One of the most favorite things I do with my phone is listen to NPR podcasts during the commute. The Diane Rhem Show is one I listen to a lot. The other day I was listening to a show discussing the anti-gay marriage amendment that was recently passed in North Carolina. Diane's always good about making sure she has representatives from both sides of an issue. Representing the
religious conservative bigots viewpoint was Maggie Gallagher, president, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.
I was a little worried I'd end up in a rage listening to the discussion, but honestly, these days Maggie and her cohorts just strike me as pathetic and sad.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. -Charles Darwin
Give my love to the dodo, Maggie.
There were a couple of things that struck me about the conversation. For one, I never once heard the phrase "sanctity of marriage." Apparently conservatives are wising up to the fact that such religiously charged language isn't necessarily helpful to their cause. Marriage is merely "unique and special" these days.
The disadvantage of podcast listening is there's no opportunity to join the conversation. Not that my chances of getting in a call are much better than a snowball's in Hell. Still, I would really have like to ask Maggie about her old and tired arguments about procreation and child rearing. To start, marriage is not a requirement for procreation. Period. There really is no discussion there. Asserting that marriage and procreation are somehow dependent on each other is little more than wishful thinking.
I'll just completely sidestep the laughable assertion that opposite sex unions are inherently more stable.
As for child rearing, that the whole "a child needs a mother and a father" business doesn't really hold water by any objective standard. A stable, loving home is more important than the sex of the parents. But let's go ahead and assume that her assertion has merit. If opposite sex marriage is so fundamental to the proper functioning of society and the proper education of children, why isn't Maggie's organization putting as much effort in to dismantling divorce? To enforcing adultery laws that are still on the books all over this country? To advocating stricter marriage license requirements? Maybe some kind of mandatory "Matrimony Ed." You know, some analog to driver's ed? How about periodic evaluation by a licensed professional to assure the home remains stable and caring? Why isn't she working to reversing women's rights so a woman has few options except to stay home and raise the kids? That's "traditional" marriage.
Even though Maggie seemed to take umbrage at claims by her opponents that those who share her views are bigoted and hateful, I don't know what else you would call it. There's an obviously double standard. One group is given far more leniency (a.k.a. privilege) than another. Her statements that "anti-miscegenation laws were wrong and should have been dismantled, but this is different" display either a stunning dishonesty or a remarkable ignorance of how societies try and preserve power and the status quo.
If you're not familiar with The Trevor Project, it's worth checking out. It's an attempt to foster hope and curtail suicide among gay teens. There have been a lot of celebrities who have produced videos for the project. And then there are many, many more from "normal" folk who have lived it and want to assure young people struggling that it does get better.
Apparently an "It Gets Better" video has been produced by students at BYU and is making the rounds on Facebook. I finally broke down and watched it today. I have mixed feelings. I refused to watch it at first because the first time I saw it on Facebook it had "same-gender attraction" in the title.
<rant>I find that phrase extremely offensive. For starters, it perpetuates the myth the Mormon church is trying to establish as doctrine that sex and gender are equivalent, which is complete and utter bullshit. Anyone with a brain will tell you that sex is about your anatomical bits and gender is about the social roles assigned to you because of your bits. Gender roles are at the heart of homophobia.
It also completely denies the reality of what being gay is. This phrase allows the church to define homosexuality as a condition, a disease, a handicap. God created us all straight, gave males all the power and women all the child-rearing and cleanup duties. This is the very foundation of the Mormon church's opposition to homosexual rights. If you think it's just an innocuous phrase, you're totally missing the boat.</rant>
So anyway, I finally got past my visceral reaction to the Phrase Which Shall Not Be Named and watched the video. To say that I can relate to the struggles these students talk about would be an understatement. I briefly considered re-posting it to give my family some idea what it was like for me 20 years ago when a gay-straight alliance at BYU was absolutely unthinkable. In the end I decided not to. I imagine they'll find it on their own eventually.
