As we look back at 2008 and look forward to 2009, we do have cause to celebrate. The election of America's first Black president forced a much needed paradigm shift towards equality for all minorities. But whether it be a seismic shift or a mere few inches remains to be seen.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
As we look back at 2008 and look forward to 2009, we do have cause to celebrate. The election of America's first Black president forced a much needed paradigm shift towards equality for all minorities. But whether it be a seismic shift or a mere few inches remains to be seen.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
As we talk about either keeping or renewing America’s promise, which the president-elect has been talking about, apparently it does not yet extend to gay and lesbian people in the Cabinet of the president ... Not only do you not find a qualified LGBT person to serve in your Cabinet, at the same time, you announce publicly that the person who is going to lead the nation in prayer during the inaugural is a person who does not believe gay and lesbian people are equal in the eyes of the country. So you’ve now sent how many signals to gay and lesbian Americans that they are not equal?
They were taking notes, they were listening, they were responding, they were asking questions, they were a very, very engaged transition team and that bodes well for our community moving forward.
President-elect Obama promises a diverse administration filled with talented individuals from all walks of life ... This must include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. Anything less is not fully inclusive, and that could be seen as an indication that our community is little more than an ATM for campaigns.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine. When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future.
Was Etheridge that flattered she forgot what people like Warren love to say? Love the singer, er, sinner not the sin? So he bought her CDs. He probably loves KD as well. But he still thinks they'll burn in hell.
If Warren believes in equal rights for everyone and that every loving relationship should have equal protection, why did he lustfully support Prop 8? If he sincerely regrets his message to his congregation and equating all of us to pedophiles and those who commit incest, why has he not released another video to his flock and the whole world admitting his mistake and apologizing for the hurt and suffering he has caused? How could he honestly claim that that is not how he thinks about gays?
All rhetorical, yes, but Etheridge? How could she have been so easily seduced? When she expressed sympathy for Warren's wife, did she point out to him that many of our loved ones have cancer too but could not share health insurance like straight married people? That some of us could not visit our dying partners? That supporting Prop 8 and institutionalizing bigotry has everything to do with it?
What kind of bridges does the singer think could be built with folk like Warren? If Warren is truthful about everything he told Etheridge, then he should repeat the same words in front of everybody. Unlike Richard Cizik, the former vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, Warren has not publicly expressed any change of mind and heart. Unlike Cizik who in an interview on National Public Radio, made brief remarks about same-sex civil unions and gay marriage that cost him his leadership position, Warren remains the powerful celebrity pastor of a mega church. His widly popular book continues to sell and all this publicity will get more people buying into his misguided and dangerous beliefs about women and men - like Melissa Etheridge - who only want to be happy just like everyone else.
When Cizik was asked, "A couple of years ago when you were on our show, I asked you if you were changing your mind on that. And two years ago, you said you were still opposed to gay marriage. But now as you identify more with younger voters, would you say you have changed on gay marriage?" Cizik responded, "I'm shifting, I have to admit. In other words, I would willingly say that I believe in civil unions. I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don't think." The man took a leap that cost him much.
Like Melissa Etheridge, I am hopeful that in time we will win our civil rights. But I remain dubious of Warren and his ilk. How many times must we be fooled by sweet words? Religious leaders like Warren might invite you to their place but you will never have a place at their table.
NZVERE, Zimbabwe — Along a road in Matabeleland, barefoot children stuff their pockets with corn kernels that have blown off a truck as if the brownish bits, good only for animal feed in normal times, were gold coins.
Monday, December 22, 2008
In response to Dispensable Constituency, M, who had labored long hours for the Obama campaign emailed, "... pretty crappy ... I just don't understand."
And it seems that a gay political operative who has played this game for many years thinks I don't understand either. "It's just politics Erwin," he patronizingly smiled. "Just wait. Obama will take care of us." He may as well have patted me on the head.
But I do get it. That has been my point. Admittedly a part of me chose to believe for a second that Obama and his people would do what is right and speak truth to power. But he is a politician and it is all about power and influence.
What my operative pal does not seem to understand (or is in denial about) is that he and other gay conspirators to power will always be at the margins, even if gays do run Washington as a technocrat once told me. Men like these remind me of an Englishman I met who had served Queen Elizabeth. He proudly displayed photos and signed royal stuff and intimated that he used to take "the young Prince Charles to the movies" and even got to zip up the back of some royal's dress. But he was still a servant. Servants run households. That is what they do.
Homosexuals might have their photos taken with Hillary, Obama and McCain but they had to pay for it with a lot of money. What have they gotten in return? Another picture to hang on their power walls? The chance to brag and drop names? A tiny bone perhaps? They remain second class citizens. They still do not have their civil rights.
