Sunday, January 23, 2005

Because Jesus Never Advocated Understanding or Respect

While James Dobson, head of uber-fundamentalist Christian Focus on the Family, rails on about the gayness of Spongebob Squarepants, in a statement rivaled only by (I'm sure) close friend and fellow evangelist Jerry Faldwell's outing of Tinky-Winky, the uber-fundamentalist and not-just-a-little nutty "Mississippi-based American Family Association, in a detailed article by the editor of its monthly journal, insists the endeavor [ of handing out a 'pro-tolerance music video for kids, featuring scores of their TV heroes ranging from the Muppets to SpongeBob SquarePants' by the We Are Family Foundation] has a pro-gay subtext.

'On the surface, the project may appear to be a worthwhile attempt to foster greater understanding of cultural differences,' wrote Ed Vitagliano. 'However, a short step beneath the surface reveals that one of the differences being celebrated is homosexuality.'

To back his assertions, Vitagliano...complained of a 'tolerance pledge' found on the We Are Family Web site, borrowed from a civil rights group, which says in part, 'To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.'"

I'm glad Jesus never said anything about loving little gay children: "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." Luke 17:2

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Happy Ingaguration Day

In-gag-uration Day news:

Today a Jazz Funeral for Democracy will be held to coincide with the start of Bush's inauguration.

According to the website, "'While the rest of the country will be focused on the beginning of Bush’s second term, our objective is to show the world that we are not in support of a continued war in Iraq, record inflation, flagrant disregard for the constitutional rights of all citizens and four more years of rule by a small group of wealthy elite. This will be a time to remind the president that he has a sworn obligation to represent and respect the rights and wishes of ALL Americans, including the 56 million people who voted against him.'

A horse-drawn hearse will carry a mock coffin containing copies of the Patriot Act and the U.S. Constitution through the streets of New Orleans. The Treme Brass Band will lead the procession, followed by marchers wearing traditional mourning clothes and black armbands, symbolizing the tragedy of the Iraqi war effort. The march is hopeful of picking up support from workers in the CBD during their lunch hour, as well as other sympathizers along the route.

'We hope that this event will result in the establishment of a Southern front for resistance to the occupation of Iraq. We are staging this peaceful event for one simple reason . . . because we can. Because the Bill of Rights, at least for now, guarantees that we can. Ours will be a defiantly upbeat gathering of the tribes; an opportunity to prepare for many months of resistance to come.'"

Anti-war group sues for access to presidential inauguration:

"An anti-war group filed a lawsuit Friday challenging what it called "the unprecedented exclusion of the public" from President Bush's inaugural parade route.
The lawsuit in federal district court claims the National Park Service is illegally blocking the general public from access to vast portions of Pennsylvania Ave. reserved solely for guests screened by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Park Service officials say they have fulfilled their obligation to allow the public including demonstrators access to open areas along the parade route. The agency has offered A.N.S.W.E.R. space for up to 10,000 protesters to stand or sit in bleachers in a large plaza along the route, just a few blocks from the Capitol.

The park service also has issued A.N.S.W.E.R. permits for protesters to stand in nine other smaller locations along Pennsylvania Ave. But the group says most of those areas are tiny pockets behind bleachers or in fenced-in areas more than 100 feet from the parade route. "

And, finally, I leave you today with some words from the Reverend Desmond Bishop Tutu, as spoken to Newsweek magazine in their December 30th issue (thanks to Rex Wockner posting this):

"I still can't believe that it [George W. Bush's reelection] really could have happened. Just look at the facts on the table: He'd gone into a war having misled people -- whether deliberately or not -- about why he went to war. You would think that would have knocked him out [of the race.] It didn't. Look at the number of American soldiers who have died since he claimed that the war had ended. And yet it seems this doesn't make most Americans worry too much. I was teaching in Jacksonville, Fla., [during the election campaign] and I was shocked, because I had naively believed all these many years that Americans genuinely believed in freedom of speech. [But I] discovered there that when you made an utterance that was remotely contrary to what the White House was saying, then they attacked you. For a South African the déjà vu was frightening. They behaved exactly the same way that used to happen here [during apartheid] -- vilifying those who are putting forward a slightly different view."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Mr. Sensitive

Sometime in the late 70's, I was watching a television program with my mom. The program, "That's Incredible", warned that sensitive viewers may not want to watch their next segment about the poaching of elephants. I turned to my mom and asked if I was "sensitive."

