Wednesday, December 31, 2008

When they say it's not about sex...

You know the old saying: when they say it's not about the money, it's about the money.

When it comes to gays, many "obvious" truisms are turned around. A well-meaning straight male acquaintance of mine once offered his admiration (envy?) that since there were no women on a gay date, there was no one to say no. I didn't know whether to laugh or get offended, until I let myself understand that he honestly believed that I spent my nights in a never-ending orgy of debauchery. Or that I wanted to. Or maybe that he wanted to.

With a few more years under my belt to understand straight male sexuality a little better (if second-hand), it may be time for a little myth-busting. Here is my top-ten list:

1. Celibacy is about sex.

False. "Celibacy" means abstaining from marriage. "Chastity" means abstaining from sex. Americans (and American English dictionaries) often screw this up, and there is no need. Two valuable words, and two very different meanings. Since the 60's the former does not imply the latter.

Recently though, having stumbled across a rather interesting gay Mormon blog, I now have learned to my surprise that the latter does not rule out the former. There is apparently intention among some gay male Mormons to marry women with knowledge aforethought that sex will be the price of admission, not the reward. Perhaps a turkey baster will be involved (though I recommend alcohol, as it also helps you forget). Apparently the woman is okay with this idea. Who knew?

Count me out. Marriage can survive the lack of sex, but not of sexuality. That is a sham marriage, and both spouses deserve better.

2. Sexuality is about sex.

False. It is about the desire to have sex, a very different thing. Sex is, in the scheme of things, not very important to human beings, gay or straight. You may have heard the ribald saying that begins "When I was young and in my prime...". It's true. (If you don't know this saying, just take my word for it).

The nude fill straight bars and bathhouses with talk of sex, enchanting the uninitiated and initiating those so enchanted. Gay men, written out of the storyline early on, make do with talking to themselves, then too often make up lost time chatting up complete strangers. They learned this from straight men, in case you want to assign blame.

The naked have something far more important on their mind: sexuality. Not will they get enough, but will they be enough. For religious gays, then answer is no. Ouch.

For those who confuse the naked with the nude, you have led a deprived life. Stop now and read my favorite poem.

3. Gay men are obsessed with sex.

No, though magazines and websites would have you believe otherwise. For gay men, there is nothing casual about casual sex. One's entire self-esteem is on the line: the gnawing fear of inadequacy, the baggage of yesterday and tomorrow, the sudden realization that you have gotten fat in places visible only with clothes off, the suspicion that he who lies too easily with you today will lie as easily to you tomorrow.

What gay men really obsess about is getting old and dying alone. Without sexual allure, who would want us? We learned too early on about rejection, and too late how to live with it. Straight men rely on money as their last resort. In the gay world, money won't cut it. There are enough sugar daddies out there. Youth and beauty are priceless.

Unless, of course, you are married, like me. Then you have love that will last even as youth and beauty fade.

4. Straight men are obsessed with sex.

Close, but no.

What straight men fear (so I hear) is being naked in public, and they hide their nakedness in nudity: overconfidence masks impotence. They wear a variety of masks in public to will into being the perception of being in control. Sex in our taboo culture is power, and (straight) men learn to wield it cruelly in junior high just as bossy girls turn into awkward self-doubting teenagers.

Women (and you gay men out there as well), don't be fooled by this charade. There is a fascinating book by Norah Vincent, an out-and-proud self-proclaimed "dyke" [but straight people, don't use this word, it's just "lesbian" for you: you'll somehow just have to learn to live with the unfairness of this double standard.] Anyway, the book is titled Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again, and draws its inspiration from John Howard Griffin's eye-opening 1961 book Black Like Me, which documents the experiences of the author, a white man, who puts on black face to learn firsthand the anti-black prejudice of Southern whites, even from those who believed themself not to be racist.

The "obvious" analogy in a lesbian setting, the anti-gay and anti-woman sentiments that "no doubt all straight males shared", led Norah Vincent to go undercover (as Ned Vincent). Some things matched her own preconceptions: men hate looking foolish in front of other men and fear looking foolish in front of women. Some things didn't. Most every time she tried (as a man) to instigate anti-woman or anti-gay jokes when only other men were around, she rarely found a receptive audience (apparently one guy thought that she was misogynist and needed help). And she (as a woman) was shocked at what masks men wear even for their closest friends, letting out their inner turmoil only in bursts of anger, sadness, or martyrdom (where a woman is involved), but only for a second. Men are, after all, expected to "suck it up", or risk being seen as unmanly.

Straight men play it close to the vest, because they have much to lose. But not nearly as much as gay men do.

5. Gay man are just like straight men.

Definitely no.

For one thing, we have much better fashion sense. I used to believe that straight men were completely fashion-braindead, until the uglier truth dawned on me. Many men have their clothes bought for them by girlfriends and wives, both of whom have a vested interest in dressing down their man to keep rivals away. Men that dress themselves tend to go for the "I'm not gay, stop looking at me" outfit, like the dreaded low-cut jeans/tailored striped untucked shirt/square-toed dressy casual shoes uniform. Add a thin black sports coat for a more metrosexual look (which is grecoroman for dressing like you don't care if people think you're gay but making sure that they know that you're not).

When straight men look at a woman, they are not worried about being caught. When a gay men looks at a (possibly straight) man, he is simultaneously 1) admiring his looks, 2) assessing whether he's straight, 3) if so, how long/frequently he can look without being caught, 4) if gay, whether the guy is looking back, 5) not getting caught showing interest in someone who will repay it with attitude, and 6) how to extricate body and self-esteem from the situation if any of the above goes wrong. Pulling all this off on a daily basis takes a lot of practice, and gay men come late to the game. Do straight men realize how much thought and effort goes into figuring out just how much alone-time a gay guy can spend with a straight bro before being outed as a mo. I know of no straight man (okay, maybe one straight man, my friend Brendan) who could handle all this insecurity and not go crazy.

Gay men also (usually) are not driven by overt competition to the extent that straight men are. Testosterone, and the aggression that it triggers, really does correlate with straight maleness. So does wrist size. Who needs gaydar when you have a tape measure. The wrist and lower forearm circumference tell all.

One thing gay and straight men do have in common. When both fail, they think deep down that they weren't "man enough". But with straight men, this feeling usually ends with the next conquest. With gay men, the feeling is only reinforced.

6. Gay men are straight women trapped in a man's body.

Okay, no one really believes this, do they? You do? Well then...

First of all, gay men are as intoxicated with male privilege in our society as straight men are, and are loth to part with it.

Secondly, one's sex (physical), gender (psychological), sexual orientation (attracted to whom), and sexuality (aroused by what) are different things, and falsely conflated in our repressed society. There are perfectly heterosexual men, who like being men, who like wearing women's clothes (they're called transvestites). There are gay equivalents (called drag queens). Some drag queens are actually female-gendered would-be transsexuals, stuck in a pre-op holding pattern. Others are perfectly contented gay men, who love the fashion (and drama) opportunities for self-expression that women's clothing allows, but don't want it cut off any more than you do.

Finally, when I'm not thinking of how fine Brad Pitt looks, I'm probably thinking of a math problem or the Mideast, not reading Cosmo or Elle. I hate shopping, don't need to go to the bathroom with friends for company, and don't get a thrill if my boyfriend shows up with some overpriced bauble.

7. Homophobia is like racism.

Except when it isn't.

Gay men can usually pass when they want to, black men can't. White gay men have to deal with one kind of oppression. Black lesbians have three kinds to contend with (and, it turns out, usually the gay part is not the most onerous of these).

Black kids grow up being hated by strangers. Gay kids grow up hating themselves. Blacks face oppression, gays repression.

Blacks have won the moral battle but are losing the demographic one. Conversely, although many religious still publicly revile homosexuality, their victory is hollow. God may be on their side, but time is not, and if polls are to be believed, their hostility is not likely to outlive them.

Many well-intentioned straight people are too eager to overlook the differences between straight and gay, and too reluctant to overlook those between black and white. In both cases, usually these well-intentioned straight people are oblivious to (or in denial of) the hurt caused by this.

Sexual orientation and race do strongly intersect with straight gender roles. Male privilege is what allows straight women to accept gay men much more easily than straight men can. It also explains why white man + black woman is so much more easily tolerated than black man + white woman. The fact is that gays and blacks will never be fully equal until men and women are, and this may be a long time coming.

8. You can love the sinner, but hate the sin.

Maybe Jesus can. The rest of you can't pull this one off. Just admit it. Why add hypocrisy to the mix?

Why does your husband keep leaving the toilet seat up? Laziness? Forgotfulness? No, it's about spite and control. You know he does that to assert his right not to. It makes you mad. You keep forgiving him, but he refuses to admit his sinful nature. Why won't he be more like a man should be?

What you really mean is, why won't he be more like you? The attempt to control and change the rational and self-interested behavior of someone who stands while you sit is not about making man in God's image, but remaking him in yours. No quote from Leviticus is going to change that bit of hardwired human psychology.

"Why can't a woman be more like a man?", Henry Higgens muses. Who is he kidding? Thinly disguised misogyny, dressed up as objective criticism. Strangely, Higgens does not obsess about why a slug, unlike a snail, is born without a shell. Clearly, it was less loved by God, born defective. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against slugs personally (though we would be better off without them). They just are not fulfilling God's mandate...

of pandering to your own preconception of how snails should be. Leave both snail and slug alone. If ever you are called to atone for your sins, odds are high that you will not also need to atone for those of your neighbor. Nor is it likely that suffering a shellless snail to live, or letting that gay man next door get married to the love of his life, will rank at the top of your list.

9. Civil union is the same as marriage.

Yeah, right. When you got down on one knee, did you ask your wife to join you in a blissful consensual domestic civil quasiheteroconnubial bipartite cohabitation contract? If you did, I hope she said no.

The fact that both you and I are making such a big deal about this proves, if nothing else, that civil unions are not "good enough". As with computer graphics, the more verisimilitude you achieve, the higher the stakes. We know the real thing when we see it, and an airbrushed version only reminds us that something (or someone) was left out.

10. Gays are never satisfied!

Try me. I can take yes for an answer.

I'll let you know in a few months, after the California Supreme Court rules on Prop. 8, which rescinded my right to marry.

In preparation for the horrible possibility of equal status under the law, I will try to think up a new obsession. Ideas, anyone?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shrewd sidelining, or shocking sell-out?

Barack Obama is a skilled politician.