A retired gay man and former politician wrote:
I have a more optimistic opinion, namely that the new President will move quickly to have Congress approve anti-hate legislation, and some time in the Spring will accept the recommendations of a "special" military commission (chosen by him) that will end the "don't ask, don't tell" Clinton/Bush policy. He will point to the Warren invocation as the balance to these far more important acts. Watch what Obama does, not what Warren says!I hope he is correct. But I share N's sentiments:
In the end, it is about politics and the need to keep the fight for our civil rights. At the same time, don't pretend that things would been better if McCain had been elected; we might have had James Dobson giving the invocation, I suppose. But perhaps we would have expected that, when in the current case it wasn't something we had expected.Yes, we expected more from Obama. But duh, it's politics stupid!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I know that you are very active in gay issues, and this has been hurtful to you and hard to swallow. I am very cynical about politicians and the relationship of power to their egos. I see Obama as probably one of the cleaner Chicago pols, but essentially a pragmatic guy who will only throw a few bones to the more liberal wing of the Democratic party.My Republican husband is raging at him too because, in Arthur's opinion, he conducted his campaign as a lie promising change and delivering a centrist cabinet, which is not going to show much change. It seems you and he have a common cause. Arthur is not opposed to gay rights issues. I think it won't be long before the black constituency is also going to complain about the bones they get thrown.
Interesting. I was shocked, myself, to hear this. But in the end, I also think that the editorial was correct. He's a politician.J. reminds us what it is we are hoping and struggling for:
Thanks. We had read the Solmonese op-ed, but I think the better part of this piece that you sent us is the commentary, reminding us of just what this game is. The Rick Warren flap will pass, and gay people will not be hurt by it. It seems that we hope for (I'm not saying expect) better or best things from our politicians as far as our issues are concerned, and that can lead to disappointment unless we finally realize that a politician is a politician. I am still a staunch Obama supporter, mostly because I will never lose hope for the future of anything I believe worthy and worthwhile.
Friday, December 19, 2008
In his Washington Post editorial Obama's Inaugural Mistake, Joe Solmonese speaks out.
It is difficult to comprehend how our president-elect, who has been so spot on in nearly every political move and gesture, could fail to grasp the symbolism of inviting an anti-gay theologian to deliver his inaugural invocation. And the Obama campaign's response to the anger about this decision? Hey, we're also bringing a gay marching band. You know how the gays love a parade.
Yes, the Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of the humongous, evangelical Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., has a sound message on poverty. And certainly, in the world of politics, there is a view that Barack Obama owes Warren for bringing him before fellow evangelicals, despite fierce opposition during the heat of the presidential
But here's the other thing about Warren, the author of the bestselling book "The Purpose Driven Life": He was a general in the campaign to pass California's Proposition 8, which dissolved the legal marriage rights of loving, committed same-sex couples.
For that reason, inviting Warren to set the tone at the dawn of this new presidency sends a chilling message to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. It makes us uncertain about this exciting, young president-elect who has said repeatedly that we are part of his America, too.
Solmonese also complains about Warren and the larger issue about the place of religion in determining public policy.
He told his parishioners and reporters alike that "any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn't think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships." But civil marriage rights for same-sex couples had nothing whatsoever to do with religion.
More recently, he even compared same-sex marriage to incest, pedophilia and polygamy. He may cloak himself in media-friendly happy talk that plays well on television, but he stands steadfastly against any measure of equality for LGBT Americans.
The LGBT community, their supporters, progressives and other fair-minded thinking individuals are upset because Obama is holding up a powerful best-selling celebrity bigot.
Then again, should we be surprised? Barack Obama was never going to be the messiah a lot of people were hoping for. Barack Obama is a politician. A politician born out of hard ball, old-style Chicago politics. Yes, he is about to become the president of all Americans and yes, he speaks inspiring words, but at the end of the day, it is about power and influence. Warren has that over Obama, gays do not. We are a minority. We are dispensable. He already got our votes.
So what are we to do? First, get over it and accept the reality that it is all about politics. Time to lower expectations. A lot. It is about power and influence. We need to continue fighting and getting our voice heard. We need to persist in reaching out, changing minds, and building coalitions. We need to play hard ball with our money and votes. We need to remind the next president that we're here, we're queer, and we ain't going nowhere until we get our civil rights.
Related Post: High Hopes, Low Expectations
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Most Reverend Jefferts Schori addressed the issue at the outset:
... what I'm going to assert is the proper role of religion in the public square - diagnosis, linked with both challenge and encouragement ... grows out of a particular worldview, a weltanschauung, if you will, that has an idea or ideal of what the world is supposed to look like.
That world view is rooted in divine revelation, both in a scriptural tradition and in later encounters with the divine. The prophetic role is to point out the discrepancy between that sacred vision and what the world around us actually looks like, and then to go on to challenge the status quo and to encourage movement toward that dream.
A religious tradition asserts that divine warrant and/or transcendent reality trumps any merely earthly philosophy.
