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June 9th, 2020

How To Experience Driving While Black In America Even If You’re Not

Get a standard poodle…

I have not told this story before. I worry how it will be received. I don’t know the right language to express it other than my own thoughts and feelings. This post is not for people of color because they already know it. This is for white people living in suburbs and small towns who think this is a big city problem and “It’s not my town.”

Before moving to New York City, I drove every where. I got pulled over 3 times in 15 years; two speeding tickets and an illegal left hand turn.

The first year I was back in Michigan, I got pulled over 5 times. Each time it was for impeding traffic and I did not get a ticket.

Read her story. She got pulled over five times in one year, for bullshit traffic offences. Sometimes the cop walked up to her car and unbuckled his holster. One cop kept his hand on his gun the entire time, even after he realized she didn’t have a black man in the car with her. It was her poodle, Merlin.

She notes in her blog post that John Steinbeck told of a similar experience of mistaken identity in his travelog, Travels With Charley. I first read Travels when I was a young boy, and it lit a fire in me for the open road. But it also told me a few things about my country that frightened me. Steinbeck drove through the south just as the black civil rights movement was gaining steam. The Warren Supreme Court had ordered schools to desegregate and the outrage in the south was already turning bloody. Occasionally people there would mistake Charley for a black man riding with him…

I went through Beaumont at night, or rather in the dark well after midnight. The blue fingered man who filled my gas tank looked in at Charley and said, “Hey, it’s a dog! I thought you had a nigger in there.” And he laughed delightedly. It was the first of many repetitions. At least twenty times I heard it – “Thought you had a nigger in there.” It was an unusual joke – always fresh – and never Negro or even Nigra, always Nigger or rather Niggah. That word seemed terribly important, a kind of safety word to cling to lest some structure collapse.

-John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley In Search Of America

Not all poodles are toy size. I had a neighbor once who had a Standard poodle and I saw him walking it every now and then down our streets. They have a noble, regal poise and walk. Some dogs just know they’re royalty. Like Charley, hers would have been sitting upright in the passenger seat, because to slouch is beneath some dogs. And she got pulled over five times in a year for bullshit traffic violations because the cop thought she was riding with a black man. And sometimes they unsnapped their gun holsters as they approached the car. And one even kept his hand on his gun the entire time, even after he realized her passenger was her dog. And that had never happened to her before.

Since Merlin died, I have not been pulled over once.

If you want to know what it’s like driving while black in the land of the free and the home of the brave, buy yourself a “Standard” poodle (yes, that is the type) and drive around with it in the car. Fair warning though…you might get shot.

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

May 5th, 2020

Jesus Died For Our Sins, Now You Must Die For Mine

This came across my Facebook news stream this morning. Of course Maryland couldn’t avoid being targeted by the right wing death cult…

Maryland governor sued by state lawmakers, pastors and businesses over stay-at-home orders

In the complaint (there’s a PDF link to it in the article) are two actual businesses, both recreational: Antietam Battlefield KOA and Adventure Park LLC. They have at least a plausible claim to economic damage. The others are preachers, one church member, a couple delegates, and one of those shadowy astroturfing groups that’s probably behind it all. The right wing billionaires behind it could probably afford to pay the preachers for missing their tithing plate money but would rather attack the idea that government has anything to do with securing the safety and welfare of the common man and woman. Government is for securing their prerogative to use the rest of us as they see fit.

The preachers have zero concern for their flocks and don’t seem to care at all if a percentage of them, particularly the older sicker ones die horribly.  That really says it all for their ersatz Christianity. Perhaps they need their collection plate money. But more likely it really is just simple tribal hatred of science and knowledge and those of us able to cope with this pandemic by using our brains. That is after all, the unforgivable sin.

I never really started paying attention to this reflex in the kook pews until I was older and more invested in the gay civil rights struggle. The science that said we were as normal as anyone else was the enemy. They built entire massive artifices of junk science to wave back at us. It took me a while to realize that providing a counter argument, even if it was completely nuts, wasn’t the point. Propaganda doesn’t merely serve to make people question what the facts really are, it exists to make people stop believing in facts altogether. The point was to erase the notion that any of us in the pews let alone the outside world could decide for ourselves what is and is not factual and true. It wasn’t just about Teh Gay, it was everything that challenged their authority over the hearts and minds of the people. This is appalling in any religious denomination, but especially so when it’s coming from a Baptist pulpit. But I suppose, not a Southern Baptist pulpit. If I saw this when I was a teenage boy I’d have turned atheist a lot quicker than I did.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Jesus Died For Our Sins, Now You Must Die For Mine

December 28th, 2019

Deathstyle by Dick Hafer – A Review

 

Possibly the most homophobic comic ever published, apart from Jack Chick’s little tracts. Now a part of the Casa del Garrett library of homophobia. I collect antigay pamphlets, tracts and assorted publications, even or especially when such like appear in the mainstream magazines I grew up with. It isn’t all fringe like this from religious right cartoonist Dick Hafer. Back in the day Everyone threw garbage at us. That was the pop culture environment this gay guy grew up in.

