Sunday, December 28, 2008

George W. Bush, WPE*: Legacy of Death

Seems like you can’t turn on a radio or TV these days without seeing Bush or his crew working hard on his “legacy”. I’ve watched a few minutes, just to get an idea of how they might be trying to spin history in their favor. Bush has no regrets. Laura and Condi think that he’s done a good job. Cheney lives in his own little world and just seems secretly glad that no one figured out that he was the mastermind.

I’ve been mulling it over for some time now. I started working on my own version of what I think Bush’s legacy should be months ago, long before the election and the signal for change by the American people.

One key feature of the Bush administration over the last eight years has been the interesting use of propaganda and word-smithing to hide the true nature of their policies and agendas. For example, the gutting of existing environmental laws was called “The Clean Air Act” and the gigantic over grab for power by the Executive Branch that weakened Constitutional protections was called “The Patriot Act.”

Randi Rhodes, the goddess of left-wing talk radio, recognized early that whatever the neocons called a bill, it actually did the opposite of what the title suggested.

It occurred to me that Bush’s legacy was fraught with irony on many levels. So much incompetence at management despite his MBA “credential”. Wasn’t this supposed to be the first time we brought business management to the White House?

His laughable promise to “control spending” brought us the largest deficit in the history of the US, despite inheriting a surplus.

He campaigned on bringing the country together. We’ve never been split further apart by a leader.

But the real joke on us all was that George W. was “pro-life” in any sense of the word.

I started thinking about this man, who used the religious right wing of his party, particularly the anti-abortionists, to push himself over the magic majority number to win the office in 2000. Interestingly, despite control over the Executive Branch, the US Supreme Court and majorities in both the House and the Senate, he did not accomplish his promised overturn of Roe V. Wade. Think he forgot? Not likely.

Quite the opposite I think.

How the right wing continues to stick with the Republican Party and how 17% still believe this man has done anything good is beyond me.

I propose therefore that we begin Bush’s legacy with an more honest naming of it, specifically, I propose that we call it Bush’s Legacy of Death.

At some point during the last eight years, I began to wonder exactly how many actual deaths George W. Bush might be responsible for. There is no way of course to determine an exact figure, since many of his policies have had indirect effects or effects that are yet to occur, but will cause death in the near and likely distant future. The best I could do then was to find existing estimates of deaths using reputable websites and news sources.

The data is as follows:

(1) Prior to becoming President, Mr. Bush presided over 152 executions in Texas

(www.nybooks.com/articles/17670)

(2) Despite warnings of an impending terrorist attack using airplanes in the US, 2752 people died as a result of the attacks on 9/11 . (http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Northeast/10/29/wtc.deaths/

(3) Coalition soldiers killed in Iraq: 4488 (US troops: 4185)

(www.iraqbodycount.org)

(4) Iraqi civilian casualties: 87.833

(www.iraqbodycount.org)

(5) Coalition soldiers killed in Afghanistan: 985 (US soliders: 609)

(www.nolanchart.com/article5111.html)

(6) Afghani civilians casualty estimates: 3000-3400

(cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm)

Policy positions leading to deaths include:

(7) US deaths attributable to lack of health care/insurance: 22,000 per year x 8 years= 176,000

(www.pnhp.org/news/2008/january/make_that_22000_uni.php)

(8) Deaths due to poverty in the US: unknown

(www.unh.edu/academic-affairs/discovery/dialogue/2008/pdf/packet_seavey.pdf)

(www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0908-06.htm)

(9) Deaths and suffering from slowed medical research including stem cell development: unknown

(10) Deaths attributable to lowered environmental standards: unknown

(www.motherjones.com/news/qa/2004/10/09_402.html)

(11) Deaths due to deregulation of industry- unknown

(www.impactlab.com/2008/10/08/does-an-economic-downturn-affect-your-health)

(12) Hate Crime deaths over the 8 years of the Bush Administration: 96

(www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/civilrights/hate.htm)

(13) Deaths associated with Hurricane Katrina: 1698

(www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2008/08/28/2008-08-28_nearly_50_of_hurricane_katrinas_louisian.html)

(14) Deaths attributable to growth and expansion of Al Qaeda in the world: unknown

(15) Deaths among US detainees including Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo: 108

(www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/etn/statements/abu-yr-042605.htm)

Total deaths, on Bush’s watch, many of which were directly or indirectly a result of his decisions or lack of attention: 277,112 plus countless unknown.

This is a vast underestimate mind you, and I'm sure you may be able to come up with numbers that I've never even considered, but it does speak to the unspeakable damage this man has heaped upon our nation.

So, just like some people would like to put an asterisk by Barry Bonds’ name in the record books for his suspect behavior around steroids, I propose that right by W’s name, we place the letters WPE, to denote his status as Worst President Ever*.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Prop 8 and Holidays Blues: Two New Interviews


I had the honor of being a guest on two shows yesterday, Gay Men Talking with Alex and Dean, a regular podcast on iTunes and through their website, http://alexanddean.com/ and Queer FM hosted by Heather Kitching on CITR 101.9 FM and available through archive at http://playlist.citr.ca/podcasting/xml/queerfm.xml.

Dean and Alex and I discussed the psychological aftermath of the passage of Prop 8 and a little bit on "Holiday Blues" and what to do about them.

Heather and I continued the theme of what to do about the blues and stress around the holidays.

Both are great shows to download and listen to when you want information and fun.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

An Open Letter to Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard, the disgraced evangelist who was accused of sex and drugging with openly gay-for-pay call boy, Mark Jones, has resurfaced today in the news as the subject of a forthcoming HBO documentary by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's daughter, Alexandra.

I have not yet seen the film, but advance information suggests that while Mr. Haggard continues to live with his wife and children in an attempt to save his family, he says that he has "never claimed to be heterosexual" and has had a "lifelong battle" with his sexuality.

It is with this in mind that I began thinking about how I might reach out to this man if I ever had the chance and I decided to write this blog.

Dear Ted:

With all this press about the new film about you, and the revived attention to your past indiscretions, I imagine that this is quite the holiday for you personally. I understand that after you fell from the grace of your church, your professional life has taken quite the hit as well. Selling insurance is in many ways I guess what you've been doing all along.

We open gays are struggling ourselves at the moment too by the way. As you know, it is difficult to have someone hate you because of something about you that you can't change. But what made it particularly difficult for me growing up was that not only was my family telling me that being gay was bad, the church that I spent so much of my childhood in also followed the traditional script that gay is a choice and therefore condemnation was acceptable. To me, that meant that I was so evil that even God did not love me.

I have to admit that I am not familiar with your teachings about gays before you were "outed". I would bet that you were exposed to the same kinds of homophobia I experienced and were therefore a product of the same indoctrination. My church taught me to hate myself before I even knew who I was. I understand, Ted, what it's like to fear rejection by the people you love and to live every day of your life remembering to hide who you are and to pretend that you're something your not, just to bask in the illusion that things are ok.

In my own adolescent mind, the choice was drawn for me- reject myself or reject my God. As is the case with many fundamentalist religions, there was no "in between", no gray areas about this. You were either straight and good or gay and bad. You pick.

Living a lie was my first choice. Like you, I tried to have it all. I tried to hide who I was from everyone including my parents, my church, my friends and myself. I prayed to God for something different. I begged God to fix me or kill me. And, as you well know, God did neither. Eventually, I could not hide it anymore and I chose to reject my religion and my concept of God. I remember the moment that I said "ok God, since you're not taking this (gayness) away and you're not taking my life, I'm going to go the other way and accept myself as who I am." I remember swallowing hard and wondering if I'd just sealed my fate into hell if the God of the fundamentalists really existed.

