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Archive for May, 2012

May 30th, 2012

It Seems The More You Make The More Entitled To A Free Lunch You Are

Considering all the bellyaching going on around here about the just enacted Maryland state tax increase on wage earnings over 100k I figured I might have to sell the house and the Mercedes and go live on a steam grate. Preferably one that was close to work. Except those might all be full of students who coudn’t afford to pay back their student loans after they graduated and found out there isn’t any work. So I was bracing myself to finally lay eyes on the awful horrible details and trying to decide if I could get accustomed to the taste of dogfood. I was thinking maybe if I deep fried it and sprinkled it with a little Old Bay.

So finally I see the extra I’m being asked to chip in for running the state of Maryland. Under $300 more a year.

Wow…I just don’t know if I can spare another $300… Oh bullshit. I make six figures and I’m being asked to chip in an additional < $300 and I’m supposed to be outraged. Swear to god it’s a good thing I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family expecting to make the kind of money I’m making now or I might not know how good I have it and how hard everyone else is struggling and I might be making the same kind of jackass fool of myself other six figure earners in this state are making of themselves right now. $300! $300! Lawd have mercy I’ll be penniless! Penniless I tell you!

You there…peasant…fetch me my free lunch…

I appreciate that government should not spend tax money wastefully. I also appreciate that one taxpayer’s waste is another taxpayer’s necessary program. I do not appreciate a lot of jackass babbling about high taxes without any sort of follow-up about what it is you’d like to see cut. Don’t just give me this crap about taxes being too high. It costs money to run a state government. When the statehouse is taking in more money then it spends, and it has no debt it needs to pay back, then I’ll agree with you that taxes are too high. I don’t want to hear one more fucking word about high taxes. I don’t even want to hear that phrase ever again or I will simply tune you out because you aren’t being serious you just want to complain that you’re being asked to pay for services rendered. Tell me that government expenditures are too high. Tell me what the fuck you want to cut out of the budget. Tell me why anyone should think cutting it is a good idea. Or just shut the fuck up.

Pardon my liberal use of the f-word here. But I am getting really, really tired of this crap.

[Update…And Furthermore…!] Just so we’re all on the same page here, listen…if the government is running a deficit and you believe in a balanced budget then either government expenditures are too high or taxes are too low. Do not babble at me about high taxes. I can see arguments for deficit spending, particularly during an economic downturn, but regardless of where I or anyone stands on that matter, taxes cannot be too high if government isn’t taking in enough money to pay its bills. Spending might be too high. Fine. If you can get enough voter agreement to cut spending here and there, do that. I might be with you on it depending on what it is you want to cut. Do not cut taxes without first cutting spending and then tell me that you are a fiscal conservative, I’ll laugh in your face.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

May 28th, 2012

This Isn’t Even Funny

German Unamused Llama is unamused…

Wir sind nicht amüsiert!

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on This Isn’t Even Funny

May 24th, 2012

Please Take Our Excuses More Seriously Then We Take Them Ourselves

Good post today over at The Southern Poverty Law Center…

National Organization for Marriage Continues to Spread Lies About Gays

Last Nov. 15, the Ruth Institute, a project of the NOM Education Fund, published the first eight paragraphs of an essay by anti-gay activist Michael Brown that asked what topic even far-right radio host Rush Limbaugh might be afraid to bring up in the face of “political correctness.” The part of the essay on the Ruth Institute website didn’t say what that topic was, but gave a “Keep Reading” link to a site run by an openly gay-bashing hate group, the American Family Association.

There, it took readers another three paragraphs to get to the red meat: “Could it be that the [Penn State] sex abuse scandal involved a man allegedly abusing boys, meaning that the acts were homosexual in nature? And could it be that even Rush Limbaugh didn’t have the guts to address this? (Contrary to the protestations of some, a man who is sexually involved with boys is a homosexual pedophile; a man who is sexually involved with girls is a heterosexual pedophile.)”

Note…The Ruth Institute is a project of the NOM Education Fund. So here is another example of NOM, via one of it’s arms, slyly waving around the rhetoric of a hate group. The SPLC article goes on to note…

To NOM’s many critics in the LGBT community, this is par for NOM’s course. For more than a year now, gay rights activists have alleged that NOM is playing a shell game, avoiding the most egregiously false defamations of gay people on its own website, but linking directly to others who don’t. The charge had enough impact that Maggie Gallagher — who co-founded NOM in 2007, is past chairwoman of the board, and remains a key NOM spokeswoman — felt forced to respond.

In a Dec. 9 post entitled “A Link Is Not An Endorsement,” Gallagher said such an argument “would lead to the absurd conclusion” that NOM agrees with the editorial positions of The New York Times or The Advocate, an LGBT newspaper. She didn’t mention the fact that the anti-gay article “leaders” on NOM’s site are almost always presented without any hint of criticism and, to all appearances, do seem to be endorsed by NOM. Some are simply republications of essays without any introductory commentary, while others feature laudatory introductions.

For example…

Just this Dec. 7, for instance, NOM’s Ruth Institute posted a gushing recommendation for a book titled Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk, a jeremiad by Mathew Staver, head of the anti-gay Liberty Counsel. “Anybody who cares about the future of our society should read this book,” NOM said.

The 2004 book that NOM says “gives you real answers” isn’t further detailed on the NOM site, but it is jam-packed with precisely the kind of misinformation that Gallagher suggests she abhors. Perhaps most remarkably, the book claims that “29 percent of the adult children of homosexual parents had been specifically subjected to sexual molestation by that homosexual parent, compared to only 0.6 percent of the adult children of heterosexual parents… Having a homosexual parent(s) appears to increase the risk of incest with a parent by a factor of about 50.”

Staver’s citation for this hair-raising claim is remarkable — a debunked 1996 article co-authored by Paul Cameron…

Again and again, NOM seems to come back to pedophilia…

Go read the whole thing. It’s something that needs to keep being pointed out about NOM, over and over and over, because by now it should be obvious that NOM is in fact just playing a shell game. We are not a hate group, because we didn’t actually write any of the hate propaganda we keep feeding the public…

Every time Gallagher or Brown gets on TV, smiles into the camera, puts on their best look of innocence and says that they bear their gay neighbors no hate it needs to be pointed out that if they don’t, they sure like trafficking in it.

If I ran a political action committee dedicated to outlawing doors that lock, and I quoted voluminously from the writings of burglars, funded burglary educational groups, linked to the web sites of burglars and spoke glowingly of the posts on breaking and entering, invited burglars to my conferences and my political rallies, how convincing would I be if I told you that I found burglary abhorrent, that I only want to outlaw locking doors because I want to prevent children from getting accidentally locked out of their homes?

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Please Take Our Excuses More Seriously Then We Take Them Ourselves

May 22nd, 2012

Sowing The Wind…(continued)

There’s a quote I read somewhere running through my mind right now, about how the way you get to peace is to work for peace…

Mississippi legislator fears for life after comments about gay marriage

A pastor turned Mississippi legislator is fearing for his life after activists say he endorsed the killing of gay men on his Facebook page.

