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Oh Canada!
June 24, 2003
By Jeff Ritchie

So what's up with Canada? First it refuses to support the Bush Administration's little rape-and-pillage adventure in Iraq which is more than we can say for Democrats in Washington and now it has legalized civil unions among gays and lesbians. All this while offering its citizens universal health care.

Rather than sling partisan bile at each other over the subject of same-sex unions, Canadians seem to think this really isn't a big deal. Small wonder, considering that recent polling shows that a majority of Canadians support the measure, which will be signed in a few weeks by Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Oh Canada!

Meanwhile here in the land of the free, Presbyterian minister Stephen Van Kuiken was defrocked last week for sharing god's love with all people who seek it. Van Kuiken catapulted Cincinnati into the national media, once again showing just how petty and homophobic the (ironically-named) Queen City can be.

Rev. Van Kuiken had a habit of performing "ceremonies of blessing" in his church that were close enough to traditional marriages that many of the knuckle-dragging members of the local clergy became alarmed. Because, really, if the Lord God of Hosts shines his love and mercy upon gays and lesbians, the next thing you know, minorities and the poor will start hogging all of God's love for themselves.

Or something like that.

In maintaining his belief in God's love and mercy for all creation, Rev. Van Kuiken ennobles the cause of Christianity despite the voices of those who would use it as a tool to spread hate. And in defying the Presbytery he joins some pretty good company.

Nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther was brought before the power elite of the medieval church and ordered to renounce his faith. "My conscience is captive to the word of God," Luther told them, "and I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither safe nor right."

"Here I stand," Luther concluded. "I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."

If I could ask God to grant me one wish, it would be that the Democratic Party would show the same kind of resolve that Rev. Van Kuiken has shown in this quiet profile in courage. Faced with the loss of his job and his position in the community, Rev. Van Kuiken would simply not cut loose those people who depend on him for spiritual guidance.

Faced with an insane war, directed primarily at the children and the elderly in Iraq (and anybody else who can't get the hell out of the way of the First Marine Division), the Democrats mumble and scuff the toes of their wing-tip shoes on the carpet and promise that "pretty soon" they'll be able to challenge this murderous regime.

Faced with an administration that favors insanely irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while suggesting that the poor and working class should simply go pound sand, the Democrats counter with a tax cut that is only slightly less insane than the Republican version. Only half as many elderly people wind up eating dog food and skipping their medication under the Democratic alternative.

Happy days aren't here again.

With only a handful of exceptions, the Democratic leadership seems to have adopted a position that standing up to the Bush Administration amounts to cowering in a corner and begging Karl Rove, "Please don't hurt us."

Our leadership has lost the ability (and the moral authority) to lead this party. It's going to be up to those in the grassroots who know that our country is on the wrong track and know what needs to be done. It's going to be up to a fearless few to step forward and point the Democratic Party in the direction that it needs to go.

We need to stop apologizing for wanting a country where we recognize that every individual is part of a community, and that communities must be based on justice. We need to stop apologizing for the belief that people who work for a living ought to be able to earn a decent wage. We need to stop apologizing for wanting health care for everybody.

That's not too much to expect in the richest nation on earth. If we don't stop appeasing the Republicans and start articulating our own message one that's a genuine alternative we might as well hand over the government to the Bush Administration for another four years.

God help us.

Jeff Ritchie is a democratic activist in Cincinnati, Ohio. He operates

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