So why would a gay guy want to collect this awful stuff…I hear you asking. Many years ago I read an article about a collection of racist artifacts from the U.S. civil rights struggle gathered by a black gentleman over the years of his life. He kept it all he said, so people would remember what it was like fighting for equality in the days of separate but equal, and to insure that the hatred black Americans faced would not be erased.

That’s one good reason. I have another more personal one. Back in the days when I had my first Internet account, I followed a USENET newsgroup that was basically an unmoderated forum for gays and homophobes to argue with each other. I joined to better learn the methods of the enemy, and test myself against them. What I discovered, like those who would later follow the Proposition 8 trial, is there is no There there. They would lie shamelessly, then deny having lied. They would throw out this or that latest piece of junk science, which was pretty much the old junk science given a fresh coat of paint, demand our respect, then after it was debunked, throw something else equally vapid out…wash rinse repeat…over and over. They would thump the bible, then thump some junk science, then back to the bible. You came to understand pretty quickly that the argument was just an excuse to spit in our faces and remind us that we’re hated.

And yet…and yet…you could also see the gay bystanders being encouraged by the sight of gay people standing up to the bigots. If the bigots were arguing just to spit in our faces, we could call out their myths, lies and superstitions not because we had any hope of changing their minds, but to tell others that these lying conniving runts were nothing to be afraid of…and show them that the moral high ground is ours, and always was.

Why dig up old wounds? Why keep revisiting an unpleasant past? Well for one thing it’s not all in the past. Yes, gay folk have made great progress. But if bigotry and hate have anything going for them it’s persistence. The old beliefs haven’t declined, they’ve dug in for the long war. Resentfully. Bitterly. What’s changed, and it’s only this, is anyone open to the evidence of our lives can see the haters for what they are now. But that’s only because now we’re able to live our lives openly. Thank Lawrence v Texas for that. And because of that, because we can live openly without the sodomy laws hanging over us, people can see the joy and beauty, the honor and the dignity of our love. The Proposition 8 trial, where we fought for the right to marry, all the way to the Supreme Court, opened a lot of eyes; not only to the depth of our commitments, but much more importantly to the utter vacuum of the case hate made against us. There was no there, there. It opened a lot of eyes. But not every eye will be opened.

If you’ve ever wondered how the xenophobic religious right could embrace Putin and his russia screwing with our democratic institutions take a long look at his gay propaganda law. It effectively locks Russian gay people in the closet…but not the voices of prejudice and hate. Now in Russia those voices are free, free at last to throw every filthy lie they can think of at us, at our families, friends, neighbors, while we cannot speak our truths for ourselves without risking prosecution. The Franklin Grahams and Tony Perkins here at home would love to have such a law on the books here. Only that pesky first amendment and the Federal courts stand between their dream and our lives. And given what Trump and McConnell have done to the courts, they may get their wish after all.

The comic book above would be my exhibit 1 in the category of filthy lies about homosexuals…more so than the Chick tracts since, so I’m told, the Hafer comic has been widely passed around among the kook pews. And its essential hate is more polished than Chick’s. Hafer wraps the open sewer of his prejudices with a technique that allows him to present it as though it were the living waters. There’s the usual junk science, but also he employs two foils he can work against…a low class fag baiting bigot and a scarecrow militant homosexual. Between these two he can present what is essentially the same blind hostility toward gay people as the low class bigot as reasoned and measured…and then ultimately as godly and righteous.

Soon after this arrived in the mail, I began flipping through its pages. I’d already seen many of them posted here and there in the Internet tubes, but I was unprepared for the unabridged wholeness of its contempt and hate. If Orson Scott Card was a cartoonist this would probably have been the comic book he’d have produced on homosexuals and homosexuality. It’s deeper in the dark night of the soul than even R. Crumb or S. Clay Wilson ever went. All the feelings of growing up gay while hearing this crap thrown at me over and over and over again came rushing out as I began reading it.

So in the interests of my own sanity, because I just can’t let this crap slide without speaking out about it, and because debunking this stuff is a never-ending chore, and in tribute to Fred Clark’s amazing series review of the Left Behind books, I’m going to do a chapter by chapter series review of this piece of shit comic. 

