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Archive for November, 2009

November 25th, 2009

Wherein The Children Of Rand And The Children Of Marx Commiserate With One Another And Then Have A Round Of Drinks…

Smokin’ hot essay in this month’s GQ by John Ritter on Ayn Rand’s influence on college students, bankers, financiers, chairmen of the Federal Reserve, and other people who need to have their certainties smacked out of them from time to time for the good of the rest of us.  I know, because I used to be one of them…

A weirdly specific thing happens with the books of Ayn Rand. It’s not just the what of the books, but when a reader discovers them—almost always during the first or second year of college. Rand grabs a reader at a time of maximum vulnerability and malleability, when he’s getting his first accurate sense of how he measures up in the world in terms of intellect and talent. The longing to regard oneself as misunderstood and underrated can be powerful; the temptation to project oneself as such, irresistible…

Sort of.  Not everyone likes thinking of themselves as misunderstood.  I sure didn’t.  But I never blamed being taken for a weird little geek on being misunderstood because I knew I was one.  Being raised in a Baptist household the first person you always blame for just about everything, let alone not fitting in, is yourself.  

It was after leaving my church and coming out to myself as gay that I first read Rand.  But in retrospect, clearly, all those days spent in church listening to fire and brimstone pulpit thumping had left their mark on me.  I craved moral certainty, and admired the firebrand moralist who spoke to those certainties.  If I have a weakness to this day that’s it.  But at 20 the bible had long since lost its power as a moral instrument.  It was still interesting in its echo from a distant time kinda way, but no longer authoritative.  I wandered aimlessly in a kind of existential stupor, unwilling to rest my moral values on religious absolutes that I knew perfectly well were nothing more then the bar stool prejudices of various pulpit thumpers, but unable to find another moral compass to guide my way.  Reason and morality it seemed, were two different things.

Two books shook me out of my moral fog then, almost one after the other.  In retrospect, both were terribly flawed teachers.  And yet they left me with concepts I still value to this day.  The first was Robert Audrey’s African Genesis.  I found a tattered copy of it in a corner of a warehouse I once worked in, wrinkled and discarded, and picking it up and reading the first page of it…

Not in innocence, and not in Asia was mankind born… 

…I had to take the thing home.  I absolutely devoured it.  And from Audry I gleaned the idea that the forces that move within our consciousness actually are understandable and manageable…but only if we seriously study our evolutionary past.  To construct workable human societies, and moral codes that actually and really benefit us, we need to undertake an almost brutal, unromantic, understanding of ourselves and that means looking also to the past which brought us forth.  Not to do so would be akin to trying to build a bridge with no understanding of the nature of the materials you’re constructing it from…

We are not so unique as we would like to believe.  And if man in a time of need seeks deeper knowledge concerning himself, then he must explore those animal horizons from which we have made our quick little march.

Yes.  Yes.  And Yes.  I still passionately believe this is true.  Let it be said that a lot of naturalists and anthropologists really hate Audrey for his overwrought image of humans as killer apes.  But you can discard that part of it…our understanding of the human ancestors is much improved since he wrote that book…and still respect the basic idea.  We are, each of us, in body and consciousness, living histories of millions of years of life on earth.  To make a better life for ourselves in the here and now, we need to understand that history.

The second book was Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  As John Ritter writes…

The days during which that 19-year-old has Rand’s worldview vectored into his cerebral cortex are feverish and sleepless. Days of beautiful affliction during which the intransigence of others—roommates, a coed the patient has been hitting on, professors, parents, everyone—are shown to be the product of their shortcomings, their idiocy and sublimated envy of the patient’s intelligence and talent…  One day you’ve got a bright young kid dutifully connecting the dots of his liberal-arts education; the next, he’s got Roark and Galt in the marrow and has become…an insufferable asshole.

Well…kind of.  I never thought of my friends as idiots.  But I suspect I did turn into a bit of a jerk because that’s what happens to people when they become True Believers.  Suddenly everything made sense!  The world was powered by the rational human intellect!  Everything that denied the mind was anti-life!  Capitalism wasn’t merely the most productive economic system ever invented, it was the only Moral one!  To take possession of your own life and live it for the good of your Self was the highest virtue!  Here was an ideology that appealed to my inner geek and my inner pulpit thumper both.  I am certain there was a period in my life when I couldn’t speak two words without going off about Randian ideology.  It’s amazing I still have friends from that period.

People wonder how it is that so many gays become Randians since Rand herself was a vitriolic homophobe.  But Rand’s morality of sex, that enjoying sex for its own sake was not only moral, but was morally validated by a couple’s mutual pleasure in each other’s bodies, is very appealing to a people who are taught to feel ashamed of any hint of sexual desire in themselves the moment puberty hits them.  I saw Rand’s morality as a reasoned and high minded rejection of the notion of original sin drilled into me all throughout my Baptist childhood, that our bodies, that our feelings of sexual desire, were evidence of humanity’s fallen state.  And it seemed to validate any sexual relationship, gay or straight, that sprang from mutual appreciation of the best within each other, body and soul. Rand declared that sexual joy for its own sake, taken between two people who wholeheartedly and completely desire each other was a righteous thing.  And a lot of gay people, myself included, said ‘Amen!’

