17 December 2008

One Bad Apple (Part One)

Osmonds

I used to be quite the Donny Osmond fan. Hey, we share a first name, we’re both adorably cute, and we both have larger-than-average teeth . . . obviously, there's a natural kinship!

I grew up dancing to uptempo Osmond songs like "Down By The Lazy River”, "Like A Yo-Yo" and "One Bad Apple" on the radio. I couldn't get enough of them!  Then, after Donny began his solo career, I secretly enjoyed his renditions of classic ballads like "The Twelfth Of Never”, "Too Young" and “A Million To One”. I also dug his sister Marie's sultry way with a Disco number; girlfriend really sizzled on "This Is The Way That I Feel"!

Other kids in my neighborhood didn't find Donny and Marie’s music as cool as The Osmonds’ earlier hits, but I did. I can recall, not without embarrassment, singing along at the top of my lungs to their remake of Don and Dewey's “I’m Leavin’ It All Up To You”! Naturally, I watched “The Donny and Marie” variety show in the late '70s (and I’ll never forget frequent guest-star Tina Turner, bumping and grinding her way around those wild Sid and Marty Kroftt stage sets). I just loved Donny Osmond's music! I still do, and I think he's one of the best singers around.

That doesn't mean I would ever buy his product again! Believe me, I wouldn't, not even if I were paid to do it! Browsing the Web recently, I came across Donny’s condescending comments about same-gender couples. They were, of course, highly offensive, but I must admit, they didn't surprise me. Long before I visited his website, I had sensed that Donny was a hard-core heterosexist!

I sensed it when he appeared on the "Arsenio Hall Show" in 1989 and I noticed how uncomfortable he was in the presence of an obviously Gay man (sorry to peg you like that, Arsenio, but it's true). I also sensed it when Eric McCormack was a guest on the short-lived ABC-TV talk show he and Marie hosted some years back. I'll never forget the grim looks on their faces when McCormack began to discuss his role as a Gay lawyer on "Will and Grace." Now, I've heard certain rumors about Donny's sexuality over the years. I have no idea if they're true, but even if they were, they wouldn't excuse his reprehensible attitude!

It would be easy to blame his religion, Mormonism, for that attitude. Far too easy, I think. Donny Osmond admits to knowing Gay people, and he and his family must have worked with dozens of us during their many years in show business. He’s a reasonably intelligent person, and capable of learning from personal experience. Surely he knows by now that LesBiGay identity is real.  It isn't a vice, it isn't a “lifestyle”, and it sure as sh*t isn't a recruitment drive!  He must realize that the rhetoric he's parroting has no credibility.

If Donny were the man of good character I used to think he was, he'd promote warmer relations between the heavily LGBT entertainment industry and the closed-minded doctrinaires of his church. He could help build a bridge of understanding! Instead, he chooses to stand with the bridge-burners. What a disappointment, and what a damper on his market appeal! I respect Donny's God-given talent, and always will, but Stuffed Animal don't respect willful ignorance in anybody!

I read his ridiculous statement in regard to marriage equality, and I let it slide off me like water from a duck's feathers! I considered it too pathetic to rate my attention. My friend, Rev. Jerry Maneker also saw it, and had an altogether different reaction. He was both enraged and disgusted. When something has that effect on Jerry, he doesn’t just sit around stewing. Oh, no, sugar. He blogs, and how! Dude has absolutely no reservations about expressing his opinion, especially when it concerns Gay Rights! I saw his post about Donny Osmond's statement before anyone else did, and his observations were so on-point that, dammit . . . I finally had to get irritated, too! And I’ll bet you feel the same way when you read these excerpts:

On the Question and Response section of his blog, (singer) Donny Osmond, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was asked the following question:

"How do you think Christians should respond to Gay friends who consider themselves 'married'...?"

Part of his response to that question is the following:

"There are many Gay individuals that are members of our church. I know many of them. In fact, some of my best friends are Gay. You ask how I react regarding their marriages. Well, I do support our Church leaders who say that we can accept those with Gay tendencies (sic) in our church as long as they do not act upon their temptations. Everyone has tenancies(sic) to succumb to temptation, but we all have the same standard given to us by our Father in Heaven. Whether we may be tempted to be immoral with members of our own sex or of the opposite sex, we are expected to live chaste lives. This is very well explained not only in the Book of Mormon, but in the Bible as well."

Although Mormonism is not within the mainstream of Christianity, this one response sums up the "justifications" for a lot of the revulsion . . . that many professing Christians have toward Gay people! I want to comment on significant parts of his response, as I think that (it) gets at the very heart of what we're fighting against when we engage in the struggle for full and equal rights for Gay people . . .

(Donny said) "There are many Gay individuals that are members of our church." Why any self-respecting Gay person would be a member of any organization, church or not, that discriminates against him/her, and preaches that being Gay is in any way immoral, disordered, evil, a threat to the "sanctity of marriage," a threat to children, etcetera, is a mystery to me! He/she must have a tremendous degree of self-loathing that is superficially masked by proclaiming, "It's my church, too.” Really? Can you preach from the pulpit that being Gay is healthy (and that) faithful same-sex love is just as sacred as is opposite-sex love? Can you feel free to live as a Gay person within that church and among its members? Get it clear: It's not your church, too!

Say amen, somebody!

Gay people should flee those homophobic churches as fast as they can, lest those churches wreak more havoc with (their) psyches than they may have already done. It's not healthy for you, and just gives that church credibility through your very presence and through the monies you contribute . . . they can turn around and use that credibility and money to continue to proclaim that your lives are "immoral" and "sinful", and that you deserve to be deprived of full and equal civil rights. Just get out of those churches, and either go to a church that is worthy of you and that embraces you as it does anyone else, or you're far better off not going to church at all!

Preach, Jerry! Tell it like it is! And keep telling the truth to Gay Christians until it finally dawns on their stubborn, closed minds!

(Donny said) ". . . some of my best friends are Gay." Yeah! Right! With the feelings toward Gay people that he holds and expresses, how in the world could any self-respecting Gay person be his best friend, or believe that he is their best friend? He's either deluding himself and/or others, or has as Gay "best friends" terribly self-loathing people who lack self-respect.

I must admit, it did surprise me that Donny would be so lacking in class as to talk in such a demeaning way. I’d expect that stuff from some ignorant, swaggering Gangsta rapper, but not from him! I guess he’s just another ex-teen idol with feet of clay.

(Donny said) ". . . I do support our Church leaders who say that we can accept those with Gay tendencies (sic) in our church as long as they do not act upon their temptations." Saying "Gay tendencies" is equivalent to saying "Straight tendencies"! We don't have sexual "tendencies," but our emotional/sexual orientation and stimulation exist at the very core, the very heart, of our beings, be we Straight or Gay. He would never talk about "heterosexual tendencies" . . . (Donny Osmond) represents most professing Christians who are homophobic in that they feel that homosexuality is merely engaged in by perverted heterosexuals (sic)! They fail to see that homosexuality is as much a part of one's core being as is heterosexuality, and that mere suppression of those "tendencies" is not only doomed to failure, but . . . the warped creature that emanates from all that suppression can cause, and frequently does cause, inestimable harm to him/herself and/or to others.