Rep. Andy Gipson cited a Bible passage earlier this month to slam President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, saying he believed that homosexuals shouldn’t have the right to marry.

“The only opinion that counts is God’s,” he said, then quoted a Bible passage that he interprets to say that being gay is a sin.

He also quoted another passage:

“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”

The man behind the pulpit cites a passage from Leviticus, the one saying that God detests homosexuals and gives everyone a free pass to kill them, and now he’s worrying about death threats. Worry’s kinda like hindsight isn’t it…always 20/20. Here’s the thing about death threats…they’re worse then bullets.  Bill Cosby gave a talk once about inner city gun violence in which he said that once you pull the trigger you can’t call that bullet back.  Death threats are like that but worse.  You can’t call them back and they multiply faster then tribbles.  Some of them might come back home to you.  Some of them might go zipping off to find people you love.  I think the bible had something to say about that too…preacher…  For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind…

Ah…here’s what I was looking for…

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ends and means.  Ends and means.  Look at your means…there’s your ends.  All you pulpit thumpers out there, pounding away, waving your arms at your flocks about the homosexual menace…do you not understand you are talking about your neighbors…and all the people in your pews looking back at you, hanging on your every word as you wave the bible around like a damn trophy…it’s their neighbors too that you’re babbling about.  Don’t you get that?  Their neighbors.  And their kin.  Their homosexual children.  Their homosexual brothers and sisters.  Their homosexual aunts, uncles, cousins.  Their kin.  That blood that verse talks about, the stuff that’s on the heads of homosexuals…that’s their blood too you moron! And yours…assuming you’ve got any in you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Sowing The Wind…(continued)

May 21st, 2012

The Normalization Of Normality

There is nothing more ordinary then human diversity. Some of us are blue eyed, some brown, some green. Some of us have blond hair, some black. Skin color, height, weight, proportion of leg to torso…ask anyone who observes and draws or photographs the human form how identical we are to one another. Some of us are left handed, some right. There are males, females, and also transgendered individuals. There are mathematicians, mechanics, chefs, doctors, painters, musicians, actors, soldiers, firefighters, teachers. There are people who just seem to light up a room whenever they walk into it no matter the gloom that was there before, and people who bring their own little grey cloud with them wherever they go. It is normal to be different. And very young children, generally, accept this in each other. As the song goes, You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.

For decades now the homophobes have warned about the “normalization” of homosexuality. Dire consequences would follow. Very dire consequences. What everyone is beginning to see now, finally, is that when the homophobic static is gone, normalcy returns. Here in Maryland, the Baltimore Sun today has an article about how the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is playing in at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. The answer seems to be a catastrophic decent of society into pure unadulterated normalcy.

Gay cadets at the U.S. Military Academy and the Coast Guard Academy are forming clubs. Gay alumni at the Air Force Academy hosted their first football tailgate last fall, and gay alumni at the Air Force Academy and West Point held their annual dinners on campus for the first time.

It’s not all roses of course. Some worry about the effect coming out will have on their careers once they leave the academy. Others insist it will have little to no impact. But the effect here in Maryland, as elsewhere, of lifting the outcast status on gay people, that dangerous alien other label, has been mostly…business as usual. Or rather, business more usual then it previously could be when people had to be afraid. The sense you get is of peace descending, finally, after a long and brutal battle. We are all neighbors once more. Now that the fires of prejudice and hate are subsiding a sense of community becomes possible once again. Normalcy returns.

This recently, from a Canadian Evangelical

Most of us evangelicals in Canada, regardless of personal beliefs about homosexuality, can admit that since same-sex marriage has been legalised in Canada, our society has not gone to hell in a hand basket, nor has traditional marriage, or our families been under attack. Scare tactics and wild-eyed fear-based rhetoric rarely turns out to be true. In actual practice, our society has become “live and let live” which is actually a rather tolerant and comfortable place to be.

Behold the dire consequence. A reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog, responding to a question put to Maggie Gallagher about the harm to individuals and society where same-sex marriage has been legalized, noted that her reply was basically worry about the status of homophobes like herself…

Essentially, Maggie Gallagher is concerned about the affect of same-sex marriage on people like Maggie Gallagher. She cites no data or statistics or study which shows how any heterosexual marriages or children in families with same-sex parents have been damaged. She makes no claim that any such damages has occurred, only that people like her have been made social pariahs instead of the gay people who ought to be the pariahs. I’m sure there’s a social science term that describes what she is doing, but I guess I just find the complaint that “you’re making other people not like me” to be a rather petty and self-absorbed. Where, I wonder, is her concern about the affect on people other than Maggie Gallagher?

There’s the problem. To fear and loath your neighbor over some trivial difference just isn’t normal. To incite those fears and loathings in others is damaging to community and nation. Once the homophobic static is gone everyone just gets along with each other. The horrible outcome of the normalization of homosexuality is world where we are all neighbors once again and we just get on with life and things get back to…normal. The scapegoat, the hated other, no longer hate themselves, and are no longer hated. We are neighbors once again, each of us just going on about our business. And the only thing that warning anyone who will listen about the homosexual menace teaches them is what an creep you are.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Normalization Of Normality

May 19th, 2012

Sometimes The Pat Answer Is The Right One After All

Sullivan today

The longer I am in this debate, the more something emerges. Most people don’t really care much about gays. The subject doesn’t come up; and most adjusted straight men do not feel passionately on the subject one way or the other. And so you notice patterns. You find that most of the really impassioned anti-gay activists are just as motivated by personal passion – whether as an early victim of sex abuse (Paul Cameron), or as the father of a gay son (Charles Socarides), or as a single mother abandoned by her boyfriend (Maggie Gallagher), or someone fighting to restrain their own gay feelings (Ted Haggard, Larry Craig) – as pro-gay activists are.

He’s commenting on the story that the father of anti-gay junk science Paul (homosexuals live an average of 36 years) Cameron acknowledged finally his homosexual urges, saying that he’d been sexually abused as a child.  You would watch that creep on various TV interviews and your gaydar would go off like a fire alarm.  The only thing that surprises me here is he finally admitted it.  Yeah, yeah…he claims he’s overcome his urges.  Spends every waking hour of every day obsessing about the homosexual menace, but he’s overcome those homosexual urges. I’m going to overcome my chocolate chip cookie urges by spending nearly every waking hour thinking about chocolate chip cookies.

