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April 10th, 2015

How To Laugh Until You Cry…

A friend who’s been in the fight against ex-gay therapy with me since the Love In Action protests posted this Onion article to his Facebook page the other day…

dead straight

“We’ve found that a combination of group interventions, narrative therapy, and cognitive-behavioral approaches fully eliminates homosexual urges before the individual takes his or her own life,” said program director Christian Weber, adding that many of their biggest success stories are even in stable, heterosexual relationships when they’re found lifeless in their own home or dredged from a nearby body of water.

Full Onion Article Here.  You know the kind of laugh you get sometimes when it’s funny but painful at the same time…?

by Bruce | Link | React!

April 5th, 2015

Driving In The Nails For Easter (Message In A Bottle…)

This came across my Facebook stream tonight…

catholic_vote_ad

This is actually pretty typical. If you are shocked by this I assure you I am not. The imagery here comes from a right wing Catholic group but don’t be paying much attention to that because the sentiment isn’t specific to any one religion or religion in particular and it’s not about how they see us so much as how they want us to be seen. This is the real thing. Most of your gay and lesbian neighbors, except the very lucky maybe, have felt this breathing down our necks all our adult lives.

When other kids start having their first crushes and start discovering love and desire, this is what the gay ones find themselves facing. This is what haunts what should have been one of this life’s most magical times. It cuts you deep. Some people never manage to love wholeheartedly their entire lives because of it.

And others search endlessly for one who can. I was looking at my Facebook stream just a moment ago and this graphic flashed on my screen and for an instant I saw certain someone’s face and relived the conversation I had with him just one week ago…

I need to stay in my comfort zone…

I know. And I’m so sorry…so very sorry. It is what it is. You stayed inside because you had to and I got the hell out because I had to but we are all damaged by it in one way or another. Easter they say is when Jesus of Nazareth died for their sins. So why did we have to die for their sins too?

by Bruce | Link | React!

April 1st, 2015

Everything New Is Old Again

God this takes me back…

Kentucky Argues Gay Marriage Ban Not Biased

Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration is arguing in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court that Kentucky’s ban on gay marriage isn’t discriminatory because it bars both gay and straight people from same-sex unions.

I haven’t heard this particular sophistry in a long long time. It was a popular back in the 1990s when I was arguing with bigots on the USENET forum alt.politics.homosexuality.  One dimwit in particular, a certain Steven Fordyce, just would not let go of it. Yes, yes…and when the Soviet Union banned Christianity that didn’t discriminate against Christians because atheists had to obey those laws too.  Back in 1894 Anatole France in her novel The Red Lily penned the definitive retort to this kind of argument…

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.

Then again, for brutal simplicity there is always Orwell…

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

by Bruce | Link | React!

March 31st, 2015

Nothing To Worry About Here…Except…Well…Everything…

Everyone blissfully saying that existing LGBT anti-discrimination laws would withstand a challenge under these new religious freedom laws is either not paying attention or not wanting you to pay attention. There are a few constitutional law experts out there busy telling the gay community not to be so hysterical over what amounts to Just A Tiny Little Enhancement to current federal law. Probably these same experts were shocked, shocked at the Hobby Lobby decision. I’ll bet they all did a double take at the Citizens United decision too.

You need to pay attention to the long game the religious right plays, and especially to their rhetoric. They’re flat-out saying that these laws are especially necessary given recent same-sex marriage decisions, to prevent gay citizens from asserting equal rights. Nothing stealthy about what is going on with them on this. Nothing. You need to take them at their word for that these laws are being enacted to accomplish.

