30 March 2010

Their Worm Never Dies


Top Vatican officials, including the future Pope Benedict XVI, did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the Church, according to Church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit. The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope, shows that while Church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the Church from scandal. The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.
-Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, 24 March 2010

People are talking about a new YouTube video that satirizes the Catholic church's sex abuse scandal. In it, parents treat their children with a canned spray product called Priest-Off, designed to repel pedophile priests. A split screen comparison shows what happens when a child isn’t treated (he is cornered by a group of lustful clergymen) to what happens when he is (perv priests back off, like vampires fleeing from a crucifix). Thanks to Priest-Off, Catholic families live happily ever after . . . The End.

The video is super campy, which means Gay web surfers are a sizable portion of its target audience. "LOL! Funniest thing I ever saw!" is a typical response to this dubious attempt at humor. Sorry, but I don't get the joke! Child predators are not pests; they're monsters! Priest-Off? How about Priest-In-Custody? The topics of pedophilia and pederasty don't tickle my funny bone, and they never will! Mothers who discover that their sons have been sexually abused do not smile, as the actress does in this video. I found the scene where pedophile priests pounce on the “untreated” boy especially disturbing. What profound moral deterioration our society suffers from, to ever consider child victimization a legitimate source of giggles and guffaws!

I was equally disturbed by a telecast of "Larry King Live" last night that featured a panel discussion on the scandal. As often is the case, King overloaded a too-short segment with guests, effectively reducing the conversation to a series of sound bites. His panelists included several male abuse victims, two priests, and for that all-important celebrity appeal, Irish Catholic singer Sinéad O'Connor. Also on hand was an apologist named William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. If you want to see the ugly face of Catholicism, look no farther than this reactionary bully!

To a man, the abuse victims all called for the Pope's resignation; they believed that, in his previous job of Doctrinal Prefect, he had failed to adequately discipline pedophile priests. The consensus was that there may have been a cover-up on Joseph Ratzinger's part. Some years ago, Sinéad O'Connor sharply criticized the Pope during a notorious “Saturday Night Live” guest spot, but here she adopted a disappointing, overly conciliatory position. She seemed to buy into the idea that there was a conspiracy to smear the Pope, and naïvely recommended that all abusers come forward and turn themselves in. The priests also struck a conciliatory tone, suggesting that a Papal apology should suffice to diffuse the uproar. As if!

Then it was Mr. Donohue's turn to speak. Almost shouting at the top of his lungs, he bellowed the Pope is being slandered several times. He defended the Vatican’s actions, denied that there had ever been a cover-up, implied that the victims were exaggerating, and scapegoated Gay priests for the scandal. He also claimed that the issue at hand was "homosexuality", not pedophilia, since most of the boys molested by priests had been "post-pubescent". Talk about splitting hairs! I was beside myself with fury when he told Larry King that raping youngsters was merely "what Gay men do." This vicious lie has long been a Vatican talking point, but Mr. Donohue added insult to injury with his insolent phrasing!

When King inquired why he wasn't angry about the children who'd been preyed upon, Donohue snarled that he would beat up a pedophile if he ever came in contact with one. Would he, now? Such exemplary Christian behavior! It was all a carefully rehearsed act on his part, a diversionary ploy designed to intimidate Vatican critics and shift the focus of conversation away from child sexual abuse. It worked! By the end of the segment, concern about these crimes had been superseded by concern for the Church, and some of the guests pledged their allegiance to Pope Ratzinger. It was a nauseating spectacle, but for me, not a surprise.

I'm not Catholic. I never have been, but I've worked with Catholics at various times in my life. My observation is that they have better obedience training than most dogs! To be sure, I've met Catholics who dissent from orthodox teachings, but they've been few and far-between. Most that I've known have toed a strict Vatican line. Jesus Christ called his flock "sheep", but I don't think he ever wanted the faithful to be as sheepish as lay Catholics are! One minute they're outraged about clergy victimizing children, and the next minute they're fretting over having possibly offended the Church hierarchy. No wonder so many children were afraid to tell their parents about sexual abuse! With Catholic clergy held in such blinding awe, there was no guarantee of a compassionate reaction.

MATTHEW 18: 10-14
(Jesus Christ said) "Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you, in Heaven their angels continuously see the face of My Father . . . it is not the will of your Father in Heaven that one of these little ones should be lost."

MATTHEW 25: 40
(Jesus Christ said) "And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of My family, you did it to Me.'"

Mainstream Catholicism turns the Savior's teaching about caring for the least among us on its head! Instead, the welfare of the rich and powerful Vatican is prioritized. Its reputation must be protected before any other concerns are addressed! Reverence for the Holy See is mandatory for believers. The Pope is infallible, even divine, a supreme authority who must never be doubted or questioned. Lay Catholics have internalized these unwritten rules, and they habitually fall in line like (dare I say it?) docile children. Their behavior is obsequious in the extreme! Whenever I see it, I have to ask myself: Who are they really worshiping? The Pope, or God? Can they not distinguish between the two?

EXODUS 20: 1-5
Then God spoke all these words: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is on the Earth beneath, or that is in the water under the Earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them . . ."

I've also had contact with Catholic priests now and then. Sometimes, that has not been a pleasant experience. Once, years ago, I did a poetry reading at a local Gay bookstore. I must have been in my early 30s then, but I've always looked young for my age. In the audience was an elderly priest sporting his clerical collar. After the reading, he came up and put his hands on me in an unseemly manner. Pulling me close, he began caressing my face, head and neck.

I’d have objected to anyone taking such liberties, but a clergyman? It was shocking. My obvious discomfort seemed to panic him, and he left the bookstore very quickly after that. Some other members of the audience witnessed what had happened, and I recall them crowding around, asking if I was all right. I was all right, but what if I'd been one of his parishioners? How much further would he have tried to go with me then? And how much further had he gone with others?

What is it about the Catholic church that sexual harassers (of both children and adults) find so attractive? I think it's the unquestioned authority. If you love to dominate other people, Catholicism is the religion that will support you in doing it! It's very much a top-down faith. The hierarchy demands slavish devotion, best exemplified by the requirement to kneel down and kiss the Pope’s ring. Up until recently, cardinals and priests were also revered in this pompous way. Watching that ritual has always made me flinch; I’ve never seen a more explicit expression of idolatry!

I used to work for Catholic Charities as an administrative assistant. I could tell you stories about that agency fit to make your hair stand on end, but I'll limit myself to this one memory: I'll never forget how priests would storm into the office, ordering everybody around and demanding to be the center of attention! It was typical of what I’ve observed over the years. The Pope and all too many cardinals, bishops, priests and nuns relish lording it over their flock. Their attitude seems to be: I am the equivalent of God, and Catholic converts are my subjects. They must do my bidding! I can even use them as my playthings if I so desire. Add sexual perversion and sexual hypocrisy to these delusions of grandeur, place them in a culture of secrecy, mix well, and you’ve got all the necessary ingredients for a predatory atmosphere!

