Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Instant Commendation, Instant Condemnation: The Jason Collins Coming Out Story, Right, Left and Center.

"I will guarantee you if the ownership of whatever team is thinking about bringing him back or thinking about trading for him - and they go to the players on that team and they say 'how do you feel about an out, active homosexual being in the same locker room sharing the same shower facilities with you' they'd say 'no way. I don't want that. I don't want some guy, a teammate eyeballin' me in the shower and my wife does not want that." Bryan Fischer - Focal Point - American Family Association. (see full video below)
The most celebrated cover in the history of Sports Illustrated, may not be for one of its swim suit issues. It may, in fact, feature the most masculine and courageous athlete of the year: in the current issue, Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards (and formerly of the Boston Celtics) comes out as gay, becoming the first openly gay player in a major American professional team sport.

The news hit the internet yesterday morning, and the response has been positive, garnering a call from President Obama in support of the player and his decision to come out of the closet. In fact, an avalanche of support from celebrities and sports figures including Magic Johnson, John Amaechi and Chris Kluwe came in tweets immediately.

Unfortunately, some condemning tweets chimed in as well. Note these by Breitbarters:

Perhaps the most egregious response was that of ESPN sportscaster Chris Broussard who said:

"If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the bible would characterize them as a Christian."
Unfortunately, he said it to LZ Granderson who retorted: “I really don’t need Chris or anyone else telling me if I’m a Christian because Jesus tells me I am.”

Granderson is gay. Oooops.

The exchange spawned a number of tweets with the hashtag #IStandWithChris. Most of them were of the Fundamentalist variety, but some were downright NSFW in their descriptive homophobia.

Whither NOM?

Among the responses, it is interesting to note that no one (as yet), has mentioned the fact that Jason Collins stated he is both BLACK and gay. The (now) infamous strategy by The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) strategy - to "drive a wedge" between the black and gay communities - is rendered ineffective - or irrelevant. It will be interesting to see NOM's response - if any is forthcoming.

Left, Right and Center

In the past, the responses to Collins' statement could have been characterized as Left (supportive), Right (Collins is sinful) and Center (really doesn't matter). However, in today's increasingly polarized society, Center has almost faded away. Social media like Twitter has shown us just how confrontational we have gotten when it comes to issues like gay rights: the immediacy of support or condemnation causes a huge rush to join whatever side you feel you are on. And if you are silent on the issue, both sides take the silence as assent for the other side.

In the end, perhaps, the most important outcome of Jason Collins' coming out may be the responses ... and the amount of them: so far, the supportive responses seem to outnumber the negative ones, which may cause a fierce backlash by pundits weightier than Bryan Fischer. Rush Limbaugh will certainly voice concern over the fact that Obama took it (too) seriously. Sounds of dismay coming from the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins will certainly be forthcoming, but will FOX News' Sean Hannity join the fray? Will Bill O'Reilly? Will Glenn Beck find a conspiracy in there somewhere?

The coming days will be cause for reflection ... and amusement.

Thank you, Jason Collins.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Christian Taliban Strikes: Violence Erupts Over Same-Sex Marriage In France's City Of Love

Actually, it DOES happen here, but the protestations of the Christian Taliban drown it out.
The violence that is consuming France right now is not about gay marriage, but about the Right's vengeance on a legislature that it deems "socialist" and not acting fro the "will of the people." The fact that it is an elected legislature doesn't seem to dawn on the Right, but that's another story - and a barrage of statistics on its mentality. 
       It was an issue that galvanized the country's faltering right, which had been decimated by infighting and their election loss to President Francois Hollande. France is the 14th country to legalize gay marriage nationwide _and the most populous.
...In recent weeks, violent attacks against gay couples have spiked and some legislators have received threats – including Claude Bartelone, the Assembly president, who got a gunpowder-filled envelope on Monday.
One of the biggest protests against same-sex marriage drew together hundreds of thousands of people bused in from the French provinces – conservative activists, schoolchildren with their parents, retirees, priests and others. That demonstration ended in blasts of tear gas, as right-wing rabble-rousers, some in masks and hoods, led the charge against police, damaging cars along the Champs-Elysees avenue and making a break for the presidential palace.