The primate responded:
How do we know when that inspired or apparently inspired voice is authentic? Is it congruent with a long tradition. And that is why we look back to foundational documents of faith. Is it congruent with a prophetic biblical tradition? Is it congruent with the prophets of our own day? Is it congruent with at least some portion of the community? If a prophet is crying lonely words in the wilderness and there's no one to hear, maybe not. Maybe not. Is the prophet's voice continuous? Does it continue to pique people? If it's a one-shot flash in the pan, maybe not.
Or are the true prophets those who speak on behalf of the poor, the powerless and the marginalized? Perhaps. For she also claimed that the
... sacred ideal in the Abrahamic faiths looks like a peaceful society where no one is in dire want, where all have equal access to justice, where each is truly free to seek her or his highest purpose in this life.She summarized:
The religious role in public life is to continue to challenge the larger society on behalf of all who do not yet live in a world like that. And because there are some who don't have access to that world, none of us can be assured of living in peace.
I would argue that there are appropriate and inappropriate roles for religion in the public square ... When the religious voice argues for a narrowly sectarian view, it belies its identity and its transcendent origin, and becomes no different from the dairy lobby or an earmark request for a new bridge. They may be important causes. They may be concerned for some of the least and lost and left out. But they don't challenge the whole society to a more transcendently compassionate future.
The proper role for religious diagnosis, challenge and encouragement has something to do with offering a larger view of reality, with challenging a politics of the individual to consider and care for the needs and rights of other individuals and groups, or, in other words, understanding the well being of the whole as having some higher call on public consideration than a narrowly individual concern.We're talking about a public policy that pays attention to the well being of the whole community.
Oh, which biblical institutions for marriage? Solomon's many, many, many wives? The concubines? The slaves who bore children for their male masters? There are some very odd images of family life in the Bible. And when people talk about family values, I want to know which ones.When I look as the challenges that the gay and lesbian community, and their supporters have brought to the church over the past several decades, I have heard a prophetic voice crying, that has gathered a community of support and has asked that community of the whole church to look at its own tradition, to critique its present reality on the basis of that tradition. Do we consider some members of the body more equal than others? Do we consider that some rights of the church are available to some and not to others? We're at least asking the hard questions. The church as a whole hasn't reached a conclusion on this. But we're asking very challenging questions.
Separation of Church and State
Image from the National Press Club.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
It's interesting that you bring up the power of images. One thing I've noticed(and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that many of the images associated withLGBT are sexual, which completely misrepresents what the LGBT community isabout. Because these images are so prevalent and are linked to the LGBT community, I feel like that is unfortunately how the majority of people develop stereotypes of LGBT, even if its is inaccurate. You can try searching "gay" or "LGBT" or "homosexuality" on Google images and many of the images will contain pictures with kissing, partial nudity, or even full nudity. It doesn't seem to be that way if you type in "African American" for exampl. Anyways, I know this isn't directly related to the point of your post. Since you mentioned "there are no images of lesbians and gays...", I thought what kind of images are there of lesbians and gays.
Perhaps it is like driving by a car wreck where people slow down to have a look, hoping to catch a glimpse of gore. Disgusted, yes, but. In the Post article, Corey Scholibo of Advocate magazine explains, "Everything in culture is rooted in the idea of masculinity, patriarchy . . . hegemony. You have to be disgusted by two men kissing, otherwise there goes [your] masculinity. If an actor were to say he enjoyed a scene where he kisses another man, then he's somehow less of a man."
Or perhaps God-fearing and nation-loving citizens uphold these perverted gay images to compare and contrast with their perfect lives (never mind the fact that more evangelical teenagers get pregnant out of wedlock and the fact that divorce rates among conservative Christians are significantly higher than other faithful folk).
Bottom line is we need to show that we don't prance around decked in patches of leather with our tongues stuck in one another's throats. We need people to see us as no different from their next door neighbors. So my gay sisters and brothers, start posting pictures of your "wild" lives. Start with the one visiting grandma on Thanksgiving.
Image from American Pollution.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
P in contrast, vented her frustration over the DC foster care system and animus towards her case worker. Apparently, the gentleman took issue not much with the lead based paint on P's walls but with my colleague's dedication to her church. God forbid she forces a foster child to attend a service with her! P, who has been her niece's surrogate mother for a decade, has seen firsthand the overwhelming need for foster parents in the DC area and is eager to take in another child. Sadly, bureaucracy has denied some girl or boy a stable and loving home.
This is incredible considering the number of kids without families. P told us of a recent visit to her caseworker's office. Sprawled along the lobby were five children who did not have anyone to care for them. As the Freddie Mac Foundation reports there are more than half a million children in the foster care system across the United States and over 5,000 children in the Metropolitan Washington DC region.
