Raging Against The Hate Machine

In light of this:

“the Republican platform included language rejecting not just same-sex marriage but also the watered-down alternative that many elected officials find more palatable: civil unions. The GOP platform committee also defeated a proposed amendment that said all Americans should be treated “equally under the law” as long as they’re not hurting anyone else.”

I present this:

In Which I Am Insulted, But Not Named

I was totally going to respond to Treasure State Politics accusation that (without naming me or this blog directly- afraid to catch or promote The Gay?) I am a flippant, hasty writer and I see bigotry where there’s only the desire to discuss judicial activism.

Well, Pogie beat me to it.

In a post entitled: The Future of the Republican Party: A Commitment to Homophobia?, Don Pogreba writes:

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It’s always both disheartening and a bit amusing watching conservatives contort themselves to justify discrimination against GLBT Americans, especially when it comes to marriage equality. They couch their arguments in specious claims about judicial activism, but the truth is, their position rests on the bigoted idea that a group of people can be denied equal protection under the law simply because some people are uncomfortable with relationships that are different from their own.

The latest example? The media darlings and deep thinkers at Treasure State Politics.

When this is your argument, you’re in trouble:

“I understand it is vital for every citizen, no matter their personal choices, to be guaranteed the same rights under our laws. Marriage isn’t a right, it’s a tradition. When a court begins to compromise the meaning of marriage that Montanans have overwhelmingly agreed on, the reverence of marriage can be quickly destroyed.”

The Supreme Court has disagreed with the idea that marriage is not a right, most specifically in the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision, which outlawed anti-miscegenation laws. As the majority wrote:

“The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men …”

To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.

Read the whole thing- it’s fantastic.
There are, however, a couple of NYAH-NYAH points I would like to make to Mr Shannon’s insistence that he wasn’t trying to denigrate LGBT persons:
  • When you begin by comparing same-sex marriage to polygamy, that’s offensive.
  • When you say that marriage is a tradition and not a right, not only are you wrong according to the Supreme Court (see Pogreba’s discussion above), you miss the point. Traditions change. For examples, see the following: slavery, women’s suffrage, military conscription, prohibition, comma usage, etc
  • When you bemoan “activist judges” and “legislating from the bench”, you simply are using terms to couch the infantile feelings that you didn’t get what you wanted from the ruling(s).
  • When you insist that you didn’t want to have a discussion about LGBT rights by denigrating same-sex marriage, you are ridiculous.
  • And by writing this crazy pants rebuttal, you prove my point entirely.
Next time, please don’t be afraid to name me or this blog. I don’t like being called out behind my back. It’s cheap.
And by the way, this post took me 24 minutes to write.
Hasty writer, indeed….

Hope for MT? : Commonwealth Countries Asked To Decriminalize Gays

Leaders of Commonwealth countries will be asked to decriminalise homosexuality to help to stop the spread of HIV, an Australian official has said.

Forty-one of the 53 Commonwealth countries – including Uganda, Zimbabwe and Ghana – still criminalise gay sex and HIV campaigners say such laws are seriously hampering safe sex initiatives.

The 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in Perth, Australia from 28-30 October.

CHOGM 2011 will bring together more than 50 world leaders representing approximately one-quarter of the world’s countries and one-third of the world’s population. The meetings originated with the of the leaders of the self-governing colonies of the British Empire in 1887- and still has great influence in setting human rights policy throughout the world.

Sodomy laws in the US were invalidated by The U.S. Supreme Court in the ruling of Lawrence vs. Texas in 2003. However, several states- including Montana- still keep these shameful and impotent laws on the books- despite reasonable efforts to remove them- presumably as a slap in the face to the “Uppity Gays”. And yes, I will mention (Again!) that the Official Montana Republican Platform still calls for the criminalization of homosexual acts.

Will this meeting in Australia have an effect in Montana?

