Monday, February 28, 2005
Saturday, February 26, 2005
BOSTON (AP) -- Blacks are contracting HIV at twice the rate they were in the late 1980s and early '90s, which researchers and AIDS prevention advocates attribute to drug addiction, poverty and poor access to health care, according to government statistics.
At the same time, the HIV infection rate among whites has held steady, causing alarm among some health officials who say the racial gap in the epidemic is widening.
Other national data and published reports studied by the CDC showed that 480,000 HIV-infected people ages 15 to 49 should have been getting antiviral drugs in 2003, yet only 268,000, or 56 percent, were given such medication.
Now, should we be curious if Richard Cohen of the Washington Post and others -- see my prior posts on Being Safe -- who've lately written about gay sexual excesses might, just might, reevaluate this very complex, cross-racial, cross-sexuality issue not as a gay issue but, rather, as a human issue which sorely requires increased attention, money, conern from Dubya's minions?
But, then, Dubya's out spreading freedom and democracy in the desert and cutting domestic programs to the bare bones (or just eliminating them) because, damnit, war costs money, my fellow Americans. And, sacrifice we must if we're to going to be successful in reshaping the Nation of Islam into what God told Dubya was necessary: democracy, democracy, democracy!
I think probably, as far as gay men are concerned, we're on our own with this thing, buckaroos. And, once again, the Towleroad site offers a discussion on this issue which informs, berates, becomes pedantic, didactic, is hopefull, is discouraging, is angry, intelligent, insightful but, most of all, is informative. Please give it a look.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Dare I ask, could Karl Rove had choreographed the following any better?
It all seems to have started with a New York Times article by Andrew Jacobs, entitled, "Gays Debate Radical Steps to Curb Unsafe Sex," which appeared in the February 15th edition. Jacobs reported that, apparently, many gay men are not practicing safe sex by utilizing condoms, but, in fact, are really pushing the oh my god! envelope by their sexual regaling within the lunacy of the particularly nefarious delights of crystal meth (methamphetamine) use which, apparently, precludes any inclination whatsoever to utilize condoms under any circumstances. Or, that's what the Times article seemed to want to communicate: crystal meth + gay=unsafe sex=AIDS.
Although Jacobs reported that, "Although the number of AIDS-related deaths had plummeted since the advent of a more potent class of drugs in the mid-90's, the rate of new infections has remained unchanged at about 40,000 cases a year..." (Please, let's not forget that almost a half-million South Africans have died from the insidious affects of AIDS! Or that one-quarter of the population of Zimbabwe is HIV positive, with about 2.2million souls affected.)
Jacobs' piece in the Times relies upon quotes from Charles Kaiser, who Jacobs refers to as "...a historian and author of 'The Gay Metropolis.'" Kaiser is quoted as saying, "A person who is H.I.V.-positive has no more right to unprotected intercourse than he has the right to put a bullet through another person's head."
Well, kewl so far, huh.
A few words about Charles Kaiser's "historical" credentials. Kaiser wrote a book that George Chauncey (an actual academic; an actual historian, with a Ph.D from Yale, who is a professor of history at the University of Chicago) noted is, "Nonetheless ... distinctly a product of the 1990's, which judges the past from a contemporary perspective rather than trying to understand it in it's own terms. ...This is a narrow slice of gay life, masquerading as the whole."
Kaiser's work is intensely parochial, focusing on New York as the absolute center of the universe with regard to all things interestingly gay. And, in that focus, Kaiser seems to exclude all but the most colorful and notorious and well-known of gay society to the exclusion of, well, folks just like you and me who, by the way, had a small hand in our collective history; even those of us in Des Moines or Dubuque, Paonia or Pittsburgh.
Kaiser is/was a journalist. Not an academic. Not an historian. And, his book, The Gay Metropolis is critically reviewed by George Chauncey as not so much an academic endeavor as an attempt to titillate the gay reader with narratives and quips about Manhattan's rich, white, beautiful, gay culture. Chauncey concludes: "Mr. Kaiser's preoccupation with the elite, though initially fascinating, is eventually wearying and ultimately troubling. Most men in this book are rich, white and beautiful (usually "very beautiful"), or at least a beautiful date or hanger-on. It's telling that virtually the only glimpse the book gives us of Harlem comes from Philip Johnson's account of visiting the neighborhood. This is a narrow slice of gay life, masquerading as the whole."