On the one hand, I'm glad these students can actually express themselves and talk about their sexuality. That has got to make life much easier. On the other hand, I wonder how long it will be before their status as second class citizen wears on them. Admitting you're gay is one thing. Being allowed to live and love as comes naturally to you is something else entirely. How long can they live with the dissonance created by a gay-straight alliance at BYU and the Mormon church's continued efforts to fight LGBT equality?
Like those students—I keep wanting to call them kids. Probably has something to do with the fact that my own children are that age. <sigh>—I too had experiences where I felt like God was telling me I was okay, two of them actually. The first was when I was still married. I was having a particularly bad day struggling to keep it together. I don't even remember what I was thinking. I just remember a thought that intruded on the miasma that was my emotional state that day. Clear as a bell it said, "You're not broken."
The second time was right after my first boyfriend broke up with me to go back to the church, "confess his sins and put his life in order." It occasioned some soul searching on my part. One evening I sat on the floor wrestling with my thoughts. I tried to imagine myself going back to the church, getting remarried and doing my best to "endure to the end." That thought made me physically ill. I imagined going back to the church, staying single and trying to find someway to give my life in the church meaning. That just felt depressing. The third option I considered was to stay on the path that I was on and find someone else to love. Once again, a thought, clear as a bell that didn't feel like it was my own: "Yes. Do that."
I wonder how long it will take these young men and women to work out that God/Wisdom/Grace/Whateveryouwantotcallit exists independent of the Church™; that an experience that tells you you are not broken, that God doesn't care that you are gay is not the same as an endorsement of the Mormon church. What I fear is that increased tolerance in the Church will end up making it more difficult to make the break, to make the decision that they do not need to be punished because the Mormon Collective can't wrap their head around a God who doesn't have a stick up His Ass.
D got me a game called Dragon Age II for Christmas. It's pretty standard fantasy fare: swordsmen, wizards, dwarves, elves, with the occasional dragon thrown in for good measure. As you go through the game you meet new characters which you can include in your adventure parties. You also interact with these characters, helping them sort out things they have going on in their own lives.
The game proceeds by passing through decision points, "What do you want to say now?" You usually have several options: you can be the peacemaker, the funny guy, or the no-nonsense tough guy. Occasionally, when interacting with your friends, you have an option marked with a heart which indicates romantic intent. I was pleasantly surprised to find the game doesn't discriminate. Romantic options come up when I'm talking with my male friends just as they do with my female friends. This is actually quite out of the ordinary. Generally video games that allow for romantic relationships keep it quite heterosexual.
So in chapter one of the game, I started flirting with the elven swordsman I met along the way. In chapter two, things got...shall we say...steamy. All very PG, but the elf immediately regretted our interlude, "My past...blah blah blah..." and backed off. Then in chapter three sir elf was feeling morose because his sister had just betrayed him to his arch enemy. Naturally when the romantic option to comfort him came up, I took it. There was a look of appreciation, but that was about it. Now, however, the other members of my party are giving the elf a hard time. (They talk to each other as we move from place to place.)
"Oh, you're in love."
"How would you know?"
"Because you make puppy dog eyes at Hawke [my character] every time his back is turned. It's adorable."
"There are no puppy dog eyes."
"So Fenris, who swept who off his feet? I'm thinking Hawke swept you. He's taller. Could have been awkward the other way around."
"All I'm going to say, dwarf, is there was no sweeping."
It's hard to describe how it feels to operate in a word where no body gives a shit that I'm in a relationship with a guy. People are suspicious of magic and some have issues with the fact that I'm a mage, but nobody cares I'm gay. I find myself playing the game as much to see where the relationship goes as what big, evil monster I have to kill next. Yes, I had friends both gay and straight who were supportive when I started dating D, but for the most part they were all friends I had made after I came out. My friends before I came out? Not so much.