The situation gets all the more ridiculous when lesbians and gays are banned from being adoptive or foster parents. As Mother Jones blogged:
... it's up to states to recruit and evaluate potential foster and adoptive parents, and most states turn away viable parents who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Currently three states—Florida, Mississippi and Utah—have outright bans on adoptive parents who are homosexual. Several other states have or are considering policies that would restrict LGBT couples and individuals from fostering or adopting a child. Florida forbids "homosexuals" from adopting; Mississippi bans "same-gender" couples, and Utah bans all unmarried couples.
Some states: California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington DC, actually protect potential adopters by prohibiting sexual orientation from being used as a basis to prevent a prospective applicant from being a adoptive or foster parent.
But throughout most of the country LGBT folks face all kinds of barriers to adoption. This, despite the fact that they are already raising children in significant numbers.
Furthermore, the Mother Jones post points out that lesbians and gays:
I understand that systems and processes are in place to ultimately serve and protect girls and boys. I also am aware that caseworkers are overworked and underpaid. However, when financially and emotionally stable individuals offer to take in and love a child who desperately needs a home and is denied for some inane reason, it just doesn't make sense.
have many of the traits states specifically seek out in foster and adoptive parents: They are, on average, older, more educated and have more economic resources than other foster and adoptive parents.
If states enact laws that prevent such adoptions children currently placed with existing LGBT foster parents would be removed from those families. Nationally, an estimated 9,300 to 14,000 children would be displaced.
Image from PoliGazette.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Instead, what people see most are images of privileged white men who decided to live an "alternative" lifestyle and rub their choice on everybody's noses.
It is too bad that there isn't a Road to Freedom: Photographs of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement. An exhibit that chronicles the struggle and injustices suffered by women and men who chose to be honest with themselves and society. Images of brave and patriotic soldiers who were discharged for being homosexual. Of young women and men who are not allowed to fight for the country they love. Of children bullied day in and day out for acting and dressing "differently." Of Americans bearing placards supporting Proposition 8 and the continued discrimination of minorities. Of religious leaders using the Bible to preach intolerance and hate. Of drag queens and other "deviants" battling police. Of men beaten and women raped for not being straight. Of Matthew Shepard's bloodied and limp body tied to a fence. Of straight and gay Americans demonstrating for equality for all. Of strong and proud gay women and men.
Might things be different if these images were part of our civil rights meme?
Pictures are powerful. Images of African Americans treated like second class citizens affirm and remind that theirs was and is a civil rights movement. There are no images of lesbians and gays treated as second class citizens in our collective memory. Perhaps if there were, then people would understand that ours is a civil rights movement too.
Image from PFLAG, of Jeanne Manford marching with her gay son at New York's 1972 Gay Pride Parade. Manford was enraged that her son had been beaten up two months earlier while the police did nothing. She carried a sign that said, “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of Our Children.” Her act started an international movement.
Equality, Marriage & the Union
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Is it me or is there nary a word on bailing out workers from mainstream news and cable outlets and their talking heads? Chatter is all about whether the big three automakers - Chrysler, Ford and GM - and their valiant CEOs, who have selflessly abandoned their private jets for environmentally friendly cars, should be rescued with taxpayer dollars. And the sacrifices these men are willing to take to salvage the companies they and their fellow executives have run aground ... a dollar a year compensation! What about stock options and compensation packages? What about all the money they "earned" while mismanaging their firms?
As such I think that there should be more talk about bailing out workers. In particular, government policies should promote industries that provide alternative manufacturing jobs. President-elect Obama has talked about a “Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund.” Such a fund would help finance companies involved in the alternative energy sector thereby creating several million jobs. This should not take long to jump start. There is a growing number of solar and wind power enterprises. There is also discussion about WPA-like infrastructure projects.
Concurrently, safety nets such as unemployment benefits, health coverage, child care, adult education and skills training should be expanded. I am not talking socialism. Rather I am arguing fairness. Safety nets in their present condition are too narrow and have too many holes through which people are falling. People who would like to earn their keep are unable to and their government would rather bail entities and executives who have enough to live on a hundred times over if they were to lose their jobs.
Amitai Etzioni, a George Washington University professor, comments on Freep.com:
The main counter argument is that GM et. al. are too big to fail, that allowing them to decline will trigger a domino effect that would bring down many other manufacturing industries that make parts for autos, process the raw materials they need, and so on. First, these secondary industries also must either find new products to make or go the way of the car makers. Second, the way to greatly curtail the side effects and pain of the transition to new industries is to bail out the workers but not the plants.
Rescuing the workers should take the form of paying for their retraining, relocation, and extended unemployment benefits, and even assuming responsibilities for their health insurance and retirement funds, now paid for by the Big Three. The costs of bailing out the workers are much smaller than keeping them afloat by bailing out the plants. The reason is that in such “rescue” plans, part of the funds go to maintain and modify the obsolete assembly lines (and more generally the plants)—as well as to pay high salaries to executives and dividends to share holders.
So enough talk on bailing big industry and big men. Let's talk about Joe the autoworker.
