Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Francis and Obama Both Pack Punches: Blasphemy, Cable TV Pundits, Climate Change, and ... Gay Marriage

Pope Francis (en route to the Philippines):
"If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. "It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."
Obama (State Of The Union):
As Americans, we respect human dignity... It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.
Pope Francis (Catholic News Service):
Pope Francis went on to say that the "family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life."
I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.
In The Ring

Both President Obama and Pope Francis threw punches at various times on a variety of subjects, the only difference of opinion being in that of gay marriage: Pope Francis called it a harmful "ideological colonization" while Obama referred to it as a civil right.

Other punches were delivered to blasphemy (Francis), to cable news pundits (Obama) and to climate change deniers (both Francis and Obama), but it was on the issue of gay marriage that the two differed visably. And while both have been a visible thorn in the Right's ideology (esp. the Christian Right), Francis ameliorated his poor standing with the statement about the family being threatened by efforts of redefinition of marriage. On his part, Obama widened the wound to marriage equality foes who are still not willing to believe that 70% of America is ready for gay marriage.

The who-am-I-to-judge pope definitely delivered a punch to gay marriage. The Christian Right will be making handstands and hay with the statement for months to come, especially before the Supreme Court hears four cases from states banning such. They have been hoping for such a statement ever since their meeting with the pope last November. Trust amicus briefs from Catholic sources to mention it.

Obama also countered anti-gay activists by saying, in effect, that 36 states following the rulings of the federal courts couldn't be wrong. The petulant 14, (the worst being Florida, Texas and Mississippi) are in the minority and, civil rights-wise, we've seen that scenario before.

Maybe It's Just Another Matter Of Evolution

Like Barack Obama's views on same-sex marriage, will Francis' views evolve? Possibly, but the extent to which he will enforce those views on the Catholic Church (and hence, most of Christendom) is the key. And that might take a longer time than the evolution of his thoughts on the subject. In other words, America might find itself with another problem in the culture wars: being pitted against the rest of the world's religious beliefs. It is, already, of course, but the gap may widen and become impassable - that is, if people like Tony Perkins and Scott Lively have anything to say about it. 

Think of Uganda.

Love Makes A Family

With his statement, Francis reduces the love between two men or two women. He glorifies love within the traditional family makeup, while lessening his famous "who am I to judge" statement.
In his State of the Union address, however, Barack Obama elevates same-sex love and puts it on a par with "traditional values." 

He recognizes that love makes a family. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Last Night I Dreamt Of Ronald Reagan

And no, it was not a nightmare.
I was sitting alone in a crowded restaurant when Ronald Reagan placed a brown leather pouch on my table. He was very old and worn, obviously in the late stages of alzheimers. He pressed buttons on the side of the pouch and there emitted a rather sweet melody as if coming from a tiny piano. He shambled to the side of the room, whereupon two young men in suits, one white and the other African-American seized the pouch and took it to their table. I couldn't see President Reagan's response, but I immediately sensed dismay at such brashness. I quietly went to the table of the men in suits, snatched up the melodious pouch and then took it to the President.
"Thank you, sir, I believe this is yours." 
He accepted it without a nod or a smile. The room feel silent, then people rose one by one to applaud the gesture. Whether it was for me or out of respect to Reagan, I didn't know. I left the room while they were still applauding.

In the most stultified lays compassion and consideration. Ronald Reagan seemed to be an extremely personable man, but when it came to issues like AIDS, he was ramrod straight in refusal to acknowledge a problem. 

Alzheimers may have erased that facet of his personality. Through alzheimers he became less of a conservative icon and more of a human being, one to be respected even through the ordeal. At least, that's what I think my dream meant.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's Religious Freedom, Stupid! The Christian Right Relies On Congress To Push It's Latest Strategy.

”This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy,” former Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., a supporter of marriage equality, told The New York Times in 2005.

