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May 21st, 2014
A Wee Question…
by Bruce |
I’ve said this before, much to the distress of some liberal/progressive friends, but here it is again: I have no problem with private gun ownership, I see it as an eminently democratic right, IMO the second amendment does confer a right to individual Americans to own guns, and yes as a matter of fact I own a few myself. And I take responsibility for owning them seriously as I do my automobile. I obey the laws. I concern myself with safety. And I have nothing but contempt for people who use them recklessly, even if they’re not actually breaking the law. That goes for guns, automobiles…anything people use that can do harm to other people.
I’m an American liberal. I believe that public spaces convey public obligations. From respect for the environment to seemingly mundane day-to-day things like traffic safety, the common public spaces we share together are a mutual responsibility…and at minimum that means they are safe to use. Or to put it another way, the common ground that is too dangerous to occupy is more properly called a Battlefield. The last time the shared common spaces of Americans became battlefields we called it a Civil War and it killed more Americans than all our other wars put together.
As a liberal I go even further and insist that even the private workplaces must be at minimum safe to occupy too, since we all need to work to earn a living. I grant that some occupations are very dangerous but also very necessary for the good of all. That said, working in a fast food restaurant, let alone eating in one, does not strike me as one of those occupations.
So I hear Chipotle wants customers to not bring their guns inside their restaurants. So while I’m shrugging my shoulders and and thinking to myself, so much so reasonable, and moving on apparently other people are bursting veins and threatening boycotts.
What the hell is wrong with you? Just…what the hell is wrong with you? No…Seriously. What the hell is wrong with you?
If Chipotle said they wanted gays to stay out of their restaurants because Jesus! you’d be dog piling on it like you did Chick-fil-A. You’re bellyaching that same-sex marriage is going to destroy civilization….
…Does This Fucking Look Like Civilization To You!
They say guns don’t kill people, people do. And that’s true. It’s always the person. The idol is always false. We give meaning to our material objects, they don’t give meaning to us. A weapon, any weapon, finely, skillfully, beautifully made, by a master craftsman, is a noble thing. Until the moment a runt gets their hands on it. Because runts don’t build civilizations, they tear them down so they don’t have to know what runts they are. But let it be said that, unlike those two, not all runts look like they’ve spent their entire lives in mom’s basement. These guys for instance, bear a heavy responsibility for the decay of American society…
All these voices on the right bellyaching about Morals and Traditional Values, and Social Decay and really they don’t give a good goddamn about any of it. None of it at all. They get up on their stages in their suits and ties and slicked down hair and they wave the flag and talk about law and order and it’s all bullshit. Behold the new minutemen at the battle of Chipotle! I have a question…
Thank you NRA for turning a pastime that brought pleasure and even taught a few values to thousands of Americans into an idol for anti-government troglodytes. Thank you for turning the basic democratic right to own your own gun into a totem for ignorance and hate…the very things that kill democracy. You don’t love this country. You don’t even love guns. What you love is power. You loath the peace and prosperity and brighter future Americans have always sought, if it means everyone can have a share of it too. You’d rather it all came crashing down into anarchy and chaos if it means everyone can dream the American dream too, not just powerful white men.
May 6th, 2014
The Onion Strikes Again…
by Bruce |
You’re my son, no matter what. Whether you love women or repress your homosexuality your entire life makes not the slightest difference to me. Why should it? Why should it matter if you’re straight? Why should it matter if you’re gay but pretending to be straight in every conceivable way? Why should I care who you have feelings for as long as I’m always led to believe it’s a woman? Well, I don’t care. And when the time comes to tell me, I promise I’ll hear you out: If you’re straight, great. But if you’re not, and you tell me you are even though it destroys you inside? That’s just fine, too.
From The Onion…America’s Finest News Source. Actually, I know some people who would probably not find this funny at all…
May 5th, 2014
Reality Is That Which, When You Stop Believing In It, Does Not Go Away
by Bruce |
The charade that persecuting homosexuals was rational and necessary because there is something pathologically wrong with homosexuals should have ended with Hooker’s Adjustment Of The Male Overt Homosexual in 1957. But human prejudice does not succumb so easily to mere experimental evidence. It wouldn’t be until decades after the Stonewall riots, after the Personal Computer and the modem made it possible for gay people to speak directly to each other and see ourselves just as we are, not through heterosexual eyes as some strange alien other, for this charade to finally begin to crumble. Because until we could see the humanity within ourselves, and the legitimacy and righteousness of our feelings of love and desire, we would never have the courage to come out of the closets, and live our lives openly, so that our families and neighbors could see our humanity too. There was never anything rational about homophobia. It was always about hatred of the Other, inflamed by bigots to rouse the mob and thereby glorify themselves.
The charade is falling apart because it had no basis in reality. The facade of respectability is crumbling. Sometimes it’s just a brick here and there…parents coming to terms with gay children, friends looking at gay friends and seeing a person not a monster. Sometimes its a whole wall that falls over. The sodomy laws in 2003. Same sex marriage. The proposition 8 trial was a massive earthquake beneath it. Seeing for the first time in an actual trial how little there actually was to support any of it opened a lot of eyes.
So will this…
Far-right groups including the Family Research Council and the American Family Association pooled $600,000 to place ads promising the effectiveness of reparative therapy in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. Anne and John Paulk smiled from full-page newspaper spreads.
In front of the crowds and cameras, Paulk was the image of certainty. But backstage, he was faltering. More than that, he knew he was lying.