Warped like a damn horny toad, Jerry! Think of Reverend Ted Haggard and Senator Larry Craig. Think of Merv Griffin and Liberace. Think of Pat . . . ah, but that would be telling!

"One Bad Apple" continues with Part Two.

One Bad Apple (Part Two)

Osmonds

Rev. Jerry Maneker's analysis of Donny Osmond's "faith-based" bigotry continues:

So, it's just as foolish to ask why a person is Gay as to ask why a person is Straight! Gay people are not perverted Straight people! And that fact must be hammered home to those who insist with oracular authority that that fiction is the case; that very fiction demonstrates their woeful ignorance of sexuality!

In my opinion, it’s just another example of negative consequences resulting from a lack of comprehensive sex education in our country. Ignorance is not bliss!

(Donny said) ". . . we all have the same standard given to us by our Father in Heaven.” The only "standard given to us" was articulated by Jesus, when He was asked:

MATTHEW 22: 36-40
"Master, which is the Great Commandment in the Law?" Jesus then answered . . . “’Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ This is the First and Great Commandment. And the Second is like unto it: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two Commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.
"

Nowhere did Jesus ever advocate shunning another, depriving anyone of full and equal civil rights (or) denying anyone a seat at the Lord's table, save for the self-righteous legalists who . . . distort, through ignorance and/or malice, the only Gospel to be found in Christianity: The Gospel of Grace or unmerited favor God freely gives to us through our faith in Him. Hear the Apostle Paul:

EPHESIANS 2: 8, 9
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Elsewhere, Paul asserts:

GALATIANS 2: 21
I do not frustrate the Grace of God, for if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Have you ever heard a preacher cite the Apostle Paul's words in defense of LGBT folk before? Jerry Maneker does it all the time! I've been known to do it myself on occasion. Nothing could be more natural, provided you understand what Scripture really says!

The homophobic professing Christians fail to realize that they commit a grievous sin! They "frustrate the grace of God," and see themselves as righteous because they seek to articulate and impose on others God's "Law," as they see it, a "law" that coincidentally matches their preconceived prejudices. However, when that "law" threatens their own interests, they miraculously receive "another revelation," as occurred when the Mormon Church in 1978 gave up its institutional racism (and) when the Mormon Church officially gave up the preaching and the practice of polygamy.

I wish dyed-in-the-wool religious bigots like Eddie Long, Ken Hutcherson, TD Jakes and Harry Jackson, Jr. would hurry up and get revelations about how the Lord's LGBT children should be treated! But maybe after what happened to Jesus Christ when He tried to enlighten the corrupt Orthodoxy, God became more conservative in the distribution of His divine messages. He obviously knows better than to waste them on knuckleheads!

(Donny said) “Whether we may be tempted to be immoral with members of our own sex or of the opposite sex, we are expected to live chaste lives. This is very well explained not only in the Book of Mormon, but in the Bible as well.” Many people view being Gay as . . . equivalent to being "immoral!" And that perverse view, of course, is learned largely from homophobic clergy and other religious leaders who rail from assorted pulpits throughout the world, (equating) being "Gay" with being "immoral" and with being "hedonistic." It is equivalent to defining heterosexuality (as) adultery and spouse-swapping!

It's also the equivalent of equating Mormonism with polygamy and Warren Jeffs-style child marriage. Hello!

Homophobes have a vested interest in dealing with . . . (the) "seamy" side of being Gay, while at the same time focusing on the seemingly "healthy, family oriented" side of being Straight. It doesn't matter that it's Straight people who have put the myth to the oft-used phrase "sanctity of marriage," given rampant divorce rates! In order to maintain the fiction that Gay people are "immoral" and "hedonistic," homophobes . . . engage in the irrational by blaming Gay people for the downfall of the institution of marriage.

A neat trick, if you can pull it off . . . to be forbidden to marry in all but a handful of places on Earth, and yet somehow still possess the power to destroy all heterosexual marriages! Gee . . . I wonder if I’ve filled my quota of estranged husbands and wives today?  These homosexual recruitment standards are a b*tch to meet!  Will I ever win that toaster oven? (Thanks, Ellen DeGeneres.)

The definition of "Chaste" is as follows: "Refraining from sexual intercourse that is regarded as contrary to morality or religion; virtuous." Being Gay and having faithful same-sex relationships is, indeed, contrary to a great deal of religious rhetoric, but . . . faithful same-sex love and relationships are every bit as moral and virtuous as are faithful opposite-sex love and relationships! So many professing Christians and others miss this truth . . . being Gay, like being Straight, is normal, healthy, life-affirming, Godly, and sacred! And all the homophobic religious leaders and their blind followers in the world can . . . never successfully overcome these truths!

Testify!

And in the not-too-distant future, all decent and intelligent people, Christians and non-Christians, will come to see the basic depravity of homophobic thinking, much as they now do with its cousin, White Supremacy, that was in ascendancy in this country not all that long ago!

Celebrity worship being what it is, I’m sure Donny Osmond’s fans would howl with rage at the suggestion that their idol engages in depraved thinking. What else can you call it, though, when someone believes that a Christ who died to expunge guilt accumulated under draconian Holiness Codes would still require us to observe that code? When someone believes that God would punish LGBT humans for expressing the unique identity that Scripture (specifically, Matthew 19: 9-12) tells us He gifted them with? Not to mention when someone believes, despite the Savior's teaching to judge not, lest you be judged (Matthew 7:1) that his church has the right to administer some of that punishment?

We can safely assume from the aforementioned quotes that Mr. Osmond sees nothing wrong with Mormon families disowning their Gay children, and that he supports the hundreds of Gay Mormon ex-communications his church elders have enforced over the years. Depraved is much too mild a word to describe that kind of thinking!

MATTHEW 23: 13, 14
(Jesus Christ said): "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of Heaven! For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of Hell as yourselves!"

You can't help but think of Mormon missionaries when you read those last verses. However, this warning isn’t specific to any one denomination. It applies to any and all self-identified messengers of God who carry a perverted Gospel message!

MARK 7: 6-9
(Jesus Christ) said to them: "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' You abandon the Commandment of God and hold to human tradition!"

If there's any question in your mind about what Commandment the Lord was referring to here, back up a few paragraphs and re-read Jerry's citation from Matthew 22.