But, nevertheless, the Times hangs the moniker, historian on Kaiser, presumably to give him a wee bit more credibility. Kaiser is, after all, essentially a journalist. And, how much credibility do we really assign to journalists these days?
So far, so good.
Interestingly, Badpuppy's Gay Today's, Jesse Monteagudo fawned all over Charles Kaiser in an interview in March of 1998 in which Kaiser poo-pooed Chauncey's critical, academic review of his work by telling Monteagudo that, "...academic scholars like Chauncey tend to look down at writers, who [like Kaiser] are journalists and popular historians. As a result, when they review books, academics are much more dishonest than journalists can ever be."
Hmmm... Let me cogitate on that statement for a moment. Okay, I'm done. Conclusion: Kaiser's full of shit. And, what is a "...popular historian?" Having been degreed in history myself, I'm really not sure what Kaiser means, except that maybe he's alluding to the fact that anyone can relate history without being academically disciplined. But, then, does that popular history become less than credible? I don't know.
Randy Shilts who wrote, And The Band Played On, which is a fascinating chronicle of the HIV/AIDS epi/pandemic was, indeed, a journalist and, I suppose, a popular historian.
On February 18th, 2005, William F. Buckley, Jr. was published in the Sacramento Bee -- of all places -- in an article entitled, "Killers at large." Now, most of you won't remember that Buckely was the founder of the far right publication, the National Review and, even though I sincerely admire his writing style and intellect, and understand that he is essentially, ultimately, a corncob-up-the-asshole Conservatively inclined clever curmudgeon, he, too, quoted our dear gay friend, Charles Kaiser: "Gay men should not have the right to spread a debilitating and often fatal disease. A person who is HIV-positive has no more right to unprotected intercourse than he has the right to put a bullet through another person's head." Buckely goes on to talk about the Times piece and what is to be done to rein-in those crystal-meth-gay-condomless-fuckers who may or may not be sharing the bogeyman's delights with their suspecting or unsuspecting partners. Buckely writes, "The boundaries of the new campaign, let alone the niceties, haven't been resolved upon, but not much thought is being given to concerns of privacy. Murderers need to be stopped [remember now, that everyone, including Buckley is quoting Kaiser's "...bullet through another person' s head..." comment), and if this means opening their mail, well, such things happen, and you can take comfort that you may be saving a life."
Okay, then. Let's start opening people's mail to preclude the crystal-meth-gay-condomless-fuckers from ... fucking. That'll work! Right!
Buckley ends his piece: "The objective is to identify the carrier and to warn his victim. Someone, 20 years ago suggested a discreet tatoo the site of which would alert the prospective partner to the danger of proceeding as had been planned. But the author of the idea was treated as though he had been schooled in Buchenwald, and the idea was not widely considered, but maybe it is up now for reconsideration."
Tatoos now. Perhaps a scarlet "A" on the forehead of the crystal meth-gay-condomless-fucker! James Dobson would love that one.
Well, finally, this Sunday's Washington Post include a piece by Richard Cohen entitled, "Gays should show sexual restraint, too." Nope, not "HIV Positive Crystal Meth-Gay-Condomless-Fuckers should show sexual restraint, too." Just "Gays." I guess that means you and me, too. Not heterosexual drug abusers or adolescents of every stripe, color and creed. Nope, just us. You and me.
Now, can you guess who Cohen relies upon for the most dramatic lesson of his piece. Well, here goes: "My guru in such matters is Charles Kaiser... A common philosophy, according to Kaiser [amongst gay men], goes like this: 'I am not subject to the rules.' ...The fact remains that a portion of the gay population -- maybe 20 percent, Kaiser estimates -- conducts itself in ways that are not only reckless, but just plain disgusting."
One wonders who Kaiser's "...20 percent..." is? Twenty-percent of his friends? Twenty-percent of people he's heard about from his friends? Twenty-percent of people who've told his friends about people who...