The article nails it on the head: in Religious Right Poised For Greater Power in 2015, it quotes People For The American Way's President Michael Keenan as saying ...
"... the GOP is still relying on the Religious Right and the ties between GOP elected officials and radical Religious Right figures are closer than they have ever been. An example of clout—if you’re a Republican who wants to be president, you’re all but obligated to show up at the Values Voter Summit, an annual convention of anti-gay extremists hosted by the FRC and AFA. And they do it in spite of the inherent risks."

In the wake of LGBT marriage victories, progressives are preening while the Christian Right is plotting, strategizing: while they've moved their anti-LGBT machinations to foreign soil, their defense has shifted into an offense in America. It's not "we're not discriminating" or "we really LOVE gays, but ...", it's now "religious freedom MUST be protected" and "we're the ones being discriminated against." Some even portray the LGBT community as the "REAL Terrorists"!!
Pat Robertson: “They are trying to force people who are Christians to marry them or else face jail, to make cakes honoring them or else go to jail, and give their sermons over and divulge their innermost thoughts or go to jail. Now that’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with. These people are terrorists, they’re radicals, and they’re extremists.
Erick Erickson: "And so they did the only thing they could do, the only thing they knew to do," he continued. "They went to the mayor of Atlanta and demanded he fire the chief of the fire department for daring to mock them." (Comparing the LGBT community to terrorists responsible for Charlie Hebdo attack.)
In Virginia, things are brewing that may give the CR more power than ever - it's called a "conscience clause".

The Slate:
[State rep.] Marshall’s measure would attach a “conscience clause” to any “license, registration, or certificate” obtained from the commonwealth, whether by a private business or a government agency. This clause would allow all workers to refuse to “perform, assist, consent to, or participate in any action” that would “violate the religious or moral conviction of such person with respect to same-sex ‘marriage’ or homosexual behavior."
What To Expect in 2015

I've always maintained that the Christian Right can - and will - act like a wounded tiger when it comes to gay rights. The marriage equality victories have enraged it so much that it is calling on Congress (certainly not the courts) to avenge the insult to its vanity. "Protecting religious freedom" is an offensive measure, not a defensive one.

A Few Good Reads

In Why We Can't Get Religious Freedom Right, Rob Donaldson (a former Mormon Church Leader) states says that the Christian Right has a definition of religious freedom that goes beyond the freedom to believe what you want to believe:
Conservative Christians aren’t persuaded. They believe (with no Biblical foundation I can find) that to provide the cake, or take the pictures, or do anything else in support of that gay wedding, taints the baker or photographer with the sin of approving a “sinful” act and relationship.
In writing about the involvement of the new Congress, Donaldson sites Frank Bruni (Your God, My Dignity, oped NYT)

“This is the new wave, the new frame,” James Esseks, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U., told me. He said that last year, more than 10 states considered legislation that, to varying degree, blessed discrimination based on sexual orientation by people claiming that it was a right, a matter of religious liberty. Only one of those states, Mississippi, passed such a law, but efforts elsewhere persist. A Virginia lawmaker introduced this sort of legislation just a few weeks ago.

Another good source of thought on the subject is Rob Boston's Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn't Give You The Right To Tell Other People What To Do.
The term religious freedom means the right to make decisions about theology about yourself. It's the right to worship God - or not to worship at all - as you see fit. It's the right to share your faith and join in worship with a community of like-minded believers. It's the right to pass that faith onto your children.
And what it is not: "... the right to use the power of government to impose your theology on anyone else."

With the election of "Religious Freedom Republicans" the Christian Right is doing just that.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

After Leelah: When Parents Love Their Son ... But Not Their Daughter.

Change IS necessary - but where?

There is so much to ponder from the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, the damage of reparative "therapy" aside: how responsible were the parents, Doug and Carla, of her death? Dan Savage makes the analogy that if the culprit in Tyler Clementi's suicide was convicted, so should the parents of Leelah Alcorn. This rather extreme view hangs on one thing: accountability. And after additional posts on Reddit came to light, the Alcorn's accountability seems more severe.