The Big Lie The Media Tells About Indiana’s New ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

March 29th, 2015

Thou Shalt Not Tell The Mirror Lies

This came across my Facebook stream this morning…one of many stories about the so-called Religious Freedom bill the governor of Indiana signed into law the other day…

Swarens: Gov. Mike Pence to push for clarification of ‘religious freedom’ law

Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Pull the other one. I’ve seen apologists spinning criticism of the Indiana law as some kind of militant gay hysterics, that the law has nothing whatever to do with discrimination against gay citizens, it’s just about preventing government from forcing The Devout to violate their Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs.  We all believe that people should be free to practice their faith don’t we?  But in Georgia a similar law was amended to make it clear that it wasn’t a license to discriminate and rather than pass it with that amendment they withdrew it. And in Oklahoma when a legislator proposed that businesses wanting protection under that law had to post signs alerting customers they would not serve anyone if it violated their religious beliefs, that law was also withdrawn.

Laws like these aren’t actually originating in the various state legislatures. The new thing is to first cook up a law in a right wing legislative think tank like ALEC and then pass it around to friendly state representatives. If you want to know the purpose of these ersatz religious freedom laws, ask the folks pushing them on the states…

Bryan Fischer (@BryanJFischer): “Dear Indiana legislators: any legislation “clarifying” RFRA will be abject surrender to the homosexual agenda. Don’t do it.”

I’m sure part of the song and dance now is Don’t Say The G-Word during hearings on the law. But there’s plenty of talk about what the purpose is elsewhere and if you doubt the actual legislative purpose take another look at what happened in Georgia when they added the clarity that Pence claims now to be seeking.  Or take a look at this image from GLADD…

gladd_indiana

There will be no clarification forthcoming, Pence knows it, this is just wash, wash, washing his hands before the angry multitudes.  What?  What?  I asked the legislature for Clarification…they did not provide any…so don’t blame me!

Some of you may recall a lot of this started when a same sex couple wanted a wedding cake and the bakery refused, citing their Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs. There have been several more cases like that, but in the one case I’m thinking of, I think it was the Colorado bakery, what hasn’t gotten as much press was a local radio station had various people go to that same bakery and ask them to bake cakes for divorces, out of wedlock births, heterosexual couples shacking up but not getting married, and so on…and they were perfectly willing to bake those cakes. Just not the one for the gay couple. I don’t think that even qualifies as Sunday Morning Christianity.

The ninth commandment is you don’t tell lies about your neighbors. There needs to be one for telling lies about yourself. Because, really, that’s where soul rot begins. All this yap, yap, yapping now about how everyone is completely misinterpreting Indiana’s law would be hilarious on The Daily Show but it’s pathetic to watch people really saying these things with a straight face. Anyone saying this law has nothing to do with nullifying the effect if not the reality of same-sex marriage needs to go look in a mirror and ask that poor lost soul staring back at them which is worse: repeating a lie because you don’t want people to know the truth, or repeating it because you don’t want to know the truth.

by Bruce | Link | React!

February 6th, 2015

Outcasts On The Road Less Traveled…

This came across my Facebook stream today, forwarded by a gay friend. It had resonance for both of us…

Elgin Park from Animal on Vimeo.

The man, Michael Paul Smith, is the creator of dozens of magical photographs that seem to be images from another time long in the past. But they aren’t. He’s following in the method of the great special effects artists Howard and Theodore Lydecker, whose work stunned audiences all through the 30s through the 60s. While others also used scale models in their effects, the Lydeckers perfected a technique of forced perspective and filmed in natural sunlight. Smith is masterful at it, and his images have attracted fans all over the world.

It really resonated with me on one level, because the scenes of him working on his models brought the memories back. Modelmaking was a childhood hobby. Throughout most of my grade school years I had shelves in my room full of the models I’d made. Most were from plastic kids when I was younger, but also things I made from scratch. When I was 7 or 8 I watched my first episode of Gerry and Sylvia Andersen’s Supercar when mom took me on a Florida vacation and I was immediately hooked. But no Supercar toy was to be found in the stores so I began making my own from paper and cardboard. After the show was syndicated back home my model became a hit with the other neighborhood kids and I found myself making them for everybody.

