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11:19 pm EST        42°F (6°C) in Stony Ridge, OH

Calendar of Updates

July 4, 1776 to December 9, 2004. For 228 years, five months, and five days, the United States of America has been the most free nation on the North American continent, and in spite of some struggles and mis-steps along the path, has made an effort to be the most equal nation on earth. It's been a long run — but as of today, it's over.

Canada has taken the title of "beacon of freedom" away from the U.S. with today's decision by its Supreme Court that paves the way for legalized same-sex civil marriage nationwide. In a landmark four-part advisory opinion, the law that Prime Minister Paul Martin and his Liberal party have proposed was found to be consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (their equivalent to our Constitution). The Court ruled that the defintion of civil, but not religious, marriage is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal Parliament; that the concept of same-sex civil marriage is constitutional; and that the Charter also guarantees that religious officials cannot be compelled to perform ceremonies to solemnize a same-sex union if doing so would be contrary to their beliefs. A fourth question, regarding the constitutionality of the one-man, one-woman common-law definition of civil marriage, was not answered; the Court stated in its opinion that given Parliament's previously stated intention to address the marriage issue legislatively, any answer to the question would at best be a moot point and at worst create confusion regarding the law.

While I am thrilled for my queer brethren to the north, it is a sad realization for this American that it took the Canadian Supreme Court to correctly interpret the U.S. Constitution on this matter. (Yes, I know their job is actually to interpret the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but our Constitution was intended to protect the full and equal rights of all Americans, just as the Charter was designed to do for Canadians.) To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, our "shining city on a hill" is now tarnished; the sanitation workers have gone on a long strike, and trash is piling up in the streets. (Even better yet — because I know my friend Marc will find this hilarious — the drivers of the sewer suckers have quit, and shit is backing up in the sewers. ) Even sadder yet for the U.S. is the fact that a country in which apartheid was law a mere 15 years ago is now one of the world's leaders in equality for its gay and lesbian citizens; even South Africa, for God's sake, is more free and equal a nation than the United States of America!

In other news, I observed perhaps the most immature display of behavior I have ever seen from a truck driver earlier today. I was traveling eastbound on the Indiana Toll Road (Interstate 80/90) in La Porte County, a bit west of South Bend. (For a little background, I must explain that my company electronically limits its trucks to a maximum speed of 65 mph.) I was operating right at this 65-mph limiter (knowing from experience that no Indiana state trooper in his right mind would bother me for being 5 mph over the 60 mph truck speed limit) when I began inching closer to a truck owned by Henry Trucking, Inc., based in Washington state. For several miles, I stayed closer to his rear bumper than I probably should have been, but I knew that it would take me a while to make a pass, since he was going maybe 64½ mph. Finally, as I got to within a car-length of his rear end, I signaled and moved into the left lane. For the next 11 miles, we carried on a Midwestern version of what Californians mockingly call "the I-5 Truck Races"; that is to say, if I was going to be successful in passing him, he was going to make me earn it by keeping up a speed very close to mine. We crossed into St. Joseph County and eventually came up to the first South Bend exit (the US 31 bypass); at this point, his front bumper was roughly parallel with the mid-point of my trailer. In an attempt to get the Henry Trucking driver to lift off the throttle just barely long enough to let me complete the pass, I activated my right-hand turn signal. Perhaps a mile later, after 14 miles of having demonstrated a lack of ability to exceed 64.9 mph, he suddenly floored it and roared past at 70 mph on my right. Needless to say, he got a nice lengthy dose of high-beams in his mirrors — this occurred during the twilight period of the day.

In addition to that, I also did something incredibly liberating for a truck driver today — I ignored signage and used the express lanes on the outbound Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago. For some bullshit reason, the Illinois Department of Transportation feels it has the right to prevent the people who pay the largest share of fuel taxes from using two-thirds of the Ryan's capacity. Most of the time, I just put up with this injustice and use the local lanes, but by listening to a traffic report on Newsradio 780 WBBM, I learned that the local lanes were suffering a horrendous back-up while the express lanes were flowing freely. Just after passing U.S. Cellular Field, the home of baseball's White Sox, I spotted the brake lights ahead and entered the express lanes near 43rd Street. Between 47th Street and the Chicago Skyway, I must have literally passed 200 trucks that were at a dead stop in the local lanes. Suckers.