Fasten your seatbelts and remember…there is no bottom to the human gutter. None.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Deathstyle by Dick Hafer – A Review

November 14th, 2019

Fascists: Even Crazier Than You Thought

Wow…this is just stunning. I was following this post by Fred Clark on his Pathos “Slacktivist” blog…

Erik Loomis visited the American grave of Wernher von Braun, thereby sending me down a Google hole…

And Fred’s post eventually sent me down into Nietzsche’s Abyss.

Fred’s post was Wernher von Braun and his alleged conversion to Christianity, American style. In it Fred notes a passage where von Braun seems to be a supporter of creationism, which has made him a recent favorite of the creationist kook pews. I commented that the fascists of the period had really strange and screwy ideas about nature and physics and noted something I’d read about Himmler and his proposed academy that would teach that the stars are made of ice, which suggested to me that he was a believer in an earth centric universe.

Then another commenter linked me to this Wikipedia article. Wow. It was even crazier than that…

Welteislehre (WEL; “World Ice Theory” or “World Ice Doctrine”), also known as Glazial-Kosmogonie (Glacial Cosmogony), is a discredited cosmological concept proposed by Hanns Hörbiger, an Austrian engineer and inventor.

Hörbiger did not arrive at his ideas through research, but said that he had received it in a “vision” in 1894. According to his ideas, ice was the basic substance of all cosmic processes, and ice moons, ice planets, and the “global ether” (also made of ice) had determined the entire development of the universe.

Oh lord have mercy…

By his own account, Hörbiger was observing the Moon when he was struck by the notion that the brightness and roughness of its surface was due to ice.

Sounds logical…

Shortly after, he experienced a dream in which he was floating in space watching the swinging of a pendulum which grew longer and longer until it broke. “I knew that Newton had been wrong and that the sun’s gravitational pull ceases to exist at three times the distance of Neptune,” he concluded.

Being an efficiently well organized and hardworking German doesn’t automatically mean you are right in the head. But then the entire 1930s is proof of that.

According to the idea, the solar system had its origin in a gigantic star into which a smaller, dead, waterlogged star fell. 

A smaller, dead, waterlogged star. A smaller, dead, waterlogged star. A smaller, dead, waterlogged star. Reading this Wikipedia article makes me want to put a fork in my brain. Apparently the Fascists, including Hitler and Himmler, embraced this intellectual lobotomy because it stood against Jewish influences in science and astronomy. Not to mention everything humanity had accomplished since our line began walking upright. And how did Hanns take criticism of his master work? Pretty much as you would expect…

Hörbiger had various responses to the criticism that he received. If it was pointed out to him that his assertions did not work mathematically, he responded: “Calculation can only lead you astray.” If it was pointed out that there existed photographic evidence that the Milky Way was composed of millions of stars, he responded that the pictures had been faked by “reactionary” astronomers. He responded in a similar way when it was pointed out that the surface temperature of the Moon had been measured in excess of 100 °C in the daytime, writing to rocket expert Willy Ley: “Either you believe in me and learn, or you will be treated as the enemy.”

Calculation can only lead you astray. Yes. Quite. Bronowski was spot on when he said (paraphrasing), When we discard the test of fact in what a star is, we discard it in what a human is. But that is exactly what the fascist mindset demands. It wasn’t so much the Jewish influence in the sciences that the Nazi’s wanted to erase but the human identity, and not just in the sciences but throughout German culture. So they wouldn’t have to see anymore the empty void they’d made of their own souls staring back at them every morning in the bathroom mirror.

The fascists threatening civilization today are much the same as the ones our grandparents faced back then. Same mindset. Same bottomless hatred of the human identity, trying desperately to protect the void inside themselves where a person could have been.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Fascists: Even Crazier Than You Thought

August 5th, 2019

Lowest Common Denominator Politics

This came across my Twitter feed today…

Yeah…that. As a gay man having lived through the times I have, I’ve often read these manifestos to try and understand the mindset. But it always comes back to how stunningly alike they all are. You read the manifestos, the pamphlets, the long drawn out posts on various online social forums (I joke that I’ve done my time on USENET…) and such…even on their damn cars and trucks you can sometimes see the brain dump…and the one thing you’re struck by is their disturbing similarity, regardless of the specific target of hate.

Some years ago I was watching a documentary on the history of San Francisco’s Chinatown, beginning with the railroad’s importing large numbers of Chinese men to work on building the first transcontinental line. There was an editorial in one of the city newspapers concerning the “Chinese Problem”, and it recited a litany of things Chinese people did (so it claimed), that degraded city life. Drugs, crime, sexual predation, they were ignorant and lazy, but also clever and sly and took the jobs of decent white folk. What struck me about the editorial was how you could have replaced every usage of “Chinese” with a letter “X” and it could have been about any hated minority, then or now.