Later in my life all the things I’d figured out how to do with models, plus the things I’d learned teaching myself how to paint in oils, led me to a job as an architectural model maker. So the scenes of Smith working…all the tools and tricks you could see him employing…it brought the memories back. But its how he came to be doing it that resonated deeply with me.

In the video he says..

“I was bullied in school, and I was bullied because I was different. (wheew…) I think I’m still…dealing with that, still struggling with what that means and all that. I don’t think about it a lot but it does bubble up.”

I know that feeling. More than I care to. And this one…

“I come into this reality at a slightly different angle”

I found myself thinking as I watched this, Oh gosh that guy is so much me. His experience with being gay and being different…not just different because you’re gay but different on top of that because you come into this reality at a slightly different angle…and the bullying that comes with it. I knew that too. How recognition when you finally get it after going through all that makes you very uncomfortable. It brought the memories back, and all the feelings that come with those memories.

I still have my modelmaking tools but it’s been ages since I’ve used them. I moved on to a different thing. I had to because the modelmaking jobs suddenly dried up when the savings and loan scandal in the 1980s killed off many of the firms I made models for, and I was back to job hunting again. And that’s the other thing about this video that I really related to. He talks about all the jobs he had before, and how his resume looks like “what’s available in the job force.” I could say the same. He goes through and lists all his jobs and and then he says…

“Everything you do you will learn from it and you’ll use it later on in life.”

Yes…so much Yes. Time was I really hated how I kept having to go from one job to another, often when my employer found out he had Teh Gay working for him. Looking back now I have to realize that haphazard pinball ricocheting here and there path through the work force gave me a lot of intellectual tools I can still call on whenever I need them. Sometimes I catch myself doing something…maybe it’s at home maybe it’s in some other context…and I remember where I first picked up that odd bit of knowledge I was using just then and it takes me back for a moment and I find myself thinking…yeah, I guess it was worth it after all. Time was I’d have given anything to have had the comfortable life others did. Now I count my blessings.

The weirdo, the outcast, if they survive the wilderness end up having seen so many things others haven’t, and knowing how to navigate through strange territory others can’t. Because they had no choice. And sometimes because of that they end up doing pretty well. Sometimes.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

January 20th, 2015

I Don’t Like Displays Of Heterosexuality Either. Especially When Homosexuals Are Doing It Too.

The other day Billy Crystal, whose stereotypical gay character on Soap was supposed to represent some sort of big gay TV breakthrough, was seen bellyaching that now there’s Too Much gay visibility on TV

“I did it in front of a live audience,” recalls Billy of Soap, “and there were times where I would say to [the actor who played his boyfriend], ‘Bob, “I love you,’ and the audience would laugh nervously, because, you know, it’s a long time ago, that I’d feel this anger. I wanted to stop the tape and go, ‘What is your problem?’ Because it made you sort of very self-conscious about what we were trying to do then. And now it’s just, I see it and I just hope people don’t abuse it and shove it in our face — well, that sounds terrible — to the point of it just feels like an everyday kind of thing.”

But of course making it feel like an everyday kind of thing is exactly what gay people in the audience back then, who had to listen to that laughter in their own lives if they were lucky, and outright hostility and violence when they weren’t, would have loved to see happen.  And now that it is, some people who we may have thought were with us on that, are showing us once again that it’s one thing to talk the talk and another to actually mean it.

And he’s shocked, shocked, to find himself getting static for it now

After facing quite a bit of backlash on social media, Crystal doubled down, claiming he doesn’t understand “why there would be anything offensive that I said. When it gets too far either visually…now, that world exists because it does for the hetero world, it exists, and I don’t want to see that either. But when I feel it’s a cause, when I feel it’s ‘You’re going to like my lifestyle,’ no matter what it is, I’m going to have a problem.”

No matter what it is…  No matter what it is…  No matter what it is…  What it is would be gay Billy.  That’s what it is.  And we don’t have a lifestyle, we have lives.