One of the all-time great ‘70s Pop/Rock songs is “One Bad Apple”, written by George Jackson and performed as a duet by Donny and Merrill Osmond. The lyrics go: One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl. It’s still true! To be sure, more than one bad apple can be found in the Mormon Church, but their presence there certainly doesn’t spoil the whole bunch. That observation may come as a surprise to you, but I don’t believe in vilifying an entire group of people! As both a Gay man and a Black man, I know what blanket vilification feels like!  It's unfair, to say the least.

There are good-hearted Mormon believers who don't espouse bigotry; I've met some of them. What's more, there are many good things about the Mormon religion and culture (just ask a Gay Mormon). Mormons are survivors! They began as pariahs, but over time managed to win society’s respect. They are a hardy, hard-working lot. They have great appreciation for the Arts. They prepare excellent scalloped potato dishes! They value and celebrate children. The priority Mormons put on family is certainly something our greater society could benefit from.

However, so long as it fails to recognize persons of Gay, Pansexual and Transsexual gender as blessed members of the Christian family, the Mormon faith will fall tragically short of Jesus Christ's example!

Donny Osmond should ask himself why he finds Gay people and their loving relationships so threatening. He should ask himself how Mormons can welcome Gay converts into their fellowship only to treat them as inferior to other members (loving one child more than you love another? That sounds distinctly un-Mormon to me)! He should ask himself which body imposes judgment most fairly: The Church, whose knowledge suffers from human limitations, or the Lord, whose knowledge has no limit? He should also determine what’s most important to him: Being a good Mormon according to church doctrine, or being a good Christian according to the Savior’s teachings?

The question would be just as valid if he were Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, etcetera. There was a difference between Orthodox Law and Divine Law in New Testament times, and there’s still a difference! What blocks the door to a church can pave a path to salvation! Conversely, what shuts the door to salvation can gain you access to a church; but tell me, what good is access to any church if you become cut off from God? Isn't Divine salvation the whole point of being a Christian?

What a tragedy it would be if Donny Osmond or any member of his gifted family dies a good Mormon, only to approach the gates of Heaven and be barred from entry! There surely will be Mormons entering those gates, but will Donny be one of them? At the end of the day, will he choose to be counted among the bad apples or the good ones?

05 November 2008

Proving Me Wrong

Barack Obama

I underestimated Barack Obama. I admit it! When he announced his intention to run for President, I predicted he would drop out of the Democratic primaries for lack of support. Instead, he emerged victorious with a groundswell of support. I didn’t believe that the Democrats would nominate a Black man for President. A few weeks ago, I watched them nominate one with wild enthusiasm and unprecedented fanfare. I was certain that a candidate named Barack Hussein Obama could never win a national election in the same country that voted twice for both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Nobody could’ve been more surprised last night when he swept the electoral college and edged out John McCain for the popular vote!

So obviously, I had no confidence in the candidacy of Barack Obama, and I didn’t vote for him on 4 November 2008. My vote went to independent candidate Ralph Nader.

I don't regret that decision, but of course, I'm relieved that a Right Wing Republican administration won’t control our Executive Branch for the next four years. Now, as Mr. Obama assembles his staff and prepares for his gala inauguration ceremony in January, I share the elation most Americans feel at the knowledge that we've shattered our highest glass ceiling. It thrills me to see and hear the euphoria now blanketing the African and African-American communities.

That said, my reservations about Mr. Obama remain intact. I am still unmoved by his lofty "change" rhetoric! That's what it has always sounded like to me: Pure rhetoric, some of it blatantly swiped from Martin Luther King, Jr, bathed in political expediency, and totally lacking in substance.

Every other word out of Barack Obama's mouth is “change”, but his actions don’t jibe with his words. His actions reinforce the status quo! Fresh in my mind is his vote to retroactively exempt telecommunications companies from warrantless wiretapping litigation. Fresh in my mind is his lip service in support of public campaign financing, a principle he soon abandoned in favor of unprecedented through-the-roof campaign expenditures. Fresh in my mind are his "liberal" policy positions on immigration, the death penalty, the military, the economy and the environment, which, to my ears, aren't all that different from those of John McCain.

Particularly fresh in my mind is the way he parroted George W. Bush's Chicken Little warnings of economic doom during the all-too-brief Wall Street bailout debate, and his subsequent vote for the bailout! This is what really sealed my decision to withhold my vote from him (see my post titled "Lipstick On A Fascist Pig", found under the Testimony sidebar label).

I was inclined in that direction already, though, once I saw how he and his handlers turned a freezing cold shoulder on Senator Hillary Clinton during his search for a running mate. In light of the tireless way she campaigned for him these last few weeks, that vicious snub stands out most starkly! With so much at stake, Mr. Obama needed somebody on the ticket who could draw crucial votes like those of the White working-class Americans Senator Clinton won over during the primaries. He flipped off both Hillary and her constituency, choosing instead to take a huge risk.

He went with another rival candidate whose lack of appeal to the electorate had been affirmed by not one, but two unsuccessful bids for the Democratic presidential nomination. Joseph Biden, Jr. was a non-entity during the Democratic primaries, and pundits weren’t even sure he could help Obama win his home state of Delaware. (Sure, he bested Gov. Sarah Palin in debate, but how much skill did he need to do that? Barney the Purple Dinosaur could’ve taken Miss Alaska out!)

Our Vice-President-elect isn’t a proven vote-getter, but he is an Old Guard Democrat and an established member of the Washington White male political elite. Change? I don't think so, sugar. It looks to me like the same old political back-scratching and entrenched sexism! Knowing how closely sexism is linked to heterosexism, I’m not hopeful that an Obama presidency will respect my status as a Gay American citizen. His treatment of Hillary Clinton is hardly my only reason for apprehension.

I can't forget how, during his campaign, Barack Obama aggressively courted Rev. Donnie McClurkin and some of the most reactionary figures in the Black religious community. I can't forget the swaggering, macho response he had to the suggestion that he might be vulnerable to HIV infection at one of the early debates (how well I know that crowing rooster stance! I've seen countless Black men adopt it, and I've come to hate it profoundly)! I can't forget his recent backpedaling on a promise to repeal the US military's draconian "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" prohibition on openly Gay service persons (he'll defer to the "wisdom" of Defense department officials).

I especially can't forget his pompous and despicable statements against legalized Lesbian and Gay marriage, and I’m convinced that his bigoted words helped add Jim Crow-style “marriage protection” amendments to the State constitutions of Arizona, Florida and California yesterday! They may also have contributed to Arkansas adopting a horrendous ban on Gay adoption and foster parenting.

It always enrages me to hear such talk from any politician, but hearing it come from Black candidates fills me with revulsion. How dare they advocate legal segregation? Mr. Obama isn't a descendant of African slaves, but he shouldn’t have to be one in order to comprehend basic Civil Rights! The fact that he doesn’t comprehend ought to have called into question for many Americans his suitability to lead our nation.

