Today’s Must-Read: Richard Blanco

If you’re haunted sometimes by memories of “gay terror” from your childhood- especially when it involved family- this essay is for you. In reading it, I recognized so much of the familiar and long-past memories of shame and fear that molded me, that sent me- much later- into the world with clearer purpose. I also recognized the stories of clients and friends- and not just gay friends- many of us eventually disappointed or confused the people who raised us….

Excerpt:

At thirty-one, I sit at a candlelit table across from the man who will be my husband. I tell him about my grandmother and the coping mechanisms I developed; how they naturally led me to writing; mechanisms that became part of my very creative process. Becoming withdrawn and introverted, I grew to become an observer of the world, instead of a participant. In order to survive emotionally I learned to read my environment very carefully and then craft appropriate responses that would (hopefully) prevent abuse and ridicule from my grandmother. I explain to my husband-to-be that I am still that quiet, repressed boy whenever I am in a room full of people, trying to be as invisible as possible, but taking in every detail, sensory as well as emotional, that will eventually surface in a poem.

My work is often described as vivid and lush; relatives often marvel at my recollection in my poems of family events and details. Qualities I attribute directly to the skills spawned from my coping with my abuse. But beyond that, I’ve come to understand why writing and me became such a great fit. It allowed me to participate in the world, to feel alive, while remaining an invulnerable observer, safe in my room, at my desk, in my imagination where no one, especially my grandmother, could hurt me.

It’s beautiful and humble and brilliant. Please read the full essay here. And then, in case you missed it, watch Richard Blanco read his lovely poem at the president’s inauguration yesterday.

Presidential Proclamation for World AIDS Day 2012

WORLD AIDS DAY, 2012

- – – – – – -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

On World AIDS Day, more than 30 years after the first cases of this tragic illness were reported, we join the global community once more in standing with the millions of people who live with HIV/AIDS worldwide. We also recommit to preventing the spread of this disease, fighting the stigma associated with infection, and ending this pandemic once and for all.

In 2010, my Administration released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, our Nation’s first comprehensive plan to fight the domestic epidemic. The Strategy aims to reduce new infections, increase access to care, reduce health disparities, and achieve a more coordinated national response to HIV/AIDS here in the United States. To meet these goals, we are advancing HIV/AIDS education; connecting stakeholders throughout the public, private, and non-profit sectors; and investing in promising research that can improve clinical outcomes and reduce the risk of transmission. Moving forward, we must continue to focus on populations with the highest HIV disparities — including gay men, and African American and Latino communities — and scale up effective, evidence-based interventions to prevent and treat HIV. We are also implementing the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded access to HIV testing and will ensure that all Americans, including those living with HIV/AIDS, have access to health insurance beginning in 2014.

These actions are bringing us closer to an AIDS-free generation at home and abroad — a goal that, while ambitious, is within sight. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we are on track to meet the HIV prevention and treatment targets I set last year. We are working with partners at home and abroad to reduce new infections in adults, help people with HIV/AIDS live longer, prevent mother-to-child transmission, and support the global effort to eliminate new infections in children by 2015. And thanks to bipartisan action to lift the entry ban on persons living with HIV, we were proud to welcome leaders from around the world to the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.

Creating an AIDS-free generation is a shared responsibility. It requires commitment from partner countries, coupled with support from donors, civil society, people living with HIV, faith-based organizations, the private sector, foundations, and multilateral institutions. We stand at a tipping point in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and working together, we can realize our historic opportunity to bring that fight to an end.

Today, we reflect on the strides we have taken toward overcoming HIV/AIDS, honor those who have made our progress possible, and keep in our thoughts all those who have known the devastating consequences of this illness. The road toward an AIDS-free generation is long — but as we mark this important observance, let us also remember that if we move forward every day with the same passion, persistence, and drive that has brought us this far, we can reach our goal. We can beat this disease. On World AIDS Day, in memory of those no longer with us and in solidarity with all who carry on the fight, let us pledge to make that vision a reality.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States do hereby proclaim December 1, 2012, as World AIDS Day. I urge the Governors of the States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of the other territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and the American people to join me in appropriate activities to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS and to provide support and comfort to those living with this disease.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

BARACK OBAMA

Catholics And The “Kill The Gays” Bill

From New Ways Ministry Blog:

Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill, which would impose the death penalty on certain people convicted of having sexual relations with a person of the same sex, seems poised for passage soon.