It’s as if this sort of blind reflexive hate is what you’re left with when you peel away the higher brain functions and we’re back to being east African plains apes that see everything that isn’t the tribe as either something to kill, something to fuck or something to eat. Australopithecus waving a gun, or a bible, howling into microphones on the TV, or throwing ink like it’s shit on the editorial page.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Lowest Common Denominator Politics

December 31st, 2018

The Gutter Laughs

This is flying across my news feed this morning from every which way…

Parkland Parents Slam Louis C.K. While Club Owner Calls Him a “Genius”

The father of a Parkland shooting victim slammed Louis C.K. as “pathetic, disgusting, vile and gross” after leaked audio revealed the disgraced comedian has been telling jokes about massacre survivors.

But the owner of the club that hosted Louis C.K. said it was an honor to have him on the stage and claimed he got a standing ovation.

I suspect this was the part of the routine that this father is objecting to:

“They testify in front of Congress, these kids? What are they doing?” he said. “You’re young, you should be crazy, you should be unhinged, not in a suit…you’re not interesting. Because you went to a high school where kids got shot? Why does that mean I have to listen to you? You didn’t got shot, you pushed some fat kid in the way, and now I’ve gotta listen to you talking?”

This is what gets a standing ovation in Donald Trump”s America. But it is neither comedy nor satire when it punches down, it is merely uncomplicated straight-up bullying.

So the Parkland survivors and families have become activists for gun control since the shootings. How is that unsurprising? And maybe some of us disagree with the policies they’re advocating, in part or whole. Fine. I’m a gun owner and I disagree with many things I hear from activists on both sides of the issue (and actually it does none of us any good to reduce it to binary positions either). But to mock the horror they went through, and the nightmare they are still living with, and will be for the rest of their lives, is depraved.

You who think this sort of thing is hilarious…you think I have a thin skin? I don’t think so. I’ve endured the homophobic taunts, the catcalls about my appearance, the mud routinely thrown at liberals, atheists, geeks and freaks, and it hasn’t beaten me down yet. But you…what happened to you? What shallow grave did you bury your human status in, because you thought it was making you weak?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Gutter Laughs

November 10th, 2018

Why The Blue Wave Still Evokes Sadness

We did it. Yes, not every election fell our way, but we did it. A Blue Wave happened. Were it not for republican gerrymandering and voter suppression it would have been a tidal wave. But it was enough. And the victories are still coming in as the early votes and mail in ballots are being counted.

But…do you still feel a bit…anxious? Disturbed? Maybe even a little terrified…still? Ed over at Crooks and Liars gets why

You’re also not sad because Beto lost, or Andrew Gillum lost, or any other single candidate who got people excited this year fell short. They’re gonna be fine. They will be back. You haven’t seen the last of any of them. Winning a Senate race in Texas was never more than a long shot. Gillum had a realistic chance, but once again: It’s Florida.

No, you’re sad for the same reason you were so sad Wednesday morning after the 2016 Election. You’re sad because the results confirm that half of the electorate – a group that includes family, neighbors, friends, random fellow citizens – looked at the last two years and declared this is pretty much what they want. You’re sad because any Republican getting more than 1 vote in this election, let alone a majority of votes, forces us to recognize that a lot of this country is A-OK with undisguised white supremacy. You’re sad because once again you have been slapped across the face with the reality that a lot of Americans are, at their core, a lost cause. Willfully ignorant. Unpersuadable. Terrible people. Assholes, even.

Yeah. That. The 2016 election shouldn’t even have been close, let alone a Trump victory. And where was that women’s vote that was supposed to help sweep democrats into power in those deeply red states? This, from The Guardian, might help you with that…

White women’s identity places them in a curious position at the intersection of two vectors of privilege and oppression: they are granted structural power by their race, but excluded from it by their sex. In a political system where racism and sexism are both so deeply ingrained, white women must choose to be loyal to either the more powerful aspect of their identity, their race, or to the less powerful, their sex.

There’s something that democrats, liberals and progressives reliably fail to get about this country: There’s a hell of a lot of racist, sexist, bigoted fascist scum here. And while some of it may simply be opportunistic and persuadable, a lot more of it is the simple rotten to the core being of the voters. They vote for racists because they are racists. Nationalists, in the sense de Gaulle spoke of…

Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism,
when hate for people other than your own comes first

And it takes all of us pushing back against them to keep the American Dream alive. All of us. They win, by suppressing our votes, by any and all means available to them. And a big part of that, is convincing us that we are helpless, that our votes don’t matter, that the democrats are just as bad so why bother.