Many times over the past fifty years, we know that the hands which placed Holy Wafers on the tongues of Church members were the same hands that molested innocent children. I’m surprised the touch of those wafers didn’t singe those wicked hands! As if they were playing a game of musical chairs, bishops bounced these monsters from parish to parish where, more often than not, they polished their rape technique! What utter depravity! The Savior teaches forgiveness, but how is it possible to forgive such a hideous thing? How can anyone even think about holding membership in an institution that would commit such horrors? How dare anyone value the Pope's reputation over the safety of a child? What kind of systematic brainwashing gives birth to such a twisted mentality?

MARK 9: 43-48
(Jesus Christ said) "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off! It is better for you to enter Life maimed than to have two hands and to go to Hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off! It is better for you to enter Life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into Hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into Hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched."

I'm sending out an urgent message to all Catholics, but especially to Gay priests: Cut off that offensive appendage! Run away from the Church of Babylon! Run for your spiritual lives! Take your precious faith elsewhere before it drowns in a sea of manipulation, cynicism and corruption. For as long as you remain in the rectory, you will be tainted by the pedophilia scandal. It won't be a guilt-by-association thing, either! The Vatican will actively scapegoat you, just like William Donohue did on "Larry King Live", and when your true identity is discovered, you'll be cruelly drummed out of your beloved profession!

Take my advice and quit before that happens! You've been living in sin anyway, hiding your born eunuch status (see Part Two of my essay titled "Life During Wartime") in order to keep your job. Even if colleagues in your immediate circle know that you're Gay, you're still hiding from higher-ups, and living on borrowed time. Repent of this mendacity! Don't our Commandments forbid the bearing of false witness? Come fully out of the closet, and come fully out of that wicked Church! Nothing better could happen to you. Consider becoming a Reform Catholic. Stop idolizing the Vatican and start serving the one true Lord and Savior! It's not just your livelihood you're risking, it's your immortal soul!

I'm sure by now I'm perceived as thoroughly anti-Catholic! That's a reasonable deduction to make, but it's not just mainstream Catholicism that I disapprove of. Anybody who reads this blog regularly knows I feel the same way about other denominations. Flip back through some of my past posts, like "Satan In The Pulpit", “March Down Babylon”, “Spiritual Sadism”, “Anytime You’re Ready”, “You Can’t Go Halfway”, “Loved In The Worst Way”, and  “The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin”. You'll see that Protestants probably get the lion’s share of my scorn!

But the Church of Babylon knows no denomination: It can be Catholic or Protestant, Baptist, Mormon, COGIC, Methodist, Presbyterian, Jehovah's Witness, Scientologist, even Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist. It could be a church that worships Groucho Marx . . . whatever! Any church that demonizes God's LGBT children and/or campaigns against their Civil Rights is Babylonian in orientation!

However, the Catholic church deserves special condemnation! It doesn't demonize Gay people to affirm its doctrines, but rather to divert attention from its historical coddling of sex criminals! Beware, Vatican hypocrites! The worm that never dies is hungry for you! Slandering of the Pope is really of little consequence. Slandering of Jesus Christ is what you should be worried about!

God is watching the Vatican. He sees the transgressions that have been committed behind its pious façade! Growing numbers of lay Catholics are starting to see past the deception, too. The Savior never spoke truer than when he prophesied: Nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known (Luke 8:17). The truth will always come out! Sooner or later, everybody's going to realize that just as you can't draw pure water from a filthy, rusted water pipe, you can't draw pure Christian doctrine from the filthy Church of Babylon! This realization can't happen fast enough for millions of Catholic children.

MATTHEW 23: 23-28
(Jesus Christ said) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: Justice, and mercy, and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others . . . woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may also become clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."

For more revelations about Catholic church complicity in child sexual abuse, follow this link.

21 March 2010

It's All About Veronica

It's All About Veronica

I am a Left-leaning Independent voter, but I have little respect for the political Left. Strange as it may sound, I feel a stronger connection with the rural Conservative voter who predominates in my home state of Missouri. Mind you, I don't share his narrow-minded views, and I harbor no illusions about him: This voter can be extremely xenophobic, sexist, heterosexist, even racist, and he falls for just about any candidate who comes along waving a flag and brandishing a Bible!

Yet, he is truly passionate about his moral values and the issues that affirm them: Small government, strong national defense, gun rights, frequent tax cuts, and blending of church and state, which dictates his feelings about Gay Rights and abortion. For sure, he's a stone reactionary, but he's for real! Politics is serious business for him. Seldom is he swayed by a photogenic face or a list of made-to-order promises. His loyalty is triggered by slavish fidelity to his core issues, and he’ll kick to the curb any Republican politician who doesn't honor them. He will make a litmus test of a candidate's voting record in order to justify or deny him support at the polls. Presidential nominee John McCain failed to pass the test, and as a result, he never secured the Republican base. The rural Conservative brings a passionate commitment to voting his beliefs! He has unquestionably changed the face of American government, and for that I respect him.

By contrast, the urban Progressive voter (who lives in the suburbs as often as not) isn't terribly passionate about anything! He can make you believe otherwise, though, by the fired-up way he talks (Liberals love to give and listen to stirring speeches; that's one of the main reasons they supported Barack Obama). Yes, there are issues that he somewhat cares about: Unjust war, the environment, corporate greed, immigration reform, minority rights, women's rights, jobs, health care . . . but he will readily brush them all aside so that the "right" candidate can be elected. What makes a candidate the right one for an urban Liberal isn't his position on issues, but merely his opposition to whoever is on the Republican ticket! Often, the Democrat will be almost as Conservative as the Republican! Party affiliation matters most in the end, not ideology.

It's almost a snob thing. My observation has been that urban Progressives look down their noses at Conservative politics; they think of the constituency as "dumbasses", while they dismiss the candidates as "idiots". Never mind that these idiots won the balance of national elections during the last century; the means used to get them elected, like concentration on a single issue, religion-based campaign appeals and unabashed patriotism, are too crude for a Progressive to even consider emulating. Liberals pride themselves on being politically sophisticated. Yes, indeedy! Wanna know just how sophisticated they are? They'll justify returning an ineffective or double-crossing politician to office over and over again by arguing "he's the lesser of two evils" and/or "sometimes, you just have to hold your nose and do what's practical".

Political sophistication notwithstanding, urban Progressive voters are far more gullible than their Conservative counterparts are. Their elected officials hardly need to ply them with jingoistic rhetoric before sneaking off with a corporate lobbyist. Truth be told, they don't have to sneak! Democrat politicians cuckold their constituents fairly openly, confident that their incumbency is secure no matter how often they bed down with Right Wing special interests.

When urban Progressives learn about these illicit affairs, they predictably throw a hissy fit. They bitch and whine for a little while, but eventually they throw hands up in the air and say: "What other choice do we have?" Then they go to the polls, obediently pull the Democrat lever as always, and get far less than what they claim to have wanted . . . as always! With rural Conservative voters, it's a different story. Lobbyist hanky panky doesn't faze them much, but if a Republican incumbent strays from their reactionary platform, they drop him like a hot potato and flock to the local Tea Party! They will cede both local and national races to Democrats rather than elect an unreliable Conservative. Ideological infidelity simply isn’t tolerated among that crowd!

