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Archive for November, 2014

November 30th, 2014

Those Simpler Times When We Were All Digging Fallout Shelters

 

skate
Photo credit: Bill Eppridge

 

My Facebook stream had one of those those Do You Remember When things aimed at boomers like myself and the slightly older. I sat through it, the usual stuff about how things were for us when we were all kids, Do You Remember When Telephones Had Dials…Saturday Mornings Were For Cartoons…You Got Your Schoolwork On Mimeographed Pages… ending with the usual If You Remember This Then You Lived In Simpler Times Consider Yourself Lucky…blah blah blah…

Yeah it was simpler…for us. We were kids. We were simpler back then. Probably not so simple a time for all the grownups leading us in our duck and cover drills though, and sitting through the random tests of the emergency broadcast system on the TV.

cuba-fallout-shelter

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Those Simpler Times When We Were All Digging Fallout Shelters

November 19th, 2014

The Moralist

You should read this by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The Cosby Show

Declining to seriously reckon with the rape allegations against him is reckless. And I was once reckless.

This entire episode probably grieves him and other black Americans worse than it does me, but I am put into a very dark place by it. I deeply respected this man, not simply as an entertainer but as a moralist.

Coates talks here about an article he wrote for The Atlantic that was published 2008, after following Cosby around the country for a couple years as he lectured the black community on morality. He writes that Cosby, “…was not speaking as a man sent to assure a group that racism did not exist, but as a man who sincerely believed that black people, through the ethic of “twice as good,” could overcome. That is the core of respectability politics. Its appeal is broad in both black and white America, and everywhere Cosby went he was greeted with rapturous applause.”

Perhaps there’s an answer in there, better than the cynical one; that when all is said and done, humans are no damn good. That’s almost where I wanted to go when it finally hit me that he really did these things.

Bad enough that white racists are going to be pointing at this as though it were proof of every filthy lie about black people they can imagine. Worse that everyone might take it as further proof that humans in general are no damn good. When someone you once idealized as an example of the better things within us turns out to be…this…it leaves you a little emptier inside, a little less reluctant to give up on the human race. But misanthropy is just another way of giving up, of taking the easy way out when you discover life is harder than you thought.

I was this same kid Coates talks about himself being. I have not been raped, but I have had the same experience with bullies he did.  Maybe this is what gives the outcast boy a greater sense of sympathy with the fear women have to constantly live with…

Rape constitutes the loss of your body, which is all you are, to someone else. I have never been raped. But I have, several times as a child, been punched, punched/stomped/kicked/bumrushed while walking home from school, and thus lost my body. The worst part for me was not the experience, but the humiliation of being unable to protect my body, which is all I am, from predators. Even now as I sketch this out for you publicly, I am humiliated all again.

I know that feeling well. And this is why the accusations ring true to some of us, even in the absence of proof…

And this happened when I was a child. If recounting a physical assault causes me humiliation, how might recounting a sexual assault feel? And what would cause me to willingly stand up and relive that humiliation before a national audience? And why would I fake my way through such a thing? Cosby’s accusers—who have no hope of criminal charges, nor civil damages—are courting the scrutiny of Cosby-lovers and rape-deniers. To what end?

And this is why it is so excruciatingly hard for some of us to accept…

It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things, and this is just the chaos of human history.

I didn’t pay that much attention to Cosby’s moral sermons at the black community, because it felt like listening in on a family argument that really wasn’t any of my business. White Americans have their own house to clean up and that other Americans have their issues is neither reason nor excuse for ours. When Cosby’s moralizing to his black neighbors did cross my mind I felt torn. “Twice as good” isn’t fair, isn’t right, is proof if it’s anything of the pernicious failure of white middle America to look at the stranger’s face and see ourselves. But I believed in the principle right enough, if not “twice as good”, then good at the very least: that to change your world you must become the change you wish to see. Set an example. You can preach at people until you are blue in the face and it just goes in one ear and out the other.

And there’s the problem. Cosby went on a moral crusade. I stayed out of it, because I am white, and we have our own house to get in order. But how many times have gay people seen this behavior? And I despair whenever I hear gay people conclude because of it, that morality is nothing more than the bigot’s scold, a weapon the powerful use to keep the rest of us down. Morality is our friend. Right and wrong really do exist as objective concepts. Otherwise, why care about what Cosby did.  A lot of people, a lot of the same sort of people, drape themselves in moral robes like they drape themselves in the flag. Patriotism isn’t the last refuge of a scoundrel, religion and morality are. Remember this: often, very often, people will go on moral crusades so they don’t have to look at the wreck they’ve made of their own inner lives. The true moralist preaches by example.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

November 17th, 2014

The Complementary Nature Of Prejudice And Ignorance

You wonder some days if some people even bother listening to themselves…

“In these days, as you embark on a reflection on the beauty of complementarity between man and woman in marriage, I urge you to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart…”  –Pope Francis The Oblivious.

Here it is again in another form: Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.  That’s what Francis is saying there if he’s holding that up as a reason why same-sex couples ought not to be allowed equal access to marriage. He’s saying that homosexual relationships can’t, by their very nature, aspire to permanent commitment, solidarity, fidelity, and fruitful love. He’s saying that the deepest longings of the homosexual’s heart are actually quite shallow.  They can’t aspire to marriage because they don’t have what it takes. Because homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.

If that’s not what he meant, then why say it in front of an audience that includes some of the worst bigots in the United States.  He’s telling them he shares their belief in the essential emptiness of the homosexual’s soul. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex…  And if that’s the case, then this man will simply continue his flock’s long jihad on the deepest longings of the human heart after all, reassuring himself as they always do, that the knife isn’t actually cutting hearts capable of bleeding.  And as they always do, he’ll continue to blame the pushback on modernism…

“Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact.” -Same Guy.