When I first saw this video, my first thought was, "I like what it has to say, but it's a bit melodramatic." My second thought was, "Isn't that just like you. Finding some reason to minimize what you feel, make it palatable to others around you." It seems to fit in with the topic at hand, so here it is in all its melodramatic glory...because I do feel like this sometimes.
When I think of Republicans running this country, I nearly romney myself.
Even if I were the type to vote for Romney, this story alone would be enough to make me vote for someone else. It just boggles the mind. Rachel Maddow played a clip of an interview when this story broke the first time during his last run for President. His response? He laughed and said, "The crate was completely air tight. He loved riding up there. He got up there all by himself." A quick aside: Have you ever noticed how everything is a joke to him?
- Air tight? Really? You didn't even poke holes in the top so Seamus could breath? Nice save. NOT.
- Diarrhea is a sign of distress. It doesn't have to be the stomach flu. Dogs, and even people, will develop gastrointestinal distress during times of high anxiety.
- Most dog breeds are all about pleasing their owners. Irish setters are farther along the "What can I do to make you happy?" scale than others. How do you know Seamus "enjoyed" it up there? How do you know he wasn't just doing what was expected...since this obviously wasn't the first time.
- Even granting Ronmey's assertion that Seamus liked riding on top of the car, did Romney really think a twelve-hour drive was the same as a jaunt to the park? I like riding roller coasters, but I think it would cease to be fun long before twelve hours had past.
- I like what the reporter who wrote the original story for the Boston Globe four years ago had to say (as quoted by Rachel). He thinks people are missing the boat. The story isn't that Romney put the dog on top of the car. The story is that even after irrefutable evidence that Seamus was in distress, Romney just hosed Seamus off and put him back on top of the car. Don't you think most people would probably have relented and let the dog cram in with the rest of the family?
Think about it people. What does this say about how Romney treats those he deems beneath him? And if you think Romney doesn't look down on everyone who isn't in his immediate family…you're not paying attention.
My cousin lost her husband to an untimely death last week. As I sat in the LDS chapel singing hymns for the funeral service I couldn't help but compare my current experience singing hymns with my past experience.
The opening hymn was "How Great Thou Art," one of my past favorites. I realized as I sang along I didn't feel nearly as connected to that song as I used to. I also realized the reason I don't is because I don't feel dependent on the mercy of a Savior to rescue my soul from oblivion. I'm not sure I can adequately describe what that song meant to me back then. In a nutshell, I believed the only reason my consumption of oxygen in this life was tolerated was because there was a Savior who loved me, understood me and would intervene on my behalf to shield me from the vengeance of a Just God.
In my mind, Jesus was the only person who understood what it was like to live inside my skin. He was the only person who loved me without reservation, because surely my family would, at best, pity me if the things in my mind ever found voice. Pierced ears: sin. Fashion conscious: sin. Rock and roll: sin. Kissing anyone, never mind boys: sin. Sin. SIN.
As I sat there and listened to one speaker drone on and on (OMG, that guy loved the sound of his own voice) about the hope that is offered in The Gospel of Jesus Christ™, I couldn't help but think, "Yes, but in order for the kind of hope you are talking about to have any power or even meaning, there has to be some part of you that feels hopeless." I'm sorry, I just can't believe in or worship a god who sets up creation such that—even on the tiniest level—his creations must live in terror of his wrath.
Do I feel hopeless now? No. Have I moved beyond that frame of mind where fear holds sway? Also, no. There is still a part of me that fears the Wrath of God, that is metaphorically looking over his shoulder for the Avenging Angel. As I went through school and got my MSW, it was rather disturbing to realize that a lot of my inner processes and emotional responses mirror those who have been subject to abuse. Disturbing mostly because I have no memory of any kind of abuse that I feel would qualify. And yet as I write, the parallels between my past relationship to God and the relationship of an abuse victim to their abuser seem somewhat less than subtle. Is that where it comes from? Some kind of fucked up PTSD because I lived so long in fear putting one toe out of line and being subject to Divine Retribution?