But then something started to happen. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I began to feel less anxiety and less fear. I began to meet other people just like me. In my college classes, I began to understand that the world does exist in shades of gray and that no one has a lock on the "truth". My black and white world began to fall apart and I began to think differently. What I once thought was off limits to me, namely a full and fulfilling spiritual life, started to emerge.

Since then Ted, I have to tell you that things have only gotten better. The tortured life I lived (both inside and outside) began to improve. I found people who weren't so concerned about judging me. And I realized that all though myths about homosexuals weren't really true at all.

One might say now, Rev. Haggard, that I have had nothing short of a blessed life since I acknowledged my own inner truth. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that I am a "Christian" in any organized way, I would say that the story of the person who was Jesus Christ inspires me today. As does the Buddha and the Kabbalah and Sufi mysticism.

Today, because I've learned to love myself as I am, I am more inclined to love others. Because I love the man I chose to settle down with, I feel a deep contentment that I never imagined was possible.

Not to say that I don't continue to struggle because I do. Nowadays, I struggle with people who continue to perpetuate the negative myths and the stereotypes about gay people that have long been shown to be false. I struggle with the Rick Warrens of the day and the people who support Prop 8 in California. I get really angry at religious leaders who refuse to seek the truth about this issue and subliminally encourage the lunatic fringe out there to act on homophobic impulses by committing hate crimes. Ignoring the truth intentionally is one of life's true evils I think.

Ted, I am curious about your inner life right now. Perhaps you have made your peace in your own way. Maybe you have been honest with yourself about who you are. Maybe you have found a way to be gay, Christian, a father and married to a woman that works for you. Maybe not.

But my first reaction to the stories about you (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,470038,00.html) were to identify with the awful conflicts that you've had to face. It is a place that I am familiar with.

If no one's said this, I am sorry that you had to go through this. If you are in the beginning process of acknowledging that you are gay, I applaud you and your courage. I encourage you to live your truth and I see an enormous opportunity for you to share your story in ways that will bring healing to other lesbians and gays out there who face the same struggles you've faced. And anything that you might have said disparaging gay people in your ministry is forgiven.

I would not be surprised if you are tired and feeling alone in many ways right now. Many of us have faced similar battles, if not quite so public.

Welcome to the LGBT community. If you need to talk, let me know.



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ella eating an Apple

I know I need to get back to writing on this thing. I have a post already started in draft mode. But, in the meantime, enjoy this little snippet from my life this morning.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w-4Srx6LGQ

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Huckabee vs. Stewart

I stumbled onto a clip of Mike Huckabee, former Republican presidential hopeful and Arkansas governor, as a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (on my friend Walt's blog) and I shuddered.

Mike Huckabee is another one of those right wing, folksy Repubs, who seems likeable and he's smart. He's in the Palin category, but he has tons more charm and actually understands politics and government.

Those types scare me. They put a human face on some very ugly, self-righteous beliefs and he so reminds me of the preachers I grew up with in my face three times a week telling me how things should be.

That's why Jon Stewart's brilliant moves on the show were so interesting to me.

Mike Huckabee suffers a little bit from an overinflated sense of self-importance I think. My observation is that he thinks he can use his wit and his good ol' boy persona to push himself into the spotlight. At some level, you have to wonder if he thinks that making a joke out of something potentially heated or polarizing makes the issue go away. After all, how can you be mad at someone who can laugh at himself?

There in lies the danger.

Jon Stewart however, is also no unfamiliar with using humor to convey a serious point. And he's also not afraid to step right out of his comedy mode to skewer the guests that bring their outrageous values onto his stage and think they'll get away with it. At some level, Mike Huckabee, overconfident in his own wit and smarts, must have thought that appearing on The Daily Show would boost his "coolness" factor, show the world that he's not just a hick from Arkansas, but deserves a place at the national debate table.

And then Jon Stewart pounced. It was a beautiful thing to watch as Jon brought Huckabee to task for his stand on gays and gay marriage. Huckabee had no answers. He had nothing. He sputtered and hemmed and hawed, spewing the same old slock that is not rational, nor articulate. When Huck talked about keeping the "traditional" definition of marriage to "one man and one woman", Jon was there with the fact that the Bible supports polygamy in the Old Testament, thus the definition of marriage HAS changed. No articulate response from the Huckster. Jon then drove home the point that in the spirit of humanity, wouldn't it make sense that two people who love each other be allowed to make a legal commitment to one another. Huck's response: the tired old nonpoint, once you change the definition from one man and one woman, then anybody can get married, reared its ugly head.

Which means that either Huck hasn't really truly thought this thing through, or he's truly confused about right and wrong.

There is no rational or spiritual argument that justifies keeping gays from marrying. And Mike Huckabee, thanks to Jon Stewart, revealed that he's nothing to be concerned about. As long as he tries to twist and rationalize his own self-righteous views about me and my marriage, he'll never be who he wants to be- a great man instead of just a funny man.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Holy Ghost People

Here's a short story I wrote some time ago about the snake handlers of West Virginia:

The Holy Ghost People

by Kimeron Hardin

The best thing about the meeting place had always been the music.  The old Yamaha organ with eight pedals (two of them broken since he could remember) was sounding “Just a Little Talk with Jesus.”  Mrs. Jolly, the organist, had always been there, playing the same songs and wearing the same faded and frayed choir robe.  He always sat in the same pew, in the same spot, every time his momma made him come.

             “He’s such a good boy, always tryin’ to do right and comin’ to church when he can- you know how hard he works since Mr. Jackson was taken from us.”  His momma used to tell the other ladies of the circle meeting how hard he worked, to excuse his many absences from the services.

             Isaiah Jackson was getting more restless than he had remembered in the past.  It had been years since he had been to the Holy Ghost Divine Gospel Church with his mother.

             “Why did I even come tonight?” he thought.  “I never liked to sit here and listen to somebody tell me how bad I was when I was growing up and momma don’t try much to make me come anymore.  Maybe things’ll get better if I go to church…can’t hurt.”  He’d been through a bad string of luck lately and was feeling low.

            Preacher Stamey made his way from the back of the church to the rough wood stand he called a pulpit, holding his guitar under one arm and the jacket to his worn gray suit under the other.  The Reverend was a hefty man with the start of a double chin.  His crew cut was already glistening with sweat and the veins in his nose were bright red.

            Mrs. Jolly cranked up a quick intro to “Take Me Lord” and his momma got whole-heartedly into each of the four verses.  His momma was a true believer and she believed every word she sang. He could tell she loved her church and her faith by the way she stood straight up- tall and proud- and smiled at the preacher as she sang.

            A fervor was building in the crowd, a quiet intensity at first, but then slowly louder and more powerful as the service progressed.  Preacher Stamey started his opening prayer with a burst of the tongues.           

            “Habaarabashanibadoba…PRAISE THE LORD!  Hallelujah!”

The preacher listened for the “Ay-y-mens” and “Hallelujahs” echoing back from throughout the congregation.

            Somehow, Isaiah had never received the gift of tongues.  His Momma said it would come when he got older and grew in his faith.  He watched the bare incandescent light bulbs hanging from their long, thin wires.  The temperature seemed warmer now and he tugged at his collar.

            Testimony time began with Henry Millard telling how God had saved two of his crops from the blight this week.  Sister Sarah, from Beaufort, shared her testimony about how she was near death, and then something about an angel dressed in white nursing her back to health overnight.  Isaiah tried to listen to the speakers, but his concentration was pierced with shouts of “Amen!” and “Yes Lord!”, and the slow buzzing of the people speaking in holy gibberish.

            “Shananaribantahosh…” screamed the young woman behind him, startling him into turning around.

