It's easy to be caught up in the drama of national politics: The name-calling, the horse-racing, the gaffe-spewing. But this is a distraction. On a federal level, government is so hidebound and slow that it doesn't make sense to worry about it; nothing is going to get done there, ever. What you really need to worry about is politics at the state level, where a relative handful of people can pass far-sweeping changes without anyone really noticing until afterward.
In recent weeks we've seen a rush of horrible state laws and amendments in Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina. Which are the worst? Let's run down this cornucopia of misguided ideas and see.
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Old terrible laws: Turning police into immigration officials with the "Show me your papers" law; banning any ethnic studies classes that might make white people uncomfortable; banning teachers with accents from teaching English; suspending teachers for swearing or having sex in their personal lives [proposed].
New terrible law: A bill proposed in the Arizona legislature would change the definition of "pregnancy" to start on the first day of a woman's last period, which would mean that women would be deemed pregnant weeks before they actually conceived a child. Essentially, in Arizona lawmakers' eyes, all women are pregnant until they are officially proven otherwise.
Old terrible laws: Banning the use of mules to hunt ducks; stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment by banning an imaginary effort to implement sharia law.
New terrible law: Whatever your feelings on abortion, you'd probably agree that politicians should not require doctors lie to their patients. But a new law in Kansas would do just that, requiring doctors to warn women that abortion causes breast cancer. To put it plainly, this has not been proven. As the American Cancer Society says, "scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer." But why should doctors have to limit themselves to facts when they're talking to women?
Old terrible laws: Banning bingo games that last over five hours, unless they take place at a fair; banning alcohol at bingo games.
New terrible law: Voters in North Carolina yesterday overwhelmingly voted to amend the state's constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, essentially writing gays' second-class citizenship into the very fabric of the state. The amendment also bans unmarried couples — gay and straight — from civil unions and domestic partnerships. "Separate but equal? No thanks, that's too radical for us," said every person in North Carolina.
The lesson is clear: If you are gay, Hispanic or a woman — for God's sake, stay in the Northeast! (And, as one of our readers points out, even here it's not so great.)