“It’s funny, for those of us that worked in it, behind closed doors, we knew we hadn’t really changed,” he says. “Our situations had changed—we had gotten married, and some of us had children, so our roles had changed. I was a husband and father; that was my identity. And the homosexuality had been tamped down. But you can only push it down for so long, and it would eke its way out every so often.”
It. It. It would eke its way out every so often. The human identity is not a blackboard anyone can walk up to and scribble their will upon. The “It” that was eking its way out of Paulk wasn’t homosexuality, it was Sexuality, an instinct older than the fish, let alone the mammals, let alone the primates, let alone us. What Paulk was trying to suppress was an urge hundreds of millions of years old, that in him and others simply directs its relentless attentions to his own sex, not the opposite one. Beyond that one minor difference it was still the same force with the same hundreds of millions of years of the history of life on Earth behind it. Unless nature had made him asexual or gifted him with a very very low libido, he had no more chance becoming straight by playing straight than a left handed person does of becoming right handed by playing right handed.
“I would be in hotel rooms, and I would be on my face sobbing and crying on the bed,” he says. “I felt like a liar and a hypocrite. Having to go out and give hope to these people. I was in despair knowing that what I was telling them was not entirely honest. I couldn’t do it anymore.”
One of the first things that leaps out at you when you dig into the history of ex-gay therapy is how little data are ever retained about the clients. No long term follow-ups, no data to give meaning to any of the statistics they like to trot out. Hundreds have changed…no wait…thousands…hundreds of thousands… But it’s all smoke and mirrors. They have no data to prove any of their claims. They have done no research. It isn’t merely that they have no evidence: what leaves your jaw dropping when you first see it is they haven’t actually sought any evidence. It isn’t an oversight, the object was never to actually change anyone. If pressed, some will admit that change is not likely, but self discipline against homosexual urges can be attained through proper training. But homosexual urges are no different in kind from heterosexual urges; they are just two different expressions of the same ancient and powerful sexual urge we all possess. So the question then becomes at what cost to the individual? And the answer is the damage done to the person is not a cost, it is a benefit.
What you have to understand about Paulks misery is that his changing was never the object his masters sought. His crying and sobbing on the bed was the object. Then, now and always, the point is that we have to hate ourselves at least as much, if not more, than the bigots hate us.
The charade is ending. It is ending because there was never any truth to it. The only thing that kept it going was its monopoly on discussion, enforced by the sodomy laws, and from the pulpit, and because we stayed in the closet: because it was dangerous not to, because in a world where we could be kept isolated from each other we could be made to believe the lies. Those days are over. Now the mindless brutality behind the charade steps out from behind the curtain. Yes, it’s ugly, but don’t look away. You need to see this. What the ex-gay ministries offered to so many innocent people was more poison to add to the poison that had brought them in the door in the first place.
We taught your parents to hate you. We taught your preacher to thunder damnation at you. Everywhere you turn you see hate reflected back at you. We’ve prepared you nicely for your role in life little scapegoat. Oh…you’re troubled by your same-sex attractions are you? Good. Now let us dangle some hope for change in front of you, tell you all about how we have helped so many others just like you, and we can help you too, if you are willing to work hard for it. And when you fail to change you can hate yourself even more.
It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
[Edited a tad, and then some more, for clarity...]
May 2nd, 2014
Sliding Into The Trench Of Republican Governance
by Bruce |
Baltimore got a little rain earlier in the week. And by a little I mean about half a foot over a couple days. It was the same system that spawned tornadoes that killed a bunch of people in western south, and it seems generally part of the same disturbed weather patterns we’ve been having here in North America, thanks to the energy companies and republican reticence to do anything about preventing ecological catastrophe that might take money out of the pockets of needy billionaires. But lurking in the weather that’s been pummeling us is something else besides the looming effects of global warming. Ironically, the pulpit thumpers are right, our civilization is crumbling. Well…in a manner of speaking…
I point my finger at two culprits, but maybe they’re both one and the same: That Randian-libertarian notion that taxation is theft, plus that government regulation of the marketplace is also a kind of theft and anyone who advocates it is a moocher who wants a free lunch. I swam in libertarian waters for most of my twenties, until Reagan cured me of it, and I’m here to tell you there are a lots of useful tools in that pool who really believe the invisible hand of the marketplace will create a Heaven on Earth if we would only let it. Well…right up there is your Heaven.
My little village made the network news about this one! It’s not like other parts of the city aren’t falling apart too, or for that matter other parts of other cities all over the country, but you can see how something like this unnerves even people who don’t live in the slums. Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, my God those things can happen to the nice neighborhoods too. What strikes you listening to the chatter is how the little details that make things make better sense go missing from the conversation of people you don’t live in the vicinity. I saw several people talking about how Baltimore streets are sinking. Well, yes and no.
One thing to understand about Baltimore is it kinda straddles the boundary between the coastal plains and the Maryland piedmont…those lovely rolling hills of Maryland. (Our oddly shaped little state is very diverse in its geography, and there is beauty everywhere) Parts of the city are actually way higher up than other parts but you don’t really notice how big the elevation changes are because they are gradual in most places, unlike say San Francisco, and you don’t see the grade change until you get somewhere you can look a distance. The streets and sidewalks gently slope up and down, up and down and the walk isn’t difficult and you look back and you notice the city core off in the distance is now almost entirely below you. The north-western part of the city is in the hills and the rest of it is on the coastal plains. That’s how my house can be something like 60 feet higher than the Jones Falls River even though on the map I look like I’m right next to it.
