Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I'm Still Here: Survival As Self-Inspiration

When in support group last week, we talked about pain and death. The discussion began with those two topics and went on to coping mechanisms. My mind, however, stayed on the original subjects, forcing me to count the number of deaths in my life, the amount of physical pain, intensity of emotional anxiety, the number of triumphs as well as the number of tragedies.

I've often said that I've lived three lives. And while I haven't been traditionally married and raised children, or been in the military, my life experiences as a gay man and passing through the Age of AIDS have led me to look upon "normal" lives as fraught with less hills and valleys than mine.

I counted ... and counted ... and counted ... the good as well as the bad. 20 different jobs ranging from go-go dancer to broadcaster. 40 years of various pains caused by congenital double scoliosis (causing a mild limp and therapy such as nightly traction for my neck). 1 year (and counting) of married bliss  after two beautiful years of "courtship". 50 riot-helmeted policemen facing me down during San Francisco's White Night Riots. 4 doctors looking at me while telling them to take my mother off dialysis so that she could die quickly and painlessly. 50 yards away from home when being shot at. 30 children in San Francisco's dangerous Bayview district seated regularly after school.* 400-500 people signed up for the AIDS Emergency Fund during the worst epidemic years. 5 years of organizing a Christmas party and toys for 400 children with AIDS. 15 deaths of family. 20 deaths of friends. 25 deaths of acquaintances. 1 published autobiography. 9 months with an extremely bi-polar lover. 2 gunshots reported every week for 5 years. 2 cavities in my teeth (really!). 38 years of HIV. 11 years of caregiving. 7 years of blogging on religion and politics. 

When we all "checked out", I thanked the group for the realization that through it all ...

I'm still here. 

I'm still here.  As with most people, the bad times melded with the good times in a bewildering collage. The good times can be as draining as the bad, but I haven't bowed to the pressure of either. Neither have I been completely worn out.* 

I'm not looking for praise or sympathy from others, but survival needs self-praise and self-sympathy and only with those two, can you continue to survive. I thought about the song from Follies, sung so eloquently and meaningfully by beautiful Yvonne de Carlo:

Yes, sheer survival can be self-inspiration to keep on living. We all admire survivors - people who have persevered through great odds.

But odds are definitely relative and profoundly individual: like fingers prints, pain and sorrow are unique to every individual. Living life can be inspirational - self-inspirational, if you will. Look at your own life, the sad times as well as the happy ones and if you've survived through it all, give yourself a pat on the back and a tear from your heart: you're still here.

* Subsequently awarded the Jefferson Award for Community Service.

*The great actor George Sanders' (d. age 66) suicide note (wikipedia):

"Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck."
David Niven wrote in Bring on the Empty Horses (1975), the second volume of his memoirs, that in 1937 his friend George Sanders had predicted that he would commit suicide when he was 65, and that in his 50s he had appeared to be depressed since his marriages had failed and several tragedies had befallen him.

Friday, June 26, 2015

BREAKING: SCOTUS Backs Marriage Equality. UPDATE: Right-Wing Fake MLK Heads Explode Over Possibility Of Civil Disobedience

Yeah, I know Hannity and Coulter didn't call for civil disobedience - talk about fun with Windows Moviemaker! What a joy to see their heads explode!

Yes, heads are exploding,there is great wailing and gnashing of teeth (dentists: be on the ready), and rending of Walmart garments. Pastors will be thrown into dungeons! Civil war will break out with huge casualties! Texas will secede from the Union (let's hope). Disasters aplenty will devastate the entire earth! Civilization will be ending fairly soon.

From Right Wing Watch:

In anticipation of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling, we’ve compiled a video of the Right’s most dire warnings about a potential decision striking down gay marriage bans, including self-proclaimed “prophet” Cindy Jacobs' fear that gay marriage will lead to natural disasters; preacher Scott Lively predicting a devastating “calamity”; Glenn Beck turning into the anti-gay version of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Tony Perkins calling for a revolution against gay marriage; and Pat Robertson, well, being Pat Robertson.
That's right - Glen Beck will be the next Martin Luther King, Jr! As will Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz ... all the people who absolutely detest the Supreme Court for being so dastardly as to "redefine" marriage. They will lead demonstrations, sit-downs and marches.