            He had never felt so strange at the meeting place.  The intense heat was making him squirm and he wanted desperately to close his eyes for a few moments to re-organize his thoughts.

            Preacher Stamey coaxed the congregation to their feet and to the front of the tiny sanctuary to kneel at the altar.  Carried away by the “spirit,” a woman (Isaiah couldn’t remember seeing her before) began shaking from head to toe and dancing some exotic steps into the aisles.  It was like seeing a life-sized puppet on a string with no control over her body.  She had a blank look on her face and a piercing stare as her arms and legs whirled faster and faster through the air. 

            “Hallelujah!” shouted the crowd “the Lord’s got her now!”  Squeals of delight and syncopated cries of joy came from everywhere.

            Isaiah felt strangely drawn, almost compelled, to join his mother at the altar. 

            “Am I going crazy? Or is the Lord God really dealing with me?” he wondered.

            “Come….COME!  The Holy Ghost is drawing you to his bosom.  Be saved NOW if you’re guilty! Come on, do it now!” he heard from the pulpit.

            “Hallelujah, Amen!  Praise to God….naahbarabida!  Lord, have mercy!”  People wailed, screamed, hissed and shook on both sides of him.

            “Should I go?” He paused.

            “NO!”

            “But God’s dealing with you Isaiah. “

            “NO!  NO!”  He tried to resist the seductive call from the front, to snap himself back into reality. 

            The room was swaying as he felt himself slip out of his seat and begin o walk slowly and mechanically to the altar.  A quartet started singing in the corner of the room and several more stringless puppets rolled on the floor and jumped around the prayerful.

            Preacher Stamey signaled for the snakes.

            “And the Lord God said, ‘Let my people handles my most despicable creation, the serpent, without fear.’”  He reached into one of the black boxes carried to the front by the deacons and pulled out four hissing and spitting rattlers, two in each hand.  They wriggled and twined around his arm, obviously upset and agitated, but not one of the struck.  The preacher seemed to have control…over the snakes and over Isaiah’s very thoughts.

            “It is the Lord!  Yes Lord, I hear you.  I’ve been bad Lord, REAL bad!”  He flashed back on the turn his life had taken through hard liquor and the gambling and the women.  He thought about the shame he brought on his family and his momma.  He knew it was wrong at the time, but he couldn’t stop himself after he lost his job at the mill and then losing his daddy.  He gave in to the devil and he knew it was time to make things right.  He knew he had hurt his momma bad.

              “Hallelujah!!” Isaiah shouted.

            Just like his momma said, this power…this intoxication…that had entered his mind, MUST be the Holy Ghost.  It was strange, and new…exciting.

            The Reverend passed the snakes around the crowd, throwing them through the air, to be caught and caressed by men, women and children.

            “You must believe!  Have faith!  If it’s God’s will that you die by snakebite, then die you WILL!  God knows all.  Come…PRAY!!  Preacher Stamey walked over to Isaiah and extended a large, shiny rattler. 

            “Here son…do you believe?” he said.

            “Yes, Preacher, YES!  Look momma, I’ve got faith…look!”

            He was immediately carried away by the excitement, the euphoria, like a child discovering something wonderful.  And then suddenly, he felt a sharp quick sting on the back of his left hand.  Within seconds, he realized what had just happened.

            “Oh my God!  I’ve been bitten!”  He jerked back into reality as he flung the snake to the side.

            “What the hell am I doing here? How did I get up to the altar?  Who are these people?  Where’s momma?”  His thoughts began to race and he felt his breath start to quicken.

            He felt a searing pain now, starting to throb its way up his forearm.  His pulse was racing and the room started to blur and clear as he dropped to his knees.

            “SOMEBODY HELP ME… HELP ME!” he screamed.

            All he could hear was “It’s God’s Will” and “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.”

            “God’s Will, God’s Will, God’s Will…” The voice was familiar.

            “MOMMA!...Mo….?”

 

 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Movies That Make Me Cry

Oh man...you'd think by now that I would be desensitized to crying at movies.

Probably the one movie that has made me cry the most even to this day is The Color Purple. Then next would be Sophie's Choice, Schindler's List and Brad's favorite, Terms of Endearment.

I can now add another one to the list:  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

So, to make my list, the movie doesn't have to be a masterpiece- it doesn't really even have to be great.  But it does speak to something in me, and even if one scene turns on the sprinklers, I might consider adding it.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas touched me I think in several ways.  First, it is about the Holocaust, and I'm set up already to be amazed in horror at the brutality and senselessness.  

What is interesting and different though, is that we see the action through the eyes of an 8 year old German boy, who sees the world in a more honest and innocent way than most adults remember.

As he slowly begins to understand what the uniforms and barbed wire really mean, his innocence serves as a kind of wisdom that allows him to cut a swath of truth through the circumstances around him.

Yes, this movie was bordering on schmaltzy.  Yes, I know it was pulling at the heart strings in obvious ways, but putting that aside, there is a perspective here that didn't get lost with me.

The lessons of the Nazi era are still relevant today, if not more so.  

No one is trying to put gays into death camps in the US.

But we are subject to propaganda campaigns and less than equal civil rights.  Some religious leaders rail from the pulpit in ways that sound so similar to the Nazi propaganda in Boy in Pajamas or the whites determined to put poor Sophia down in Purple.

Stories of oppression out of fear and ignorance move me the most.  

See this movie.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Article on LGBT relationships

I was quoted in an article that appeared today on Match.com's website. Check it out at http://www.match.com/magazine/article0.aspx?articleid=9548.

My Week of Gratitude

It's been an effort of mine over most of my adult life to find personal meaning in the various holidays that we celebrate on a national basis in this country.

For most of my childhood, Thanksgiving was first about eating turkey and big meals and lying around watching the Macy's parade and then football on the TV the rest of the day.

Once I got to school, Thanksgiving was more of a history lesson- the Pilgrims and the Native Americans coming together to celebrate the harvest and bounty of the land. Who hasn't made a Pilgrim hat out of cardboard or construction paper or traced around their hand to make a basic, but pleasing turkey image to color and take home to post on the fridge?

Loathe to celebate nowadays in a Hallmark-ian, commercial and rote way, I try most years to focus on the Thanks-giving part of it. Or in another word, I try to spend a little time truly feeling gratitude for the wonderful parts of my life BEFORE someone goes around the table and I'm struck dumb with stage fright and my mind goes blank.

I've learned a lot about gratitude in my clinical practice.

I watch people who have lost almost everything to tragic circumstances still find the grace to express gratitude for the things they still have left. I'm grateful for that because it makes me humble. I have so much even on my worst days.

Gratitude seems to have some healing properties. Oprah knows it because she's always talking about gratitude and even had a guest once who promoted keeping a gratitude journal. The guest's suggestion was to keep a notebook by your bed and before you go to sleep, write down five things you are grateful for, for that day.

I think shifting your perception away from the things that you DON'T have or how things haven't gone the way they "should" have gone, to focusing on the joy you do have, is an amazing process. I watch my own anger dissolve into peace, my frustration melt into quiet joy when I stop and think about how far I've come.

So, here are some things I'm contemplating this week.

(1) During a year when marriage rights were granted and taken away, I married the man of my dreams. And even if the legal "right" was taken away, he will still be in my life and will be there for me forever.

(2) My best friend Rob, who has been in my life for almost 18 years, faced down cancer this year, and won. It was one of those breath-holding times of your life when you really know what matters most and what not to take for granted.

(3) I made a major career move this year, leaving a practice where I had invested so much of myself, to start over in a new venue. At times overwhelming and scary, I've learned so much about myself and what's really important over the past few months. I am thankful for what I am learning about meaning and purpose this year.