Left Wing voters are doormats. Suckers! They don't care if their candidates' love is untrue. They're like the late Tammy Wynette singing "Stand By Your Man", blindly hanging on to a cheating, contemptuous lover. They're like Hillary Clinton, enduring marriage to a philanderer husband who subjects her to the worst kind of public humiliation. They're like Betty Cooper, a hapless comic book character I've cited before on this blog: Betty pursues Archie Andrews even though he jilts her repeatedly and flirts shamelessly with Veronica Lodge in front of everyone!

Nothing better illustrates the Liberal voter's blind allegiance to Democrats than his unqualified support for President Obama’s idea of health care reform. First, Liberals said they had to have single payer coverage, but that turned out to be a lie. Then they wanted Medicare for all, but they quickly abandoned that goal, too. Finally, all hope for a "public option" evaporated. Even with no public financing option to make the legislation affordable, urban Progressives fell head-over-heels for Democrat Party sweet talk: We'll close the prescription drug "doughnut hole", we'll mandate coverage for pre-existing conditions, we'll get young adults coverage under their parents’ health plans, smack, smooch, slurp!

Drunk with partisan love, Progressives toed the party line and shouted down every cautionary voice, insisting that "it's better for Congress to pass something than nothing at all." (You know, like when you kiss a horny toad instead of that elusive Prince Charming, and you can hardly tell the difference?) They seemed almost eager to have their attention diverted from a most ominous fact: That the Obama plan legally mandates Americans to buy insurance from the private sector, with negligible cost controls!

Ignoring a troublesome truth like that takes some doing! It's quite remarkable, how determined Progressives were this time to once again see a stark naked Emperor sporting fine clothes. On a recent edition of the PBS series "Bill Moyers Journal", Harvard Medical School professor Marcia Angell lay the ugly truth on Moyers' overwhelmingly Liberal audience, and she didn't mince words:

MARCIA ANGELL: What this bill does is not only permit the commercial insurance industry to remain in place, but it actually expands and cements their position as the lynchpin of health care reform. And these companies, they profit by denying health care, not providing health care. And they will be able to charge whatever they like! So if they're regulated in some way, and it cuts into their profits, all they have to do is just raise their premiums, and they'll do that. Not only does (the Obama bill) keep them in place, but it pours about 500 billion dollars of public money into these companies over 10 years. And it mandates that people buy these companies' products for whatever they charge! Now, that's a recipe for the growth in health care costs, not only to continue, but to skyrocket, to grow even faster!

Holy second Wall Street bailout, Batman!

BILL MOYERS: But given that, why have the insurance companies, health insurance companies, been fighting reform so hard?

MARCIA ANGELL: Oh, they haven't fought it very hard, Bill! They really haven't fought it very hard. What they're fighting for is the individual mandate. And if they get that mandate, if everyone does have to buy their commercial products, then they're going to be extremely happy with it.

BILL MOYERS: But this is all about politics now. It's not about pure health care reform. So, given that reality, what would you have the President do?

MARCIA ANGELL: Well, I think you really do have to separate the policy analysis from the political analysis, and I'm looking at it as policy. And it fails as policy . . . there are a lot of people who say, "Look, it's a terrible bill! Even a step in the wrong direction, as policy goes. But we need to get Obama elected again, and we need to continue with the Democratic majority in Congress. And so we need to give Obama and the Democrats a win. If we don't, the Republicans will come in and take over Congress in the fall, and then the White House in 2012.” But the problem with a political analysis is, sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong! And Democrats, and particularly Liberals, have a history of outsmarting themselves . . . I'm not so sure that if this bill goes down, it's going to make it any harder for them politically. (There will be) difficult times for the President and for the Democrats, (but) the issue is: Will this bill make (the coverage problem) better or worse? And I believe it will make it worse . . . it will take money out of Medicare and put it into the private sector. Medicare is the source for a lot of the funds that (will) subsidize the private health insurance industry. So that's the first thing, (and) as far as cost-cutting (goes), there are, sort of, promissory notes: “We'll get a committee to look at the cost of effectiveness, of various medical procedures.” (The Congressional Budget Office) has to build in assumptions, (but) those assumptions are arguable, to put it mildly.

Holy Medicare fund raid, Batman!

BILL MOYERS: Well, you remind me 45,000 people . . . die every year for lack of health insurance.

MARCIA ANGELL: It's not lack of health insurance. It's lack of health care! There is a difference between health insurance and health care. You can have insurance offered that is too expensive to buy or too expensive to use. What good does it do? And what happens when this occurs, is that . . . instead of improvements, look at my state of Massachusetts . . . you see (coverage) shredded even further. You see more people denied access anyway. Now (there are) over 60,000 people in my state who are exempted from the (mandatory Massachusetts health) plan for financial hardship, and this is also in the Obama plan. If you're really poor, you don't have to participate, and these are the very people who should be in a plan . . .

BILL MOYERS: But, the very poor do get Medicaid.

MARCIA ANGELL: Yes, yes. And one of the things about the Obama plan that I do like is that it expands Medicaid up to 133% of the Federal poverty level, and that's fine. The problem is that (it) could have been a stand-alone measure. You didn't need to have it incorporated in this massive Rube Goldberg apparatus . . . the bill as a whole, the more I look at it, the worse it gets. It's going to increase (consumer) costs, not decrease them.

Also, read these assessments of President Obama's health care legislation from Huffington Post contributor Taylor Marsh and Jane Hamsher of firedoglake.com.

As Dr. Angell indicated, Democrats have promised to iron the "bugs" out of this bill later on, after it's been signed into law. We've heard that kind of promise before! Remember NAFTA? Even with Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress, the job-destroying directives of that disastrous "free trade" agreement appear to be set in stone. So much for fixing flawed legislation later; politicians sure don’t have a good record on that score!

I have never bought into the fiction that what’s good for the Democrat or Republican parties is always good for the nation. The urban Progressive voter's blind loyalty to Democrats is an abusive and unfaithful relationship that's going nowhere fast. That's why millions of former Democrats like myself now identify as Independent. We don't want any more Democrat Party kisses because we know where that donkey's puckered lips have been: Planted on the talcum-powdered backsides of Wall Street banksters and rich Conservative campaign donors! Lips that kiss corporate ass will never touch ours again! Sloppy seconds may be good enough for Betty Cooper, but the American people deserve better.

American government deserves better, too! When a billion-dollar Wall Street bailout zooms though Congress like greased lightning, but health care reform stalls for years and can't pass until after it's been gutted by the insurance industry, how much more obvious can infidelity be? Where’s the logic in hanging on to a boyfriend (or an elected representative) once you know he's fallen for a spoiled rich girl? If it's all about Veronica, nothing’s left for Betty that's worth having! Cynical, sellout career politicians will destroy our democracy sooner than any terrorist bomb!