On Reddit, in a post she titled, "I'm sure someone on here can convince me not to kill myself," she wrote she was taking what is a powerful (and popular, albeit older) anti-depressant.
"I've been on prozac for about a year, and my dosages have been going up every couple months or so," she wrote one month ago. "I'm currently taking 60 mg every morning."
She wrote her parents "never physically hurt" her, "but they always talked to me in a very derogatory tone."
They would say things like "You'll never be a real girl" or "What're you going to do, fuck boys?" or "God's going to send you straight to hell". These all made me feel awful about myself, I was christian at the time so I thought that God hated me and that I didn't deserve to be alive. I cut myself at least once every couple days, and I was constantly thinking about suicide.
60 mg of Prozac. Who would prescribe 60 mg of Prozac for a teenager? 2 increases in a year are alarming.

Other damning factors:

- Leelah was taken out of school and deprived of any interaction with friends. Social media was verboten.

- The Alcorns' story changed concerning their reaction to Leelah's request: "We don't support that religiously" became "we didn't have the money for anything like that."

- The Alcorns have not addressed any of Leelah's allegations, especially the cutting.

- Carla Alcorn insisted that Leelah came to her only once about being transgender.

Then there's this:
Eventually I lied to them and told them I was straight and that I was a boy, and then the derogatory speech and neglect started to fade.

On the surface, the Alcorns seem to be a very, very private family, but a 2011 Christian Chronicle article on their church in Northeast Ohio featured the Alcorns. The headline photo has since been taken offline.

"We dont' want to make this political." That is quite the facetious statement: after publication of the suicide note, how could they have thought the situation would not become political? How could they prevent it from becoming a cause celebre throughout the country? Had they no idea of the social climate? Were they that isolated? Did the church shield them from the rest of the world?

In fact, the Alcorns also seemed obsessed with what the rest of the community thought about them: taking Leelah out of school and totally off social media for five months point to a concern for the family name than concern for Leelah herself.

To be fair, Doug and Carla Alcorn are facing a bewildering situation for which they were totally unprepared: they placed too much faith (and fear) in their own closed Christian community and believed very little in outside humanity. Now they can't understand why their actions are in question. They can't understand why they have to change their story, make it different from Leelah's. They can't understand most of what was written in the suicide note.

And they certainly can't understand the feelings that were in the second note, the note that apologized to siblings and friends only: 
In a second scheduled note, Alcorn wrote: “Mom and Dad: F*ck you. You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up.”
She concluded the post by saying, “I don’t really feel the need to apologize to anyone else … odds are you didn’t give a s**t about me and if you do, you did something that made me feel like s**t and you don’t deserve an apology.”
How unconditional is unconditional?

The first reaction posted on facebook (which has been taken down) stated that "Joshua" was residing in heaven after having gone out for "an early morning walk" (2:00am) and being hit by a truck. This speaks volumes as to how the parents covered up their child's suicide: let people think it was an accident.

“But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”

The Alcorns have basically washed themselves of accountability by saying that they loved their "son" - unconditionally, without knowing who their "son" really was - and not caring unless that "son" preformed and developed in a conventional Christian manner. They glossed over all of Leelah's comment about being derided and told "you're going to hell."

Let's face it, that "love" was very conditional: " ... and then the derogatory speech and neglect started to fade."

Fix It.

"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.

Rob Watson (LGBT father and activist) wrote in LGBTQ Nation the most beautiful requiem for Leelah here, calling her the Matthew Shepard of our time.

But Matthew Shepard's death didn't "fix" things. It called for change as Leelah's death has called for change - but where? Parenting? Christian attitudes? Society's attitudes in general towards the transgendered? The change must be vast - and will, unfortunately, be very very slow. Numbers will mount, Leelah. Your death has helped a great deal because it serves as a stepping stone to change, but the forces of bigotry and close-mindedness are strong and change will be arduous. Just ask the LGBT community.

To Leelah's parents:

You cannot change. People don't expect you to at this point. You must accept this fact, however: you may have loved your son Joshua to a degree, but many people love your daughter Leelah wholeheartedly. Yes, they love Leelah more. 

Now and for a long, long time. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Bliss

The two little boys making faces at each other, sounding noises through their rears and noses while sitting at the breakfast table are really two grown men.