That's at least what I'm counting on, because the alternative is worrying. It seems that Barack Obama has invited Rick Warren, the Palmer Joss of the 21st century, to give the invocation at Obama's inauguration.

Here is what Rick Warren (founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, a megachurch located in Southern California, and author of the bestseller The Purpose Driven Life) says about gay marriage (emphasis added by me):

One controversial moment for you in the last election was your support for proposition 8 in California. …

The issue to me, I’m not opposed to [California's 1999 domestic partnership law] as much as I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?

Oh , I do.

It seems in his haste, Warren forgot about bestiality and sex with plants. Or can plants and animals marry each other? What does it say when, regardless of his feelings about gays, a person who is invited to speak at a Presidential Inauguration cannot distinguish the large number of gays seeking cohabitation from the infinitesimal number of "other" unions (like dog/fire hydrant). Last I checked, there were not 18,000 brother/sister pairs lining up in California to legalize their sibling pair bond. This distortion is defamation, and if Warren does not see a qualitative difference, at least Obama should extract from him an admission that gay marriage is quantitatively different from these "slippery slope" false comparisons before giving him the microphone.

Or perhaps I'm being too thin-skinned? This is just a speech, after all. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Any good discussion has a least two sides. Let's hear from one of Warren's defender's. Steven Waldman, the founder of the mainstream and centrist website, offers this defense of Warren's views. I will merely summarize the main points here:

  1. Warren has used his fame and fortune primarily to help the most destitute people in the world. He reverse tithes, giving away 90% and keeping 10%.
  2. He's worked hard to get other conservative evangelicals to care more about poverty
  3. He has voiced his own spiritual doubts.
  4. He's mostly about God.
  5. For Obama, picking Warren for the inauguration...helps to depoliticize prayer — which, of course, is very politically shrewd.

Reason 1 sounds great, and Warren is a good counterforce to the grotesque and very unChristian belief in the Prosperity Gospel, and though reasons 2-4 are no more than one should expect of any Christian pastor, you rarely get it in most megapastors. But the last reason is self-contradictory. The very purpose of having a prayer at a political event is to mingle religion and politics, to remind the sovereign that he rules dei gratia and not merely populo volente. Still, majority sensibilities must be assuaged (and Obama of course professes to be Christian), so if politics is what Obama is playing, I fully support the move.

But, as I wrote in an earlier post, Obama is not in favor of gay marriage either. Since the President has no power over state matters like marriage, I will be content if he ends discrimination of gays in the military, as he and his people have been hinting will happen in the next six months or so. Maybe having Rick Warren speak will lower the volume on Evangelical blowback?

For now, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and going with Shrewd Sidelining, not Shocking Sell-Out. It's not as though I have much choice. I sure hope I'm not wrong. It's a terrible thing to discover that you've been worshiping a false god.

Friday, December 5, 2008

No religious exemption from Free Speech

I was wondering how long it would take for the oppressors behind Prop. 8 to play the victim, although it is a difficult feat to pull off for any group that can afford a full-page ad in The New York Times.

Mormons have collectively been taking a lot of heat for their singularly active role in working to pass Prop. 8 in order to strip gays of their preeexisting Constitutional right to marry in California. Their participation went way beyond that of any other organization, religious or otherwise, by more than a factor of 10 (more than 100 per capita). To their small credit, they have not greatly disputed their role or sought political cover for it.

Yet political cover is on the way nonetheless. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit advocacy group that promotes Religion (not religious liberty as they claim, as they do not advocate for atheist rights). They interpret the First Amendment as favoring religion, not being neutral to it. Here is how they expect a free advantage in public debate (from their ad No Mob Veto):

“We're a disagreeable lot. We differ about a great many important things...Nevertheless, we're united in this: The violence [?] and intimidation being directed against the LDS ...—and even against individual believers—simply because they supported Proposition 8 is an outrage that must stop.”

Who's we? Presumably the 13 signatories (almost all with a vested interest in preserving religious privilege). What violence? There was no statistically significant violence, much less ongoing. This is a shameless strawman slander to incite the reader. Indeed there is intimidation: lawful, legal, moral intimidation. Public shame and boycotts.

“Of course, when a religious organization enters the public policy arena, it must be prepared for disputes.”

That's an understatement: anyone wading into a public policy dispute with profound negative effect on a historically oppressed minority should prepare for war, limited only by the legality of its methods.

“Let's be clear: even the crudest anti-religious propaganda isn't illegal, and may not constitutionally be outlawed. But it's nevertheless wrong. It has no place in civilized society.”

Fascist and fatuous. The Constitution protects Free Speech, lawful assembly, and the right to petition because they are such precious rights. Far from wrong, they are our duty in a free society. Politics is bruising business. You don't get a free ride to rescind the rights of another less popular than you and then feign indignant surprise when they defend themselves.

And now brace yourselves for one more bit of strawman outrage over a nonexistent problem, their "righteous indignation":

“We announce today that we will stand shoulder to shoulder to defend any house of worship...from violence....”

As I hope we all would, naturally. But just who is burning this mythical cross or swastika, throwing bricks through Church windows, in some systematic wave of violence? The only major increase in hate crimes this year has been against gays and lesbians. As for last year, where full statistics are available from the FBI, less than 2% of hate crimes were against Christians, whereas 16% were against non-heterosexuals (and for perspective, 36% against African-Americans and 12% against Jews). I think that any feigned wave of anti-Christian hysteria should be kept in statistical perspective.

At last we come to the "threat":

“Furthermore, beginning today, we commit ourselves to exposing and publicly shaming anyone who resorts to the rhetoric of anti-religious bigotry—against any faith, on any side of any cause, for any reason.”

Bravo, now you have lowered yourself below even my standards. I do not try to impose atheism on others, just work to leave Religion out of the public debate. Now we hear that these Religious will come to the aid of other Religious to protect the supremacy of the role of Religion itself. Religiousity is now a favored quality of being American. Religion is too precious to be attacked. All hail Religion.

What can you say against this religiofascist impulse? As one of its more famous adherents put it: Bring it on! Isn't Free Speech messy? You can start with me (okay, that's a bit presumptuous, maybe you should start with Richard Dawkins, as he was here long before me).

I categorically and publicly reject subordinating my conscience, scientific reasoning, politics, rights, and civic duties in mindless subservience to a superstition merely because it is popular.

Much less do I defend the practice of superstition itself, as though ecumenism in fantasy makes it less sectarian: your Flying Teapot for my Easter Bunny.

Religion is Latin for "that which binds one back from". I do not need my free will restrained from free thought and shackled to some popular prejudice handed down from even less enlightened forbears, and I would gladly shame such people as have advocated the apotheosis of superstition in our society.

But those having signed this half-strawman half-arrogant petition of privilege have already shown themselves to be unshameable. And that's a God-awful shame.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy Golden Anniversary, CAR!

Bon anniversaire, la République Centrafricaine!

Fifty years ago today, on 1 December 1958, the French Equatorial African colony of Ubangi-Shari became an autonomous territory within the French Community and took the name Central African Republic, largely due to the heroic efforts of its founding father and president, Barthélémy Boganda.

Its motto in Sango is Zo Kwe Zo (All People are People). It is such a beautifully succinct statement of principle that I have adopted it as the title of my blog.

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer who spent two years in Kembe, CAR, I would like to take the opportunity on this golden anniversary to offer my personal thanks to the CAR for hosting me as a junior high math teacher and offering me the opportunity to get to know its people and culture.

On my home webpage, you can find a more extensive write-up about my experiences there. If you get a chance, pop over to it and take a look.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

When did we arrive?

I have been so obsessed with the battle against Proposition 8 that I forgot to notice the clear signs around me. We are winning the war.

Gay people are now assuming positions of greater power and visibility (or more likely, people in positions of greater power and visibility are finally coming out).

One we are very proud of is Rachel Maddow, the new MSNBC cohost. Her keen wit and refreshingly un-bimboesque charisma have at times outrated both Larry King and her own mentor Keith Olberman in prime time. She has been dismissed and ridiculed variously as "chirpy gay liberal" by the Financial Times, "Ooh, Lesbians! Yummy!" by John Gibson, and (naturally) "lesbian Air America host" by Fox News. High praise from wingnuts. They are right to be worried. Sharp as a wasp stinger, Rachel Maddow's CV includes a degree in public policy from Stanford University in 1994, the prestigious John Gardner Fellowship, a Rhodes Scholarship in 1995, and a D. Phil. in political science from Lincoln College, Oxford University.

Another hero is Anderson Cooper, great grandson of the famed Cornelius Vanderbilt II and the very popular and telegenic host of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360°. He has the distinction of having both gone to Yale and having interned (or been interned?) at the Central Intelligence Agency (twice!). For more about his qualifications, see here. I will just dwell on his courage in interviewing (almost naked) someone even better looking than he is without clothes on, Olympic swimmer and medal winner Michael Phelps. The video speaks for itself.

Forgive the double standard. I couldn't find a near-naked video of Rachel Maddow.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

David Letterman: why slander is no joke

In a previous post, I called out David Letterman for his anti-gay comments during an interview with James Franco about his role in the movie Milk.

I have noticed comments in numerous other blogs minimizing his "antics" and chalking them up to the "usual infantile behavior" of late-nite insomnedy.

Now I don't get TV reception (I saw this video online), so maybe you're right. That means that the other episodes presumably feature Letterman wearing black face and eating fried chicken, reading his top-ten list of ways that Jews control the world, and telling stupid wetback jokes.

Or could it be that it's just gays that are still fair game for slander and slurs?

There was nothing funny about Supervisor Milk's and Mayor Moscone's assassinations. It was a hate crime even more heinous that that of Matthew Shepard, because in addition to ending the lives of two great men, it targeted the then sole out gay public official (and any "traitorous" straight public official who dared to join him) and with him the promise of hope for a long persecuted group of people.

Dan White was a mentally ill person who resigned from the Board of Supervisors because he was not being paid enough to support his family. His supporters had no such excuse. White Catholic working class, crushed in the recession, gentrified out of the City, and shoved aside by more succussful competing sociopolitical interests, applied great pressure to White to get back his (i.e. their) place at the table. Sickened that some perverted freak had the Mayor's ear (it was indeed Milk who persuaded Moscone not to give White his job back), they (through White) lashed out. Given the anti-gay sentiment (that I well remember) of the time, he had every right to think that the broader public would side with him as well.