But therein, for me at least, lay the seeds of discontent as well.  Rand taught that human emotions were the unconscious sum of the workings of our rational mind.  This led her to view homosexuality as the result of bad thinking…faulty premises as she liked to put everything that didn’t fit into her philosophy.  It led her acolyte and lover Nathanial Brandon to suggest in one essay that gay men were gay because they’d been subconsciously made afraid of women from being taught to idealize them but not desire them.  Huh?  As any gay person knows, and especially any gay person who ever tried to psychoanalyze themselves straight, your sexual orientation isn’t something you think yourself into.  Or out of.  And here was Rand and her "collective" dispensing pop psychology crap about homosexuality that not only gay folk themselves, but actual researchers, had known for decades was claptrap.  We don’t think ourselves into our sexual orientations, they just are.  But that kind of thinking about human consciousness was anathema to Rand.

How I managed to embrace an ideology that regarded human consciousness as entirely the province of the rational mind after reading and embracing Audrey I cannot explain.  But there it was.  Eventually the ideas I gleaned from Audrey did come back to me.  I think it was while reading a statement of Rand’s that she was neither a supporter nor denier of the theory of evolution.  Well of course, because evolution throws a great big monkey wrench into her model of human consciousness which acknowledged only the human capacity for rational thinking.  Rand’s human being was every bit the separate creation that Adam was in Genesis.  And that is not what a human being is.  The moment I read her statement on evolution it got me to thinking about all the other ways I’d had to forgive Rand for making pronouncements about this and that which just seemed…well…stupid. 

And that was how I found my way out the door to her church.  The one thing I took from her that I still keep close to my heart to this day is the idea that morality must be reason-based.  It must withstand the test of truth, conform to the evidence, logically and objectively work to benefit our lives.  Oh that Rand herself had held to this idea, when championing her notion that unfettered capitialism is the only moral system. 

Unfortunately…for all of us…she didn’t.  And neither have her intellectual heirs…

This is because there are boys and girls among us who have never overcome the Randian infection. The Galt speech continues to ring in their ears for years like a maddening tinnitus, turning each of them into what next year’s Physicians’ Desk Reference will (undoubtedly) term an Ayn Rand Asshole (ARA). They constitute a relatively small percentage of Rand readers, these ARAs. But they make their reading count. Thanks to them, the Rand Experience is no longer limited to those who have read the books. It’s metastasized. You, me, all of us, we’re living it. Because it’s the ARA Army of antigovernment-antiregulation puritans who have spent the past three decades gleefully pulling the cooling rods out of the American economy. For a while, it got very big and very hot. Then it popped. And now the rest of us have to spend the next decade scaling the slippery slopes of the huge suppurative crater that was left behind.

Feeling fisted by the Invisible Hand of the Market lo these past fifteen months? Lost a job lately? Or half the value of your 401(k)? Or a home? All three? Been wondering whence the too-long-ascendant political and economic ideas and forces behind Greenspanism, John Thainism, blind Wall Street plunder, bankruptcy, credit-default swaps, Bernie Madoff, and the ensuing Cannibalism in the Streets? Then you, sir, need to give thanks to Ayn Rand Assholes everywhere—as well as the steely loins from which they sprang.

Reading Ritter’s GQ essay gave me a feeling (yes Ayn…a Feeling…) reminiscent of that moment gay folk experience when they discover they’re not the only ones like themselves.  Well…if even Alan Greenspan can admit now, while standing there in the center of the wreakage of our ecomony, that perhaps he was wrong about all that deregulation stuff, maybe we’ll see some other big names come out of the closet as ex-Randian.  We could be in for lots more fun denunciations of Randian claptrap. 

There is a third book I discovered well after Audrey and Rand, which I still hold dear to my heart.  Jacob Bronowski’s Science and Human Values.  Bronowski clarified for me how knowledge, being a Process of discovery and refinement of models, was also at its core a deeply personal and creative act.  He brought me to an understanding I really needed, about how the work of both scientists and artists had the same creative root, thereby bringing my inner techno geek and my inner art geek finally to some degree of peace with one another.  But more importantly, he showed me how to get past my need for certainty.  There is no perfect God’s eye view to be found, either in the bible or in Atlas Shrugged.  Our knowledge exists in an area of imprecision we can never fully eliminate.  Call it the Uncertainty Principal or, as Brownoski suggested in The Ascent of Man, the Principal of Tolerance if you like, but there is no God’s eye view.  Quantum physics has proven that literally.  But that does not mean we can never really know anything.  It means we have to always bear in mind that area of uncertianty always tied up in our understandings, and that knowledge is a process of test and refinement, and not a thing we can safely stop questioning.  We have to always take care to ask ourselves what we know, and how we know it.  Always.