How often have I heard this standard excuse whenever someone bellyaching about the visibility of gay sexuality gets called out for being prejudiced. Oh no…I am against heterosexual public displays too. Yeah, right, so why didn’t anyone hear you complaining about that before now? Why was it only when the TV starting singing a few gay stanzas of the same fucking song it’s been singing about heterosexuality for decades did you decide to start yapping about it?

Let me hazard a guess…because sexuality on the TV screen didn’t bother you until the gays started acting like they had something to be proud of in that department too.

No matter what it is.

Never mind.  There is a bigger issue here and thankfully that Think Progress article touches on it.  The essential homophobia of the big Hollywood studios needs open acknowledgement and discussion, and not just in retrospect, because that is why gay visibility is next to nil in a Hollywood product and even when it happens, even when they toss us a scrap off the table, is cheap, stereotyped, and nearly always sexually emasculated.  This really needs emphasising: the studio heads would rather not offend the heartland bigots, not because they are afraid for their ratings and profits, but because they share the cheapshit prejudices of those heartland bigots.

Let’s talk about shoving sexuality in faces Crystal…Hollywood has been shoving a vision of a world without gays in the faces of gay people for generations without any shred of concern for the effect it has had on us, on our families or or the communities we live and work in.  Oh yes, there have been the usual homosexual psychopaths and pathetic limp wristed faggots, but as Vito Russo famously said, “There have never been lesbians or gay men in Hollywood. Only homosexuals.” And even today Hollywood Still tip-toes around our very existence, giving us castrated gay-vague characters at best, cheapshit toss away stereotypes at worst, and they think they’re brave for doing even that much. This is long after other entertainment media have acknowledged and embraced us as a part of the audience.

You want to see three-dimensional, fully realized human gay characters, pick up a book, a comic book, go see a live performance of a play, or listen to some pop music. In Hollywood John Wayne is still rolling in his grave and retrograde attitudes like Crystal’s are just the part that gets said in public, and in private what Truman Capote once said is still true today: a faggot is the homosexual gentleman who just left the room.

Let me add a personal note, because February and Valentine’s Day are coming soon and this is absolutely the worst time of the year for me, Bruce Garrett, one lonely sixty-one year old gay man whose love life looks in retrospect as though it was doomed the moment I hit puberty.  I’ll get around to my annual Valentine’s Day venting about that later, or if you feel like taking a stroll through an empty wasteland you can go read some of the posts I’ve written about trying to find a boyfriend in a world that wants people like me to not exist.

Some days you find yourself getting really angry at something and you know that most other people probably think you’re taking it too much to heart. Hey, come On, it’s just some guy who was on Hollywood Squares once…  But entire generations of gay people had their love lives throttled because of homophobia and the enforced invisibility that came with it. The closet was a place you both put yourself into, and were put into.  And in there your heart slowly withered and died, tastefully out of sight, so that others didn’t have to see the sewer they made of their own souls for doing that to their neighbors. What should have been one of life’s most perfect joys was taken from some of us and turned it into ashes.  And even today, even now, for so many of us but especially those of us who were just coming of age when Stonewall happened, that’s all there is now. Ashes. And the knowledge that it didn’t have to be, that there was never anything wrong with us, only adds to the grief…and the anger.

Don’t like it when gay sexuality is shoved in your face Crystal?  Hahahahahaha…  Live for a few hours with the empty place inside of me where there should have been love and joy and peace and contentment Crystal, and then with the tens of thousands of others like me who had to grow up with your ignorant bar stool prejudices suffocating our hopes and dreams.  So you played gay on TV did you?  Ever wonder why your fellow actors who are gay are Still scared to death to touch those rolls?  Ever wonder why gay kids are Still killing themselves?  Ever wonder why the parents of gay kids are Still forcing them into ex-gay therapy?  Try a mirror. Then look at your name, along with all the others in the industry you spent your life working in, written on the bottomless misery that taught audiences to cheer and applaud when a man kills another man and be shocked and offended when a man loves another man.