There was a time I understood what Sullivan is saying there to be occasionally true, but just too pat to rely on as an explanation for the extremely passionate homophobes. Now…not so much. Decades of seeing it over and over and over…it’s the other shoe that almost always drops eventually.  Oh, they have a gay child…oh, they had a gay spouse…oh, they were abused as kids…oh, they’re gay…

But make no mistake, you also see the thoroughly heterosexual anti-gay crusader, who cheats on a spouse, has their own history of sexually abusing other people, or otherwise fails morally in some miserable spectacular way, and needs a scapegoat. And that’s where we come in. Newt Gingrich. Rush Limbaugh. They’re not all dealing with their own private confictedness about homosexuality, but they’re all nursing a private moral failure they need a scapegoat to dump it on.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

May 18th, 2012

Denial: Not Just A River In Egypt

A Facebook friend’s status post and subsequent comment thread tosses me back to a memory of my pre coming out to myself days that is both funny and cringe inducing at the same time.  Funny how often memories of our teen years are like that…

A friend is posing for an underwear fashion shoot and he’s asking for advice on getting a nice pair of black briefs because black is the specified color of the shoot and all he has are a pair of AussieBums that he doesn’t like.  He points to a link to the AussieBum page and I take a look.  They’re nice, thinks I. I have a thing for briefs and find it regrettable that they’re not the fashion in the younger set anymore. When I was a kid, boxers were what the old men wore.  Now I’m getting old myself and boxers are what the young guys wear and they think briefs are old guy underwear.  But briefs are still out there, gay guys at least still like wearing them, and the AussieBums I’m looking at are very nice…except like a lot of underwear companies these days, the waistband is like a damn billboard with the company name occupying almost as much real estate as the material below it.

I can appreciate a company wanting to get its name out there…but I really hate it when the branding on clothes demands more attention then the body wearing them. I am not your walking billboard. Plus, when I see an attractive guy, and especially if he’s not wearing very much, I don’t appreciate advertising getting in the way. My Facebook friend merely replies that it’s all about the branding, and that normally it’s only a glimpse of the wasteband that’s visible. A company has to get your attention when and where it can.  Okay.  Fine.  I get that.  But I’m still annoyed by it.

And then suddenly I’m remembering myself as a teenager, and those first confusing, thrilling times when getting that glimpse of an elastic waistband peeking out above a guy’s  belt line would make me all hot and bothered for some reason I really didn’t want to explore just then.  I touched on it in Episode 10 of A Coming Out Story…

There’s a toss-off line in John Fox’s The Boys On The Rock, where the young protagonist Billy takes note of the different kinds of underwear he and his new boyfriend are wearing as they are undressing each other.  It’s the kind of detail, that the kid even knows how some brands of underwear are different from other brands, that tells the reader this kid has been looking at guys in a sexual way for a while now. I suspect some of my straight peers back then could tell just by glancing at a girl’s tight shirt who made her bra, and whether it had hooks or snaps. They’d have probably been surprised to learn that men’s underwear differed from brand to brand in anything more then just price. Had I told them I could tell what make of underwear they were wearing just by looking at the waistband they’d have known more about me then I was ready to tell anyone. Including myself.

In the 1960s, long before they’d come out with such things as designer underwear for men, you had maybe four major brands of underwear.  There were Fruit of the Looms, Hanes, BVDs and Jockeys. Back then your choices were white cotton, high in the waist and cut such that the leg openings didn’t rise up the thigh much.  Not terribly sexy by today’s standards. All the same to a gay kid whose hormones had tentatively started percolating the underwear pages of the various catalogs suddenly became pretty riveting reading. I started ogling them when I was nine or ten I think.

I can hear the snickers now.  A catalog? Given the level of open sexuality these days, gay and straight, it’s probably hard for people who didn’t live that period to get how sexually repressed it was, and how shocking the free love morality of the Beat and Woodstock generations were to their elders.  My peers and I grew up in their shadow and in the 1960s even my heterosexual peers had to resort to the catalogs to get their fix, though they could also at least find the occasionally discarded Playboy in the trash bins.  I remember a friend finding one of those and gleefully passing it around as we gathered in one of our secret hiding places. There was an article about a nudest camp and I remember being completely riveted by the few naked guys I saw in the pictures. My companions were all making admiring comments about the women and parrot like, I mimicked them. But I never took my eyes off the naked guys. That was discovering sex when you were a kid back in those days. You and a bunch of the other guys, in your treehouse or fort or secret hiding place, passing around a Playboy someone had found in the trash.  There was no Internet you could browse alone in your room when your parents weren’t looking.

I was careful to ogle the catalogs when I knew I was alone in the house, knowing full well at some level what I was doing and yet at the same time not admitting it to myself. And true to form the budding little geek in me began around then to critically analyze the object of my fascination. It wasn’t long before I could spot the difference between a Hanes and a BVD at a glance. The catalog retailers, Sears, Montgomery Ward, J.C.Penny, used to buy from one of the big companies and rebrand them with their own names. I could tell just by looking at them.  These are made by Fruit of the Loom…these are really BVDs…

Most spellbinding of all were the Jockeys. The first time I saw another kid in the gym locker room wearing one of those Y fronts my jaw almost hit the floor. I’d never seen anything so…alluring. Particularly on that one kid who had a body that looked like it had stepped out of one of my anatomy for artists books. It was junior high and I was fourteen or fifteen.  Being careful not to gawk in the locker room wasn’t usually a problem though. It was so embarrassing to have to undress, let alone shower naked with a bunch of other guys, that I became adept at tuning everything out and just getting on with it (I joke sometimes that it’s a trick I learned in Vacation Bible School). Plus, even at that age when you are busy becoming all hormones and nerve ends my libido was very low key and persnickety. But there were close calls. When the other guys my age began rhapsodizing about advertising for bras and woman’s lingerie I knew I had to keep my mouth shut. But I wasn’t ready to admit to myself why.

In high school, in the early 70s low riser bell bottom jeans started coming into fashion and I began seeing other guys my age wearing them in school.  Not every guy who wore them really had the body for it, but those who did drove me nuts every time they walked by.  The best of these really showed off a guy’s…attributes…nicely.  And if the shirt wasn’t tucked in you might see a glimpse of elastic peeking up above the belt line.  By the time I was 17 I had become I became expert at telling the brands apart just by the waistband because the stitching each company used was different. Fruit Of The Looms had a small blue stripe with a yellow stripe below it. BVDs had a black dotted line, sometimes with a red dotted line below it.  Nowadays on a lot of brands the elastic waistband is a damn billboard.  Back then it was something you decoded stealthily, like a secret message.

How I could become such an expert on men’s underwear and at the same time remain clueless about my sexual orientation is something I’ve been trying to delve into in my cartoon, A Coming Out Story.  It was a combination of the horrible things I was taught about homosexuals back in my ninth grade sex-ed class, and the relentless stereotypes of that time. On the one hand I knew I could not possibly be a homosexual because I was none of the horrible things that I’d been taught homosexuals were.  On the other, I knew perfectly well what would happen to me if it became common knowledge that I was one.  Already through most of my grade school life I’d been tormented and bullied severely because I was small, scrawny, and I hated sports.  Faggot was a routine insult kids like me got whether we were actually thought to be queer or not.  I didn’t need the extra added threat of the other kids knowing for certain that I was, in fact, a queer.