Some of the protesters even resorted to using toddlers as human shields to ward off the tear gas.

The vote for "legalizing marriage for everyone" capped months of violence against gays. And the call for gays to be killed surfaced on Twitter as a hashtag just before the vote:

Il Faut Tuer Les Homosexuels: "It Is Necessary To Kill Homosexuals"

For weeks, the Christian Taliban - represented by our own Brian Brown of National Organization for Marriage (NOM) - characterized the demonstrations as "peaceful":
       In France spontaneous peaceful demonstrations by young people protesting their government's determination to ignore the voice of the people is causing headaches across the country. For the government, this is becoming a major headache. These young people are making sure government officials' support for gay marriage is not forgotten. Violence did break out but not from the pro-marriage protesters. Change is coming, something new is stirring. The truth will win out.
The estimable Mr. Brown's breaking of the Seventh Commandment was not lost on a number of people, especially those who were bashed.

The Right Mix

Political analysts have weighed in on the violence, positing that conservatives would not have protested so vehemently if socialist President Francois Hollande had not gotten such abysmal approval ratings in terms of the economy. The mixture of Christian Right, disenfranchised conservatives and unemployment has been too heady for the country of 40 million, even though over 65% of the populace approve of gay marriage. It was felt that the legislation was railroaded through by an administration with too much power.

Sound familiar?

With a Christian Taliban coalescing with the NRA, rebuking Republicans who support same-sex marriage, portraying the Obama administration as a road to tyranny and Christian persecution, the recent calls for "revolution" from the Right do not seem as marginal as they once were. Of course, just as France's Right has decried the violence, our own Right has denounced violence against homosexuals - in a roundabout way: while saying that such violence is appalling, Christian Right luminaries such as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council consistently chimes in with a strident "we aren't responsible."


The support given to France's Right by America's own Right-wing religious may never be fully documented, (NOM gave us only a small taste) but for a group that is not ashamed to export hate, it is easy to imagine just how involved it was. In any case, accountability has never been its strong point.

And lack of accountability, as we all know, can lead to other things.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Let's Kill Them All" Rush To Judgment: Why The "Sarcastic" Tweet To The Boston Marathon Explosions Matters

Erik Rush may have rendered himself irrelevant in the world of commentary, but that won't stop him from doing as much damage as possible to the dignity of responsible opinion.

Shock to the Boston Marathon explosions was still in the air when that tweet was posted and it may have been the cause for President Obama's call for calm, not jumping to conclusions - or rushing to judgment.

When one person tweeted, "Are you ALREADY BLAMING MUSLIMS??" Rush responded:

He later tweeted that he was being sarcastic, writing:

It didn't help, moreover, that Rush's responses to critical tweets were just as vitriolic as his initial "jokes."

The Rush To Defend Sarcasm

As with any shocking public assault of any person or group, the resulting controversy will become more interesting than the assault itself: who will distance themselves and who will defend? Will FOX News (he's a contributor) produce a non-coverage of the incident? Or will some of its members issue a whispered mea culpa? Will colleague Ann Coulter cheer? Such blatant "sarcasm" will need bold and fierce defenders. Coulter, for example, could certainly empathize with Rush for making a "joke" that's deemed offensive to many.* Of course, this may be one incident Coulter would be wisely to sit out, but if the Coultergeist smells publicity ...

And since Erik Rush aided organizations like the Family Research Council with his anti-gay remarks, will Tony Perkins defend his remarks under the protection of free speech. Or freedom of religion, for Islamophobia is indeed a religion. Just ask Pam Geller.

Defending offensive people (especially intentionally offensive people) is always risky: in America, backlash can occur at any time, especially when it comes up against another American axiom - innocent until proven guilty. Rush's statement immediately made Muslims the underdog at a time of unexplained crisis and America always tries its best to root for the underdog. Furthermore, Rush has made his living out of pummeling the left and the liberal populace, taking the credit for "breaking" the story about Obama's ties to controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright.