[Edited a tad for clarity…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

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


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

October 16th, 2014

Don’t Hate Me Because I Disagree With Your Right To Exist.

disagreement

 

Yesterday after work I got into some old color slides I’d previously scanned in of a picnic I’d been to back in the late 80s with other members of a gay BBS system, and posted them to my Facebook stream. A bunch of folks in my friends list who were there, and their friends because I’d made the photos seeable to friends of friends, chimed in with details on faces I didn’t recognise and reminisces. Many reminisces. Some folks in the photos had passed away and we remember them.  The rest of us had merely aged a tad and we remembered how it was back in the day when we were young. And for a wonderful few moments of life we could all be people. Just a bunch of folks remembering a lovely picnic we’d all once had together once upon a time. Thankfully those moments aren’t now as few and far between as they were that day back in 1989 when we had our picnic.

This morning I see this fragrant old crap from Bristol Palin in my Facebook stream…probably bellyaching about the fact that same sex couples in Alaska can get married now, just like the opposite sex couples do…and I have to remember that the human gutter still can’t see the people for the homosexuals, still regards all the decades it spent kicking us in the face as a mere disagreement, something we should all just take in neighborly stride.

Yes, we hurled every filthy lie about you we could manage during the Proposition 8 campaign, but you shouldn’t be so mean and hateful to us. Yes, for decades we’ve waged a multi million dollar scorched earth political campaign to deny you equal rights, smearing you as child molesters, destroyers of the family and civilization and spreaders of disease and social decay, but you shouldn’t be so mean and hateful to us. Yes we’ve incited violent religious passions against you here in the U.S. and now since that act is folding here, in Africa and Russia, where we tell anyone who will listen that homosexuals want to rape their children and destroy their families and their countries, and wherever we go we do our level best to see to it that gay people are brutalized, beaten and murdered, but you shouldn’t be so mean and hateful to us because after all we are only disagreeing with your lifestyle. We have a right to disagree with your lifestyle.

Fine. We have a right to our lives. Understand this you pathetic bigots, bullies and cowards, the days when we suffered in silence in the closet are over. Those photos I posted to share among some old friends weren’t just a bunch of homosexuals having a picnic; they were photos of a bunch of homosexuals who were using the emerging computer technologies to reach out to one another. And the day we started doing that was the day we no longer had to see ourselves through heterosexual eyes anymore.

I remember that transition time vividly. When I came out to myself back in December of 1971, everything I knew about homosexuals and homosexuality I’d learned from the heterosexual majority. Then came PCs and modems and in a heartbeat that all changed and we could talk to each other, could see ourselves for the human beings we actually were, not the monsters we were taught we were. And we stopped listening to the likes of you.

You think it’s hateful of us to stand up for our own human dignity do you? Well we’ll just have to agree to disagree about that. Now fuck off!

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

October 6th, 2014

“What Did You Expect?” Asked The Scorpion

This came across my news stream the other day…

How Being Gay ‘Decimated’ This Man’s Life Savings

It relates the story of a gay man who took a new job and moved his spouse and their teenage son from a good home in Massachusetts to Nebraska, where there are precisely zero protections for gay people.  He went into it thinking it was a dream come true job. The company recruiter had assured him that the company was “very affirming”.  But the problems began almost the instant they settled into their new home and he into his new job. It was a disaster, financially and emotionally. Now you may wonder why any gay person would leave Massachusetts for Nebraska and expect to be treated like anything other than human garbage. Certainly the company lawyer did…

One day, after losing his job, Paul heard from the company’s lawyer, who asked him the same question that his boss had already raised. “‘What did you think was going to happen in this community?’” Paul recalls the lawyer saying. “‘We’re a Republican town, we’re a conservative town and we’re a Christian town.’”

Not exactly what the recruiter told him, but they probably approach their jobs a bit differently.