"Yes, you are," was my mother's gentle reply.

And so I remain. I can easily look back on my life and see my development as somebody with strong feeling about almost everything. As uneasy as it makes me, I can recall those times when I was, and sometimes remain, hyper-sensitive or a bit too self-centered in my feeling. I thought, however, that at least regarding the outside world, I had, over the years, toughed up.

Yet tonight I'm nursing a wound that wasn't directly targeted at me or that I had anything to do with at all. A letter that I was privy to really unnerved me. In it, a person went on a virulent, wide-ranging homophobic rant, regarding an incident that involved no gay person. This person simply took their complaint about one issue and then springboarded into the evils of gays and gay-friendly organizations.

Now, other comments in the letter clearly mark this person as lacking any kind of general sense or stable perspective on the world, but nonetheless it bothered me. I am disturbed about how emboldened this person felt to express their bigotry so freely to a person whom he had no idea if he was gay or not. My heart actually aches to think that this person is so insensitive and callous to not care who the letter recepient was (or too dull to consider it). I'm troubled at the aggressiveness and spite of this person. I fear for the legacy that this person is leaving for future generations. I'm saddened that this person is proud of his hate.

This person's value structure was, to me, considerably misaligned. The threat of entitlement oozed from each sentence. Swift and merciful justice was implied upon all wrong-doers towards this man. A miasma of superiority infested the message. And, yet, based on certain statements in the letter, I envision this person as a "pillar of the community" and admired God-fearing Christian. And if I'm right, this person knows nothing about Christianity; certainly this person would trumpet the merit of traditional values, yet he has no aquaintance with morals or values of any worth.

My flowerly language clearly illustrates the sensitive chord this letter struck in me. I think perhaps the problem for me is that this letter, affecting people near to me, so personifies the very worst of our current climate. This letter is the epitome of the hypocrisy of so many in power and so many conservatives. To see such a personal example of the empowered, elitist, ignorant and intolerant attitudes that exist, chips away at a hope I hold. I need to believe that the majority of America, while not comfortable with gays and some aspects of gay civil rights (such as marriage) do hate us or seek to marginalize us to the degree that this person clearly would. But this letter threatens to rend the veil.

My rational side tells me that I'm over-reacting; that I'm over-personalizing, and that I'm over-sensitive. This person didn't actually hurt any gay person; nobody got beaten or had their job taken away. Yet here I am, Mr. Sensitive, and the scar remains.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Common Cents: Sweet Home Illinois

From --

After a decade long struggle to gain civil rights protections the Illinois legislature has passed a law banning the discrimination of gays and lesbians.

The House passed the measure by a 65 - 51 vote Tuesday on the final day of the session. The bill passed the Senate Monday night. It now goes to Gov. Rod Blagojevich who has said he will sign it.

The law adds "sexual orientation" to the state law that protects people from bias based on race, religion and similar traits. It applies to discrimination in jobs, housing, public accommodations or credit.

Opponents argued it would lead to approval of gay marriage in Illinois, supporters called it a basic human rights issue, saying discrimination of gays and lesbians over housing and employment is just as wrong as discriminating against people because of race or religion.
A recent poll sponsored by Equality Illinois shows that a wide majority of Illinois residents support granting civil rights protections to gays.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Louie Louie

My friend Anne (thanks, Anne!) forwarded me this: "From the blog of Louie Crew -- resident expert of gay folks in the Episcopal Church. It is in comment to the news that the Lutherans are getting ready to release a paper on gay folks. Louie also goes by the name Lutibelle....."