So I kept it all inside. But sex is an instinct older then the fish, let alone the mammals, let alone the primates, let alone humans, let alone teenage boys. You can try to bottle it up inside of you, but it will find its way out no matter how much you’d rather it just went away. Even such a tame little apologetic libido as my own.  It just kept…insisting that I look at all the beautiful guys.  Especially the ones with a tempting bit of skin showing between the belt line and the shirt.  Insisting that I look as they walked by.  Oh…look over there…that one…well now, his hips move very nicely as he walks don’t they?  Long legs…  Nice jeans…  Oh look…he’s wearing Jockeys…

I count it as a blessing that I was able to avoid the years of self loathing other gay guys of my generation endured.  I fell in love and in that wonderful glorious rush of teenage first love was able to finally come out to myself and not see myself as perverted, mentally ill or an abomination in the sight of God.  But I understand completely how it is that some people, strident cultural conservatives getting caught with rent boys, politicians getting caught soliciting vice cops in parks or public restrooms, can do the things they do, things that fairly write I Am A Homosexual on their foreheads in neon lights, and still resolutely not consider themselves to be gay.  All I have to do is remember back to when I was a kid alone in the house with one of the big mail order catalogs, gawking at the men’s underwear pages, one part of me completely entranced, the other just keeping its mouth shut.

  

[Edited a tad…]  I had to add the words “advertising for” to the end of one of the paragraphs there to make it clear my childhood friends weren’t transvestites.  I’m not saying any of them aren’t…just that back then they were ogling advertising for bras and women’s lingerie like a lot of boys that age did back then, not fantasizing about wearing it.  A couple wise guys here apparently thought I meant otherwise…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Denial: Not Just A River In Egypt

May 16th, 2012

Well This Is Certainly Entertaining…

Posted to Twitter: “Man, Diablo III is super hard. I’ve been playing for 30 minutes and haven’t even defeated the login screen. #error37”

For some really, really good laughs, try the #error37 hashtag. If nothing else you’ll discover how very quick witted a lot of gamers are. But I suppose you need to develop that if you’re going to spend any time in that world.

I haven’t owned a game console since the ColecoVison I had way back when, just to give you and idea of how much I am into gaming (still have my box of cartridges for it though). This massive twitter howl of agony is interesting to me mostly to the degree it shows me where DRM is headed. There’s a saying about how passions increase in reverse proportion to the substance of the issue. That’s not always true, but it sure seems to explain why it’s the entertainment business that’s so hyper about losses due to theft of product.

Listen to me: you are selling entertainment. You need to be entertaining.

This first #Diablo3 screen seems suspiciously similar to Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. #error37

Or at least as entertaining as your customers.

One does not simply login into #Diablo3

Damn you guys are hilarious…


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Well This Is Certainly Entertaining…

May 15th, 2012

A Life…(continued)

A friend on Facebook remarked after I posted the first installment of this “WOW! I’m impressed that you are releasing this story to the world.”  But it’s time.  I need to get this out of me.  And I replied…

Well there’s more to this story then my dad, which hopefully I’ll be able to get out there too. But…yeah…I was aware when I decided to finally tell the story of my growing up that this was going to be the thing that got people’s attention.

Here’s the thing…I’ve been more reluctant to tell people this then that I’m gay. It’s that Sins Of The Fathers thing. You get afraid of what people will think of you. It still worries me and it shouldn’t. Mom was the one who raised me, not dad, and in any case I am not my father. Both my brother and I (he’s my half brother actually) were raised by good mothers and we’ve both lived by the values they set. He’s got a good home improvement business going for himself and I’ve been working in IT for almost twenty years now. Our police records are cleaner then your kitchen floor. We are not our father. But then…nobody is. Turn it around. If dad was a saint that wouldn’t automatically make me one either.

But I think it is true that the home you’re raised in makes a difference. The problem is these days we can’t have a discussion about home and values and what it does to a kid because we’re in the middle of a culture war and that means a lot of basically good homes have to get attacked and a lot of basically good parents and good kids have to suffer. It’s reminding me of how my own mother was treated back in the late 1950s and early 60s because she was a single divorced mother. And myself. Back then I didn’t need people to know dad was a crook to get placed in the problem child box, just that my mom was divorced and still didn’t have a man in the house.

I wouldn’t be telling this story if I didn’t think there was a point here I’d like people to get. I am not that narcissistic. You hear a lot of talk from the religious right about morals and values and what great champions of these they are and it’s all bullshit. They’re a bunch of tribalistic runts thumping their drums and screaming at anyone who isn’t of the tribe. It’s time the other tribes started thumping back because actually the moral high ground isn’t theirs.

That’s the story I’m telling here.  So to continue…and here I am reposting some of what I’ve written previously about mom’s first boyfriend…

There’s a reason my generation are called the baby boomers. We are the generation born to the ones who fought that war, came home, and all at once returned to what would have been normal lives were it not for the war…which for heterosexuals (and homosexuals, because the closet was not an option but a necessary means of survival in those days…) meant getting married and having kids.  All at once.  It was literally a baby boom.  Housing was scarce for the new families for years.  Suburban Levittowns sprang up all over America.  Schools had to be built, many schools, many, Many schools, to handle the load…only to later be decommissioned as my old high school eventually was, after the last of the boom had graduated. We are a massive bulge in the population, and that is because there was a war.  A very big, catastrophic, savage and bloody war…that changed so much…so very very much…

Mom told me often about the sailor she dated during WWII. When she got started, I could see that look of remembrance of first love in her eyes, hear it in her voice, still, so many years later.  So many little things about him she remembered vividly.  So many stories about the times they had together…about waiting patiently for his letters from overseas during the war…about how her father disliked Jews, but came to see them as fellow neighbors in life by coming to know the Jewish man she loved.  She loved him, probably to her dying day.

When I asked her once why she married Dad instead, she said her sailor was on a ship that was ordered into Nagasaki harbor after the war ended, and that his ship became trapped in the harbor briefly due to all the bodies floating in it.  She said the sight of it had driven him mad.  And for years I wondered, never doubting that he’d gone mad as mom had said, if that bodies trapping a big U.S. navy ship part of the story could possibly be true.  Really?  Perhaps he’d seen lots of bodies certainly…but so many they trapped a huge Navy ship?  Madness if it will strike, strikes young men around the age he was, so perhaps it would have happened to him anyway.  But I saw a post Conor Friedersdorf made in which he linked to an Atlantic article about World War II…The Real War. In it was related the experiences of a two soldiers, Neil McCallum and his friend “S.” who came upon the body of a man after a shell had landed at his feet…

“Good God,” said S., shocked, “here’s one of his fingers.” S. stubbed with his toe at the ground some feet from the corpse. There is more horror in a severed digit than in a man dying: it savors of mutilation. “Christ,” went on S. in a very low voice, “look, it’s not his finger.”

…and I got part way though the Atlantic article, when this passage struck me…

In the great war Wilfred Owen was driven very near to madness by having to remain for some time next to the scattered body pieces of one of his friends. He had numerous counterparts in the Second World War. At the botched assault on Tarawa Atoll, one coxswain at the helm of a landing vessel went quite mad, perhaps at the shock of steering through all the severed heads and limbs near the shore. One Marine battalion commander, badly wounded, climbed above the rising tide onto a pile of American bodies. Next afternoon he was found there, mad.