Let this man’s story be a warning. Regardless of what you are told, regardless of how friendly they may seem, if the place they want you to move to is homophobic and the company calls that place home, no matter how good the offer looks, take a walk.

One other thing: Read that company lawyer’s spiel again. We’re a Republican town, we’re a conservative town and we’re a Christian town. When someone complains about republicans, conservatives, and Christians being called bigots, laugh in their face and tell them you’re only reading what’s on the label they’re proudly wearing.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

September 30th, 2014

Gaining A Body, While Losing A Heart

This came across my Facebook stream this morning…

Another Year of Decline for U.S. United Methodists

Unfortunately, 2013’s picture is no different from previous years: the vast majority of annual conferences are in a membership and attendance decline.

This is written from a religious conservative point of view, so it’s unsurprising they see the decline of the progressive churches in the denomination as validation of their stand against the homosexual menace. But look closer, at what the self assured fail to see right in front of their noses…

It’s hard not to look at the list of fastest declining annual conferences in light of the continuing debates over Scriptural authority and sexual morality within the United Methodist Church. Of the 16 fast-declining conferences listed above (excluding Rio Grande’s unusual circumstances), at least 12 have passed resolutions at recent annual conference sessions stating their support of the LGBTQ movement, and another (Alaska) belongs to a jurisdiction that has done the same. Meanwhile large and growing UM annual conferences have overwhelmingly rejected such resolutions.

And there it is…“passed resolutions”.  Oh they did, did they?  Yes, and that’s all those churches Could do for their LGBT members and their families and friends…pass resolutions. They can’t marry the same-sex couples within them. They can’t allow their gay members to fully participate in church life. So the people of conscience in them are leaving. But note that this isn’t conservatives leaving liberal congregations, that’s people leaving Methodism because they can’t in good conscience stay.

Yes, yes…some conservatives in those churches may also be moving to other congregations more in tune with their bar stool prejudices, but that can’t explain the numbers you see there. What’s happening is people in more liberal parts of the country are leaving the denomination itself.  And it goes further…

“Nones” on the Rise

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

That’s an article from October 2012, but more recent Pew polling finds the trend continuing. Look here…

…many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics…

And over and over again what you see triggering this abandoning of organized religion is distress over the way churches are treating women and gay people. And in denominations structured in a rigid top down hierarchy, that distress is going to be most pronounced in the progressive congregations that can do nothing except utter polite words of protest. Unlike denominations such as Baptists (I was raised in a Baptist household), they can do nothing other than appeal to the conscience of the powers that be. But that tomb is sealed. Or…they can walk out the door.  And maybe just keep going.  But for people raised in those churches, that can be a horribly traumatic experience. Like the wounded survivors of a bitter divorce, they’re deeply reluctant to go back to the altar.  More and more people, especially young people, seeing the cheapshit prejudices of their neighbors being cloaked in and even validated by their religions, find themselves not only on the other side of the church door, but questioning the whole christianity/religion thing.

So there is an overall decline in religiosity happening now in America and the west, even as the conservative churches gain membership. That isn’t growth, it’s hardening of the arteries.  Of course the more conservative churches are holding onto, or even growing membership: they’re fine with the law the hierarchy is laying down on those matters.  Some of the commenters in that article above seem to realize this and they’re fine with that. They want the progressives out. They may get their wish. But the ones that go, whether they remain Christians or not, will eventually find there is a richer, more deeply spiritual life to be lived out in the world, than inside a tomb.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

September 24th, 2014

Let’s Be Real…

Native American poet and author Sherman Alexie (Reservation Blues, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven) tweeted this earlier today…

@Sherman_Alexie: When someone says “Don’t overthink things” they mean “I’m worried that my entire life is a lie.”

Not sure what happened to him to make him make that observation, but I know what happened to me.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

September 22nd, 2014

Insomnia TV Theater

I popped awake around 3am this morning and eventually wandered downstairs and flipped on the TV.  God I love MeTV.  Some of the old shows I used to watch as a kid I never really got when I was that young.  One of those was Route 66, which is just amazing to watch now that I’m older and been around the block a few times.

