Saturday, November 29, 2008

Way too early in the morning

Groggy thoughts having awoken way too early again ... 4 o'clock. I just give up now, make the coffee, crawl back under the covers with my warm MacBook on my lap and a rather large sleeping dog snorting occasionally in mild protest, and read the AP news flashes on Salon.

So ...

Curious how ludicrously low oil prices may have a green impact. Saudi Arabia is complaining that $54 per barrel is insufficient to guarantee new development efforts, and therefore supply might be inadequate sooner rather than later. Huzzah, I say. And, Iran and Venezuela could suffer political harm from the inability to deliver on fiscal promises made based on high oil prices. It is rational to have zero sympathy with the Iran regime, and it is unlikely that the bloodthirsty mullahs will be garbage-heaped without significant dislocation ... i.e., a revolution that does not seem to be in the offing. But something has to be a trigger.

As for Venezuela, the Chavez act is wearing thin for progressives who have largely held their breath about the man and the plan. The only thing that keeps him around, it seems, is that the right wing has been and again would be so much worse.

I have to confess that I am not entirely sure what the issues are in the Thai disturbances ... I haven't done the homework, alas ... but as usual I suspect that this is a disjunct between urban society yearning for something it cannot define or fashion and that special rural idiocy that loves a strong man who hands out gift baskets. Again ... pure speculation. That said, the country seems to be begging for a military coup in an era when those things are so passe.

Mumbai ... christ, it's Bombay in English. My cranky side cannot abide all this feel-good refashioning of perfectly good English place names. We don't say Moskva or Praha or al-Qahira. But we still know where Moscow and Prague and Cairo are, and we still feel awfully good about it. Why does it have to be Mumbai?

But that is hardly the issue now. I don't have much to add to the horror at these events that is sweeping the world. But not for one second should we forget that this is born of religion, and religion is the root of all evil.

Nice piece on Barack's independence in Salon. FDR was a benign despot, and we may benefit from one now. Reagan was not benign, but he was also not a despot. He was a cypher whose emptiness along with the scowl and the knowing laugh allowed a cabal of ideologues and kleptocrats to seize the country and drive it ruin. Like the author if the piece linked above, I hope Obama takes this unique opportunity to seize the country by the scruff of its neck and shake some sense into it.

What sort of place is it whose citizens step over a crushed body to get to cheap Chinese goods at Walmart? We are repulsed by it ... and we don't have a better idea, leastwise as a society. Daddy Obama, will you deliver both the spanking and the pudding? That's what we are hoping for.

This is not an elegant post ... but it has nothing to do with gay marriage, and so I have delivered on the promise of the last post ... unless this paragraph itself is about gay marriage.

Postscript: must-read piece by Michael Lewis of Liar's Poker fame.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rainy Day


Sitting in Coho, a cafe on the campus of MRU (the Major Research University where I earn my wages) waiting for my fellow traveler RL to be released from his wage slavery, as it were. My office got off at noon. It is a lovely rainy day, which is something that always makes me happy.

I realize that the last few weeks I have turned this blog into all gay marriage, all the time. Never my intention. I blog in order to make into flesh, as it were, the ceaseless inner ramblings of my more-eclectic-than-is-healthy mind. But one does get hung up every now and then, and the victory of the religious bigots really got under my skin. I am not alone in that, for certain.

The photo says it all. I took it at the Sacramento demonstration in front of the state capitol building last Saturday (November 22). We have become comfortable in the "repressive tolerance" of a society that tolerates the hate mongers and smiled benignly at us. The most gratifying part of the protests and the revulsion over the election has been the anger of our straight friends. They're sick of it too.

That said, and on another note, the Sacramento trip was fun. RL who is my roommate went as did our friends TG and MM who are lovers. MM is a student at Davis, so we swung by and picked him up. Once at the demo, I split off from them almost immediately and spent the afternoon shooting photos the presentable of which are on my Flickr site. Since I bought the Lumix DMC-FZ50, I've had a lot of fun with candid people shots ... I've worked on sliding through crowds, picking out lines of sight, and doing quick snaps while the victim ... I mean the subject is still unaware. My old friend Tom Burdick, dead from AIDS these 15 years, was an expert at that. (Tom willed his photos to me but they never showed up; I think the parental units thought better of distributing stuff to fags. Tom asked me to do something with them; he was never specific about that. I think he just wanted to be remembered. I remember you, Tom.)