And as Ed over at Crooks and Liars says, these people are not just one intelligent, reasoned, conversation away from changing their votes. The America of liberty and justice for all was never their country. Many of them grew to adulthood before the civil rights movement made it possible for their black neighbors to drink from their water fountains, before wives could have their own bank accounts, before the gays could live their lives outside the closet. That was the America they feel they were promised. When you hear them speak of wanting their country back, that is the country they mean. They hate us for taking that America away from them. They hate us for taking the Dream of liberty and justice for all to heart, as an obligation of citizenship, not a slogan to paper over white supremacy. They will always hate us. Always. And there are a Lot of them.

So the next time you hear some pundit yap, yap, yapping about bipartisanship and reaching out across the isle…

Remember this feeling. Remember it every time someone tells you that the key to moving forward is to reach across the aisle, show the fine art of decorum in practice, and chat with right-wingers to find out what makes them tick…

And if that’s not enough, remember the damage they’ve done to this country. All the lives lost to their bar stool ignorant prejudices and hate. Jewish worshipers gunned down by a man driven mad by Fox News/Talk Radio hate propaganda. Unarmed black men and teenage boys gunned down in the streets, reporters tear gassed, arrested, jailed, for covering the protests. Remember the children separated from their parents at the border, many of whom will never see their mothers and fathers again. Remember all the broken hearts. Remember how the Trump voters laugh…their chants of Lock Her Up. Look at the faces in the crowds at Trump’s rallies. Happy faces. Exalted faces. Tomorrow belongs to them…

Remember when they speak of reaching out to the other side, as they surely will come January when the new congress is seated. There are times when reaching out isn’t respectful, it is depraved…

 

There’s a scene in the TV mini series The Winds of War, where Pug is with FDR in the president’s private rail car, discussing Pug’s recent trip to Germany. The president tells him he hopes there will be no war, but that the Germans are difficult to understand. And Pug replies “The only thing we need to understand about the Germans is how to beat them.”

That. About our homegrown fascists.

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Why The Blue Wave Still Evokes Sadness

October 26th, 2018

Atheism, Religion And Morality

This article from The New Yorker came across my Facebook news stream the other day.

I’m a subscriber and I need to make some time to sit down and read it. But just seeing this post stirred some thoughts. Specifically, it reminded me of this quote of Penn Jillette’s…

“The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me
from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want.
And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want,
and the amount I want is zero.
 The fact that these people think that if they
didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing,
raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine.”

I think there’s probably a little more to it than they don’t act on the every urge of their id because they know God wouldn’t approve. The fact is sometimes God does approve…or they think so anyway…

“You must be eliminated. God doesn’t want you anymore.”
Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, the head of Rwanda’s Seventh-day Adventist Church,
who stood trial for luring Tutsi parishioners to his church and then turning them
over to Hutu militias that slaughtered 2,000 to 6,000 in a single day.

He got ten years for his crime, and upon release from prison had the good decency to die the following month. I don’t think so, I’m an atheist, but it is a bit pleasant to wonder if perhaps God almighty had a word or two with him at the gates of eternity, about who and what He wants. Or even better still, The Ghost of Christmas Present…

“Man, if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant
until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is.
Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die?
It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and
less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child.”

There’s someone who knows how to preach. The scenes with The Ghost of Christmas Present have always been for me the highlight of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Because it’s there Scrooge is taken out of his own life and presented with the lives of others, and the way his life has touched theirs. It was not for the better. And now that he has seen it, he has to know it. There is where he begins to walk slowly, tentatively, toward his salvation. Because there was still some small something within him that we all need, lest we fall into the Pit.

Here’s the thing about morality and all of us atheist or not: Whether or not a God Almighty exists, we know our neighbors exist. We know the poor exist. We know the sick and the infirm exit. We know the refugee exists. We know those fleeing from persecution exist. We can see them. We can talk to them. We can listen to their stories. Belief in God stopped making sense to me some decades ago. But I know my neighbors exist. In my entire life I have never once seen faith turn someone away from the Abyss, or melt a heart of solid ice. But I have seen the tiniest little spec of sympathy awaken the better person within, finally, long after I was certain they were done for. I have seen it turn lives around.

It isn’t faith you need, it’s sympathy. Even if it’s just the size of a mustard seed, it will save your soul.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Atheism, Religion And Morality

August 21st, 2018

Responsibility

This came across my Facebook news stream just now…

Let me say first, straight up, I am not setting the religion of my childhood over anyone else’s. For one thing, I’m an atheist now, and for another, even the religion of my childhood would have frowned on that. My bitter Baptist grandmother would say we’re all good for nothing sinners who had better spend every minute of the day repenting and asking for forgiveness…

I was baptized at a pretty young age and I remember mom getting static about it from the other church members. It wasn’t until I got older and learned that one thing setting Baptists apart was we didn’t do that because children aren’t old enough to make those kinds of decisions independently. A kid wants to please parents, family, and teachers. A kid will recite the words without really knowing what they mean, because they’re told to, and they want to please. Yeah we had to go to Sunday School and yeah we took part in communion. But Baptists probably seem weird about all that stuff too. Baptists don’t believe in sacraments. Communion is a remembrance, Baptism a rite of passage, an embrace of the faith. But it has to be wholehearted. Roger Williams, who founded the first Baptist church on American soil once declared that “forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.”