If I had to point to one thing that sums Rand up in her entirety for me it would be this:  She wrote in Atlas Shrugged, "I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand.  FIRE, a dangerous force, tamed at his finger tips.  I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone watching the smoke of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come out from such hours. When a man thinks there is a spot of fire alive in his mind – and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression."  Thereby turning cigarettes into a symbol for fans of her and her philosophy.  It is a beautiful, eloquant image…the act of thinking, the hand holding fire.  In 1974 Rand underwent surgery for lung cancer, quit smoking at that time, and never once for the rest of her life warned her readers about the dangers of cigarettes.  When someone gives you, the artist, their love wholeheartedly, you need to love them back.

Go read the whole thing.

by Bruce | Link | React! (4)

November 24th, 2009

Fear Of Flu…

Several months ago I had an absolutely horrible visit from of some kind of stomach virus and I have never spent six hours of my life sicker.  It was awful.  I won’t go into detail because you might be eating as you read this.

So this flu season, never mind the Pig Flu that’s scaring everyone, I’ve been especially wary.  Every time I get the urge to rub my eyes I flash back a couple months to when I was collapsed on the floor of my bathroom wondering if I was going to die and I try to remember when I last washed my hands.

Where I work we typically get offered a flu shot every year around this time.  Considering we work on a university campus with students coming here from all over the world it’s a good spiff.  They have signs posted at the doors to the student union eatery telling the kids to stay the hell out if they feel sick.  But this year our flu shot is delayed because the vendor can’t get enough of it.  Swell.

I’ve been washing my hands like crazy, and keeping a hand sanitizer spray with me everywhere and trying to keep my hands from complaining too much by using a moisturizer at night.  Every time I pass by one of the hand sanitizer stations they’ve installed at work I spritz my hands with some of it.  Then I’m reminded of the taunt from the IRA that the British Government had to be lucky every day while they only had to be lucky once.  I don’t mean to trivialize horrible acts of terrorism, but the relentless logic of germ warfare is like that.  The damn germs only have to be lucky once.

It’s going to be a long flu season. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Fear Of Flu…

November 23rd, 2009

Hated By Religious Fanatics? You’re Not Alone…

Ed Brayton has a post over at Dispatches From The Culture Wars today that relates how the closet is often enforced on atheists too…

Our Mere Existence is Offensive

It has been fascinating watching the response, city by city, where the advertisement that says "Not religious? You’re not alone" has gone up. We’ve seen bus drivers refuse to drive buses with that ad on them (and get fired for it). In Cincinnati, death threats forced the removal of a billboard with that message.

And now in Nashville, the local yokels are up in arms about an identical billboard. And offering the usual brilliant reasoning to support their position:

"It just absolutely wrong place, wrong town, wrong timing," said Green Hills resident Donnie Cude.

Something about the phrase "Not Religious, You’re not alone", doesn’t sit well with Cude.

"It’s a slap in the face to the Nashvillians and the people who have a strong foundation and do so much good for this town," said Cude.

It has become quite clear that the mere existence of people who don’t accept their religious views is considered a terrible offense to the most reason-impaired of the righteous. I just can’t imagine why anyone else should really care what offends them.

Brayton, let it be said, is also a principled advocate for gay equality pretty regularly on his blog.  So it’s a safe bet he knows perfectly well how a story like this would resonate with his gay readers.  But I have to say that my hunch is that atheists probably get it worse nowadays. 

I can think of a lot of cities where those bus ads would…yeah…draw some notice, but not a whole lot of bellyaching had they read "Gay?  You’re Not Alone."

I remember a passage from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Catch Trap where one gay character tells another ruefully about the unspoken rule in Hollywood, that there are two things you can’t be and keep working in this town and one of them is a communist.  But back in the day communism and atheism were tightly joined together in the political rhetoric of the cold war, and more often then not what you got was the sense that the problem with Communism wasn’t it’s totalitarian nature but that it was godless.  "Godless communism" was what they called it.  Now it’s just godlessness.  Probably in the hierarchy of evilness, Atheists are worse then homosexuals…homosexuals being merely the interior decorators of Satan’s evil one world empire, atheists being its sinister architects. 

Penn Jillette wrote a simple, lovely piece about being an atheist for an NPR series titled, This I BelieveIt reads in part

Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

The problem, as a lot of gay folk already know painfully well is that the more you come out of the closet, the more people can see you for the human being that you are, the more the bigots will hate you for the human being that you are.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Hated By Religious Fanatics? You’re Not Alone…


I’m Right…And If I’m Wrong That Just Makes Me Even More Right…

Sullivan, on a tear lately about Sarah Palin, tries to plumb the depths of this particular corner of the human gutter…

The lies of Sarah Palin are different from any other politicians’. They are different because they assert things that are demonstrably, empirically untrue; and they are different because once they have been demonstrated to the entire world that they are untrue, Palin keeps repeating them as if they still were true or refuses to acknowledge that she was wrong.