Which all means laying tracks for a railroad through all this can be a tad complicated, particularly when your running stock are steam engines which don’t do steep grades all that well. A little history…
In the 1890s what was the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, the first common carrier railroad company in the U.S., dug a bunch of tunnels and trenches through the city including one really big tunnel going under Howard Street, to connect with points north from its Camden station because that was actually the less expensive way to do it, compared with a surface line through the center of the city or going around the city. This is why now you might be walking along a city street and suddenly there’s this deep trench on the other side of a cast iron fence and it’s not one of our little rivers down there, it’s a set of tracks coming out of a tunnel.
Building those tunnels and trenches bankrupted the company shortly after the lines opened up, and it was in receivership for about three years because the economy tanked and all their profit forecasts went down the tubes. It’s tough to run a railroad in bad economic times. It costs money to cut the grades a train can run, and lay some tracks down, let alone cut tunnels and dig trenches out of the middle of a large city. And then you have to maintain all that.
But money is tight these days…for some reason…and everyone in the city who was here when the Howard Street tunnel caught fire in July 2001 knows what is going to happen now. People were complaining about the retaining wall that collapsed last Wednesday, years before this, and CSX kept telling them there was nothing to worry about. If it was ever inspected at all in the past decade I’m guessing someone didn’t want to tell the board of directors their yearly bonuses would need to be spent shoring up a hundred plus year old stone wall. Now CSX is probably going to sue the city for damaging its tracks and the city will sue CSX back for damaging its street…and so on and so forth. And none of it needed to happen. But it did, because what was fifty years ago a reasonable rate of return on investment is woefully inadequate today. We want our double-digit returns and we want them now.
So the factories close and there is less for the rail companies to carry. So the businesses close because workers don’t make enough to buy things like they use to and there is even less for the rail companies to carry. So the economic heart of the cities shrivels, and with it, the city itself.
Maintenance is expensive. The city has a hard time keeping its infrastructure in good shape because it’s lost the massive industrial economic base it once had like a lot of old east coast cities did. But look around…the problem is Everywhere…
(Reuters) – More than 63,000 bridges across the United States are in urgent need of repair, with most of the aging, structurally compromised structures part of the interstate highway system, an analysis of recent federal data has found.
Meanwhile the banks and Wall Street keep demanding instant and ever higher returns on investment, and Grover Norquist wants to shrink government to a small enough size he can drown it in a bathtub. But government is a communal thing as in Community, and what is being whittled down to size is that sense of community, that we are all fellow Americans…neighbors. It is America Norquist and his pals are drowning in that bathtub, so they can feast without being presented a bill. And everyone is putting off maintenance because the money done all trickled up and the rising tide didn’t so much lift all the boats as sink the cars. And nature doesn’t care why you didn’t shore up the wall and improve drainage around it.
April 30th, 2014
Le Dance Pathetique…
by Bruce |
We gay folk are in that Some Of My Best Friends Are stage these civil rights struggles seem to always go through. Le Dance Pathetique… is a series I’ve been doing here for years, because sometimes you just gotta laugh. It’s about the rhetorical dance you see the bigots doing more and more frequently when challenged. The basic dance goes like this:
The gays are filthy dirty disgusting sexually perverted disease spreading child molesting family and America destroying menaces to civilization and everything we hold dear, and we must fight their gay agenda with all our might or else civilization will collapse and god will smite us all down…but I have a lot of terrific gay friends so I’m not a bigot.
Every dancer has their own style, but the basic dance never changes. There are so many gay friends of bigots out there you’d think Kinsey got it all wrong and we’re something like half the world’s population. Either that or there is one magnificent bastard out there who has been fucking with the heads of a whole lot of bar stool jackasses…probably for free drinks.
April 23rd, 2014
Love The Sinner, Hate The Love
by Bruce |
This link came across my news stream a few days ago…
As they say, “hate the sin, love the sinner”
It’s one of those self excusing bromides that some of us in this struggle have been hearing for decades. You wonder if the people uttering it even bother to listen to themselves saying it. Because they sure don’t hear us telling them that to hate our human needs and desires and demand we renounce them or face eternal hellfire and damnation is in fact, to hate us also…
The liberal evangelical Tony Campolo has called on Christians to love their gay neighbors as themselves, arguing that the Bible commands it, even as it similarly commands that gay sex is a sin. Campolo acknowledges the difficulties inherent in this seeming contradiction. Campolo told CNN, “I would say there’s a significant portion of the evangelical community that, for lack of a better word, is homophobic, that is nasty and mean.”
Campolo, like many religious Christians, believes the biblical standard is sex only within marriage between a man and a woman, celibacy outside it. He once recounted, “I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘I love your attitude, you’ve got tears in your eyes when you speak to me, you have compassion in your heart, but you’re breaking my heart when you tell me that I am called to celibacy.’”
But it’s not just celibacy they’re demanding of us. Let’s be honest here. When they say love the sinner, hate the sin, as though having sex was all there was to our human need, they’re tell us us that, after all, our sexuality is a thing easily cleaved from our selves, unlike how it is for heterosexuals, whom God made to join together in a perfect union of souls. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. So just stop having sex…that’s all we’re asking, all God is asking. But that is not all that is being asked of us. What is being asked of us, Oh So Compassionately, is that we live our lives bereft of love. And if you want to hear them trivialize our human hearts even more, listen to them say when we tell them this Oh I love my sister, or my brother, or my pet dog too, but I don’t need to have sex with them.
NOM board member Orson Scott Card once said it outright…
“However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. Nor does society benefit in any way from treating it as if it were…”
“They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes…”
-Orson Scott Card, Homosexual “Marriage” and Civilization
However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be… Homosexuals may speak of love, but they don’t really know what that word means. They’re confusing a distorted sexual desire with the higher nobler emotions heterosexuals feel toward their mates. Sin does that to a person. We’re only asking them to stop having sex. You’d think we were asking them to cut their hearts out. The sin of lust has distorted their feelings. We heterosexuals after all, know that sex does not define a person or a relationship. Love is about more than sex.