Image from Boycott Norwich Bulletin.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
We were like so many other families yet look more closely at photos taken and discover that we were not your Norman Rockwell clan. None of us were related. We were all friends of the hosting couple. Gather basic information and realize that neither were we ordinary. There is the gay couple and their adopted boys who welcomed the rest of us to their table. There is the gay couple's oldest friends, an American woman, her Spanish husband and their son. There is the middle-aged widow, another long-time friend and Sunday School teacher to the men's sons. There is the interracial couple and their daughter. And there is John and me, the homosexual, interracial pair.
Many would argue that we were not a family gathered for Thanksgiving. But I beg to differ. The abundance of stories, laughter, dancing, warmth and affection attests to our bonds. We were a family by choice and circumstance much like many other "alternative" families that are more common than some people would like to think. And we are grateful for each other.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
... Ferdinand Marcos not only imposed a brutal dictatorship on the Philippines, he also forced the people to celebrate their loss of freedom. He declared September 21, the date he proclaimed martial law, a "national day of thanksgiving". Ostensibly, the holiday was to commemorate the country's deliverance from communism. But the regime which Marcos created was dedicated to only two things: feathering the nests of the ruler and his cronies, and snuffing out all opposition. From 1972 until 1986, when the dictator was finally chased out of the country, his infamous "New Society" murdered, tortured and robbed as it pleased. The Philippine poverty rate, 24 per cent in 1974, jumped to 40 per cent in 1980. The Marcos family looted the national coffers of billions of dollars. While it is true that Philippine politics was already corrupt before Marcos arrived, his dictatorship rewrote the rules and perverted all the country's institutions.
But we can remain American in that way, optimistic and hopeful. Unlike the Philippines I knew growing up, we have freedom. Freedom to speak our minds, to criticize the government and those in power, to worship the god of our choosing, to live true to our selves. We have a working democracy, rule of law, and hard as it is to believe, a functioning albeit faltering economic system. We have a broad middle class. Now we have leadership we can trust, believe in, and work with. We have a future.
My parents, brother and I, along with hundreds of thousands of other Filipinos finally rose up against the Marcos regime because we no longer had hope and little to thank for. We immigrated to the United States because it offered opportunity, freedom, equality and hope. It still does. And we are thankful indeed.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The Holiday 2008 cover has a grinning man in his jammies sporting Geordi La Forge like eye gear. Page 5 explains:
Worn like regular eyeglasses, the iWear AV310 Widescreen and AV920 from Vuzix connect to almost any video-capable mobile device including iPods, iPhone, portable DVD players, digital cameras, and cell phones. Simulating a high-resolution large screen viewed at nine feet, you can now have an incredible movie watching or game playing experience anywhere, anytime.Starting at only 249.95! Now who wouldn't want to have that? A simulated movie and gaming experience trumps the Chesapeake bay or Hudson river any ole day.
I do enjoy thumbing through these magazines when I first board a plane and now a train, but do we really need all the gadgets and objects - stuff - offered? Do we really need to be so distracted by all these toys? For that is all this is: distraction.
While I do not mean to be glib about the emotional and physical insecurity wrought by a free falling economy, perhaps one good thing that would come out of it is that we would no longer waste our money and time on wares peddled by Travel Mall. We would no longer afford such silly distractions and be forced to face, brace yourselves, silence and being alone.
We would not be able to purchase item no. 74067J.
The Animatronic Singing And Talking Elvis.
This is the animatronic Elvis, a singing and talking robotic bust adorned with The King's trademark leather jacket, sideburns, and pompadour, recalling the musical icon's performance during the highest-rated television event of 1968--Elvis Presley's Comeback Special. The device sings eight of Elvis' most acclaimed songs including Hound Dog, Love Me Tender, and Jailhouse Rock, and the mouth, eyes, and head movements are synchronized with the music, replicating his unique facial expressions (including the curled upper lip) and baritone voice. Integrated infrared sensors in his jacket detect ambient motion, prompting Elvis to say "Bring it on back now" or another famous Elvis remark as you walk by, and the device has 37 monologues recorded from interviews that play at a touch of a button, each reflecting on the life and career of The King. A karaoke feature allows you to sing along with Elvis and the device has an audio port for connecting an MP3 player or another audio source, allowing you to play your own music through Elvis's 10-watt speaker. Includes a remote control, 1/4" microphone jack, and an AC/DC adapter. Remote requires three AAA batteries. 20-1/4" H x 13-3/4" D x 21-3/4" L. (10 lbs.)
For only $199.95! Oh, but there is that mortgage, car payment, credit card bills, utilities and food to pay. Thank goodness.
While a high tech visor and Elvis homunculus might be fun, adult toys and stuff hawked by these travel "malls" betray our desperate need to be diverted and avoid what is before us. Undeniably, for our mental health, mindless amusements are sometimes welcome and needed, but I suspect that those of us who actually call the 800 number or log in to www.SkyMall.com have more that one item from the collection. Plus other objects of distraction.