Some Gay activists have counseled me to give Barack Obama the benefit of doubt. They say: He's a Democrat, after all. (So is former Senator Sam Nunn, a Gay Rights enemy who reportedly was on his shortlist of Vice-President picks!) They say: He's a Liberal, after all. (So is the unrepentantly transphobic Senator Barney Frank, one of his supporters!) They say: He's a person of color, after all. (So is Rev. Donnie McClurkin! Duh!) However, I can't believe that a President with his eyes fixed on re-election and bipartisan consensus-building (not to mention the huge, steaming pile of Bush administration messes he's obliged to clean up) will place Gay Rights anywhere but at the very bottom of his agenda, even if he is all those things!

Sad to say, I suspect Barack Obama being of African descent will make it even more likely that he'll snub us! It pains me to say so, but it’s true. Just look at how LGBT folk suffer under homophobic and often genocidal cultural norms in Africa and the Caribbean. Look at how hostile most self-identified African-American Christians are to Gay identity (and don’t forget, Mr. Obama is one of those, too)! Nobody knows the deep-seated heterosexism of Black males better than I do. Growing up, it was a daily fact of my life, and a constant challenge to my sanity, my safety, and my self-esteem. I almost didn't reach adulthood because of it! Even today, when I visit the Black community I grew up in, I can expect hateful looks and vituperative comments from my heterosexual "brothers" . . . and some of my "sisters" aren't very friendly, either!

Simply put, then, I don't trust Mr. Obama. Given his behavior thus far, why should I? His views on marriage equality alone signals that his value system is much different from mine. Since I’m definitely a values voter, the Democrats weren’t an option for me this election. If I was going to vote for President (and I always do), I had to choose another ticket. McCain-Palin? I may be a little eccentric, but I’m not crazy! Barr-Root? I’m not a masochist, either. McKinney-Clemente? The Green Party ticket wasn’t even on the ballot in Missouri. Neither were tickets for any of the other Left or Right-of-Center political parties, most of which are too extreme for me, anyway. Nader-González was my real only alternative, but fortunately, it was an alternative that satisfied me.

I knew going in that Ralph Nader would lose; I harbored no illusions about that. I decided, though, that I didn't want to treat the polling place as if it were a casino or a stock market where I gambled on odds! I walked in there, and I voted for my issues: Loosening corporate control of government. Breaking the stranglehold of the two-party political system. Protecting the natural environment. Tapping sustainable energy resources. Holding elected officials accountable. Instituting sound fiscal policy. Ending economic class warfare. Changing the warmongering course of our military policy. Last but not least, extending equality to American citizens regardless of race, class, gender or sexual orientation. Nader articulated these issues in an unvarnished, down-to-Earth way that outshone all of Barack Obama's spit-polished speechifying!

I voted for him because I believe that he shares my values. Of course, I know that Ralph Nader is reputed to be a Gay man. The knowledge that I probably voted for a Gay presidential candidate pleases me no end. The fact that he remains stubbornly in the closet does not! However, given the choice of voting for a closeted Gay man and voting for a man I suspect of being a closet homophobe, there was no question what my choice would be!

Please don't misunderstand: I don't wish any ill on Barack Obama. I’m not predicting that his administration will fail, either. I don't want it to fail. God forbid that should happen! We certainly don't need another failed presidency after having suffered through the worst one imaginable; but I'm not going to fake an optimism I don't feel.

I count myself among millions of Americans who are waiting for Mr. Obama to prove himself worthy of the office he's won. Like most other Black people, I hope he succeeds in doing that. Even so, what may prove him worthy in the eyes of most other folks won't be enough for me! I want to see an evocation of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. that isn't just rhetorical. Is President-Elect Barack Obama capable of that?

It will require more of him than just meeting mainstream America’s expectations. It will require sufficient courage to sometimes open rifts between constituencies in the pursuit of justice. It will require the good sense to know why a sharp dividing line between Church and State is necessary. It will require sufficient leadership skills to buck public opinion and political wisdom on principle!

Unfortunately, such skills aren't considered essential to a successful presidency, at least, not from an historical perspective. The painful truth is that history could judge Mr. Obama a successful President even if he never lifts a finger to advance LGBT equality. That has certainly happened before! Today, the morning after the historic election of 2008, I'm afraid that's exactly what will happen again. I’m afraid that a Black man occupying the Oval Office is the only history that will end up being made, and we need so much more history-making than that!

I wish I didn't feel afraid. I want to feel part of this great wave of enthusiasm for our new leader, and despite my strong misgivings, I think it may be possible that I can. I'll need Mr. Obama's help, though, and he'd better not wait too long to offer it! Will he? Was LesBiGay support just a stepping stone to power for him, or does he intend to include LGBT America and its citizenship rights within the scope of his national vision? I desperately want Barack Hussein Obama II, the 44th President of the United States, to prove me wrong once again.

25 October 2008

Love Makes A Marriage (Part One)

Love Makes A Marriage

I'm pleased to share with you an extended excerpt of a wonderful new essay by my friend, the Rev. Jerry Maneker. It's called "On Officiating A Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony". When Jerry informed me via email that he'd married a Lesbian couple, I urged him to share the experience with his readers. The resulting post, which appears at his Christian LGBT Rights blog, is every bit as compelling as I'd hoped it would be:

I was asked to officiate at a woman's marriage to her partner of ten years. Her mother and stepfather were there, as was her great aunt. Her partner didn't have any family there, which might have been due to their geographical distance from California. In any case, there were about fifteen people in attendance, and the ceremony took place in the backyard (by the gazebo) of a rest home in which her great aunt, about 90 years old, lives.

The couple exchanged rings and, as part of their vows, together read their Ketubah, a Jewish document that in this case spelled out their love and commitment to each other, as well as their commitment to peace and love in their home for themselves and for anyone who would visit them. It was a beautiful ceremony, and lasted about 15 minutes. I was honored that I was asked to do the ceremony, and now their marriage is legal in California. The only gift they asked of those who were invited was for the attendees to vote NO on Proposition 8, which I have no doubt that all in attendance will do.

Both the mother and stepfather of one of the women were so happy for the couple, and for being able to witness the legal marriage between these two devoted people! It was so beautiful to see the radiance on their faces, as well as the radiance and profound happiness on the faces of the two women whose marriage all of us were privileged to witness. This marriage, along with all other same-sex marriages, highlights the downright foolishness and evil that would allow a Britney-Spears-fifty-five-hour marriage to have more dignity, more credibility, and legal protections than the marriage of this (couple) and all same-sex couples! And, of course, there are many other short-term marriages among heterosexual couples of which nothing is heard from the arrogant arbiters of "morality", and those who foolishly or cynically claim to be defending "traditional marriage", when they (try) to rescind and/or prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage!