This morning’s episode was titled “Love Is A Skinny Kid”, which is from a line of dialogue that will probably haunt me to my grave.  Buz and Tod find themselves in a small Texas town when a young woman wearing a very disturbing Japanese Kabuki mask gets off a bus. She burns a doll on a stake in front of someone’s house, and a crowd gathers and the local sheriff takes her into custody. Then the following exchange happens between Buz and Tod…

Buz: I can still smell it.

Tod: Mm-hm.

Buz: No, I mean the hate. That girl — she hates so hard it came right through the mask. You know what I mean?

Tod: No, I’m not sure I do.

Buz: I guess you gotta be around it the way I used to be. It’s like … malaria. One sniff of it, it comes right back. You can forget anything, except … hate.

Tod: What about the little item that makes the world go ’round?

Buz: Love? Love’s a … a skinny kid, that can catch cold and die, from just standing outside a locked door, begging to come in. But hate … now that’s a tiger in the hall. Hot or cold, it busts in, chomps out a piece. And it never grows back.

Wow… Just…wow…  Some of those early TV shows had some amazing writers working for them. And actors. That episode, in addition to regulars Martin Milner and George Maharis, also had Burt Reynolds, Tuesday Weld, Veronica Cartwright and Cloris Leachman in it. All of them gave amazing performances. But the writing…I never really appreciated it…couldn’t have back when I was a kid. That line, Love’s a skinny kid that can catch cold and die from just standing outside a locked door, begging to come in…But hate…  It will haunt me forever.

skinny kid mask

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

August 12th, 2014

Depression, Madness, And Those Of Us Who Slip Between The Fingers Of Concern

It’s not often another story of celebrity death makes me feel like the floor went out from under me, but that’s what news of Robin William’s death by suicide did.  I was heartbroken in that instant, as were a lot of people. The word “celebrity” demeans someone like him. He was an artist, an actor, a tremendous creative talent. He could be the gifted stage comic, the manic genie in Disney’s Aladdin, and then you look and he’s the evil Walter Finch in Insomnia, and then you look again and he’s John Keating in Dead Poets Society, and then you look again and he’s Peter Pan.

Williams it seems, was battling depression.  I follow a bunch of very talented and creative people on Facebook and Twitter who are also battling depression. That’s, the clinical depression, which is a thing unlike those bouts of sadness and loneliness and loss we all face at one time or another in our lives. It’s a thing, a real medical clinical thing. People who experience it speak of it as a gray cloud that hangs over everything and never goes away. They say it sucks the energy and joy out of everything.  I have had my moments of grief, I’ve had it so bad I’ve stood at the threshold of suicide myself many times. But it’s never been like that. And what comforts me as I walk into old age and I find myself standing at that threshold once again is I’ve seen the darkness come and go over and over and over again and I know from experience that sooner or later It Will Go Away, and I just have to keep walking through it.  So I am told, it’s not like that when you have clinical depression.  For those folks, that gray cloud never goes away, at least not without medication. I know I can always count on time making mine go away.  But I also know how easy it is for people like me to lose our balance, and fall into a pit we may or may not get back out of in time.

The writer David Gerrold wrote this on Facebook the other day…

I don’t know the details of what Robin Williams was dealing with and I won’t speculate.

I do know that when you have a mind that works that fast and makes that kind of connections, flashing from moment to moment, assembling new pieces out of fragments of old experiences, it’s exhausting.

Sometimes my mind does that, all the circuits firing at once, and it shows up in stories — and leaves me emotionally drained, sometimes for days. It’s hard to live inside a brain that active. (And no, I’m not comparing myself to Williams, I’m only noticing my own experiences and extrapolating from there.)