And so it is. It’s often argued that gay couples cannot rise to the level of marriage because they don’t produce children, and marriage is mostly about family life. But this argument is a sham, and it mirrors that other sham argument that being homosexual is not a sin, only engaging in homosexual acts is. If only the homosexuals just didn’t have sex, they could be welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven too…just like the rest of us. But heterosexual couples medically or by age incapable of having sex, are as welcome to marriage as they are the Kingdom and nobody in the love the sinner hate the sin camp is saying that same-sex couples can marry as long as they don’t have sex. Oh goodness no.
Heterosexual couples that stick together even if they are denied a sex life are seen as vindicating the power of love. That is why sterility among heterosexuals is no barrier to marriage. But the homosexual couple that fights an entire lifetime for the right to marry is waging an attack on God almighty, and on love and marriage and family and all human decency, whether they can have sex or not.
However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be… In 1983, Sharon Kowalski suffered severe brain injuries in a motorcycle accident leaving her unable to care for herself. Her lover, Karen Thompson, with whom she had exchanged wedding bands and shared a house, had to fight a long and bitter legal battle with Kowalski’s parents, who refused to allow Thompson any contact at all with their daughter. When Sharon, with difficulty, typed her wishes to go back home with Karen on a keyboard provided by a doctor, her parents took the keyboard away. At one point, Donald Kowalski, Sharon’s father, asked a reporter in exasperated frustration “What does that woman want with my daughter…she’s in diapers!” For almost nine years Thompson fought it out in court with Kowalski’s parents, refusing to let the woman she loved be condemned to life in a nursing home where she would be kept isolated from the world outside and denied any therapy that would have allowed her to communicate her wishes to be taken back home to Karen. When she finally won, Donald Kowalski called her an animal.
What does that woman want with my daughter… We are not the ones who do not know what love truly is, but we know perfectly well what bigots think sin is…they’ve been telling it to us for decades, for generations. A same-sex couple who cannot have sex would if unrepentant about their desires all the same, be ineligible for the Kingdom of God, let alone marriage. It’s not about the Act, if not engaging in the Act makes no difference. Their crime is that they love, and love is not permitted to homosexuals. When they say love the sinner but hate the sin, it isn’t homosexual sex that they’re calling sin. The sin is that we love.
April 19th, 2014
Message In A Bottle…
by Bruce |
…So many things I could tell you about, without breaking security. I know exactly where the lines are. Hubble, James Webb, I could talk your ears off about it and for once know that I wasn’t boring you. The starry nights are something we have in common. Something else. Why is that not surprising? Google WFIRST. I know tons of stuff…I live and breath all the stars in the sky, and the light from near the beginning of time, every day I come to work. I could tell you about it. I could see the stars reflected in your eyes.
But there is never any time. Not now, not when we were kids, not ever. There will never be any time for our generation. So it goes. Maybe someday the work I do will make a difference for somebody. Some astronomer maybe. Or some other kid like the one I was once, entranced by the starry night. But not for me. I could be washing dishes for a living, and still have the stars to look up at, and no one to give them to.
April 13th, 2014
Merely Because I Put A Knife Into Your Heart Is No Reason To Call Me Hateful…
by Bruce |
It seems the militant homosexual conspiracy has caused some feelings to be hurt…
Correspondence from a reader with traditional Christian beliefs
One of the sophistries you encounter early on when you walk (or are shoved) into the fight for gay equality, is that treating bigots like bigots just makes you a bigot too. And sure as the rising sun they were canting it loudly after Brendan Eich resigned as CEO of Mozilla. Conar Friedersdorf, took to the pages of The Atlantic to wag his finger at all the militant homosexuals that wouldn’t gracefully forget the multi-million dollar child molester smear campaign Brendan helped to finance, and just let bygones be bygones. And low and behold, he gets fan mail from someone with sincerely held beliefs…
It’s so rare for me to see gay marriage supporters saying the things you have said, and I desperately wish more gay marriage supporters would say those things. You understand that being opposed to gay marriage does not necessarily stem from hate. Very few people seem to understand that, and I am so sick and tired of my beliefs always being misunderstood. It seems like gay marriage supporters never actually take the time to understand traditional marriage supporters. We’re all automatically labeled as “homophobes,” and that’s an excuse they use to stop listening to anything we have to say.
If only they listened, they would understand that we’re not the evil, hateful bigots they think we are…
Sick and tired are you lady? This graphic came across my Facebook stream just now…here, let me show you sick and tired…
I was fifteen when the Stonewall riots happened. This man would have been maybe 5. You’d think the world he grew up in would have been better to him than mine but it wasn’t all that much. And for those gay kids growing up in strongly fundamentalist homes still have this same life ahead of them.
But then, homosexuals don’t love they just have sex…so Friedersdorf’s starry-eyed fan doesn’t have to feel badly that the knife in that man’s heart has her name on it too. God made sex just for men and women to have in the context of a godly marriage and if homosexuals have their own special burden to bear…well don’t we all?
Everyone sins. Everyone has an innate desire to sin, unfortunately. Some people’s innate desire is for homosexuality. I understand when gay people say that they can’t help having those feelings. I understand that hearing “you can change if you pray and try hard over time” is extremely difficult. Maybe we Christians haven’t talked enough about how we believe that everyone is a work in progress, including ourselves.