As I said, I’m an atheist now, not because I have any particular grudge against religion, Capital ‘R”, but simply because belief just doesn’t make any sense to me now. Your mileage may vary and that’s fine with me. And given the wave of “Me Too” spreading through evangelical pews these days I’m not even going to try to make Baptists sound any intrinsically better on sexual predators. But I still deeply appreciate how it was a thing, or used to be a thing, how strongly Baptists or at least northern Baptists felt that you can’t compel belief, and you can’t push responsibility onto a child who by nature cannot understand what that responsibility is.

How hard is that for an adult to understand? It just boggles my mind. Perhaps it’s true that predators tend to gravitate to authoritarian religions. Maybe this is something the pews in those faiths need to be especially watchful for. Or perhaps more likely that what Mary Renault once said, that politics and sex are merely reflections of the person within, and that if you’re mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your sex life and it will come out in your politics, when what really matters is you aren’t the sort of person who behaves like that, is the bigger truth here. The Baptist boy still inside of me can easily understand shrugging off and walking away from a creep like this man, because that boy was taught in the pews that the only authority that matters is the Creator and this man isn’t that. And also, that how others of other faiths can sit still for all this, or not, is up to whatever spirit moves within them.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Responsibility

July 16th, 2018

Remember When The Berlin Wall Fell…And You Thought The Cold War Was Over…?

This, stunning editorial, in today’s New York Times, saying things about the president of  the United States I would never in my darkest nightmares would have expected to see. Not even when Nixon fired Archibald Cox have I been so afraid for my country as I am right now, right this moment…

Trump, Treasonous Traitor

The president fails to protect the country from an ongoing attack.

Words like this are not simply a matter of anger and hyperbole any longer, but acknowledgements of the reality we now face. Whether this man was in any way directly connected to the Russian attack on our elections is effectively moot. The evidence that such attacks did happen is clear, convincing, and overwhelming. Whether this man is now actively engaged in a cover up of that attack is also effectively moot. He is by any salient measure not defending the country from that attacker, he is instead befriending it. And he is the Commander in Chief.

This is an incredible, unprecedented moment. America is being betrayed by its own president. America is under attack and its president absolutely refuses to defend it.

And there is evidence coming to light that some in congress, a body with the the best most effective power to halt the course this man has set this nation upon, have also been compromised by this enemy.

We are in dangerous times. Very, very dangerous. One or two more steps into this darkness, and there will be no going back…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Remember When The Berlin Wall Fell…And You Thought The Cold War Was Over…?

April 12th, 2018

Donald Trump Republicans

Stolen from Digby…Ron Brownstein assesses Paul Ryan’s pathetic legacy:

No one in the GOP was better equipped, by position and disposition alike, to resist Trump’s racially infused, insular nationalism, or to define a more inclusive competing vision for the party. Instead, Ryan chose to tolerate both Trump’s personal excesses and his racially polarizing words and deeds as the price worth paying to advance Ryan’s own top priorities: cutting spending; regulations; and above all, taxes. The result was that Ryan, more than any other prominent Republican, personified the devil’s bargain the GOP has signed with Trump. And his departure crystallizes the difficult choices Republicans face as Trump redefines the party in his belligerent image.

From the exhaustive reporting of Politico’s Tim Alberta, who was first to telegraph that Ryan was likely to retire, we know that the speaker, expecting a Trump defeat, planned to deliver a speech on Election Night in 2016. He intended to denounce Trump’s racially polarizing agenda as a political dead end and a betrayal of conservatism’s ideals. Instead, when Trump won, Ryan folded the speech back into his jacket pocket—where it has receded deeper ever since.

Throughout his career, Ryan has presented himself as a disciple of Kemp, the ebullient former pro-football player and Reagan-era Republican congressman who sought to expand the party’s appeal to non-white communities. Ryan idolized Kemp and even worked for him: The future speaker was a young staffer at Kemp’s think tank, Empower America, in the early 1990s.

But after Trump took office, Ryan blinked at confronting the president’s appeals to white racial resentments. Pressed for reaction to comments like Trump’s reported description of African nations as “shithole” countries, Ryan managed to mumble the bare minimum of plausible criticism: “The first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful.” For most people genuinely distressed by Trump’s remarks, “unfortunate” and “unhelpful” were probably not the first words that came to mind; “racist” and “xenophobic” were.

