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Archive for March, 2013

March 28th, 2013

Better…Like A Fever Broken…

As I have said many times here, this is a life blog.  Nothing more or less.  And sometimes life gets a little heavy.  Not to scare anyone…I’m fine now…really…but this first quarter was about the worst I have ever had.  Every winter it seems the period between Valentine’s Day and April just gets worse and worse.  But I think that’s over now.  As they say, what has been seen cannot be unseen.

I was in that chilly gray sky of the mind state all morning long yesterday.  I’d been that way for weeks and it just kept getting worse and worse.  Things went badly at work.  Things I should have been able to shrug off that I took to heart.  My co-workers were noticing, which only made it worse.  It fed on itself.  And it wasn’t about nothing either.  I’m 59 years old and never had a boyfriend.  You can’t walk that far in a life without time spent in the arms of an intimate other and not be damaged by it.  We were not made to be solitaries.  And I have been betrayed by people I trusted deeply.  Or maybe it was my congenital naivety.  People who look like that…

So it was deep in that feedback loop that I randomly chanced across that Hemingway quote in my Facebook stream and naturally the first thing that came to mind was a kind of despair that, no this isn’t why I feel the way I do because I have no courage.  I do not take risks, I run away from them.  Just ask Tico.  I am not a good man wounded, I was damaged goods to begin with.  Unworthy.  The child who was never meant to be.  And right then it was as if something tapped me on the shoulder and showed me something about myself that I’d never really looked at before, that through it all I have lived an honest life, because I never thought doing that was something to pat yourself on the back for.

A feeling for beauty…the courage to take risks… Yeah…actually I’ve taken a few haven’t I? And so it goes.  I felt right then as though a terrible fever was breaking.  Seriously, it was like a smothering curtain had been pulled off me and I felt alive again.  Life was good again.  The road forward clearer, and…enticing.  Then I remembered what had happened to Hemingway.  You try to be rational about things, but for a moment I felt like I’d been given a lift up, from a hand that would have known the need.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Better…Like A Fever Broken…

March 27th, 2013

Courage And Self Esteem

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice Kingsley: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers.
But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

You get into these depressive ruts and you start being critical of your every fault, real or perceived.  Nothing within you is good enough.  Everything is rotten. Yesterday I was tearing myself up inside for not having the nerve to just go ahead and go down to Washington and with my cameras bear witness to history being made.  So just for good measure I took stock of every failure of nerve I ever had in my life, starting with the biggest one of all, that of not being able to tell a certain someone back in 1971 that he had made my heart skip a beat.  By the end of the day I knew exactly what a sniveling coward I had been my entire life.

This came across my Facebook feed this morning…

…and I could see in it everything about me, except the courage part.  Hemingway wasn’t talking about me.  I have the feeling for beauty…it drives me mad sometimes. The truth telling part, yes. Just ask anyone who knows me. The capacity for sacrifice, yes. I can do that. I have done that. I have all of that within me. And I know how vulnerable it makes me.  There are times it still surprises me how vulnerable. That is me. I have all of that. But not the courage. I have no courage.

And then it was like I swear a little voice inside said wait just a minute… You’ve been living as an out gay man nearly all your life.  You came out to yourself when you were 17 years old, accepted yourself for what you are, two years before the shrinks decided homosexuals weren’t mentally ill after all.  You kept it low key for most of the 70s but you never dodged a direct question and never lied to anyone about it, back in a time when you could be, and were, multiple times, fired for being a homosexual.  Remember that day when you were still a teenage boy and you stood in front of the bathroom mirror and said to your reflection “I Am A Homosexual” after you read some crackpot who said admitting it was the worst thing a man could do?  That day forty-seven states still had sodomy laws on their books.  You have spent the past few days…no, weeks…digging up every failure of nerve you ever had.  Now remember all those times when you were blind-sided by a question and you had to make a sudden snap decision about being closeted or not.  Remember how afraid you were?  And you never held back.  What the hell is that if it isn’t courage?