The point survives the exaggeration. Kaiser drops his titillative sound bite and the straight media (William F. Buckley, Jr. for heavens sake!) gobbles it up and spews it out in a kind of orgiastic revelatory, hurly-burly -- Just lookit them nasty queers, will ya, Martha! -- pontificatory op/ed revelation which, indeedy, I'll betcha just brings a great big smile to Karl Rove's face.
I remember it must have been the summer of 1981 when we began to hear the reports of a gay pneumonia that had cropped up in New York. Not long after that, reports -- once again from New York -- of a gay cancer appearing in young, gay men hit the gay press. And, at that time, the best wisdom the great American medical community could give to us was to avoid sex with anyone who was obviously sick or had purple lesions on their body.
As I noted in my earlier post, Be Safe, it didn't take a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing (sorry, Bob!) in the summer and fall of 1981, and many, many Gay men just simply took it upon themselves to clean up their act. The Big Party was over. Period. The risks soon became known and the consequences soon became clear. We didn't need a Charles Kaiser or a Larry Kramer feeding the straight media with bombastic sound bites.
Yeah, this subject is serious and we, as a community, need to address it. What we don't need to do is give aid and comfort to those whose agenda consists of (and certainly helped put Dubya back in the White House) right to life and gay marriage. (Goddamn, now we really need to stop them queers in their nasty tracks, Martha!)
Anyway... Be Safe ... Still
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Monday, February 21, 2005
A scarlet "A" perhaps on the forehead?
Buckley also suggests that, hey, if people are murderers and if their method of murder is passing on a new drug-resistant strain of H.I.V. to other people, then, we ought to be reading their -- the crystal-meth-gay-condomless-stupid-fucker's mail because it may save a life.
I'm not sure if the crystal-meth-gay-condomless-stupid-fuckers get or send letters that discuss their sexual habits and partners but, hey, if it would save a life ... let's knock ourselves out. We might need to bring John Ashcroft back. But, whatever it takes.
Actually, those gay and non-gay folks who work in the health field and are seeing, firsthand -- particularly in New York -- this very frightening behavior (which, I'll betcha' ain't confined to gay men!) are suggesting that places where sex parties occur should be crashed by, um, I guess health workers who would then confront the gathered throng and exbarrass them into ... ah, going home, using condoms, flushing their meth down the toilet? Also being suggested is that WEB sites that offer opportunities for gay liaisons involving crystal meth be infiltrated and ... what?
Yet, of course, others are suggesting that, like alcoholism or smoking addiction, the crystal-meth-gay-condomless-stupid-fuckers ain't gonna slipslide into a wee bit healthier lifestyle unless they, themselves, understand the consequences, or most likely consequences of their acts. Yeah, in a short story I posted not too long ago, I noted that there is a basic tenet in law that says each reasonable man is presumed to intend the natural consequences of his acts. Now, I don't know if the crystal-meth-gay-condomless-stupid-fuckers could be considered reasonable or not. But, I think they probably have episodes of reasonableness that sure as shit ought to be used to consider consequences; to consider life; to consider death; to actually care about themselves and their partners.
I read somewhere that some psychologist (probably in New York) is suggesting that gay men are using methamphetamines as antidepressants. Jesus, what's that about? If you're a psychologist treating gay men and you're accepting your patient's bullshit about his need for methamphetamines because he's depressed, then, honey, you're a fucking enabler of the crystal-meth-gay-condomless-stupid-fucker syndrome and, one can only hope, your soul will rot in hell ... or Newark.
What's the answer? I -- and many, many other gay men -- saw the bogeyman's writings on the walls of one dark bathroom or another in the fall of 1981, and by the next year I had settled into a relationship that has persisted through twenty-three years. I do believe David and I saved each other's lives. We understood then, twenty-three years ago, that there were risks and what the consequences of those risks might be (even though, and perhaps in spite of, the great American medical community which remained quite dumbfounded by the whole thing for a very, very long time). The bogeyman had shown his ace and I guess the most fortunate of us folded and stepped away from the table.
I don't know what the answer is. I only know what the answer was for David and me.
Friday, February 18, 2005
"I am dying," she told Addis Tamrat, the manager at Hope for Children International. "I want my child here at your place. He is too sick and no relatives will take him in."