There was a rather tiny counter-demonstration. Perhaps a dozen folks with very large and obviously professionally produced and graphically coordinated signs. One sign said "Gay Fascists Trashed My Truck" ... the sign was 6 feet by 4 feet. I wonder how he knew it was gay fascists ... maybe it was enviro fascists ... or perhaps it was gawd teaching him a lesson for polluting.

Another sign, roughly 4 feet by 6 feet, said "A Moral Wrong is not a Civil Right". It was propped up by a young somber woman dressed like a Mormon polygamy-practicer. Of course, this goes to the heart of the matter. They think we are immoral, and they think that private opinions of morality should influence public policy. I have watched the evolution of homophobic discourse for the 36 years that I have been out of the closet. They started with plain hatred ... some have not moved far from that. They morphed into protecting children, and then into opposition to special rights for homos. Now they are just trying to protect marriage.

All of that is bunkus. They just want to deny us legitimacy; they want to drive us back to the silence they kept us in for a millennium. It has always been about civil rights, and it still is.

So notwithstanding that I still owe Katy a post on homophobia and Halloween, I am going to try to post on something other than gay politics first. Just to keep this thing eclectic.

BTW, have just started re-reading John Boswell's Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. It is must-read stuff. His terrible death at 47 ... the same age as our new president ... deprived gay people of the best scholar on our history that we have ever had. One wonders whether we wouldn't be better served if all the folderol in current gay studies programs about multiculturalism and the endless rewrites of 70s history gave way to solid scholarship like Boswell's. If you haven't read the book, you should.

Photos by Arod at the anti-H8 demo in Sacramento, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Heading to Sacramento

So, despite a temporary fading of will, I am heading to Sacramento tomorrow with RL, MM, and TG in my little 86 Honda Civic which I call "Red" ... you can guess why. I got a little doubtful about this demo because it seemed under-advertised and a little too much of a product of the organizations behind it. But, frankly, the long look of my best friend RL when I trotted out some lame excuses about not going were sufficient to wash away my doubts.

So the old activist suddenly finds himself at 2 demonstrations in two weeks ... three in three weeks if I count the one I briefly attended at MRU.

So as I prepare myself with drink, relaxation, and a Warriors game, a couple of telling articles in the recent press. But first, a basketball note ... I believe that there is vastly too much defense in the NBA, so when a game has both teams over 100 points with 2 minutes to go ... that's a good game. And this is a good game, even if I would be hard pressed to name more then 5 players involved.

Damn the black preachers of hate, but kudos to their compatriots who stand strong for freedom: Whodda thunk that Amos Brown would be such a friend? But he has stood tall and opposed the bigoted black preachers. His speech last Saturday was thrilling, and I have rad somewhere that he will speak again tomorrow. But this article in today's SF Chronicle shows the price his "brothers" will make him play. They are organizing a boycott of an NAACP dinner because of his opposition to their bigotry. Scandalous. Have they no shame? I know that I am more than a little enraged ... but there is no excuse for this, and there is no excuse for the degree to which progressives and national black politicos have let these vicious hatemongers get away with it.

Amos Brown is a man of integrity. Who among the black preachers of hate can make the same claim?

Double standard number one: Check out this article about how local political pressure forced an openly atheist billboard to be taken down. The modern American view is that religious freedom extends only to bigots and extremists. Certainly not to atheists.

Double standard number two: Check out this article that describes how an open lesbian was fired from her job at a Catholic school not because she is a dyke but because she opposed Prop 8. The Papists like to pretend that they are for life and liberty and loveliness. But they are hardened haters at the core. Never trust the church. It lies, it hates, it reviles. The love it professes is only for itself. Of course, it squeals like a drowning rat when its opponents call them on their polyphonous hatreds. But its own hatreds are "moral". Rech.

A curse on religion.

And free drinks to a tired fag who heads to Sacramento rather than pissing around the house. And free drinks also to Nepal ... check it out.

Postscript: How we blew it ... again, worth a read.