Fear.  Maybe that’s what’s always at the heart of a depression.  Fear of being alone all my life.  Fear of dying alone.  Fear of walking through my one life never knowing a lover’s embrace.  Friends With Benefits is the cheap shelf booze.  Once you’ve tasted the real thing you never settle for faking it.  The best or nothing, as Gottlieb Daimler once said.  Courage.  I’m depressed because I am afraid.  That doesn’t make me a coward.  Anyone with that discipline to tell the truth, and capacity for sacrifice, and feeling for beauty, cannot also be a coward.  It just doesn’t compute.  I forgot lately, all those times when I did what I had to do even though I was scared shitless.  I forgot something I began telling myself in later years when I began looking back on those moments.  T.E. Lawrence once said, “The trick is not minding that it hurts.” For me the trick was always not minding that I’m afraid.

And…a bit bonkers…in the way the best people generally are.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Courage And Self Esteem

March 26th, 2013

Second Thoughts That Tend To Come A Bit Too Late

Today is going to be murder to get through, but it’s my own doing. I let my depressed state screw me over. I should have planned to go down to the Supreme Court marriage Proposition 8 protests/counter protests regardless.  I actually took the days off well in advance.  But then I cancelled because I have been down ever since Valentine’s Day and I just didn’t want to deal with that part of me.  Ironically, that not wanting to deal with the emotional creative part of me is what got me into computers, and making the very nice living I am making now.  But there was a big drawback to all of that.  This path I chose, has led me to a cliff.  Now that the day is here I really want to be down there with my cameras photographing it but management wants not. Ever have one of those conversations with your boss, where the boss looks at you, smiles and says “It’s your call” and you know goddamn well what the call is supposed to be?  It was one of those.

Maybe that would have been the reality anyway.  So many things are happening at work now.  Launch is in 2018 and while that seems like a long way off, there is a lot of up front work that needs to be done.  A lot. Probably, it’s no fooling, I really have to be here and stay on top of my work.  Maybe making it up on the weekend really just doesn’t cut it.  Maybe it wasn’t a question of my boss telling me I could not have divided loyalties in his workspace.  Put that artsy fartsy stuff away, you’re an adult now, live in the real world… But this is really stabbing me in the heart now.

Sometimes I wish I could just surgically remove that emotional creative part of me that keeps wanting to make imagery.  I hear this thing inside of us drives other artists insane too and it’s been this way all my life, particularly as it’s become lonelier and lonelier and because of that, sometimes I really don’t want to look at what comes out of me.  And while it’s had its rewards it cuts me to ribbons too.  It is right now.  I could have done without it.  Life as an emotionless cog in the machinery wouldn’t be so bad.

So now, at fifty-nine, I think I know why the stereotype of the starving artist exists.  It isn’t because they can’t find decent work, it’s because they know what will happen when they do, so they stay in their little slumtown lofts and hovels because any work that pulls them away from the creative urge makes their inner lives a complete mess.  Well…more mess then what would be normal for them anyway. In the end the choice isn’t live a very low budget life but get to do your work whenever you want to, verses get a good job and appease the creative urge in your spare time…it’s follow your heart or slowly go mad, pick one.

Wish I’d been brave enough to take the poor scrappy starving artist path. Who knows, maybe the boyfriend would have been somewhere along that way.  But nerve was always something I had trouble with having enough of.  Just ask Tico.

Anyway…to those confronting the haters today and tomorrow…be proud. You are writing new lines in the history books. Wish I could be there with my cameras to get some shots of it happening.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Second Thoughts That Tend To Come A Bit Too Late

March 21st, 2013

Seeing Your Gay Neighbor Through Prejudiced Colored Glasses

The struggle for gay civil rights is merely homosexuals seeking approval of their lifestyle…

Young Opponents of Gay Marriage Undaunted by Battle Ahead

“The primary challenge that our side faces right now is the intense social pressure,” said Joseph Backholm, 34, the executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. “To the extent that the other side is able to frame this as a vote for gay people to be happy, it will be challenging for us.”

The more things change the more they stay the same.  As far back as Anita Bryant’s rampage on Dade County’s anti-discrimination law, the rhetoric has been that all the fuss about gay rights is merely the homosexuals demanding societal approval of their lifestyle.  No matter how you phrase that, (a vote for gay people to be happy) it is ignorant.  All you’re telling us there Joseph, is you can’t see the people for the homosexuals.