Is Responsible Opinion Dead In The Age Of Twitter?

In an era when media like FOX News has rendered dead responsible journalism, it might be argued that responsible opinion has also been aid to rest. Responsible opinion could be defined as that opinion which is intelligently put from a respected podium and accountable for its words - and their effects. Social media like Twitter, however, has given the podium to everyone, and while the intent of dialogue is honest, the cacophony if unaccountable tirades and hate speech is deafening.

And Erik Rush's hate tweet was heard over it all.

Which is why it matters. News commentators like Rush already have a podium from which to blast outrage, so when one climbs atop the Twitter pile, it is heard by more people - and effects more people. It outrages more people and inflames more hatred - in both directions. It is not merely a spark to more discussion, it is a statement to incite violent anger on both sides of the sociopolitical spectrum.

It is too bad that Erik Rush doesn't consider himself accountable for anything he says and that he is free to be as "sarcastic" as he wishes. Hate speech is like that. One can only hope that he will held accountable by everyone else ...

... some day.

*During National "Coming Out Day" Coultergeist suggested that there be a national "Fathers disowning their sons day."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Viral Vitriol From The Left: Thatcher, Warren, And The Legitimacy of Hate

The deaths of Margaret Thatcher and Pastor Rick Warren's son, Matthew, brought about the fact that the Left can be as vitriolic as the right - and no where else can vitriol be slung as freely and contemptuously as online.

USA Today:

Thousands are responding to Pastor Rick Warren's grief with compassion but others use the moment to attack him and his Christian message.

NYDaily News

Twitter users speculate Rick Warren’s son was gay, as motive for suicide
Southern California Pastor Rick Warren has been vocal about his anti-gay views, though there is not official indication his son, Matthew Warren, was gay. A statement on the 27-year-old’s sudden suicide Saturday said he ‘suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts.’

Overtly hating a "man of the cloth" is almost taboo in other countries, but in an America whose history has been dotted with charlatans, extreme Bible-thumpers and SPLC-condemned "Christian" groups recently bullying their way into politics, it is surprising that Rick Warren has been able to keep his benign public persona and his backhanded humility.

The hate-filled reactions to Warren's son's suicide, while despicable in their timing and intent, show the animousity America has had for opportunists like Warren: the Saddleback campus (complete with skateboard park), the awards of "Purpose Driven" to nations such as Uganda, the confusing P.E.A.C.E. plan have not had the thunderbolt effect Warren seemed to envision. His thinly-veiled Fundamentalist and Reconstructionist views came out in speeches to the Arab world and commercials for California's Prop 8.

And several hundred venomous tweets* were enough to set off a firestorm of Christian Right reactions:

Equality Matters

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly whitewashed the extremism of one of America’s most notorious anti-gay hate group leaders, suggesting that pro-gay activists are actually the intolerant ones.

In fairness, Megyn Kelly pointed out that some things should be inviolate when it comes to grief, but asking the leader of a hate group to analyze such hatred is patently ridiculous. 
Of course Tony Perkins is going to scream "Hypocrisy!" And where Kelly qualified her statements with "some", Perkins used his pulpit to insinuate "all." Kelly knew that ... and let it pass.

In Kelly's attempt to coalesce the Twitter remarks around gay marriage, she automatically skewed the conversation in Perkins' favor (this was, after all, FOX News).  The piece did not concern itself with the legitimacy of the hate. Rather, it concerned itself with the legitimacy of the people who hated Warren.

The Legitimacy of Thatcher HateIn another sense, the hate leveled at Warren was not legitimate because it used his son's death as a springboard for the vitriol. It wasn't substantiated. But the hate prompted by the death of Margaret Thatcher on the other hand...

The living, the dying, nor the dead are not sacrosanct. Let's face it - they never were. If "respect" was not garnered during a lifetime, chances are that only the facade of "common decency" would prevail and little else. Many thought that Margaret Thatcher commanded respect, but what she got was a respect given begrudgingly by some of her peers and deemed unworthy of any respect by the people, especially those she was determined to put out of work.