Bishop Rick Foss of the Eastern North Dakota Synod said he does not believe the church should change its policies on homosexuality, but he said the church must do a better job of relating to homosexuals. "We have to figure out how to care for God's people, including those who describe themselves as gay and lesbian," Foss said.

Yeah. We've been shaming them into silence for years, but it's not working anymore. More and more now insist on identifying who they are. We need to tell them that we don't really want to shame them; it's God that makes us do it. Even God will welcome them if they'll just stop loving each other. 'Whew! That's what happens when bowels are clogged with ecclesiastical concrete. They're supposed to be filled with mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy!


If Michelangelo had been straight, he would have painted the Sistine Chapel off-white, with a roller. --Rita Mae Brown

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Deal Breaker

Orson Scott Card is a noted science fiction author who has been recently hired to be the writer on a new Marvel comic book, Ultimate Iron Man. The "Ultimate" line is Marvel's re-envisioning and re-conceptualization of some of their core properties (Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, etc.) so that new readers will be encouraged to read these titles since they are unecumbered by the 40 years of historical baggage (continuity as we comic geeks say)that the main titles are saddled with.

However, Card is a noted and published homophobe and some small to-do has been made online about his hiring (for one example, see Prism Comic's "Open Letter to Marvel"). Paul O'Brian, a writer for the comic website 9th Art recently wrote an excellent article about Card and touches on the greater issue of homophobia in media.

First, go read Paul O'Brian's article at the 9th Art website before reading my following response to that article.

I think Paul has written an excellent and thoughtful article and I almost completely agree with him. However, I take exception to one of Paul's points as I reach a more definite conclusion.

Paul states that he thinks that Orson Scott Card's views "hardly place him miles outside mainstream opinion." Paul also opines that "you'd probably find a substantial proportion of the population that agree with him." I think Paul strikes a wrong note here. Although I completely agree that "[homophobia is] so widely held [that homophobes] cannot be confined to the mad and the stupid," I don't think that substantial numbers of Americans subscribe to the extremist viewpoints that Card holds. Card posits the downfall of civilization and the total debauchery of the human race squarely on the shoulders of homosexuals.

Americans have a much more complex and mixed view of homosexuality, however. They may believe some of the erroneous facts and assumptions that Card asserts, but the end result is much more interesting. In more in-depth polling by CBS and the New York Times weeks after the presidential election, only 2% of the population considered gay issues as a concern or factor in their voting. In a poll that has a margin of error of +/- 3%, that means 5% to less than nobody considers gay issues a significant political concern.

Clearly, Americans are divided on gay politicial issues, as well as on homosexuality in general. According to a poll conducted in April 2004 by the LA Times, 60% of Americans support some type of legal recognition for gay unions, although 6 in 10 believe homosexual realtionships are "against God's will." The CBS/NYT poll found about 50% of people in favor of some type of legal recognition for gay relationships. A majority of Americans do not support a Constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriage.60% polled people "described themselves as sympathetic to the gay community" and would vote for a gay political candidate. Two-thirds would maintain a friendly relationship with a person they discovered was gay yet 6 in 10 would be upset to find out their child was gay. 6 in 10 felt that gays can be a good role model to children, but about half of the people wouldn't let a gay person baby-sit.

Not surprisingly, and as Paul points out, the younger generation is far more favorably disposed toward gays. the 18-29 crowd was four times more likely to favor same-sex marriage than people 65 and over.So, while clearly, the issue of gay rights and attitudes towards gay personally are a mixed bag, acceptance is on the rise. Particularly with the acceptance of the younger generation towards gays, many of the hotly contested issues we face today will be non-issues. And the misrepresentations and distortions that people such as Card project will no longer be accepted.

Even among these figures, I don't see the Card's ideas strongly represented. Undoubtably, they exist among the American population, but they don't have the stranglehold they once had. And, to fancy my own guess, based on my own interactions on-line and off, and given the 18-29 year old mindset towards gay issues, these ideas are not prominent or widely accepted in the comic reading community.

Which all then still boils down to Paul's question: does any of this matter?