Oh it’s facts now is it?  Here’s one: same-sex couples share the same longings as opposite-sex couples, because they are as human as anyone else.  Gay people have the same human heart, and it is moved by love in the same way.  That is a fact.  You’d see it if you could see the people for the homosexuals: and yet, it moves.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Complementary Nature Of Prejudice And Ignorance

November 16th, 2014

Neighborhood Calico

I keep forgetting I can take video now with this little pocket device I’ve been carrying around for years. It’s the still photographer I am. I forget that pictures can move too, if the occasion presents. So the little feral calico cat that’s made herself something of a home around Casa del Garrett has become friendly enough toward me now that she’ll come to greet my car when I return home. Yesterday it was after a trip to the grocery. She’s four, maybe five years old now, which is so I’m told about as long as outdoor cats live and it’s getting on toward the winter cold, and I’m starting to worry about how much longer I’ll have her in my world. So I’ve started recording some moments with her…something now I deeply regret not doing with Claudia…

 

Toward the end of the video I have a geezer moment and I get the term “tabby cat” confused with “tom cat”. Her dad, obviously, was a tom cat. One of her parents was a tabby.

I started feeding her two hurricanes ago, after I saw her huddled in one of my basement window sills in a torrent of cold driving rain. I knew I didn’t dare go out to try to coax her somewhere dryer because she’d just run off and I was afraid I’d find her dead there in the window sill the next morning. But next morning she was gone. I put a dish of tuna on the window sill and when I checked it later it was empty. I’d deliberately used a very visually distinctive old Fiestaware bowl, and the next time I saw her I put some more tuna in it and walked out on my porch with it and held it up so she could see it. She seemed to recognise it, and I put it down and went back inside and watched from the front window. She came up and chowed down. I knew I was making a commitment then, but she’d been hanging out on my street for about two years by then and I was getting attached. This was before Claudia.

Later that day, while I was doing some lawn work by the front steps, I saw her come over and sit down on the sidewalk about five yards away from where I was, and she gave me a long level stare like I’d never seen a cat do before. I thought, I’m being sized up. Then she walked off.

After that, my feeding her became a thing. Later my neighbors on either side got into it too. One even built a small winter shelter for her out of one of those big plastic storage containers. So she knows she this side of the street is a safe space.

I’ve no idea how much longer she’ll be with us. Five years is a long time for a feral. But she won’t be coaxed inside..at least not for more than a few seconds. I’ve gotten her to peek inside the house maybe three times and it’s never for more than a few seconds and she bolts out again. You can’t get too close. She’ll come sniff my shoes and that’s about it. But I got her to trust me and that’s happiness enough.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Neighborhood Calico

November 3rd, 2014

The Hated Other And The World They Did Not Want To Hate Back

mags

A couple more magazine back issues I ordered for my “Gay Studies” bookcase came in. One is a Life from 1964 with the Homosexuality In America article, including a section on the science of that period which begins, “Do the homosexuals, like the communists, intend to bury us?” I would have been ten years old when that issue hit the stands.

The Harper’s of September 1970 has the infamous Joseph Epstein essay that provoked a sit-in at the offices of Harper’s. Titled The Struggle for Sexual Identity, it ended with,

“If I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth… nothing [his sons] could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual. For then I should know them condemned to a permanent niggerdom among men, their lives, whatever adjustment they might make to their condition, to be lived out as part of the pain of the earth.”

I would have just turned 17.

I look at these magazines, and especially the ads, and it hits me that many of the people I know at work, and in my Facebook friends list, would not have even been born when these were published. But I remember that period of time quite clearly though, and yet when I did fall in love that first time, and came out to myself, I really believed that I could have that perfect joy in my own life too, regardless of what others thought about me. Looking over these magazines now, and the brutal ignorance and hostility toward me and my kind on full display, as casually and unaffectedly as if describing the weather, I can see how naive I must have been back then, to think that it would not touch my life too, and throttle my hopes and dreams like it did to so many others. For some of us it will always be a time before Stonewall.

I eventually did find my own way to a small community of fellow gay computer nerds and geeks. I’d hoped that would make the difference and just by socializing among friends like the straight boys and girls did I’d find my other half. But hatred cuts deep into the heart of the hated other, and hardens it nicely, and later in life than I should have I learned the same lesson Janis Ian did at seventeen. The shy, socially awkward plain looking kid is even less likely to be cared about in a community that is always under suspicion, always under attack. If the weakling falls behind and gets eaten, the important thing is it wasn’t you.

It’s better for gay kids now. Some of them. Thankfully. In time the force hate bears down on our lives will be a thing of the past. Mostly. But it didn’t have to be. The 1964 Life Magazine article on the science of homosexuality is titled “Why?” Probably my interest lately in collecting artifacts from that period is about my own search for an answer, to something that is unanswerable: Why is it so much easier to hate than it is to love?

me and camera

Why?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Hated Other And The World They Did Not Want To Hate Back


Feeling Persecuted Are We…?

Serendipity in my Twitter feed just now…

persecution

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Feeling Persecuted Are We…?


So It Goes…

Caught the end of Brokeback Mountain again last night. I’ve never been able to watch the entire movie, although I’ve read the Annie Proulx short story from beginning to end.  But Heath Ledger…he really makes you feel it,  and that just makes me so much more miserable inside…

jack

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on So It Goes…

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