Probably not- at least not directly. I suspect this will not be seen as a discussion of human rights, but as a discussion of disease and epidemics- at least at first. And if the last legislative session is any indication, the zenophobes in charge of Montana’s legislative agenda will see it as unimportant (and non-applicable) world politics that don’t apply here.

But any progress is good progress- and this is progress- this discussion has never happened at this world level before- and it eventually filters through. Even to Montana.

I just hope I live to see it.

Perspective Blindness

By Bart Vogelzang | VANCOUVER ISLAND, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA — We have recently seen some strong examples of perspective blindness; that is, not being able to see something because our perception of something ‘distant’ is obscured by something closer to us.

Most of us have heard the expression “can’t see the forest for the trees” but that is only the tip of the issue. Physically it happens all the time that we cannot see something further away because something closer to us obscures the view. In fact, kids even make a game of it, putting their fingers in front of their eyes to not see something. Your view from your windscreen can be obscured by something dangling from your mirror (which is why you are not supposed to drive with a handicap placard), or your passenger’s head may obscure the view out the side window, leaving you with a major blind spot when changing lanes. For that matter, the frames on your sunglasses might take away enough of your view that you don’t see something vital.
Sadly though, perspective blindness is not just physical in nature, but also mental and emotional. We can see the overall picture of starving children and adults in Somalia, but the nearness of our own worries about our next paycheck obscures it from our view. We see and cheer the drive for freedom in Libya, but it only takes a relatively moderate earthquake to make it all disappear from our consciousness. We feel sad and upset at the near loss or actual loss of a revered politician, but a freak storm in our own town completely negates all that angst and upset and we focus on the nearer and more prominent disaster immediately next to us.
This perspective blindness is a good thing, a survival instinct, which insists that nearby is more urgent than distant, more important as it could affect us right now, as opposed to some time in the future. However, it is also a very bad thing, because we don’t live our lives in little pockets of nearness, but live it in the overall world, interacting with all the various people surrounding us, both near and far. To not see the distant problems means not dealing with them, and that spells long term catastrophe, or at best, suffering. We need to make sure that we look away from our immediate surroundings and needs, at the more distant ones. We need to see developments before they become dangerous to our welfare.
The LGBTQ community is suffering from this perspective blindness to a huge degree-
We are wrapped up in our own personal angst, with bullies, family condemnation, ignorant remarks, seeking a loving partner, getting married, etc. What we are not seeing is the systematic attack being mounted by the conservative religious rightwing zealots, who are slyly using false and slanted language whenever they talk about homosexuality. We are not seeing their attempts to erode our support, with lies, faked reports and phony statistics. We are not noticing their efforts at changing laws, replacing politicians, and removing judges. Sure, the odd one of us does, probably because an incident is close to home, but for the most part nobody notices.
When Montana screws with their citizens’ rights, it is NOT just their problem, but only they seem to notice. When Maine is in a struggle for equality, is it NOT just their problem. When an idiot Governor holds ludicrous prayer meetings it is NOT just affecting that state, it is affecting everyone.
We need to clear our localized perspective away from our eyes, see the bigger picture, and deal with the greater issues which are coming to meet us; and they will come to meet us, whether we see them or not. If we don’t fix our perspective and deal with things, we will all pay the price. What we need to do, quite simply said, is take ANY attack on any one of us as being a personal one, and respond with all the strength and vehemence as if it was happening right now, to ourselves

Off To The Rodeo

It’s not 40 below, but I do have a heater in the Bofus, so I’m off to the Rodeo- once known as the Montana Legislature, to speak in opposition to HB 516 (see previous post).

There are a lot of reasons to oppose this bill. Don Pogreba gives us more to think about from Intelligent Discontent:

One of the elements of Western movies that always puzzled me was the frequent assertion that no one in the West cared where a person had come from; all that mattered was the person they were in their new community. Growing up in relatively small towns like Shelby and Laurel, it seemed that the exact opposite was true. When someone new came to town, we wanted to know everything about him or her and we pried like hell to find out whatever we could. But the other half of the story was true: once that person arrived, all we cared about was that the new person did her job, treated her neighbors well, and shoveled her walk in the winter.

