Clam Chowda, the Mob, and Governor Carcieri (RI)



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I had the chance to go to Rhode Island the week before last. I’ve been a little behind on updating this blog, mostly because I’ve been on the road so much. But, here I am, trying to recall the things that happened during our trip to Providence, RI to cover same-sex marriage legislation…

Rhode Island is the last state in New England where gay marriage isn’t legal. The senate and the governor are expending all options to keep the legislation in a committee and away from the senate floor for a vote. The governor himself told  the house and senate that he would veto any legislation that would leggalize gay marriage. What’s the driving factor? Why are the state’s citizens calling for the legalization of same-sex marriage, while the leadership won’t pass the legislation? Many are pointing their finger at Catholicism. Many of RI’s leaders are Roman Catholic, and the Bishop in RI is hoping to keep gay marriage from being legalized. It’s certainly an interesting issue: when do you walk and vote the line of your personal belief and when do you represent the beliefs of your constituents?, especially when it comes to strong moral leanings usually guided by unwavering religious obedience. I suppose everyone might have a different opinion. Honestly, we elect our leaders based on the idea that they might represent us right? That’s not a religious belief. That’s what everyone does. That’s why we vote Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal.

It’s my opinion that those we elect represent the majority of their constituents. That’s why they were elected, that’s the power of a democratic system. When that system gets twisted by a personal agenda, then it becomes dangerous. I would say the same thing regardless of the side or argument. If you can’t represent those that elect you, because it may interfere with your beliefs, that’s fine, don’t run for public office. But then we elect neutral cold, disengaged officials. So where’s the balance? We want someone who is similar to us, so they voice the same things we want. Maybe its the people’s problem? I don’t know.

Anyways, while we were in Providence we kept our eyes open for the mob. Apparently the mob runs most of Providence, which I didn’t know.  Whenever I saw a man in a suit I assumed he was in the mob. There were little Italian places all along the water, which made to comfirm the mob suspicions. Whether someone told me that just to make me paranoid, or it was the truth, I don’t really know. : )

We did a short story on the Clam Triumvirate, the holy three of clam dishes: fried clam strips, clam chowder, and raw clams. Those three dishes can be found in every other restaurant. We met a guy who opened his own clam shack back in the 70’s for surfers off the coast. It looked like you’d expect: fish on the walls, shaky tables, fishing line strung up on the ceiling, bottles of tarter sauce scattered arround. At one point we ate the clam chowder with a clam shell. Crazy, I know. But that’s what happened. (Sarcasm).

We got an exclusive interview with the governor of RI, Gov. Carcieri. A warm guy with a thick east coast accent, he talked about being Catholic, and what elected officials were doing with the gay marriage talk floating around in the state house. He talked about his possible replacement, if the state decided to vote in a more liberal governor, and what that meant to the legislation. He had on a nice Italian suit, and talked behind a smile and gold-rimmed glasses. He was pretty serious when it came to gay marriage and spoke eloquently on the subject: the definition of marriage, and what it meant to the religious community in Providence. I’m summarizing here, but he said that the real crux of the argument is the definition of marriage. Same-sex couples can get civil unions now, they can achieve all the same government advantages of being in a union. But they want marriage. The governor, again summarizing here, said that the definition traditionally had been created, defined, and upheld by religion, and that changing it now is not an option. I kind of agree. But I would hate to harden hearts by forcing some to define, or not define in this case, their relationship through a Christian definition. We would force Christianity, unintentionally, onto those who are not welcoming to it. This is certainly not the way to reach out to the gay community. So there must be a compromise. Somewhere. That’s truly what I believe.

The Providence Journal felt it was newsworthy to feature us on its website while we were there. Here’s the link:

Anyways, as a Christian you can have your own opinion about legalizing same-sex marriage. Obviously it doesn’t define us as Christian or un-Christian. It’s just another instance of when we as Christians need to sketch our lines very carefully; and draw them with love and compassion, not hate or judgement.

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About Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson is a 25 year old remote disaster and humanitarian photographer and media liaison working for an international non-profit. Ryan has a B.S. in Radio/TV/Film and Religion and an M.A. in International Politics.

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