Monday, November 17, 2008

DailyKos


Check out this DailyKos article about the failure of the Human Rights Campaign on Prop 8, and the notion that Obama-like tactics are in charge now. Well worth a read.

I think I'm going to Sacramento on Saturday ... if I can just get some more solid info on it.

Photos by Arod. More on my Flickr site.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fight the H8 Demo

Photograph of San Francisco City Hall with sign that says Yes, I Do, with a pink triangleJust some quick notes because I am sun-fried and tuckered out. But it was a moving demonstration today in front of San Francisco City Hall. I figure about 10,000. The speeches went too long, and I missed some of the early ones. Amos Brown, local preacher of renown, gave a stirring speech notwithstanding that he confessed that his church will not sanctify gay marriages. But that "inclusiveness:" was evidently a part of the day. It was a wildly mixed crowd of gays and straights. There was anger and there was determination. There was a palpable sense that we have crossed a Rubicon of sorts.

America is a different place today than it was a few weeks ago. I can't predict where it goes. But the country is on notice that we want in, and the old excuses are just bull crap ... and everybody knows it including the bigots.


I have a hundred or so pix here
.

photograph of demonstrator with sign that says No on Prop 8, Unfair and Wrong

Photos by Arod.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fight the H8



November 15, 2008. 10:30 a.m. PST; 1:30 p.m. EST. Locations and more info at http://protest8sf.wordpress.com/ and http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/. San Francisco protest is at City Hall.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wee Timmie


So Timmie won! Yeah!

I am reminded of ... "Whats the matter, Lassie? Show me what's the matter."

Timmie doesn't need to worry about Lassie ... because he won.

Yeah!

Photo above from the boob tube tonight. Photo below ... don't faint ... from Timmie's days at UW (pronounced you-dub.)



ps., this is my "happy" post, but it doesn't mean that I am not still soul-disturbed at the christers killing my civil rights.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Three Predictions


The emotions I have expressed in the previous two posts continue to course through me. The Obama victory itself is emotionally twofold, both good. It is not just that we have a shot at a genuine liberal president with an aggressive agenda to change the country, but on a more prosaic level the election that would never die is finally over! We finally know what happened.

Even so, the other part of me still mourns the lost opportunity to put paid to the bigots at least in California. I think there is palpable sense among Democrats and liberals, at any rate, that this was a terrible error. I have not seen any remorse among black politicos, but I think the time will come when they understand that it was primarily the black community that let us down. Reports have it that the black vote was 70% yes on 8 ... that is disgraceful, and I cannot help but think that there is a lot of buyers' remorse at this point. Where was preacher Jesse Jackson and preacher Al Sharpton? Why didn't they lend their considerable weight to explain the cause to black christians. Where was the black congressional caucus? Where was Maxine Waters?

But that is crying over spilt milk. So here are three predictions, in descending order of likelihood.

1. There will be a National March on Washington for Gay Marriage this summer. And I'm going. I don't care what. I am sure it will fall on the deadline for my course catalog ... but if that is the case, I am moving the deadline. A national march just makes sense. There is going to be an enormous euphoria in this country as Obama assumes power ... who among you is not panting in anticipation at hearing his inaugural speech. (Note to boss ... I am taking January 20 off.) And gay people know that we got sucker-punched again. The 'publicans rode homophobia to the White House in 2000 and 2004, and the so-called "base" is primarily organized around hating homos and making sure that women can't decide things for themselves. Well we won the anti-abortion initiatives on Tuesday but we lost the anti-gay ones. All four of 'em.

(BTW, when they continually mewl and puke over the 'publican base, why does no one point out that the meaning of the Arabic noun al-qa'ida is "the base". Religious bigots, meet your counterparts, the religious bigots.)

It's time that changed. And it is time that gay people demanded of all our friends, the real ones who did show and the supposed ones who prefer smug silence, that they stand for us. We're calling you out Jesse, we're calling you out Laura, for that matter. Were calling you out, Arnold ... where the hell were you, anyway? And, Barrack, we shined you on for this one, but not next time.

So there is going to be a national march, and baby, I'm gonna be there.