Once you became part of our town, your private life was your private life, and it wasn’t anybody’s business who you loved and/or slept with.

People like Harris Himes and and Dallas Erickson never seemed to learn that, though. For reasons that perhaps only a trained psychiatrist could explain, they seem obsessed with who someone sleeps with, and quite uncomfortably, how they do it. They hate people who are gay, lesbian, or transgender so much that they’ll lie about them, spew vicious invective at them, and even suggest that the death penalty would be appropriate for the crime of loving someone of the same sex.

Perfect. Read the rest here.

Oh, and while you’re at it, check out his piece on Montana Education. Excellent points, all.

An Evening With Dustin Lance Black

I have to admit, I went in completely biased.

Like many of you, I watched the Academy Award acceptance speech with tears in my eyes.

“…if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, or by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.”

Like I said, completely smitten biased.

But when he began talking about not settling for “close, but not there”, and not giving up on the vision of panoramic human rights, and overcoming the paralysis of fear- “put your pencil on the paper and start moving it- something has to happen”, I knew my predisposition toward this gentle, fiery soul was completely justified. He talked not so much about activism as the promotion of reality- the reality that LGBT people are everywhere, they just want to love and be loved, and they’re not going away. And he’s right. We aren’t.

Unless we give up.

I sat in a full Ballroom at Montana State university with students, teachers, parents, cowboys and a few kids. This was a crowd that could have been distributed down Main Street, Bozeman, and it wouldn’t have seemed different from the normal pedestrian traffic. People listened to this young man- whose story of a rural Mormon upbringing probably hit close to home to many in the audience, with rapt attention punctuated by laughter and enthusiastic applause. Here was a non-apologetic gay man standing in front of a group in a (generally) conservative state whose constitution explicitly prohibits him from full equality, and his story was received respectfully, even enthusiastically. His story and vision no different from my own.

I then had a realization.

It wasn’t new, it had been knocking on the back door of my brain for a while, but I was now able to hear it. It was this:

I had turned all these people into the bullies from my childhood and young adulthood. I had created an enemy/threat out of people who were probably neither. I was projecting. (The irony of my professional blind spot is not lost on me here) I had imposed my childhood fears on (almost) every Montanan- and I’m not a child. I had allowed this weird, unarticulated fear to hold me back.

I don’t want to do that anymore. So I’m going to pay attention to the injustice sensor whenever it goes off- not just when it’s safe. That was my gift from Dustin Lance Black.

Well, one of them.

He answered my question about religion’s scarring of some LGBT’s with “every religion has something important to say. Mine taught me love and respect of family. …but religion is not its leaders. I wouldn’t listen to the leaders all the time. And anger and hurt about religion didn’t keep me from being spiritual.” He talked with people afterward, meeting every one who waited to see him. Of course, I stood in line.

I got a hug, a brief chat about my crazy life story and was able to thank him for his availability and candor. He thanked me right back. Gracious. From the word grace, meaning “elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action”.

Elegant activism. I think I can do that.

Thanks, Lance.



2010- When Official Republican Persecution and Bigotry Went Unchecked

For me, 2010 is/was about Republican political shaming of The Gays. The Montana GOP approved a platform which included this blatant piece of ignorance and bigotry:

We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.

And, despite the fuss I made, that others made,  the discomfort from one Montana Republican leader (no leader of the Democrats said a word), the platform plank is still there. No one really paid much attention. Despite my letters to elected officials, to the Log Cabin Republicans, to advocacy groups, no one really paid much attention. fact, I only got one lukewarm response- from GLAAD. The issue got mentioned a few times- including once by Rachel Maddow, then it seems, was forgotten.

It’s sad. It’s even more sad when you figure the Texas GOP into the equation. They, too have a “Jail The Gays” plank.

Why can’t we get it together?