The "religious" homophobes take pains to say that they "love" Gay people, and one at a "Yes on 8" rally even had the temerity to tell me that his best friend was a Lesbian who had helped him when his home was destroyed by a fire not too long ago, who often went fishing with him, and had him over to her home on many occasions. Yet, he was vociferously and publicly fighting (for) California's Proposition 8 that seeks to strip away the right to marriage of same-sex couples, and he apparently sees no contradiction between his profession of "friendship" toward this woman on the one hand, and his mean-spirited and hateful stance toward (her) on the other; (he felt) free to carry signs and (spew) rhetoric designed to prevent her and all committed same-sex couples from living fulfilling lives under the protection of law . . .

What can possibly threaten the institution of marriage when a loving same-sex couple such as the one at whose (wedding) I was privileged to officiate is married? Are heterosexuals going to divorce their spouses so that they can . . . marry a person of the same sex? Is a child better off being raised by a single parent than by two loving parents of the same sex? How is any same-sex marriage going to in any way adversely affect someone's heterosexual marriage???!! Clearly, the answers to these questions are patently obvious, save to those who lack sufficient intelligence . . .

During the ceremony in which I officiated, both women had a combination of smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes. Indeed, during a part when I spoke at the ceremony, even I choked up! This marriage probably meant as much to me as it did to the other witnesses to this happy event! In my small way, I was able to help make two wonderful people happy; publicly affirm their dignity; publicly affirm that their love and marriage were every bit as valid as (that) of any loving heterosexual couple, (and) take part in legalizing their union as spouses for life, (a union) that would be validated by the force of law. Moreover, it also helped potentiate my fervent desire that all same-sex couples . . . one day (obtain) all of the civil and sacramental rights that are currently enjoyed by heterosexual people and couples. It is so important for same-sex marriage to be instituted in every state of the union, and recognized by both civil and religious authorities as being legal and binding; its spouses (are) deserving of all of the . . . credibility of heterosexual marriage!

If there had been music at their reception, we all would have danced!  If any decent person had been fortunate (enough) to witness and participate in this happy and dignified occasion, and (had) seen the looks of happiness on the faces of both women, and seen the joy and reverence with which the couple and participants saw this marriage, he or she would want same-sex marriages to be legal . . . for far too long . . . secular and religious society (has) horribly abused LGBT people, as well as the love that same-sex couples have enjoyed for millenia!

Just before Jerry told me about this ceremony, I'd purchased a used copy of By Myself, the autobiography of actress Lauren Bacall.  I'd been reading the section where Ms. Bacall describes her May 1945 wedding to screen legend Humphrey Bogart. It had also been an outdoor affair with family members in attendance. Her vivid description of the happy event made me better understand how that Lesbian couple must've felt when Jerry officially pronounced them partners for life. She wrote:

The only shadow cast that day was from the trees. It was clear blue sky all the way, as I was sure our life would be. I couldn't forget Bogie's tears. Every time I looked at him, I welled up. How had I lived before him? I couldn't remember my life before him . . . it seemed that everything that had ever happened to me had led to this day with him. I had no doubt that this happiness would last forever. I could not imagine living a minute without him. From now on, I would not have to; we were together now, like the man said: "Til death do you part."

Fifty years after the wedding happened, Lauren Bacall's emotions remained as strong as they'd been on that sunny morning. What a powerful impression that ritual must've left on her! Who could doubt that the hearts of those betrothed ladies overflowed with the same joyful sentiment? And how could anyone be so cruel as to take away their joy? Yet thousands of "Bible-believing" Californians plan to do just that when they vote to enact the Proposition 8 ballot measure on 4 November 2008.

I'll never understand what makes millions of Straight American voters believe they have the right to place restrictions on the intimate relationships of tax-paying, self-supporting, Gay American adults! Why do they feel justified in imposing their heterosexist worldview on us? What makes them want to punish us for not being heterosexual? Does it really offend them so much, that we don't conduct our love lives exactly the same way that they do?

I suppose their attitude must be an expression of human nature's dark side, a need to feel superior to persons unlike yourself! Maybe it's also, in some cases, a way of masking suppressed homoerotic impulses, of making sure something that feels psychologically threatening is never given legitimacy. Whatever it is, it strikes me as appallingly arrogant and petty!

It strikes me as patently unconstitutional, too. The electoral process should never be used by one group of Americans to deny Civil Rights to a another group! I thought we'd learned that lesson during the 1960s. Obviously, I was wrong!

If "marriage protection" amendments voted into State constitutions fail to meet democratic standards (and they unquestionably do), they fail the Christian values test even more miserably! Christianity is a giving religion; we faithful are not about depriving non-Christians of anything! Despite what you may hear from Fundamentalist radio and televangelists and self-hating, Gay Right Wing Christian wannabes like David Benkof, we aren't about imposing our beliefs on others, either. Instead, we seek to convert non-believers with the example of our own lives, which we (hopefully) live after the shining example of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

If you can even imagine the Savior preaching suppression of same-gender relationships, then you haven't read the Gospels very closely! You haven't attempted to discern the meaning of the Savior's teaching about eunuchs who have been so from birth (Matthew 19: 11, 12). You haven't paid attention to the Apostle Paul's letter to Galatian churches about the irrelevance of Hebrew law. You also haven't read the Old Testament story of Jonathan and David (the Savior's direct ancestor) with full comprehension! Nothing's more dangerous than a "Bible-believing" Christian who doesn't know what the Bible says!

"Love Makes A Marriage" continues with Part Two.

Love Makes A Marriage (Part Two)

Love Makes A Marriage

Spokesmen for Right Wing defenders of traditional marriage are known to say, with insufferable smugness: There's no marriage discrimination against Gay people. If they want to marry, they have the right to do it like everyone else does. They can marry a member of the opposite sex!

Oh, yeah? Would these jokers want a closeted Lesbian to marry their son? Or a "down low" Gay man to marry their daughter? Maybe they should send their marriage-age heterosexual kids down to the nearest Lesbian bar or Gay disco to scout potential daughters and sons-in-law; they obviously believe physical attraction has no bearing on matrimonial bliss, so why the Hell not? It'd sure beat mate-shopping at those boring church socials, wouldn't it?  Snap!

Maybe these Old Testament "Christians" need to find out firsthand what tremendous heartbreak and devastation a sexually incompatible marriage can bring to a family. Maybe they need to find out the hard way that "ex-Gay" therapy isn't all it's cracked up to be!  Lord, deliver me! Can Conservative ideologues really be such blooming idiots???

I'm not a Conservative ideologue, but I am one of those who thinks the word "marriage" isn't a good description of loving unions between Gay men and between Lesbians. Like the ideologues, my reasoning is religion-based, but that's where we part company; our approach to doctrine couldn't be more different! My reading of Gnostic Christian scripture (the Gospel of Philip in particular) makes me view LGBT folk as people who come into the world already married. The Gnostics believed we were "wed" prior to birth. All human beings are made in God's image, but the Lord has singularly blessed LGBT folk by making their souls reflect His image more accurately.