Are we really that scared of silence and stillness?
It really isn't that bad. I suggest dumping our diversions once in a while and learn to enjoy their absence. It can be liberating, calming and can bring about a smile. For only $0.00.
Image of Sky Maul from Doobybrain.com.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Wouldn't it be nice if we could all sit for tea, discuss the latest and gravest issues civilly and come to some consensus about how we ought to proceed? Yes, that would be lovely.
A panelist at this week's Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Associations conference is confident that this is possible. The gentleman was presenting his findings during a session entitled "Democracy, Citizen Engagement and Advocacy." He shared how deliberative polling was successfully used in engaging citizens, changing minds, and resolving dispute over a municipal policy initiative.
As the Center for Deliberative Democracy explains, the problem is that
Citizens are often uninformed about key public issues. Conventional polls represent the public's surface impressions of sound bites and headlines. The public, subject to what social scientists have called "rational ignorance," has little reason to confront trade-offs or invest time and effort in acquiring information or coming to a considered judgment. Deliberative polling employs television and public opinion research to address this problem.And it is a straightforward process:
A random, representative sample is first polled on the targeted issues. After this baseline poll, members of the sample are invited to gather at a single place for a weekend in order to discuss the issues. Carefully balanced briefing materials are sent to the participants and are also made publicly available. The participants engage in dialogue with competing experts and political leaders based on questions they develop in small group discussions with trained moderators. Parts of the weekend events are broadcast on television, either live or in taped and edited form. After the deliberations, the sample is again asked the original questions. The resulting changes in opinion represent the conclusions the public would reach, if people had opportunity to become more informed and more engaged by the issues.Could this truly be the way to resolving pesky issues like gay civil rights once and for all?
As a matter of fact, a statewide deliberative poll was conducted last September in Pennsylvania by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Program for Deliberative Democracy. Entitled “The Issue of Marriage in America,” the study's goal was to determine opinions regarding a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution which would define marriage as that between a man and a woman and would not recognize any civil unions.
It turns out that nearly 7 out of 10 Pennsylvania voters support the legal recognition of same-sex relationships, either through marriage or civil unions. At least among those who participated in this particular poll. But of course, it is nuanced.
Among those who support legal recognition of same-sex relationships, participants split with approximately 35 percent supporting same-sex marriage and 35 percent supporting a version of civil union. Moreover, data also showed that about half support a marriage "protection" amendment which limits the legal status to one man and one woman . What is hopeful for lesbians, gays and fair-minded folk is that the median age of participants is 54. Younger Americans tend to be more tolerant and open-minded.
Yes, it would be nice if we could sit and talk. But the sad reality is, rather than consider grown-up dialogue and engage in rational and fair deliberation, the forces of darkness and light are gathering their troops, ready for the next battle.
Image: The Tea Party by Frederic Soulacroix
Friday, November 14, 2008
But is LGBT equality possible?
However, they also need to be pragmatic and realize that some form of inequity will always exist in society. There will always be insiders and outsiders, those on top and those on the bottom, haves and have nots. The aim should be to lessen the gap, widen the middle, share power and yes, spread the wealth. We have to bring and welcome more into the commons. Let us keep the ideal of Equality in mind and march together towards it.
So it goes with gay women and men who have had enough and started their long trek with the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and now find themselves demanding equality. Three steps forward, one back. More visibility and tolerance, big celebrities, leaders in congress and business, victories in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but still discriminated against at work and in neighborhoods, still not enjoying full benefits of citizenship, still attacked for being honest and loving.
An important discussion within the LGBT movement, particularly in terms of marriage equality, is whether we should insist on the term "marriage" or settle for "civil unions," which seem to be a wee bit more palatable to the general population. While this might seem like a minor point and a matter of semantics, for many it is not.
On principle, there are those who refuse to go with the term "civil union" even if the same federal benefits and protections were accorded gay couples.* They correctly point out that agreeing to civil unions is just another case of separate but equal. Others like myself argue that it does not matter who gets to keep the word "marriage" so long as we get the same 1,138 federal benefits, rights and privileges heterosexual couples enjoy. If compromising on what to call a legal status does the trick, then I am for it. People can call it Shirley for all I care. At the end of the day, married, civil union-ed or shirley-ed, we will be considered married by most. As the four-year-old daughter of friends recently declared, "Mister Erwin and Father John are married, just like mommy and daddy." While we are still not allowed the same legal rights and status as her parents, she senses that our love and commitment are no different than mommy and daddy's.
This goes back to being pragmatic and accepting the reality that injustice and inequity are sad facts of human existence. But as humans, we also have ideals we fight and strive for. Equality. Justice. Love. We might never achieve them fully but we keep at it, one step at a time.