(4) As my mother continues to battle with a progressive decline in health, I am grateful that my father is strong enough to make her journey better. His example, of "for better or worse", reminds me of the power of commitment and faith.

(5) This year, my little book on self-esteem, that nobody seemed to want to publish again, was given new life at the last minute through the efforts of a kind and generous agent in Boston, Sorche Fairbank, and found it a new home with Alyson Books. Lately, I've been hearing from readers who have found that it is making a difference for them and that makes a difference for me.

(6) I am so grateful for Ella, who makes me laugh, who makes me walk her, and who tells me when it's time to stop focusing on TV too much and pay attention to her! She's my natural mood "Ella-vator", even when I want to worry about this and that.

(7) Finally, I'm grateful for change in America. I am so hopeful that Obama and company are going to change the path of selfishness and greed that we've been on and will help heal some of the deep wounds left after years of war and neglect.

And I'm thankful for the readers of this blog, who may not even know how much I appreciate it when you say that my words have some meaning for you. Actually, I'm even grateful for the idea of you being out there because it makes me stop and think. I'm grateful for you.

Thanks. And I wish you a bountiful harvest of gratitude this year.



Sunday, November 16, 2008

What Straight People Can Do

I gotta tell you that I feel much better today about Prop 8 than I did on November 5th.

Gay and lesbian people everywhere seem to be energized and I'm terribly proud of the marches and protests that have been a long time coming.

On the other hand, when you step back a little, the fact that Prop 8 passed with so little support, after outright lies by the proponents and millions of dollars coming in from organized religions outside of California, we definitely have the "momentum" as courageous "out" leader, Mark Leno so eloquently stated yesterday in a rally in San Francisco.  Something that seemed so unlikely in my lifetime, and I say that sincerely, is almost here.

It's wonderful to see gay people stand up, fight back and demand to be treated civilly and equally in a country founded on freedom and justice for all.

Yet, real change for gay people will only come when good NON-gay people stand  up and make a difference in their own families, communities and churches.  Voting against Prop 8 is great and a lot of straight people voted against it, not because they were particularly "for" gay rights, but because they were intelligent enough to realize that just because they may not share someone else's lifestyle, this is a democracy and taking away any law-abiding subgroups rights is just plain wrong.

Brad and I are blessed to have many loving straight friends and family members.  They make our lives so much richer and take the edge off the harsh reality of living in a homophobic society at large.  I know that many of them talked to others about their stand on Prop 8 and did their best to make a difference.

To that end, I have a few suggestions for the straight people out there who know that Prop 8 is wrong and aren't quite sure what they can do about it besides attending a rally or holding up a sign.  Here's a few things to think about if you're of the change mind.

First, think about the emotion behind the proponents of Prop 8.  No matter what kind of intellectual, rationalized answer they may give you about "protecting the sanctity of marriage" or "continuing a tradition of one woman, one man in a marriage", remember that ultimately behind their stance is fear- fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of people who are different.

It's the same fear that kept the racists of the 20th century burning crosses and menacing our brothers and sisters of African American heritage.  It's the same fear that kept average German citizens quiet while the Jews were shipped to Auschwitz and that prompted them to put on the Nazi uniform and perform atrocious acts against their better natures. Many racist whites and Nazi Germans weren't evil people by nature, they were driven to do evil things by their own need to belong, to feel strong and to be safe.  It doesn't excuse their behaviors, but it does explain at least some of it.

A gay person trying to talk about this issue to someone who is encased in fear and rigidly holds on to a posture of defensiveness won't have nearly the opportunity to get inside than a non-gay person would have about this issue.  A black person will never  have the same power to denounce racism in a racist society than a white person would have.  It's too easy to dismiss the speaker as self-serving and too easy to close your ears against an impassioned speech in front of a large crowd.

What does work is using every opportunity you have to talk to people who you care about and who care about you about why you think that full civil rights is an American issue and a fairness issue.  You are the Germans of the 1930's and the non-racist whites of the 1960's who had a chance to stop something awful, except this is now and you have the power.

Here is my list of simple things you could do to stay in the fight for rights:

(1) Educate yourself about gay people.  Do you your homework and read the research studies that have shown again and again that gay people are not crazy, nor are they sick and that they make quite excellent parents and contributors to society.  There hasn't been ONE credible study to suggest otherwise despite the myths to the contrary.  Take a look at the American Psychological Association's large overview of research on GLBT parenting studies in 2005 if you want facts, not fiction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_parenting).

If you are a religious person, learn about religious views that do NOT condemn homosexuality and in fact, there are just as many interpretations of the Bible that would condemn homophobia as unholy as would condemn any particular group of people (http://www.soulforce.org/article/homosexuality-bible).

(2) Put a bumper sticker on your car about Prop 8 or Marriage Equality for All. (http://www.zazzle.com/marriage_equality_bumper_sticker_bumpersticker-128388830593675054)

(3) Talk to your clergy person about how you feel about this issue.  Approach them in a nonconfrontational way and let them know that your experience with a gay friend or family member is different from what the religious hierarchy may be teaching.  Let them know that you don't support using the pulpit as a forum for political ideas.  Ask them how they reconcile the teaching of Jesus (if you are a Christian) who was all about love, with church stands that lead to harm.

(4) If you regularly tithe or donate to a religious institution that is openly anti-gay, consider skipping a donation and in its place, putting a note about your reluctance to support speech that contributes to the harassment of gays.  If you can't bring yourself to put your lack of money where your mouth is, attach a note to your hard earned cash stating how you feel about contributions used to support hate speech or to interfere in the American political process.

(5) Join Soulforce, an organization devoted to nonviolent change within mainstream organized religions towards gay people. 

(5) Don't be afraid to say "that's not funny" if someone makes a homophobic remark or joke at work.

(6) Vote for political candidates who have a good record on civil rights for everyone, including gay people (http://www.hrc.org/laws_and_elections/your_elected_officials.asp).

(7) Join the Human Rights Campaign Fund (http://www.hrc.org) or the American Civil Liberties Union (http://www.aclu.org). Both are politically active organizations that support equal rights for everyone.

(8) Donate to the Lambda Legal Defense Fund (http://www.lambdalegal.org) or the National Center for Lesbian Rights (http://www.nclrights.org).  Both organizations joined the lawsuit to challenge Prop 8 after its passage.

All of these involved only a bit of your time.  None of them needs to be aggressive or confrontational.  Do what you can.

Thank you.




Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keith Olberman: Patriot and Hero

This is truly amazing. Please watch it and forward it to everyone you know.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Palin 4 Prez 2012

It's finally sunk in.  The election is over, it was REAL and I was not just dreaming all this.

Obama doesn't disappoint as he is already ahead of the curve with his transition team and plans, much like he ran his superb campaign.

Honestly, think about it.  You can be assured that a candidate will govern like they run their campaign.  Obama showed discipline throughout all the negative attacks.  He showed grace under the most vile circumstances, and he never lost his focus on the prize.

Grumpy McCain however, showed exactly what kind of President he would have been- undisciplined, erratic, impulsive and self-serving.  I mean come on, Sarah Palin was the best he could find?  Let's be real, this woman is the worst of the worst- someone not very smart, who doesn't know she's not very smart but actually thinks she's got what it takes!

I have to pity her.  

She's the Dan Quayle of the 21st Century (sorry Dan- I actually think  you're smarter than Caribou Barbie).  The Kato Kaelin  to McCain's OJ Simpson.  The Vanna White to Pat Sajak.

And knowing the right wing fundies the way I do, they are LOATHE to admit they were wrong when they first hooted and hollered about her at the convention when no one knew her.