Just what city, they'll pick to define their Selma moment is yet to be determined. Charleston? Maybe. After all, same-sex marriage has been blamed for everything, why not use Charleston as a starting point? They could dare to be outrageous and pick San Francisco, but the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence might spoil it by turning it into a fundraiser for the AIDS Emergency Fund.

The Civil Disobedience Schtick
The Southern Baptist Convention closed out this week's annual meeting by issuing a formal call for civil disobedience against same-sex marriage. The statement was issued jointly by current SBC president Ronnie Floyd and 16 former SBC presidents.

However, the SBC has riled its base by trying to ban the Confederate flag instead of the rainbow flag. Not good timing. And a bit confusing for some of the good ole boys who still believe that Jesse Helms was really God.

It's The Stupid Martyrdom, Stupid!
E.W. Jackson:

I don’t know what’s going to happen to us for the stand that we’re taking, but I think I can say for every one of us, we will give our lives standing for the truth.
In the early days of Christianity, martyrdom was considered the fast track to heaven and some people actually sought it out for themselves. After people kept avidly feeding themselves to lions (rhetorically), Christian leaders put a stop to the practice. Legitimate martyrdom became while self-induced martyrdom became, well, stupid. The brouhaha over homosexuals getting married has resulted in a martyrdom of the Christian Right's own making, causing it to look very, very foolish.

Article headlines like the one below have shown how ridiculous CR politicians are willing to look:

President Santorum Will Protect Children From Gay Marriage

Pockets of Violence
Stupidity begets violence, however. And the rhetoric coming from the right comes dangerously close:

Garlow said that Staver, the Liberty Counsel attorney who has called for mass civil disobedience and a revolution to stop gay marriage, will be “speaking on a topic that most of us didn’t want to hear about, and that’s when biblical obedience translates into civil disobedience and we become an underground resistance movement.”
The phrase "underground resistance movements" smacks of violence. The wounded tiger of the Christian Right is still alive. The next media focus will be on the violence that ensues (eventually) in pockets of the country.

Let's hope that the stupidity doesn't last too long.

Monday, June 15, 2015

CHRISTIAN NATION? Studies Set Fire To The Christian Right's Pet Ideology And To Right Wing Candidates' Talking Points

In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. [Jefferson, in letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814]

"America is definitely a Christian Nation." So says the Christian Right's Official Pseudo-Historian, David Barton. Many people believe it, and most of today's GOP Presidential hopefuls are depending on that belief. 

But what if that statement is based on a 50-year-old assumption and not today's reality? Candidates like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee might be counting on a force that really isn't there - with a meme that is not quite true.

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center.

So America is not as Christian as it used to be which, according to previous studies, was not as Christian as David Barton thought it was in the first place. The decline in Christian numbers is disturbing to many evangelicals such as Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson and Tony Perkins, but it is disastrous to politicians like Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz.

Over time, the group of Americans who are dissatisfied and want religion to have less influence has consistently been larger than the group who are dissatisfied and want it to have more influence. The gap between these groups grew bigger as overall satisfaction with the influence of organized religion dropped in 2005.

In its State of the States report, Gallup also divulged that the highest level of people who attend church regularly is a rather meager 51% (Utah) and goes down to 17% (Vermont, which will burn in hellfire). This does not bode well for Presidential hopefuls like Huckabee and Jindal who are putting all their eggs into one Evangelical Christian basket.