They did, buying his Twinkie defense, and he served only five (of seven) years in prison. The White Night riots that ensued at the minimal sentence, along with the prior Stonewall Riots in NYC, launched the gay rights movement, which has continued uninterrupted to this day as we fight for same-sex marriage and an end to senseless expulsion from the military.

Dan White was a straight man who clearly needed to be "less drunk" to kill two men than to kiss one (with this image certainly known to him and fresh in his mind from only three years prior, in what would become a perverse bit of irony).

The Twinkie Defense seems to have morphed into the "I was so drunk" defense, and inured ears do not bristle at it. If so, it is time to de-ure those ears.

Harvey Milk did for gays what César Chávez did for Latinos and what Martin Luther King, Jr. did before them for African Americans, yet I don't hear David Letterman ridiculing those men on national TV.

Watch the movie Milk (released on December 5). If after that, Letterman's jokes about being drunk enough to kiss a man playing Harvey Milk still fail to trigger your gag reflex, then it is not just David Letterman who should be ashamed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Proposition 8 from a Catholic Perspective (Part 2)

Why churches fear gay marriage

Interesting and insight-filled interview with a gay Mexican-Californian about homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Zo Kwe Zo

There comes a time when the old you no longer fits, and a makeover is in order.

I have renamed my blog (and changed its URL) to reflect the new me.

The phrase "Zo Kwe Zo" is in Sango, the national language of the Central African Republic, a beautiful country that is the heart of Africa where I was lucky enough to be sent for my two years in the U.S. Peace Corps. I hope that in greatly expanding the Peace Corps, President Obama will "send the troops back in". I hope after retiring to be able once again to return again to the CAR as a reentrant PCV.

"Zo Kwe Zo" is the founding motto of the Central African Republic, and means "All People are People", a direct allusion to Thomas Jefferson's line in the U.S. Declaration of Independence that "All Men are Created Equal".

This theme having of late become the central focus of my blog, the pursuit of equality for all, including gays and lesbians, combined with the none-too-soon demise of the Bush Administration, has once again given me optimism in the direction our country is headed.

The powerless Rantings of a Crazed Lunatic, despised and marginalized by a country under the spell of the Religious Right, at last can give way to a more positive expression of belief in the possible, confident that (with effort and furious blogging) we will in my lifetime see the Promised Land, where zo kwe zo.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

David Letterman, the joke is you

What's the difference between David Letterman and Michael Richards? Answer: ridiculing African Americans is no longer tolerated.

While actor James Franco was describing the thrill he felt at costarring with Sean Penn and working with director Gus Van Sant on the film "Milk" about gay activist Harvey Milk, David Letterman was much more tittilated with Franco and Penn kissing.

Watch how James Franco tries to get the interview back on track and explain that he was nervous about getting the kiss authentic (while being watched by those who knew Milk personally), even as Letterman tries vainly but relentlessly to get him to admit that he was grossed out by the hot man-on-man action.

Somewhere between "how drunk are you [to have to kiss a guy]" (2:23) and "we're registered at Target" (3:00), I knew I was watching the death rattle of an old turd passed over for Leno and reduced to a temper tantrum when McCain stood him up.

Letterman ceased to be funny so long ago that I can't get too worked up by his junior high hang-ups. Still, I would have thought, given how many women Rock Hudson kissed on screen ages ago, that this drivel wouldn't pass today for humor.

What kind of perversion is this to be paid several million dollars to kiss Sean Penn? It's called "acting". Clearly, a concept Letterman knows nothing about.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why we can't just agree to disagree

LDS blogger Natasha offers advice to gays on how to deal with the loss of our marriage rights. Right now I am busily preparing reasons why she should leave the LDS Church. Neither piece of advice is likely to be followed.

Luckily, she also provided me a link to a video which very accurately summarizes my views of the role of the LDS Church in taking away my marriage rights. So, with hat tip to Natasha, I post it here as my response to her, why gays will never agree to disagree about same-sex marriage.

No peace without justice.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Power of the People

Free at last.

Obama's election was about freedom. Free from the divisiveness of the former (oops, I mean current Administration!) whose name like Voldemort I dare not even utter for fear of tarnishing the celebratory nature of this post.

Black Americans have won an incredible prize, and they richly deserve it, both as individuals and as a people united in a common struggle for the respect of their peers. This paragraph, and the celebrations around the country, belong to them first and foremost, and for few happy moments others are happy and eager to cede the limelight and the stage.

When those moments have passed, there are other freedoms from this election. Even as Blacks have found victory as a people (and start the slow process of doing without that identification), Whites have stopped acting like a "people", and found it had long ceased to serve them adequately. Latinos still identify weakly as a people, identifying as White and Catholic more than the mantle of La Raza that others keep trying to lay on them.

And then there are the Gays. Yes, we are devastated by the passage of Proposition 8. Yes, we admit that notwithstanding this we have enjoyed a meteoric rise in our struggle over the last ten years never before seen by any oppressed people in our country's history. Yes, we are a diverse group that but for the oppression might splinter and be absorbed by other self-idenfications.

But we are oppressed. We are still We. We are a people. In some ardent discussions I have been party to with some Mormons recently over Proposition 8, I repeatedly ran into a brick wall of understanding that crystallized the problem for us. Those who voted for Prop. 8 did so largely with the understanding that gays were not a people, and could therefore not legitimately take up battle for marriage in the name of civil rights, for these were names that a people used. We were individuals, whose plight to my surprise many Mormons seem strangely sympathetic to, but then it is easy to feel sympathy for individuals: an old woman crossing a street, a homeless man, a disabled veteran, a lost puppy.

Let lost puppies collect and identify as a group, and sympathy is gone. Barking in unison, angry as hell and not going to take the domination of humans any longer. Withholding affection until wet dog food is available at all times of the day. This kind of talk turns even dog lovers queasy. Dressing up your dog in drag, teaching him to walk on hind legs, and do calculus in the dirt, is a marvel. Having him decide to sit at the table and eat breakfast with you is not.

Not so long ago, having a Black entertainer in a nightclub was trendy, too. Having Blacks sit in the audience was not.

It is times like this when we must confront our innermost prejudices. When having the well-traveled wit of your gay best friend at a cocktail party is the definition of class, but having the validity of his marriage celebrated in your child's class is not. When straight women join with lesbians to obtain and defend reproductive choice, but run back home to husband and children before the validity of gender role choice is affirmed.

Will and Grace has been a great boon to gay men. We have proved that the Great Straight Mainstream (GSM) can laugh with us and at the rubes who hate us. But to a gay people, it is running on empty. One challenge of same-sex marriage is that there is nothing funny about it.

Gays have three great challenges left: to be treated as a people who don't have to entertain for their dinner, to act responsibly as a people once accepted as such, and then (like white Americans) to let go of identity politics and allow the full diversity of each individual to grow.

The election of Barack Obama has shown that these steps cannot be skipped, but that to advance requires a coalition of different people from all stages of social progress.

As the Obama Freedom Bus pulled away from the station, we cheered it on its way. Though there was not quite enough room for us onboard, we are hopeful and confident it will be back to pick us up later.

And if it does not, we are prepared to walk.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

With respect, Barack, you are not The One

It is our privilege to call out our enemies, and our duty to call out our friends.

Barack Obama would vote No on Proposition 8. Here, in his own words, is why:

I think it's unnecessary. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage. But when you start playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that's not what America's about. Usually, our constitutions expand liberties, they don't contract them.

President Bill Clinton who, while campaigning for the Presidency, had promised to allow all citizens regardless of sexual orientation to serve openly in the military. Here is what we got instead:

Sexual orientation will not be a bar to service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. The military will discharge members who engage in homosexual conduct, which is defined as a homosexual act, a statement that the member is homosexual or bisexual, or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender.

    —The Pentagon's New Policy Guidelines on Homosexuals in the Military, The New York Times (July 20, 1993), p.A14.

Barack Obama has evidently learned from the Clintons not to promise what you cannot deliver. His statement to MTV is a friendly warning to the gay community that, unlike Dianne Feinstein, he will not be spending political capital on the radioactive.

Fear not, Barack, you have our total support. We know to take what we can get. There are many progressives sitting on the Obama bandwagon, and we are grateful enough to be on the bus at all that we will obligingly take our seat in the back.

But just between us, you are wrong. You are my hero and you have my vote, but you are not The One.

The One would have known better.

Proposition 8 from a Catholic Perspective

I can best describe my Catholic perspective by departing from the Mormon perspective, which I have examined in previous blog entries. I marveled at the apparent Mormon obsession with same-sex marriage. I realized now that I was wrong.

The obsession is not about sex. It is about gender. This interview with two high-ranking officials of the LDS Church is titled "Same-Gender Attraction". But aren't sex and gender the same thing?

No, and I am glad the LDS Church makes the distinction, because it is very important for them. Sex is about chromosomes (and what you do in the bedroom). Gender is about who you identify as psychologically (and what you do when you are not in the bedroom).

Evangelicals may be obsessed with sex, but the LDS Church rests on the family, anchored by a Male Father and Female Mother.

The Mormon utopia is a well-honed script, where everyone acts their part. I say "acts" and not "plays" because there is no pretending going on. Everyone does their duty, there is no shirking. Utah is the Beehive State for good reason: The LDS Church is a beehive that derives strength from the cooperation and cohesion of its members.

There is no friction in the group because the roles, especially gender roles, are well delineated, with strong positive reinforcement for those trying to lead a good Mormon life (and increasing gradations of negative reinforcement for those who do not).

The strong nuclear family structure, including its highly praiseworthy innovation of a Family Day, one day of the week set aside just for the family along together, provides a safe caring framework for chidren to develop interpersonal skills, a good character with appreciation for the role of mutual obligations and respect. One side effect of this is a fondness for order and distrust of anarchic and ephemeral fads coming from our turbulent greater society.

Too good to be true? That depends on how well you fit the suit. One man's suit is another's straitjacket. Catholics make due with a broader, looser, more chaotic environment, because adherence to Catholic values requires it.

My parents were the ideal Catholics. They wanted a large family and had six children. We too were raised in a manner very similar to Mormons, admittedly in a much more chaotic household. My father had to work long hours and my mother had her hands full.