If they're really serious about their core issues (and frankly, I've yet to be convinced that they are), Progressive voters had better put that long-suffering lover act to bed! They need to stop being so damn sophisticated and try being more passionate, like those "dumbass" Right Wingers. When we demand reform of health care, military policy, financial regulations, etcetera, we've got to back up those demands in the voting booth! If we fail to do so, we get exactly the kind of impotent public policy we deserve. Fidelity to issues must determine what we do at the polls, not smug political gamesmanship! Love is not a game, and neither is good government. The American voter should develop a healthy aversion to cuckolding, regardless of party affiliation!

In closing this essay, let me turn the podium over to Dr. Marcia Angell once more. She states her case so articulately, it’s a pleasure to do so. The following quote comes from a 2000 PBS television special titled “Health Care Crisis: Who’s At Risk?”

Our health care system is based on the premise that health care is a commodity like VCRs or computers, and that it should be distributed according to the ability to pay in the same way that consumer goods are. That's not what health care should be! Health care is a need; it's not a commodity, and it should be distributed according to need. If you're very sick, you should have a lot of it. If you're not sick, you shouldn't have a lot of it. But this should be seen as a personal, individual need, not as a commodity to be distributed like other marketplace commodities. That is a fundamental mistake in the way this country, and only this country, looks at health care. And that market ideology is what has made the health care system so dreadful, so bad at what it does.

Preach, doctor, preach! Thanks for indulging me with this one last bit of political punditry.

18 February 2010

Africa Screams (Part One)


Warning: This post contains sexually explicit material that may not be suitable for younger readers.

MATTHEW 5: 11-12
(Jesus Christ said) Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Without a doubt, Uganda's pending law to impose the death penalty on homosexual citizens is the worst case of African heterosexism I've heard about lately! Which isn't to say there aren't plenty of other cases! Let me tell you about a few of them. Reuters News Service reported this disturbing incident on 29 December 2009:

Two men who became the first Gay couple to marry in Malawi were arrested and charged with public indecency, the police said Tuesday. The men, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, publicly wed in a symbolic, traditional ceremony on Saturday and were arrested Monday night. Homosexuality is banned in Malawi and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

The Chimbalanga-Monjezas have since been vilified in the local press, humiliated in the courtroom, beaten up in jail, and threatened with violation of their body cavities. The police want to brutally rape them with anal probes in order to find "evidence" of homosexuality! Can you even imagine the degree of suffering these defenseless men are enduring? If they can survive the cruelties of the Malawian "justice" system, they'll still have to endure unbridled scorn from members of their own community. May God protect them both!

A few days ago, this ugliness was not only repeated but amplified in Kenya, the ancestral homeland of US President Barack Obama. This report comes from the website www.LiveJournal.com:

Kenya has become the latest African nation to generate headlines with anti-Gay actions. After last year’s proposal by a Ugandan lawmaker to put some Gays (sic) to death, and the arrest of a same-sex couple in Malawi for allegedly celebrating their betrothal, Kenyan officials acted to prevent a planned celebration that reportedly would have marked the union of a Gay couple. The ceremony was to have been conducted at a private residence not far from Mombasa, a resort town, reported the BBC in a February 11th article. However, local authorities stepped in following reports of the purported Gay union. Said Chief Hussein Swaleh, "I was shocked." Added the Chief, "I won’t allow it."

In a second incident, an anti-Gay mob organized by politicians and religious leaders in the Kenyan district of Kilifi chased three men, a supposed Gay couple and another individual, through the streets of the town of Mtwapa. Police had to intervene to save the men . . . the vigilante action, called Operation Gays Out, was spearheaded by Sheikh Hussein Ali and Bishop Laurence Chai (who said) "We thank God for saving this town from being turned to Sodom and Gomorrah . . . we may (have been) doomed had (these) criminals managed to conduct their evil exercise within our neighborhood" . . . Chai and Ali publicly called for the government to close any night spots catering to Gays (sic), and Ali swore further violence against (them), urging residents of Mtwapa to attack them.

"Operation Gays Out"? Politicians and preachers leading a mob? Calls for random violence against same-gender-loving Kenyans? What barbarity! Mtwapa sure sounds like a modern Sodom to me, what with predatory townspeople menacing the innocent! If I were Sheikh Ali or "Bishop" Chai, I wouldn't start breathing easy yet; the threat of eternal doom hasn't moved farther away from them, it's drawn much nearer! Their kind of hateful doings never fail to get Satan's attention!

Speaking of that hideous "death to Gay people" bill, it's been roundly denounced by international human rights advocates. The rising chorus of criticism now includes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama. As a result, the bill's future is somewhat in doubt; thank God for that development! However, some Ugandan clergy are going to bizarre extremes to keep it alive. The following information was posted to the blog towleroad.com 17 February 2010:

In January (it was) reported that anti-Gay pastor and Rick Warren buddy Martin Ssempa had held a screening of Gay porn to scare up support from the (Ugandan) public for the pending anti-homosexuality bill. He held another screening today, after police blocked plans for his Million Man "Kill the Gays" March. The screening took place in a packed Kampala church. AFP reports: "The screening was attended by around 300 supporters crammed into an evangelical church in the Ugandan capital after plans for a 'million-man march' were thwarted by police. 'We had planned to have a million-man-and-woman march in Kampala, but unfortunately we were told that we could not . . . because of security concerns,' Martin Ssempa told the crowd. 'The major argument homosexuals have is that what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms is nobody's business, but do you know what they do in their bedrooms?,' the pastor asked. Ssempa then displayed a slide show of Gay pornographic pictures. 'This one is eating another man's penis,' the pastor said, before going into even more graphic descriptions . . . Ssempa is Pastor Rick Warren's right-hand man in Uganda."

That last line refers to the fact that Rick Warren, one of Barack Obama's favorite evangelists, has been in Uganda spreading his "purpose driven" anti-Gay message. The Saddleback mega-church pastor and best-selling author recruited local Bible bigot Martin Ssempa to help him disseminate hatred in Africa; but that certainly can't explain Ssempa's pulpit-profaning, blowjob-narrating, X-rated-movie-screening habits! Warren has issues for sure, but to my knowledge he's never stooped to this kind of sleazy tactic; Ssempa's feeble attempts to camouflage voyeurism would be hilarious if his intentions weren't so evil. Clearly, he is the sickest of sick puppies, and the same goes for anybody who'd willingly attend one of his perverted "church services"!

