[freedom for pride]

As we roll into Gay Pride weekend, the Supreme Court of the United States has at last legalized homosexuality in America. The decision overturns the conviction of two Texas men who were convicted of committing homosexual acts in their own home, but it goes much further. According to Justice Kennedy, “The state cannot demean [homosexuals’] existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime … Adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons.” (The complete text of the decision is available on the Supreme Court’s website.)

According to the New York Times: “Texas was one of only four states — Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri are the others — to apply a criminal sodomy law exclusively to same-sex partners. An additional nine states — Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia — have criminal sodomy laws on their books that in theory, if not in practice, apply to opposite-sex couples as well. As a result of the majority’s broad declaration today that the government cannot make this kind of private sexual choice a crime, all those laws are now invalid.”

It’s worth noting that these laws were not mere misdemeanors, either; in Idaho, the potential sentence was 15 years to life.

It has long been my belief that government has no right to enter our homes and make moral decisions for us. Any law we pass necessarily limits our freedoms, and the only justification for limiting freedoms in one way is to increase them in another. In the most obvious example, we must ban murder, because murder takes all rights from its victims. But even much more abstract laws tend to fit this mold: environmental protection, for example, limits the freedoms of polluters in order to increase the freedom of all Americans to live safely; anti-fraud laws limit our speech, but they protect us from more serious threats to our property rights.

Moral legislation, however, inevitably restricts rights for some people without increasing rights for others. When a couple’s right to commit a sexual act in privacy is limited, whose rights are increased? When an American flag is burned, whose rights are decreased? If we cherish our constitution because it guarantees our freedoms, then we must accept that those freedoms will be exercised in ways we might find abhorrent. America was founded by religious communities whose views and practices were unacceptable in the Old World; those groups chose to establish a republic in which they would live in harmony, allowing each individual his right to make his own moral decisions.

This goes for certain hot-button issues championed by conservatives as well. Perhaps we have gone too far in limiting prayer in schools, and certainly education without moral content is impossible and absurd. With school prayer as with all issues, we must look carefully to see which rights are extended by our legal decisions, and which are curtailed, and whether the balance is a worthy one to strike.

When you pose the question in this way — when you ask, What freedoms are protected, and what freedoms are lost? — it becomes difficult to take anything the government does for granted. Drug laws, highways, taxes, wars should all be subject to this line of enquiry, and we should take the results of that enquiry seriously.

But in the meantime, a shameful category of American law has at last been overturned. Adults are now free to make their own decisions about their most intimate encounters, and that is as it should be.

[hot, hot, hot!]

 Today is hot, well up over 90, but somehow it doesn’t have that pounding force that New York heat sometimes gets — what I think of as murderous heat, of the kind depicted in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, the kind of heat that makes New Yorkers riot. No, today it just seems to have driven New Yorkers to go out in skimpy outfits, which I can’t say I disapprove of. I suppose that’s probably because of the cold, drippy rainy weather we’ve been having for so long. Murderous heat usually builds up slowly over time, and you only go really psycho when it’s been like this for a month.

In any case, today I went out in a wool suit, no less, for a job interview with DE Shaw. I signed a confidentiality agreement, and anyway I’m tired, so I’m not going to say terribly much about it except that it sounds fantastic and I hope I get it and I hope I never wear a wool suit ever again on a day that hits 90. Still, for all the hot hot heat, I can honestly say that it’s not as bad as it was in South India — and that was in the middle of winter!

[a space to fill]

So here it is, a new space for me to fill with words. We’ll see what comes of it, if anything.

For now, I intend to use it as something of a journal, never mind that no one in her right mind would want to read my journal, or at least not the bits of it I’d be willing to put on the web. But for those days when no grand essay is forthcoming, this is a place where I can let out the little thoughts, the small ideas, the notions that don’t quite lead anywhere.

For example, right now I’m stuck with a couple of writing projects, so instead of writing them, I’ll come here and write about them. First of all, I’ve been trying to formulate an essay about what it’s been like to return to the US after so long abroad. I feel like there’s something important in there, some kernel of experience that has value, and that it has a lot to do with September 11th. I feel like I missed America’s sense of organic movement from there to here, but that having watched it from the outside, I have a better notion of what the world thinks of us. I also want to get into the strange dislocation that I’ve experienced — to describe how weird it is to find myself homesick for Korea, or to feel at home in New York’s Koreatown. And there’s something else as well, the experience of being an immigrant and an exile, that I think is important and that I want to describe. But I’m not sure how to frame this all yet. Maybe as three separate essays, or three interrelated chapters? We’ll see.

The other project is my collected Korea essays, which need an introductory chapter to turn them into a book. I’ve been trying to work out how to explain how I ended up in Korea — possibly as part of my essay entitled “Kindergarten” — but that whole episode of my life was messy and complicated (the deciding, not the going), and I’m not sure how much of that I want to include in a book about what happened later.

In other news, MoveOn.org is holding its Democratic Primary today. Check in for very good information about all the Democratic candidates, including a lengthy question-and-answer sesion with each (except Lieberman, who is barely a Democrat anyway) and links to their websites. Where do I stand? So far I like Edwards, but it’s a long way to go yet.