It’s a narrative [America is fundamentally a Christian nation] that is fundamentally wrong. Yes, the majority of Americans identify technically as Christians, but a deeper look at how our people act, believe, and think shows that we’re not at all a “Christian nation,” but a largely secular nation that suffers a small but vocal minority of theocracy-minded conservatives. And not just that, but that the secular-minded majority is getting even bigger and more secular all the time.
The Theocratic Set


Today's Republicans still think that pandering to the Christian Right with "Christian Nation" banners and speeches will get them votes. And while it is a meme that comes disastrously close to reconstructionism and theocracy, they seem to think that America will not look past those speeches - and who organizes them. David Lane, the man behind theocracy's (Christofascism's) support of Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz, has squarely put Evangelicalism on the path to theocracy. While calling for 1000 pastors to seek public office, he has also curried favor with Ben Carson and Rick Perry. If ever there was an architect behind "America Is A Christian Nation," it is Lane, not David Barton who wields the real power. The reaction (or strategy) that Lane has had regarding the new studies is not yet known, but rest assured he is concerned.

Rick Unger (Forbes):
Cruz embarked on his march to the White House before a crowd of some 10,000 students at Liberty University— a number that would have been terribly impressive for such an event were it not for the fact that attendance was compulsory —where the Senator would spend the first part of his speech extolling the virtues of Jesus Christ and the importance the Christian faith played in keeping his family together.
Cruz does not seem to know (or care), that his "family" is on the wane: it may still be strong in Texas, but the CN (Christian Nation) talking point is weaker beyond its borders than he cares to admit.

Back in 2012, Rick Santorum's campaign was almost single-handedly derailed by one pastor.

Pastor Dennis Terry introduced Rick Santorum to Southern Baptist voters with the CN meme:
“This nation was founded as a Christian nation…there’s only one God and his name is Jesus. I’m tired of people telling me that I can’t say those words. […] If you don’t love America and you don’t like the way we do things, I’ve got one thing to say — Get out! We don’t worship Buddha. I said we don’t worship Buddha. We don’t worship Mohammed. We don’t worship Allah. We worship God. We worship God’s son Jesus Christ.”
We can bet, however, that Santorum ( who rarely learns from his mistakes) will keep CN alive during his campaign.

Huckabee could rank as the most out-of-touch candidate with the collective mind of the American public (remember the Duggar support backlash). He would never, for example, believe a word of this WSJ survey:
A new SURVEY conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News has found that more Americans would be comfortable with a gay or lesbian president (about 61 percent of respondents) than they would with an evangelical Christian president (only 52 percent).
Furthermore, only 37 percent said they would be uncomfortable with a gay or lesbian person in the highest office in the country, while 44 percent said they would be hesitant about an evangelical Christian running for president.

Ignoring The Causes
Clinging to a Christian Nation ideology may be disastrous for today's Presidential hopefuls, but it is downright stupid for Christofascists to uphold it and even dumber for them to ignore the real causes.
While blaming the declining numbers on the overall moral decay of the country, the candidates and Christian Right leaders will dodge the real reason: Millennials are leaving in droves simply because they can't stand thinking that some day they might actually be like the Evangelicals they've come to dread: the crackpots and charlatans and ranters, the bigots and zealots and hate-mongers who have ruined religion for so many. Think Cindy Jacobs, Pat Robertson, Bob Jones, Jerry Falwell, Benny Hinn and a host of others who have used the Bible as a weapon and refer to a jealous, vindictive God abandoning the nation for things like same-sex marriage. 
Or they might be leaving because they know too many Betty Bowers. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Last Week In The World: Biden, Blatter, China and Pope Francis. Last Two Weeks In America: Duggar ... and Hypocrisy

While the world was fed real news and opinions - Beau Biden's death, FIFA, a  China cruise ship disaster and Fundamentalism as a sickness - America was given ALL THINGS DUGGAR.

Even FOX was forced - literally FORCED, can you believe it! - to pay homage to the scandal of the family that embodied Hypocrisy (yes, a capital "H"). As more scandal details were gathered and interviews piled up, America was treated to (or bored with) more information about the (now) infamous brood than even avid viewers of "19 Kids And Counting" ever cared to have.

It's The Hypocrisy, Stupid!

The viral interest by the media in the Duggar scandal may be as simple as this: America loves to root out the hypocrites and topple them from their pedestals. From their pinnacle of PURITY.

