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Archive for May, 2008

May 30th, 2008

Gracias

As we walked toward customs at the Puerto Vallarta airport my friend Joe turned to me and said "Welcome to someplace other then the U.S."  It was the first time in my life I’d ever set foot outside the country of my birth, and what was going through my mind at that moment was "I don’t speak a word of Spanish."  That’s not entirely true, but as all I can do pretty much is say ‘Hello’ and ‘Please" and ‘Thank you’, it might as well be.

I’m finding now that I’m immersed in someone else’s language that it’s not all that bad.  Hearing a language spoken all around me that I simply don’t fathom isn’t as frightening as I thought it would be.  I’m actually likely to pick up on some more of it before I leave Monday.  At least here in a tourist zone, people expect that not everyone wandering the streets speaks the language, particularly if you look like a Yankee tourist.  And what I’m discovering is that it doesn’t matter if I come off like a damn fool while trying to fumble my way to "let me know when you want to clean my room and I’ll leave", with the guest house help.  I’m a gringo…I’m not only allowed to be a fool, I’m expected to be one. 

The people here are so friendly I feel completely welcome here.  The only irritant is the tons of condo sales droids wandering the streets, all trying to grab your attention.  No fooling, about every block you walk around here, particularly in the gay neighborhood, you get a sales pitch that starts how "Hola Amego!"  They may offer to direct you to a nearby restaurant or get you a taxi or tickets to some show or event, but it always comes bundled with a pitch to get you to go look at some nice condo somewhere.  We were warned coming down here to be careful to get a regular cab and not one of the independents, some of whom claim to be working for hotels, because you’ll get a condo sales pitch all the way to your destination. 

Here’s the view I wake up to in the morning from my room…

My room is to die for. If you go to the Villa David web site, it’s #1…The Minx Room.  I do not qualify as ‘Minx’, but the room is absolutely the best I have ever stayed in. 

You really know you’re someplace other then the U.S. when you can look out your window and see naked high voltage power lines less then an arm’s reach away.

Look closely, and you can see how they tap the power for the guest house we’re staying at.  This ad hoc approach to everything seems to be the guiding principal here.  And while I can see where it would become annoying, I’m finding it intensely enjoyable too.  Something about the way things are just slapped together around here, and the near complete lack of traffic control, appeals to the inner anarchist in me.  On the one hand I am in a place where I don’t have the rights I do in America.  There is no first Amendment here, no innocent until proven guilty.  On the other hand, you have to like the way people here just get things done with what they have to work with.  Germany and Switzerland this isn’t.  Judging by Puerto Vallarta, this country would drive a control freak absolutely nuts, very very quickly.  In a way, you have to love that.  Take your favorite control freak to Mexico for a holiday and tell them to loosen up a bit.

My infrequent trips to Manhattan prepared me, somewhat, for navigating the roads here on foot.  Whereas in Manhattan the relationship between pedestrians and autos was just hectic, here it’s positively anarchic.  You Have to pay attention.  There are maybe one or two stop signs in the entire town of Puerto Villarta and maybe as many traffic lights.  I think right of way is determined by an informal game of chicken: whoever blinks first has to wait.  I have never seen an intersection before in my life, where there is only one traffic light controlling one approach, and the other three are free to do as they damn well please.

Much of the old town is built on the hillsides over looking the Pacific and it is beautiful and charming in just the way you always imagined a real Mexican town would be.  But they don’t do switchbacks here.  Even San Francisco does switchbacks.   Not here.  Here they just go straight up the damn hillside.  No kidding, one of the roads to our Guest house had lateral grooves cut into the pavement so cars could get enough traction to climb it.  I’d say it was somewhere between a 60 and 70 degree incline.  

And these are narrow little neighborhood streets.  The cars negotiate right of way on an ad hoc basis constantly, just as they do at intersections.  The drivers here seem to have a second sense of how close they are to getting their sides scraped.  Several times on the way to the villa, our driver came so close to the cars parked on the side of the streets you couldn’t have put a credit card between us.  When people park around here, I see them always folding their side view mirrors in.

The original Volkswagon Beetle lives on here in Mexico.  I’ve never seen so many on the streets since I was a kid.  Late yesterday afternoon I heard one wandering up the side roads next to our Villa, blaring something in Spanish out of two loudspeakers mounted on the roof.  I walked out onto my balcony to look and figured the two guys inside were either advertising something or hawking some political candidate.  They stopped at a nearby corner, and one by one people came out to them with their dogs.  As I watched, one guy stepped out with a syringe and vaccine bottle while the other took notes on a clipboard and they gave the dogs shots of some sort.  Maybe it was for rabies or some such.

Here’s how they deliver gas here…

This was taken off my rear balcony a little while ago.  The green trunk prowls around the neighborhoods like a damn ice cream truck.  It plays a little musical jingle which is periodically interrupted by a male voice saying something that I reckon means "Propane", then it goes back to playing the jingle.

It’s not as hot here as I thought it would be, but it is sweltering humid.  Being a Washingtonian I am use to this kind of humidity, but it’s early in the year for that for me.  They say it’s a dryer heat in the winter months.  So yesterday and today I am avoiding the streets while the sun is high.  The Villa has a nice pool I can soak in, and my room is on the top floor and it is to die for, with a lovely view of the town and the ocean on one side, and a balcony with a view of the town on the other.  I get nice air flow all day long, and I turn on the AC at night mostly to dry the air out a tad.