2. The California Supreme Court is going to overturn Prop 8. It was a tight 4-3 decision that overturned the original ban, but those 4 have to get it at this point. You cannot use the Constitution to deny rights. That is the definition of anti-American. It is going to take a while, it will drag on and on. And we need to bring steady unrelenting pressure on the process. But in the end, they will bow to the obvious and confirm, again and once again, that religion and state are separate in America ... and more so, the state does not sit in theological judgment ... and they still salute the future and confirm that anyone can marry anyone.

That is what the Obama victory brings to this. We are facing the future now. Is the American future the sour hatreds of people who believe that the sun revolves around the earth? Or is the future a nation of immigrants in all their diversity doing their own thing and rocking the world?

That is the sense in which the victory of the medievalists and their kook-prophet pals (by which I mean the hypocritical coalition of the one true church and the no-we-are-not-polygamous heretics whom the former whisper-denounce day and night) puts our struggle on the agenda in a way beyond which we were ever able to do so.

3. DOMA will fall before the 2010 election. See #2. (I might fill this in a little, but I am due for dinner at 7.)

Photo by Arod in the tennis court where my dog Loki plays with the chow Dakota every morning from 6:25 to 6:47.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thanks to Friends and Damn the Bigots

Two emotions again, and I am going to write about both. Yes, this is still about Prop 8.

After what I wrote yesterday, I could not stop thinking about all the young straight folks sitting down in the corner of death in support of the right of fags and dykes to marry. And it made me think again that the idea of gay equality has penetrated deeply into American society. I had lunch with a now retired colleague friend of mine on Monday before the election, and her husband whom I have only met once before and who was positively apoplectic at the thought that 8 might pass. They have embraced gay rights not as a sidebar but as a critical issue for the future of our society. For so many years of my life, the vast bulk of straight people I knew took my passion for gay issues as more of a lark, a peccadillo, an enthusiasm. I think that the issue of marriage, percolated through the experience of the last decade, has associated gay rights with, on the one hand, love, and on the other, the right to stable domestic happiness.

Liberal people ... which is to say people who practice in life what the Christians eschew, to whit that people should do unto others as they would have others do unto them ... have come to embrace unreservedly the notion that freedom from fear and the freedom to enjoy life in domestic joy and stability should be guaranteed to all including gay people. And they showed that on Tuesday in California. That we were overwhelmed by fear and hatred and the narrow scope of vision of those in the fearful hinterlands, that is, I suppose, par for the course. But I am the more deeply moved, the more I reflect upon it, that we engendered such a flood of acceptance and love. We may have lost a battle, but we have we have won an army who showed their genuine acceptance of our loves and our lives.

Well ... there is one noteworthy exception that needs to be called out ...

Damn the black preachers who spew hatred ... damn them. May they meet their savior who never said a word against gay people and may he personally cast them into the hellfire that is the bigotry and loathing that fouls their souls.

Damn the black preachers who foul the name of the noble struggle in whose name they pretend to act.

I heard one of this fetid lot on TV who talked about how the water cannons had never been brought out against fags. Perhaps he forgets that we would have been happy with water cannons as his coreligionists consigned us to be burned alive for so many centuries. Perhaps he forgets that his religion sent us to prison, empowered the thugs and murderers who have tormented us even to this day. Perhaps he forgets that Christianity was killing homos in Europe centuries before more than one in a hundred people even knew what a black person was.

Shame on the black preachers of hate. And shame on those who follow them. You bear upon your souls the most significant defeat for liberty in the present moment. How can you sleep at night? What would Martin Luther King, Jr., have said to you. What would your Jesus have said?

They would have shamed you. And I shame you. And every freedom-loving American shames you.

Shame on you, black preachers of hatred.

Okay, with that, I think I will stop ranting. I will try to think of something uplifting to address ... although I owe Katy a sober reflection on why I think the banning of Castro's Halloween is anti-gay, and I will get to that.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Ecstasy and Agony ...

... or better, Delirium and Humiliation.

It is weird to be possessed by two such profoundly opposite emotions.

It is hard to imagine the release of joy that I felt ... and I know that I am only one of millions of people in this country jousting with the same emotions ... when the media declared that Obama had won. I teared up again and again ... even old Jesse Jackson, the radical turned ambulance chaser, made me weep when I saw his genuine tears. For weeks as the election approached ... again like so many people ... my gut wrenched with the fear that somehow the 'publicans would pull it off, cheat, stick the world with that ludicrously superannuated troglodyte. So the joy of the moment was both the release from the fear and the genuine basking in this incredible turn of events. Incredible ... who can believe it.