Photo: The New York City Independent Media Center
*Clarification of terms. Civil unions were established to extend rights to same-sex couples but only within the state where the couple resides. States with civil union statutes include Vermont, New Jersey and New Hampshire. While states like Massachusetts and Connecticut currently permit same-sex marriages, the benefits and rights afforded same-sex couples end at state lines. Only a federal law permitting same-sex marriage OR civil unions will give same-sex couples the same privileges as straight couples.
Friday, November 07, 2008
While I remain buoyed by Barack Obama's win and firmly believe that fundamental changes are afoot in our nation's core values and governing philosophy, I am realistic about what is possible in the short term, particularly in terms of policy. In The Newshour, Mark Shields was asked what his expectations are of the president-elect and his administration. Shields replied, "I have more hope than expectations."
The reality is, the next administration and congress face daunting challenges: a fallen economy and broken financial institutions; an alarming and growing number of unemployed citizens; an expensive and patently inefficient health care system; exploding entitlement programs; a failing education system; decaying infrastructure; two wars and counting; cantankerous and dangerous adversaries; the list goes on. And priorities have to be made.
David Leonhardt wrote in his article Obamanomics,
With Obama, there is vast disagreement about just how liberal he is, especially on the economy ... Some of the confusion stems from Obama’s own strategy of presenting himself as a postpartisan figure ... “My core economic theory is pragmatism,” he said, “figuring out what works.”Bottom line is, when tackling the economic issue, Obama and his team will adhere to mainstream liberal economic solutions. I expect that answers to other challenges will also fall within the range of acceptable and prescribed remedies.
Where does this leave issues that have not made the top ten list such as LGBT civil rights? Sadly, while we have taken a great leap forward by voting into office our first president of color, we have simultaneously stepped back by denying equal rights to a minority group in California, Arizona, Florida and Arkansas.
While Obama and some legislators might be sympathetic to the plight of LGBT individuals, they are beholden to the electorate that put them into office. As with any other policy initiative, they can only go so far. They need to be attuned to how voters think and feel if they are to succeed in making legislative changes. Again, more of the same. This is how the system works.
So while I might have low expectations in the short term, I have high hopes for our future. Obama warns us, "the road will be long and the climb will be steep," but I do see the promised land.
Photo: ABC News
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Hate to blow your bubble, but I am a die-hard Republican. Being a Chicagoan for almost 30 years, I am aware how dirty politics are here. I find Obama, an extreme liar, he lies about his associations and remember how it works - you are who you associate with ... I don't want to say more, but I guess it would take a lot to convince me who he is. Let's see how he works, remember that Kennedy was well loved and he was assassinated, that is not far from probable. More power to him and his cronies.
On Saturday night, February 22, 1986 my parents woke me and my brother up. Quickly - get dressed - we're going to EDSA. I didn't pause to question whether I was dreaming or not (a few days earlier I had gotten into major trouble for joining one of the many street demonstrations against the Marcos regime). I jumped into my jeans, pajamas and all, put on a t-shirt, grabbed a baseball cap and joined my family. En route to the highway where hundreds of thousands were converging to protest a stolen presidential election, and to demand Tama Na - Enough! to 14 years of dictatorship, I asked my mom what made them decide to take action. She said we'd like you and your kuya (big brother) to have a future. We'd like to hope again. So when Cardinal Sin called upon Filipinos to barricade the rebel camps, we came. A few days later, Ferdinand Marcos was whisked away by American forces and Corazon Aquino became president.
More than two decades after the nonviolent uprising in the Philippines, sadly not much has changed. While democratic institutions have been established and freedom of the press flourishes, gross inequity and rampant corruption prevail. Income inequality is one of the worst in Asia and close to 30% of families live below the poverty threshold. Transparency International's 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index gives the country a score of 2.3 (10 being highly clean and 0 being highly corrupt as assessed by business people and country analysts). Cameroon, Iran and Yemen garnered the same mark.
It is up to all of us. This is not about Barack Obama. This about doing what is right and just and true for all. This is about keeping the American Dream alive.
A Better America
If You Love Me
Monday, November 03, 2008
She was born May 5, 1907, as China was transitioning from feudalism to modernity. In the fishing village where her parents lived however, the old way of life persisted as it had for centuries. At that time, baby boys were highly prized while girls were not. A bowl of ash could be at hand to smother unwanted new-born girls.
Tim-Oi was fortunate as her father was a Christian convert, doctor and headmaster, who challenged prevailing notions. Mr. Li was determined to show local farmers and landowners that a daughter could and should be cherished. He gave his infant the name “another much beloved girl.” Tim-Oi had two sisters.
In 1931, at the ordination of a deaconess at the Cathedral Church of Saint John in Hong Kong, Tim-Oi heard and responded to the call to ministry. The preacher, Rev. Mok Shau Tsang declared, “Here today we have an English lady … who is willing to sacrifice herself for the Chinese church? Is there a Chinese girl who would be willing to the do the same?’ Tim-Oi recalled kneeling down and mouthing the words of Isaiah, “Here I am, send me.”