I say a resounding "yes." I'm not sure Paul disagrees, except that we reach somewhat different conclusions. I think Card is well outside the mainstream, although his views are not confined to hicks, the insane, or the mentally deficient. Far too many people (at least half the nation, probably much more) hold on to some type of homophobic ideas and/or stereotypes. But even these prejudices and ignorant beliefs are not the extremist viewpoint of Card. And we shouldn't support ideas that are dangerous or just factually wrong, particularly when they can impact negatively on a segment of the population.

Paul comes precipitously close to, yet still manages to veer away from, the idea that homophobia is so wide-spread that we shouldn't care that one voice has been added to the dissonance. Still, and I say this in light of Paul's astute observations on tolerance, we should not tolerate such a strident and potentially harmful chord. Even if Paul is correct, and Card's homophobia reflects that of society at large, that does not negate the obligation to, as our super-hero comics have taught us, fight the wrong. Many gains in civil rights were made despite popular consensus. Most recently, laws against interracial marriages were struck down by courts (and "activist judges") while a majority of Americans still rejected the idea. I don't think Paul suggests this, but popular approval does not equate with being right.

I do not advocate censorship or even censureship. I would propose a boycott, but as Paul right points out, it's hard to boycott something you have never intended to buy. If you were going to buy this Iron Man series, however, I would ask you to spend your money elsewhere. I also propose writing to Marvel: not a campaign, not showering them with emails or letters, just one simple missive. Tell them that you wish they wouldn't employ people who publish hateful and misleading rhetoric and you won't buy the product of people who promote anti-gay (or, if there's another cause, whatever your cause) sentiment.

In this case, tell them that Card is a deal-breaker.

Common Cents: Then and Now

This message was forwarded to me and comes from a liberal youth site called Left Hook.

I think that an a useful comparison for leftists today to use when talking to people about Bush is the election of Richard Nixon in1968. The election that year took place in a context of growing social polarization and anger around the Vietnam War. In the spring of 1968, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam had demonstrated the incredible unpopularity and weakness of the U.S. occupation in that country.Nixon of course was a right-wing Republican, who had made his name as [a]vicious anti-Communist during the 1950s. His campaign was built around a deeply reactionary platform that included support for the War in Vietnam (though he did promise that he had a "secret plan"to end the War), opposition to court-ordered integration, a focus on "law-and-order," and strong defense of the status quo against the Black Power and womens' rights movements.

His opponent was Hubert Humphrey, a "liberal" Democrat and Lyndon Johnson's Vice-President. Humphrey supported the Vietnam War as well, although he said at the end of his campaign that he would like to bring the troops home. He was a pure establishment figure, as beholden as Nixon to the U.S. ruling-class, and was certainly not a "movement" candidate in any sense. Despite his support for the War, Humphrey had the backing of much of the anti-war movement. Many of those who had actively opposed the U.S.'s butchery inVietnam had been brought back into the Democratic Party during the primaries by Eugene McCarthy, a mixture of Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean. Like Kucinich and Dean, when McCarthy lost the nomination to Humphrey he handed all of his supporters over to the pro-war Democrat.

In the end, Nixon defeated Humphrey by less than 1 million votes in one of the closest election in American history. Many on the left were of course devastated, believing that the election had demonstrated a new rightward shift in American popular consciousness.

They were totally wrong. The 1968 election, a contest between two pro-war candidates, was never a referendum on what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam. In fact, in the period immediately following Nixon's election the United States experienced one of the most intense periods of mass radicalization ever. By 1969, 3 millionpeople were calling themselves revolutionaries. Opposition to theWar continued to grow, especially among working-class and poorAmericans. The continued resistance of the Vietnamese and the revolt of GIs in Vietnam augmented the expanding anti-war movement, creating the conditions that eventually would force the U.S. out of Vietnam.