Yeah.  And I’m reading this and flashing back to my early years on the Internet, and a place called Usenet, and a little corner of Usenet called alt.politics.homosexuality.  APH it was (is) an unmoderated forum, created to divert arguments about gay civil rights and the validity of homosexuality away from the gay social forum, soc.motss.  It is basically a place where bigots and gay folk can argue to their heart’s content, about any damn thing, as civilly or profanely as they like. 

I spent years there arguing with bigots, and it didn’t take long for me to notice exactly the same behavior Sullivan describes above in a lot of them.  A good example of that kind of thing is the bogus figure for average gay male lifespan Paul Cameron cooked up.  Some bigot would cite it as proof that teh ghay lifestyle was inherently dangerous.  About two or three dozen gay posters would quickly post the backstory on how Cameron got this figure (he averaged the ages in the obituaries of two gay newspapers during the worst of the AIDS epidemic deaths in America).  Said bigots would then either a) agree that the figure was wrong and then the next day cite it again anyway, or b) keep citing it and add to it that Cameron’s figures had been proven to be correct, or c) keep citing it and add to it that Cameron’s figures had been proven to be correct and that most gay people will tell you so.

I keep saying this but it’s true: your gay and lesbian neighbors have been seeing this behavior on the part of the kultar kampfen for decades now.  It’s not simply that they lie, or even that they’re so brazen about it.  It’s that digging in of heels even when the lie has run its course and isn’t fooling a single solitary soul anymore.  The game seems to be that as long as you can’t get them to admit they’re wrong they win.

Over at Pam’s House Blend, poster Louise relates getting one of those chain emails the sheeple like to send around to those of us who aren’t with the program.  It begins on a familiar (if you’ve ever gotten one of these yourself) note…

I found this to be very truthful and interesting. We need to stand up for our beliefs instead of letting the more vocal become the majority. 

…and ricochets right into tea-bagger fantasy land with a missive purportedly written by winger buffoon Ben Stein…

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees…

Two sentences into it and you just know where it’s going.  But further on down it takes a turn I wouldn’t have credited even Stein with taking…

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said okay.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Pay attention to that "why our children have no conscience" part.  As it turns out, the Stein didn’t say half of what the chain email says he said.  Most of it was tacked onto a transcript of a commentary he gave on CBS Sunday Morning some time ago.  And the tacked on part is full of bogus "facts" like the one about Dr. Spock’s son committing suicide.  it didn’t happen.  A grandson who was schizophrenic did.  But there is no family tragedy too painful for the kultar kampfen to glorify themselves with it.

Conscience?  Conscience?  If a conscience that won’t even politely suggest you shouldn’t belly flop into the gutter has any use I can’t imagine what it would be.  Actually, your children probably do have a conscience.  You just can’t tell because you don’t know what one looks like.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

November 10th, 2009

Neither One Were Christians…

Via SLOG…  Dominic Holden writes in Your Daily Douchebag

Pastor Joe Fuiten, who at first seems to be among Washington’s more sane Christian fanatics, concedes that the campaign to reject Referendum 71 has "fallen short of the glory of God." In a statement posted over at the Tacoma News Tribune in response to an editorial (posted in full after the jump), Fuiten blames his former brothers-in-bigotry—Gary Randall and Larry Stickney—for disappointing the Lord and for failing to oppress the gays.

Fuiten dives into a tirade against his former cohort Randall for being exactly what The Stranger exposed Randall to be long ago: a greedy bigot who takes money from naive evangelicals and puts little of their contributions into the campaign. Today, Fuiten writes, "On August 28th, Mr. Randall promised ‘All income is spent directly on printing, mailing, Internet promotion and going forward, media ads and expenses, rather than salaries or consulting fees.’ We were promised ‘Radio ads are running and more are on the way.’ As it turned out, according to the PDC reports, virtually nothing was spent on media ads and precious little on anything else."

What caught my attention reading the right reverend’s rant was he asked something in it I’ve just about Never heard any of these gutter crawling bigots for Jesus ask themselves in the aftermath of any of these anti-gay electoral battles:

Randall claimed the referendum was a miracle from God, but I have to wonder at that. In the Bible, the miracles of the loaves and fishes fed 5,000 with 12 baskets left over. In this "miracle" we didn’t have enough money to fund television ads but the gays had millions.

In the Bible, a miracle raised one who was sick. In this "miracle" our strategy was sick and then died in the election. I suppose such miraculous claims are made to hype up the faithful to work harder and give more. It just seems like the "miracle" that Randall claimed fell a bit short of its biblical counterparts.

Was the referendum an effort blessed by God? Did the Kingdom of God advance because of the effort? I have not heard of people giving their lives to Jesus.

[Emphasis mine…]  This is a question I used to hear so often asked by the Baptists I grew up with that seeing it there in that bigot’s rant startled me.   I don’t think I’ve ever heard any anti-gay crusader ask that question after gay bashing a few hundred thousand or so of their neighbors at the ballot box.  Did people come to Jesus?  Were souls saved?  