This is arrogance disguising itself as humility. The wolf in sheep’s clothing telling itself that it really is one of them and just happens to have a taste for lamb chops every now and then. Lady, if you really thought you were no better than the rest of us you wouldn’t be treating your neighbors lives like they’re your stepping stones to heaven. Your Gay Neighbor Is Not Your Work In Progress!
So many desperately lonely people in this world. But if gay people aren’t lonely, love lorn and despairing then the righteous aren’t being righteous enough. Jack McIntyre, one of the first clients of the first ever ex-gay ministry, Love In Action, wrote the following just before he killed himself…
I am not asking you to sanction my actions. That is not the purpose of my writing this at all. It is for the express purpose of allowing each one who will read this to know how I weighed things in my own mind. I don’t want you to think that, ‘I alone,’ should have been the perfect person, without sin. That would be ridiculous! It is the continuing lack of strength and/or obedience and/or will power to cast aside certain sins. To continually go before God and ask forgiveness and make promises you know you can’t keep is more than I can take. I feel it is making a mockery of God and all He stands for in my life.
Sick and tired are you lady? Look at that…a gay man kills himself rather than make another promise god he knows he can’t keep and you are sick and tired of being called a bigot are you? You wish gay people would just listen to you do you? We listen all right. Jack McIntyre listened. The roll call of the dead is full of gay adult and teenagers that have listen to the likes of you. Perhaps it’s time you shut up and listened to us. We are not your work in progress. We are not your stepping stones to heaven. Listen to us if your conceits can stand to hear another voice besides your own. Your kind have been killing us for centuries. When you haven’t killed us outright than through that living death prison of the heart you demand we make of our lives so you can go to heaven. Stop. Just stop. The only thing being compromised by letting us live our lives is your hubris. Stop mistaking it for righteousness, it is turning innocent people’s lives inside out, it is killing people and it is dragging you deeper and deeper into the gutter.
Your work in progress needs a lot more work. Cutting your neighbor’s ring finger off isn’t getting you any closer to being a better person.
March 29th, 2014
Don’t Worry…It’s Only Geek Humor…
by Bruce |
This came across my Facebook stream the other day…
I think I’ll name mine The Network That Dare Not Speak Its Name…
March 25th, 2014
by Bruce |
Death only closes a man’s reputation and determines it as good or bad. -Joseph Addison
I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it. -Mark Twain
I’ve lived through such terrible times and there are people who live through much worse. But you see them living anyway. When they’re more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they’re burned and in agony, when flies lay eggs in the corners of the eyes of their children – they live. Death usually has to take life away. I don’t know if that’s just the animal. I don’t know if it’s not braver to die, but I recognize the habit; the addiction to being alive. So we live past hope. If I can find hope anywhere, that’s it, that’s the best I can do. It’s so much not enough. It’s so inadequate. But still bless me anyway. I want more life. -Tony Kushner, “Angels in America”
In his book African Genesis Robert Ardrey wrote one of the more eloquent analogies for the grandeur of time and the curtain death places between us and the past, so often overlooked when pondering the origins of life. He asks the reader to place themselves on a lonely narrow California beach where foggy mountains slope down into the sea…
…let us make two assumptions. The first, not difficult, is that the visible horizon is just ten miles away. And secondly, we must assume that our sea is death, and that it is rising. This is not too difficult an assumption either, thanks to the lonely beach with the muted cries of a few distant gulls, and no other living thing. It is a sea of death that we face, stretching beyond the visible horizon to the other end of the once-living world. The death-sea rises, slowly and eternally as it has always been rising, covering all things that it touches. It laps now quietly at our narrow beach, the present.
Where the little waves fall back not twenty feet across the shining sand, we see revealed the rotting, moss grown, Spanish hulks of the Great Armanda…A gentle trough between two incoming swells reveals for an instant not a hundred feet from where we stand a cross…Hammurabi’s Babylon is lost beneath the water amidst shifting sands. We cannot see it, for the sea has risen too high. Eighty yards from our little beach, however, what seem to be three rocks break the incoming swells and make white water. They are, of course, the pyramids at Giza.
Nothing breaks the surface of time’s ocean beyond the pyramids…Had we the courage to wade out into this sea of no return, and to swim out a few strokes, we should find a sandbar just below the surface. These are the fields and pastures of those Middle Eastern peoples, nameless and forgotten, who domesticated wheat and barley and cattle and sheep… All that we call civilization stands between the sandbar and the shore…
…the beach we stand on is the precarious present. It will be swallowed before long as other beaches have been swallowed, and a new one will form just behind us…
I think of this image often when confronted by death. In Ardrey’s sea the ten mile horizon becomes a million years, and each one after that another million, and not many horizons do we travel before the short distance between the sandbar at the beginning of civilization and the shore seems almost laughably, terrifyingly small, let alone our lonely little beach. The joke I heard once is that it isn’t that life is so short but that we’re dead for so long.
I strongly doubt there is an afterlife and the concept seems awkward anyway. If you’re still there then there is no after, only metamorphosis of some sort. And even then the question becomes, of what sort. Do we still have anything left of us that can be thought of as human? In the end, what Tony Kushner said is true; what we want is not so much an afterlife as more life. But I don’t think there is even that.
But there is something. Our lives are as though little pebbles tossed into Ardrey’s sea of death. At the moment they hit the water and disappear we are gone. But there are ripples that fan out and away from our lives: The reputation we leave behind. The things we did to our neighbors in this life. The good and the bad.