He gets it. Whenever someone so creative and talented kills themselves, you will always hear a bunch of people saying, to the effect, that madness and genius go hand in hand.  I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate hearing that.  I’m not about to wrap myself in the robes of ‘genius’ by any means.  I don’t even like the concept of a single measure of intelligence.  I think there are a lot of different kinds of intelligence.  And I always flinch at calling myself an artist.  But I am.  There are many kinds of artist too.  Some of us paint and draw.  Some of us do photography, or music, or act.  We are writers and poets.  Some of us pursue the engineering arts. And it isn’t madness we have, it’s brains that contain a whirlwind…flashes of insight, connections, moment to moment, all firing at once.  Constantly.  Someone on Facebook I follow posted a graphic with the message on it that, (recalling it from memory) to understand how having a creative mind feels, imagine you’re a browser and you have 2,868 tabs open all at once.

Williams had that.  He had to given that amazing, wonderful ability he had to mentally jump from one random connection to the next on stage So Quickly.  He had to have that whirlwind going on inside. You could see it. It just delighted you.  And you could see it delighting him even as he was doing it.  It’s not madness, it’s art. I don’t know that this necessarily makes you unstable, but I know from my own experience how vulnerable it can leave you if you don’t have something to anchor you, something…someone…to always bring you back home.

For the artist depression has to be an even bigger hazard, one that multiplies the risk you already have of losing your balance if you’ve already got those 2,868 tabs open. I’ve never had that overarching clinical depression, so I wouldn’t know. All I’ve ever been is sad. Just…very very sad. But I know what it’s like living with a furious mental cascade that just won’t stop unless you apply some chemical brakes and getting lost in it is oh so easy and losing your balance…maybe it was sadness, maybe it was some sudden crisis that came out of nowhere…and then the whirlwind in your mind throws you into a place you may or may not make it back out of.

This is why a lot of us end up not as suicides but as overdoses. The lucky ones have that anchor. Others, too afraid of the overdose or blessed like me with bodies too timid to handle a lot of drugs without getting violently sick long before the overdose can even get close, dive into their work as a substitute for the anchor, the home, the place of rest. I know how that is too. But when work becomes less a passion and more a crutch then it can have the same effect as drugs in that it allows you to deny and ignore the central problem in your life until that one moment when the crutch can’t bear the weight and it snaps and there you are and you’re on your way to the bottom of a pit and you can’t stop falling.

Bunch of highly talented and creative people I follow who’ve been open about their fight with clinical depression, are feeling very sad now for Williams, but also afraid for themselves. If he lost the fight, then what chance do I have?  They need to be told the are loved, and cherished, and not alone in their fight.  I’m afraid of a different thing. I don’t have a fight with depression. I have a fight with a hoary old stereotype about artists and madness that I am convinced is getting  a lot of us killed too. You can call what our brains do to us madness I suppose, but it adds a little something to the world, and the thing is, we don’t have to get lost in it.  We just don’t.  The problem is people seem to think we’re supposed to. It’s part of the deal.

The shooting star. The one who lived so miserably and died so tragically, but oh look at all the wonderful things they left behind for the rest of us to enjoy!  We don’t all suffer from depression, but we could all use a little sympathy too, and a little help.  Because that inner whirlwind makes it hard to find that anchor, that intimate other, or others, who can see what the others can’t because they’re used to you behaving like you’re not quite all there, that that can see that you’re losing your balance, and seeing it, can take you by the hand to that place of peace and quiet you need to be in to get it back.

I know from experience that when I get lost in a whirlwind of grief or loneliness or sadness I can just wait it out.  But I also know that it’s not a sure thing.  I have come so very close to it.  One of these days you might find yourself reading right here about the one time I couldn’t walk myself out of it.  I told my brother once that if I died alone and especially if it was by my own hand, I wanted him to burn everything…all the artwork, all the photography.  I was at a point in my life where it sickened me to think of people enjoying the artistic spoils of my miserable life.  He flat out refused, and I’ve moved on to a place where I don’t care anymore.

what-is-a-human-being

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

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