…and I realized then how I knew that war had been sanitized greatly by the mainstream press at the time so as not to damage homefront moral.  So I saw it then that yes, it could have been just as Morris told mom. Just imagine the aftermath of the first plutonium bomb, small as they say that one was, compared to what nuclear weapons can do nowadays.  Reading this Atlantic article I could see how it probably was exactly as mom had said.

So her sailor boyfriend became lost in madness.

Mom told me his family eventually had him committed to a mental hospital.  Mom was heartbroken.  Then her father had his stroke, or series of really bad ones.  He lingered, back in a time when medical care could do precious little for stroke victims.  When he passed away, mom was devastated.  Ruth probably was too.  Growing up I sometimes wondered if Ruth’s bitter view of life was in part because the only man she ever loved was gone.  Sometimes I feel like I need to cut her memory a break.  Sometimes.

In any event, Ruth sold their house, and apparently everything else my maternal grandfather Albert owned, including his business making and selling radios back in a time when radio was the high tech of its age.  I’ve written elsewhere about my doubts about the totality of this story.  But that isn’t what I want to go into here.  Mom would always tell me when I was growing up and exhibited an interest in electric gizmos, how much like her father I was.  At a very young age I would bring old junked radios I found in the dump and got them working again.  It wasn’t a lot of effort…back then radios were mostly vacuum tube contraptions and getting them back in shape was mostly a matter of taking the tubes to the local drugstore and running them on the tube testers that were ubiquitous then.

I would replace the bad ones with good and…presto…a working radio.  I never thought it was any big deal but mom encouraged that in me, along with my artistic talents.  I was a tinkerer, but also a budding romantic, and when I got a shortwave working I would sit with it for hours listening to the signals from distant lands, completely absorbed in the wonder of hearing signals from worlds beyond my little neighborhood.  When I was in fifth grade mom’s older brother Wayne bought me my first Heathkit radio kit, which I dove into happily.  I would have been nine then.  By then I also had my first camera, given to me when I showed some talent in the photography department.  Mom told me grandad Albert was also an amateur photographer and showed me some of his work…mostly poses of mom.

She was his darling girl and it really scarred her deeply when he passed away in such a painful, lingering way.  She never hesitated to encourage anything in me that she could see something of her dad in.  We didn’t have much when I was growing up…I never got every toy I wanted.  But I got nearly every book I asked for and anything that encouraged my interests in electronics and art she did her best to provide.  In many ways I owe a lot to granddad Albert.  I have always wished I had a chance to know him.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Mom and Ruth moved to California, to live near where her younger brother Dean lived in Pasadena. Mom and Ruth lived there for several years, and then one day they went for a trip to Catalina Island, and on the pier at Avalon she met dad.  They fell in love, married, and shortly thereafter they had a kid.  Me.

So many people died in that war…many from the two atomic bomb blasts alone.  Every year they toll the bells in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the a-bomb dead.  And every year it’s been in the back of my thoughts always to wonder if I was born because of one of those atomic bombs.  But that war violently changed a great many lives, and I am certainly not the only war baby ever born, who but for war would not be.

To be continued…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Life…(continued)

May 14th, 2012

Because Persecuting Homosexuals Is The Only Reason I Have For Living

Via Right Wing Watch

Jim Garlow was on Daystar TV’s “Celebration” program to promote his recent book “Miracles Are For Real,” but before the discussion about his book began, Garlow and hosts Marcus and Joni Lamb spent several minutes talking about President Obama’s statement last week in support of marriage equality.

Garlow weighed in, declaring that religious liberty and “the radical homosexual agenda” were on course for a head-on collision in America because “they cannot both exist in the same nation at the same time.”

Because persecuting homosexuals is a sacrament more vital to one’s own salvation then being baptized.  If homosexuals can live their lives in peace we might as well close the church doors and wait for the rapture because salvation just isn’t possible anymore.

Oh, but he’s not through yet…

Garlow warned that advances in marriage equality will eventually force the Christian church underground because the gay agenda is all about “coercion, and crushing, and taking away our liberties and freedoms.” But nonetheless, Garlow said, Christians must be willing to stand up and speak out in opposition even though “we are coming into an era where it could cost us everything, including our lives”

Whereas homosexuals don’t have lives.  And if they do our relentless incitement of religious passions toward them certainly isn’t costing any of them theirs.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Because Persecuting Homosexuals Is The Only Reason I Have For Living

May 13th, 2012

Sowing The Wind

Brad DeLong asks…

Is American Democracy Broken?

This post on his blog is apparently a talk he gave at the second Berkeley Faculty Club symposium on American Politics and Democracy.  He begins by noting he is out of his comfort zone discussing these matters, being an economist and not a political scientist.  You should read it anyway because he brings to it the same thoughtful, insightful thinking he brings to economics.

I want to quote some of its passages…

An economist is going to start thinking about democracy with Tony Downs’s economic theory of same. First-past-the-post electoral systems and office-seeking politicians should produce a two-party system. Office-seeking candidates simply won’t join any third party because their chances of election will be too small. Only those who want to make some ideological or demonstrative point rather than to actually win office and then make policy–cough, Ralph Nader, cough–will do so. Hence the stable configuration has two parties. And then the two parties hug the center and follow policies attractive to the median voter.

Ideology will matter–politicians do not run purely for love of office but rather to then make the country into what they regard as a better place. There will be swings to the left, to the right, to the up, to the down, to the forward, to the back. But the policy views of the median voter ought, according to Tony Downs, function as a strong attractor and we should not expect the policies implemented by the politicians who get elected to deviate far from them.

Now there are qualifications. It is the median voter, not the median citizen.George W. Bush became president not because his policies came closer to the preferences of the median person who voted on that Tuesday in November but because his policies came closer to the preferences of the median Supreme Court justices Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor. Gerrymandering and misapportionment–cough, the Senate, cough–matter a lot. But these are qualifications. Tony Downs made a very strong case that first-past-the-post electoral systems will produce policies that the median voter likes. Thus in this sense the electorate gets the government it deserves. If there are problems, the problems are in the minds of the voters rather than in the Democratic system.

That is the economist’s not theory, not analysis, but rather prejudice. theory. Political scientists will scorn it as hopelessly naïve. But it is the benchmark from which I start.

In a democracy…in a healthy functional democracy, the middle will act as a check on the extremes. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, like when the middle position still favors segregation of the races and the second class status of women as it did here in the 1950s.  But the point is the voters generally get the government they asked for, or in H.L. Mencken’s lovely phrase, “Democracy is based on the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

But the middle does not like republican policies. I could go on and on about that but it’s basically a fact that the polls show next to no public support for republican economic policies, which are generally understood to benefit only the richest of the rich. Yet those are the policies we get, often with lackluster democratic opposition, if any. So what happened?

Now let me shift and talk about our experience here in America since I got to Washington in early 1993, carrying spears for Alicia Munnell in Lloyd Benson’s Treasury Department in the Clinton administration.