Villa David is absolutely lovely!  The pictures on the web don’t do it justice.  I could hang out here the whole weekend, but I want to explore some of the town with my camera too.  My fear of being a stranger in a strange land is melting away.  What I’m finding is that at least here in the tourist zones I don’t need to worry about the language barrier much.  That you are seen making an effort really does go a long way.  At least in the tourist zones.  And it’s just a real trip seeing another people’s take on living life.  I’m having a lot of fun here…finding myself more adventurous then I thought I’d be so soon after arriving.

I’m coming to appreciate Puerto Vallarta as being a good place for a first visit outside the country.  It’s more authentically Mexican then (so I’ve been told) Cancun.  But it’s welcoming to foreigners, and there is enough English spoken here that I quickly became comfortable roaming the streets with my camera alone, and walking into shops along the way to browse and buy.  All the shop owners know "How much?" 

As I was walking along I noticed a blister starting to form on one foot under the pair of sandals I bought in Key West last Christmas.  I didn’t want it going any further so I looked around for a place to buy a bandage and disinfectant.  I’m finding I can make out what most store signs in Spanish say because so many of them resemble English words, and I saw some word close enough to ‘Pharmacy’ on a sign above a little shop, that I figured it was the same thing as ‘Drugstore’.  Which it was.  What I saw inside looked little different from a small drugstore at home, other then some brand names were new to me.  The guy behind the counter said "Hola" and I greeted him likewise and said simply "Band-Aid"? and he nodded and took me over to a counter full of them.  I picked out a small tourist size package and glanced at the price…twenty-three pesos.  The exchange rate is close enough to 1 to 10 that I just move the decimal when I want to judge the value of anything here.  Basically, that pack of bandages was $2.30.  Fine.  I took it back to the counter and was rung up.  I handed him a fifty peso note and he handed me back a twenty peso note, a five peso coin and a two peso coin.   My first all-by-myself purchase in a foreign land.  Piece of cake.  Mathematics and commerce are universal languages.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Gracias

May 28th, 2008

Passport Virgin

I have never set foot out of the United States.  The plan is, that changes tomorrow, when some gay friends of mine are taking me down to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a long weekend at a gay B&B and lounging at the beach maybe.  Last month I got my first passport ever.  Last week I loaded up on pesos so I’d have something to spend.  I’ve been trying to pick up a little basic tourist Spanish so I won’t be the rude American when I go down there.  I’ve never been to another country before.  Hopefully this leads to my exploring more of the world.

There’s two reasons most likely that I haven’t done any international travel before.  I’ve been a bit scared of the language barrier, yes.  But it’s been money mostly.  I haven’t made good money for most of my life.  It’s only recently I’ve had actual vacation time plus disposable income enough to travel, and my first urge was to see the country by car.  I love taking long cross-country road trips.  Here in the States, they don’t require much planning.  You just hope in the car and drive somewhere.  To travel abroad means a tad more planning, and I am more of an oh let’s see where that road goes kinda guy.

I’m in the midst of packing now.  Later this afternoon I’ll pack the car and set the house alarm and drive to visit my friends down in Arlington.  Tomorrow we fly south of the border.  So this may be the last blog post for a while. The place we’re staying at, Villa David, advertises Internet connectivity and I’m taking my laptop and a little Nikon digital camera I bought specifically for air travel (It’s small and cheap enough I won’t be too upset if it’s stolen).  So I may be able to post some shots here over the weekend.

The friend who arranged this trip pointed me to the Villa David web site pages that describe the rooms, but not the Main Page, where it clearly states the place is "clothing optional".  Er…I am not a clothing optional kinda guy…but I’ll probably enjoy myself all the same because I’ll be with friends.  The web site says their pool has a web cam you can tune into.  

I’ve been reading a bunch of travel sites trying to learn what to expect, but standing here at the cusp of it all I know is that it’ll be something new and I won’t really know what’s what until I actually go.  That’s fine.  In a way, it’s a lot like all my other road trips, even though there is more planning involved.  I don’t want to fall into a pattern of sticking only to the roads I am familiar with in my middle age because then I might as well stop going anywhere.  There is no growing up, there is only growing.  And it seems the older you get, the more you need to push yourself into that unfamiliar, uncertain territory where you can see something new, and learn something you didn’t know before.  I want to see the world now.  Or as much of it as I can at this stage in my life anyway.  Hopefully this is a start. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Passport Virgin

May 27th, 2008

It’s Not News…It’s CNN…

We have more important things to discuss here then the war, the economy, and the presidential campaign.  Things like…How To Break Up With A Friend

When friends grow apart, commit acts of betrayal or demand too much time and energy, what’s the best way to end the relationship?

There are right ways and wrong ways, says Kerry Patterson, a consultant on human interaction in Provo, Utah. "It’s one thing when it dies a natural death, but when it’s one-sided, you have to be really sensitive."

Dear CNN: It’s time for both of us to move on.  It’s not you…it’s me… 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on It’s Not News…It’s CNN…


Beware The Data That Fits Your Preconceptions

Especially that data.

Biblical literalism or low IQ: which came first?

A few months ago I posted data which showed, unsurprisingly, that Unitarian-Universalists tend to have high IQs and Pentecostals not so much. What about something like Biblical literalism and IQ? Well, I plotted the IQ values from the General Social Survey for selected denominations and plotted them against the proportion which believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible. Prepare to be greeted by a very banal reality below the fold….

I see the scale.  I see the apparent correlation.  But there is no ‘g’.  And since I haven’t moved in fundamentalist circles since childhood, most of the stupid I see on a day to day basis doesn’t involve biblical literalism at all.