The baby, 15-month-old Sintayenu, had a purple lesion on his forehead. He had recently come down with pneumonia, and weight had been pouring off his body. He had not been tested for HIV, but Astake knew, and so did her older son, who is 6.
"He's been kicking the baby, saying he doesn't want to catch the virus from him and get sick and die like me," Astake said.
The fate of Astake and her infant son are part of a quiet calamity affecting hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian mothers and children. Although the country's overall infection rate of 4.4 percent for HIV/AIDS is far lower than those in countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe, it has the highest rate of HIV-infected children in the world, according to a United Nations report issued in December. More than 200,000 Ethiopian children are living with HIV/AIDS, the U.N. report said. Every day, 70 babies are born from HIV infected mothers, and the Ministry of Health estimates that 750,000 children are without parents because of AIDS.
This from the New York Times this morning reports that there was a 57 percent rise in AIDS cases in South Africa between the years 1997 and 2003. It reads, in part:
JOHANNESBURG, Feb. 18 - In an implicit but devastating account of the havoc AIDS is causing here, South Africa's government reported Friday that annual deaths increased 57 percent from 1997 to 2003, with common AIDS-related diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia fueling much of the rise.
The increase in mortality spanned all age groups, but was most pronounced among those between ages 15 and 49, where deaths more than doubled. Working-age adults are more sexually active than the rest of the population, and the opportunity for transmitting H.I.V. is greatest among members of this group.
The report, by the government agency Statistics South Africa, caused contention even before its release, which came more than a month after the originally scheduled date. Critics charged - and the agency denied - that the delay was because of political pressure from President Thabo Mbeki's government, which they say has long played down the dimensions of the AIDS crisis here.
The report states that 499,000 of South Africa's roughly 44 million people died in 2002, up sharply from 318,000 in 1997. Much of that increase appears to result from H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Experts agree that there are at least five million H.I.V.-positive citizens here, the most of any country. Diagnosing AIDS as a cause of death can require advanced medical knowledge and equipment. Moreover, an unknown number of AIDS deaths go unreported because South African life insurance policies frequently do not cover AIDS-related deaths.
As we celebrate Black History Month here in America, perhaps it is important or, at least, instructive that we understand the immensity of the scourge that is destroying Africans more viciously than famine or flood. Indeed, as we acknowledge the noble history of African-Americans in America, I do believe we need to keep the images created by these kinds of reports from Africa alive, vivid in the backs of our minds. And, should we wonder if the cost of war in Iraq, which each and every one of us is paying or will be paying for generations to come, might not be better spent on attacking this pandemic, this horrible scourge that is ravaging Africa ... not to mention Eastern Europe?
Would not a crusade against this disease be more reasonably American and Christian than bringing democracy to the desert where, inevitably, a theocracy will prevail?
Thursday, February 17, 2005
"The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, - this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize Ameirca, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face."
W.E. Burghardt DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
In the 2004 elections, Coloradans heard calls by Catholic prelates on denying Holy Communion to politicians who refuse to condemn abortion. What many people don't know is, the church also forbids all condom use. Amazingly, the church hierarchy has claimed (erroneously) that condoms can't prevent HIV.
As an African and a Catholic who's watched millions of people die from AIDS, I view the church's condom policy as regressive and unsympathetic. It fills me with great anguish.
The church has undone what many health organizations have been doing to combat AIDS. When it's sexually transmitted, AIDS can only be fought by abstinence or condom use. The church hobbles health-care givers by blinding the already confused Africans, contributing to AIDS deaths in Africa.
In the politics of abortion and the use of condoms in Africa, the church insinuates its authority in matters of survival and personal conscience. When the keepers of our faith don't care for our physical well-being, we must wonder about their relevance. Surely the question for the future is: Does Africa need the Catholic Church?