It’s been decades since I’ve heard preachers talk like that.  Not just that taking their measure by the goal of winning souls to Christ, but to even question one’s actions in that light in the aftermath of battle…it’s startling in its utter abnormality.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard one of these knuckle-draggers question whether or not they did anyone or anything any damn good beyond putting the homos back in their place and seldom even that since The Homosexual Menace usually just dusts itself off and gets right back to attacking the sanctity of marriage and family and morality. 

Did we do anyone any damn good?  Who’s asking?  Yes, it’s true, for the moment same-sex couples aren’t entirely strangers before the law in Washington state.  But gay folk and their families…their parents, their sons and daughters, their brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts, and all their friends, and all their loved ones, know that nearly half of the people who bothered to cast a ballot wanted their ring fingers cut off and I have a hunch that making homosexuals into scapegoats for every one of their straight neighbor’s cheap failures of moral character hasn’t done a whole fuck of a lot to bring anyone to Christ. 

But it sure has made the sorry lot of you feel so fucking righteous though, hasn’t it?  Until all the dust settles and the Homosexual Menace lays quietly on the floor nursing its wounds and you catch a glimpse of something that looks like a human being in it and everything gets quiet for a little while until you can work yourselves back up into a righteous frenzy again, so you don’t have to see that glimpse of something human in the Homosexual Menace again.  Did anyone give their life to Jesus?  Hahahahaha!  Since when did that matter?

I did hear from a non-Christian friend commenting about one of his friends. He wrote, "I noticed the anger building in him, and tried to soften his approach, but he’s fed up. Referendum 71 has turned him against Christians." Neither is a Christian.

Well then I guess they’re not your neighbors then either, are they reverend?

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)


Demeaning

In 1989, Juan Navarete came home to find his beloved Leroy Tranton lying bloody on the concrete driveway to their house.  He’d fallen off a ladder while doing work.  What happened to Juan next is the stuff of nightmares.  Or…righteous devotion to Godliness depending on your point of view

Juan and Leroy lived together in Long Beach for eight years. One day, Juan came home from the grocery store and found Leroy, who had fallen off a ladder, lying on the concrete patio. Leroy was rushed to the hospital where he stayed in a coma for several days. Although Leroy regained consciousness, he remained hospitalized for nine months. Juan visited Leroy once or twice each day, feeding him and encouraging him to recuperate.

Leroy’s estranged brother, who lived in Maine, filed a lawsuit seeking to have himself appointed as Leroy’s conservator.

When Juan accidentally found out, he showed up at court in Long Beach. Although Juan, who was not represented by counsel, stood up and protested, the judge refused to consider Juan’s plea because he was a stranger to Leroy in the eyes of the law.

The brother subsequently had Leroy transferred from the hospital to an undisclosed location. When Juan finally discovered that Leroy was being housed in a nursing home about 50 miles from Long Beach, he attempted to visit Leroy there. The staff stopped Juan in the lobby, advising him that the brother had given them a photo of Juan with strict orders not to allow him to visit Leroy. Unfortunately, no one else ever visited Leroy there.

It took Juan about two weeks to find an attorney who would take the case without charge. The attorney filed a lawsuit seeking visitation rights.

A few hours before the hearing was scheduled to occur, the brother’s attorney called Juan’s attorney, informing him that Leroy had died three days before.               

Since the body had already been flown back to Maine where it was cremated, Juan never had an opportunity to pay his last respects.

Juan had no, absolutely no legal standing to do anything other then grieve, and there are those (I’m coming to you in a minute Jeff…) who would likely say that he was lucky to have that, and not be tossed into a jail cell for admitting he had engaged in homosexual conduct.  In the eyes of the law, he and Leroy were strangers.  Some people to this day think that’s more then we deserve, considering that in the eyes of the law we used to be criminals.

Same sex marriage is allowed in a few states now, and you can call that progress if you wish.  But the chilling truth is that in most of the land of the free and the home of the brave, a same sex couple can be legally ground under foot by the local justice system, to the sound of loud hosanna’s from the righteous.  It’s not enough that our wedding rings mean nothing.  It’s not enough that our love isn’t seen as meaningful to us, let alone to anyone else.  Even our grief must be unreal…a cheap imitation of the real grief heterosexual couples feel when one becomes gravely ill, or dies.  

Because to permit us even our grief is to erode the sacred institution of heterosexual only marriage…

Update: R.I. governor vetoes ‘domestic partners’ burial bill

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — An opponent of same-sex marriage, Governor Carcieri has vetoed bill that would have added "domestic partners” to the list of people authorized by law to make funeral arrangements for each other.

In his veto message, Republican Carcieri said: "This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue.

"If the General Assembly believes it would like to address the issue of domestic partnerships, it should place the issue on the ballot and let the people of the state of Rhode Island decide.”