The Associated Press reports that Rebecca Kadaga (pictured, left), Uganda’s Parliamentary Speaker, announced yesterday that the bill will be going forward for a vote in the next few weeks:

“Ugandans ‘are demanding it,’ she said, reiterating a promise she made before a meeting on Friday of anti-gay activists who spoke of ‘the serious threat’ posed by homosexuals to Uganda’s children. Some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as ‘a Christmas gift.’

“ ‘Speaker, we cannot sit back while such (a) destructive phenomenon is taking place in our nation,’ the activists said in a petition. ‘We therefore, as responsible citizens, feel duty-bound to bring this matter to your attention as the leader of Parliament … so that lawmakers can do something to quickly address the deteriorating situation in our nation.’ ”

report in The Advocate notes that the bill can be put to a vote in a matter of two weeks.

news story in the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News provides some background on the criminal status of homosexuality in Uganda, as well as what the proposed law would mandate:

“Even without the law, Uganda already has laws that criminalize homosexuality and is one of 76 countries where it is illegal to be gay. The proposed law would broaden existing laws, and includes the death penalty to those convicted of aggravated homosexuality and life imprisonment for those convicted of the offense of homosexuality.

“Aggravated homosexuality is defined as gay acts committed by parents or authority figures, HIV-positive people, pedophiles and repeat offenders.

“Offense of homosexuality is defined as same-sex sexual acts or being involved in a same-sex relationship.”

Shamefully silent on this bill have been the Catholic bishops of Uganda, a heavily Catholic nation.  Indeed, earlier this summer it was reported that the Catholic bishops reversed their position from quiet opposition to the bill to outright support for it.

Catholic leaders in the U.S. have spoken in opposition to the bill, including Ambassador Thomas P. Melady, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.  President Barack Obama has called the bill “odious.”

More Catholic voices will be needed to defeat this horrendous law.  Indeed, in July Ugandan LGBT rights advocatescalled on the international community, including religious leaders, to lend their voices to oppose the bill.

Catholic bishops here in the United States and Vatican leaders in Rome need to lend their voices to international opposition to the proposed law.  Silence is not an option at this point.  Too many innocent lives hang in the balance.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Political Science Says “A Romney Presidency Would Be Doomed”

Jack Balkin, writing for The Atlantic, applies theories of political science regarding a Romney presidency. Excerpt:

U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present (not usua...

U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present (not usually called a “standard” in official U.S. government terminology). It is defined in Executive Order 10860. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The predicament of a Romney presidency is that he may make George W. Bush look good by comparison. During most of Bush’s eight years in office, the Republican Party was united and willing to follow his lead. Romney will not be so lucky. The party he heads has become so rigid, radical, and unrealistic that, despite his best efforts, he may end up as the last of the Reagan-era Republican leaders — a disjunctive president like John Quincy Adams, James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover, or Jimmy Carter.

Republican partisans have often compared Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter, but Obama’s situation is quite different from Carter’s. Like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama is a Democrat swimming against the current of Reagan-era Republican politics. Carter, by contrast, took office as the defender of an exhausted New Deal Democratic regime; he offered himself as a problem-solving pragmatist who would get the country moving again. He tried to fix the New Deal coalition but found it beyond repair.

The next Jimmy Carter will be a Republican president — a Republican who, due to circumstances beyond his control, unwittingly presides over the dissolution of the Reagan coalition. If Obama is reelected, we might decide in hindsight that George W. Bush best fits that description. But if Obama loses, the president who finally unravels Reaganism could turn out to be Mitt Romney.

 Very interesting. The theories of “Reconstructionist”, “Disjunctive” and “Affilliated” presidencies is a fascinating one- filled with historical precedent. And he’s planning to use the same theories to evaluate the possible Obama second term- I’m looking forward to it.

Read the article here.

SaltLake Tribune Endorses Obama

…and in one of the most comprehensively reasoned endorsements I’ve seen in a long time. Money quote:

Marquee of The Salt Lake Tribune on the Tribun...

“In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.

Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.”

Read it all here. 

It’s good.