That's love for ya.

They also have a hard time "demagnetizing" in the morning and getting out of bed. They make a point of snuggling at least once during the day and can't understand people who don't snuggle at all. And they each bless the day they found each other.

It was several days after my 65th birthday (June 15th, 2012) that I met Chris. He thought I came on too strong, but when I said "I never promise anything, but I'm a great snuggler," he was hooked.

We didn't say the "L" word until Christmas. We lived "in the present" for what seemed like an eternity at the time. 45 weekend visits from Sacramento and 5 parking tickets after meeting, Chris moved in with me.

We got married last March 28 at San Francisco City Hall. This Christmas is our first as a truly married couple.

True Married Bliss - Acceptance

Chris says "hubby" a lot when we snuggle. Oh, there's "Daddy" and "Lover" but "Hubby"is stressed more. "Hubby" is an expression of mutual love ... and acceptance.

Chris' mother, Janice, has accepted me as  part of the family - her new son-in-law. All I can say at this point is that the sense of family that marriage brings is immense: a loving, welcoming family can make all the difference in a relationship. There is no finer show of respect than simple acceptance.

My very first lover's parents accepted me as an in-law back in the days before same-sex marriage became an idea. No one has any idea of how that made a newly out gay man feel back in 1975. My new mother-in-law has helped to make me the happiest man alive. 

Love. Acceptance. Snuggling. ... and making faces at each other. Everyone should be as blessed this Christmas.

Have Yourself A Married Little Christmas Everybody!

For many of the global LGBT community, this Dec. 25th is their first married Christmas. How many? 50,000? 100,000? The  numbers keep pouring in, changing, but the fact remains: this Christmas will be joyous for many more gays and lesbians than ever before. From poor gays in rural America to celebrities in Europe, same-sex marriage has helped make this Christmas very, very special.

LONDON - Entertainer Elton John and longtime mate David Furnish officially married Sunday on the ninth anniversary of the day they entered into a civil partnership.
Joining the real world

To a gay person, "lover", "partner", even "soulmate" doesn't begin to match the term "husband", "wife" or even "spouse". "Lover" is sexual, "partner" is legal-sounding, and "soulmate" is almost too ethereal. "Husband", "Wife", "Spouse" on the other hand, connote reality ... total commitment, you see, is reality.

Of course, there are those who have never actually needed specific terms to define their relationship, but they might have the luxury of living in a community that has accepted them without those terms. They are indeed very lucky, because we are in a world of defining labels, labels which have been in our cultures for literally thousands of generations, labels which can accept or reject a person in an instant ... and forever.  

And joining the real world is all about acceptance. 

Yes, same-sex marriage is about acceptance. And that's why so many right-wing Christians won't feel the same joy we feel this Christmas: the courts have ruled for acceptance in too many states for them to feel too much joy. Acceptance is anathema. It is an abomination. It is condoning "sin." It is the object of unstable hedonists* who wish to destroy traditional values! The subject of same-sex marriage brings out the old saw about people who obsessively focus on others' sin cannot be truly happy themselves.

Marriage In The Spirit Of Christmas

I've often said that the Spirit of Christmas has transcended the traditional. It has become inclusive to the LGBT community in such a way that same-sex marriage holds a place in Christmas. It is perhaps the ultimate in love and acceptance - "good will towards men" - and overcomes many of the world's tribulations to achieve its goals. It never looks to man's "sinful nature" and destruction. For those imbued with the Spirit of Christmas, destruction of man and this world seem very far away.  

This Christmas, there will be those praying for things to change ... back to the way they were when discrimination was the order of the day. They will pray for the sanctity of their own marriages as if some outside force is dooming them. They will pray that their renewed vision of (their own) persecution will sway a righteous public away from social issues like same-sex marriage. They will pretend to pray for us, while desperately praying for themselves. This is a sad Christmas for those souls.

They certainly won't know our joy - the joy of couples whose love has sought acceptance for years - or the hope, that in other states and countries, the human right to love and make a commitment to each other will be honored with acceptance and dignity.