Moreover, despite Nixon's deeply reactionary personal politics, the power of the social movements in this country forced him to offer a series of other concessions. Under Nixon, federal spending on social services increased substantially, the first affirmative action programs were created, abortion was legalized, and the death penalty was (for four years) declared unconstitutional. The left right now needs to be real clear. We oppose everything that George Bush stands for, everything that he wants to do. But Bush's reelection, like Nixon's election in 1968, doesn't mean that the game is up; it doesn't mean that people in this country are just right-wing and that's all there is to it.

The left needs to do what John Kerry and the Democratic Party never could: offer people a genuine alternative to what's going down right now. Polls consistently show right now that people are feeling particularly vulnerable and insecure about their lives and their futures. People are looking for answers, for people to blame. If the only solutions they're hearing are reactionary solutions they're going to move in that direction. But if the left can tap into the growing anger about the Iraq War, about stagnating wages and job losses, about unaffordable health care and racism, we can build movements that can present people with alternative, progressive solutions.

In this project we have some allies, most importantly the resistance in Iraq and the growing disgust in the army about the occupation. The U.S. ruling-class is facing serious contradictions right now, and we cant't forget that. The only way that Bush's reelection is going to kill us is if we get so demoralized that we give up on the movements.

Jonah Birch, ISO, Columbia University

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Common Cents: The Liberals are Coming, The Liberals are Coming

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel. I've been wondering to myself for a while now how long before we cycle to a more liberal era in America. More specificially, I've postulated to myself that once Gen X'er's kids starting growing up and entering college and Gen X'ers begin to age and take the positions of power and authority held by the Boomers currently (whom I largely blame for the conservative morass we've been living in) we'd see some type of switch in values, and probably one is more liberal. (As a side bar - I think that the Millenials - the current college generation - the mini-van generation - whose annoying tendency toward self-centeredness and reliance on helicopter Mom and Pop who jump to the rescue of their 25 year old baby - will be replaced by a generation of kids who parents tell them to go out and do it on their own).

Looks like my prediction may not be so far off according to FuturesWatch (thanks Petey for the link):

"To gain an understanding of the shifts occurring in American society, it is necessary to look at political and social trends reaching as far back as the American Revolution. An analysis of these trends reveals a consistent pattern of shifts between conservative and liberal values in the United States . The cyclic shifts (or swing of the pendulum, if you prefer) occur over a period of roughly 25 to 30 years.
If this two-century old pattern holds true, the United States is in the midst of a major transition from conservative to liberal social and political values, with 2004 being dead center in the transition period.
An analysis to American trends and events across religion, morality, philosophy, and human rights reveals a series of "conservative" and "liberal" periods over the life of the nation. The most recent "conservative" period began in the late-1970s and reached its peak between 1994 and 1998. Conservative dominance of the American social and political landscape, though still potent (as the 2004 elections demonstrated), has begun to ebb.
As the pendulum begins to swing back towards the liberal end of the political spectrum, the nature of American politics and policies will change. But because of the lag time between the beginning of social change and its appearance in the public (and therefore political) eye, it may well be another five to 10 years before the United States begins to show significant evidence of this change"

Sunday, January 02, 2005

A Leauge of Their Own

An interesting point, if a bit ranty and not overly original, made by Robert Jones Jr. at Gay League, a site devoted to a gay comic collectors, mostly because the point is made during a review of a recent major comic published by DC (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc.):

For the whole review, click here.

"Whole societies are founded on the misguided assumption that since women are, for the most part, not as physically powerful as men, they are naturally inferior. They are the "weaker sex." In order to come to such a conclusion, it is necessary to build a system that both values physical prowess and devalues those other human attributes, such as intelligence, creativity and spirituality (as separate from man-made religion), where the physically dominant may be rivaled or exceeded. I believe that this is why the average person can tell you how many home runs Sammy Sosa has hit, but cannot have a meaningful conversation about the physics behind it, nor can they discuss the socio-political or historical circumstances that may have guided Sosa, and others like him, towards the sport in the first place.