Somewhat unusually for Catholics, we grew up in an affluent area, so my mother's peers were mostly non-Catholic (and non-Mormon), with two kids, a busy work schedule, and doing their high-powered charity stuff well armed with fancy titles. I suspect many of them may have harbored secret (or not so secret) negative opinions about the traditional lifestyle that my mother was living. My mom was not fazed. She knew that there is no job more important: not in developing the character of a child so much as being a physically present role model of good values as the child forms his or her own character. Like Mormons, Catholic parents also come armed with a script for how to accomplish this best. This needs all the structure that can be brought to bear, so if she could not work outside the home in order to fulfull this mission, then she would not, and did not.

And then along comes a gay son that goes off script. A child hardwired and preordained not to follow in his parents' footsteps, find a wife, get married, have lots of children, and start the process anew. That child was me.

And here is where, generally, as a group and a church, Catholics and Mormons part company.

Mormons value family, but one that fits into the broader LDS context. The Mormon family edifice is a puzzle piece that sits in a larger puzzle, which is more a crystal than a mosaic.Gender roles form the boundary of these puzzle pieces, and a piece that cannot lock to its neighbors, to their mutual cohesion and security, is at risk being left out of the finished product.

For Catholics, there is nothing more important than family. Not God, not Church, not social standing. Catholic atheist is not an oxymoron. Catholics take from their Jewish forbears the obligation to do the right thing for its own sake, even if no one is looking (and even if God is not looking, for atheist Catholics). Like Mormons, Catholics lean heavily on their children to adopt the Catholic way of life, too amorphous a concept to delineate here but well known to any Catholic who has been put through it. As Evangelicals publicly militate to end the right of others to terminate their pregnancy, Catholics work more quietly to improve the conditions for young people to lower the overall number of abortions. Life begins at conception, but does not end at birth. Catholic socal teaching challenges us to gladly pay taxes to fund social welfare, senior care, end-of-life dignity, and is repulsed by the arrogance of terminating the life even of convicted murderers. Catholic families are a necessarily chaotic incubator for these values, and these families fit loosely together in the loose mosaic of like-valued (but not necessarily like-minded) community of Catholics worldwide. Non-Catholics may be surprised at the lack of mention of a priestly hierarchy or Pope. Catholics (as a rule) know better. Priests (and Pope) are like coathangers to help us keep our clothes off the floor, but are not the clothes themselves. They provide paved roads for us to follow (usually the best route to take), but we know when it is better to go offroad to get where we need to.

In very a simplistic comparison: nonreligious children are guided by hope, Evangelical children by fear, Jewish children by guilt, Catholic children by shame, and Mormon children by the threat of exclusion.

When faced with a gay child, Catholic parents are wracked with shame. Where did we go wrong? Where did we fail our child? How can they have a family of their own?

Mormons seem to add to this list one more bridge, and for too many gay Mormons this is a bridge too far: how will my child fit into the LDS Church which, embedded in our larger hostile world, provides an overarching, cohesive, cradle-to-grave-and-beyond universe. A child who falls from this all-encompassing embrace is left with nothing. There cannot be, for it is not dissent that threatens the Mormon ideal, but disorder. A house divided cannot stand. The needs of the whole outweight the needs of the one.

For Catholics, that is far too high a price to pay. The needs of the child are exactly why the family even exists at all.

A Catholic family, though divided, must stand, and will. God himself may abandon (or in turn be abandoned by) such a family, the Law may send one to prison, all of this only strengthens our resolve. If a gay son cannot be straight, then the law, and theology, must give way. Coming to grips with a gay son was very difficult for my mother. Deciding how to vote on Prop. 8 was not. As she repeated told me growing up, she would run up to grizzly bears, jump off bridges, or break through the gates of Hell itself to rescue her chidren. Her greatest fear was that we would not lead a happy and fulfilling life. If same-sex marriage will bring happiness to her children, then she will make it so.

My husband is a proud addition to our family, and at every family gathering he cannot attend (because he has his own parents as well to visit) my family asks why he could not come and how he is doing.

I have written extensively on the various reasons — legal, ethical, moral, psychological, political — that justify my right to marry the man I was meant to be with. My family needed no such rhetorical efforts. Catholics are not typically the intellectuals, trendsetters, troublemakers, entrepreneurs. We are a quiet resolute people, with a few bedrock principles that guide our otherwise amorphous and not easily categorized beliefs. One of these is family.

Marriage was created for the family, not the family for marriage. My Dad is very easygoing, and likes just about everybody. But remember: if you vote yes on Prop. 8, you are not only separating me from my husband, you are separating my father from his son-in-law. And that, no Catholic father will stand for.

Pro-family, pro-marriage: Vote No on Prop. 8.

It is the Catholic thing to do.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Certain victory for same-sex marriage (but when?)

The Field Poll is the gold standard of California polling. When they speak, we should listen.

Once again they have spoken (and for the last time) on Proposition 8. I urge you to read the fascinating analysis. The message is very clear: We live in a highly divided state.

No, not on gender and race (that is so last millenium!) but in geography, political ideology, party affiliation, age, education, and religion. Strangely, these are quite strongly correlated.

Grandpa, a lifelong Republican, voted early for Prop 8 by mail. He's a huge fan of McCain, lives outside Sacramento, is strongly conservative, didn't make it past high school (who could afford to back then!), and never misses Sunday services. Although he doesn't know any gay people (he doesn't get out much), he assumes they're likable enough and doesn't believe the attack ads. He usually minds his own business, but marriage is just too important for him to give in on. He wants to protect the institution of marriage for his granddaughter for when her live-in boyfriend is ready to make an honest woman of her. Hopefully, he will still be around to see it.

His granddaughter Katlin is now in grad school. She never trusted politicians much before, but there's something special about Obama, and she is looking forward to voting for him on Election Day. For her, No on Prop. 8 is a nobrainer. She has lots of gay friends, and they hang out on Sundays in the City. She's tried talking to Grandpa, but they live in different worlds, and she's given up on his generation anyway.

Grandpa won't change his mind, but he won't be around much longer. The future belongs to the multiethnic, multicultural, diversity-tolerant embracers of Change: our youth. As it should be.

It seems Grandpa is at last outnumbered. It appears (after some fretful gap closing) that Proposition 8 is ready to be defeated: 49% to 44%.

Even if (unthinkably) we are set back once again, we should remember John Milton's admonition: they also serve who only stand and wait.

Grandpa is not ready for change. We are. The good news for most of us is, we can outwait him. The better news is, it seems we don't have to.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Proposition 8 from a Mormon Perspective (Part 2)

Just what is it that drives 2% of the California population to donate 40% of the money to annul my marriage?

Not satisfied with my prior post, I decided to look further and found the answer in scott's comment on this blog post).

Below are some highlights of the official Mormon teaching regarding same-gender attraction, according to two high-ranking officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church and Elder Lance B. Wickman, a member of the Seventy.

Needless to say, I disagree with essentially every one of these beliefs. You decide.

[NOTE: comments in italics are those of the interviewer or my own providing context, and not those of the Church officials]

Is homosexuality innate? not a noun that describes a condition. It's an adjective that describes feelings or behavior.

homosexual feelings are controllable.

The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn't have a position on.

So are homosexuals just out of luck?

same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.

There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities.

There's really no question that there is an anguish associated with the inability to marry in this life. We feel for someone that has that anguish. I feel for somebody that has that anguish. But it's not limited to someone who has same-gender attraction....I happen to have a handicapped daughter...[who] will never marry in this life, yet she looks wistfully upon those who do....whatever the hindrances to our enjoying a fullness of joy here, we have the Lord's assurance for every one of us that those in due course will be removed. We just need to remain faithful.

Isn't homosexual about who you are, not what you are?

I think it is an accurate statement to say that some people consider feelings of same-gender attraction to be the defining fact of their existence. There are also people who consider the defining fact of their existence that they are from Texas or that they were in the United States Marines. Or they are red-headed, or they are the best basketball player that ever played for such-and-such a high school.

Why does the Church care about civil marriage anyway? Isn't that just a private matter?

marriage is neither a matter of politics, nor is it a matter of social policy.

It really doesn't matter what you call it. If you have some legally sanctioned relationship with the bundle of legal rights traditionally belonging to marriage and governing authority has slapped a label on it, whether it is civil union or domestic partnership or whatever label it's given, it is nonetheless tantamount to marriage. That is something to which our doctrine simply requires us to speak out and say, "That is not right. That's not appropriate."

children deserve to be reared in a home with a father and a mother.

Do you see any irony in the fact that the Church is so publicly outspoken on this issue, when in the minds of so many people in the United States and around the world the Church is known for once supporting a very untraditional marriage arrangement — that is, polygamy?

I see irony in that if one views it without the belief that we affirm in divine revelation. The 19th century Mormons, including some of my ancestors, were not eager to practice plural marriage. They followed the example of Brigham Young, who expressed his profound negative feelings when he first had this principle revealed to him. The Mormons of the 19th century who practiced plural marriage, male and female, did so because they felt it was a duty put upon them by God....if you start with the assumption of continuing revelation, on which this Church is founded, then you can understand that there is no irony in this. But if you don't start with that assumption, you see a profound irony.

Here's some real irony: God apparently keeps changing his mind.

Mormons used to but no longer believe (thanks to divine revelation) in polygamy (abandoned in 1890), the inferiority of black people (abandoned in 1978 with the following immortal words: "Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said [about Blacks and the priesthood]... We spoke with a limited understanding."), and the belief that God was once a person.

Mormons still believe that a "woman's primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband", that the dead can be baptized (including more than 300,000 Jewish holocaust victims), and that access to the Temple (including a Temple Marriage that lasts through all eternity) can be denied to those who do not give 10% of their income to the Church.

I can only hope that God will once again whisper into the ear of the Prophet (currently Thomas Monson) that He as changed His mind yet again on His views of gender role and sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, I guess we're stuck duking it out the old fashioned way: via the ballot box.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Proposition 8 from a Libertarian Perspective

I am no Libertarian, as popularly understood. Nonetheless, I advance here a purely libertarian defense of same-sex marriage that I regard as sufficient support both for supporting the California Supreme Court decision in re Marriage and for opposing the California Constitutional referendum Proposition 8.

There are two questions that a libertarian should consider: whether the judicial question was correctly decided, and whether there is a moral justification in overruling this.