Reverend Rowland 'Jide Macaulay, an African expatriate now living in London, puts living conditions for African LGBT folk in perspective. The following excerpts come from an essay he wrote titled "Africa and Homosexuality":

Lesbians and Gay men of African descent, like myself, today struggle to affirm our identity because we have often been expected to deny our sexuality for the sake of surviving in our spiritual communities . . . not only does legislation prohibit homosexuality in many African countries, but its very existence is also denied . . . there is a continual attempt to deny that Gays (sic) and Lesbians make up a significant part of the population. “Gay culture” virtually does not exist from an African point of view. The subject of homosexuality is a huge taboo. Many Africans are in same-sex relationships, but very few will be open about their sexuality to their families . . . if it were possible to determine homosexuality at birth, many African parents would repudiate their homosexual children before they have the chance to live. It is commonly said in Africa, “It is better to have the corpse of my child, than for me to accept that my child is Gay.”

Have you ever heard anything so tragic?

As far as Africans are concerned, homosexuality is an abuse of traditional values. Homosexuality is seen as a sign of western sexual corruption and immorality. Some families believe that homosexuality is a result of occult activity, and others, that it is a disability. There are many cases where violence is perpetrated against Gays (sic) and Lesbians, and where family relationships break down. Those known to be Gay or Lesbian are seen as outcasts, bringing terrible shame to their family name and harming the families' values and reputation.

Lest you believe this kind of ignorance is just an African cultural trait, Rev. Macaulay fixes blame for widespread anti-Gay prejudice precisely where it belongs:

The Christian churches are among the worst perpetrators of homophobia, using the Bible to support their attitudes and arguments. The issues are preached about in ways that are difficult to challenge, and (they) cannot be openly debated in the pews. Counselling is usually offered to those known or suspected of being homosexual. The experience usually leaves the victim more confused . . . powerful organizations like the church, which could make an enormous difference, (instead) add fuel to the stigma and undermine all efforts to change attitudes. African Gays (sic)and Lesbians therefore go underground, leading to a lack of self-esteem, increased insecurity, loneliness and sometimes suicide.

I don't doubt it! Despite the fact that Gay Africans have taken their own lives, I would call them victims of genocide. Reverend Macaulay speaks to his own experience as a Gay man exiled from Nigeria:

The experience of an African Gay or Lesbian person living in exile in a foreign country is one of lost hope and a lack of representation. There are times when it feels that the entire world is against you. Gay Africans are not accepted by their own . . . African culture and are equally faced with oppression, prejudice, and low self-esteem. I have spoken to over 50 African Gays (sic) and Lesbians in the past two years. The conversations revealed that their lives seem worthless in a society that gives them little protection against the hatred (of) their sexual orientation.

Now that Rev. Macaulay has provided the context, let's look at concerns surrounding HIV transmission on the African continent.

"Africa Screams" concludes with Part Two.

Africa Screams (Part Two)


Warning: This post contains sexually explicit material that may not be suitable for younger readers.

In the December 2009 issue of Positively Aware, an HIV treatment and health bi-monthly distributed to hospitals and health centers, columnist Jim Pickett reported on the Fifth International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention. Held in July 2009, the conference took place in Cape Town, South Africa. One of the main challenges to HIV/AIDS prevention that Mr. Pickett identified was culturally-enforced invisibility of LGBT African people.

Contracy to rampant, pernicious mischaracterizations, fueled by structural homophobia that negates the existence of Gay (men) and completely devalues their lives, Gay men and other MSM (men who love men) exist in Africa! Hello! Despite official HIV/AIDS estimates that mostly ignore this fact, these men constitute a substantial percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS on the continent . . .

After contextualizing the challenges faced by African Gay (men), including criminilization, stigma, discrimination, human rights abuses, lack of access to prevention and care, and limited HIV surveillance, (a colleague) shared some numbers from Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Mauritania, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Namibia and Botswana. The data revealed high burdens of HIV among Gay (men) across all these countries, significantly higher than prevalence rates among males from the general population in each country save South Africa, Botswana and Namibia . . .

Let's have a bit more context here. The aforementioned Live Journal article confirms what Rev. Macaulay has said about African law:

. . . in many African nations, homosexuality is illegal; only South Africa has extended marriage equality to Gay and Lesbian families.

In addition, consider this older report which was posted to CCN.com/World on 15 May 2008:

Jackson Irungu is . . . among a tiny minority of openly Gay men in Kenya who face a constant barrage of verbal abuse on the street and even occasional physical attacks. "We live in fear," says Irungu, "There is a perception that being Gay is wrong, so it is a bit tricky . . . when you live in Kenya." Irungu says a friend of his was beaten so badly outside a nightclub in Nairobi that he had to be taken to hospital. There is no way to corroborate such incidents with the police because homosexual Kenyans are just too afraid to report them. (Kenyan) law books help create the ambivalence. Two separate penal codes relate to the Gays in Kenya, and the archaic laws can lead to a 5-to-14 year jail term.

So it's established that criminalization of their existence is a given for most of the subjects in this study group. Let's go back to Jim Pickett's conference report. He elaborated on African HIV statistics:

. . . let's take a look at Kenya, where (my colleague) told us the prevalence rates among Gay (men) is 15.6% in contrast to 7.49% prevalence among (heterosexual) Kenyan men of reproductive age. This means that about one in six or seven Gay Kenyans are HIV-positive. How about Sudan? (Heterosexual) men of reproductive age represent 1.26% prevalence (and) Gay (men) 8.8% in that North African country. Malawi? 21.4% for Gay (men), 11.46% for (heterosexual) men of reproductive age. In Senegal, the prevalence of HIV among Gay (men) is 21 times higher than other men. In Nigeria, seven times higher. Pretty dismal, yes?

Hell, yes! And from those news reports I cited, we know the intensity of heterosexism that exists in Kenya and Malawi. Might there be a connection? Mr. Pickett discussed the sexual practices of Gay Africans:

. . . anal intercourse is common among Gay (men) in Africa, and most of these men are using some sort of lubricant . . . but here is the rub: In a 2008 study of Gay (men) in Namibia, Botswana and Malawi, only one quarter of them used water-based lubricants. Of the men who indicated they always used condoms, 12.9% used a water-based lubricant. Nearly half of the men had used petroleum-based products during their last episode of anal intercourse with another man, and one-fifth used nothing . . . for those of us acquainted with the finer points of anal intercourse, the thought of engaging in this activity without any type of lubrication (brings) a grimace. And the fact that lube-free anal sex hurts and tears and burns creates a perfect storm in the rectum for HIV transmission . . . we all know that oil-based lubes are a big no-no with latex condoms, though using these lubes in the absence of condoms is still much, much better than using nothing.

What's going on here? There are huge barriers (in Africa) to lubricant use, including cost and very limited availability, as well as the stigma attached to buying lubricant (you shouldn't need to buy lube for vaginal sex, right? If you're buying lube, you must be doing bad things.) Many African men who have the ability to travel come back from the West with suitcases packed with lubricant for their friends; the demand is extremely high. But this is not the best distribution system . . .

There are now condom-distribution programs operating in many parts of Africa. After overcoming considerable local and international resistance, they were established in response to the African AIDS pandemic. Given the continental stigma against same-gender love, few if any of these programs are targeted at Gay men. But quiet as it's kept, heterosexual lovers enjoy anal sex, too; the availability of lubricants would be just as much a safeguard for them as for Gay couples! Here's an example of how heterosexism, with its antiquated, restrictive concepts of human sexuality, poses needless danger to the health of all Africans! Even so, the health of Gay and Pansexual African men is endangered in a much more devastating way.

