Friday, May 29, 2009

The Mormons and their "Image"

A Washington Post story today on the Mormon church's role in the anti-marriage equality fight included this:

A 2008 poll by Gary C. Lawrence, author of "How Americans View Mormonism: Seven Steps to Improve Our Image,"

Okay, stop right there. Hey Mormons. You want to improve your image? That's a pretty Earthly concern, don't you think? Did Jesus take a poll? Did He conduct focus groups? Consult Frank Luntz? Did He dial test the Sermon on the Mount?

But since it seems to be important to them, I have a suggestion. Mormons, if you want to have a better image, I think it's easy.

Be more Christ like!

As Garry Wills states, in his excellent book, "What Jesus Meant:"

Many would like to make the reign of Jesus belong to this political order. If they want the state to be politically Christian, they are not following Jesus, who says that his reign is not of that order...If people want to do battle for God, they cannot claim that Jesus has called them to this task, since he told Pilate that his ministers would not do that." (page 54).


What is the kind of religion Jesus opposed? Any religion that is proud of its virtue, like the boastful Pharisee. Any that is self-righteous, quick to judge and condemn, ready to impose burdens rather than share or lift them. Any that exalts its own officers, proud of its trappings, building expensive monuments to itself. Any that neglects the poor and cultivates the rich, any that scorns outcasts and flatters the rulers of this world." (page 77)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Marriage Equality - a Busy Day

Lots today on the marriage equality front.

All the major GLBT "activist" organizations counsel against filing federal lawsuits on marriage equality.

David Boies and Ted Olsen (yes, that Ted Olsen) file suit to do just that, claiming Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.

Meanwhile, more locally, some pastors announce plans for a referendum in DC on whether we will recognize same sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

Lots to digest. Meanwhile, there is a great discussion over at Pam's House Blend about the call for a moratorium on lawsuits by our "leaders" and the Olsen gambit. Don't just read the post, there's some great points made in the comments.

And, President Obama's spokesperson ducks and weaves on the issue. Perhaps he should consult a Constitutional law professor.

I'm mulling it all over. What do you think?

Republicans: Not a Political Party: It's an SNL Skit

I think after 2008 the GOP must have decided that trying to win elections and govern in today's troubled world was just too much of a drag. And they noticed how much everyone loved those SNL skits during the election. People hated Sarah Palin; but they loved Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin.

So I think they have secretly decided to mount a perpetual SNL satire in real time.

What else can explain:

1) The Michael Steele goofiness
2) The Bobby Jindal speech
3) Renaming the Democrats the "Democrat Socialist Party"
4) Rush
5) Newt
6) The Cheney self-parody

And now, this:

National Review Online's Mark Krikorian: "Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English... and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to."

The National Review? Really? You have stooped to this? William F. Buckley must be rolling in his grave.

It's all so lame it has to be a joke.


So it must no longer be about the votes. It's about ratings. They want us to laugh.

California Supreme Court Ruling

On balance, I actually see it as a plus.

The court didn't rule on the substance of marriage equality (other than we can have all the rights of marriage, just not the word marriage. While I think we have to claim the marriage word, and wonder if this is consistent with the court's previous ruling, I'll leave this one be for now).

And the reason I'll leave it be is that the court left the 18,000 couples who married while they could stay married. Their existence and daily lives among their neighbors and coworkers will help defuse this issue. They will help make gay marriage seem normal to those who find it alien. It helps set the stage for repealing Prop 8 at the ballot box, as surely it must be.

A victory at the ballot box is a stronger victory for us, it will have more positive implications nationally and robs the right of one of it's most relied upon crutches, the specter of "activist judges."

While a short-term disappointment, I think the stage was set for a long-term and stronger victory.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Harvey Milk Day: Recruiting Gays

I missed HM Day last week (May 22nd, what would have been his 79th birthday). Gay Politics offers some numbers worth highlighting:

Harvey was the fifth openly gay elected official in the United States. Today there are 440.

While that number is progress, it is only a small fraction of the more than 500,000 elected positions in the U.S. today (again, according to Gay Politics).

If you accept the standard theory that 10% of the population is LGBT then we are way under-represented. Hell, even if we're only 1% of the population is queer we're largely absent in elected office.

Unless you count the closeted Republicans.

All of which leads me to ask: Are the national LGBT "activist" organizations doing anything to recruit out LGBT candidates? I know there are PACs that support gay-and-ally candidates, but is there any organized effort to find and field such candidates?

It would seem a fitting way to remember Harvey, who began his speeches with the line, "I'm Harvey Milk, and I'm here to recruit you."

Same Sex Marriage: The Slide to Man on Dog

It's starting.

Opponents to same sex marriage have warned that recognition of same sex marriage was flouting God's law.

I'm already seeing the consequences in my aquarium.

This morning, I witnessed an unnatural crab-on-snail encounter. My hermit crab, Obi-Wan, had mounted one of the snails. "Uh-oh," I thought. "There goes the natural order of things." I watched in horror as Obi-Wan went for some hot slimy snail sex.