Just because you’ve embraced a theology that relieves you of the necessity of thinking, doesn’t mean you’re incapable of it.  If you haven’t ever met someone who hates having to think about life because doing that gets so very painful at times, you haven’t lived for very long, or talked to people much.  The smarter the person, the more vulnerable they are to cults, booze, drugs, and misanthropy.  And if fundamentalists are so stupid, then how’d they come to own the Republican Party?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Beware The Data That Fits Your Preconceptions


Understanding The German Language…Step One: There Is No Such Thing As The Word Is Too Big…

Okay…I’m going to Mexico Thursday and I should be paying more attention to my Spanish then German.  But I’m reading This Interesting Column by Rick Perlstein over at Talking Points Memo , about the American right’s failure to grasp the changing world around them…

The Germans have a word, vergangenheitsbearbeitung, or "working through the past," to describe that nation’s attempt to achieve something that, while not nearly as world-historic, dramatic, or portentous, is structurally similar to what has been happening on the American left over the last decade or so, apparently without many conservatives noticing: doing the hard work of reckoning with collective errs, facing up to them, unflinchingly staring them down, and restoring a community to balance by transcending them as best as we mortal humans can.

VergangenheitsbearbeitungVergangenheitsbearbeitung.   Vergangenheitsbearbeitung.  Christ almighty.  Okay…I think I’ve figured something out about Germans.  When they want a new word, they take the definition of that word, remove all the spaces between the words in the definition, and presto…they have their new word.  VergangenheitsbearbeitungVergangenheitsbearbeitung.  I’m not sure I can make my mouth do that without pausing for breath.

That’s as opposed to us terse Americans, who simply take the first letter of each word in the definition and make a word out of that.  Radar.  Laser.  Scuba.  CD-ROM.  WTF.  Okay…that last one isn’t a word…yet… 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Understanding The German Language…Step One: There Is No Such Thing As The Word Is Too Big…


Microsoft Is…Oh Never Mind…

And another, from Don Reisinger’s c/Net column…

When will Microsoft finally grasp that consumers and vendors have some trust issues with the company?

They don’t care.  Customer trust was never in the business plan.  The plan was always to have a monopoly on the desktop.  When people have no choice but to buy from you it doesn’t matter if they trust you or not. 

Bill doesn’t grok trust.  He’s made himself a life where he doesn’t have to. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Microsoft Is…Oh Never Mind…


Microsoft Is Bill Gates. Bill Gates Is Microsoft. Understand Now?

Don Reisinger over at c/Net poses a question, regarding the company that made vaporware and FUD two of the central pillars of its business model…

I’m not going to sit here and say that every company should be admitting its failures for every problem with products, but can’t Microsoft finally admit that Vista is a major blunder that has cost the company far too much? Can’t Microsoft finally open its mouth just once and tell us what we should really expect for the future and promise us a new operating system that won’t commit the same mistakes Vista has committed?

No.

This has been another episode of Simple Answers To Simple Questions… 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Microsoft Is Bill Gates. Bill Gates Is Microsoft. Understand Now?


Phoenix Descending

This photo is very cool…

 

This is a shot of the Mars Phoenix Lander descending to the surface of Mars.  It was taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as it passed overhead.  In the shot, Phoenix is hanging from its descent parachute.

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Phoenix Descending


Not Honor Killing, But Murder, Pure And Simple

Der Spiegel has an article today on the murder of 16 year old Morsal Obeidi, an Afghan girl living in Germany, who had to die when she came to believe that her life belonged to her, not to the males in her family.  You hear a lot lately about honor killings among Muslims as though misogyny was exclusively a Muslim problem.  It isn’t, as even a cursory glance at the rates of domestic violence here in the United States will tell you.  The problem isn’t religion.  It’s the bitterness of runts. 

When all you have to be proud of is what you physically are, because you never bothered or saw no need to make anything more of yourself then that, the inner void that would have held everything you might have become is filled with resentment instead.  White.  Straight.  Male.  Whatever.  The one who rises above themselves kills you, by leaving you behind, by leaving you all alone with only that emptiness inside of you where a person could have been.

In this new world, the proud men are the first to become losers. They lose their way of life, because in their world their only claim to authority is the fact that they are men and that, as men, they can resort to their one advantage over women, brute strength. They cling to old concepts like honor, because honor is something that even a loser can invoke.

Beware, not the angry man, but the empty one. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Not Honor Killing, But Murder, Pure And Simple


Random Artifacts On The Gay History Shelf – Otto Rahn And The Holy Grail

Swear to God every time I turn around these days I find myself discovering something just…amazing…in the story of Gay people.  The Telegraph sensationalizes this guy as the "inspiration" for Lucas and Spielberg’s Indiana Jones.  I strongly doubt it…but his story is interesting all the same…

The original Indiana Jones: Otto Rahn and the temple of doom

Very little is certain in the short life of Otto Rahn. But one of the few things one can with any confidence say about him is that he looked nothing like Harrison Ford. Yet Rahn, small and weasel-faced, with a hesitant, toothy smile and hair like a neatly contoured oil slick, undoubtedly served as inspiration for Ford’s most famous role, Indiana Jones.

Like Jones, Rahn was an archaeologist, like him he fell foul of the Nazis and like him he was obsessed with finding the Holy Grail – the cup reputedly used to catch Christ’s blood when he was crucified. But whereas Jones rode the Grail-train to box-office glory, Rahn’s obsession ended up costing him his life.

However, Rahn is such a strange figure, and his story so bizarre, that simply seeing him as the unlikely progenitor of Indiana Jones is to do him a disservice. Here was a man who entered into a terrible Faustian pact: he was given every resource imaginable to realise his dream. There was just one catch: in return, he had to find something that – if it ever existed – had not been seen for almost 2,000 years.