There is no point in doing unto Fred as he did unto the rest of us because he won’t be bothered by it, he’s gone. You could think of picketing his funeral as a poke at the little tightly wound church of hate he left behind, but the point is without Fred that little ball of bile would not be. Fred was the problem and now Fred’s gone and he won’t care what you have to say about him now. His last chance of earthly redemption is gone. He done passed the Last Chance station and now it’s too late to get off. He will always be Fred God Hates Fags Phelps. Perhaps that was how he wanted it in the end anyway, to be remembered for what he hated, not what he loved. But at the end, could he even remember anything he had once loved?
There is nothing wrong with being angry at Fred. There is nothing wrong with that feeling of contempt for the man. He earned it, worked hard for it, and probably right up to the very end was immensely proud of it. But stand quietly at his grave, respectfully because this is your destination too someday, and let the life that once was be a warning. Hate does not share power within a heart. It will systematically kill every other thing you have in there, everything fine and noble you ever were or ever could have been, and take from you all the smiles and all the laughs and all the love you might have shared, until there is nothing left inside of you but hate itself. To picket a grave is pointless, there is nothing there anymore, only the ripples of what once was spreading gently across the sea of death. For all his picketing of the dead, and all the obscene hatred he vented at the mourners, he was powerless to stop or alter the ripples of their lives, and all the smiles and all the laughs and all the love that were shared, gently spreading outward in time. All Fred had within his power was to change the nature of his own reputation, his own life’s ripples and he did not. He hurt a lot of people, but he destroyed himself.
Stand quietly. Say a prayer if you have one in you. Will this world be better for your having walked in it? Then let him go. Don’t bury yourself along with him.
[Edited a tad for clarity...and some additional thumping...]
February 21st, 2014
I Hate You Cupid…
by Bruce |
…but then I’m hardly the only one. This came across my Facebook stream a little while ago…
Count your blessings straight boy, and be nice to the one you can’t love back. Painful unrequited love is probably waiting patiently for you too, somewhere down your road…
February 17th, 2014
by Bruce |
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox. So much win in that poem…
But she also wrote, Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes. How I hope that is true…
February 14th, 2014
Repost: Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown…No Rescue For The Rescuers…
by Bruce |
There was the guy I met on the path in Rock Creek Park. I was bicycling to work in those days because I didn’t have a car, and the path through the park was a good shortcut that allowed me to stay off the main roads. It was also a peaceful ride through the woods early in the morning. No busy buzz of traffic, no early morning commuter noise. I saw a cat laying on the side of the path and as I got close noticed it wasn’t moving. At first I thought it was dead, but as I slowed down next to it the poor thing raised its head and looked at me. It was in distress.
Another guy about my age comes bicycling up and together, me gently carrying the cat and him walking both our bicycles, we get the cat to his house, which was nearby. By the time we get there the cat has perked up a bit, but still isn’t moving much. It was a longhair of some sort, there was no blood anywhere on it and its coat was in good condition. But there was no collar so no way to tell who its owner was. Nothing seemed broken but you couldn’t be sure. The guy and his dad agreed to take it to a nearby vet. I went off to work.
After work I stopped by their house to ask about the cat. But I had nefarious motives. The guy who helped rescue the cat was beautiful, and had set even my dull gaydar ringing. On the walk back to his house we began chatting about this and that. There was an air of sadness to him. He spoke in soft, quiet tones as though he was sitting in church. His mother he said, had passed away some years ago and he and his dad lived together. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life but for now he was working part time and in school part time and hoped to get his degree soon. Somehow we begun talking about books we’d read and I’d thrown in a couple trolling comments about Lambda Rising bookstore, which he was familiar with enough that he knew where it was and where it had moved from, and when he mentioned he often used the path for an early morning jog I mentioned Billy Sive, the main character in the novel The Front Runner, and he replied that he was a vegetarian too and it was a better diet not just for runners but everyone.
So there I was at his front door, and his dad answers and invites me in. The guy I’d met was there and the three of us sat in the living room and chatted for a bit, first to assure me that the vet had said the cat would be okay and they were going to take care of it until its owner could be found. Then the talk turned oddly to me…what did I do for a living, how long had I been living in Rockville, what were my interests, and so on. I didn’t mind the inquisition, which came almost exclusively from his dad. In fact I was wanting just then to make myself seem interesting enough to the guy who knew who Billy Sive was that he’d want to see more of me.
Oh yes…I work at a custom plastic shop over in Kensington, and in my spare time I paint landscapes and and draw cartoons. Plus I do photography work for a couple local newspapers and I’m working on a book of my art photography. I emphasized as I usually do when I’m trying to get someone’s attention, my creative side. As his dad chatted with me about my photography, I noted that I had his son’s absolute attention, and from the occasional sideways glances I could tell that his dad saw it too.
His dad asked about my political views and then, as casually as he could manage, asked how I felt about gay rights. And with all the nerve I could manage I replied that I was completely in favor of gay equality. At this point I almost expected to get shown the door, but his dad nodded his head and…smiled warmly. “That’s good,” he said, “that’s good.”
Dad…approves?! This was unknown territory for me, but I was more than willing to explore it. His son seemed very uncomfortable. Shortly after that his dad excused himself, saying he had work to do. When we were alone, his son set me straight.
Dad was a happy agnostic apparently, but when the mother died the son converted to Catholicism. And to be homosexual was a very grave sin (it later became a mere intrinsic disorder…). I could have argued it with him, but there’s a point where you just see it in someone’s eyes that it’s going nowhere. Perhaps he saw it in mine too. He didn’t try just then to get me to believe it too, just to make sure I knew he believed it.