Before I elaborate, let me say that I don't believe every African who was interviewed for that 2008 study spoke truthfully about his condom use. It's no secret that men habitually lie about what they do in bed, and that's a cross-cultural fact! Besides, if they were all telling the truth, then the HIV infection stats wouldn't be so high. Let me also say that, just as I don't believe Gay African-Americans are totally ignorant about sexual issues, I don't believe Gay Africans are, either. While some of them may not know about or have access to K-Y jelly, most of them understand that anal penetration without some kind of lubricant is dangerous. You can't avoid the pain and bleeding that results. What could make a man want to endure such trauma?

Everything that human beings do is done for a reason; African men have unprotected sex for a reason. I submit it's the same reason why Gay men who live under hostile conditions all over the world have unprotected sex: Internalized shame! Shame, compounded by the suicidal mindset that Rev. Macaulay describes. Shame, making them devalue both their own lives and the lives of their bedmates. Shame, convincing them that Gay sex must somehow be made less pleasurable. Shame, telling them Gay sex must hurt! Gay sex must maim! Gay sex must be traumatic and potentially lethal. Consciously or subconsciously, these men feel so guilt-ridden that they turn God's gift of same-gender intimacy into a form of punishment. They punish themselves and their lovers! Like other destructive behaviors Gay people indulge in, unprotected sex is a form of self-flagellation.

And where does the concept of self-flagellation come from? You Catholics out there know the answer: It originates with the Oppressor Church, the same church that Rowland 'Jide Macaulay indicts for embedding anti-Gay hatred in African culture. It's the same church that exercises undue influence over American culture, politics, education and media. Now, in the West, we don't usually see Old Testament law enforced by mobs, but we do see rising rates of seroconversion among Gay men (especially those of African descent)! There's no doubt in my mind that a connection exists between a minority group's desire to maintain good health and religious persecution of that minority group! The criminalization, the stigmatization, the fear, shame and self-destructiveness: you can trace it all back to the Church, to some fire-breathing dragon of a demagogue preacher damning Gay men to Hell!

Jim Pickett's report implied that the solution to high infection rates is better distribution of water-based lubricants. I wouldn't argue against that course of action, but I disagree that it will solve the problem. The problem will only be solved when Bible bigotry is forcefully attacked; when African churches start valueing the lives and loves of Gay men; when African preachers start condemning mob violence instead of encouraging it; when religious hatemongers like Rick Warren, Martin Ssempa and Laurence Chai are exposed as the false prophets that they are and dealt with accordingly! Once false prophesy has been done away with, Christian churches can fullfill Jesus Christ's mandate to promote compassion. They can start to undo much of the damage they've done over centuries; and they are the only institutions that can do it effectively! Madonna said it best, in her song "Erotica": Only the one that hurts you/Can make you feel better/Only the one that inflicts pain/Can take it away.*

That same issue of Positively Aware contained a letter to the editor slamming home the point that anti-Gay religion is a public health hazard. HIV/AIDS counselor Paulo Presta wrote:

I was a prevention specialist here in Arizona. I approached some church leaders about how we may work together to support our collective efforts in prevention . . . consistently, when it came to addressing HIV prevention with Gays (sic), I was met with judgmental comments . . . I was both angry and saddened that church members would take such a position against those who live, worship and pray with them. One even writes inflammatory pieces against Gays (sic) and then says: "I don't hate (them), I only write what God tells me to." That just doesn't cut it for me . . . his behavior does nothing to fight HIV and only sows seeds of hurt and sorrow.

More important, it sows seeds of shame and self-destructiveness . . . and incidentally, that clergyman lied in his teeth! God never told anybody to be judgmental. Quite the opposite is true:

MATTHEW 7: 1-5
(Jesus Christ said) Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment that you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor: "Let me take the speck out of your eye" while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly . . .

Mr. Presta's anger can be put to good use! It's time for health care professionals like him to come together with equality activists and declare war on bigotry disguised as religious doctrine. Granted, taking on organized religion will require tons more time, energy and money; but if our concern for Gay men's health is sincere, that battle must be joined! HIV counselors have long understood that "faith-based" homophobia is a major obstacle to curbing seroconversion, particularly in Black communities. When will they finally understand that Gay Rights activism is an essential element of AIDS prevention?

Patient advocates like Jim Pickett and Paulo Presta should think of every Gay man as a potential suicide poised on a window ledge. There are cruel onlookers down below, urging the poor guy to jump to his death: Genocidal clergy and their thuggish followers! If caregivers can put a lid on these sadistic bastards (shout them down, discredit them, penalize their hateful expression), they'll have a much better chance of talking distraught patients back to safety. Fighting suicidal sexuality with condoms and lube alone simply isn't enough!

The spiritual needs of Africans are different from western needs. African culture embraces a greater intimacy of spiritual growth. We need a new era of Christian faith that can celebrate same-sex unions, so that many more Gay Africans can be proud to celebrate their sexuality in a loving union.

These wise words come from Rowland 'Jide Macaulay, and I agree with them up to a point. I don't think New World spiritual needs are very different from those in the Old World. Western folk just don't acknowledge their spiritual needs as honestly!

However, Rev. Macaulay and I agree 100% that a new era of Christian faith is sorely needed all over the world, especially in Africa where the Devil has seared his wicked brand on entire nations! Satanic hatred is blazing out of control in the cradle of humankind, and in the cries of innocent victims like Tiwonge and Steven Chimbalanga-Monjeza, you can hear Africa scream for deliverance. Lord, when will You lift the massive burden of poverty, corruption and ignorance that’s crushing Mother Africa? How much worse does the situation have to get before it gets better?

*Excerpt from "Erotica" by Madonna, Shep Pettibone and Tony Shimkin, copyright 1990 Webo Girl Publishing/Shepsongs/WB Music Corporation (ASCAP).

22 January 2010

Nobody's Queer In Big Eden

Big Eden

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of
Big Eden
The Best Gay Film Ever Made!

Earlier this year, I mailed the following letter to Judith Martin, the etiquette columnist known as Miss Manners:

Please make a public statement in support of respectful reference to LGBT Americans! I am a Gay Black man who lives in the Bible Belt, and I'm appalled by the derogatory nature of the language I increasingly see and hear in the media.

On a number of cable TV shows (MSNBC's "Keith Olbermann" is one example), I've heard LGBT people called "tr*nnies", "homos" and "f*ggots" in a "comic" manner. Popular sex columnist Dan Savage routinely peppers his columns and TV interviews with "f*g" and "f*ggot". NPR's "Talk Of The Nation" once gave comedian Scott Thompson several uncensored minutes of airtime to perform a song called "F*ggots On Parade."