Even more consequential was Ryan’s refusal to challenge Trump on behalf of the young undocumented immigrants included in former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Though the speaker repeatedly promised the “Dreamers” that Congress would protect them, he has allowed the legislation that would have preserved their legal status to wither, after Trump and House Republican hardliners insisted on linking it to poison-pill provisions that would slash legal immigration.

“I worked with him back in his days of working for Jack Kemp at Empower America,” Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-immigrant advocacy group America’s Voice, told me Wednesday. “He was one of the most committed pro-immigrant, pro-immigration libertarians I’ve encountered in my three decades in D.C. Then, after ascending to one of the most powerful positions in the nation, he talked a good game and did nothing—except front for Trump’s nativism.”

On Trump’s excesses, Ryan followed a similar pattern of denial. Those who imagined he would defend the law-enforcement institutions that Trump has subjected to unprecedented attacks were invariably disappointed. At a critical moment in the standoff between the Justice Department and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes—over access to highly classified surveillance warrants—Ryan intervened to support Nunes. He was, by extension, supporting Trump, whom Nunes was hoping to assist by raising doubts about the initial justification for the investigation into Russian election interference. On Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation itself, Ryan has mouthed the right sentiments about allowing the inquiry to proceed without intervention. But he’s resolutely refused to consider legislation to ensure that it could.

Month after month, Ryan signaled that as long as Trump provided a vehicle for advancing the speaker’s own goals of retrenching government—especially by cutting taxes—he would be willing to defend (or at least minimize) almost any presidential outrage. Ryan was hardly alone in broadcasting that message—every other major Republican congressional leader did, too. But it was especially powerful coming from a speaker who had fashioned himself as both a champion of inclusion and a policy wonk motivated more by ideas than partisan maneuvering.

The result of all this inaction has been the transformation of the GOP majorities into the see-no-evil Congress, with rank-and-file Republicans and their leaders repeating the same mantra: Move along folks, there’s nothing to see here.

Digby adds…

Ryan may be one of the best illustrations of just how supine the GOP has become in the face of a demagogic white nationalist the voters they’ve primed to respond to racist appeals love.  Some of them, like Ryan, may have been a tad uncomfortable with it. But not enough to try to save the country. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Donald Trump Republicans

April 11th, 2018

Time To Bring Bert The Turtle Out Of Retirement…

Seeing this in my newsfeed gives me all the warm fuzzies…

Trump Has Told Syria And Russia To “Get Ready” For A Missile Strike

All those Duck and Cover drills I did in grade school might just come in handy after all…

 

All you people who mocked the rest of us with those the lesser of two evils is still evil memes…I’ll be thinking of you when the missiles start flying…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Time To Bring Bert The Turtle Out Of Retirement…

January 31st, 2018

When Your Brain Tells You That You Have No Life So Just Die Already

Yesterday I posted a link to a Salt Lake City Tribune article about a Mormon straight/gay couple who are divorcing. A Facebook friend linked me to their own blog post on the matter. It is stunning

Five-and-a-half years ago my wife, Lolly, and I sat together at a hotel in Las Vegas, nervously composing a coming out post that would, unbeknownst to us, change our lives in nearly every way imaginable. We were so, so nervous. But we were sweet and earnest, and we had been feeling the cosmic drive to do this for months . . . we knew, without a doubt, that it was what we were supposed to do, even though it felt totally out of left field, and we had no idea why. Our post went massively viral, and we were featured on shows and newspapers around the globe.

That act of authenticity brought many of you who will read this into our lives. Finally, we were able to live authentically, instead of this life of quiet struggle we had existed in for a decade. Finally we were able to be honest with our community, our friends, our colleagues, our families about our marriage, and about me—that I am a gay man, and that Lolly and I had gotten married knowing this about me. That I always have been gay. That it was not something I had chosen—it just was— but that I loved my wife and my life.

Finally, Lolly and I were out of the closet.

What is especially stunning for me, a gay man, raised in a Yankee Baptist (there is a difference) household, now an athiest, out to myself since I was 17, out to most everyone else by age 30, proud, and single his entire life, is that I see so much of my own internal struggle in this man’s story…

For me, though, it all came down to the people I met with–the actual human beings who were coming to my office. They would come and sit down with me, and they would tell me their stories. These were good people, former pastors, youth leaders, relief society presidents, missionaries, bishops, Elder’s Quorum presidents, and they were . . . there’s no other way to say this. They were dying. They were dying before my eyes. And they would weep in desperation—after years, decades, of trying to do just as they had been instructed: be obedient, live in faith, have hope. They would weep with me, and ask where the Lord was. They would sob. They would wonder where joy was. As a practitioner, it became increasingly obvious: the way the church handled this issue was not just inconvenient. It didn’t make things hard for LGBTQIA people. It became more and more clear to me that it was actually hurting them. It was killing them.