And while they pray, let us pray for the Spirit of Christmas to open up their hearts to experience the joy we feel in marriage, in being ourselves.

* As to the "Harm Factor" of same-sex marriage, the latest figures show that America's divorce rate has declined (the first time in decades), so women aren't divorcing their husbands to become lesbians (ala Pat Robertson) nor are men divorcing their wives for those hirsute hotties. Don't tell that to twice-divorced Attorney General Pam Bondi**, who insists that gays have extremely unstable relationships.
**BTW: Bondi's latest marriage to a gentleman 23 years her senior was "performed" in the Cayman Islands and is speculated to be a tax dodge.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Racial Morality Of Today's Police: Embattled Cleveland Force Sued by White Cops For Discrimination

Think Progress:
Less than a week after twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally shot by Cleveland police officers who thought Rice’s toy gun was real, nine other members of the Cleveland Police Department filed a lawsuit that accuses the department of discriminating against non-African American officers who used deadly force.
Yes, it's another "reverse discrimination" meme, which white members of police forces around the country have used for years. But the timing is impeccable.

The Tamir Rice tragedy has gained momentum due to the Brown and Garner police brutality incidents. Rice's mother spoke to George Stephanopoulos about Tamir and the fact that police not only let her son die, but tackled her daughter, handcuffed her and put her in the police car, only to see her brother lying on the ground without help.

Involved in the shooting of Tamir was police officer Timothy Loman who was discharged from another police force in 2012 for issues relating to his mental stability. 

The Discrimination Case Of The Century!

The lawsuit against the Cleveland Police force by nine police officers for an incident  in 2012

"The City of Cleveland, through the other named defendants, and the other named defendants in their individual capacities, have a history of treating non-African American officers involved in the shootings of African Americans substantially harsher than African American officers," reads the lawsuit, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

The officers in question (13) got involved in a car chase with two unarmed African Americans who they killed after firing 137 shots. Their "demeaning" treatment was exactly three days of administrative leave (with pay) and 45 days of  "cooling off period" during which they performed light office duties. (see  Young Turks account below).

Nine officers were indicted, but they all received a verdict of "not guilty" at the trial.

A Matter Of Race - Duh!

The insolence of white officers who killed unarmed African Americans with undue force is astounding to be sure, but America still has to come to the realization that a great many white police officers are racist - brought up on the sanctity and supremacy of the white police officer. 

Talk show host and activist Montel Williams put it bluntly to Fox "outnumbered" pundits:

“You’re saying money is the problem, let’s talk race. Race is the problem!” Williams added. “In this country, right now today, there are certain cities in this country where, you know, blacks stand a chance of being incarcerated at 100 times more than any other race. Let’s have the discussion.” (Note: notice how the FOX hosts tried surreptitiously to pin the situation on Obama).
In Virginia, an autistic African American male has been sitting in solitary confinement for four years - not because he is autistic, but because he is African American and autistic. His first crime, you see, was wearing a hoodie while waiting for the public library to open.*

Back in Cleveland, the video of Tamir's killing has been released, showing that Tamir was shot within several seconds of the police car stopping. Had a white youngster been seen with what looked like a gun, the matter would have been different: police actions might have been slower. 

The Racist Connections: "Rigid Standards And Adherence To A Strict Moral Code"
The Imperial Wizard of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is guarded about discussing his organization's membership.
But this much Cole Thornton openly shares: Florida cops belong to his Klan group because he said they like its rigid standards and its adherence to a strict moral code.
Ties to hate groups like the KKK and militia groups overshadow white police forces across America, especially the ones in predominantly African  American neighborhoods where many police attribute crime solely to the very citizens they were sworn to protect. True, it may be difficult to separate crime from African Americans in an inner-city culture setting, but white police forces show a particularly subjective attitude - hence Montel Williams' point. 

And as Williams also pointed out: "It's time for a discussion."

*The altercation that ensued left a policeman injured and the youth on the road to more altercations with the law. Reginald Latson has an IQ of 69 and his mother is currently trying to get him placed out of solitary confinement.