Irish Times:

"She absolutely hated working people. I've got very bitter memories of what she did. She turned all the nation against us. I would say to those people who want to mourn her that they're lucky she did not treat them like she treated us."
Elsewhere, however, Respect MP, the Bradford-based George Galloway told his 120,000 followers on Twitter that they should 'tramp the dirt down' on her grave; while other social media users joked that former miners would gladly dig it for free.

Hating Thatcher, however, has been as futile for the left as hating Reagan, since both were ensconced in their countries' histories as icons by the Right: the crowds celebrating Thatcher's death were put down by police and some were arrested. 

Again, the legitimacy of hate is turned into the legitimacy of the haters.

*Warren has 985,000 Twitter followers

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sophistication Is An Abomination!!!

Keeping Them Clueless was an article I wrote about the dumbing down of religion, especially by the Christian Right. It's still pertinent today in Pat Robertson latest take on miracles: in his "Bring-It-On" wisdom, Pat explains why today's miracles only seem to happen in Africa and not in the U.S. His answer is that people in third world countries are "simpler" and have not had the misfortune to be schooled in "ivy league" colleges. People who are schooled in evolution and the sciences (and are atheistic) don't accept miracles or allow them to happen. 

Robertson tips his hand, however, when he tells us "you tell 'em God loves 'em and they say 'OK He loves me.' You tell 'em He works miracles, they say, OK, we believe Him." It's all about control, Pat, isn't it? This best sums up the Christian Right's fear of education. 

Uganda, of course, has served as the case study upon which they base their success in their exportation of homophobia and control. 

The Upcoming Civil War: Not As Simple As Love States vs Hate States.

The United States We're Not

With all the hoopla from the Left about the populace supporting gun control and DOMA being "doomed", a look at the country's problem of polarization might put things in a different (if not proper) perspective: there are a multitude of elements that want to stop the U.S. from where they think it's going. And if they can't stop it, they'll fight it. And if they can't fight it, they'll just break away. Maybe violently.

The elements of revolution are there because the extremes are there: rich vs poor, pro-life vs pro-choice, 2nd Amendmenters vs gun control, pro-gay vs anti-gay, big government vs small government, socialism vs capitalism, and yes, still, white vs black. At times it may seem that the elements coalesce in certain states and into Left vs Right, Democrat vs Republican, but those views would be dangerously simplistic: pockets of each element exist everywhere, creating not a gray (or purple, red-melded-with-blue) America, but a bizarre portrait that at times looks cancerous.

Last week's headlines, while dominated by marriage equality and gun control, still point to a division of love and hate in varying degrees:

Slick, Paranoid Tea Party Video Aims for Violent Insurrection
Pat Robertson Claims Homeland Security Is Stocking Ammo To 'Attack Us'
Conservative Group Calls Science Behind Sexual Orientation "Nazi" Propaganda
Men With Loaded Rifles Intimidate Moms Gathered At Gun Safety Rally
26 guns at home of man accused of threats toward Sen. Leland Yee
Perkins: 'Revolution' Possible if 'Court Goes Too Far' on Marriage Equality Cases
Texas takes step toward secession with Rick Perry’s plan to hoard gold
Steve King: Idea That Diversity Strengthens America Has 'Never Been Backed Up By Logic'
Southern States Form Near-Solid Block Against Obamacare
Fox News: Second American Revolution On The Horizon?
Leader of Southern Baptist Convention links North Korean threats to gay marriage, Boy Scouts
Law Enforcement Officials Gunned Down In Possible White Supremacist Plot

And there will be more in the offing this year: abortion laws, voting rights, immigration, unions, and more will continue to create opposites in the nation's future.

Persecution Complexes and Paranoia: Do They Really Count?

Pat Robertson:

“Long trains full of armored vehicles, personnel carriers with armor, what are they for, the army going into battle against the enemy? They're used by Homeland Security against us,” Robertson ominously warned. “Imagine what Homeland Security is doing is just awful and we’re going to talk about how much ammunition they’re stockpiling: who are they going to shoot, us?”