So we shook hands and I left. Years later I experienced for myself the bottomless grief of my own parent’s deaths…dad first and then many years later, mom…and have never doubted since how despairing and vulnerable it leaves a person. And I have wondered ever since if that gay guy’s dad had been trying, not so much to set his gay son up with a nice boy, but trying somehow to awaken him out of grief. Life goes on…find someone to share it with… But there are those who prefer gay people pass the hours of our lives alone, and in despair. I have no idea if, absent one life hating priest somewhere anything might have come of it between us, but a even a brief walk in the garden might have done wonders for both of us just then. Which, of course, is exactly why he had to believe that love between men was a grave sin, and I had to believe he believed it
Repost: Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown…The Boy I Met In Church
by Bruce |
The Google doodle today is lovely, and for me personally, very painful. Those of us who came of age right around the time of Stonewall had to find our way to love across a minefield of prejudice, ignorance and hate. And looking back on it you realize that so many of those roadblocks were put there to prevent you from proving other people’s prejudices wrong…to prevent you from rising above them. Because the one thing you never want the scapegoat to be able to do, is believe in themselves.
I have remarked often on how the gutter thinks homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. I’ve had it said to me outright at various times online. Orson Scott Card has written columns saying it with the same off-handed matter of factness one might talk about the weather. Here’s Randy Thomasson of Save California saying it. When I was a young man, people took it as an insult, as a mockery of their own happiness and joy, whenever gay people asserted their right to seek and find their other half too. And so many time I came close, only to have yet another chance snatched away because I couldn’t be allowed to live outside the gutter I’d been tossed into.
It’s better for gay youth and young adults nowadays. But this is not a good time for me. I’m 60 years old now, and I have so many stories…none of them happy…
Closest I ever came to having an actual boyfriend was the one I met in church. And that’s the way you would imagine it would happen in the best of all possible worlds isn’t it after all. You meet the boy or girl next door, say at church or some other social common ground. Your heart skips a beat and so does his (or hers) and the next thing you know the two of you are dating. The problem for us was twofold: we were gay and we were Baptists.
So, and perhaps unsurprisingly, right from the start of it emotional closeness was difficult for both of us. It’s a common complaint you hear at the tail end of romantic misfires among gay couples. He had trust issues. He was emotionally distant. Perhaps we simply were not right for each other after all. Or perhaps it was something he confided to me one night, as we lay together, in a very quiet, emotionless voice.
We began our tentative affair almost as soon as he got out of the military, having honorably served a tour of duty far, far away from the parent units. His mother and mine were church friends. Every Sunday we gathered at the same church until in my teens I decided church was not for me and mom, while she never stopped trying to nudge me back, never demanded I go whether I wanted to or not. That’s actually a very Baptist approach…there’s a reason Baptists don’t baptize infants and small children. You have to come to God wholeheartedly, just as you are.
For a while I actually worked for his father, but it didn’t last. As a boss he had a very bad temper, and could not keep his harsh brand of fundamentalist religiosity, so different from my own mom’s, out of the workplace. Religious tracts were scattered liberally all over his employee lunch room, and he and a favorite employee would discuss the finer points of the Bible all throughout the day, interspersed with bitter complaints about how his customers were always trying to cheat him. I wondered what home life was like with him. Then during the holidays he leveled a particularly angry outburst at his employees for choosing to spend time the weekend before Christmas with our families instead of in his shop. He’d not told us to come in to work that weekend, only in his usual passive aggressive way said that he would like it very much if we did. The next Monday morning he was shouting at everyone who walked in the door, “I WANT YOU TO KNOW THIS SHOP COMES FIRST!!!” and after storming out to get breakfast all of us (except for the favorite) walked…no, ran…out on him.
Sometime shortly after that incident, the boss’s son came back from his tour of duty and made a beeline to my little apartment in a friend’s basement, and next thing I knew we were in the sack together. Apparently he’d figured me out before I’d even figured myself out. My heart seemed like to burst with joy. I was so very lonely then, broke, no job prospects, no car, living in a friend’s basement, and here comes this guy I’d known since we were both kids, decent, well mannered, with a sharp mind you almost didn’t see behind a very big heart. Everything you would expect in the Baptist boy next door, but without the stereotypical hyper religiosity. He had two eyes that just seemed to smile at everything they saw, and a smile that melted my heart every time I saw it.
He had spent years away from the family nest, and now he was back. Bravely I thought, he came out to them. He said later that his father hadn’t exploded, mom and dad said they still loved him, and it would be okay. I had a chilly feeling then, that I knew just what ‘it’ was. Within a week his visits dropped sharply off. One day he told me offhandedly that he was probably more of a bisexual than gay, and I saw it coming. Two weeks later, after no visits at all, we happened to cross paths at a local grocery store and he told me he was getting married to a lady at the church his folks had introduced him to. I think I just nodded my head and wished him well.
Time passes…the universe expands… Seven years later I get a phone call from him…now he’s living far from the family nest, and recently divorced. Can we see each other again sometime? Well of course. And so we began another brief little hopeless fling. Sometimes you really see how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Emotional closeness, if not physical intimacy, was still excruciatingly hard for him. Are we boyfriends, I would ask. He would never answer, just change the subject. He lived far from my own home, and I was in love, so I began to make arrangements to move closer to him. At the time I was making a living as a contract software developer, and I studied the job market near where he was living. When I told him about that he seemed to panic. Once more out visits dropped sharply off. Then came a day he told me, via AOL Instant Messenger, that he was seeing somebody else.