The community radio hosts of a local Gay lifestyle and newsmagazine love to apply the word "queer" to everything Gay-related. Ironically, Gay media often contains the crudest language imaginable: I've seen magazine covers with lurid headlines ranging from Blood, Sweat And Queers to Roller Derby D*kes to Yeah! I'm A F*g. The last straw for me came when I went online to buy a family-friendly Gay film from amazon.com, and saw a product description describing the movie's characters as "bashful queers".

I've had conversations with a number of people about how offensive I find these labels. I could not get my message across to them. I was told that sexual slurs have been drained of their toxicity by popular usage, and they encouraged me to use them myself! One guy compared it to casual use of the n-word, and since I'm African-American, he took the infuriating liberty of using the n-word with me!

I've been attacked for supposedly being "politically correct." I've been ridiculed as "thin-skinned" and "immature". In the worst exchange I had, I was told: "You're nothing but a damned queer who thinks he's better than the rest." Of course, this came from someone identifying himself as "queer."

When LGBT Americans are forbidden the right to wed in thirty states; when we're banned from open service in the US military; when we're forbidden to join the Boy Scouts; when we can and often are excommunicated from church membership; when serious films about us still have trouble getting produced in Hollywood, and Gay actors remain closeted out of fear of stigmatization; when we still face imprisonment and/or execution in numerous countries; when LGBT children are still regularly bullied in school; and especially when hundreds of us are still assaulted and murdered in hate crime incidents, atrocities that are usually attended by screams of "f*ggot", "queer", "d*ke", etcetera, I hardly think the time is right to start normalizing hurtful, pejorative labels for sex and gender difference. I doubt the time will ever be right for that!

I regret that the polite terms used to refer to LGBT folk have origins either in popular slang (Gay) or clinical texts (Transsexual). I understand the desire for "umbrella terms" that simplify discussion of people like me. However, the ugly, ignorant slurs now gaining currency are unsuitable! "Queer" is not interchangeable with Gay. Hate speech still hurts! Why don't they understand?

I don't know if Miss Manners understood; I don't know if she ever read my letter.  However, ten years ago, a man named Thomas Bezucha understood perfectly. In 1999, Bezucha, a writer and director of independent films, decided to make a 1930s-style screwball comedy with Gay men as his main characters (his main inspiration was Bringing Up Baby, the Katherine Hepburn/Cary Grant classic from 1938). He wanted to stay true to the original spirit of the genre, so he decided his film would have no nudity, no explicit sex, no excess of profanity-laced dialogue, and no dearth of older actors. What it would have was a rural setting and a bunch of stock characters: A matchmaker, a town busybody, a wisecracking boss, a hunky ex-boyfriend, a loving parent in fragile health, a gaggle of comical drug store cowboys, and a shy general store manager with a secret yen for the lead character.

Applying this formula to a story about same-gender romance was novel enough, but Thomas Bezucha went farther. He conceived and realized a Gay movie that largely avoids campiness, and that presents Gay identity as neither shocking nor controversial outside of an urban setting. He called his film Big Eden. Starring Louise Fletcher, Ayre Gross, George Coe and Eric Schweig, it was released in the early summer of the year 2000.

"Looking at the subject matter of recent Gay films," Bezucha said in an interview filmed for the DVD version of his movie, "the issues were (always) around sex! I wanted to explore issues of intimacy. I wanted to show that Gay people . . . have real, intimate relationships with family, with friends . . . show that we are (a) whole people. I'm not sure if Big Eden could possibly be a real place. It's just this fantasy I concocted. Big Eden to me is about posing a question: What if? What if any Gay man or Gay woman could live anywhere? What would that be like, if bigotry and (lack of) acceptance weren't a concern?" Later in the interview, he revealed that there was a political motivation behind making this film: "Big Eden (doesn't exist) now, but it's not that far off. (I wanted) to bring it closer."

The synopsis: Henry Hart, a successful artist, returns to his hometown in rural Montana to care for and ultimately bury his ailing grandfather, whom he affectionately calls "Sampa". Things get complicated when he learns that his high school crush, Dean Stewart, is also back in town. The two men try to rekindle an aborted love affair. However, Sampa's friend Grace Cornwell, an Earth Mother type and self-styled matchmaker, has different ideas about who Henry should settle down with. By the climax of the film, the whole town has joined forces to help Grace make the most unlikely love match imaginable.

"Big Eden, which made its local debut at last year's Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, is not quite like any midlife crisis Gay film we've seen before. What really sets it apart are the setting and the characters, who tend to forget their prejudices when they're dealing with people they care about. And the actors are just low-key enough to pull it off."

-John Hartl,
The Seattle Times, June 8, 2001

Big Eden had great difficulty finding a distributor. The Hollywood studios wouldn't touch it! They didn't believe a Gay film without nudity and sex could draw an audience. Much to their surprise, after Wolfe Video picked up distribution rights, Thomas Bezucha's folksy comedy swept up honors on the LGBT film festival circuit. It bagged audience and jury prizes in San Francisco, Seattle, Cleveland, Miami, Toronto and even in Los Angeles, their own back yard! Rarely did the end credits run in a silent theater; standing ovations became routine. With stronger promotion and wider distribution, Big Eden might've broken big and become another mainstream phenomenon like John Waters' Hairspray; that was not to be, but it quickly developed a cult following that's still strong and growing ten years later.

While the film scored a modest commercial success, it proved to be artistically controversial. A number of LGBT film critics decried the Utopian vista of Big Eden. They all but demanded harsh realism in Gay-themed movies, as well as edgy sexual content, and were unable to let themselves go where Thomas Bezucha wanted to take them. Unfortunately, you could tell the Gay critics from the Straight ones by their tendency to toss sexual slurs into reviews! One of the most disrepectful was amazon.com's Bret Fetzer: in his pointedly back-of-the-hand recommendation, he sneered that the movie centers around "bashful queers" and "old coots in cowboy hats"(the derogatory tone of his review has since been modified).

Fetzer's ageism notwithstanding, for him to call Bezucha's Gay characters "queer" was cruel and cynical! It amounted to thumbing his nose at what the director was trying to achieve: A normalization of Gay people and Gay love within the most familiar of classic film settings, the American West. Toward that end, Bezucha not only cultivated a "Petticoat Junction" ambiance, he also loaded the soundtrack with vintage Country and Western tunes: "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes"(George Jones), "Welcome To My World"(Jim Reeves), "Take Me In Your Arms And Hold Me"(originally recorded by Eddy Arnold and sung in the film by Louise Fletcher).

Big Eden fairly screams tradition and shamelessly embraces mainstream values. Nobody is "queer" there! Some folks couldn't handle the juxtaposition of "liberal" same-gender desire with "conservative" community values; no doubt they found the politics of Big Eden lacking in revolutionary vision. They must have been blind! Thomas Bezucha's daring approach to screwball comedy was more revolutionary by far than anything his critics could ever hope to achieve with their "reclaimed" pejoratives and preference for pessimistic, semi-pornographic Gay storylines! In fact, the premise of Big Eden is so progressive, it makes Brokeback Mountain look like a tepid remake of The Boys In The Band!