Those scenes from the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Wow.

Obama has grown as we watched him. He weathered everything thrown up by events. He manufactured a Presidential stance, and he demonstrated a thoughtfulness and intelligence that we suspected but could not prove. I like to laugh at the lunacy of a 21-month political campaign ... no other Western democracy needs more than 5% of that to elect a leader ... but the American presidency is a kind of temporary monarchy. So the long torment of the campaign seems configured to prove that this is one we want to reign. When "folks" picked dubya, it was because they caved to their ignorance, they caved to the notion that the person who should lead us should be someone we would enjoy at a BBQ. See what that got us.

Obama proved he is reflective and that he is an orator. We shall see, of course, the translation of that into practice. But this moment, this interlude, is devoted to riding the joy that after 8 years of hellish mis-government, what I like to call one-party-no-government rule, we have a shot with a figure who is of the next generation not the one previous to the present.

Besides, we won.

But, then again, we didn't win.

Because amidst all the euphoria, we fags and dykes were disinvited from the the party.

There is, I admit, a certain humiliation in it. The sexual loathing that christers and mohamotens and other religious bigots enjoy is based on the threat of public shaming. And that shaming is a kind of stripping someone naked ... making the malefactor stand ashamed in front of his would-be peers if only he were not so diseased, so sick, so sinful. The Prop 8 campaign was a shaming. And they got away with it.

But that emotion is thin and only a rumor beneath the outrage and the pride. The pride ... the bigots have no idea of the courage that is required to be openly gay in a world in which we are reviled, in which we are murdered and imprisoned, in which ancient scriptures are misread to give comfort to bigots no bigger than the clots of crap under my shoes. The outrage that we live in a society in which a vote upon liberty is allowed. Imagine the outrage if someone proposed a state constitutional amendment that restored slavery or sent wogs back to their camps. We are the wogs now, we are the niggers, we are the ones who can be openly hated.

Make no mistake ... it is rank hatred that voted for Proposition 8. Hatred. The hatred that has burned us alive at the stake or sent us to hang in Iran or sent us to prisons or to the hands of murderers. Notwithstanding the fact that we garnered 48% of the vote ... something unimaginable when I first entered the gay movement in 1972 ... I still fear that the day may come when we are the scapegoats, the new Jews, the niggers. That is what the bigots have in store for us.

But on a better note ... today at a corner at MRU (the major research university where I toil for wages), a corner that they call the corner of death because of the reckless manner in which bicycles careen from blind corners, there was a protest against the bigots ... and every single person who voted for 8 is a bigot who should lie awake ashamed at their consuming hatred. At one point, the speaker asked for a cheer from "our straight supporters", and the vast majority of those present cheered. As a cranky olding gay man, I acknowledge you, our friends, who have stood for us. Yes. Perhaps we too shall overcome some day. And if we overcome, it will be together, gay and straight, in favor of a world where love comes first and foremost.

I just took a moment to watch again from beginning to end Obama's victory speech. His eloquence, his humanism, his ethic of work and commitment ... it is moving, soulfully moving. Take a moment and hear it again.

And ask this ... why are we left out? How much longer are we left out?

And ask this too: is this the new dawn? Can we make things different? Can we seize this moment?

And say this ... yes, we can! Yes, we can!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Quality of Life


A little context ... I took Thursday and Friday off to clean house in preparation for our little cocktail party in honor of Halloween. The house is as clean as it ever was ... which given the tschotschke density is quite a feat ... and the dozen folks who enjoyed our "fine ales and fancy shooters" were a fine crew. One of their number, my regular reader KW, challenged my notion that canceling Halloween in the Castro was homophobic; our exchange was interrupted by the revelry, but I promise her, and you, a sober explanation of what I mean by that assertion in the near future. And so, it is the Sunday evening of a four-day weekend, with great challenges awaiting me tomorrow. I made myself an early martini ... why? Because into every reverie comes something like ACT's production of Jane Anderson's The Quality of Life.