The salient (and my opinion correct) reasoning of the California Supreme Court is firmly based i.a. on the following reasoning:

  1. The Legislature has disavowed a public policy objection against same-sex unions by voluntarily creating a legal equavalent in domestic partnerships and by estoppel cannot simultaneously argue a rational interest in favoring opposite-sex unions.
  2. Rational basis of discrimination is in any case insufficient because heightened scrutiny is the required test, since homosexuals are a suspect class (as a subclass of gender-related discrimination).
  3. A subordinate status of domestic partnership strictly less than marriage (i.e. separate and unequal) is well established from near-universal rejection of the alternative status by heterosexuals, vitiating contrary claims by same-sex marriage opponents.
  4. Even stipulating the primacy of child rearing as the primary purpose and effect of marriage, no compelling evidence has been admitted into evidence at trial that same-sex marriage is deleterious is this end. The burden of proof of any factual hypothesis remains with its asserter.
  5. Though not normative, existing precedent from Massachusetts and foreign jurisprudence reduces the hurdle of judicial novelty.

The moral basis for overturning this ruling has not (and I believe cannot) be established for the following reasons:

  1. Discrimination against homosexuals is well documented, and must be ethically presumed to be invidious barring compelling reason.
  2. Homosexuality is well documented in multiple species, across unrelated cultures, and throughout recorded history, despite strong sanction against it, and is therefore scientifically established as an innate orientation, not an intentional choice.
  3. Stipulating the assertion by same-sex marriage opponents that there exists a legal equivalent of marriage, and despite the countervailing trend of more permissive sexual opportunity, the broadbased expression of desire to marry by homosexuals must be accepted prima facie as evidence that homosexual orientation is not merely a sexual drive but a sexual identity. This facial presumption is reinforced by the near impossibility of psychological conversion, as accepted by the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations.
  4. No evidence distinguishing homo- and heterosexual pair bonding in kind has been scientifically shown. In particular, no evidence exists that the desire or intention to procreate is the cause rather than effect of marriage. Suggestive evidence to the contrary would include an elevated divorce rate among infertile couples, widowed and postmenopausal adults, and couples with adult children.
  5. For libertarians, government involvement in interpersonal relations is inherently intrusive and should be narrowly tailored. In particular, laws fostering child rearing should be limited to those bearing children. Given the low cost of medical tests estabilishing parental relationship, this is a feasible limitation of government power.
  6. The (in my opinion vacuous) counterargument that private discrimination against homosexuals should not be hindered by government action is not relevant here, as same-sex marriage seeks governmental, not popular, support. Hypothetical and indeterminant "slippery slope" arguments are impossible to defend before they are advanced, and should be addressed only as they arise in particular.

I intend the above to be a sufficient reason to vote against Proposition 8, though it is certainly not a necessary one. Aristotle held that the law is reason devoid of passion. Pace Aristotle, I still believe that the most compelling reason is the non-legal one: it is the right thing to do. If you do not already believe this, then you are likely ill-equipped to distinguish rational argument from rationalization, and this post is probably a complete waste of both our time.

Still, I had to try...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Palin's pals: White trash trashes Obama

It doesn't take much to anger John McCain, and true to form he got angry in the third Presidential debate:

Let me just say categorically I'm proud of the people that come to our rallies. Whenever you get a large rally of 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 people, you're going to have some fringe peoples. You know that. And I've — and we've always said that that's not appropriate.

But to somehow say that group of young women who said "Military wives for McCain" are somehow saying anything derogatory about you, but anything — and those veterans that wear those hats that say "World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq," I'm not going to stand for people saying that the people that come to my rallies are anything but the most dedicated, patriotic men and women that are in this nation and they're great citizens.

Who exactly are these patriotic citizens of the Heartland?

The above video (available on YouTube) was filmed by Al Jazeera, singling out no doubt the kookiest Americans to make a point. Still, they seemed authentically American to me, and no dubbing was needed to put those vile and ignorant words into their mouths. One of the least bigoted comments was actually the most revealing:

I don't like the fact that he thinks us white people are trash.

Now why on Earth would he ever think that?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Proposition 8 from a Mormon Perspective

How has the Yes on 8 campaign affected Mormons?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints last weekend launched a massive drive in support of California Proposition 8 to take back the right of gays to marry in California. The above link points to a blog written by a lifelong Mormon and native Californian, and I strongly urge you to read for yourself. It is compelling and speaks in a more authentic voice than I possess.

In short, it claims that the single-minded pursuit, launched by the highest levels of the Mormon church, to take away the right of gays in California to marry is not only a threat to gays, but also a threat to the spirituality and cohesion of Mormons themselves, and has awakened ugly expressions of fear, pride, arrogance, triumphalism, intolerance, and division among its members. It has given too much prominence to the role of wealth in the Church and is an outlet for "feelings of shame, revulsion, disappointment, and failure in having gay children or family members".

Why in particular are Mormons, more than most, obsessed with gay marriage (funding 40% of the support for Prop. 8)? It may be that they place unique importance on marriage itself because, unlike Christians and atheists alike, a married Mormon couple stays together not just "til death do us part", but throughout all eternity. That is a long time to allow two men to stay married. Let me quote the LDS Apostle of the Lord, Elder Russell M. Nelson, sent out over the weekend:

A Temple the highest and most enduring type of marriage that our creator can offer to his children....Only those who are married in the temple and whose marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise will continue as spouses after death and receive the highest degree of celestial glory or exaltation.

This statement shows clearly what the Mormon First Presidency fears most: not same-sex marriage, but loss of the keys to the afterlife. To stay married after death , you need a Temple Marriage, for which you need a Temple Pass, issued only to those in "good standing", meaning i.a. that you pay your 10% title.

The Catholics had a good run with this scheme once upon a time: they sold Indulgences to bail your relatives out of Purgatory (and just in time to fund the construction of St. Peter's Basilica), but when superstition gave way to reason, and under threat (later honored) of schism, they yielded on this venal ploy.

This belief in the persistence of marriage beyond the grave gives Mormons more incentive than most to get the institution of marriage right and defend the privilege of their own view of who exactly can participate, and to this end they have raised over $8 million, dwarfing every other contribution by an order of magnitude, as well as order their flock to actively canvass our neighborhoods with the gentle-sounding scare tactics.

From this perspective, same-sex marriage is indeed a slippery slope, not to the fancifully farcical predictions of bestiality, incest, or polygamy (though I hear the Mormons know something of the last), but toward an end far more dangerous...

It is not gay marriage that Mormon leaders fear, but secular (i.e. non-Temple) marriage of otherwise well-meaning and good Mormons, which is a gateway sin to not tithing. The Mormon community is a cradle-to-grave fraternity, with no dissent tolerated. [I know more than one Catholic Archbishop that would love that loyalty and power!]

The Apostle goes on to say:

And some [marriages] are cunningly crafted by the adversary. Beware of his options: they always breed misery.

He disappointingly fails to elaborate on the exact source of this misery. Had he done so, I could have stayed alert to avoid it. You see, I am a gay man, married to a man, and have never been happier. This misery which apparently awaits me, is taking its time to arrive.

Perhaps I would have been happier in a Platonic friendship (except I already tried that with a woman, which tormented her, then with a man, that tormented me). Perhaps I would have been happier sleeping around with random men (not really my style), or marry a woman (and watch helplessly while her self-esteem and youth erode before my eyes). Perhaps they think two men cannot live in one house, pay one mortgage and property taxes, grow old (and fat) together. I am living proof that they can. If this is the misery I am condemned to, count me in!

Proposition 8 is simple because the arguments themselves are vacuous. All content is in the axioms: is homosexuality innate, does Jesus' love trump St. Paul's homophobia, who suffers most if we are wrong?

Remember before you vote, that a yes vote might forcibly divorce me from my own husband, vacating my vows to be with him now and forever, and make the divorce rate go up! You will be undermining the successful and solemn marriage of another. Your hands will be dirty.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

No longer just a little confused

No original thought for today. Instead, I will pass on this video1 contrasting Obama's excellence with Palin's mediocrity and expressing "confusion" how she can pass herself off as the "better American":

I myself have never been confused about the reason for this. Underachievers have always hated overachievers, viewing the latter as a threat to their self-esteem. I call these people the "I don't know much" people, because they are so often inclined to take non-original opinions overheard at the water cooler, pass them off as their own, then preface the (sometimes bigoted, always ignorant) comment with the phrase "I don't know much, but I know this...". Well, they're half-right anyway. They don't know much, and don't much want to. For the dumb, lazy, and undereducated, ignorance is bliss.

[1] I found this video posted to a youtube channel PalesInComparison under the title "I'm a Little Confused" but no original source was listed, so I regret I cannot give credit where it is due (though the production quality is worthy of a TV ad and was likely professionally created.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Suor Angelica Soars while Fly Falls Flat

To the sublime from the ridiculous...

Puccini's Il Trittico is a triptych of one-act operattas, of which the second "Suor Angelica" is especially powerful. It's about the daughter of royalty who brings deep shame on her family by getting knocked up, then is locked away in a convent and spends seven long years there with no word from her family, until at last her evil aunt the Princess comes to disinherit her and reveals that Sister Angelica's son had died years before. Upon hearing this, Angelica longs to join her son in Heaven and, in her rush to poison herself with flowers from her garden, realizes only too late that suicide is a mortal sin that will damn her to Hell. In pleading that would bring Spock himself to tears, she cries out to the Virgin to save her. In a move that could in lesser hands might have bordered on corny, the irradiantly blueclad Virgin gracefully descends on a wire to hover silently over the stage and brings forth Angelica's son in radiant light. All is forgiven and mother joins son in death, happy at last.

My worries about LA Opera this year from the fatally flawed The Fly have been completely put to rest.

The staging of Il Trittico is a visual feast, with each act quite distinct. Sondra Radvanovsky plays the title role of Sister Angelica with grace and a powerful soprano voice that earned her robust applause midway after the most famous aria "Senza Mama", as well as a long standing ovation after the Finale (which I liked even better), where her voice reminded me of the legendary Renata Tebaldi, whose unequaled concert performance of this role I leave you with here (visually accompanied by various slides of her life). Let the healing power of Puccini and the Virgin wash over you as you listen to the Finale:

Then, compare the Finale above with Renata Tebaldi's own rendition of "Senza Mama" here and see for yourself which is the more moving.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Poor Palin in crosshairs of Con double-cross

At last the coalition between Conservatives and Christian Evangelicals is fraying!

In perhaps the first crack in the glass floor of blind support for Sarah Palin from a bona fide Conservative, Kathleen Parker succinctly identifies the Palin Problem: She’s out of her league.

Some good zingers from the article:

I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.

What an ingrate! Sarah Palin is very clearly not up to fixing the mess that you caused (or at least the Ayn Rand ideology you represent), but at least she wasn't the one that gambled on the good name of the US and lost, to the tune of $700 billion dollars!