"In his well-crafted film, Bezucha imagines with humor and affection a community so perceptive, caring and enlightened that it's capable of quietly nudging everyone in the right direction. Bezucha also suggests that a man like Henry, while not conventionally handsome, can nonetheless be attractive to others, and that a Straight man can love a Gay man while not being sexually drawn to him. These notions are not so self-evident as they might seem, even in Gay-themed films. With this wonderful ensemble cast, Big Eden is a fine example of the cinema of possibilities."

-Kevin Thomas,
The Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2001

Veteran actress Nan Martin, who portrayed the scene-stealing Widow Thayer in Big Eden, put her finger on the film's greatest strength when she observed: "Many of the Gay and Lesbian films are divisive. They (make) the gap between the way (Gay and Straight) people think wider. This film, to me, was bringing that gap together. Three cheers for that!" Indeed!

Three cheers, too, for Thomas Bezucha, a director who challenged conventional ideas about what a Gay film can and should be. Big Eden anticipated the marriage equality era we live in today, and it's as perfect a match for it as Pike Dexter was for Henry Hart. Easily the best Gay film ever made, it deserves a big budget Hollywood remake . . . and just imagine what a fabulous Broadway musical it could be! Hopefully, its considerable entertainment potential will be fully realized someday.

"It will always be around, this movie, and people will discover it. There'll be new people seeing it all the time. It's not gonna get lost! It's one of those films that will become part of the lexicon of film history."

-Louise Fletcher, "Grace Cornwell" from
Big Eden

02 January 2010

Proving Me Right (Part One)

Barack Obama

I'm so glad that I didn't vote for Barack Obama last November! I can't even begin to tell you. Don't take that to mean I'm happy, though! I'm not happy, and I'm not gloating. There's no pleasure in being able to say I told you so!

From the first time I heard him in a presidential debate, I didn't simply trust the man! I wasn't impressed by his Colgate smile. I wasn't bowled over by his wry sense of humor. His personal charisma didn't do much for me. I thought his much-praised speaking ability was overrated. I didn't give a damn about his best-selling autobiography! I didn't drink his Kool-Aid. I don't like friggin' Kool-Aid! I never forgot, as many others did, that Candidate Obama was a politician. I viewed his rosy promises through that crystal-clear lens. Yet, after he was elected, I hoped against hope that my fears about him were misguided (see my November 2008 post titled "Proving Me Wrong").

I no longer have any hope to hope against. My fears have been realized! Where strong, moral leadership is concerned, Barack Obama gets a failing grade!

More and more, Progressive Americans are having their eyes opened to his deficiencies. Progressive LGBT Americans in particular have been opening their eyes. Frankly, we've had no choice in the matter! During his campaign, Barack Obama pledged to be a "fierce advocate" for equality. Before he even set foot in the White House, he betrayed that pledge! Now he's broken it so many times, I've lost count. The activists at gay.americablog.com have kept a tally of his betrayals. Let me share part of their list with you; it's pretty shocking, so you might want to sit down! Our current President is guilty of:

Asking a religious Right activist who claims to have been “cured” of his homosexuality (Donnie McClurkin) to headline campaign events in South Carolina; then letting the anti-Gay bigot spend half an hour on stage, haranguing Gays (sic) at the (campaign) event.

Refusing for months to interview with LGBT newspapers during the campaign, while his opponent did (so) repeatedly.

Inviting anti-Gay activist Rick Warren, who helped pass Prop 8 in California, to give the invocation at the Inaugural.

Abolishing the LGBT Outreach position (on) the Democratic National Committee and never re-instating it.

Refusing to re-establish the White House Office of LGBT Outreach and the White House LGBT Liaison (which was a Special Assistant to the President at one point).

Continuing to discharge two Gay service members a day, even though he could stop it immediately by issuing a stop-loss order.

Asking for a study on “whether” repealing DADT would hurt national security, rather than a study on how to repeal it, as promised.

Deleting his Gay Civil Rights promise from the White House Web site.

Changing his commitment to “repeal” Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to “changing DADT in a sensible manner.”

Repeatedly defending DOMA in court, even though he didn't have to.

Comparing Gay relationships to incest and pedophilia in a Justice Department brief.

Joking about Gay protesters (who were) upset about the DOMA brief.

Refusing to provide health care benefits to the partners of Gay (government) employees, and then claiming that DOMA precludes it, when it does not.

Refusing to meet with Gay legal groups to discuss how to provide such health benefits within the confines of DOMA.

Showing visible discomfort when asked about Gay Civil Rights.

Suggesting he won't get to (repealing) DADT, DOMA or ENDA until his second term, if ever.

Refusing to suspend implementation of anti-Gay laws like DADT and DOMA, while suspending laws that hurt other (groups).

Working against an amendment proposed by Representative Alcee Hastings (D-FL) to defund Don't Ask, Don't Tell investigations.

Saying he won't repeal DADT until (the) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have finished.

Refusing to issue a statement specifically opposing anti-Gay ballot measures in Maine and Washington state.

Refusing to publicly endorse marriage equality for Gays (sic).

Refusing to this day to interview with the Gay press.

Refusing to apologize for any of these slights.

Do you smell something? I do, and it sure as sh*t ain't teen spirit! That stank coming off President Obama is deep-rooted heterosexism, no doubt cultivated by so-called Conservative, so-called Christian beliefs! Why else do you think he was tardy condemning Uganda's proposed death penalty for LGBT citizens (a transgression missing from this list)? Rick Warren actually beat him to the punch!

The odor from his marriage equality stance is especially pungent! For an op-ed dated 30 December 2009, The Advocate's Washington correspondent Kerry Eleveld notes:

In assessing the year in LGBT rights, what is most striking to me is the Obama administration’s unwillingness to engage on almost anything related to (same gender) relationship recognition. Time and again, the administration has had opportunities to lean into the subject, to nudge the nation a little closer to equality for same-sex couples, and it has repeatedly leaned back, seemingly hoping the subject would disappear into the ether . . . by and large, the administration has shown a reticence bordering on negligence for (mandating) full and equal treatment.

Why does this reticence surprise Ms. Eleveld? Has she forgotten Candidate Obama's stated opposition to marriage equality? Add her name to the long list of memory-challenged Gay voters! Yet she makes a valid point when she says:

The administration (falls) far short of advancing the Democratic ideals many progressives believed Barack Obama represented when they cast their vote for him. Obama campaigned on equality . . . while you can make the case that, as President, he is making pragmatic decisions . . . as a guard against letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, not allowing a Federal agency to provide health benefits to a (Lesbian) worker because of an ideology that willfully emphasizes DOMA . . . is essentially a form of reasoned discrimination.

Essentially? There's no need to qualify the statement. It's flat-out bigotry! The awful truth about President Obama's ideological bent is something most Progressives haven't fully grasped yet. How much longer will it take?