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
A beer-bellied, white-T-shirted chomper-of-fat-cigars opens his aluminum storm door and carries a bundle under his arm to the flagpole in his front yard which he anchored into the earth last summer -- the long, hot summer of ‘68 -- with a, “...helluva lot o’ blood, sweat, and tears...” (or so he tells himself) each morning, as he recalls the image of the World War II Iwo Jima flag raising which is etched deeply in his mind. (“Yeah, see, there was that barren, bloody hill where the Stars and Bars were raised in the middle of bursting bombs and the clatter of small arms fire from every direction. But, they damned sure got ‘er up, by God...”) He unties the lanyard and unfolds the bundle from under his armpit. It is an American flag and he is careful not to let it touch the ground as he secures it to the rope hanging from pulleys attached to the flagpole. As he pulls the rope to raise the flag, the image which he has recalled so often at American Legion meetings and VFW potluck dinners comes alive and he becomes, in his own mind, one of the courageous boys on that bloody hill in the last great war. Yes, each morning he steps into his fenced-in effluence of grass, clover and weeds and runs Old Glory up to the top -- except, of course, for November 22nd when he “...ran ‘er up only half-way, to the half-mast, ‘cause some Oswald sonofabitch shot Jack Kennedy in the head on this day in ‘63.” Yes, he “...runs ‘er up...” where she can wave and flap and flutter, as free as the smoggy breeze, over the grass and the weeds, the red brick ranch-style houses with their aluminum storm doors and their two-car carports where shiny Detroit-bred demons sit silently waiting; over the land of the free and the home of the brave ... over America.
I’ve watched him raise that thing for almost a year now. Every day, the same thing: The simple bastard marches out with it stuck under his armpit, he carefully unfolds it and raises it and then he ties the lanyard in about fifteen knots. Christ!
I remember last year when he watched some ROTC guys march down the football field before a game. These guys were all black, see, and this simple bastard gets really impressed when they raise the flag. Then he opens his big mouth to my dad and says, “Would you lookit them boys raise the Stars and Bars. Goddamn, while their cousins are burnin’ and lootin’ in Detroit -- throwin’ them Molotov cocktails and things -- here these boys are raisin’ the flag. Now that’s really somethin’ ... goddamn, it’s really somethin’.”
I’ll never forget that ... what the simple bastard said when he saw them ROTC guys.
So he talks for a couple months about how those boys raised the flag and all, and then one day last summer he goes out and rents a cement mixer -- you know, a portable one -- and he digs this mammoth hole in his front yard and he sticks his flagpole in it. One hundred and fifty pounds of concrete he put in that thing.
“Sure,” he says, “it takes a hundred and fifty pounds of cement. Whadaya gonna do when a big wind comes up and blows the damn thing over. No sir, anchor it right in the first place.”
Well... That’s the way the simple bastard is.
Last summer when he put up his flagpole was the first year I worked at the pool. My mother yells over the fence to him one morning and tells him she was sorry but I wouldn’t be able to cut his grass any more because I was working at the swimming pool.
His eyes got real big and he says, “A swimmin’ pool?”
“Yes, he’s going to teach and lifeguard, too,” my mother tells him.
“Yeah,” he says, “but, gosh Edith, do you trust him out there with all them skimpy-dressed young girls and all?”
So, my mom starts to think about what the simple bastard tells her and she starts worryin’ and askin’ me questions about are there really a lot of girls who wear bikinis and all and, “Do you ... associate with those girls, Frank?” she says.
Christ. What can a guy say to his mother about not really liking the girls at all? See, here she is worryin’ about me screwin’ some girl and getting her pregnant and all, when it’s the guys that turn me on, mom. Like, some of the guys wear these real thin, nylon suits and when they get wet, you can see right through them ... cock, asscrack, everything, mom. No, a guy can’t tell his mother about that.
So, anyway, one day I’m headin’ for work and the simple bastard is raisin’ his flag and he yells over to me, “Hey, Frank-boy, I hear you ain’t gonna cut my grass no more. How come?”
“I got a job, Mr. Brown.”
“Oh, yeah?” he says, like he doesn’t already know. “Where at?”
“A swimming pool, Mr. Brown.”
“A swimming pool?” he says, with this big frown on his face. “Hell, that ain’t no work for a strong, husky boy like you, Frank-boy. Why dontcha go down to the tire factory, you know, the Gates Tire place and apply there?”
So here it is, seven o’clock in the morning; the simple bastard is raisin’ his flag with half an unlit cigar between his teeth and brown spit kinda tricklin’ out the corner of his mouth; his fat gut hangin’ over his belt and I look at him standin’ there at his fence (the only guy in the neighborhood to have a fenced-in front yard) and I get kinda sick just lookin’ at him and I say, “Right, Mr. Brown, that’s exactly what I ought to do.”