Perhaps we were just not right for each other after all. The hard lesson to learn about love is you can find someone who is just right for you, who seems to complete you in all the places you never even knew were empty, until you met that one person, saw them smile into your eyes. And yet even so you may not be right for them. They may have a completely opposite feeling about you. Ask me how I know this. Perhaps we were not right for each other.
Or perhaps it was something he told me one night as we lay together, in a very quiet, emotionless voice. About the day he came out to his parents. About how the next morning before dawn his father had gone into the household office, fired up the computer, and created a brochure filled with verses condemning homosexuality and what God does to nations that tolerate that which is an abomination in His eyes. About how his father printed up dozens and dozens of copies of the brochure and as the sun rose, walked around their neighborhood and put one in every door of every house, for blocks around. Then he told his son what he had done.
What gay people know is this: strangers can beat you, can take your life away from you, but only family can chew your heart up, and spit it back out. And what I know is this: when you take the ability to wholeheartedly love and accept love from another away from someone, you stick the knife into that person’s heart and also into the heart of the one who might have been loved by them.
Do You Believe In Love?
by Bruce |
This year instead of my usual Valentine’s Day Poster Contest I’ll just repost a few entries from the pre game countdown I put up last year. Do you believe in love? When I was younger I did, most definitely. And I thought it was just a matter of letting fate cross my other half’s path with mine some day. And perhaps that would have happened too, but for the fact that I’m a gay man, and lots of people have this religious belief that homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. Mind…it isn’t that they have a belief in god or Jesus or whatever…the religion is that homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. There are Christians who believe this, there are Jews who believe it, Muslims, Agnostics, Atheists…it doesn’t matter what the avowed faith is. The faith they’ll spend the significant amount of energy, money, and personal moral capital on is Homosexuals Don’t Love, They Just Have Sex.
You want to light a fire in these folks, be a homosexual who believes in love. Be a homosexual who thinks you deserve the same chance at it they do. Then watch, as that place in your heart where a love life might have taken root and grown, is systematically, methodically torn apart…
I was in my twenties, not at all sure of what I was going to do with my life, but at least making ends meet working as a stock clerk at the warehouse of a small catalog retailer. They had two local stores and one, oddly, in Hilton Head, but like a lot of catalog retailers did most of their business around the holidays from the annual Christmas catalog they mailed out. I’d worked there by then for a couple years. Most of summer and autumn were spent bulking up the warehouse with goods for the Christmas rush. But the two local stores had to also be kept in supply. The Hilton Head store periodically got shipments from our warehouse. The two local stores were supplied by me and the company van.
One day, one of the clerks from the Montgomery Mall store came by to pick something up. My jaw probably made a mark in the concrete floor the moment I first laid eyes on him. About my height and age, thin but not scrawny, short reddish hair and geek glasses. His friendly smile as he asked me where the warehouse manager was seemed to lift me off the ground. I pointed in the boss’s direction and thought of that smile the rest of the day. No…the rest of that week.
Periodically he would return and I would walk over to greet him and our eyes would meet and we’d share a smile. My gaydar was never wonderful but it seemed written all over him. Problem was we were never left alone so I could strike up a casual chat with him. The warehouse was getting busy for the release of the new catalog and we had a bunch of new temporary hires running around. Whenever he came to the warehouse the warehouse supervisor always seemed to get to him first, and by the time he’d finished his business I was usually busy with something else.
Plus, it was the late 1970s. You just didn’t come out to people back then without a lot of careful preparation. By that time in my life I’d already been let go from a couple places after it became apparent that Bruce is gay. One supervisor had told me to my face that there was no place for homosexuals in his business. You had to be careful. If he was gay, and I was pretty sure he was simply by the way his eyes roved cheerfully over my body whenever he came around, he also knew he had to be careful. But after sharing several long lingering smiles with him I resolved to at least get a name and hopefully…somehow…a phone number.
One day as I was dropping off stock to the Montgomery Mall store, he came to the loading dock. He’d never done that before…it was usually one of the other clerks. His shift I’d assumed, was the late afternoon to closing one and I always made my deliveries in the morning before the stores opened. But that day, there he was, and he offered to help me unload. My heart leapt for joy. We began a casual chit-chat as we took the stock out of the van and into the store’s backroom. Then the store manager came out to the van…just as we were sharing another of those long lingering smiles. The look on her face could have frozen lava. She told him there was a customer he should take care of, glared at me, and left me to finish unloading.
The next day I was fired. Allegedly because some unspecified store manager complained my hair was too long. (yes, seriously) A couple days later I worked up the nerve to go to the Montgomery Mall store and of course there she was and I was told not to come back. I later learned he was let go as well. I never got his name. Never saw him again. But I can still see that last smile he tossed at me.
I’ve no idea if anything would have come of it, but a closer walk with him would have been nice. But someone else’s Closer Walk With Thee probably took precedence. And why buy your stairway to heaven when you can make it out of someone else’s dream.
Some years later I ran into the UPS driver who ran the route that serviced our warehouse…my job had me working closely with him getting our stuff out the door to our mail order customers, so when our paths crossed again we immediately recognized each other and started chatting. Hey…what’s up…how are things…? As casually as I could manage I asked him if by any chance he remembered the guy who had made my heart sigh, if only for one brief moment out of my life. There was a guy…I don’t know his name, but he worked at the Montgomery Mall store…came to the warehouse every now and then…remember him…? No, says he, he didn’t make runs to the Mall. But the warehouse manager who fired me he said, had ended up getting arrested and going to jail. The owners of the company had apparently caught him with his hands in the petty cash box.
No doubt he went to jail knowing that at least a thief’s chances for paradise were better than a sodomite’s.
Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com