Well, boy, do we know her now.  She is ambitious, but not wise.  She's pretty but not poised and she doesn't know when to shut up.

You know, I could actually forgive someone who was gracious about their shortcomings.  If there was one hint of recognition that she was not ready or that she didn't have the capacity to be ready any time soon, I might be able to salvage some respect for her.  But she doesn't.

And just because McCain was able to deliver a speech that someone else wrote for his concession, that made him sound like the person we all thought he was, I'm not buying it.

It's like Joe Lieberman, the turncoat traitor to all Democrats, who suddenly wants to "work" with President-elect Obama.  Where were you three weeks ago Joe?

As far as I can see, Joe, John and Sarah share the same fatal flaw-  they love themselves more than they love their country.

Hey, I think it's a FANTASTIC idea to get Palin pumped up to run for President in 2012!!  I mean, first of all, she'll never be ready, because she doesn't have the intelligence necessary.  The intelligence of a Hilary Clinton or Olympia Snow for example.  

Maybe she could even pick Elizabeth Dole to run as her VP, now THAT's a ticket!

Between the "you betchas" and "you godless whores" from those two, you have to admit that it would be wildly entertaining.  Let's make Sarah the face of the new Republican Party!!! PLEASE!!!

I might even donate.  




Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mixed Emotions

I am so happy still that America made the right choice yesterday to elect Barack Obama. I am also thrilled that my home state of North Carolina was a part of the change process yesterday. Goodbye Jesse Helms and Helms in a dress, Libby Dole. Hello Governor Purdue!!

But sadly, and I didn't realize that it would hit me this hard, Prop 8 passed.

There will be no more gay marriages in California. We are apparently not good enough. We are evil because we have "promiscuis" sex outside of marriage, but we also cannot now be married to the person we love. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. I'm sorry I threaten you. I didn't mean to.

Check out what is happening legally with Prop 8 now through the ACLU at the link above. Support the ACLU, Lambda Legal Defense Fund and the National Center for Lesbian Rights with a donation if you can.

So, what do I do when I am so profoundly hurt by my fellow Americans? I will think of the old fable that I always try to remember when something happens that confuses me.

It goes like this:

Once upon a time, in an ancient land far away, there was an old farmer.

His family farm was small and he ran it with the help of his 18 year old son and their strong work horse.

The horse was the center of the farm, pulling the plow in the field, carrying the farmer and his son to market and hauling away the brush and debris.

One day, the farmer's son accidentally left open the gate to the corrall at the end of the day and the next morning, the horse was gone.

The old farmer's neighbor, in a gesture of sympathy, comes over to commiserate with the wise old farmer. "I'm so sorry for your loss. What a terrible thing to happen!" to which the wise old farmer replies "Who knows what is good or bad?".

The neighbor, surprised by the old man's response persists. "But your horse was the center of everything here!! You can't plow your fields or haul your produce to market!".

Again, the farmer replies "Who knows what is good or bad?"

The next day, when the son got up to tend to his chores, he rubbed his eyes in amazement when he saw that not only had the family horse returned to the corrall, but ten wild horses had followed him home!

The neighbor, quick to celebrate, encouraged the farmer to express his joy over his bounty.

"You are a rich man! What a wonderful thing! It's a miracle!"

To which the wise old farmer replies, "Who knows what is good or bad?".

Again, the neighbor scratches his head, puzzled at the farmer's seeming indifference, and walks home.

Later that day, while the son was trying to tame one of the wild horses, he was thrown from the horse, breaking his leg in two places.

The neighbor, feeling the young man's pain, exhorts the old man to admit that this event was truly awful.

"You son was injured and is suffering needlessly!"

"Who knows what is good or bad" he replies.

Frustrated, the neighbor leaves, feeling bad about the son and worse about the father.

The next morning, the farmer and his son are greeted by a sharp knock on the door.

They are greeted by a military leader, looking for young men to take to war. He cannot take the farmer's son because of his injury.

The moral of the story?

WHO KNOWS WHAT IS GOOD OR BAD?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

McCain, Palin Lieberman say goodbye to careers

I have never been more excited than when President-elect Obama took the stage to address his supporters. It was a moment of awe and inspiration for me. I never thought that in my lifetime, I would see the white elitist, neocon movement put in its place, among the diseased and dying of this country.

I am SO glad to be saying goodbye to Bush/Cheney/Rove. Good riddance. Get out of here!!

Time for bed, McCain/Palin/Lieberman! Your time is done and your moments in the spotlight are over. Time to give back the wardrobe and for Tina Fey to focus on 30 Rock. You can keep us safe from Russia by guarding your post with a gun in Alaska, Sarah.

Time to end this war in Iraq and to buildup our middle class again.

Time to provide healthcare for everyone in this country.

Time to rejoice that the Supreme Court will have a chance for reason and fairness again.

I will sleep better tonight, even as Prop 8, that ugly piece of anti-American trash initiative leads with 12% of the vote counted.

Go to bed and dream of a better America and a chance for all of us to succeed.
UPDATE: Ok, so Lieberman remains in power after Obama turned the other cheek and let him stay in the Demo caucus. But he's been warned at least. And I'm learning from Obama to stop thinking in the old way of "Win/Lose" when it comes to politics.
At least Palin continues to "OPEN MOUTH...INSERT FOOT" on a regular national TV basis!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Election eve eve jitters and Prop 8

Well, we're down to less than 48 hours before election day.  The polls are crazy, as are the pundits.  McCain has "momentum" here and Obama has it there.  People seem to be darned anxious in the Obama camp.   I like to call it "PESD" or Post-Election Stress Disorder from the last two elections that the idiot Bush was able to steal.  Why wouldn't we be nervous with all the spin from the McCain camp, the past horrible eight years and SARAH PALIN potentially a heart-beat away??

Given the craziness of the general election though, I'm even more nervous about Prop 8 in California.  I just don't want to believe that there are people so threatened by me that they would vote to take away civil rights.

The truth is however, and I'm saying this to any right wingers that happened to drift to this blog (if any), your vote on Tuesday will not make ONE difference in my relationship with Brad. I will love him the same no matter the title you allow us to have and no matter the legal benefits you take away.  Our relationship is not based on your consent, nor your approval.  

We will continue to live together in our home and we will continue to be your neighbor.  We will continue to be responsible adults and will continue to pay more than our share of income taxes, which will go to improve your children's schools and the roads that you drive on to go to work.  

Brad will continue to go to St. Charles Church despite the shameful position the Catholic hierarchy took on this issue.  He will continue to help people who are dying, regardless of whether they voted for this proposition or not.  I will continue to help people who are suicidal because they live in severe chronic pain no matter what slur they've ever said about gay people, and some of them will never know that their psychologist is queer.

If this passes and you take away our legal right to marriage, we will watch you enjoy the benefits of your marriage and will likely say nothing to make you feel embarrassed or self-conscious because of the inequity.  We will watch you abuse the institution by cheating and separating and divorcing but we will not wish for you the same kind of second-class status that you wish for us.  

We will still be Americans because we were born here and we will act like full citizens, even if we do not have the full rights of a heterosexual immigrant who chooses to become naturalized.

Would McCain offer me an extra tax break to compensate for my lack of full civil rights in this country?




Friday, October 31, 2008

Hate Crimes on the Rise

On Page A4 of the SF Chronicle on 10/28/08 in the Digest section, the article screams "Hate Crimes Against Gays, Lesbians Rise". Here it is:

WASHINGTON- Hate crime incidents decreased slightly last year, despite a surge in crimes targeting gays and lesbians.
The FBI reported more than 7,600 hate crimes incidents in 2007, down about 1 percent from the previous year. The decline was driven by decreases in the two largest categories of hate crimes- crimes against race and religion. But prejudice against sexual orientation, the third-largest category, increased about 6 percent, the report found.