Anyone who thinks this struggle is only about approval or some frivolous desire for “happiness” has ether never loved or does not think gay people are capable of love.  Happiness is in your lover’s smile, and the touch of their hand in yours.  All the approval you could ever need is in their eyes when they look into yours.  You would know this if you ever loved Joseph.  You would know why we fight for the honor and the dignity of it if you could see the people for the homosexuals.  We are not asking for approval from the likes of you Joseph, let alone happiness.  What we need from you is to take the damn knife out of our backs.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Seeing Your Gay Neighbor Through Prejudiced Colored Glasses

March 19th, 2013

A Splendid Little War…

Andrew Sullivan has been relentlessly digging up and reposting his horrible Iraq war posts as a kind of public confession and mea culpa.  So very Catholic, and I mean that in a respectful way.  For all the hostility I threw at him back then I must say now that he has my respect, being one of the few Bush cheerleaders I’ve seen to change their minds about both the man and his war, and while you can argue that this is just a matter of plainly seeing the facts for what they are and you don’t pat someone on the back for doing what they ought to have been doing in the first place, that’s ignoring some hard truths about human nature and what can happen to any of us who get caught up in a mob.  Sullivan deserves a great deal of respect in my opinion for so publicly eating crow and more to the point, for setting an example.  If more of us owned our mistakes in life instead of passing the buck this would be a much better world.

The rest of us who were right all along need to look squarely at the fact of our utter uselessness.  We tried, we failed, and way too often it seems to me, we settled for the sanctimony of being right over making a difference.

Flashback…Washington D.C…March 18, 2003

Tuesday afternoon. I am attending a conference on open source software in government being held at George Washington University. I am here because my project manager is investigating the possibility of moving the system I’ve been working on for the past several years to open source software. Work on the Hubble Space Telescope will go into maintenance mode shortly, and the thinking is that the Institute doesn’t want to spend a lot of money it won’t have on software upgrades, simply because a certain vendor has a business cycle that requires you to do that. At least with open source we would have the option of making any small fixes we absolutely needed to have before the end of the mission ourselves, without breaking our systems that depend on it. The alternative is to stick to the vendor’s upgrade cycle, and pray the new versions don’t break anything in our software, or introduce new bugs and security holes.

Between conference sessions, I wander around the Foggy Bottom area, and back and forth to my hotel, which I paid for out of my own pocket, rather then hassle with Washington traffic, which is a nightmare. The hotel has a nice little kitchenette, which allows me to eat reasonably well without further damaging my budget for the month. Around noon I begin the walk back to my hotel for lunch, stopping to examine a decrepit building right next to the conference hall, that I assume is one of the student dorms. It is, and I see by the bronze plaque by the door that this one is named Lafayette Hall. I read the inscription, which briefly describes the history of Marquis de Lafayette, who fought beside George Washington, taking a bullet in the process, for the freedom of a nation that was not his own, and who later attended the first commencement ceremonies of the university that bore his friend’s name, shaking the hand of each of those first graduates. While I am reading, a snarky voice in the back of my mind is saying Freedom Fries…Freedom Toast… An old friend of mine I’d had breakfast with that morning, told me a joke he’d heard about a man who, while visiting France recently, asked a random Frenchman, “Sir, can you speak German?” When the Frenchman replied that he couldn’t, the American said, “You’re welcome.” I told my friend the Frenchman could just as easily have asked the American, “Sir, what is your king’s name?”

My hotel is somewhat oldish. My room is on the sixth floor and the elevators are small and slow. I press the button and when one finally appears, I see that there are already two businessmen inside. It’s a tight fit for three. As we go up I feel the hair on the back of my neck rise. There are some who you would never know from the look of them to be of the right wing thuggish persuasion, and there are others who hit you with it in waves, in the cut of the clothes, the bullying posture that is as second nature as breathing, and the coldness of the face, particularly when smiling at nothing in particular. I tune them both out, pulling out from a space within me I’d almost forgotten about, a “Yes I’m a longhair, yes I know you hate my guts, and no mister establishment person sir, I really don’t give a flying fuck” attitude, close my eyes, and listen to the elevator floor counter click off the floors to mine. I toy briefly about writing a book, “Everything I know about living under Bush II, I learned from Nixon”. The old elevator rises slowly. I hear one of my companions say, “I hope they don’t cancel our flight out Thursday.” The other chuckles and says, “The war will be over by then.”