Bill Maher:

“To me, these are the biggest freaks in the world,” Maher said of the Duggars. “[The father] is always leering, because he’s married, to the wife. 19 kids and he still wants to get in there?”
Talk show co-host Whoopi Goldberg was the most full-throated in her rebuke of the "19 Kids And Counting" parents on Thursday, the morning after the Duggars had taken to Fox News' "The Kelly File" to defend their son, who molested five girls when he was a teen, and their own handling of the situation.
"You brought God up, so it makes it OK to say this," Goldberg said of the Duggar patriarch pleading for forgiveness for his oldest son. "You're not forgiving of people. You’re not forgiving of people who feel differently than you.”

Montel Williams continued his online tirade against the 'hypocritical' 19 Kids and Counting stars following their interview Wednesday on Fox News' The Kelly File.
'Nothing about these people is real. Nothing about these people isn't hypocritical,' Montel wrote of the congressman-turned-realtor. 
Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches
The Duggars are no ordinary spokespeople for the religious right; they are super-spokespeople. For years, they have been held up as exemplars of biblical living, of devotion to Christ, and of, especially, homespun honest living and sexual purity. It’s long been obvious to many that this is a product of marketing and packaging, not reality. But now no one can pretend anymore.
Hypocrites, of course, joined to support the Duggar family: Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was shamed by his own supporters, while Palin people are, well, Palin people.
If the Kelly File interview with the Duggar parents was fraught with inconsistencies, then the interview with two of the Duggar daughters was a mess of a defense:

"We're not a perfect family." The interview by Megyn Kelly of the Duggar sisters focused on the aspect of the big H, but the answer was far from acceptable: the H lasted for years and years. The idea that the sisters never thought that Josh's problem would never come to light was too ridiculous. A cover up is a cover up is a cover up.

And of course, none of the Duggar family are hypocrites themselves according to the girls. They campaigned for Rick Santorum and his anti-gay platform in 2012. Their mother robo-called against an anti-discrimination law for Fayetteville, AR.(see below). But they certainly don't hate anybody, do they?

The Coming Weeks

We can only hope that the scandal will cause the Duggar show to be cancelled, causing uproar from the Christian Right (ala Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin), but sending the clan into Duck Dynasty world. Afterwards, America can get back to addressing real issues. Until then, we can expect more ridiculous interviews from the Duggars, and parodies like that of Funny or Die (taped, btw, before the actual Duggar interview - quite prescient to be sure). 

God save America from hypocrisy and boredom.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Westboro Hate Never Dies

The fact that Westboro Baptist Church picketed Beau Biden's funeral yesterday, shows that the kind of unhinged hate (what Pope Francis calls "a sickness") reserved for the fringes of the Christian Right still lives. 

MUNI Training Or Twlight Zone?

Having fun while training!

Sitting - waiting for MUNI to get unstuck from the tunnel. It will be a long time. Certainly more than riders want.

But MUNI doesn't care.

I don't usually write on local San Francisco problems - I leave that to Matier and Ross of The Chronicle. But ineptitude and indifference forces me to rant.

Last week was the prime example of MUNI indifference: three training cars lumbering along without a care in the world. Two if them passing by passengers standing on the in-bound platform at 19th and Holloway, virtually giving them all a collective finger at peak times. One of them stopping for a green light, then starting on the red. Another gave everyone a start: it was a green antique F Market car on an in-bound M line track. Perhaps it was coming from "The Twilight Zone"? What a lark for the trainer and trainee! "Let's see the look on their faces when they see this!"

MUNI is nothing if not sadistically insulting.

Of course, riders if the M line are used to insults: erratic arrivals, getting stuck in the tunnel, being dumped out in West Portal.

All with the ubiquitous and equally insulting "Sorry for the inconvenience"*, mumbled inaudibly with an accent placing the driver's origin somewhere between Timbuktu and Mars.

"MUNI is going to improve - and on a grand scale." Forty-one years of hearing this leaves one slightly skeptical.

The following PIXAR short gives you the feeling of what it's like being handled by MUNI and its driver trainees.

*I've heard it said that this apology is routinely given to people MUNI runs over.