I'm really glad that racial and religious hate crimes are down. It's about time.

But I have to ask myself why crimes against LGBTQ are up? Is there something going on that might stir up public contempt? Particularly in the less stable, impulsive, violent, antisocial types out there?

Ok, Palin wasn't around when these incidents were occurring, so I can't blame her. But Palin types have been around forever. The "I oppose gay marriage" but love the gays mentality.

Remember when "love the sinner, hate the sin" was big? One big ol' justification for continuing your homophobia, your bigotry and your discriminatory beliefs.

I've always felt that politicians, religious leaders and other people in positions of authority who use their power to whip up divisive attitudes, were also responsible for the loonies out there who use the words of the President, or the Pope, or the Fox news commentator, to justify in that split second, the use of violence and oppression to solve their own emotional problems.

Un-American sentiments, expressed recently by the "Yes on 8" people in California, are wrong. If you are "Yes on 8", you bear the blood of every person in those numbers who was harmed or killed by a fringe nut empowered by your beliefs. Deal with it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Diva

I can't take it anymore.

Every tarted up appearance, every faked "Joe the Plummer" inflection, every attack on Obama's character...has baited me into yet another blog about the bee-yatch from Alaska.

I've written about how the right wing mob is so easily susceptible to idol worship before. I'm going to write a "So you want to go into politics" how-to blog soon where I discuss the basic things you need to do to run a campaign in the US. Beginning with saying the words "I love Jesus" and ending with something about "family values". This strategy is guaranteed to work, no matter your true ethical standards, behaviors or beliefs. Just say the words "gays are inferior to us all" or "abortion is murder" and you are virtually guaranteed to lock up the fundamentalist base. They don't think. They invest their full faith in you no matter how corrupt, narcissistic or phony you really are. It's part of the training.

But Sarah Palin really takes the cake.

Ok, she's so "pro-family" right? Can somebody explain to me how any mother could abandon her "special needs" child during the first year of life, particularly when we all know that later bonds are established during these first few months and perhaps even more so with a child who needs extra love and support? What does this say about this woman's true beliefs? She flew on a long flight after her water broke, during a time in her pregnancy that most physicians would caution against flying.

Now, normally, I say let's not bring the candidate's children into our discussions. BUT, in this case, this is a woman who regularly brings her judgment to what other families should look like. She injects her own purported religious belief system into the political dialogue, obviously attempting to win points with the voters, regardless of whose civil rights are affected or which hate groups she stirs up.

So, a woman who believes in family values, who has a baby with Down's syndrome and a pregnant teen daughter, who are likely in great need for a close bond with their mother at important times in their lives, chooses to forego her role as mother to run for national political office.

So I'm thinking if she REALLY believes in family values first, wouldn't you think that she'd want to be there for both her children with high needs at the moment? And also, if she were self-aware, wouldn't you think she'd say to herself "I am a rising star in this party, but I'm not quite ready for national office, maybe given my family situation at the moment, I'd better pass on McCain's offer"?

To me, her personal choices speak volumes. This woman uses her religion affiliations to further her political ambitions. She chooses to use hateful, divisive attack speech on the stump to further her career rather than bringing the values of a real mother to the campaign. Perhaps that's why she's not convinced the majority of women that she's the right choice for them. Something about her doesn't ring true. She's a true diva, concerned with only herself, her appearance and her career.

She's the epitomy of hypocrisy.


From Jay Leno: "According to a recent poll, 61 percent of people surveyed said that they'd rather see Sarah Palin in a bikini than Pamela Anderson. Although 99 percent said they'd rather see Pamela Anderson as vice president."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

You won't believe it!!

This has got to be one of the funniest videos about the campaign I've seen.  An Obama-McCain DANCE off!!!

http://www.minimovie.com/film-128460-McCain-Obama%20Dance-Off

Friday, October 24, 2008

Opie and Richie go for Obama!!

Ron Howard shows his support for Barack...in an amazingly funny way.

http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/cc65ed650d

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Christian Shame

Here in California, we're fighting for basic civil rights.

Yep, some people out here think that it's not only the right thing to do to stop gays from marrying, but it's the Christian thing to do.

Ok, I get that religious fanatics are threatened to the core by social acceptance of me and my husband.  I get that their rabid homophobia is irrational, emotional and reeks of their own disturbed and fragile sexual identities.

What I don't get is:

(a) how come as an adult, tax paying, professional, responsible, peaceful person in the United States of America, my full civil rights to marry the person I choose is up for a simple majority vote?  Huh?  Liberty and justice for all?  What kind of crap is this?  Why don't I get to vote on which straight people get to marry?  I'd have definitely stopped George the first and Barbara from tying the knot and probably would've stepped in between whoever Karl Rove's parents were.

and

(b) how the Catholic Church (and other right wing religious groups) continues to get away with blatant political activity without losing its tax-exempt status.  I mean, isn't one of the reasons that churches don't have to pay taxes is that they promise not to pursue a political agenda from the pulpit?  If they truly believe in the virtue of honesty, wouldn't you think that they would relinquish that status so that they could pursue their political activity with integrity? Ok, so back to the Christian thing. 

It's one thing to fight for tradition.  Tradition can be a great thing, a comforting thing.  Like canning peaches from  your own tree or following in the family business footsteps.

But to blatantly ignore everything modern science and culture has to say about homosexuality in favor of antiquated and twisted logic and beliefs blows my mind.  Have we learned nothing from our history of exploiting and oppressing other minorities?

Let's just say, for argument, that homosexuals DO choose their lifestyles (which they don't). Isn't this a free country?  So it makes Father Pedophile uncomfortable to have to look at a proud and out gay man who makes no apologies- does this give him the right to make church policy?  What does give him the right to sit in judgment of me and the people I choose to love?

One day, the church WILL apologize for how they are behaving now.  Just like they had to apologize for their role in the Holocaust and for their treatment of priest abuse victims who were ignored for years, the church will eventually have to admit that their 21st century treatment of gay people was wrong and harmful.

Politicians who use my civil rights as a "wedge" issue to divide voters will be remembered one day just like the racists of the the past who felt so comfortable in their "rightness" about separation of the races, they promoted their support for oppression of minorities in campaign ads.  Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond's political records will forever be tainted with their reputation as racist bigots, doomed to the tiniest of footnotes if at all.  

I'm no angel.  I make mistakes.

But I do try to live up to some standards.  I learned a lot about Christianity from the inside, growing up in my fundamentalist family.  I learned for example, that judgment of others is reserved only for God.  That means that when I want to get really angry at someone, particularly someone I don't really know,  I try to keep myself from going too far with that snap assessment I just made.  Just because I might not agree with someone, like John McCain or Sarah Palin, for example, it doesn't mean that I want to take away their rights or assume that my way is the only way.  I also suffer when I am not being sincere or genuine.  Something inside me screams "you're a fake! you're a fake!" and I have to eventually stop the charade.  It's like that virtue thing again- not lying.  I take that very seriously.

The stories of a peaceful, loving Jesus were the most moving and memorable to me from those times.  Amidst all the hell fire and brimstone sermons, there were these pearls of beauty. Stories of Jesus healing and inspiring and accepting.  Jesus hung out with prostitutes and thieves and challenged anyone to cast the first stone.

My problem is that the Christian church seems to have veered way off that path.  The church is a place to go to validate  your prejudices, to feel "ok" about your judging and to hear little sermons that justify your fear of strangers and your self-righteous take on life.

It's hard to try to live up to those standards I learned about as a child in Sunday School.  It's particularly hard to continue to show compassion and peace and to love my neighbor when they put up "Yes on 8" signs in their yards.  