Homosexuals don’t love…they just have sex…

The legislation was prompted by one of the more heart-wrenching personal stories to emerge from the same-sex marriage debate.

At a hearing this year on one of the stalled bills to allow same-sex marriage, Mark S. Goldberg told a Senate committee about his months-long battle last fall to persuade state authorities to release to him the body of his partner of 17 years, Ron Hanby, so he could grant Hanby’s wish for cremation — only to have that request rejected because "we were not legally married or blood relatives."

Goldberg said he tried to show the police and the state medical examiner’s office "our wills, living wills, power of attorney and marriage certificate" from Connecticut, but "no one was willing to see these documents."

Homosexuals don’t love…they just have sex…

He said he was told the medical examiner’s office was required to conduct a two-week search for next of kin, but the medical examiner’s office waited a full week before placing the required ad in a newspaper. And then when no one responded, he said, they "waited another week" to notify another state agency of an unclaimed body.

Homosexuals don’t love…they just have sex…

After four weeks, he said, a Department of Human Services employee "took pity on me and my plight … reviewed our documentation and was able to get all parties concerned to release Ron’s body to me," but then the cremation society refused to cremate Ron’s body.

"On the same day, I contacted the Massachusetts Cremation Society and they were more than willing to work with me and cremate Ron’s body," and so, "on November 6, 2008, I was able to finally pick up Ron’s remains and put this tragedy to rest."

Meanwhile, homophobe Jeff Jacoby writes today that militant homosexuals activists are filled with vitriol

When will it occur to supporters of same-sex marriage that they do their cause no good by characterizing those who disagree with them as haters, bigots, and ignorant homophobes? It may be emotionally satisfying to despise as moral cripples the majorities who oppose gay marriage. But after going 0 for 31 – after failing to make the case for same-sex marriage even in such liberal and largely gay-friendly states as California, Wisconsin, Oregon, and now Maine – isn’t it time to stop caricaturing their opponents as the equivalent of Jim Crow-era segregationists? Wouldn’t it make more sense to concede that thoughtful voters can have reasonable concerns about gay marriage, concerns that will not be allayed by describing those voters as contemptible troglodytes?

Why of course you’re not a contemptible troglodyte Jeff…you’re perfectly capable of looking at your gay and lesbian neighbors and seeing human beings…aren’t you…

I can sympathize with committed gay and lesbian couples who feel demeaned by the law’s rejection of same-sex marriage or who crave the proof of societal acceptance, the cloak of normalcy, that a marriage license would provide.

Because of course, all Juan Navarete wanted when he saw Leroy lying in a pool of blood on their driveway was societal acceptance…a cloak of normalcy.

If you knew what it was your gay and lesbian neighbors wanted, you wouldn’t be a bigot Jeff.  But you can’t see the people for the homosexuals, so you don’t.  You can’t.  You never will.  Even a troglodyte knows his neighbor is capable of grief.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Demeaning

November 8th, 2009

Touch

They say sex is a powerful force for human bonding.  But…no.  It isn’t sex.  It’s touch.  I wrote this back in 2007, when I was going through another bad patch of missing Keith…

Alone

A few moments spent in the arms of someone you love can bring you back.  Even if a few moments is all you get, it can bring you back.  At least, for a while.

This wasn’t as intimate as it sounds.  I was on my way to Key West, and stopping by Hilton Head I’d taken him out to dinner on the island that night.  We shared a hug in the parking lot.  A very, very long hug.  He knew how unhappy I was.  So he gave me that long, goodbye hug.  But that was all it was.  And it lifted my spirits considerably, given how depressed I was after I’d caught that glimpse of his happy domesticity earlier the previous day…

How To Make Your Ex Bleed In One Easy Step…

You want to make someone you dumped bleed?  I mean, really, really bleed?  I mean, Profusely…?  Here’s my little tip:  Don’t tell him about all the great sex you’re having now that he’s out of your life.  Don’t bother telling him that your new boyfriend is so much better in the sack then he’ll ever be in his wildest wet dream fantasies.  Don’t tell him how much your new boyfriend understands you so much better then he ever did.  That’s amateur stuff.  Really.  You want to give him a hurt he’ll take to his grave, and hopefully sooner rather then later, just mention in passing some small bit of domesticity that you and your new main squeeze are currently enjoying…

Me:  So I’ll probably be in town in an hour or so…you want to go grab a bite to eat somewhere after I get settled in…

He:  Um…well actually (XXX) and I are about to go grocery shopping in a bit…  Why don’t you call when you get in.  If you want…there’s some good British comedy shows on TV later tonight you can watch at the hotel.  

STAB!  SLASHHHHH!  Bleed!

BleedBleedBleedBleedBleedBleedBleedBleedBleedBleedBleedBleedBleedBleedBleed….

Me:  Err…yeah…

And, so on.  If there wasn’t at least one major heart wound it wouldn’t be Christmas…

It was right after that I wrote a post about how depressed I was that alarmed a bunch of people.  Interestingly enough, it was also shortly after that I got my first nastygram from an anonymous AOL poster.