Clinton was a centrist Democrat. The Clinton administration’s priorities were by and large, with exceptions–gays in the military–what you might call “Eisenhower Republican” priorities. Expand healthcare coverage so there were fewer uninsured and fewer people dumped by ambulances on the corners of the Tenderloin. But also control government healthcare cost which were then ballooning out of control–even though we didn’t know what “ballooning out of control” really meant. Balance the budget. End welfare as we know it–thus buying into the Republican critique of the Depression-era belief that raising children was real work–even if you were not married to a rich husband who was the chief executive of Bain Capital–and a socially-valuable task. Passing NAFTA. Creating the World Trade Organization. Strengthening Social Security through a combination of tax increases, benefit cuts, retirement=age increases, mandated private accounts requiring individuals to contribute their own money over and above Social Security (as an add-on but not a carve-out, as a supplement to and not a substitute for Roosevelt’s New Deal’s Social Security).

All of these seemed to us in the early 1990s to be bang-on the median voter’s preferences, Eisenhower Republicans. Clinton Democrats. We in the Bentsen Treasury at the start of 1993 looked forward to doing an awful lot of technocratic work–cranking out centrist legislation approved by large bipartisan majorities.

We found Republicans cooperative on NAFTA.

We found Republicans pushing for welfare reform–but only to the extent of passing things that were so highly punitive that they could not believe any Democratic president could in good conscience sign them. But Clinton fooled them. He signed welfare reform–and then spent some time in 1996 campaigning on the message: “re-elect me because only I can undo some of the damage that I have done to the welfare system”. Which was true. And which he did.

Otherwise…

That was the old game. Hammer out compromise legislation and move on because at the end of the day what was important to both sides was keeping the country strong and prosperous, even if they had different ideas of how to go about that, even if it meant their individual constituencies didn’t get everything they wanted. Everyone agreed at the end of the day that the government still had to function and it’s work needed to get done.

But notice how the center as defined by Bill Clinton was by then way further to the right on economic policy then it was at any time since The New Deal. What was happening was since Watergate the republicans had become more radicalized and the democrats just kept playing the old game of Find The Center.  And over a span of just a few elections that had moved the center way to the right. What happened next was the logical outcome of that.

Otherwise the Republicans when I got to Washington at the start of 1993 decided that they were going to adopt the Gingrich strategy: oppose everything the Democratic president proposes, especially if it had previously been a Republican proposal and priority. That is not a strategy that would ever be adopted by anybody who wants to see their name written in the Book of Life.

But Gingrich found followers.

And so things that we in the Bentsen Treasury all expected to happen, did not happen. We had expected that sometime between January and June 1994 Lloyd Bentsen’s chief healthcare aide would sit down with Bob Dole’s chief healthcare aide. We had expected that they would hammer out a deal so that people in the future would never be as dependent on on charity for their healthcare as Bob Dole was when he returned injured from World War II.

That meeting never happened. Bob Dole decided he would rather join Gingrich to try to portray Clinton as a failure. So Bob Dole never got a legislative accomplishment out of his years in Congress. Instead, he got to lose a presidential election. And I now remember Bob Dole not as the co-architect of health care reform in 1994 but as somebody who denounced Roosevelt and Truman for getting us into those Democrat wars that saved Europe from the Nazis, China and the rest of Asia from Imperial Japan, and that have allowed South Koreans to grow five inches taller than their North Korean cousins.

As my friend Mark Schmitt wrote in his review of Geoffrey Kabaservice’s book about the moderate Republicans, Rule and Ruin, the moderate Republicans were partisan Republicans first and Americans second…

Exactly.  He goes on to give an account of this just getting worse and worse, first with Clinton and the impeachment circus, then, massively so, with president Obama.

Then came Obama in 2009 and 2010. My friends–Christina Romer, Lawrence Summers, Peter Orszag, and company–headed off to Washington to plan a Recovery Act that they thought would get 25 Republican votes in the Senate. It was a squarely bipartisan fiscal stimulus: this tax cut to make the Republicans stand up and applaud, this infrastructure increase to make the Democrats applaud, this increase in aid to the states to make the governors and state legislators applaud.

It didn’t get 25 Republican votes in the Senate. It got 3.

On healthcare reform, Barrack Obama’s opening bid was the highly-Republican Heritage Foundation plan, the plan that George Romney had chosen for Massachusetts.

RomneyCare got zero republican votes.

On budget balance Obama’s proposals have not been the one-to-one equal amounts of tax increases and spending cuts to balance the budget of Clinton 1993 or Bush 1990. Obama’s proposals have been more along the lines of $1 of tax increases for every $5 of spending cuts.

And the Republicans rejected them

And so on…  DeLong starts the time of the breaking of our democracy with Gingrich.  That’s likely because he saw it first hand there in Washington.  But Gingrich was the next logical outcome down a course the republicans have been relentlessly following since Nixon and the Southern Strategy.

In the years after the civil war and the first and second world wars, we thought of ourselves as one country. Regardless of where people stood on the left/right spectrum there was this general sense that at the end of the day we were all Americans and there was a love of country that moderated all but the lunatic fringe. Nixon understood that this e pluribus unum mindset would leave a party that by then existed simply to represent the interests of big business, the rich and the powerful in a permanent minority status.

Working Americans were fine with The New Deal.  As long as the prosperity of the working class was rising the tide for the upper classes too the republican establishment was fine with just tinkering around the edges.  But it couldn’t last.  Eisenhower was conservative on many social issues, weak on civil rights and civil liberties, but not overtly hostile as the Nixon/McCarty branch of the party was. He was the last of the moderate republicans who believed that a healthy middle class was necessary to the vitality of the economy and the security of the United States.

Nixon hated the elites, the intellectuals, the liberals.  He positioned himself as the champion of the common man against the elites.  But it was those elites who had improved the status of the common man, and now threatened to do the same for women and minorities. Nixon was no great friend to the rich and powerful either, but as they would decades later in a man called Dubya they saw in Nixon’s paranoia and bottomless hatred someone who might just break the New Deal coalition of labor, rural and urban voters. And then they could go back to what they were doing back in Hoover’s Day…getting rich quick in the Wall Street casino.

Divide the country and we’ll have the bigger half Pat Buchanan told Nixon.  But without a doubt Nixon took that advice because he was already considering it.  Divisive pit American against American campaigning had been his method of winning elections since his first run for congress.  They simply scaled the Nixon technique up and made it a permanent American against American cold war. Very deliberately they sought to replace in the working class voter love of country with love of tribe.  No more of this e pluribus unum communist socialist nonsense.  And like Gingrich would decades later, they found allies.  White blue collar workers who hated black people.  Males resentful toward independent women.  Rural voters who loathed big city people with their big city morals and ideas.  Poor people jealous of union workers with their union paychecks.  Christian fundamentalists who loath the people in the church across the street.