This is how I’ve felt almost my entire life since puberty. I have had my share of life’s joys, especially now in my later years, working for the space program; a dream I would not have dared to dream when I was a young boy. I have had a Good life. And yet I have always felt like I was dying inside. Slowly…bit by bit. A flower becoming a seed. This passage especially, hit me very, very hard the first time I read  it… 

Guys, my life was beautiful in every way. My children, my wife, my career, my friends. It was filled with so much joy. The things I talked about in my coming out post in 2012 weren’t false. The joy I felt was real! The love I felt was real, but something in me wanted to die.

It’s the thing that wants to die in all of us when we don’t have hope for attachment to a person we are oriented towards. It’s actually a standard part of human attachment: when we don’t have attachment—and have no hope of attachment–our brain tells us we need to die.

My suicidality was not connected to depression. That’s how my mind could hide it from me. With no context and no warning, I would occasionally be brushing my teeth or some such mundane task and then be broadsided with a gut-wrenching, vast emptiness I can’t put into words, that felt as deep as my marrow–and I would think in a panic “I’m only 37. I’m only 37. How can I last five more decades?” That thought—the thought of having to live five more decades, would fill me with terror. It was inconceivable for a few moments. And then it would pass.

That’s been me. Almost my entire life. The hopelessness would overwhelm me…and then it would pass and I’d go on with my life. As time passed, and I grew older and older, still never finding that Significant Other, waiting for those sudden bottomless pits of hopelessness to pass became a reflex. I knew they would, because they always did. But I also knew that there was probably one time waiting for me out there, when it would not pass, and I would simply fall in and not come back out again.

Go read the whole thing. These were two deeply devout people, who did everything they thought they had to do to stay right with their maker, and began to realize that they had to stop, for the sake of their lives.

In the end, the correct choice is obvious. We choose the option that makes sure people stay alive.

We should always choose the option that makes sure people stay alive.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on When Your Brain Tells You That You Have No Life So Just Die Already

May 12th, 2017

That Bible Also Warns That As You Sow…

This came across my newsfeeds this morning…

Gay people ‘deserve to die,’ SLO High teacher’s letter to student newspaper says

In a letter to the student newspaper, a San Luis Obispo High School teacher quoted a Bible verse saying that people committing homosexual acts “deserve to die,” drawing outrage and concern from students, teachers and parents, and a call for calm by administrators.

Read the letter Here.

Dad’s side of my family is from that part of California, not very far down the coast, and many still live in the area. I visit there whenever I can and my plan ‘A’ for retirement is to return one day to the Garrett ancestral homelands. It’s a lovely little slice of coastal California paradise. My brother often says he lives in a postcard. Every time I return to it something deep down inside me aches to stay. This is where you belong it says: this is where you have always belonged. The climate is nice, the landscape stunningly beautiful (if occasionally prone to movement) and most of the folks I encounter are nice, decent, laid back Californios. I would feel absolutely comfortable living there as an openly gay man. But et in Arcadia ego, this kind of venomous hate is everywhere, and in the current political climate, when a leading candidate for President of the United States openly courts religious right figures that call for death to homosexual people, you need to expect this sort of thing. Even so, seeing it coming from a grade school teacher to his students still manages to shock.

An update to this from the local paper says the teacher in question has resigned amid death threats. But he was a new hire on his probationary period and the district had already decided to let him go when the current school year ends. You have to assume there were already signs that teaching schoolkids was probably not a good fit for him. This may have been his way of giving everyone the finger before he left. As to the death threats, he’d thrown one not only at every gay kid in that school, he basically gave every kid in that school permission to violently attack any gay person they might come across outside of school. In all the talk of how unsafe the gay kids in that school are feeling now, spare a few moments to think about the larger community that school draws from, and the gay adults who might be in it. And now he’s complaining someone(s) threw that back at him.

Understand this: A teacher, in a public school, was advocating violence. When all is said and done, the name of the target isn’t as significant as the fact that a teacher basically said to his school kids that civilized norms can be disregarded and god says that’s not only okay, it’s your duty. The beast he released into that school, into that community, obeys no one. It will eat the one you hate. It will eat the one you love. It will eat you too.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Bible Also Warns That As You Sow…

January 30th, 2017

Trust Us, This Doesn’t End Well

There was a joke I saw making the rounds just after the election…In the U.S. you call it the Alt-Right, in Germany we call it why grandpa lives in Argentina.

It’s stunning to me how, every German I know, and every born American of German descent with family living in Germany, all of them are so emphatically warning everyone about what is happening now…

Do we have to learn the hard way too? I guess we’ll see…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Trust Us, This Doesn’t End Well

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