Well he didn’t find it, obviously, or there wouldn’t still be documentaries being made today about the search for the Holy Grail.  What he did find, like a lot of Germans did to their horror back then, was when you give someone who promises to make heads roll absolute power, don’t be surprised when one of those heads is yours.

According to Jeremy Morgan, whose uncle, Herman Kirchmeir, was a friend of Rahn’s, the two men shared an interest in Parsifal and the Grail. ‘They used to go climbing together, exploring caves and so forth. I used to hear about him as a child. The feeling in my family was that Rahn was an honourable man who had got himself into this terrible bind. He wasn’t anti-Semitic, but he’d taken the SS’s money because he needed funding for his archaeological projects. Then, having done so, he couldn’t get out.’

What gives Rahn’s dilemma peculiar piquancy is that there’s evidence to suggest that he was Jewish himself – although it’s not clear if he was aware of it. He was also gay. Bravely, if naively, Rahn began to move in anti-Nazi circles. Nigel Graddon, author of a new biography of Rahn, Otto Rahn and the Quest for the Holy Grail: the Amazing Life of the Real Indiana Jones, believes that Himmler’s disenchantment with Rahn was a result of his failure to find the Grail.

‘Basically, he came back empty-handed,’ he says. ‘That was his biggest offence. It’s true that Rahn did voice anti-Nazi sentiments, but he was always pretty discreet about it. What would have been far more of a problem to Himmler was that Rahn was openly homosexual. In the early days, Himmler had been prepared to turn a blind eye to it. But as time went on, his tolerance wore thin.’

In 1937, Rahn was punished for a drunken homosexual scrape by being assigned to a three-month tour of duty as a guard at Dachau concentration camp. What he saw there appalled him. Clearly in a state of anguish he wrote to a friend, ‘I have much sorrow in my country… impossible for a tolerant, liberal man like me to live in a nation that my native country has become.’

He also wrote to Himmler resigning from the SS. This, too, was as naive as it was brave – the SS being the sort of organisation you only resigned from feet-first. Although Himmler accepted Rahn’s resignation, he had no intention of letting him escape. What happened next is unclear. There are stories that Rahn was threatened with having his homosexuality exposed, also that he had links with British Intelligence.

Told that SS hitmen were out to get him, Rahn was apparently offered the option of committing suicide. One evening in March 1939, he climbed up a snow-covered slope in the Tyrol mountains and lay down to die. He is believed to have swallowed poison, although no cause of death was ever given. The following day Rahn’s body was found, frozen solid. He was 34.

‘I always understood that he had chosen his favourite spot to die in,’ says Morgan. ‘He was lying down looking up at the mountains, rather as if this might lead his soul to some Arthurian heaven.’

You know…this guy was a romantic in the worst sort of way, not the best.  The quest for the Holy Grail is one of those things only eccentric boobs go on, like the Fountain Of Youth or the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.  He was smart, he was persistent, he could have lent his passion to serious archeology and added a few lines to the book of knowledge in the process.  Instead he let himself wander off into an enchantment.  But you really have to admire someone who had the nerve to write Heinrich Himmler a letter of resignation.  That wasn’t naivety, it was that guilelessness which in the fire separates the human from the thug.  The oppressor finds its tool isn’t so pliant after all.  Humans have a conscience.  They also dream…

And there the story might have ended – except that Hollywood has conferred a strange kind of immortality on Otto Rahn. But it’s not only Hollywood; on the internet, his memory continues to be bathed in a richly speculative glow, fanned by ever more outlandish theories about his fate.

Predictably, there are stories that Rahn was murdered, or that he didn’t die at all in the Tyrol – this was just a clever bluff to fool the Nazis. Instead, he apparently survived, changed his first name to Rudolf and went on to become the German ambassador in Italy. Graddon believes that, ‘There is too much fog swirling around his headstone. We simply don’t know what happened to him, and as a result all kinds of rumours have sprung up.’

As for the Grail, that too lives on, with claimants and contenders continuing to turn up in the most unlikely places. The most recent sighting was in 2004 when it was supposed to have been found in the late Lord Lichfield’s back-garden in Staffordshire. As the estate manager said at the time, ‘The Grail is like Everest: you climb it because it’s there.’ Or not there, of course.

Kilimanjaro is a snow covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and it is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai "Ngaje Ngai," the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude… 

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Random Artifacts On The Gay History Shelf – Otto Rahn And The Holy Grail

May 24th, 2008

You Already Have Every Right We Think You Need

Recently a dear southern friend instructed me passionately in the theory of "equal but separate."   "It just happens," he said, "that in my town there are three new Negro schools not equal, but superior to the white schools.  Now wouldn’t you think they would be satisfied with that?  And in the bus station, the washrooms are exactly the same.  What’s your answer to that?"

I said, "Maybe it’s a matter of ignorance.  You could solve it and really put them in their places if you switched schools and toilets.  The moment they realized your schools weren’t as good as theirs, they would realize their error."

And do you know what he said?  He said, "You trouble-making son of a bitch."  But he said it smiling.
        -John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley (1962)

Shallow understanding from people of good will, is  more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
        -Martin Luther King Jr.

I have a proposition along the lines of Steinbeck’s.  If heterosexuals think civil unions really are equal to marriage, let them convert their marriages to civil unions.  Once we gay folk see how well civil unions work for heterosexual couples after all, it’ll really put us in our place won’t it?