Yet, I will continue to try to turn the other cheek and to show love to them even when they show so little love to me.  If they come to me for advice, I will give it.  If they come for food, I'll feed them.

Being a real Christian must be hard.

And lonely.

What a shame.












Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Firenze to Venice

Florence had a different pace. The hotel Albani was much better than the Ludovisi in Rome. The room was bigger and much more comfortable and the hotel had a gym! Believe it or not Brad and I both worked out yesterday! Combination of lots os pasta,pizza and gelato plus guilt I guess.

Florence felt more like a real working city and less of a tourist trap than Rome. Loved the quick tour of the Uffizzi Gallery but not really enough time to enjoy the Michaelangelio's or Leonardo works.

The David was breathtaking. Photos could not do it justice. I remember as a teen becoming facisnated with this period in history and been blown away by the attention to detail and perfect proportion of the forms arising from a block of white marble.

The sense of delicacy and life emerging from the masterpiece were almost too much. A metaphor for me perhaps of a life carved out of the stoney place I grew up. Not enough time to take it all in. Pictures are only shadows.

Michaelangelio's vision that the work was trapped already inside the block of stone and needed to be freed of the extra marble around it sounds familiar. Makes me want to continue chipping away at the unnecessary chunks of life that get in the way.Peeling away the nonessential and hanging on to the present.

On to Venice.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ciao bella!

I'm on a bus on the way to Pisa this morning. The guide says the famous tower doesn't lean as much now. There goes the hope that I will be the one who gets to scream "Look out!" as it finally topples over after centuries of.slowly struggling with gravity.

We spent four fantastic days in Rome doing everything touristy you can imagine. This was the trip to touch the Coloseum,gaze at the Forum and look for the hammer marks on the Pieta left by a mad man.

Yesterday's drive through the Tuscan countryside was spectacular as was our favorite stop at the perfectly preserved midievil town of San Gimignano with the seven towers on top of a hill.

I'm starting to feel the energy here. There's an appreciation for history for style and for the here and now.

I can't describe really the feeling when you listen to stories about a simple stone structure built THOUSANDS of years before the US even existed. I feel so silly!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Brilliant!!

Check out Tina Fey's brilliant take on Sarah Palin's VP Debate performance!
http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/vp-debate-open-palin-biden/727421/

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Italy on my mind

Brad and I are heading to Rome in three days.

It's the first time for both of us in Europe so we're totally excited. I think we've both been on buying sprees for everything from new jeans to new boxer briefs to even a new fabulous Tumi upright. What does the sophisticated American wear in October in Italy?

Thank goodness, we live in an Italian ancestry-heavy part of California. Just this evening, we hit a hip birthday/housewarming party at Dana and Dan's house- pretty much Little Italy of the Peninsula. Everyone there, at least on Dana's side of the family had their own lovely story of the wonders we're about to enjoy. Multiple generations of Italian mothers and daughters with at least one father and son. A good time was had by all.

Brad is half Italian and half Irish while I'm pretty much Irish and mutt. Brad's mother was a DiBennedetti.

We didn't really have too many Italians in Forest City when I was growing up. We only had the movies and TV to tell us what Italian-Americans were like- not always flattering. I imagined that they all had Bronx accents and ate only pasta with red wine.

My experiences here in California have given me a broader perspective. Here are my observations:

Italian Americans are fun. They love to laugh. They love to cry (especially Erin when she's had a few cocktails...LOL). The love to argue and they love to make up.

The men are good at conversation. The women are strong, beautiful and funny (e.g. Dana, Marilyn and Erin). They all have opinions, and will defend them to the death, but they respect your right to defend yours to the death.

They have great skin, which makes them look younger than they really are. Or maybe they look younger because they act young and know how to laugh.

You can feel the passion about Italy. You can sense that there's a pride in identifying with a culture that is so rich and has contributed so much to the world in terms of art, style, and amore.

It's really exciting to think about visiting the place that brought us fine wine, great food, sleek fashion and Italian Americans.

If it's half as wonderful as was described tonight, I may not want to come home.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Winning by not F**king up

How do they do it? The king makers, I mean.

W never met a debate he won. I mean, let's be real- the man is an idiot! If substance and stature were the criteria for which we judge debates, there wouldn't be a Republican winner in decades.

When did the bar get set so low though that just showing up qualifies in the spin machine as a "win"?

Ok, granted, Sarah (or Caribou Barbie as Stephanie Miller puts it) didn't faint or scream "fuck you Obama!!" or stammer awkwardly into the camera like Cindy Brady on the school quiz show, but come on!! She didn't answer half the questions, choosing instead to insert the five or six talking points that she's finally managed to memorize extolling the greatness of her "maverick" John McCain.

She did not look presidential or vice presidential.
She didn't reveal substance or a command of the issues.

Was she sympathetic? No, but I did pity her for exposing the fact that she doesn't know that she's not qualified.

She comes across as someone with a mighty high opinion of herself. No, I've never studied the Constitution, and no, I don't actually know what the Constitution says about the office of the vice president, but gosh darn, I believe in myself!! One too many pageants if you ask me.

The only really interesting point in the debate was her answer about gay marriage.

So she made it clear that she does not support same sex marriage, but in a sly but brilliant move, Biden nudged her into a corner when he commented that what he thought he heard her say was that she supported full equal rights for gay couples. She flustered her response, essentially agreeing that they both didn't support MARRIAGE for gays, but supported full equal rights.

Although overlooked in the post-debate chatter I watched, I wondered in the moment what her right wing, strongly anti-gay supporters might be thinking. After all, her appeal for McCain was her appeal to the base. The base is not "tolerant" of gays (her word), they want to see us disappear.

By acknowledging that she has gay friends and that she agrees that full civil rights are in order, she flies in the face of James Dobson, who wants us "cured" and homophobes everywhere who want to encode discrimination into law. What will they say tomorrow I wonder- that her remarks were a mistake?

And if she really does feel that way, does that mean she's not the monster I've been imagining? Is she just a poor, misguided pawn of the McCain/Rove/Bush political machine whose perhaps promising career will be destroyed in a matter of weeks?

Ok, I started out hating her and everything she stands for. But now, I actually do feel sorry for her. She's trying her hardest. Someone told her that she was ready before her time.

When they lose in a few weeks, McCain goes back to the Senate where he will face the colleagues that he has thrown to the wolves. The "maverick" will be a joke.

Sarah Palin will go back to Alaska. And Tina Fey will go back to 30 Rock.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The 19%

Bush's approval ratings are below 20% now. Like watching a fish out of water slowly gasping for oxygen, this worst of the worst administrations is finally making a not-so-glamorous exit.

Yet, incredibly, 19% of Americans polled still approve of this President, who got us into debt, war and economic crisis. Yeah yeah, I know you can't blame everything on him, but if you applied the same standards of a corporate CEO to the Presidency, one would say that the buck stops there. You'd think there would be a least a few substantial accomplishments that supporters could point out to support their support. "Spreading democracy" or "protecting us from terrorism" just don't cut it as accomplishments to me, especially with no specifics to back it up.

So, I find myself wondering about these 19% of die hards. What motivates them? How could they be so blind to the facts? Are they in denial? or just sadistic and cruel? Uninformed or with "issues" from childhood?

I used to be a die hard Democrat, voting party line above all else. I understand the process of identification with a party or a group so strongly that I feel accepted and a part of a whole.