Giddy as I am about this schism, I feel duty-bound to remind you, my inconstant Conservative opponent, of your marriage vows: You Gotta Dance With Them What Brung Ya. In case you hadn't noticed, Sarah Palin has been drawing larger crowds at speeches than John McCain has. If he loses this election, it will not be because of her.

Just read Papa Bush's lips: payback is a bitch, and her name is Sarah Palin (a non-sexist term, given that she self-identifies as a pit bull with lipstick, and she is female). The last I checked, John McCain was voted politician least likely to stay bought, the only kind of honesty a politician can objectively claim.

The bankrupt ethics of Wall Street shows that Conservatives have lost any right to lead this country. If, after a free ride to the Promised Land on the backs of hard-working low-paid anti-intellectual Christian rubes, the Cons attempt to trample them fleeing their hit-and-run megawreck of the American economy (also known as Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Poor), they will certainly lose any chance to.

Then again, since Christian Evangelicals sold their soul to the Devil (Nixon, Reagan, Dubya) to feast at the table of power and now no longer can squeeze through the eye of that needle, maybe they get what they deserve. After all, they have been praying earnestly for Armageddon, and now it seems the kleptocratic oligarchs have delivered.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Fly: more Dreck than Shrek

What an inglorious start of the 2008-09 LA Opera season! As a subscriber this year, I was eager to sink my teeth into a worthy sequel of the exciting original atomic-era 1957 film and the later 1986 remake. Remaking this as an opera is a worthy goal. Opera is essentially a collection of stirring arias stitched together with plot-advancing recitative and some elaborate stagecraft.

With the The Fly, the aimless chanted dialog was unbroken by even a single aria, instead droning on like a Gregorian chant, in weak voices unable to make themselves heard over the robust orchestra (luckily, I could lighthouse from stage up to the supertitles and back every half second to assist my underdeveloped lipreading skills). The only clear voice was from a high tenor leather daddy in the bar scene.

The set dressing was elaborate but steel-gray and static, without a single set change. The funds provided by the NEA and the James Irvine Foundation having been no doubt exhausted on an admittedly good-looking pair of ominous telepods, the other scenes were simple props (desk, folding chairs, fake pool table) placed stage front, without even the benefit of decent lighting design to hide the lab equipment behind. In fact, in one memorable lighting mishap, the lone spotlight fails to illuminate the armwrestling match (don't ask!), instead brightly lighting a patch of empty stage several feet in front. I can only assume the folding table did not hit its mark. Later, a massive rack of back lights shone in our eyes — and on each other — blinding the audience to all but the cables and scaffolding.

The libretto was mere plot without drama, jarringly punctuated with mixed tone ("Swear that you love me. Do you swear? Pinky swear?", as the two principals interlock little fingers in an oath of fidelity). Contrast this with the passion of Donn'Anna crying out for revenge in Mozart's Don Giovanni: "Fuggi crudele...vendetta!" Such was the wrath and passion of this that years later, I can still sing the aria aloud. Even the brief nudity and muscled bare chest of the would-become Fly Seth Brendle (played by scrumptious Daniel Okulitch) could not elicit passion from his romantic interest. Political correctness having now placed off limits the inherited power of traditional stereotypical for "leading ladies" such as wife, mistress, coworker, or even infatuated student, the vapid libretto of David Henry Hwang (of M. Butterfly fame) settles for a skeptical female science reporter (a non-sexy job in the best of times), who after a one-night-stand turns into a spy for her ex-lover and boss.

The transformation from human to Brendlefly (which we learn is the scientific term for the fusion of Seth Brendle and musca domestica), far from the grand Kafkaesque (or even Teen Wolf) metamorphosis that I had expected, was tackily accomplished with a Creature from the Black Lagoon outfit and a computer monitor (sung aloud by monotonous chorus offstage), describing in bizarrely graphic detail the physiological changes underway: "First, he bit his fingernail off, then his teeth fell out, followed by his gums, then he learned to vomit his stomach acid, then suck them back up." I had had my fill of this stuff back in Junior High. Indeed, the fact that white liquid was ostensibly oozing out of cracks in his skin (we take the computer monitor's word for this, as nothing is shown on stage) was apparently thought so tittilating and witty that the identical line was used a minute later to describe what oozed out of his fingers and toes when they fell off. In short, ten minutes listening to a human autopsy report. The final scene has the leading lady end with a Palinesque announcement that she is pregnant with a flybaby and will not abort her larva in utero but rather give birth to this fruitful ménage-à-quatre fusion of man, woman, fly, and telepod (assuming it does not kill and eat her in childbirth like an Alian). Given religious conservatives' opposition to both abortion, bestiality, wireless internet, and group marriage, I wouldn't even hazard a guess whether they approve of her intention to raise the fly offspring on her own outside the bounds of a traditional family structure. (Sounds like we need another California Proposition to stave this one off...)

Truly, the only character that engendered my honest affection was the baboon puppet, expertly animated to give a charm exceeding that of the Winged Monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. The insufficiently shocking grotesque moments where baboon and later Brendlefly were turned inside out were not signalled for the proximity-challenged with a helpful stage scream, faint, shout, or gesticulation, giving me plenty of time to analyze the red paint on the mannequin and mourn the missed climax.

It is probably unfair to expect the cast to have done more with such a simple libretto, lacking dramatic irony, false or real climax, or surprise. Indeed, the first Act ended so abruptly that the audience did not think to clap. Again, at the curtain call, the applause was hanging on out of sheer politeness while the cast stole a second bow.

Still, all of the above challenges paled in comparison to the true stinker of the night. The music, written by moving picture soundtrack writer Howard Shore, had the feel of a soundtrack. Arias are no doubt very difficult to write to be memorable, lyrical, without ripping off the great operas of yore. Still, this audience member would have appreciated the attempt. I can only contrast this with operatic musicals like West Side Story or especially Rent, which successfully stood up to Shakespeare and Puccini, respectively, with both courage and originality. I would say more about the amorphous mass of notes, except that even two hours later I cannot remember a single motif or chorus. Apparently, the music of the second Act was so poorly received in Paris that it was rewritten for LA, and indeed the first several bars where qualitatively different (as though written by another?) but soon gave way to the same basso continuo paralleling the enless recitative.

The tragicomedy of the The Fly is that it fails utterly to excite even with the benefit of nudity, a rather humorous sex/rape scene, backstory of compelling Promethean hubris, onstage acrobatics, and geek humor. This takes some doing, since the jokes actually made me laugh out loud, so I will repeat some here. You will either scream with the smug laughter of an insider, or be left bemused and bored.

Why did the chickin cross the Möbius Strip?

— To get to the same side.

Who was Heisenberg?

— I'm not certain...

Why do scientists have such trouble picking up women at parties?

— Because they are so rarely invited to them.

Ah, French champagne. Although I think it's from California.

So I guess it can't be champagne. So why does it have bubbles?

Reacting negatively to criticism of the score, a professional musician friend of mine (who often works orchestrating and performing film scores) suggested I take some blank note paper and a pencil and try my own hand. I certainly am no musician, but think I might just have a go at a better libretto. Good drama is disguising human tribulations in animal clothing, not dressing up soap opera with fancy lab equipment.

In all fairness, the LA Opera has taken on a bold and ambitious season repertoire year, with two Wagner Ring operas, as as season ticket holders we are proud sponsors. It is completely understandable that they need to bookend the season with modern works (The Fly, The Birds), both to cater to younger tastes of the new subscribers of a younger generation, as well as to fill out the schedule with less-costly ventures. Let us hope that The Birds (unlike The Fly) will take flight.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Character counts, not cowardly casuistry

The Library of Congress shamefully discriminated against hiring a highly qualified (and as it turns out transgendered) candidate (whom they had wanted to hire) after that candidate expressed the intention just before starting work to transition from male to female. Quoting from here:

The ACLU filed the lawsuit against the Library of Congress on June 2, 2005. After retiring from the military, Schroer, who had been hand-picked to head up a classified national security operation while serving as a Special Forces officer, applied for a position with the Library of Congress as the senior terrorism research analyst. Soon thereafter she was offered the job, which she accepted immediately. Prior to starting work, Schroer took her future boss to lunch to explain that she was in the process of transitioning and thought it would be easier for everyone if she simply started work presenting as female. The following day, Schroer received a call from her future boss rescinding the offer, telling her that she wasn't a "good fit" for the Library of Congress.

Happily, a federal judge has just ruled against Library of Congress, which, in a shocking bit of casuistry, had moved to dismiss the case several times, claiming that transgender people are not covered under Title VII of 1964. Leaving aside the legal validity of this assertion (the judge found it specious), this is a very disturbing example of the metaethics of our modern culture, where what is ethical is reduced to what is legal. Morality is replaced by prejudice, ethics by not getting caught.

Good character demands more than avoiding censure. There being in any case certainly no federal law requiring the firing of transgendered persons, how was it that the applicant's boss justified this action? Did the position, like a Hooter's waitress, require extra-professional qualifications? Perhaps, the unspoken requirement was to contribute to a "positive and comfortable work environment" (i.e. pander to others' basest prejudices)?

There is a philosophical question about the source of ethics, dating back at least to Attic Greece. Does ethics proceed from morality (do what you think is right) or from casuistry (rule-based, satisfing the minimal common-law framework that society requires)? I believe the better course of action of an ethical person is to take the more restrictive result of these two: do your duty to yourself and to others, where both can be accommodated.

The above judgment redeems the plaintiff, but for the defendant there is little chance of redemption. What does not flow from within cannot be sucked from without. That judgment must be left to a higher power.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Putting my money where my mouth is

Call it an insurance policy. We all know what road is paved with good intentions. We also know that the road to victory costs money. In a state as large as California, that means a lot of money.

Some people are so eager to "defend" marriage that they are trying to force me into an involuntary divorce. I am optimistic that the mean-spirited (or misguided, depending on how charitable I am feeling) California Proposition 8 will fail. However, I could not look myself in the mirror if it passed and I had done nothing to oppose it.

I just contributed money to the No on Prop 8 campaign, a coalition of just about everybody against this attack on marriage equality.