I tried to make the case that “Montana Matters“- a few nibbles, a few more voices added to the chorus, but still, nothing changed. I’m not sure I should be surprised, but it doesn’t keep me from being disappointed. I want us to be better than that. I want the LGBT community to speak out against this with one voice. I want Republican allies and Log Cabin Republicans to take a stand. I want straight allies and parents of LGBT children to speak up. I want Democrats to see this for what it is: blatant persecution and bigotry- and do something about it. I want to live in a world- or at least a state, where ugliness and hate don’t win- not even one round.

I know. As my mother says “..and people in hell want ice water.”

But they won this one. Again, I remind you, nothing changed. That plank is still there. In both states. Despite the amazing victories we’ve had this year, despite the DADT repeal, despite the increased awareness of anti-LGBT bullying, despite the increased polling numbers for same-sex marriage, despite the popularity of Glee- institutionalized homophobia is alive and well.

They got away with it. 

My resolution for 2011 is this: I will work to bring liberty and justice for all- even in the so-called “flyover” states. Because this phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t true yet. Because the erosion of our humanity is happening right in front of our noses- and I find it troubling, offensive, perverse and distinctively Un-American.

Don’t you?

10 Lies About the LGBT Community Perpetuated By the Christian Right

An excellent post by Kathy on Canyonwalker Connections. Excerpt:

“I find it exceedingly sad that the State is leading the charge for social justice when God told His people over 2,700 years ago in the book of Isaiah to “spend” themselves on justice issues. (Isaiah 58: 6-12)  The courts are now leading the way to end this inequality. It should have been Christians churches.  We have been here before on the issues of equality for women and Black Americans. God help us; Your people betrayed a mandate and used Your name to validate discrimination.”

Read the full post here.

Like I said, it’s excellent.

No More Smear The Queer

In a short note to me this weekend, my friend and colleague Brody Levesque shared a personal thought about this election cycle that stopped me:

“I just cannot get over how hateful some of the rhetoric is this time out. In 31 years of being a political reporter, I can’t remember seeing it this bad.”

Wow. Maybe I’m becoming inured or cynical, or maybe I’ve been too busy defending my own turf to make comparisons. But, I wonder if he’s right. When have we had stompings, regular threats of murder, bullying, rallies for hate, such blatant lies, ignorance in campaigns and reactionary forces being such a force in our country since the sixties? Maybe, but I don’t remember it. Feel free to remind me.

What strikes me is the ease with which the populace has accepted this shit. How easy I accepted it. Hmmm. Let’s look something up.

Hate: Etymology: Middle English, from Old English hete; akin to Old High German haz hate, Greek: kedos, care. Date: before 12th century; noun, intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.

See the word “fear”?  Just hold onto it for a minute. I’m going to digress slightly, but we’ll get back to this. Promise.

There is one thing that drives American culture more than anything else, and that thing is money.

The Complete Culture of Capitalism has some gruesome side-effects. People with a lot of money have influence and they get whatever they want with little or no accountability, and when they band together, they run the country (see Haliburton). The people with less money have very little influence and they rarely get what they want, even though they outnumber the rich. Why? Because the rich play the fear game. They divide us into opposing groups: Liberal and Conservative, gay and straight, moral and immoral, rich and poor, urban and rural, christian and heathen. They then teach us how to hate each other because our values are being threatened by “the other”. They do that because they have the money to do it, and like a child pitting two divorced parents against each other in order to get what they want, they stand back and watch us fight. Smugly.

This fighting and drama is all a distraction from the real issue, which is, as you probably guessed- money.  The only problem with the divorced parents and child analogy is this: the child is really a changeling, a cuckoo. It is not their child, not really their responsibility at all. But the masquerade has been conducted so well that, even when faced by the truth, the parents refuse to accept it.