LGBT souls are, like God, a blend of male and female. In Scripture, this blend is called Fullness (for a more detailed explanation, read my essay series titled “We Are Family” under the Blended Gender sidebar link). Straight people, on the other hand, do not possess blended souls. God has granted them the ability to procreate as couples, but they lack the Fullness that is our Divine birthright! Heterosexual marriage is their means of approximating Fullness! Gay couples come together solely for love and Earthly companionship; heterosexual couples seek companionship, too, but their unions serve another, more important purpose: to make whole souls that have, for procreation's sake, been split into separate male and female parts!

That, then, is the significance of Jesus Christ's teaching about heterosexual marriage:

MATTHEW 19: 4-6
(Jesus Christ said)"Have you not read that the One who made them at the beginning made them male and female and said: 'For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh."

Homosexual union isn't the same. It isn't God merging two halves of a soul, but binding two complete souls together! David and Jonathan's love was described this way:

1 SAMUEL 18: 1-3
When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul . . . then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.

So from a Scriptural perspective, there is a difference between Gay and Straight couplings, and I’d prefer that a word other than "marriage" were applied to our unions. However, that obviously isn't the case, so what's the use of getting all swollen up about it? (I’m just thankful that a derogatory word isn't being used, knowing how much Gay people adore insulting descriptions of themselves and their activities!)

In both laymen's and legal parlance, there's just one valid description of a loving covenant between adults: Marriage! I understand and accept that fact. Establishing some kind of separate-but-equal substitute for Gay couples would be discriminatory; State Supreme Courts in Massachusetts, California and Connecticut have all said so!

Predictably, these progressive decisions have enraged Conservatives. They bellow like wild boars (bores?) about "activist judges" and trumpet Chicken Little alarms about the "dishonoring" of marriage. Why shouldn't there be different kinds of marriage, though? After all, there are different kinds of parenting. When a single person or a couple adopts a child, they legally become the child's parents. They are not called "caretakers" or "guardians" because they didn't conceive the child. They’re called parents!

Long ago, the concept of parenting was legally expanded to include adoptive child-rearing. Similarly, there’s now an inclination among jurists to expand the legal concept of marriage. Same-gender couples are being included, and it's high time that they were, isn’t it? There's nothing about an expanded definition of civil marriage that negates/corrupts marriages that fall under the original definition. That fact has also been affirmed by State Supreme Courts.

All the courts are trying to do is throw a protective legal arm around all spouses, much like Jesus Christ tries to throw a protective spiritual arm around all humankind. If the word "marriage" is applied to Lesbian and Gay unions in such a spirit of inclusiveness, then how can it be sinful? Inclusion is both a Democratic and a Christian value; but I detect neither Democratic nor Christian values in the language of marriage equality opponents, many of whom loudly proclaim faith in Jesus Christ. The nerve of them!

Here's what I'd like to ask these "faith-based" activists: What's Christian about railing against Gay promiscuity on one hand, and on another, making it hard for Gay men to opt for monogamous commitment? What's Christian about denying Lesbian and Gay couples legal protections like hospital visitation, family insurance policies, joint tax filing, child custody, property and inheritance rights? What's Christian about denying Lesbians and Gay men the documented health benefits of marriage? What's Christian about preachers labeling Gay men "f*ggots" from their pulpits, as some Black ministers do?

What's Christian about handing children Fred Phelps-style picket signs and compelling them to march against Gay Rights? What's Christian about marginalizing people whom God has blessed with born eunuch status? What's Christian about using the power of the State to persecute people on religious grounds? That's exactly what a corrupt church hierarchy did to Jesus Christ and His apostles . . . have they forgotten? I've got some disturbing news for all these "Christian" Fundamentalists who believe that homosexual relations are sinful. They can dismiss it at their own peril!

They won't walk through the gates of Heaven one second sooner because they persecuted those of us who practice same-gender love! On the contrary, if they become so caught up in sanctioning the perceived sins of others that they ignore their own sinful behavior, they won't walk through those gates at all! Make no mistake: A person's eligibility for Eternal Life doesn't depend on what he stops other people from doing. It depends on what he stops himself from doing! Breaking the Lord's commandment to love your neighbor as yourself is definitely something anybody who calls himself a Christian should stop . . . stop it right now and not later!

Fundamentalists should also stop vilifying the change that civil marriage is undergoing. The inclusion of Lesbian and Gay unions hasn't "dishonored" heterosexual marriage one bit; the only people capable of doing that are heterosexual husbands and wives who make a mockery of their vows!

For far too long, though, society has dishonored loving commitments between same-gender couples. I'm talking about commitments such as that between children's book author Maurice Sendak and his late life partner Dr. Eugene Glynn, the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and her devoted wife, Nancy Earl; and the late Gay Rights pioneer Del Martin and her mate of over fifty years, Phyllis Lyon. What an injustice that these marriages were never afforded legal recognition! What a sin that these bonds had to endure the stress of not only stigmatization, but criminalization prior to the repeal of sodomy laws! What an evil reflection on our democracy, on our morality, and on our so-called civilization!

In a more recent email to me, Jerry Maneker made this observation:

The Golden rule can only be recognized if one is capable of (real) empathy . . . unfortunately, so many people can't, or don't, place themselves in someone else's shoes. They do what most soldiers do: They depersonalize "the enemy", and make it seem that he or she is somehow not human . . . a fiction is created that says such things as "being Gay is a choice", "Gay people are only interested in sex", etcetera. (It’s) despicable when anyone is so callous, but when professing Christians (are), it's downright perverse and sinful!

Amen, Jerry! Nothing about this kind of discrimination is Christian. When will those who claim that blessed designation start following Jesus Christ's example morally well as rhetorically? When will they turn off the four-lane highway of bigotry and intolerance, and get on the narrow path that the Savior charted for His lambs? Let's support policies that really do affirm Christian values, policies which are truly faith-based and inclusive instead of self-righteous and exclusionary! Love makes a marriage, God is love, and love is not obligated to conform to limited human understanding! If it were, then God would never have sacrificed His only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from sin!

Personally, I'm not optimistic that California's Proposition 8 will be defeated.  If it becomes law, I will oppose voter repeal efforts.  I don't encourage validation of unconstitutional processes like that ballot initiative. The very idea of making minority group Civil Rights subject to public opinion is barbaric!  It calls to mind Pontius Pilate putting the Savior's fate to a vote. Such processes must be vigorously attacked!

The attacks should be mounted at the judicial level, and if jurists refuse to curtail such outrages (a likely result, given the large number of reactionary judicial appointments), then a sustained movement to affirm constitutional principles will be necessary. Believe me, these anti-Gay ballot initiatives are only the first step in a documented Dominionist plot to convert our government into an oppressive theocracy (read my blog series "Satan In The Pulpit", found under the Politics sidebar tab; it includes a review of Chris Hedges' disturbing but important book from 2007, American Fascists).