When you got right down to it, America was a country of the imagination only.  It wasn’t a nation by blood and ancestry.  Our shared history is very brief compared to what the peoples of Europe, Asia and South America see as their own.  The United States is a nation based on a political ideal of liberty and justice for all. The social contract was simply that we had each others backs when it came to that liberty and justice for all thing. Your freedom in the pursuit of happiness is as dear to me as my own. We are all Americans.  As long as that held true a party of the rich and powerful would never win very many elections or wield enough power to impose its will on the majority.  But the New Deal majority was a coalition of many diverse parts of working America and the republicans became expert at playing them against each other, that they might rule over all.

When Scott Walker was caught talking about using a divide and conquer strategy he wasn’t just talking about himself or just breaking the unions: this has been the essential republican strategy for gaining and keeping power since Nixon. Divide the country, set working American against working American, and in the end the rich and powerful take all. And it’s worked.

One thing I have learned from watching the Wall Street boys run the country is they’re not very good at it, and at some level they might even know they’re not very good at it.  But they don’t care about running the country, they just want to get it out of their way so they can chase some more money.  It’s all about the money chase with them.  When the economy tanks, when the stock market goes bust, when banks and businesses go bankrupt right and left, they blame everyone but themselves.  They’re like a bunch of drunk drivers convinced they’re fit to drive because they haven’t killed anyone yet, and when they do it was an accident and it was dark and that pedestrian just jumped right out in front of them and they didn’t mean to do it so stop treating them like criminals.  Once upon a time the nation had laws against their sort of drunk driving. Those laws were there to protect the rest of us. But those law got in their way.   Who are you to tell me I can’t drink and drive…it’s my car and my taxes paid for the highway and if I can’t drink and drive then it’s not a free country and all you other drivers on the road are socialists.

The money chase is all they care about. The New Deal coalition got in their way so they set about busting it apart. If in the process of doing that they ripped America apart too and put the nation at risk of catastrophic social upheaval that isn’t important. If once the brakes are off their reckless driving crashes the economy to smithereens and the lives of honest hard working Americans are destroyed and the future strength and security of the nation is placed in jeopardy that isn’t important.  They don’t care about America. They are citizens of the stock market.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Sowing The Wind


Cold Feet, Warm Heart

If my mother’s rule was right I was already thinking pretty well. But she also said, “Cold feet – warm heart” and that’s a different matter. -John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley.

This, via Sullivan…

Mind Thoughts… with Michael Ian Black – Let’s Not Fuck, Shall We?

Male libido is assumed to be a constant, quivering thrum. For some men, maybe it is. But for me, as much as I enjoy the old in-n-out, the rubba-dub-dubba, the squeak-n-bubble, I have never craved it the way our culture has led me to believe I should, not even during my fabled Horny Years from ’91 to ’95. Except for those moments when I was in the first throes of a new love, sex has never subsumed me. Yet every cultural message I receive has led me to believe it should. Consequently, my lack of nymphomaniacal tendencies has always left me feeling embarrassed and emasculated.

That’s me.  When I was a teenager, and still had not admitted to myself that I’m gay, I was mostly turned off by what I regarded as the oversexed conversations of my friends. On the one hand I was too polite to say anything negative about their preoccupation with girls. On the other, I understood perfectly well that if I didn’t at least make some effort at joining in I would be regarded as a weirdo.  I decided to just go with the weirdo thing and make friends with other weirdos.  Problem was, they were, or at least seemed to be, just as horny as everyone else with a Y chromosome.

Then I came out to myself as gay.  Fine.  Okay.  This explains why I wasn’t all about tits and ass.  Well…at least female ass.  But it wasn’t long before I came to realize I still wasn’t all that horny compared to my fellow gay males either.  Yes, yes…I liked the look of comely guys.  And there were times when the very thought of having sex with some of them would drive me completely nuts.  But those were mostly guys I was crushing on.  Random pretty bods would turn me on after a fashion, yes, but quite soon after coming out it became clear to me that my sexual thermostat was set several degrees below that of my gay male peers.

And even in the gay community, or perhaps especially in the gay community, if you aren’t 100 percent horny, 100 percent of the time, people think there is something wrong with you.  Something, of course, that getting laid will cure.

I remember way back in the BBS days, the Gay bulletin board I frequented, and did volunteer work for, GLIB (for Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau) had a guest columnist on sexual health.  Questions posted to the doctor’s forum were anonymous. One day a fellow glibber, male, wrote that he was concerned that his libido was too weak.  He needed he said, lots and lots of gentle foreplay just to get a head of steam up for it. The doctor assured him basically what this heterosexual columnist is saying here: human males aren’t all as sexually charged as the stereotype says we are. There’s nothing wrong with you, find a boyfriend who understands your sexual needs, relax and enjoy the extended foreplay. Reading this exchange, I was tremendously relieved. It was, I am not kidding, one of those Wow…I’m not the only one after all moments gay boys are supposed to have when growing up, but for an entirely different reason.

To me, sex isn’t even about sex. Fundamentally, it’s about acceptance, having somebody desire you enough to allow you to envelop them and wanting that person to envelop you in return.

This. What Steinbeck’s mom said, presumably about women, is true of a lot of men too. It’s true of me. You could never get me into the sack at a moment’s notice. But I could be coaxed.  Perhaps this was always for the best anyway.  A guy who thinks coaxing is superfluous would obviously not be dating material either.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

May 12th, 2012

A Life…

A friend at work who is seriously into the family genealogy thing unearthed, at my request, the above newspaper fragment of my family history.  That is a photograph of my dad laying dead on the sidewalk after he’d tried to rob another bank. I just saw this image a few days ago and even thinking that I’d made my peace with all that it had its impact on me somewhere deep down inside.  This is the first time I’ve seen this photo.  I’d only asked my friend to see if he could dig up a newspaper article about it.  I hadn’t expected to actually see dad laying dead on a sidewalk.  But…well…I asked for it.  Some days I wish I’d had that Leave It To Beaver life I saw on the TV growing up and some days I’m fine with the life I had.  But even those days when I’m fine with it I wonder about what might have been, had I had the chances the other kids got. Thing of it is though, it would have been some other kid who had that better life, had mom married the other guy instead of the one who died robbing a bank.

A Certain Someone down in Florida told me recently that I was “a piece of work.” So by way of explanation I’ve been giving him some insight these past few days as to why that might be via email.  Getting into the telling of it…how I came to be both the son of a man who died robbing a bank and a good Christian woman…is something I find I just need to get out of me now anyway.  So I’m going to tell the whole thing, in several parts over a period of time, omitting or disguising only pieces of it that might enable a more modern sort of crook then dad in his day would ever have imagined, and make some of those still living a bit too uncomfortable.

In retrospect I’ve had…an interesting life.  It’s taught me a lot.  And in a day and age when single mothers are disrespected by dishonest political frauds and pious pulpit thumping louts I think there may be some value in the telling of it. When you have been raised by a divorced, single working mother back in the 1950s and 60s, you got a front row seat into how 50s sexual morality and the status of woman worked in practice as opposed to theory. You also come to know something intimately well: that if a kid has just one good parent who loves them and sets a good example, they’ve got all they need for life.

