down with House Finance Committee chair Paul Sherlock and Senate President Billy " Little Napoleon " Irons to try to reach some sort of agreement about how our tax dollars should be best spent. (House Speaker Bill Murphy has proved himself useless, hence our reliance on Sherlockís good sense.)

Itís all a moot point, since the Donís veto will be overturned, but butting heads is not going to help solve anything. Have a seat, gentlemen, and letís work things out.

Shock attack

Much ado about nothing at Narragansett Beach, where six sharks were sighted, leading to the beach being closed.

People familiar with sharks say that if you have ever swum regularly in the ocean, you have been within six feet of a shark at least once. You didnít notice, since sharks, of course, donít always cruise on the surface with their fins prominently displayed. P&J believe the folks in Narragansett are overreacting a bit, and weíre sure that after the wonderful spring weather, theyíre simply driving another stake into the hearts of local merchants.

A little scolding

Much laughter at Casa Diablo at all the grousing coming from many of the usual General Assembly suspects now that The Don has taken his case for the budget to the people. What else do they expect him to do? It would be nice to think that somebody, somewhere could whip up enough resentment about " business as usual " to get qualified people to run for the dozens of General Assembly seats that go unchallenged every year. But party building is very heavy lifting and we donít expect to see a remarkable transformation in our lifetime, certainly not Republicans in Vo Dilun.

The Democrats arenít much of a party either. What there seems to be is a coalition of special interests (public employee unions, trial lawyers, " gaming " interests, corporate big shots, etc.) who lobby their buns off, day in and day out. And theyíre the ones with the juice (although The Donís got a bit of a blind spot when it comes to the " corporate big shots " ).

So, whatís the solution to setting things right? The Donís got at least a handful of good ideas, but heís run up against a brick wall of veteran legislators who, for far too long, have been serving the interests of their " special " constituencies as opposed to the actual citizens.

Do they really believe that average taxpayers think that state workersí pension and benefit packages are in line with what they get? Thatís The Donít argument and itís a strong and persuasive one. We donít buy into standard Republican Party economic theory any more than we buy into the notion that Vinny " Family Man " Mesolella is a true visionary genius, but youíve gotta start somewhere, and it seems that state government sloth has a fairly transparent record. Thatís where the Don is starting and we think it makes sense.

So what to do? Cool Moose is dead, so what about the Greens? Barely a blip on the screen, but are at least theyíre making some moves. Political parties are dead, for all intents and purposes, but youíve got to start somewhere. How, however, can you get the people into the voting booths now that theyíve seen For Love or Money?

Unfortunately for the Don, cult of personality only goes so far. The hard, hard truth is that we, the people Ė not 45 percent of the people, but everyone Ė had better start paying attention. Thatís the real challenge, and if weíre not up for it, weíd better clean out our lockers and break camp because Vo Dilun is done for. If itís too much to think about it Ė if itís too much to get out and vote just one every year or two Ė then why think democracy is in a healthy state?

Our Biggest Little has all the ingredients to make this the most fabulous state in the union. Our intelligence, our natural beauty, and our small and manageable geography, among other things, make us the natural choice to be the incubator for all that is great in this country. Only you -- and that means all of us -- can make it happen. So, letís do it, or donít complain.

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Issue Date: July 11 - 17, 2003
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