It’s a simple thing, but a complicated concept. Economics has more schools of thought that political science. But it made me wonder. On a single issue, fighting the gays, some friends of a friend casually wondered about the amount of money the Christian Right has spent over the last 3 decades- from Harvey Milk’s election in 1977 to the present day. It became kind of a fun project for them, and they worked for a while and came up with a conservative figure (pun intended) of 1.4 billion. That goes from before Anita Bryant well beyond the opposition of Prop 8.

Well over a billion dollars. And that was a simple figure. Makes me wonder what a serious graduate student or economist could do with this project.

Almost one and a half billion dollars. That may or may not include pastor’s salaries, plane tickets, gas, power bills, office supplies, etc. That to me, is a campaign to fight fear.

What exactly is fear? I think we take it for granted. Quite simply, fear is what happens when you think you’re going to get something you don’t want. That’s what I’m going to point out. The Christian Right has given up civil discourse in favor of missionary zeal to fight something they think they won’t want- and not only that, they have done it by lying. They perpetuate the ideology before the person.  They have de-humanized “The Homosexuals”, for a very simple reason: there is no need to be civil if gays are less than human. It becomes acceptable in schools to bully and “smear the queer.” Do unto others doesn’t count if you’re not talking about real people. It becomes a moral imperative to be hateful and cruel- the irony of all ironies within a Christian context….

So what’s our job? I think there are mainly two right now.

Show Them The Money.
Facts are facts. I don’t think the average American knows how much money has been spent in smearing the queer. Show the people in the pews exactly how much money they have spent in keeping other human beings down.If polls are any indication, the number of people who want us to have equal rights are not outnumbered by those who don’t. The naysayers are just spending more money. And they are spending it in the name of everyone they represent, with or without their permission. Local and national politicians, PACs, even entire denominations and corporations are contributing money to prevent equal rights. I think that if the people knew how much money was being spent in their name, it wouldn’t happen so easily. Accountability would be more highly sought and touted.  8: The Mormon Proposition was on the right track, but it didn’t go far enough. Prop 8 is just the latest and most widely publicized fight in over 40 years of political and social struggling. Our job is to call this funding what it is: prejudice and bigotry. And no matter how they try to hide this money (and hiding is just a way they show they know it’s wrong) we must work to find it. (Where are you, gay economists and forensic accountants?)

Come Out.
Come out as far as you feel you can, and support others when they come out.Reclaim our humanity in the eyes of our oppressors. Harvey Milk said this:

“I cannot prevent some people from feeling angry and frustrated and mad, but I hope they will take that frustration and that madness and instead of demonstrating or anything of that type, I would hope they would take the power and I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay doctor come out, every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let that world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody would imagine. I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights.”

We have to be real. We have to be human. Our job is to be visible, to be teachers, to show our  families, our neighbors, our  churches, our communities and our nation that we are not monsters. We are not the antichrist. We are human beings with feelings and families and jobs and faith. We know fear and pain and loss. We know joy and love and happiness. We are people who love. We are not a threat to anyone’s marriage or faith or family. Personally, I think my most important jobs is to teach other human beings how to love what they do not understand.

This all boils down to the same thing: the unifying principle of humanity. Most people aren’t interested in oppressing other people. Those that seem to be are lost in the rhetoric that LGBT’s are not human beings. It’s our job to show them that we are. Shakespeare wrote one of the first and most beautiful pleas for civil rights and equality in The Merchant Of Venice, when Shylock, a Jew, finally responds to the blatant prejudice of his day:

“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”

Like Shylock, we have to continually remind the world of our humanity until any rhetoric to the contrary becomes powerless. Until Smear The Queer is no longer played on our playgrounds and in our elections. Unlike Shakespeare, I am not justifying revenge. In fact, I want just the opposite. I’m suggesting militant understanding and sanity. Sanity through honesty, intelligence, perseverance and diligence. We have to stand up and speak when we’re told to sit down and shut up. We have to rebuff the anger and fear with the truth. We have to. Now more than ever.

The most important candidate in this election is fear. And it’s our job to oppose it and expose it for what it really is- a dehumanizing cuckoo.

The only thing we have to lose is our humanity.