Growing up gay in the South left me feeling so different, so isolated and so lonely in my formative years, I spent much of my twenties searching for a sense of belonging. It felt so good to walk into my first Carolina Gay Association meeting as a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill. Although it was a patchwork group of people, mostly leftover hippies, cultural bohemians and grad students in their 30's and 40's, I finally felt like I could be myself with these people even if I was 19, a redneck and a bit naive about the world still.

Going to my first gay bar, the Capital Corral (or CC's) in Raleigh (http://www.cc-raleigh.com/), was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. It still ranks up there in terms of life changing moments when I entered a room full of men who loved men. Watching men dancing together, holding hands and even sneaking kisses held for me an awakening of a spirit of community. I remember being so nervous and excited, I was shocked and awed that such a place existed.

My new found community carried both fascination and excitement. I wanted to go back over and over again. I wanted to experience that excitement and that freedom as much as possible. I could hardly concentrate on my classes or my homework, I just wanted more of that experience.

Everytime I went, I focused on what people were wearing, how they acted, what they talked about and learning the "gay" code language. Back then, it was all about "Mary" and switching pronouns, and "friend of Dorothy". I wanted to belong so badly, I adopted almost every mannerism I could find. I had been rejected by my fundamentalist family and church so I just couldn't risk rejection by my newfound friends. I was at CC's or the other club in Durham two, sometimes three nights a week dancing until dawn and hanging out with my new friends.

Reality hit me at the end of my freshman year. For the first time in my life, I failed a course at UNC and barely passed most of the rest. With a 1.4 GPA at the end of the year, I was staring at academic probation and the possibility of having to go back to my hometown and live with the parents. NOTHING could have been more frightening. After screaming out of the closet, I couldn't imagine sealing back up the suppression that it took to survive my gay teen years in that little town. I had to buckle down. I had to pull back a bit and learn to find some balance. I allowed myself to continue my social learning experiments, but I made myself study and I never looked back. It took me the rest of my college career to overcome that first year deficit and it created a somewhat more difficult and circuitous path to my career now as a psychologist. I entered my Master's program on probation, not because of my more than adequate GRE score, but because of my GPA. Although I started weak, I finished strong thank goodness.

So, I get the notion of holding on to what you have no matter what. I understand the desire to belong to a group that symbolizes the "right way" for you. I sympathize with the inner need to ignore the evidence to the contrary, to fiercely protect an alliance that fuels a sense of personal power and to suffer the consequences of that membership.

I just hope that the 19% who continue to believe that George W. Bush is on the right path don't have to fall too far. And I certainly hope that at some point, they can see the real truth of his disasterous Presidency so that we can make real change in the country. Hanging on to something beyond it's time has consequences.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Caitlin vs. Palin: You Decide

"We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state."

"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and uh, I believe that our, I, education like such as uh, South Africa, and uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uhhh, our education over here in the US should help the US, uh, should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for us.”




One of the above statements was made by the third runner up to the Junior Miss USA. during the interview phase.

And one of these statements was made by the first runner up to Miss Alaska during her recent interview with Katie Couric.

Can you tell which one has more foreign policy experience?

I didn't think so.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday 49er's game


Brad's family have been fans of the San Francisco 49ers for years and years. They buy a block of season tickets every year, Brad, his mom, his sister Cath, and his brother Steve. So, chances are, one of those tickets will be available every once in a while. Today, his sister and mom are in Maui so we got to invite a couple of friends, Kevin and Randy with us.

We met Randy and Kevin while training for the 2007 AIDS Life Cycle. They are both great people, down to earth and low drama (well, there was that time on the ride.....).

It was a beautiful day and SF kicked Detroit's butt on the field.

I like going to the games even though I'm not really a big fan of football. It's an opportunity to see a wide variety of other types of people in the Bay Area. I've always loved watching people.

Growing up in NC, in a small town, we didn't have much diversity. At the last look, I believe the makeup was something like 88% white, 8% African American, and the rest was "other". It felt so boring to me because I wanted to know more about other cultures, more about the world out there.

When I was in the fourth grade, Ms. Vassey's class, we had just been "integrated" in Rutherford County. Instead of separate schools for blacks and whites, after the third grade, we switched from Forest City Elementary School to Dunbar Elementary, which had formerly been all black.

I didn't really understand much about going to Dunbar for the fourth grade. It just seemed kinda exciting to start a new school. I had heard that it was the "black" school, but that just made me more excited since even though I was born and raised in the South, somehow I missed heavy doses of racism. I know it was there, and all around me, but I just didn't have much direct experience with black people or with their experiences living in a little racist town.

I also remember, a special day, a couple of weeks after school had started. Despite the fact that I was now attending the former black middle school, my teacher was white and all the students in my class were white.

Until Gary started. Gary started the school year late, so he was introduced by the teacher to the whole class at once. Gary was the first caramel-color person I'd ever seen. And he was beautiful. I hadn't even begun to deal with my own sexuality at that point in time, but I knew that there was something intriguing about Gary. I was fascinated by him. I introduced myself right away and tried myself to make him feel welcome and comfortable.

During recess, my heart started racing when he agreed to be my sack race partner. We had to hold hands as we laughed and hopped and fell. I don't know what Gary might have been feeling, but I'd have to say looking back, he was my very first crush. After those first few weeks, Gary made other friends and what I had hoped would be a special friendship turned into just another friend in the class.

I have to give my parents credit. Despite the virulently racist attitudes of many of their friends, family and neighbors, they did not raise me in an overtly racist way. We were taught never to use the "N" word and to be generally respectful of people who are different. Of course, that didn't mean that you should MARRY them- which of course makes any forbidden group or person all that much more attractive.

Racism was much more overt when I lived in southern Mississippi. I did hear the "N" word more often, and there was still a lingering historical sentimentality for the "war". I later realized that the war they waxed passionately about was the Civil War. In North Carolina, much of the local historical identity revolves around the Revolutionary War, and being one of the thirteen original colonies. There was a pride inherent in standing up to the British and King's Mountain, a little town close to my own hometown was the site of a grave of a supposedly heinous British soldier who attempted to declare the countryside for the British crown. Today, visitors heap rocks upon rocks on the supposed grave of this anti-American symbol.

I still remember though from the first social gathering I attended in Hattiesburg, the casual reference to the Civil "wo-er" with a sense of dreamy romanticism. I curiously listened as they described a time in their family (but not necessarily personal) history when they had money and land, and power. And, oh yeah, slaves.

The white, middle class gay men at this party didn't project a sense of hatred of blacks or even a direct wish to return to the days of ownership of other people. What they conveyed though was a sense of lost fantasy- a beautiful dream of status, of velvet and bone china. It was as though thinking about having come from wealth eased the fact that they had anything but it today.

Not to say I didn't see the effects of lingering xenophobia, including vague suspicions of anyone with skin that included pigment. When I walked into the student union on the campus of USM in 1986, it was like two parallels universes- a white world superimposed onto a picture of a black one (or visa versa). It was curious to me why they didn't mix. I couldn't even find the intersection.

In the fourth grade, with a crush on the only boy of color in the class, I started to understand that somehow the color of our skin made us different in some way. Different to me was good then. Different meant being able to have a conversation about things that weren't already known to me. Everyone I was raised with was the same. We all went to the same church, the same kindergarten, the same Tri-City Mall. We were brainwashed with the same catechism and the same perspective. Other white people were boring. And I just faded into the background of the same white-washed fence.

California has its problems, but the thing I love the most about this big state is the chance to know other cultures. The endless opportunity to listen and learn about the way other people think is such a privilege still. Everytime I hear another story about a completely different background and belief system that is different from the one in which I was raised, I feel deeply satisfied. I think it's because it frees me from the heavy, repressive thinking from the fundamentalists I was raised by. There are SO many other ways of thinking in our melting pot. It's a good thing. Go 49er's!