Voting On Deficit? It’s Lower Now than 3 Years Ago- By $1.089 Trillion

From Maddow Blog:

Late Friday afternoon, the Treasury Department published the official report on the U.S. budget deficit for the most recent fiscal year: $1.089 trillion. While that’s obviously still a very large budget shortfall, the deficit is $200 billion smaller than it was last year, and is nearly $300 billion smaller than when President Obama took office.

To add a little historical context to this, over the last four decades, only two presidents have reduced the deficit this much, this quickly: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Steve Benen explains:

As the job market improves and unemployment falls, one of the central attacks from Romney/Ryan against President Obama has to do with the deficit. The attack overlooks Paul Ryan’s role in creating the massive deficit, the inconvenient fact that Romney hasn’t presented a deficit-reduction plan, and the problem that the Romney/Ryan agenda would appear to make the deficit significantly worse, but that’s their story and they’re sticking to it.

It’s worth noting, then, that as of today, the U.S. federal budget deficit has shrunk — a lot.

I put together this new chart reflecting the deficit over the course of the last four years. It starts with the figures released in 2009, when the deficit reached a record high of $1.4 trillion. Why is the column in red? Because, thanks to fiscal years, Obama inherited a deficit of nearly $1.3 trillion from Bush/Cheney the moment he took the oath of office.

This year, however, according to the official data published by the Treasury Department, the deficit was $1.089 trillion.

More here

Obama Will Be “Democrats’ Ronald Reagan” If Re-Elected

So says Andrew Sullivan in this article. I tend to agree.

“If Obama wins, to put it bluntly, he will become the Democrats’ Reagan. The narrative writes itself. He will emerge as an iconic figure who struggled through a recession and a terrorized world, reshaping the economy within it, passing universal health care, strafing the ranks of al -Qaeda, presiding over a civil-rights revolution, and then enjoying the fruits of the recovery. To be sure, the Obama recovery isn’t likely to have the same oomph as the one associated with Reagan—who benefited from a once-in-a-century cut of top income tax rates (from 70 percent to, at first, 50 percent, and then to 28 percent) as well as a huge jump in defense spending at a time when the national debt was much, much less of a burden. But Obama’s potential for Reagan status (maybe minus the airport-naming) is real. Yes, Bill Clinton won two terms and is a brilliant pol bar none, as he showed in Charlotte in the best speech of both conventions. But the crisis Obama faced on his first day—like the one Reagan faced—was far deeper than anything Clinton confronted, and the future upside therefore is much greater. And unlike Clinton’s constant triangulating improvisation, Obama has been playing a long, strategic game from the very start—a long game that will only truly pay off if he gets eight full years to see it through. That game is not only changing America. It may also bring his opposition, the GOP, back to the center, just as Reagan indelibly moved the Democrats away from the far left.”

Read it all for yourself here.

Help Inlaws & Outlaws Make It To Public TV!

One of the best (and most elegant) pieces of human understanding and compassion is Drew Emery’s film Inlaws & Outlaws. I’ve written about the Montana screenings we had this past spring and the fantastic impact it had on the audiences that gathered in Helena and Bozeman. It’s an amazing piece of work.

Now, this little gem has a chance for public distribution- and a better tool for compassion and understanding of gay relationships (and all relationships in my opinion) would be hard to find.

If everybody in America saw this film, opposition to marriage equality would melt away like a bad mood in a room full of puppies.

From the True Stories Project:

We’ve got terrific news! The National Education Telecommunications Association (NETA) has offered to distribute a full presentation of Inlaws & Outlaws on public television! That means that, if we act quickly, the film will be made available to virtually all public television stations in the US this Fall – including over 350+ PBS affiliates!

This is huge!

Public TV reaches over 117 million viewers a week. If we slice off even a modest amount of that, we’ll bring Inlaws & Outlaws to a much, much larger audience than it’s ever had. Just as same-sex marriage has finally arrived centerstage with President Obama’s support, we have the opportunity to reach millions of households with true stories we know change hearts & minds.

But to meet our deadline, we need your help — and we need it now.

We need our first $50,000 in underwriting by the end of September. Your support will pay for vital post-production for broadcast, closed captioning, station relations and more. Can you help?

You betcha. I’m in. Anybody else?

Donate here.