I jest of course.  But I want you think about this.  If separate but equal really is equal, then why does it have to be separate?  The answer is, typically, that same-sex marriage is too controversial to be a realistic goal now.  I can appreciate a tactical decision to pursue equality in stages, but only so long as we’re all clear what the ultimate goal is, and why we have to do it that way.  But that’s not what I’m hearing in the wake of the California Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.  What I’m hearing from various quarters, not all of them heterosexual, is that we blew it in California by going for marriage, when we already had a perfectly acceptable compromise in separate but equal civil unions. 

It’s very frustrating to listen to the debate surrounding the California Supreme Court’s marriage decision to devolve into babbling talk radio crap about how foolish it is for gay people to fight this as though it’s all or nothing, and particularly in California where we already had perfectly good separate but equal civil unions.  If I hear one more time about how we’re only fighting over a word I am going to fucking explode.  Can anybody who says that just stop and think about what they’re saying for a moment? 

A word.  A word.  A motherfucking word.  Why does a motherfucking word matter?   Say, I have an idea, why not ask the heterosexuals who are fighting bitterly to keep a mere word all to themselves if that’s what they’re fighting for.   A word.  A word.  Ask them if it’s only a word.  Go ahead.  And when you ask them you need to listen to what they tell you.  You need to pay attention.  Especially when they explain to you why letting us have That Word devalues it for them. 

This is not over a word.  It’s not even over marriage as an institution.  It’s not about what marriage is to heterosexuals, but about what we are to heterosexuals.  When you understand why heterosexuals want to reserve the word ‘marriage’ for themselves, you understand why civil unions will never be equal to marriage.

After the California decision, USA Today posted an editorial that is eminently typical of the response from what King might have called the People Of Good Will.  As USA Today likes to posture as a civilized foe of bigotry, you would think they’d have warmly congratulated Californian gays on this milestone, and on their courage and fortitude the for the sake of their love.  You would think this…if you weren’t paying attention….

Last week, when California became the second state after Massachusetts to allow gay marriage, same-sex couples celebrated and began planning June weddings. Good for them. But the unfortunate and unnecessary impact of the California Supreme Court ruling might well have been to set back the cause of gay rights more broadly.

The judges ruled 4-3 that gays’ inability to get married amounts to discrimination under California’s constitution, even though the state’s domestic partnership laws give them the benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

In other words, pragmatic political compromise on the intensely controversial issue is not allowed in California. It’s all or nothing, and recent political history leaves little doubt about what will follow.

Never mind for a moment that it’s always easy to be pragmatic about someone else’s lives.  Pay attention to this.  The instinct in the "mainstream" "moderate" pews the moment, the instant, same-sex couples get a chance to marry isn’t to be happy for them, it isn’t even to raise a red flag of warning, though if you skim that editorial you might think that’s what they’re doing.  They’re not.  The point of the editorial isn’t to warn of a backlash, it assumes one.  The point is to blame the gay community for causing it.  We are always to blame for the hate leveled at us.  It is always our fault.  The distance between bigots who say the "gay lifestyle" is self destructive, and the People Of Good Will who say that we are needlessly provoking our enemies and whatever comes of that is Our Fault, is thinner then the paint on one of Fred Phelp’s God Hates Fags posters.  As far as they’re both concerned, we bring it on ourselves.

How?  The bigots say we bring it upon ourselves just by being homosexuals.  The People Of Good Will say we do it by provoking our enemies.  In other words, by defending ourselves from the bigots.  The bigots say we are unclean.  The People Of Good Will say that we should at least act like we are unclean for the sake of keeping the peace.  Besides they say, we already have all the legal protections we need.  To ask for more is just selfishly causing trouble.   We are always the trouble makers in this story.  And this story goes back a long, long way.

Once upon a time, before there was civil unions, let alone same sex marriage anywhere in the United States, the argument was that same-sex couples already had all the legal rights they need, because we could always avail ourselves of things like medical directives and powers of attorney.   The case of William Robert Flanigan Jr. and Robert Lee Daniel back in March of 2002 is instructive here.  For four hours, officials at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center barred Flanigan from his dying partner’s bedside, saying he was not "family", and that ‘partners’ did not qualify. Though Flanigan had legal power of attorney for his partner, Robert Lee Daniel, officials at the Shock Trauma Center kept him away from his partner’s bedside. Only when Daniel’s mother arrived from New Mexico, was Flanigan allowed into Daniel’s room. By that time, Daniel had lost consciousness. He would die two days later.

Because Flanigan was not present during Daniel’s final four hours of consciousness, Flanigan was unable to tell Shock Trauma that Daniel did not want breathing tubes or a respirator. When Daniel tried to rip the tubes out of his throat, staff members put his arms in restraints.

At first glance all this seems irrelevant to a discussion of civil unions.  Because Maryland at that time did not have a medical directives registry, and did not then and does not now recognize civil unions, they didn’t enter at all into the legal considerations of this case.  But look at it.  In the context of making health care decisions for his beloved,  Flanigan’s durable power of attorney gave him, in theory, for all practical purposes exactly the same rights as a spouse.  But in practice, in the moment of crisis, that durable power of attorney couldn’t have been more worthless.  United in a mere legal arrangement, as opposed to being Married, Daniel and Flanigan simply weren’t regarded as a family.  That was the immediate reflex of the hospital staff.  Their relationship wasn’t a marriage.  It was something else.  Something other then marriage.  And so Daniel died apart from his lover, with the tubes he was terrified of shoved down his throat, and his arms strapped to the bed.  There was no family there to say otherwise, as far as the hospital was concerned.  Something other then marriage, is inevitably something less then marriage. 