Probably the biggest shocker to some of you, a thing I’ve only recently been able to talk openly about with just a few select friends, is the situation with my dad.  My story has always been he was a truck driver, and that he was. But toward the end of his life he lost the truck and he turned to robbing banks. And that is how he came to his end.  Thievery wasn’t so much a way of life with him as a bad habit he would fall in and out of.  Mom loved him very much but when I was two she divorced him when his gambling and thievery became too much. It broke her heart. When they started seeing each other again I was 15 and he was making an honest living as an interstate truck driver.  One summer he took me out on the road with him.  It is a treasured memory.  But the truck was taken away from him and he apparently decided afterward to get his money where the money was. I learned about that the afternoon I heard a knock at the door and opened it to find two very nice FBI agents there who wanted to know if I knew where dad was.

So Dad…had issues. I’ll try my best in the telling of my story to be fair to him as well as honest. I bear him no grudge whatsoever. He was my dad.  It’s possible for a boy to love his dad even knowing that dad is probably not the person you want to grow up to be.

Mom was a good Baptist woman in the old sense, not the modern right wing political sense. She set a good example and raised me as well as she could on the income of a single working woman in the 1950s and 60s. We didn’t have much, but I never really noticed when I was young because we lived in neighborhoods were nobody else really did either. Mom worked for most of her life as a clerk in a company that sold advertising. Her mother, Ruth took care of me while mom was at work. Ruth hated dad from what I hear the moment she laid eyes on him, and she often took that out on me when mom wasn’t looking. If you notice I never refer to her as grandma during this little history, that’s why.

Mom met dad one day on the pier at Avalon on Catalina Island. But this story needs to start before that.  When she was a young woman she met and fell in love with a Jewish man, Morris, who was in the Navy, serving on a ship in the Pacific during World War II…

To Be Continued…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Life…

May 10th, 2012

Freedom To Not Be Angry All The Time

I do political cartoons for my local gay paper, Baltimore OUTLoud.  Being published regularly allowed me to gain membership in The Associate Of American Editorial Cartoonists…a dream come true.  Cartooning was the first love and political cartooning, what was called the Ungentlemanly Art, is a form of expression that I’ve been attracted to since I was a teenager, growing up in the Washington D.C. suburbs with Herblock and Gib Crockett in my daily newspapers.  In high school my cartoons were in the student newspaper and on the walls of a few select social studies classrooms.

Jacob Bronowski once said that great art doesn’t set out to preach, but to shine a light in which the outlines of good and evil are “are seen in fearful sharpness of outline.”   The best political cartoons are like that.  It’s very easy, and most fall into that rut of being preachy.  But the best ones shine that light.

I try to do that with my cartoons.  When I see myself getting too preachy on the drawing board I start over.  But I get angry too and sometimes I just let the anger out and my viewers can take it or leave it.  Like this one I did after California Proposition 8 passed…

That’s all done on the paper by the way, only the lettering is done in the computer.  I still draw my cartoons with “traditional media” and scan it in, not so much because I am a throwback as I just work intuitively with those tools better then with a digitizer pad.

That angry metaphor of the severed ring finger works for me artistically, and at some deep level it gets out of me something that just needs getting out.  I hate saying this about myself because it sounds so pretentious but I am an artist.  The way I know that about myself isn’t that I like to draw or that I like it very much when my drawings get looked at, it’s if you put me on a desert island with no tools to make imagery with I would cut me some sticks and twigs and draw in the sand because I just have to get it out of me from time to time whether it makes any sense to anyone or not and even if nobody else ever sees it but me.  I have to do this from time to time or I will go nuts.  It’s just something I am.  And maybe I’m not really that good at it either.  Lots of times I will look at my stuff and think I really stink at it.  But I know I can’t stop doing it.  Drawing…painting…photography….it’s all about the image.  It’s a language I need to communicate in…much of the time just to think my world and my life through.

For my political cartoons, unlike a lot of cartoonists, I don’t do many rough sketches first.  I do the drawing first in my head, and when I can see it clearly in there, then I sit down at the drafting table.  Yesterday I had one ready to go, concerning the vote against same-sex marriage in North Carolina.  I’d been drawing it in my mind the moment I laid eyes on the advertisement Billy Graham placed in a bunch of North Carolina newspapers.  Where there any chance of that amendment not passing, Graham effectively killed it with those ads and I was angry.  And immediately when I saw the ad the image for a cartoon about the likely outcome of the vote came immediately to my mind.  I thought about it for days and it changed very little in my visualization of it.  I was angry.  The image was angry.

Yesterday morning I read the news and even though I had been completely expecting the outcome, it hit me hard.  Every fucking time one of these votes happens it feels like a kick in the stomach.  And you know that’s exactly the purpose of having these votes…to make gay people hurt.  Because if we don’t bleed they aren’t righteous.  And I did hurt.  I walked around all morning long carrying this lump of grief like a stone in my gut.  Reading the streams on Facebook and Twitter I could see others did too.  But I did notice something that lifted my spirits even so.  This time…This Time…that stone in the gut was being carried by a lot of heterosexuals too.  This was what I knew would eventually win this thing: when enough of our heterosexual neighbors began to see this struggle as theirs too…feel it in their gut the same way we feel it in ours.  Even as I grieved I could see we were winning this thing.  But it felt so painful…so very very painful.  But I had my outlet.  I was going to go home from work that day, and right to my drafting table, and out would come the cartoon I had visualized so clearly in my mind’s eye for days.

Then…this…

…and all of a sudden Billy Graham didn’t matter anymore.  And something happened to me that made me realize how much anger I have been carrying with me all these years.  I stopped being angry.  It almost literally felt like a weight had been taken off me.

I don’t know if I’ll do that cartoon now.  I might…it’s still something I think needs being said about him, about the people who put so much hard work into kicking their gay neighbors in the face.  You can shine Bronowski’s fearful sharp light at evil, but you can also shine it at the good, and I am not so very angry anymore.  Life is good.  Hard sometimes, but good.

Time was the haters could make us hate ourselves as much as they hated us.  Then that time was over, and they could no longer make us hate ourselves and that made them angry.  It made them angry and so they had to make us angry too.  And being angry all the time can be a stone around your neck too.  Not as big a one as hating yourself, but big enough all the same to keep you from having a decent life.  Perhaps anger, unlike self hate, is a necessary thing.  Perhaps without that righteous anger we would not have worked so hard, and come so far, so fast.   But the day is coming when we don’t have to be angry anymore.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Freedom To Not Be Angry All The Time

May 9th, 2012

Notice

I can appreciate that some people have deeply held religious beliefs. What I don’t appreciate is some people turning my hopes and dreams of love into their stepping stones to heaven. I can appreciate that some people have had a hard life. But only a runt uses that as an excuse to inflict pain on others. I can appreciate how it is to feel your peace and security threatened by forces you don’t understand. That has never once made me want to become that force against others. I have always wished you peace. You will need to let me have mine too though, because that’s just the way peace works.

  

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

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