We exist in a place where it still seems perfectly legal, where it is considered logical and acceptable that women, on average, are paid 72% of what men are paid to do the exact same work; a place that only recently thought of women as citizens eligible to exercise their civic duty to vote or have a voice in government (in some places); a place where women are expected to cover their bodies, turn control of their biological and reproductive choices over to men, to serve Kings and to serve a male god who insists that Eve was created from the womb of Adam (even if that is a biological impossibility). We have the benefit of living in the most progressive and advanced society on Earth and yet, in the year 2004, we still have not chosen a woman to lead this nation and most studies say that if a female candidate were to run today, she would be overwhelmingly defeated on the sole basis of her gender. Women are not only expected to be the receptacles for man's collective and delusional bull$#!+, but they are also required to be so with fearful, Aunt Jemima-style grins etched into their faces. It is my belief that this negative view of all things feminine also explains, at least in part, society's particular, peculiar and overpowering hatred for male homosexuality, in which the male is perceived to take on those qualities thought of as female. "

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Old Anxiety

Or Old Ang's Eye, whoever Ang is...of course I used to think that my mother's soap opera started out with "This is my danged carrot...and thes are the 'Days of Our Lives'" - it was McDonald Carrey, if you're curious - the announcer).

Lately there have been a few tidbits of gay news to rant on, but I've been unable to muster anything of interest to say about them. I will briefly mention that I'm most recently ticked off by South Carolina state Senator John Graham Altman, who helped set up South Carolina Public Television (to help educate all areas of the state) is threatening to withdraw funding because it aired a documentary of gays of the South and is therefore promoting a pro-gay agenda with state money. Of course no state money was used to air that documentary, only private donations, but that has not stopped the threat of cutting their funding (so much for caring about education). Altman, who seems fixated on gays, said that "we have to draw a line somewhere when it comes to the definition of education" and, obviously, promoting gays as being ok is too far.

Yes, let's sell only one product in the marketplace of ideas, shall we? Here's an online copy of the story.

In related news, Jesse Helm's granddaughter is reportedly lesbian and partnered, though not out (for fear her grandfather would have nothing to do with her) and a North Carolina Republican district court judge (in a state where the Republican party platform unequivocably states that "homosexuality is not normal"). Hello Mary Cheney redux. Perhaps the former senator might change his views on gays if he found out that his granddaughter was in fact, not the spawn of Satan (the grandspawn of Satan, yes).

But enough with this - it's time for my annual resolutions. For other people. It's more fun and a lot less taxing on me.

Be it resolved that:

#1. The American public and media not fixate on crimes, though sensational, would not have garnered half the attention had it not involved photogenic white middle-class people.

#2. Nobody should give any more attention to Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears. I mean really, people - enough with the slutting of America. Neither is talented and Brittany is only marginally cute. Here is the true moral decline of America - sick Michael Powell on Paris.

#3. George W Bush reinstate Tecumseh's Curse (ok, not really, just a very potent case of Montezuma's Revenge).

#4. Everyone drop the whole red/blue state thing, particularly those people who are obnoxiously smug and self-congratulatory for living in a blue state. I've lived in the South my entire life and frankly I love the South, regardless of its problems and modern proclivity toward hate-spewing Republicans. Furthermore, somebody has to live in the red states and do something to help change the status quo while you sit comfortably numb bitching in your blue womb. Lastly, the past three cities of residence went blue, so whooptie-freaking-do.

#5. Jesus appears on national television to let the religious right know how bad they're fucking this whole Christianity thing up. And to get "Touched by an Angel" off the air forever.

#6. Speaking of which, Jerry Faldwell has really plumped up. Get some lipo, Jerry. You're so fat you make Baby Jesus cry.

#7. You will discover that there is a comic book for you ("graphic novel" is the modern term). You will shed the Pow!Biff! stereotype to realize that whatever your interest: gay life, biography, history, romance, murder mystery, crime fiction, science fiction, westerns, etc. you can find a comic you will enjoy.

#8. The FMA becomes the "Full Marriage Amendment" making it impossible to discriminate against same-sex couple civil marriage.

#9. George W Bush sees the Wizard for a brain.

#10. Americans just get over their hang-ups with queers. Y'all ain't that hot.