Flanigan later sued the hospital.  After trying different excuses, first saying they never got the paperwork on Flanigan;’s power of attorney, Maryland Shock Trauma decided to tell the jury that their emergency room was simply too busy to let him into where Daniel was being treated.  That he was allowed in when Daniel’s mother, the legitimate family, arrived, had to have been just sheer coincidence.  Ask yourself what jury would buy that if it were a heterosexual couple.  Yes…the jury bought it.  Maryland Shock Trauma was let off the hook.  Flanigan was left only with his memories of not being able to keep his beloved from the thing he feared most in his last hours on earth, and to be there with him.  The usual words of condolences, worth their weight in gold, were spoken all around.

Make no mistake, had Flanigan and Daniel been anything other then a gay couple that power of attorney would have allowed the one to make medical decisions for the other.  But what the hospital staff saw in that document wasn’t a power of attorney, but two homosexuals asking to be treated as if they were married, and that was an attack on their own marriages.  That is where the reflex came from.  When the staff told Flanigan he could not be with Daniel or have any say in how he was treated, because he was Not Family, they were not simply enforcing hospital rules, they were defending the sanctity of their own marriages.

Sanctity.  You hear the word a lot in this struggle.  Of all the careless brain dead claims being made here by People Of Good Will, the claim that gay activists have turned the fight over same-sex marriage into an all or nothing battle is the most nefarious.  In state after state, and even in California, the enemies of gay equality have either tried to, or enacted amendments that sweep away both same-sex marriage And civil unions, And anything and everything else that gives same sex couples even the passing rights that married couples enjoy, in the name of preserving the sanctity of marriage.   In the vast majority of states, this was long before same-sex marriage could even have been a possibility.  How close to same sex marriage was Virginia, when it passed its constitutional amendment barring it, as well as anything even remotely like it?  In fact, he entire history of the fight against gay equality has been waged as an all or nothing struggle by our enemies, and was long before the gay community began seeking marriage in earnest. 

Our enemies understand the logic of this fight a lot better then some of us seem to.  What’s confusing, or more likely what a lot of us are in denial about, is that the fight over same-sex marriage isn’t a fight over same-sex marriage specifically.  It’s a furious, bitter, scorched earth battle over the status of gay people.  That is the root of it, that is the thing we are all fighting over.  Are we your neighbors, or are we an abomination in the eyes of god?  Are we as human as anyone else, or are we the victims of a kind of sexual sickness?  Is the fact that we mate to our own sex just a simple and unremarkable variation like being left-handed or green-eyed, or is it a damaging distortion of natural sexuality?  If it’s the latter, it should be suppressed like any other illness afflicting humankind.  The kinder, gentler view is that we are merely some sort of unfortunate sexual cripples.  But in the eyes of the homophobes, we are a curse on humanity and you don’t grant rights to a curse on humanity. 

They have been waging this war against granting us human status for decades now.  It is not about marriage specifically, but marriage is both their trump card and the end of pretense.  Like raising the fear of homosexual child molesters, waving same-sex marriage in people’s faces frightens people into thinking gay rights is an attack on their families, on their most intimate sense of self, on that which is sacred to them.  If people who engage in unnatural, distorted sexual behavior can have their brokenness treated the same as the wholesome love of two normal heterosexuals, then that reduces the love and devotion of heterosexual couples to the level of pornography.  But the other edge to that sword is that letting same sex couples marry acknowledges their shared humanity with the heterosexual majority.  Same sex marriage is both the homophobe’s weapon, and their greatest fear, because then the battle is simply over.

I have watched this fight for decades.  Not the marriage fight.  The gay civil rights fight.  And I tell you, Every Step Of The Way, whether it was over the right to hold down a job, to the right to simply have sex with the one you love without being thrown in jail for sodomy, our enemies have turned every single solitary step we have taken, every meager right we have ever fought for, into a fight over same-sex marriage.  Oh, we can’t give them hospital visitation rights, it would lead to homosexual marriage!!!  Oh we can’t give them protection from discrimination in the workplace, that will lead to homosexual marriage!!!  What was the first thing they started screaming about after the U.S. Supreme Court voided the sodomy laws?  It wasn’t that the queers would start having sex now.  They know we’re having sex.  They immediately started babbling about same-sex marriage.  They don’t give a rat’s ass about our having sex.  Animals have sex too.  But only human beings marry.

So much, so obvious.  What should have been more illuminating then it seems to have been, was how after Lawrence v. Texas the mainstream news media and all the so-called liberal and moderate middle of the spectrum pundits started worrying about the possibility of same-sex marriage too.  Mostly to re-assure each other that Justice Kennedy had said their decision shouldn’t wouldn’t lead to that.  This was the reaction on the part of the self described sensible middle of the roaders, the People Of Good Will, to the fact that we were no longer presumptive criminals simply by virtue of being homosexual: Gosh…I hope this doesn’t lead to them getting married or anything.  But why shouldn’t it?  Why shouldn’t people who say they’re against ignorant bigotry towards their gay neighbors, want us to have the same status they do?

Because, they don’t really mean it.  For the People Of Good Will, we may not be a curse on all mankind, but we are still sexual cripples at best, if not disgusting perverts at worst.  They might agree that civil society should tolerate our existence the sake of the freedoms of all.  They may not go on crusades against homosexuality.  But you need to not mistake that for enlightenment or even tolerance.  It is disgust.  They just don’t want to deal with it.  They aren’t going on crusades because they find the entire subject distasteful.  And that distaste has consequences. 

When they say civil unions is a rational compromise between two extremes, look at that, really look at it.  It is the middle ground between your being wholly and completely human, and being cursed by God that they are saying is a rational compromise we should gratefully accept if we weren’t so stubborn.  In exchange for just shutting up so they don’t have to deal with our existence, we are being offered the compromise status of damaged goods.  But you don’t treat damaged goods as though they are anything but damaged. 