I didn't know my cousin's husband very well. I had only met "Bob" on a few occasions. My cousin and I had the best of intentions to reconnect and spend more time together, but life has a way of getting in the way, especially when everyone is struggling just to make ends meet. Bob's death was an accident, and not even an I-was-doing-something-crazy-that-I-loved accident. It didn't have to happen. And yet, based on the glimpse I had into his family and his life (from his long-time friend who delivered a touching eulogy that was actually about Bob), it makes me wonder what fears Bob wrestled with and wonder also if maybe we might have had more in common than either of us knew.
Rest in peace, Bob.
My oldest loves watching Glee and now that Netflix has season two, that's what we end up doing most of time when she's at my house. Watching Glee is a mixed bag for me. Yes, I enjoy watching Glee, but there's also a part of me that grieves and says, "That could have been me."
Something about "show choir" just appeals to me. I shouldn't be surprised much. I'm sure I've mentioned before that as a child the person I wanted to grow up to be was Dick Van Dyke. I loved the production numbers in Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I distinctly remember watching "Me 'Ol Bamboo" and "Step In Time" and thinking, "I want to do that."
I'm not really sure where I got off track. Probably when we moved when I was in Jr. High and went from a place where it was no big deal if a guy was in the choir to a place where it was about as uncool and you could get. In my new school, I was the male in a choir of at least 50. And I was harassed for it, like Kurt in Glee. I didn't have to wear anything "fabulous." It was enough that I was in the choir. Unlike Kurt, I learned very quickly to keep a low profile and not draw attention to myself.
I tend to think it wasn't just the harassment that derailed my aspirations. I think there were a lot of factors at play, not the least of which is my Mormon upbringing where conformity is the sine qua non of existence and where I was taught to doubt my own inner voice in favor of the dictates of old men in dark suits. It certainly began a pattern of laying low and not drawing attention to myself.
Recently Facebook has reconnected me to some of the guys I danced with while at BYU. I had joined the folk dance team and even made it onto the touring team. Turns out one of the guys I thought didn't like me—always having been stand-offish and distant—had a huge crush on me. One of the first things he said to me was, "You were so quiet!" "I was scared," was my reply. "I was afraid if I said too much people would figure it out." Dancing with the folk dancers was bitter sweet. I loved being on stage and dancing, but there was always a part of me that felt guilty for doing something that served no purpose beyond making me happy. I danced for a few years before I quit the team to get married and get on with my "purpose in life" of starting a family and fathering children.
Playing the "What might have been?" game is generally not very useful. The past is done. We don't get do-overs. You end up stuck, wishing for things that cannot ever happen. There are no guarantees your life would have played out how you imagine, even if you did get your wish. Dick Van Dyke certainly hasn't life a fairy tale life.
So what to do then? If I had a client struggling with these kinds of things, I would probably challenge him or her to find ways to pursue that dream now. For now, that means I've stopped listening to NPR on the drive home and have begun singing along with show tunes again...something I haven't done in years. I usually end up getting home in a better mood now as well. Go figure.
From a friend's Facebook status:
Okay, I don't usually post political mumbo-jumbo, but this is, well you decide!
I thought we lived in America--land of the free, home of the brave, life-liberty and the pursuit of happiness, etc.
=from MSN news today=
"The court ruled that Congress had the power to pass the requirement to ensure that all Americans can have health care coverage, even if it infringes on individual liberty."
My comment to said friend:
The individual liberty argument is a red herring. Of course Congress has the power. Congress limits individual liberty all the time. No one is getting their panties in a knot about Congress deciding who can marry and who cannot. There are plenty who would be happy to have Congress limit the individual liberty of women to obtain an abortion--most of them the same ones who whine about being required to have health insurance. The question is does the state have a vested interest in requiring everyone have some kind of insurance (note: not a specific kind of insurance, just some kind of insurance.) The answer is arguably yes, which is why that question is never the one raised. And really, how many people do you know who opt to have no health insurance? Most people I know worry about not having health insurance.
