The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Arizona’

WAS “SEINFELD” A CELEBRATION OF INTOLERANCE?

Jerry Seinfeld is a comedic genius.  The weekly sitcom bearing his name had a successful run for nine seasons – topping the Nielsen ratings in two of those.  From 1989 to 1998 Americans rushed home to catch their weekly dose of the comedy and catch up on the most current phrases of Seinlanguage that the show invented.  Rumor is afoot that there is going to be a reunion of some of the cast for a one time reprise of the show to be forthcoming soon.

The cast over those nine seasons was so large that Cecil B. DeMille would have been envious.  Many of those who were engaged for the show played only in one episode.  But I wanted to look at those actors and actresses who were featured in two or more episodes.  There were a total of 212 of them.

Now as late as the end of the show in 1998, being “out” as a gay man or lesbian woman was not much in vogue, although Ellen DeGeneres might have broken the ice in 1997.  But that openly gay people worked in the entertainment industry and that industry had no problems employing them because of their sexual orientation had most likely been going on since Hollywood rolled the cameras for the first time.

Estimates of the number of our population who are members of the LGBT community suggest that as many as ten percent of our population may be sexually oriented this way.  Although my feeling is that it’s neither of interest to me nor is it any of my business what a person’s sexual preference is, it seems that there are many gay people, now including at least one pro basketball player and one college football player, who feel that they need to announce their orientation to the world.  That is, of course, their choice.

For years the straight population made certain assumptions about gay men –deciding that  because of an effeminate demeanor a particular man was gay.  In many cases these assumptions proved to be correct.  Add to that certain professions in which these men engaged such as florist, interior designer or hairdresser and without further need for additional evidence, some people would quip, “Fritz is as queer as a three dollar bill,” or, “He’s a little light in the loafers.”   Perhaps the one industry that could have cared less was the arts.  That would include the movies, television, theatre, opera, ballet, and the symphony.

Returning to our cast of 212 multiple episode actors and actresses who played on “Seinfeld,” you can imagine my surprise that only two of those have “come out” and are openly gay or lesbian.  Considering the fact that the industry often attracts gay men and lesbian women if for no reason other than its acceptance of their lifestyle, this truly surprised me.  Naturally, in an age where any and everybody seeks out a niche where they can view themselves as a minority and thus are persecuted and demand justice, I did not expect that result from my research.  This, of course, lends itself to the question, “Was there anti-gay prejudice employed in the casting of the ‘Seinfeld’ show?”

There is an element of intolerance written into the sitcom.  Who can possibly forget “The Soup Nazi” who refused service to anyone whom he didn’t like?  I’m frankly surprised that the FCC hasn’t already looked into this – considering their recent decision (subsequently deferred) to investigate whether our news programs are “properly serving the public” in the eight categories of news that they believe are sufficiently important to be part of those stations’ agendas and regular broadcasts.

Governor Jan Brewer (R – AZ) currently has on her desk a bill that would allow the owners of a business to deny service to people with whom its owners chooses not to do business.  Proponents say that it merely defines an owner’s rights in the same way that, “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” does.  Gay activists make the claim that it is an open invitation for businesses to deny them access simply because they are gay.  I haven’t read the bill, but from the discussion that I have heard, both interpretations are possible.  So here’s a thought.

If I were an Arizona business owner I would simply disregard the fact that my clients are male or female, black, white, Hispanic or Asian, straight or gay and pretend that they were all – let me think – okay, they are all vampires.  Several television programs and a number of recent movies have been devoted to members of that group – and no one seems offended by them.  And I have yet to hear of a vampire filing a class action suit against anyone for discrimination.

I’m going to be sure to catch the Seinfeld reunion special when it airs.  I just hope it’s broadcast after the sun goes down.

A JURY OF YOUR COMPADRES

A few of my more politically extreme acquaintances think that the best thing that could happen to improve America is if a severe earthquake caused the State of California to separate from the North American continent and sink into the Pacific.  As I said, they hold extreme views.  Among their more sanguine comments about California is referring to it as “the land of fruits and nuts.”  Although I might disagree with their analysis, at least for the moment, everyone is entitled to his opinion.

Recently the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that jurors in that state need not be able to speak English and yet be eligible to serve.  This concerns me for several reasons.  The first and most important is that as a kid, I played the game we called “telephone.”  Perhaps you know the game.

One person whispers something to the next person who then whispers it to the next until the message makes its way back to the originator.  The larger the number of people involved in the game, the more distorted the original message becomes.

Perhaps we can look forward to scenes in our Arizona courts that resemble this episode of “I Love Lucy” in which Lucy is arrested for passing counterfeit money:

While there is no reason to believe that translating a statement that a witness or the defendant might make incorrectly or without the nuance that was used in the original statement would be done intentionally, that possibility does exist.  And barring that, at the very least, as we see in the episode, this translating and re-translating slows down what is already a tiresome and laborious process to begin with.  At the very least, we should expect that allowing languages other than English will add to the cost of a judicial system which is already overburdened.

But as far as Arizona has gone, the Golden State is contemplating going yet further.  Governor Brown now has before him a bill which would allow non-citizens to serve on juries.  Since the state has now begun issuing drivers’ licenses to “undocumented individuals,” (non-Americans who are in this country illegally), this next step really shouldn’t surprise any of us.

But I wonder if a case could be made by a person involved in a lawsuit that he or she would not accept any jurors who were not citizens of the United States.  After all, we are supposed to be tried by a “jury of our peers,” and to many of us, part of our “peerdom” is that we are all citizens of this country.  I guess, were I in that position, I would argue, “Yes,” “Si,” “Ja,” “Oui.”

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