Here is how USA Today viewed the decision of the California Supreme Court:

…the domestic partnership laws in California are hardly equivalent to the egregious racial discrimination of the Jim Crow era. Far from denying rights, they guarantee gays equal treatment in such important areas as raising children, assigning responsibility for medical choices and settling financial matters.

By pushing the envelope, the California ruling will help those who want to deny gays such rights — blatant discrimination that reaches far beyond understandable differences rooted in the religious meaning of marriage. Even in California, an initiative is already underway to put a same-sex marriage ban into the state constitution. Similar bans are likely to be considered in Arizona and Florida. Failed attempts to amend the U.S. Constitution will revive.

The special status and sanctity of marriage is the ultimate blessing for couples who want to spend their lives together. Eventually, the nation might be ready to extend the institution to same-sex couples. But, as  New Jersey’s top judges wrote in a 2006 gay marriage decision, courts "cannot guarantee social acceptance, which must come through the evolving ethos of a maturing society."

It will be regrettable if the impact of the California decision is to slow or reverse that evolution.

Look at that first paragraph I quoted, where they offer the separate but (at least somewhat) equal defense of civil unions.  But just how egregeous could Jim Crow have been, if black people merely had to drink out of separate fountains.  After all…it was the same water…right…?

There is separate but equal.  But if all you see in that photograph is the black guy has equal access to water you are missing the egregious nature of Jim Crow, just as the editors of USA Today are missing the egregious nature of civil unions.  In point of fact, all it takes to see nothing wrong with what is happening in that photo, is to not see the humanity of the black man.  He has water…what’s the problem?

The special status and sanctity of marriage is the ultimate blessing for couples who want to spend their lives together. Eventually, the nation might be ready to extend the institution to same-sex couples.  Here the editors of USA Today admit out of the other side of their mouths, that this special status, that sanctity, that Ultimate Blessing, is precisely what civil unions are meant to exclude us from.  It does not, and you have to understand this, signify a legal status, so much as a social understanding.  And that social understanding is that our unions, that our love, does not rise to the sacred level of heterosexual love, and does not merit the same special status, the same blessing, that heterosexual love does.  This is the premise, spoken and unspoken, behind every appeal to the "special status of marriage".  It is not that marriage is so special after all, but that we are not worthy.

This is why giving same-sex couples access to marriage desecrates it.  That is why they use the language of desecration when we agitate for the right to marry.  By enacting the rites of marriage, we don’t celebrate it, we can only desecrate it.  That can only make sense if you regard gay people as incapable of experiencing love and intimacy as profoundly, as urgently, as heterosexuals do.  And that only make sense if you see gay people as irredeemably damaged goods.  And that is the thinking.  Same-sex marriage desecrates the Institution of marriage because homosexual love is only one step removed from pornography, if that.  That is why, exactly why, you hear them saying that same-sex marriage means "anything goes."  That simply does not follow absent the view that homosexuals don’t really love, they just have sterile, barren, pitiable sexual assignations, and pretend that it’s love. 

The People Of Good Will may be disgusted at the thought of gay sex, or they may feel pity for us and think themselves progressive because they would have us be treated with compassion and concern, just as you would treat anyone with a profound handicap.  But you don’t hang forgeries in an art museum, you don’t sell water as whiskey, you don’t treat someone who bought a degree over the Internet as though they’d actually been to college, and you don’t treat a same-sex couple as though they are married.  To do otherwise is to cheapen marriage into meaninglessness.   Same sex couples do not experience intimate romantic love as profoundly as heterosexuals do.  That Is the thinking. 

And that is why civil unions will never be equal to marriage.  The statutes defining them could read absolutely identically, word for word, comma for comma, period for period, and they will not be treated equally to marriages, because the basic premise defining them, the bedrock they rest upon, is that homosexual love is not the real thing, but a cheap, if not ugly mockery of the real thing.  No injury, no foul.  Civil unions, as a substitute for marriage, are not even a consolation prize.  They are a facade of respect, erected upon what heterosexuals consider to be a facade of love.

And that understanding of our love lives, of our humanity, has consequences.  Does anyone actually believe that most people voting against both same sex marriage and civil unions really don’t understand they are voting away both?  Do you really think that people who believe we desecrate the institution of marriage will respect our unions if they merely go by another name?  Wake up please.  Ask William Robert Flanigan Jr. how well a substitute for marriage works.  Ask the civil union’ed couples in New Jersey and Vermont who found out the difference between a marriage and a civil union that had all the same rights on paper, but not the same regard in the eyes of people who know that a civil union is a civil union precisely because it does not represent a sacred human bond like marriage does, but at best a pale imitation of one.  In the courts, in the public square, in the neighborhoods and villages, in the emergency rooms and in the funeral homes, absent the kind of recognition of our humanity that would make civil unions superfluous anyway, every civil union they encounter will be weighed by heterosexual people for what it is, not for what it isn’t, and what it isn’t is a marriage.

This is not a fight over a word.  It’s a fight for that acknowledgment of our humanity, and to have our human needs and our human dignity respected.  As long as heterosexuals view our relationships as being something fundamentally different from their own, they will treat them as something fundamentally less then their own.  And they will, never doubt it, apply the law as though they are something fundamentally less from their own.  Something other then marriage, is inevitably something less then marriage.  That has in fact, been the documented experience in at least one state, New Jersey.  Nothing should have been less surprising.  It is simply, it is inevitably, because applying two different labels, one to the union of opposite sex couples, and a different one to the union of same-sex couples, establishes that they are different things, and gives people permission to treat them as different things.  And as long as people believe they have that permission in the spirit of the law, they will use it regardless of the letter of the law.