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Splendid Little War…

March 16th, 2013

The Lost Cause

Ever wonder how so many southerners can claim with a straight face that slavery was a benign, even beneficial institution toward black people?  Ever find yourself chuckling under your breath when you hear one of them refer to the civil war as The War Of Northern Aggression…?

The South still lies about the Civil War

The Civil War is like a mountain range that guards all roads into the South: you can’t go there without encountering it. Specifically, you can’t go there without addressing a question that may seem as if it shouldn’t even be a question—to wit: what caused the war? One hundred and fifty years after the event, Americans—at least the vast majority who toil outside academia—still can’t agree. Evidence of this crops up all the time, often in the form of a legal dispute over a display of the Confederate flag. (As I write, there are two such cases pending—one in Oregon and the other in Florida, making this an average news week.) Another common forum is the classroom. But it’s not always about the Stars and Bars. In 2010, for instance, Texas school officials made the news by insisting that Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address be given equal prominence with Abraham Lincoln’s in that state’s social studies curriculum. The following year, Virginia school officials were chagrined to learn that one of their state-adopted textbooks was teaching fourth graders that thousands of loyal slaves took up arms for the confederacy.

At the bottom of all of these is one basic question: was the Civil War about slavery, or states’ rights?

Read the whole thing and if you’re of a certain age you find yourself remembering how the further south you went, the more ridiculous their version of the civil war became.  And you remember something else…how you just laughed it off and went along, because there was no sense rubbing their noses in it after so long.  The war was a thing of the distant past…a relic of history, a plot device in spaghetti westerns and TV shows.  The union won, slavery was defeated, a new South was born from the ashes.  Well…yes…but so was the Ku Klux Klan.  And almost one-hundred and fifty years after the war the party of Lincoln is now the party of John C. Calhoun, the intellectual godfather of the confederacy.

That has had consequences, among them being continuing and relentless political attacks not only on the rights of minorities, but more basically on the union itself that so many northern soldiers fought and died for.  And since the nation’s first black president was reelected it’s only gotten worse, the outright calls for succession louder.

How did it happen that we seem right back where we started, minus only the slaves in chains but little else. It was the bloodiest war this nation has ever fought and in the spirit of healing and reconciliation the valor and bravery of confederate soldiers was honored, even as we all seemed to agree that the cause of the war, slavery, was a stain on both the southern slave holding states, as well as the northerners who kidnapped black Africans and and sold them into southern slavery.  But almost immediately the south began denying it had any culpability at all in that war, and the victorious north eventually just accepted it as yet another of the south’s peculiar institutions.  It was a mistake.  When I was a kid in the 1960s we treated the lost cause mindset as the source of lighthearted joking…


My boots have touched Yankee soil! Now I’ll
have to burn them!

Yes, yes…war of northern aggression…whatever… But it is no joke. Compare modern Germany’s acknowledgment of its Nazi past, and the horrific crime of the Holocaust with the south’s of its antebellum past and slavery, and then compare the political mindset of even conservative Germans nowadays with that of the southern republican base and you see what cultural denial buys you.

This:

CPAC Participant Defends Slavery At Minority Outreach Panel: It Gave ‘Food And Shelter’ To Blacks

…an audience member from North Carolina, 30-year-old Scott Terry, asked whether Republicans could endorse races remaining separate but equal. After the presenter, K. Carl Smith of Frederick Douglass Republicans, answered by referencing a letter by Frederick Douglass forgiving his former master, the audience member said “For what? For feeding him and housing him?” Several people in the audience cheered and applauded Terry’s outburst.

They cheered. They didn’t look away in embarrassment and discomfort, the way a German audience would if some lout among them defended Hitler for improving the lives of Jews by taking Germany out of economic depression.  They cheered.  They cheered because they grew up in a world where all their comfortable conceits about themselves and their history are never disturbed, lest they find themselves asking troubling questions about whence they came and who they are.