Fortunately, the movement to affirm constitutional (and Christian) principles has already begun! It's been jump-started by ministers who, in defiance of their corrupt church hierarchy, are performing more and more same-gender weddings and Holy Unions. It's been jump-started by businesses that both welcome and solicit the patronization of same-gender couples. It's been jump-started by elementary schools that teach children about the diversity of human families.

Jerry Maneker has always been part of that movement, but he took a giant step into deeper activism when he performed his first same-gender wedding. Praise the Lord! Just like the Savior did, Reverend Jerry lay hands of blessing on those who'd been cursed by society. He truly did follow Jesus Christ's example; and that one gentle act was ten times more empowering to LGBT folk than the pompous jawboning of a hundred radical “queers”!

He's had the misfortune to encounter a bunch of those types lately, and some of them have tried to link him with anti-Gay forces. I think their perspective has become queered (BTW, that means "twisted") to the point where they can no longer distinguish friends from enemies! Jerry is definitely a friend of the Gay Rights movement, I'm terribly proud of him, and I know his first same-gender wedding ceremony won't be his last!

10 October 2008

Defaming Diahann Carroll

Diahann Carroll1

Warning! This post contains coarse and offensive language.

Is it ever acceptable for a White-dominated media outlet to racially disparage an elderly African-American woman? That's the question readers of the online Gay newsmagazine New York Blade were challenged to ask themselves last week. As they linked to an article about a new celebrity autobiography, their eyes fixed on a startling title: The Black B*tch is Back!

Who is this “Black b*tch”? Diahann Carroll is one of the African-American community's most revered icons. She can boast of a 50-year career as a successful actress, model and singer. She's appeared in such critically acclaimed motion pictures as Carmen Jones, Porgy And Bess, Hurry Sundown and Claudine. She was the first Black woman to star as a romantic lead opposite a White co-star on Broadway. Her TV credits go back to 1960 and include notable series like “Perry Mason”, “A Different World”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Naked City” and “Roots”.

She became a feminist symbol, as well as a role model to single mothers and registered nurses, on her groundbreaking 1968 TV series "Julia". She’s the recipient of a Golden Globe, and has been nominated for numerous Emmy, Tony and Image Awards. She’s a celebrity breast cancer survivor and treatment advocate. She was, and still is, one of our most beautiful stars, not to mention an enduring Black female sex symbol.

So why would the New York Blade think it was OK, not only to slap the B-word on a woman of this stature, but also insult her racial identity? Maybe it has to do with a popular primetime soap opera that she co-starred in two decades ago: Before "Dynasty" hit the airwaves in 1981, it was rare to hear the word "b*tch" used on network TV. That changed when the writing staff of Aaron Spelling's sprawling saga of the filthy rich decided to push the language envelope. The B-word was liberally applied to Joan Collins' scheming character, Alexis Colby, and it was sure to be heard during catfight scenes regularly staged between Collins, Linda Evans and other female co-stars. To be sure, the sexist insult had always been part of America’s slang lexicon, but once "Dynasty" topped the Nielsen ratings list, it came into popular use like never before.

By the time the TV series notched its third season, criticism was mounting about a dearth of minority characters. Aaron Spelling put out the call for a Black actress; he wanted to cast a new nemesis for Alexis Colby. Reportedly, Joan Collins was instrumental in getting her old friend Diahann Carroll hired. Prior to her debut on the show, Ms. Carroll gave numerous interviews about her forthcoming role. Playfully, she told the press how much she looked forward to playing "the first Black b*tch" on television. Often, she would whisper the nasty words with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. I remember those interviews, and I also remember being taken aback by her questionable usage.

However, anyone who remembers her scenes on "Dynasty" knows that her character, Dominique Devereaux, was nothing like Alexis Colby. She was a strong and tenacious woman, determined to claim her birthright as a member of the wealthy Carrington clan, but she never had evil motives. The "Black b*tch" label was nothing but ill-conceived hype. The media never forgot it, though, and evidently, that's why the author and/or editor of Ms. Carroll's latest interview felt justified in applying the slur to her all these years later. But is that really the reason they did it? And is it really justified?

The answer to the first question is "no". The New York Blade isn't merely using Diahann Carroll's words against her. It's following a growing trend in Gay media to feature slurs prominently in their copy! Scan the covers of recent editions of The Advocate, Out Magazine, The Liberty Press and other national and regional Gay publications, and you'll find crass captions like "God Loves F*gs", "Blood, Sweat and Queers", "Yeah, I'm A F*g" and "Derby D*kes". Even trashy supermarket weeklies like The Examiner and The National Enquirer don't lead with language this crude! Gay media is quickly becoming known as the place where you can indulge in Don Imus-style potty mouth and get away with it!

(What kind of readers are editors going after when they approve these lurid covers? Radical LGBT sex and gender activists? Straight bigots? Tabloid addicts? Just plain ignorant folk? Before you pick up these rags, ask yourself if you're really part of the target readership. If you're really not, then your two dollars and/or your leisure time would probably be better spent elsewhere!)

The answer to the second question is also "no"! The term "Black b*tch" can be traced directly back to the days of slavery. White overseers were known to hurl it at Black female captives. Documentation of its use appears in slave narratives, where we learn that it was often followed by beatings or worse forms of "discipline".

Diahann Carroll was wrong to fling the term around so casually, even if she meant no harm by it. That insult carries far too much blood-stained baggage! It bears pointing out, though, that when she used it, she was always referring to her "Dynasty" character, never to herself! And what if the lady had been referring to herself? Does that give White people, or people of any ethnic background, the right to appropriate the same language when talking about her? Two wrongs don’t make a right, and in this case, the second wrong is worse than the first!

What do you bet that Ms. Carroll never gave The New York Blade permission to call her a "Black b*tch" in print? That decision was undoubtedly made after the interview, without her approval. It stuns me to think that any journalistic body could be so brazen, so disgraceful, and so mean! This woman is 73 years old! She's got grandchildren (discussed in the article) who no doubt access the Internet regularly, and who might search for articles about their famous grandmother . . . if not now, then certainly as they grow older!

How would Blade staffers feel if they saw their grandparents called "White b*tches" or "Honky bastards" in the title of a Web article? How would they like seeing Nana and Gramps introduced to millions of strangers that way?

If they'd put the title in quotes, it still wouldn't have been appropriate, but at least they’d have shown the woman a modicum of respect. No respect is shown whatsoever! Readers are unambiguously invited to read an interview with a Black b*tch named Diahann Carroll! Fifty years of proud accomplishments, and it all comes down to this?

I was just infuriated when I saw this headline. I already knew that Blade editors were in love with the word “queer”, but here they hit a new low of insensitivity! This was beyond insensitivity. This was beyond stupidity! I can only conclude that it reflects latent racist impulses on their part, the same impulses that prompt White Gay audiences to guffaw at "Shirley Q. Liquor" comedy routines.