Jim Garlow:

Garlow: If same-sex so-called marriage is established as the law of the land, many of the people who are listening to my voice right now, not maybe immediately but at some point in the future, if they are followers of Christ, will be forced underground. Their buildings will be taken away from them, many of their rights will be taken away from them.

Matthew Hagee:

"The only relationship in natural law that can produce consumers," Hagee declared, "is the relationship between a man and a woman. When you create a society that does not recognize this relationship as the foundation of its existence and you cease to produce what is required to sustain your economy, you will not survive"
And paranoia can cause a backlash with exceptionalism:

Mike Huckabee:

"The notion that we are just one of many among equals is nonsense," Huckabee said. The United States is a "blessed" nation, he said, calling American revolutionaries' defeat of the British empire "a miracle from God's hand."
The same kind of miracle, he said, led California voters to approve Proposition 8, which overturned a state law legalizing same-sex marriages.
Voters "did it because some things are right and some things are wrong and they had to make a stand."
(Note: Last November, Huckabee told right-wing radio's Bill Bennett that Prop 8 did not ban same-sex marriage. "That's not what those efforts did," he said, adding, "They affirmed what is. They did not prohibit something.")

Pockets of persecution are everywhere, fueled by media pundits like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, organizations like NOM (National Organization for Marriage), the NRA and Family Research Council.

Coalescing Under The Christian Right

It may be argued that states like Texas, Tennessee, and Mississippi come closest to having all the elements coalesce: 2nd Amendment, anti-gay, anti-abortion factors are prevalent, especially in the halls of their state congresses. And behind these factors the strong, guiding hand of the Christian Right is evident: pastors like Robert Jeffress and Harry Jackson hold enough sway to influence legislation. It seems, in fact, that the Christian Right may be the strongest glue to disparate parts of the extreme Right, with the prominent Southern Baptist Convention still tolerating white supremacists in various districts and overtly endorsing 2nd Amendmenters (e.g., Pastor Gary "You can't be Christian and not own a gun" Cass), encouraging survivalists, opposing the ERA, and banning abortion and marriage equality. And fulminating revolution are icons related to the Christian Right: Bryan Fischer, Tony Perkins, Phyllis Schlafly, Glenn Beck, FOX News Mike Huckabee*), and Rick Perry.

Without Christian Right support and ideology, in fact, hate groups such as the Family Research Council** would have little credibility. They're hate depends upon CR hate, especially Southern Baptist Convention hate.

Target States

Now that issues like marriage equality and gun control are heading for limited federal laws, leaving the states some lee-way, the elements of revolution and, in particular, the Christian Right will need to start concentrating on states, and as in the case of our own Civil War, some states may be easier than others to coalesce the elements: Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi are seemingly ripe for revolution, but with the exception of Texas, these states are not economically solvent enough, not even together. The Christian Right and organizations like the NRA may have to go deeper and depend upon influential regions in other states, giving rural voices more ground than FOX News can.

Fringe Is Fringe

All of the above may, to some, sound like a conspiracy theory put out by a left-wing organization, but the fact is that the fringes of the American socio-political landscape are POWERFUL fringes, concentrated and volatile and their once hollow-sounding rhetoric has teeth: Christian Right leaders are calling for "rising up" and leaving the Republican Party because it has become too centrist in their viewpoint.

Of course, the problem of America's extremes in ideologies is that some of them overlap: not all gun freaks are rich, not all of the Christian Right are white supremacists, not all homophobes are misogynist. Some areas of the country might be considered fifty shades of purple.

So just how many rich, white, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, Christian Right, gun freaks are out there? Enough to be coalesce and cause a very real Civil War? Or enough to merely pile into Texas and shut the door?

We should only hope for the latter.

* Kansas is considering quarantining HIV+ patients, a piece of legislation with which Mike Huckabee would be VERY pleased.

** Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has been involved in the unethical use of David Duke's mailing list, and has spoken to white supremacist groups.