We did not start a war that killed more Americans then all our other wars combined just so we could keep other humans in slavery…we did not kill hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans, our neighbors, for the cause of white supremacy…it’s a lie…we’re good Christian people…

And thus the sins of the fathers became the pride of the children, and all the racism, sexism and homophobia, all the bitter hatred of a democracy that protects the right of black people to vote, let alone drink from a white man’s water fountain, and all the acid resentment toward a world that insists on moving forward to that better tomorrow, despite their best efforts to hold it down so they won’t have to acknowledge what their Heritage actually Is.

After the presenter, K. Carl Smith of Frederick Douglass Republicans, answered by referencing a letter by Frederick Douglass forgiving his former master, the audience member said “For what? For feeding him and housing him?” Several people in the audience cheered and applauded Terry’s outburst…

The lost cause isn’t lost because it was defeated, it is lost because it leads people into an endless darkness from which few ever return.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Lost Cause

March 15th, 2013

Your Son Will Die Of AIDS…Not That We’re Praying For That Mind You…

Now drops the other shoe, as it reliably will…

Conservatives Target Rob Portman’s Gay Son For ‘Harmful Choices’ That Will ‘Kill Him From AIDS’

Two things that people need to see to realize what this fight has always been about are the humanity of gay people and the bottomless vitriolic hatred of our enemies. Behold that process in action: a son comes out to his father who sees the son he loves, not a homosexual monster. This father declares his love for his son has opened his eyes. Thank you Mr. Portman, but reality isn’t through with you just yet. Now that your eyes have opened, you get to see who the real monsters are.

Prepare yourself. You may think you have seen the bottom of the human gutter.  But it has no bottom.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Your Son Will Die Of AIDS…Not That We’re Praying For That Mind You…


When The Homosexual Menace Is Your Own Kid

I’m reading these headlines yesterday…

G.O.P.’s Portman, Saying Son Is Gay, Now Backs Same-Sex Marriage

And thinking pretty much what Matthew Yglesias tweeted this morning: “Glad Rob Portman’s for marriage equality, but wish conservatives could muster empathy for problems that don’t directly affect their family.”

On the other hand he didn’t go on a warpath against homosexuality like some conservatives have when they found out they had a gay kid (Hello Phyllis Schlafly…William Knight…Alan Keyes…).  Let me make an educated guess here: Portman thinks love is an integral part of marriage.

How many times have you heard them saying in the kook pews, in the context of arguing against marriage for same-sex couples, that marriage isn’t about love?  How many of those are the sort of people who you would expect to have their eyes opened when a child comes out to them?  At some point you have to conclude that this entire battle has been over the sanctity of love, and nothing else.

All some people seem to be able to see in the trappings of marriage is the authority part.  I now pronounce you… They forget the part about What God has joined… I don’t think you have to be a believer to see the truth in that.  The higher power isn’t in the part played by the clergyman or whoever is officiating at the ceremony.  The ceremony is an act of acknowledgement; a mutual recognition, on the part of everyone concerned, of a fact that has already occurred.  The higher power, the actual presiding authority, has already acted.  Think of the officiator as a conductor for an ancient score.  Public declarations are made, promises sworn between a couple, and between them and their community.  We are here to witness… The higher power is love.  What it has joined, let no one cast asunder.

What sort of person says that love is not the central fact of marriage?  The same sort who throws their gay child out into the streets, that’s who.

[Update…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on When The Homosexual Menace Is Your Own Kid

March 14th, 2013

Notice: Please Ignore My Cheapshit Prejudices And Focus Instead On My Sickening Behavior

Oh fer sure…

“Just because I believe states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot.” -Marco Rubio, speaking at CPAC

No.  It makes you an asshole.  It’s the reasons why you want to deny gay people equal marriage rights that make you a bigot.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

March 7th, 2013

Out Of It.

I’d planned on going to the NOM rally and counter rallies at the Supreme Court later this month to document it all with my cameras. I’ve got so much now in my photography archives relating to the gay civil rights struggle that I’ve witnessed over the years.  But my heart isn’t in anything lately and the more I contemplated doing it the more I just didn’t want to.  I don’t want to touch my cameras or my drawing tools at the moment.  And I was never really that good at any of it.  So I’m not going.  History can go on its merry way without needing me to photograph it.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

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