I quote the Chronicle review to set this up:

Set in the Berkeley hills after a major fire, "Quality" introduces Jeannette, an earthy, high-spirited woman played by Laurie Metcalf. Jeannette's husband, Neil (Dennis Boutsikaris), is dying of cancer. When her cousin Dinah from Ohio (JoBeth Williams) comes for a visit with her husband, Bill (Steven Culp), the two couples - one solidly on the left, the other resolute in their conservative Christian beliefs - are made to confront their huge dissimilarities.

It seems like the play shouldn't work notwithstanding the sterling performances especially by the two women, Laurie Metcalfe (the one person who was actually acting instead of mooning in TV's Roseanne), and JoBeth Williams of Poltergeist fame ... I wouldn't know about that given my fear of scary films. It seems like the play should be a boring recitation of the much ballyhooed "culture war" that fuels the righteous indignation of the right. And there were moments like that. But in the middle of this clash between a dying hippie alongside his life partner living in a yurt after a fire ruined them and a Midwestern couple whose daughter had been brutally murdered, in the middle of a fight over whether suicide is ever right, a little humanity bursts through.

Of course, as someone who lived through the AIDS deaths of the 80s and 90s ... as someone who ushered six best friends to untimely graves, and discussed suicide and the quality of life in pitiless and endless detail with every one of them ... well, it hit home. Yes, it hit home.

Spoiler alert ... don't read this paragraph is you plan to see the play ... the hippie wife, played superbly by Laurie Metcalf, announces that she has decided to accompany her life partner in this last journey. That's where the play turns ... and my theater companion Roy later remarked that he wondered how one would direct a play when the denouement closes the first act! And it turns out that the diehard Christian male is right about life, and the drinks-too-much hippie philosopher is wrong. They all end up estranged, but each side seems to learn something in the exchange. Notwithstanding the revelation of stasis that is the ending of this piece, it leaves its audiences in pieces ... it left me wondering about the meaning of life.

When my friend Jack died, his smugly affluent exurban family descended upon us as if from nowhere, and performed admirably. The parents asked me to chaperon the lover who was, how to put it, a wild-card, prone to embarrassing dramatics. We agreed on that. After Jack died, they executed his last will and testament to the last dotted i and crossed t. They did as he asked, and as his brother and I embraced for what would obviously be the last time, he said, "Not bad for a born again Christian." I agreed and hugged him one last time.

Not so with the exurban hardware store owners who parented my friend Tom. They undid everything he asked for as soon as his dementia was too far gone, and to this day, according to an old friend of his, they have not announced his death to any family friends in Michigan. They too are Christians.

But the death that most returns to me in thinking about this play is the death of my mentor and great friend Kurt. He is pictured above in one of his many alter egos. He viewed death as a friend; he said that AIDS had transformed him and made him a better person. We talked, endlessly and with brutal frankness about death ... for three years. But when it came, it took him by surprise, and despite all the preparation, he had missed a key problem. When it came, he could not swallow, and so the paper bag in the refrigerator was useless. He suffered unspeakable agonies for five days ... we never thought he would not be able to swallow.

I was with Kurt in his final delirium ... he imagined that there were giraffes in the room and he wanted assurance that the police were not involved. The staff of the VA where he died were sweet and helpful. But he did not die on the terms he had set for himself. And that is an unspeakable tragedy.

So to the play ... in the end, I had no sympathy for the Laurie Metcalfe character. I won't say what happened in case you see the play, but what happened is irrelevant in a larger sense. Those of use who survive ... those of us who watch early demise and thereby earn the duty to "bear witness" to it ... have a duty to live. Grieving is inevitable, irreducible, a duty and a torment. But surviving charges you with the responsibility to sequester the grief and move on so as to do what the lost cannot do but would do.

The AIDS deaths ripped me apart, and introduced a sorrow into me that never quite fully leaves or dissolves away. But I do not approve of even the soup├žon of self-pity that I allow myself. This part of me actually disgusts me a little. I wish I could mount a great charger and impress my friends who are now only dust. There is no reason why I shouldn't

So I thank Jane Anderson for making think about death again. And, more to the point, life.

Wow ... this thing did not go where I intended it to ... but there it is.