When I was in college, I marched against Apartheid and went to rallies. Now that I am older and too busy to donate time, I am glad that I can still play a part. If you also are so moved, No on Prop 8 will be glad to make use of whatever time or money you have to offer. The opposition has raised almost all its money from outside California, who see this as a make-or-break moment for their retrograde beliefs. They have outraised us more than 3 to 1 and promise to spend $20 million to prevail in November. Strangely, church collections are more motivating than public radio beg-a-thons. What does that say about the Blue half of this country?

Be a part of history in the making. Take (as I have) the Starbucks matching pledge. For every dollar you spend at Starbucks (or whatever church you religiously attend), match that with a dollar to No on Prop 8. We will need a decisive victory, or this hydra will be rearing its ugly head in two years' time.

And I will, once again, be living in sin.

White privilege and the N-word

Resolved: Whereas you can say the N-word, I cannot. I am fine with that.

For y'all following along at home, take a look at this link to read up on White Privilege and to arm yourself with some perspective on the issue.

Then watch the following episode of The View and try to hear why white people are in no position to lead the charge on getting past racial-divide bitterness. Listen especially closely to the last half where Whoopi Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck discuss the legitimacy of using the N-word (and try to ignore the "girl fight" aspect that many men instinctively turn off to...the point here is about race, not gender).

(Alt. link here)

In summary caricature: Post-racial Barbie insists on teleporting to the Promised Land already ("why won't you take yes for an answer?"), while Angry Black Woman demands first an admission of guilt before letting her move on ("you're not hearing me").

Here's the reality. White people do enjoy an advantage over black people in America. This is true whether either group wants to mention it, fight against it, or deny it. To be angry about this undeserved privilege, or to repurpose and arrogate to themselves the exclusive right to use a single sometime slur, is the right of black people. To acknowledge the undeservedness of this privilege (however unsought or undesired) is the duty of white people. Until this is agreed on, there can be no leaping to a post-racial utopia.

If you think it is unfair to be blamed for something you didn't cause, or to have one English word that you didn't even want to use put off limits to you but not to others, it is. But don't move this injustice to the top of your queue just yet. Those slots are already taken by far worthier indignities.

I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir. I just wanted to go on record. There has been far too much "get over it already" white indignation for my taste in the discussion over the role of race in the Presidential election, and there needs to be some push back. We now resume our regularly scheduled blogging...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's the Party, stupid!

Have you heard the one about the Independent Voter?

An undecided Independent Voter was faced with the dilemma of whether to vote for Obama or McCain. As a test, he asked each of them several questions:

  1. How will you fix an economy ravaged by eight years of plutocratic Republican policies?
  2. How will you engage a complex and increasingly multilateral world?
  3. What kind of Supreme Court nominees (up to 3 of them!) will you choose to replace the aging (liberal) Justices that may leave office in your term?

First, Obama gave an articulate, reasoned, and policy-rich reply, based on his inspiring life story and the values of the Democratic Party.

Then, McCain delivered his blunt assessment that government corruption and national security are his top priorities, where partisanship will have no place.

The Independent Voter was very impressed by both their responses. He then gave long and careful consideration...

And then voted for the one whose Vice-President has the biggest tits.

If you are offended because the previous line is sexist, then shame on you. You have let the politicians, media, and bloggers misdirect your attention. For this is much more than sexist, it is personalist. With due apologies to Gov. Palin's breasts, the real outrage here is the tacit (and widespread) belief that we should elect our President based on individual traits: charisma, speaking ability, gravitas, quick wit, and (in Obama's case) strikingly handsome looks.

Grow up. The truth is much simpler: the best predictor of Presidential policy-making is Party, not personality. Speeches come from people, actions come from party caucuses. This is not a horse race, it is a referendum on political philosophy.

We are a divided country in the scariest of ways: age. The older half of the Supreme Court is liberal: Stevens (88), Ginsburg (75), Breyer (70), Souter (68). The younger half is conservative: Roberts (53), Alito (58), Thomas (60), Scalia (72), Kennedy (72). You do the math.

Enter the dreaded Independent Voter. Our election will be decided by people who are not merely ambivalent about their own views on public policy questions, but are hostile to the very idea of partisanship itself. They base their vote not on a rational analysis of probable future Presidential decisions, but on individual (and largely irrelevant) personality quirks. Obama sounds like the voice of a new generation. McCain looks like the wisdom of age.

Get real. Turn off the hype and read the 2008 Democratic and Republican Party Platforms. For those who don't like to read, here is my one-line summary of each:

  • political    rights  of the individual
  • economic power of the group
  • economic rights  of the individual
  • political    power of the group

If this choice is not clear enough for you, then maybe you should just vote for the one with the hottest bod. I can think of worse ways to pick a Presidential candidate.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Republican Hypocrisy in Overdrive highlights a hilarious Comedy Central video serving up Republican hypocrits (including your favorite and mine, Karl Rove) contradicting themselves.

It is a must-see for anyone who still believes that Republican hacks have gotten on board the Straight Talk Express. Maybe these people should stop trying to help John McCain before he bolts the GOP entirely!

John McCain is AWOL

Poor John McCain.

He is now officially Absent Without Leave from the culture wars surrounding him on all sides. He persists in an irrational delusion that political division is based on political egos, rather than on rational and profound disagreements on the nature of our social contract: individual rights vs. group obligations, political freedom vs. economic liberty, role of religion in politics and society, constitutional guarantees vs. public safety, freedom of expression vs. cultural comfort, parental vs. societal interests in the protection and upbringing of children. The list goes on and on, with perhaps two-thirds of Americans ready to shout at the top of their lungs over each of these issues.

Who is this Solomon John McCain to settle our legitimate disputes by dividing the baby in two? Maybe on tax policy, but what about gay marriage? Reproductive freedom? Separation of church and state? These are land mines in American society. You can steer left or right of them, but compromise will end badly.

John McCain was short on specifics in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. I will add my own commentary [in brackets], pointing out where he and I do not see eye to eye. I find myself siding with the Christian Right on this one: there is a culture war going on, and John McCain is nowhere to be found. For indeed, managing this war is the true role of the modern American Presidency, and there is no room for appeasement.

I'm grateful to the President [whose name he dares not utter here...] for leading us in those dark days following the worst attack on American soil in our history and keeping us safe from another attack many thought was inevitable; [and for no other reason?]....And I'm grateful to the 41st president [whose name he also strangely fails to speak aloud] and his bride of 63 years, and for their outstanding example of honorable service to our country. [Shockingly, he fails even to allude to Ronald Reagan, the very founder of the modern Republican coalition!]

Finally, a word to Sen. Obama and his supporters. We'll go at it over the next two months. That's the nature of these contests, and there are big differences between us. But you have my respect and admiration. [Utter silence descends on the audience here] Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us. We are fellow Americans, an association that means more to me than any other. We're dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights. No country ever had a greater cause than that. And I wouldn't be an American worthy of the name if I didn't honor Sen. Obama and his supporters for their achievement. [So McCain is saying that the vast majority of hard-core Republican supporters are unAmerican? No wonder the audience went silent...]

And I've found just the right partner [actually, the Christian Right found her for you] to help me shake up Washington, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. She has executive experience and a real record of accomplishment. She's tackled tough problems like energy independence and corruption. She's balanced a budget, cut taxes and taken on the special interests. She's reached across the aisle and asked Republicans, Democrats and independents to serve in her administration [does this remind you of a certain former "compassionate conservative" governor?] . She's the mother of five children. She's helped run a small business, worked with her hands and knows what it's like to worry about mortgage payments and health care and the cost of gasoline and groceries. [Oh, and did I also mention in passing that she is a fundamentalist Christian, a card-carrying member of the NRA, and an anti-choice extremist, none of which are presumably worth mentioning here?]

She knows where she comes from [rural America, tired of urban domination] and she knows who she works for [God].

I'm very proud to have introduced our next vice president to the country. [Actually, she and the country seem to have gotten very well acquainted without his mediation, seeing as he apparently chose her only days before her nomination].

You know, I've been called a maverick [or loose cannon, if you are less charitable. My friend Brendan reminds me that an honest politician is "one who stays bought"!]; someone who marches to the beat of his own drum. Sometimes it's meant as a compliment and sometimes it's not. What it really means is I understand who I work for. I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you. [Who exactly is the "you" here? A solid majority of Americans have a strong affiliation with a political party that they feel does authentically represent their "special interests".]

I've fought corruption, and it didn't matter if the culprits were Democrats or Republicans. [There are roughly three main Republican themes: God, Country, and Wealth. Care to guess which one has recently fallen out of favor?]

I fought for the right strategy and more troops in Iraq, when it wasn't a popular thing to do. [I have to give him this one! Clinton failed this test of conviction with her once-bitten-twice-shy triangulation strategy.] And when the pundits said my campaign was finished, I said I'd rather lose an election than see my country lose a war [leaving aside of course the larger question whether it was wise for the Republicans to have started the Iraq War in the first place.]

I fight for Americans. I fight for you [not in my name, please...] I fight for Bill and Sue Nebe from Farmington Hills, Michigan, who lost their real estate investments in the bad housing market. [Ok, I confess this example leaves me dumbfounded. Are we really to feel sorry for a (presumably) working-class couple that borrowed money they couldn't pay back to gamble on a get-rich-quick scheme flipping houses? Say it ain't so, John!]

I fight for Jake and Toni Wimmer of Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Jake works on a loading dock, coaches Little League, and raises money for the mentally and physically disabled. Toni is a schoolteacher, working toward her master's degree. They have two sons; the youngest, Luke, has been diagnosed with autism. Their lives should matter to the people they elect to office [as opposed to my life, which doesn't? Just making sure...]. They matter to me [which is why he will do what exactly for them? Increase federal spending on autism research? Pray for their souls? Feature them in his acceptance speech?]

I fight to restore the pride and principles of our party. We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us. We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger [while George W. Bush searched in vain for his lost Veto stamp?]. We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both (!) parties and Sen. Obama passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies. [Both parties? Flash quiz: which party received the most donations from Big Oil? Guesses anyone? Actually, no need to guess. Here is the breakdown for the last twelve years. Notice a pattern?

Donations to both political parties by the oil and gas industry

I think we can guess where 3/4 of the corruption has gone.]

We lost their trust, when we valued our power over our principles. [I assume by "we" he means "the Republican Party"?]

We're going to change that. [You will have plenty of time to do this while serving some well-deserved time-out in the penalty box.]