She then attended Union Theological College in Canton. In her third year at seminary, peace was shattered by war with Japan. Along with her fellow students, she served thousands who were wounded and displaced by incessant air raids. Li Tim Oi experienced the horrors of war.
In response to the great need at the time, she was made deacon in 1941, and was given charge of an Anglican congregation in the Portuguese colony of Macao, which was overflowing with refugees from war-torn China. When a priest could no longer travel from Japanese-occupied territory to preside for her at the Eucharist, Bishop Ronald Hall of Hong Kong asked her to meet him in Free China, where on January 25, 1944 he ordained her "a priest in the Church of God.” In his mind, Bishop Hall was merely confirming what he and many others witnessed - that God had already given Tim-Oi the gift of priestly ministry.
Li Tim-Oi continued the work she had started as a deacon, tending to the spiritual and physical needs of her congregation and neighbors. But along the halls of power, there was furor over her ordination. Simply, the Anglican leaders clung to the antiquated idea that women were not worthy to be priests. That women were not equal to men. To this day, this sentiment still prevails in many churches within the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches. Women are not good enough.
After World War II, Tim-Oi tried to diffuse the controversy by surrendering her priest's license, but not her Holy Orders, the knowledge of which carried her through Maoist persecution. Along with others belonging to the intelligentsia, she suffered hard labor and humiliation under the Communist regime. She lived in obscurity and deprivation for over 30 years.
The Bamboo curtain eventually lifted and Tim-Oi was finally permitted to reunite with her family in Toronto, where she resumed the practice of her priesthood. Li Tim Oi died on February 26, 1992.
Since Tim-Oi's ordination, women have been ordained priests and some consecrated bishops. The primate of the Episcopal Church is Katharine Jefferts Schori, a beneficiary of Li Tim-Oi's legacy. These women have long proved that they are worthy, that they are equal to men. I suspect God had known this all along.
For more, visit my knol, Li Tim-Oi.
Sources:"Li Tim Oi's Story" and "Memories of Li Tim-Oi," The Li Tim-Oi Foundation.
Florence Tim Oi-Li with Ted Harrison (1985), Much Beloved Daughter, London: Darton, Longman and Todd.
Friday, October 31, 2008
During the reception, the couple had the Chinese wedding tea ceremony where they served the groom's elders. The elders, beginning with the oldest, were "invited" to drink tea. They sat on chairs while the bride and groom, bowing, offered them cups. In exchange, the couple was rewarded with red envelopes stuffed with cash. A relative or two gave the bride jewelry.**
It may very well be the case that my cousin is simply proud of her heritage. Judging by the toasts, it became apparent that those closest to the couple knew who wore the pants in the relationship. Clearly, her husband does not own her.
I don't think so.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
In an op-ed piece, George Will wrote:
The Episcopal Church once was America's upper crust at prayer. Today it is "progressive" politics cloaked -- very thinly -- in piety. Episcopalians' discontents tell a cautionary tale for political as well as religious associations. As the church's doctrines have become more elastic, the church has contracted. It celebrates an "inclusiveness" that includes fewer and fewer members.He was doing his bit as a pundit, expressing his opinion. As a well-known conservative columnist, journalist and author, he is able to influence the minds of many, indirectly sway public policy, and affect our very lives. In this case for instance, he questions the value of tolerance and inclusivity.
In my post about the place of politics in the pulpit, I expressed my opinion that a priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, or any kind of religious minister should not attribute any policy or candidate as God's. However, they are free to lend their voice to public discourse particularly when their church or religion is the topic of discussion. Especially when they do know, more than most of us, what they are talking about.
Responding to Will's piece, the leader of my congregation (and my partner), wrote:
After a wonderful and typical 16-hour Sunday workday, I came home from church and read George F. Will's baffling op-ed, "A Faith's Dwindling Following."
Will's impressions of the Episcopal Church are very different from my own, perhaps because he has chosen to view my church through the complaints of a former bishop who has led his diocese out of the mainstream and into a place of fear and fanaticism.
Mine is a "typical" Episcopal parish, filled with old and young, rich and poor, with several races, and with heterosexuals, lesbians, gay men, bisexual persons and transgender persons. I spend much of my time explaining the basics of the Christian faith, coordinating programs and visiting those who are planning baptisms, marriages and funerals. I pray with those undergoing knee replacements, mastectomies and just about every other surgery or procedure one might imagine.
Unlike the Rev. Robert Duncan, I don't spend my time forming alliances with those who agree with me; rather, I try to follow the hard way of Jesus Christ, welcoming all people and perspectives.
Will should visit our church, All Souls. Shame on him for stepping into territory about which he seems to know very little. Shame on Duncan for refusing to do the hard work of a faith that welcomes and frees.
His comment is published in the Washington Post.