Actually, on second thought, I think he was just eating algae off the snail's shell.

Whew! A close call for the universe! But if the California Supreme Court overturns Prop 8 today, I'll be rushing back to my aquarium with great trepidation.

And if I get a hit on this page because someone googles "hot slimy snail sex" I am going to be very frightened.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Dallas Principles: A Call to Action

Put together 20-some gay activists frustrated by LGBT "activst" organizations that aren't and by Democrats who promise progress but don't deliver, you get the "Dallas Principles."

These activists met in Dallas over the past weekend and issued a call to action and underlying principals, bedrocked on accountability:

"Success is measured by the civil rights we all achieve, not by words, access or money raised."

While I don't support all of the group's specific policy goals (federal hate crimes legislation being exhibit one), our movement desperately needs the type of thinking, action and philosophy that are embodied in the Dallas Principles.

I should add that I don't know that the reason this group assembled was driven by frustration as I state it above -- I may be projecting my own frustration -- but their call to action is precisely needed because of those reasons.

Full Civil Rights. No Delays. No Excuses.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I got an email from Barack Obama

It said: Scott, I need your voice on health care.

Well, Barack. I need your action on Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Resistance is Futile

I look like I've been partially assimilated by the Borg. Actually, it's a 24-hour heart monitor. Despite the fact that I actually weigh less now than when I was in college and am in better shape at 44 than I was at 24 (yes, I'm bragging) my heart has decided to beat in mixed meter (irregularly, for you non music readers).

It's been going on for about a month now. I really don't think it's anything serious -- I've gone through some pretty strenuous workouts (see: body weight lower than college) and I'm still here. Still -- worth getting checked out.

The worst part about this is it messes up my workout routine. And they shaved my chest where the electrodes are.

Actually, she shaved my chest. The most sterile, uncaring nurse I've ever met. It was one of the most awkward feeling moments in my medical experience. She had me stand, hover over the trash can while she shaved me. It felt strangely humiliating. The few rectal exams I've endured felt less violating (and part of me saw it as a lost opportunity...this might have been fun with a male nurse).
My ticker is in all likelihood just fine. But the whole experience reminds me -- something's gonna get me eventually.
And resistance is futile.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Obama and the Gays

Some in the community have expressed disappointment that Obama hasn't expressed greater enthusiasm for the advancement of marriage equality in the states over the last few weeks. Well, that really shouldn't be a surprise -- Obama does not support gay marriage. He's a one man, one woman kind of guy. While we may hope otherwise, when it comes to gay marriage he's not so audacious.

So, don't be disappointed that he hasn't said, "I applaud Vermont for approving something I don't support." Take cold comfort in the fact that, at least on this issue, he is being consistent.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Torture in America

This morning I heard the Morning Joe anchorette -- the blond leggy talking head who seems to grace these shows -- say something like, "the people who are opposed to torture." This caught me up short. She so casually stated that America tortured people as if that were normal, and for the way it made those who oppose torture sound out of the mainstream.

Can it be that our generation's contribution to American history is the reversal of a policy in place since George Washington that America will not torture as a matter of officially accepted policy? Will we leave that stain on the shining city on the hill?

As Lady Macbeth would say: Out damned spot! Out I say.

And yet the spot remains. Who'd have thought there'd be so much blood in it?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Time Travel -- A Story of My Grandmother and My Son

Can everyday objects connect different people and different times?

The other morning, as I do every day, I opened the large brown ceramic bowl next to the coffee pot to pull out a package of splenda for my morning java. That bowl has served that purpose for almost 22 years, holding the artificial sugar that Dave and I put in our coffee to start the day.

I looked at that bowl and traveled through time.

Not literally, of course. But my mind went instantly to two places, one in the recent past and one in the (hopefully) distant future.

The past I thought of was immediately after my maternal grandmother's funeral 11 years ago.

After the service, we went to her house. My grandpa had died several years earlier and my grandmother spent the last months of her life in "a home," as they say. My mother had recently auctioned my grandparent's things off to help pay expenses. After the funeral, all that was left was an empty house, with a few scattered items the auctioneers didn't want. It looked like the place was ransacked.

That was hard. I spent some of the happiest moments of my childhood in that house, with them. I walked through its emptiness now, picking up the discarded items. And the memory of that made me think, that morning, looking at that brown sugar bowl, of the yearbook.

My grandma's high school yearbook, 1927, to be exact. I had discovered it sometime when I was a teenager and was transfixed. When I was in college I snatched it. I think I did tell her sometime that I had it, but I'm not sure.

I loved it because it was a link to my grandparents that somehow made them more, well, like me.

Yearbooks in the 1920s -- at least those from small, southeastern rural Ohio towns -- were mostly "do-it-yourself" affairs. You had to write in all the events and paste in your own snapshots. But the basics were the same -- highlights of the school year, pictures, friends writing in your book.

I learned, from the yearbook, that Grandma was Captain of her high school girls basketball team (Grandma played basketball?) Her team, according to her handwritten record, was 4-5 her senior year.