A few months ago I was overjoyed that Keith was coming up for a visit.  Finally.  I’d been trying for years to coax him to come up here and see the house I’d bought for myself, and the life I was living up here in Charm City, and maybe even meet some of my friends, particularly the group of gay guys I regularly do a Friday night happy hour with in Washington D.C.  And…deep down inside…I wanted to have him here under my roof for a few days, just to picture what it would have been like for us to have been lovers after all. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. 

As the day of his arrival up here in Baltimore approached, that old twitterpated feeling took hold once again, and for days I wore a great big smile and my attitude went way, way positive.  It affected everything.  I spent weeks beforehand, cleaning and tidying up everything around Casa del Garrett so it would be perfect.  My energy levels at work jumped a hundred fold.  I was polishing off work items one right after the other like they were nothing.  I felt Good, in a way I hadn’t felt since I was a teenager in love for the first time.  Everyone at work and in my personal life noticed it.  I was happy.  Content.  Blissful.  Life was good.  Life was sweet.  So very, very sweet.  And he hadn’t even arrived yet.  But somehow, something deep inside knew what was coming. 

My body sang.  My energy levels soared.  The day he came, he called first and said he was in Baltimore and on his way.  And I immediately got this familiar knot in my stomach, just like I did years ago, when I was a teenager, and in love, and expecting any moment now to see the object of my affections.  And when he left after a few days, I dropped into a deep grey funk the likes of which I’ve never experienced before.  Ever. 

When he came here and I was showing him around Casa del Garrett for the first time (he’d never been here before…) and I was showing him the upstairs and the bathroom which had a lot of remodeling done by the previous owner…and he gently mocked how technical I was getting when I described the improvements and I laughed with him and say "Hey…I’m a techno geek…okay?" and he laughed and put his arms around me and hugged…  And…and…  For a moment I saw how my life could have been had I been loved…even for a short time.  But he doesn’t want to be that person in my life and all I have ever been able to do is just imagine how it would be.  Now I can remember how it feels to have someone put their arms around me while we’re laughing together at some foible of mine.  But he doesn’t love me and it seems I will never have love except in my imaginings and my dreams. 

Thing of it is, I Knew I was going to experience a funk after he left Baltimore.  Logically at least.  I Knew it.  I thought I would get through it like I always have. But it was worse then anything this time.  It wasn’t just I was heartsick.  My body Ached.  I lost energy…it was like the floor had been pulled out from under me.  At the office I was reasonably fine…I was able to get my work done and interact with my co-workers almost like nothing had happened.  But at home I wandered around my little rowhouse in a daze.  Like I’d fallen down the stairs.  Like I’d been hit by a car.  Like I’d just had my arms cut off. 

And in a sense, I had.  Now that I’m settled a bit, I think I understand it better.  It’s something like this…

A phantom limb is the sensation that an amputated or missing limb (even an organ, like the appendix) is still attached to the body and is moving appropriately with other body parts. Approximately 5 to 10% of individuals with an amputation experience phantom sensations in their amputated limb, and the majority of the sensations are painful… 

Although not all phantom limbs are painful, patients will sometimes feel as if they are gesturing, feel itches, twitch, or even try to pick things up…

-Wikipedia – Phantom Limb

That moment we shared while I was geeking out in the bathroom…I kept feeling his arms around me in that moment, over and over again throughout my misery, well into the next month.  It wasn’t just my heart.  My body kept insisting that something was missing.  It was dreadful.

How many times do we hear broken hearted lovers say that loosing that lover, that other half, felt like they’d had an arm cut off?  In 1982 I picked up a copy of Howard Cruse’ Gay Comics and saw a story by French Cartoonist Patric Marcel titled, One For Sorrow

Imagine having your arm torn off…  There would be pain of course…but more important would be the sudden lacking, and the futile urge to have it back on…

I was well aware of what he was talking about by then.  And imagery like that exists throughout the landscape of lost love.  It’s more then just a metaphor I am convinced now.  It really is something like that phantom limb phenomena.  I’m a geek…okay?  Bear with me here…

We have all these little ways of expressing sociability, fraternity, via various kinds of ritualized touch.  Moments where we are permitted to cross the physical boundary between us.  Handshakes are the most common one I can think of right now.  I’ve heard it said they evolved as a way of letting a stranger know your intentions are friendly.  Look…I’m unarmed…  Some cultures allow for a bit more.  A formalized kind of greeting kiss.  A pat on the shoulders.  Greeting hugs have become more common in American culture in my lifetime then they were when I was a kid.  They serve to introduce and reinforce social bonds.  But these are more, it turns out, then simply acknowledgments of social regard.  Operating below the levels of rational consciousness, below even the lower primate and mammalian brain, is the platform it all rests upon. 