"Shirley Q. Liquor" is a cruel and degrading caricature of poor Black women, performed by a White drag artist in Blackface makeup. Jasmyne Cannick was one of the first Black bloggers to raise a sustained alarm about this vicious portrayal, and believe it or not, some White LGBT folk have attacked her for doing so. A handful have even called her (you guessed it!) a “Black b*tch”! These ugly racial attitudes within Gay ranks must be rooted out before they grow serious enough to become another stumbling block to liberation (see my six-part series of the same title under the Politics label)!

With His Fifth Commandment, God instructed the ancient Israelites to respect their elders. Centuries later, Jesus Christ affirmed that Commandment for Christian converts. While I don’t expect the staffers of The New York Blade to be Christians, I do expect them to know what respect is!

What should happen to journalists who are nasty enough to racially disparage an elderly woman? Maybe they should learn firsthand how it feels to be the subject of sexual and racial slurs at an advanced age! Maybe when they reach their declining years and find themselves residing in a rest home, they should be cared for by ignorant, racist (or homophobic) doctors, nurses and orderlies! It would serve them right, and you know, it might happen just that way! My Grandmother Jacobs always told me: "Child, what you do to other people will always come back to you." New York Blade staffers, you've got it coming! Don't say you weren't warned.


Voice your displeasure to editor Rebecca Armendariz at:
RArmendariz@washblade.com

Read Diahann Carroll’s brand new autobiography
The Legs Are The Last To Go,
published by Amistad Books (2008).

06 October 2008

Lipstick On A Fascist Pig

Pigs

Pardon me, please, while I take a brief respite from Gay Rights blogging.  Lately, when Stuffed Animal lifts his furry snout to sniff the air, the stench of political corruption is strong enough to drive him back down in his burrow gagging and retching! Last Friday, the United States Congress dipped its hand in the taxpayer till and withdrew a whopping $850 billion dollars. What did they do with our money? Did they use it to bring us relief from crushing health care costs? Did they use it to revamp our crumbling infrastructure? Will it fund a new, improved GI Bill to benefit veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq?

No. Congress gave it to reckless and greedy Wall Street speculators so they can quell a debt crisis of their own making. Even more shocking, Congress did this in smug defiance of working class constituents who besieged Capitol phone lines with millions of angry calls!

If you query the 74 senators and 263 representatives who were responsible for this dirty deed, they'll swear they did it because the Business Round Table had aimed a gun at their heads. Had it gone off, that gun might have thrown the nation into a new Great Depression, and they'll insist it would've gone off had they refused to deliver the cash. However, a minimum of investigation reveals that it wasn't a gun to their heads that made them fork over the Benjamins. It was a bribe in their back pockets!

Look closer, and you'll see greasy lobbyist fingerprints on their bottoms! The Wall Street "rescue" bill, better described as the Great American Swindle, was larded with millions in outrageous pork barrel spending. That excess lard made it slide through Congress faster than a greased pig, and the swine metaphor couldn’t be more appropriate! Last week, roll call votes in the House and the Senate looked like nothing so much as an Arkansas pig sooey . . . when the fake squeal went up from K Street, those Democrat and Republican porkers came running as fast as their little cloven hooves could carry them!

With the exception of Lou Dobbs, Amy Goodman, Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher and a handful of other pundits, the national news media led a Chicken Little stampede for passage of the bailout bill. However, leading economists disagreed on whether this kind of legislation was necessary. If pressed, even the most partisan of them will admit that what got signed into law was far from ideal. It fails to impose strong regulations on speculators. It fails to guarantee Americans a return on their huge "investment". It barely addresses the home mortgage meltdown, the main culprit behind our current economic woes. This "trickle-down" cash infusion probably won't even be enough to alleviate the debt crisis! Two days after the bill became law, the stock market grew more unstable and volatile than ever.

This law was allegedly passed in the interest of economic stimulus. So why did Main Street get measly $300-$600 stimulus checks while Wall Street got a king's ransom? Main Street is in greater need of help, and has been so for a longer period of time, but this bloated bill does zilch for wage slaves like you and me. If your basement is flooding, does it make sense to rush and get your roof repaired but ignore what's happening downstairs?

Pardon me, did I say "rush"? My bad. It turns out there was never any rush at all. Media outlets like Pacifica's "Democracy Now!" are reporting that these oh-so-urgently-needed funds won't be distributed on Wall Street until after the November election! How does it feel to know the Bush administration has screwed you again? How does it feel to know that your Congressional delegation supplied the K-Y jelly? Anybody want a cigarette?

On Sunday, I saw one of the most disgusting news photos I've ever had the displeasure to lay eyes on: A smirking George W. Bush, on his way to commit grand larceny by signing the bailout bill into law, while Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the man who will drive the billions-laden getaway car back to Wall Street, kept pace with him. Both men were grinning like damn Cheshire cats with cream dripping from their whiskers!

It bears noting that Bush, Paulson and most of their stockbroker cronies are political Conservatives. Conservatives crave absolute power, and they aren't particular about the way they acquire it. They'll casually make a mockery of the US Constitution! They'll gladly trample on American Civil Liberties. They'll pack the Federal courts with partisan judges. They'll devise schemes to get eligible voters who oppose their ideology thrown off the rolls. They'll declare illegitimate wars, send thousands of American soldiers to an unjustified demise, and reserve the military contracts for war profiteers. They'll invent ominous cock-and-bull stories to scare the electorate into supporting disastrous policies.

In other words, when talking about Conservatives' pursuit of power, the key phrase seems to be how low can you go?  Yet somehow, Conservatives are reputed to be the most God-fearing people around. Conservatives are supposed to embody ironclad moral values as taught in the church, the temple, and the mosque. Conservatives are, for the most part, the ones who tell LGBT folk that we lack morals, and who punish us by voting against our basic citizenship rights. I don't know about you, but if I'm going to be censured for moral lapses, I'd much rather it be done by someone who's got half a friggin' clue what moral lapses are!

Do you know what a pig looks like with lipstick on? I'll tell you: It looks like a fascist quoting Scripture! It looks like a "Bible-believing" Senator voting against insurance benefits for poor children! It looks like the Presidential seal on a law that transforms our national Treasury into a casino! If you know of a bigger hypocrisy, a greater injustice, a more brazen display of arrogance than this recent turn of events, please tell me what it is.

I search in vain for the checks and balances that are supposed to protect us from such wholesale abuses of power, I strain my ears to detect sounds of righteous rebellion from the electorate, and I mourn the apparent demise of American democracy. Today, Stuffed Animal has tears in his eyes!

Very soon, though, he'll have accountability on his mind. He'll vote to unseat every member of his Congressional delegation who aided and abetted the Great American Swindle! Then he'll vote to seat independent candidates that loosen the two-party consolidation of power that lays our Democratic process open to corrupt influence. Will you do the same?