We're going to recover the people's trust by standing up again for the values Americans admire. The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan is going to get back to basics. [Excuse me? I will give you Reagan. But Lincoln and (Teddy) Roosevelt? Lincoln freed the slaves from the Dixiecrat bigots that fled the Dems in 1948 and whose fellow Southerners now make up a major constituency of the Republican party. Teddy Roosevelt set aside huge tracts of the West for preservation, not oil drilling. And he left the Republican party out of the same disgust that McCain must be feeling about now.]

We believe everyone [or maybe just American citizens?] has something to contribute and deserves the opportunity to reach their God-given potential [except gays, who cannot get married, or atheists, whose potential is not God-given] from the boy whose descendants arrived on the Mayflower to the Latina daughter of migrant workers. We're all God's children and we're all Americans. [We pause while Mr. McCain clears this first with his Republican base...]

We believe in low taxes, spending discipline and open markets. We believe in rewarding hard work and risk takers and letting people keep the fruits of their labor [provided of course that you have nepotistic connections, access to capital, and the privilege of birth and race lotttery, good education, and a social safety net when risks fail].

We believe in a strong defense [i.e. America first], work, faith [in Christ], service, a culture of life [i.e. anti-choice but pro-death-penalty], personal responsibility, the rule of law [created by those in power], and judges who dispense justice impartially and don't legislate from the bench [such as in Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Gideon v. Wainwright, Lawrence v. Texas, and yes, Roe v. Wade. Should I go on?]

We believe in the values of families, neighborhoods and communities. [Who doesn't, unless their prejudices should infringe on my constitutionally guaranteed rights.]

We believe in a government that unleashes the [economic, not social] creativity and initiative of Americans. Government that doesn't make your choices for you [unless God commands it], but works to make sure you have more choices to make for yourself [unless your choice is to terminate your pregnancy or get married to a same-sex partner].

I will keep taxes low and cut them where I can [across the board, so the very rich get most of the benefit]. My opponent will raise them [albeit on the richest 5% of Americans]....I will cut government spending [unlike his own party currently in power, which has increased federal spending more than did any previous President and Congress ever before]. He will increase it [no doubt to pay the trillion dollars (!) that the Iraq war will cost the U.S. Treasury].

My health care plan will make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health care insurance. His plan will force small businesses to cut jobs, reduce wages, and force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor. [Actually, a bureaucrat does stand between me and my doctor. He is a bean counter for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of California, and it took six months and testimonials of medical necessity from two oral surgeons, a primary physician, an orthodontist, and a dentist, along with implied threats of a lawsuit, to prevail on appeal in a routine and very necessary lower jaw surgery authorization. Lucky for me, there is no government bureaucrat interfering in this relationship!]

Keeping taxes low helps small businesses grow and create new jobs. Cutting the second-highest business tax rate in the world will help American companies compete and keep jobs from moving overseas [and possibly even trickle down to the masses enough to maintain their political support]. Doubling the child tax exemption from $3,500 to $7,000 will improve the lives of millions of American families [though not mine]. Reducing government spending and getting rid of failed programs will let you keep more of your own money to save, spend and invest as you see fit.

For workers in industries that have been hard hit, we'll help make up part of the difference in wages between their old job and a temporary, lower-paid one while they receive retraining that will help them find secure new employment at a decent wage. [Is this a loan or a gift? Guarantee of work? Wage supports? What party does McCain belong to again?]

Education is the civil rights issue of this century. [Not the right to vote? The right to sit on any bench and drink from any water fountain? The right not to be imprisoned without due process of law or even habeas corpus? The right to be presumed innocent until found guilt in a court of law?]

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school [unless there is no room, which is certain to be the case in cities, or unless there are no other schools, in more rural areas]. Some may choose a private one [i.e. religious one or government-supported home-schooling, since non-religious private schools are too expensive to be funded by vouchers anyway]. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity. [Unless of course, other societal causes of academic failure predominate, such as broken homes, indifferent parents, peer pressure, lack of a home reading culture, single parents, urban violence, hunger, poverty, language difficulties, migrant parents forced to move constantly in search of work or, in the case of undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children, to avoid being deported.]

Sen. Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I'm president, they will. [What unions? Teachers have a much higher approval rating than politicians do. And the main bureaucracy in education is controlled at the local level by school boards (with the one major exception of special education, which has strong and expensive government mandates, but perhaps Gov. Palin wants to remove these?) Maybe schools should be run directly from Washington? Or maybe the control desired is not quality but content of instruction, with local freedom to teach creationism or religion with taxpayer dollars?]

My fellow Americans, when I'm president, we're going to embark on the most ambitious national project in decades. We are going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much. [No more bribing Egypt $1.3 billion per year to honor a peace treaty with Israel, incidently a lot less money than we would have to give to Israel to defend itself otherwise.] We will attack the problem on every front. We will produce more energy at home. [Goverment subsidies?] We will drill new wells offshore, and we'll drill them now [with the oil sold at world prices to China. After all, these are private oil companies, or does McCain plan to nationalize them?] We will build more nuclear power plants [although the economics of this are far from clear: according to Robert D. Glynn Jr., the chairman of Pacific Gas & Electric in San Francisco, "To order a new nuclear plant today, you'd have to be crazy."] We will develop clean coal technology [no such thing]. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We will encourage the development and use of flex-fuel [water and crop-intensive], hybrid and electric automobiles [solutions for global warming perhaps, but not energy independence. Oh, did someone forget the most obvious and effective measures of all: conservation, higher fuel efficiency standards, investment in public transportation, and yes, inflating your tires?]

Sen. Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power [no he doesn't, nor does anyone else. According to Gov. Palin herself, such a goal is not possible for a country as energy-hungry as the US: "Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems — as if we all didn't know that already."]. But Americans know better than that. We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and to restore the health of our planet. [Maybe he should check with his Vice-Presidential nominee, who had just gotten done saying the night before (and rather snidely too, if I can say that without being accused of sexism or "media bias"): "what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet?"] It's an ambitious plan, but Americans are ambitious by nature, and we have faced greater challenges. It's time for us to show the world again how Americans lead. [Shouldn't we make sure the rest of the world wants to follow? Maybe we should take the log out of our own eye before leading the Europeans, who are way out in front of us on environmental policy.]

We have dealt a serious blow to al-Qaida in recent years [in Afghanistan, although they are regrouping while we fritter our money and troops away in Iraq, where al-Qaida never had a real presence]. But they are not defeated, and they'll strike us again if they can. Iran remains the chief state sponsor of terrorism and on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons [aided by our loss of credibility over WMD in Iraq]. Russia's leaders, rich with oil wealth [a little Republican irony here] and corrupt with power, have rejected democratic ideals [yet enjoy strong popular backing after the kleptocracy we helped to create after the fall of the Soviet Union] and the obligations of a responsible power [i.e. they want to project their power as we do ours]. They invaded a small, democratic neighbor [which awkwardly has its own domestic ethnic division and oppression, reflected in the nationalist drive to keep "Georgia for the Georgians"] to gain more control over the world's oil supply [as opposed to say the Saudis?], intimidate other neighbors [as we do with sanctions], and further their ambitions of reassembling the Russian empire. And the brave people of Georgia need our solidarity and prayers [but not South Ossetians, Abkhazians, Kurds, Roma, or other stateless people?]. As President, I will work to establish good relations with Russia so we need not fear a return of the Cold War [which naturally would require that both sides' needs are satisfied]. But we can't turn a blind eye to aggression and international lawlessness that threatens the peace and stability of the world and the security of the American people.

We face many threats in this dangerous world, but I'm not afraid of them. [Then George W. Bush has not done his job!] I'm prepared for them. I know how the military works, what it can do, what it can do better [like give up its lust of multibillion dollar cold-war-era weapon systems?], and what it should not do [like nation building or regime change?]. I know how the world works. I know the good and the evil in it [I'm glad you're omniscient. Just please don't look into Putin's soul, ok?]. I know how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don't. I know how to secure the peace. [Here's one way: strengthen our alliances instead of alienating them with "old Europe" talk.]

We need to change the way government does almost everything.... [Whoa! A little reality check is in order. You have a country sharply divided along religious, regional, political, and class faultlines, with an aging baby boomer majority population interested in investing in only two things (their own retirement and health care) and a crumbling infrastructure resulting from the lowest taxes by far in the developed Western World. Perhaps a little focus and less ambitious agenda might be more productive?]

The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn't a cause, it's a symptom. It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not you. [If only! It's what happens when group A and group B have profoundly (and often legitimately) differing views on our social contract, and elect political representatives that attempt to accurately reflect the views of their constituents.]

Again and again, I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That's how I will govern as president. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Sen. Obama does not. [Actually, we all have scars from eight years of an Administration catering to 51% of the population, with reckless contempt for the other 49%. It is a little unfair to expect bipartisanship to break out until we get our 8 years in office to undo the damage. To the barricades...]

I've been an imperfect servant....And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God. [Truly, John, you had me 8 paragraphs ago. Let me stipulate here and now unequivocally how much respect I have for your personal sacrifice in Vietnam. I know of no one who disagrees with this statement. I will not even quibble with your having made this the dominant justification of your candidacy (along with the Mr. Smith Goes To Washington fantasy). I certainly have neither the standing nor the desire to refute it, but hope you will understand that I do not consider it sufficient reason to vote for you.]

If you find faults with our country, make it a better one [I intend to with my vote on Election Day]. If you're disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our armed forces [or Peace Corps, as I did!]. Become a teacher [as my husband did!]. Run for public office [can't, people won't vote for a gay atheist]. Defend the rights of the oppressed [like gays and lesbians?]. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier [though I doubt that Gov. Palin or her supporters will!].

I'm going to fight for my cause every day as your president. I'm going to fight to make sure every American has every reason to thank God, as I thank him: that I'm an American [also, God, thanks for making me a man, as the Arabs say, and decently well off and intelligent, and white, and having my education paid for by self-sacrificing parents, and all the other "privileges" I have You to thank for that make me better than lesser mortals in the hierarchy of divine favoritism], a proud citizen of the greatest country on Earth [surely everyone on Earth can agree on this!], and with hard work, strong faith [in a Christian God] and a little courage, great things are always within our reach. Fight with me. Fight with me.

Trust me, John McCain. I will fight with you. With this blog, with my vote, with my very soul. Your party platform is toxic to my being, its beliefs anathema to my own. Your affiliation with the GOP has already established my opposition to your cause.

Not to worry. Your inspired choice of Gov. Palin will more than compensate you with lots of passionate new friends you never knew you had. Enjoy them with God's blessings. And if you should win, please believe me...I wish you a long and healthy Presidency!