I've been largely mum on politics for a while. That is due in large part to the fact that there is just too much asshattery out there. It's hard to decide what to write about. Here's a quick stab at a few recent events.
Birds of a Feather
I've recently started following BeggarsCanBeChoosers, an articulate, progressive writer in … wait for it … Texas. Recently he posed the question How Can a Moron Like Herman Cain Be Considered A Candidate for President in the First Place? I would respond with a question of my own: "Have you seen the company he keeps?" There's Mitt "I'm good-looking and rich so I don't need principles" Romney, Rick "Jus' doin' God's will" Perry, Michelle "Paul Revere was anti-slavery crusader" Bachmann, Ron "Living in the 18th Century" Paul, Newt "I still don't see that I'm a buffoon" Gingrinch, Rick "I'm obsessed with gay sex" Santorum, and John "The other Mormon" Huntsman. I mean, really. It just boggles the mind that the mind that the Republican nomination race is actually taken seriously.
Sen. Mitch McConnell was again quoted whining about raising taxes on "those who we are depending on to create jobs." So first of all the verb tense implies a future event. What the hell are the "job creators" waiting for? Republicans will starting talking about regulation and taxation uncertainties, but that's crap. That's always a consideration when doing business. Not just now. Not just when a Democrat is in the White House. Second, taxes on "job creators" are at their lowest in decades. And they still can't afford to create jobs? Bullshit. Finally, all the talk I've heard is about raising income taxes. Mitch doesn't pay his staffers out of his own pocket, right? So theoretically income taxes don't impact his or any other employer's ability to pay his employees. Not to mention the tax increase is miniscule. The last number I remember hearing was less than 1%. That's probably not even going to force McConnell to start shopping at Penny's. Oh, and have we forgotten that most of the very wealthy make their money in capital gains and not anything even subject to income tax?
I'm not sure what gets up my nose more; that Republicans keep repeating the same rubbish—all the while criticizing Obama for not bringing anything new to the table—or that the American public doesn't seem to have the brain power to think critically about these claims. Instead we have a bevvy of conservative parrots commenting on every forum in the web. "Job creators! Squawk! Job creators!"
Hunting the rich
That's the headline on an "Economist" sitting out in the front office. I'm really tired of this as well. People aren't mad at the rich as much as they are mad at the corrupt. Some people are always going to have more money than others. That's just a fact of life. People are mostly okay with that, if you ask me. The real problem is the man behind the curtain has been revealed: not an all-knowing wizard, but a fraud. Everything conservatives have spewed as economic policy for the last 30 years has finally come home to roost. People haven't cared much about the income gap until those at the top who are controlling the economy drove it into a ditch then turned to the middle class and said, "You there. Pull that out of the ditch." Republicans preached trickle down economics as if those at the top of the economic food chain were rain makers, actually creating more wealth for all. Turns out they're just dam builders and now that we're in an economic drought they are whining about increasing the flow of cash downstream.
Billy Cosby comes to mind. "Mine! Mine!"
Here's another blast from the past. I used to listen to this one over and over. It was cathartic. It helped me feel like someone out there could relate. It's interesting how the human mind filters and applies various contexts on the fly. For example,
No one heard
No one came
No angel of mercy
Appears to know her name
This piece of the song I took quite literally. No one seemed to hear my prayers. No one came. There was no angel of mercy coming to "rescue" me from my attractions. On the other hand:
And she sees her future falling
Til it finds the ocean floor
Oh life, she cries
There must be more
I knew this was probably talking about suicide, but while I often wished my life was over acting on that wish was never really in the picture for me. Still, something about the imagery of a future lost in darkness and oblivion spoke to me. It was just a metaphor.
On the dock her soul is sinking
But her spirit longs to soar
Oh life, she cries
There must be more
Another part I related to personally and more literally.
Sometimes, it's nice to be able to listen to a song and know that you don't feel that way anymore.