There is no ‘but’ in equal.  We know who our friends are.  They are the ones who may worry about a backlash, may question tactics and means, but not that the fight is necessary and just.  They understand that love is something to be cherished and defended from hate, not compromised in the face of it.   They know how important it is to us to defend the honor and the dignity of our love, because they can look at us, and see people not unlike themselves and they would do the same in our shoes.  We are not damaged goods.  We are friends and neighbors.  Fellow citizens of the American Dream.  Shallow understanding, is no understanding at all.  It is the person that is shallow, not the understanding.  All it takes to understand why we fight, is to have ever loved someone.

To the folks who don’t want to fight this as an all or nothing battle: I’m sorry.  Nobody should have to grow up and go through life taking one wound to the heart after another.  This fight tears people apart.  I’ve seen it.  I hate it.  I don’t blame you for not wanting to deal with it.  But you need to understand this: you found yourself in an all or nothing battle with hate, the moment you first realized that you are gay.

[ Edited a tad…]

  
 

by Bruce | Link | React! (5)

May 22nd, 2008

Massive Resistance

And as a follow-up to the post below…  

Therefore, the ruling to impose homosexual "marriages" upon California was tyrannical, unconstitutional, and immoral. Like many state legislatures that refused to accept the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision saying slaves were property not persons, Californians must not accept the California Supreme Court’s edict that marriage is no longer only for a man and a woman.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen the right invoke Dred Scott.  They’ve done it routinely over abortion too.  They’re calling for massive resistance to the courts and claiming as moral justification the ruling upholding the legality of slavery. 

Ever see them invoke Plessy v. Ferguson?  No?  Me either. 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)


We Were Only Following Orders…Orders We Heartily Approved Of Naturally…But Orders…

From Dan Savage over at SLOG…

Issuing Marriage Licenses to Gay Couples the Moral Equivalent of Gassing Jews

So says Save California, an anti-gay group that is calling asking it supporters to call county clerks and demand that they refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. From their website:

Ask your county clerk if they were a Nazi officer during WWII and had been ordered to gas the Jews, would they? At the Nuremberg trials, they would have been convicted of murder for following this immoral order.

Ask yourself if any of the morally righteous folks over at Save California would have refused to sign an order sending a gay man to the concentration camps.  Go ahead.  Try not to laugh.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on We Were Only Following Orders…Orders We Heartily Approved Of Naturally…But Orders…


The Face Of The Hated…It Is Everyone’s

Good catch by Timothy Kincaid over at Box Turtle Bulletin.  Gary Glenn, President of Michigan klavern of the American Family Association, waves the Homosexual Menace scarecrow over at Peter LaBarbra’s Americans For Truth.  Beware the gays!  Beware the Gays!  Beware the Gays!  Glenn is warning us about the Homosexual Menace.  Can you spot the problem with this passage about the Homosexual Menace…?

Michigan’s largest homosexual activist group says once marriage is legally redefined to include homosexual couples, business owners and even news media outlets who refuse to recognize such marriages should be jailed or sued and “publicly slapped,” a Jewish and openly bisexual columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News reported Monday.

They call them Freudian slips.  And hey…wasn’t Freud a Jew too…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Face Of The Hated…It Is Everyone’s

May 21st, 2008

Every Boy Needs A Good Father

I should start a running Every Boy Needs A Good Father series a’la Dan Savage’s Every Child Deserves A Mother And A Father posts…  The Ex-Gay theorists will tell you that every boy needs a strong masculine father figure in his life to prevent his turning out queer.  Good men of strong will and aggressive manly masculine temperament like…well…this guy here…

Austrian Found Guilty of Attempted Murder with Poisoned Praline

An Austrian innkeeper has been sentenced to 20 years prison for attempting to murder his local mayor with a chocolate candy laced with poison.

Helmut O. attached the chocolate, which contained a deadly dose of strychine, to his victim’s car’s windshield wipers alongside a card that read: "You are someone very special to me." When the victim Hannes Hirtzberger, the mayor of the north Austrian town of Spitz, ate the cherry brandy praline the next day, he suddenly became ill and suffered a heart attack.

During the trial, prosecutor Friedrich Kutschera said the motive for the attempted murder had been delays in a planning application that the defendant had submitted. Helmut O. wanted his inn and its attached vineyard to be reclassified to allow construction on the site, so he could sell it or use it for a hotel project, Austrian newspaper Kurier reports on Wednesday.

Those wacky Austrianswhat are you going to do with them, eh?  But seriously…what’s a man to do when effete nanny state bureaucracy gets in his way?  Kill the bastards!  There’s a real man for you.  And what else does a real man do?  Why…try to implicate his sons in the crime of course…

Throughout the proceedings Helmut O. had maintained he was innocent of the allegations. Yet, DNA evidence massively incriminated him, German news agency DPA reports Wednesday. The defendant’s genetic fingerprint was found on the inside of the deadly chocolate’s wrapper, the court had heard.

And the case against him became more convincing after his sons testified that their father had asked them to spit into a marmelade jar after police had requested DNA samples from potential suspects in the area during their investigations.

It probably never occurred to the nitwit that his sons would have the DNA signatures of both him and his wife which would make theirs clearly and obviously distinct from his, and yet would still lead police right to him once they looked at it.  Oh…it’s this one’s father…  But real men don’t think twice.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Every Boy Needs A Good Father

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