In a section labeled "Stunts, Doings and Jokes" she has written little tidbits that mean nothing to me, but must have been memorable to her. Why didn't I ask her when I had the chance?

This entry: "January 17, 1927: "You can't get away this time... Reva & Eva" (my grandmother was Eva and Reva was her best friend). What mischief were they up to?

And: "Remember always, July 4, 1926" Why? Was it a first kiss? A night with best friends? When she realized she was in love with my grandpa? What?

And speaking of my Grandpa, his photo is in here too, pasted in by my grandmother. It's a candid shot (and the last one in her yearbook) with him seated, collar crooked and hair (he had hair!) slicked back with a cocky smile on his face. I can look at it and only come to one conclusion: Grandpa was hot.

As I said, they wrote notes in their yearbooks, but they were all little poems that must have been well-known cliches at the time. My Grandpa wrote this in my Grandmother's yearbook:

Friendship is like a silken tie
That binds our hearts together
And if you never break the tie
We will be friends forever.

Someone with the initials "J.S.D." wrote the same poem, but apparently my Grandpa had it all over him, because the man my grandmother spent nearly the next 60 years with was not J.S.D. And I guess my grandparents were an item in school, because someone else wrote:

A pair in a hammock
Attempted to kiss
When all of a sudden
They went like [this]

In the book the the "this" is written upside down. And below it is written: "Pair = Eva and Forrest" -- my grandparents.

I love that little book. And I thought of it as I looked at that brown sugar bowl. I thought about her holding it, when the pages were white and not brown. When the memories were fresh like spring. When she was a serious girl with an ornery streak like you see in the picture of her with Reva. When she held the book as she wrote in it with long, slender smooth fingers not stained with age or warped by hard work. When she was young and full of hope. Before a Great Depression, a World War, the tragic death of her father and ill health turned her into an anxious old woman.

Boom. I looked at that sugar bowl, remembered the yearbook, and was connected to this young, dead woman.

But I also thought of the future.

The sugar bowl is a fixture in our kitchen and, unless it breaks, will likely be there until the end. When Dave and I are both gone, I imagined our son holding it, one of the "worthless" possessions left behind he will have to deal with. It doesn't contain the detailed memories of a yearbook, but oh, the many mornings that his Pappa and I began with our hands reaching for that little brown bowl. The many early morning conversations it lay a mute witness to.

When Grandma held that yearbook in her girlish hands I doubt she knew her grandson would pour lovingly over it 80 years later. When Eli holds that brown sugar bowl in his hands after we are gone I don't know if he'll envision all the mornings his Daddy and Pappa started their days with that dish. But in that one second, the other morning, all those events, past, present and future, were one.

Can everyday objects connect different people and times?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Obama's First 100 Days -- the Gay Perspective: Rainbow High

The Washington Blade (DC's weekly gay newspaper) headline this weekend is:

"High Marks for the President's First 100 Days"

The WashBlade asserts that "many activists" are "awarding President Obama high marks for his work in leading the country and addressing LGBT issues during his first 100 days."

The "activists" in question are leaders from HRC and the NGLTF.

Joe Solmonese lead activist of the Democrats HRC, would have praised Obama for moving on action items for the first 100 days his group submitted during the transition, including developing a plan to roll back Don't Ask Don't Tell. If Obama had actually moved on them (he hasn't). How Solmonese can give the administration"high marks" for not doing anything his organization asked him too seems a bit of a stretch. "Heckuva job, Brownie," anyone? Oh -- "high marks" Joe did praise Obama for appointing gay people to high positions. Okay, so Obama did the same thing my boss did -- he hired some gay folk.

I'm an Obama man and I give him high marks for his first 100 days. But not on gay issues. There his record is woefully incomplete. I'm willing to give him time -- and he's had a lot of things to deal with -- but history and our gay rights organization's tendency to think they're front groups for the Democrats instead of civil rights activist organizations makes me nervous. Their reaction to his inaction reinforces my nervousness. I think a more realistic analysis of his record on gay issues is 0. Here's the chart to prove it.

But let's look at the Gay Republican analysis of the first 100 days.

Jimmy LaSalvia, who is executive director of GOProud, a new gay Republican group, said, according to the Blade:

Obama has been a "disappointment" in the White House and gave him a "d-" for work on LGBT issues.

Right. Because you know that if the GOP was in control, DOMA and DADT would have been repealed long before now.

Jimmy, how would you rate Michael Steele's moderation of the Republican Party? How would you grade the GOP's ability to see that aligning itself with Evangelicals makes it a regional Party unattractive to moderate and younger voters in the 160 some days since the 2008 election. How is your attacking the President helping you move the GOP to a more libertarian position?

My wish list?

Gay "activists" who don't turn into apologists for disappointing Democratic politicians and Gay Republicans who understand their real problem is Evangelical base of support in the GOP. In this dream world Democrats would be held accountable for their pro-gay promises from the left -- and anti-gay opposition from the right would be weakened.