We understand, if incompletely, that touch is a powerful thing, and we need to be careful how we let others do that to us.  Not just as a matter of physical security, but emotional security too.  To get close requires a cultivation of trust.  It’s not just that someone within arm’s reach can take a swing at you so you have to be careful.  It’s when you permit someone’s touch, you are making them a part of you.  I mean that literally.  The more intimate that touch, the more intimately they become a part of you.  It really is that powerful a thing.

Our bodies map themselves, and remap themselves constantly.  We have to learn how to do things like walk, run, ride bicycles, dance, hammer nails, brush teeth.  The alien feel of a new tool becomes, after many hours of use, as if part of the hand and arm.  And to our mind now, to the body’s inner map, it is.  You pick it up, it’s There.  Even something as complex as an automobile becomes an extension of the body, once its behavior has been mapped by the brain.  Accelerate…back off a little…flick up the turn signal stalk…turn the wheel a bit…  It’s not the car moving through traffic, it’s you.  And when you get behind the wheel of a different car, it feels strange for a while, until your body has had a chance to map that one out too.

But the car doesn’t touch back.  A favorite tool lost or stolen can make you angry, but you caress the world with the tool, it doesn’t caress you back.  People (and pets) are different.  They touch back.  And our bodies map that touch to itself.  And more…

Oxytocin Hormone: The Cuddle Hormone is the Body’s Own Love Potion

Research suggests that if a love potion does in fact exist, the mammalian hormone called oxytocin is likely the key ingredient.

Oxytocin is a hormone produced naturally in the hypothalamus in the brain. Studies have shown that oxytocin is associated with our ability to mediate emotional experiences in close relationships and maintain healthy psychological boundaries.

In studies with non-human mammals, oxytocin has been shown to promote nest building and pup retrieval, acceptance of adopted offspring, and the formation of adult pair-bonds.

This important hormone is naturally released in response to a variety of environmental stimuli including skin-to-skin contact, uterine or cervical stimulation during sex, nipple stimulation in lactating women, and as the result of a baby moving down the birth canal.

[Emphasis mine]  They say it’s sex that bonds a couple.  Not…exactly.  It’s touch.  Which happens during sex of course.  But everywhere else in a couple’s relationship too and those ways, I am convinced now, are much more meaningful and fundamental.  Your lover can touch you in ways even a dear friend cannot, and not simply in sexual ways.  Your lover can ruffle your hair, stroke your neck, rest a hand on your cheek.  It’s a private language every couple invents for just themselves.  This touch means one wordless thing…that touch another.  Your lover can reach a hand out and lightly touch yours with just a fingertip, and send a tremble through your body.  And your body knows that person’s touch, has it mapped out and stored in its mindless subconscious automatic understanding of what it itself is.

And when that touch isn’t there anymore, it’s a shock the body refuses to accept for a time.  Like a phantom limb, you can still feel those arms around you, that hand inside of yours, and it is a torment.  One that broken hearted and jilted lovers aren’t really being taught how to cope with, because everyone keeps telling them that it’s all in their mind.  But it isn’t.  Not entirely.  It’s in their bodies too.  They have, in a very nearly literal sense, lost a physical part of themselves.

by Bruce | Link | React! (4)

November 7th, 2009

Today In Strange Google Searches That Lead People Here…

So I’m looking through my server logs and I run across this google search string…

as by the gods how as by prayer do you petition the five sex groups as a knowledge part of Eden

Er?  What?  The five sex groups…?  That anything like the four food groups?

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

November 5th, 2009

Still Here…

Sorry that my last post alarmed some of you, but this isn’t a political blog, it just looks like one sometimes.  It’s just one guy’s little life blog…my small corner of the Internet when I can put up my cartoons and photography and write about this and that so family and friends can see what I’m up to.  Life isn’t all wonder and joy, and I was very depressed when I wrote that.  Thank you, those of you who write, for your kind words of encouragement.  I think I’m over the worst of it now.

And I believe I understand better now, why I got so terribly down, and I’m working on a post about that.  But for the record I took a brief weekend trip back down to Epcot a couple weekends ago and managed three things.  First, I enjoyed the Epcot Food & Wine Festival immensely.  Really…the food at all the little nation kiosks was fabulous.  Second, I managed to drive past Hilton Head without so much as phoning my ex.  I’m not over him so much as I understand better now why I need to keep my distance from him.  It’s worse when they still want to be friends.  There was no lover’s quarrel…I just got dumped but he still wants me to come around his way whenever I’m down there and it isn’t good for me to do that.  I’m fifty-six years old and I’m only now learning lessons about dating and boyfriends I should have learned when I was a teenager.

Thirdly, I got to see a certain someone down in Florida this time around, that I didn’t last time.  It cheered me up a lot. 

As I said, I have a post I’ve been working on I want to put up here, before I resume regular blogging.  In the meantime, I’ve been chattering away on Facebook, so you can look for me there if you want.

[Update…]  I’ve pulled that post for the time being.  My blog is a place for me to think out loud, vent, thump my pulpit…and even occasionally bleed in public.  Just not too much.

by Bruce | Link | React! (4)

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