What Is a “Human Right”?

I have to give full credit to the Bar Hopper for pointing me to the “Petition to Protect Legalized Same Sex Marriage in Ontario,” which is bringing me to pose the question, “What is a ‘human right’?” For you see, one of the statements in the petition Bar Hopper pointed me to reads:

WHEREAS marriage is NOT the exclusive domain of opposite sex couples, but is the human right of ALL Canadian citizens including same sex couples

At the same time, I also read with great interest earlier this week the compelling submission by John Kusch to the State of Wisconsin’s Joint Legislative Committee on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In his submission, John’s tough questions were, “Who owns marriage? …who defines marriage, who allows marriage, and who enforces it? [Religions? Governments? Society? All three?]” In other words, John asked the committee members, “Is marriage a sacrament, a contract, or a social condition?”

I won’t pretend that I have the answer to his questions or my own. At least, the answer to my own question is not yet fully articulated. However, why did the alarms go off in my head when I saw marriage qualified as a human right? Isn’t it more a matter of freedom to? Specificially in the context of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, shouldn’t we be expending more energy on acknowledging, and correcting, that we have created and endorced a system that allows discrimination on marital status?

You see, what gets to me is that, although I have no intention or desire to ever marry, the law currently states that I could not marry another man. Period. Full stop. I haven’t this freedom; I may only be single, officially. The state would much prefer that I be a big phony, that I play the game and enter a marriage of convenience with, say, Poupoune, or the Bar Hopper, or the Bush Whacker. (Talk about warping and degrading an institution that is so cherished and, say some, sacred!) Clearly, the status of being married, in the eyes of religions, states, and society, is held in far higher esteem than the status of being single. Yet many legislators don’t want me to be free to choose because I would also insist on having the freedom to choose a man rather than a woman as my spouse. So it’s on those grounds that I can’t bring myself to dismiss or condemn the efforts of the petitioners or John. They are quite correctly pointing out that something is very, very wrong.

I can understand the motive behind calling marriage a human right. It makes for a compelling argument, for mostly everyone is sensitive (even defensive at times) when the term is used. After all, no one wants to be accused of not respecting human rights! But calling marriage a human right might be disingenuous when the matter as it now stands could more correctly be referred to as a lack of freedom with respect to martial status, broadly (re)defined.

Note: I converted the comments for this entry into a self-standing entry, removed the comments here, and closed the comment option. Further comments are welcome, however, in the new entry.

First Check-Up

I’ll be taking Junior for his first check-up and oil change early tomorrow afternoon. It should have happened at the 5,000 km mark, but he did that somewhere on the highway between Truro and Amherst, on the way to Moncton last Friday night. Tonight he reached the 6,000 km mark just around the block from Fort Needham. Oh well… most of those kilometres were from highway driving, and his owner manual says I can push it to 8,000 km if that’s the case.

My lease agreement allows for an average of 24,000 km/year, or 2,000 km/month. Today’s our two-month anniversary, so we’re exactly 2,000 km over. He’ll be taking a quick trip to Moncton on Sunday, so we’ll be exceeding the limit even more. However, I know that our good ol’ Canadian winters will help us stay put more. Still, in a few months, I’ll decide if I should get extra kilometres on the lease while they’re still at their cheapest ($.06 per).

By the way, I know I’m being silly for anthropomorphizing my car so much. But after several years of constant fear of my car blowing up or falling to pieces at a street corner, yet being someone who loves to drive, I can’t help myself. To be able to get up and go whenever I want is such a simple yet satisfying pleasure.

Great [Fill in the Blank]

I just found out that I should be a great-uncle by mid-April. It’s no big deal, though, ’cause I’m not much of a regular uncle. I just never could get terribly excited about kids.

Meanwhile, this means my parents will become great-grandparents. I wonder how my mother, in particular, is taking it. Last year it hit her like a ton of brinks, although not enough to upset her, that she had a 50-year-old son. This year when she called on my birthday, she joked, “You’re still the baby even though you’re 38!” 🙂

Still There After All These Years

hynes.jpgSo much has changed in Moncton since I left it for good 16 years ago this week. I can hardly recognize it in places. However, one place just two small blocks north from where I grew up is still around, relatively unchanged. And that place is Hynes Restaurant.

My parents couldn’t afford to take us to the restaurant very often when I was a kid. Although Hynes is only a diner, it would strike me as the height of both decadence and sophistication back then. I don’t know why: the flashing neon sign? the lamps hanging over the booths by the windows? the fact it was across the street from what used to be the Dairy Belle? or because it was always full with older Irish Catholic ladies and gentlemen in their Sunday best after the 11 o’clock mass at St. Augustine’s across Mountain Road?

Yet I was well into my 20s (if not older) before I deigned to enter the place I’d grown up next to. Now my parents go on occasion. I’m told Hynes has the best lobster rolls in Moncton.

I find comfort in seeing at least one thing not changing in the ol’ hometown, which otherwise has turned into the Maritimes’ mecca for shopping and call centres. Any attempt to start a new restaurant like it would probably fall flat because it wouldn’t capture the local colour. Indeed, Hynes comes by its “Moncton in the ’50s” feel honestly.

Day on the Rocks

The air has changed already in the Maritimes. Indeed, it is what I call “The Change,” when you know that summer is just about over and the fall colours are around the corner. But not even The Change stopped the four PEI tourists from the day before — five if you count Junior — from exploring the rocky shore of New Brunswick’s Albert County on Sunday afternoon.

Sidebar on Albert County

Albert County is located across the Petitcodiac River in Moncton. The Petitcodiac leads to the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides in the world. The tidal action in and out of the river causes a great deal of silting, so the water is very brown and has earned the river the nickname of “Chocolate River.”

The terrain in Albert County is dramatically different from that on the Moncton side of the river. In fact, Albert County is strikingly anomalous within all of New Brunswick. It is stunning.

Growing up in Moncton, I used to hear a lot of bad jokes about the people of Albert County, who were exaggeratedly dismissed as being hicks. One such jokes went, “What was the first thing the 13-year-old boy said after the first time he had sex?” The answer (skip if you’re easily offended): “Get off me, dad, you’re crushing me smokes.”

Our first stop in Albert County was at the Hopewell Rocks. There I was in for a big surprise. When I was a kid in Moncton, we used to drive to Hopewell Cape, drive down to a huge parking lot at the foot of a steep staircase and, if the tide was low, go down and walk on the ocean floor. There was a tacky and overpriced gift shop, but otherwise it was a pretty simple and straightforward tourist attraction. Moreover, it was absolutely free. Now, however, some privately owned U.S. company has “developed” Hopewell, building an interpretation centre and a system of trails to lead to the same staircase — trails rendered necessary because the parking is now about a kilometre away. While I readily admit that the whole thing is well done, I resent how it now costs $6 per person to visit the Rocks. The natural phenomenon remains spectacular, but it can no longer be enjoyed for free. Sure, a few more locals now have a seasonal job, but the bulk of whatever profit the site generates is not staying in the region. That, to me, only adds insult to injury.

For long a well-kept secret among New Brunswickers, Cape Enrage, some 20 kilometres west of the Hopewell Rocks, has also been developed in recent years. However, there the approach is different. The restoration was initiated by students at a local high school as a make-work project. While the group receives some funding from government, it must raise much of the money required to maintain the buildings and pay the students. The suggested donation is $2 per person. Since Cape Enrage is off the beaten track and the road leading to it is, to say the least, an adventure in itself, chances are it will not suffer the same fate as Hopewell.