Then he motions me over to the fence and he looks at me real serious-like and he says, “Frank-boy, I been meanin’ to tell you that you really oughta get a haircut. See, Frank-boy, you’re beginnin’ to look like some ah them hippie slobs, you know; one of them fairy creatures. You know what I’m drivin’ at, Frank-boy?”
I look him right in the eyes, see, and I kinda smile, “Maybe I am ‘one of them fairy creatures,’” I say, still smiling at him.
Then he looks at me for a minute with this real horrified look on his face and then he begins to smile a little and then he laughs real hard and says, “Hah, you got a sense o’ humor, Frank-boy. Yessir, you got a real sense o’ humor.”
Shit... If he only knew. I’ve been one of his fairy creatures for as long as I can remember -- probably since I was born -- and I’m gonna tell the idiot about it someday. Yeah, someday I’m gonna say, “Hey, Mr. Brown, guess what me and Paul, the guy from across the alley, do when we go up to the park at night. Yeah, Mr. Brown, we get all naked in the bushes and we kiss and feel each other and...” Yeah, someday I’m gonna tell the simple bastard. Jesus, he makes me sick. Christ!
I hadn’t worked at the pool but about two or three weeks when I came home from work one night and there’s the simple bastard with his fat ass on a huge, really huge lawn mower with a big black steering wheel and gas and brake pedals and gear shifts and controls all over the damn thing. So, I go over and rest my arms on the top of his fence and I watch him for a while. Pretty soon he sees me standin’ there and he drives the thing over to where I’m at and he stops it right in front of me.
“Hey, Frank-boy,” he yells over the sound of the motor, “howdaya like it? Pretty nice, huh?”
“Sure,” I yell back at him. “Say, Mr. Brown, how come you never got one of them when I was cuttin’ your grass?”
So, the guy just kinda smiles and yells, “Sorry, Frank-boy, can’t hear you. Gotta get this jog done.” Then he slips the thing into gear and takes off ... his fat ass floppin’ around like jelly on the big cushioned seat.
Later that same night, the goddamn house was so hot that I went out in the back yard to cool off. All I had on was some cutoffs and I laid down right in the middle of the yard on the grass. God it felt good. There was a cool breeze and the stars and the moon were so cool. Then I hear the simple bastard and his dippy wife come out onto their patio. I turned my head a little to look at them and, goddamn, there they were with their fuckin’ little portable TV set, trying to tune it in, adjusting the antennae and all. Then the simple bastard turns up the volume and, for me, the breeze is gone, the stars and the moon are blotted out, the grass next to my back starts to feel kinda crawly and all I can hear is this fake, emotional, big-mouthed sports commentator telling the simple bastard and his dippy wife what Dick the Bruiser is doin’ to Bo Bo Brazil’s head on Big Time Wrestling. Jeeeeeeeeeeeesus....
So, I go in the house and get a Pepsi and then go downstairs and lift some weights and kinda shadow box around the rec room. In a minute and a half of the first round, I knocked the fat, simple bastard on his fat can and then, when the referee raised my arm in victory, I rested my foot on the simple bastard’s face ... smashing his unlit cigar all to hell, all over his goddamned fat face.
Last night, Mr. Brown and my dad were talkin’ about the war in Viet Nam and my dad said we ought to use a lot more force on the North; you know, that we ought to bomb the Viet Cong more than we are.
Then the simple bastard takes his cigar out of his mouth and says, “You’re goddamned right! Why, we ought to bomb those slope-headed sonsofbitches with all the atomic power we got. Why, we oughta show ‘em we ain’t no bunch o’ goddamned limp-wristed faggots that they can mess around with. Use the atomic power, that’s what I say; drop the fuckin’ bomb on ‘em all.” And, then he stuck his cigar back in his mouth, chewed on it a little and then he cut this enormous, crackling fart.
Jesus H. Christ!
The only time I can really get the simple bastard out of my head is when I’m with Paul. About two or three times a week, Paul and I go up to the Ruby Hill Park which is on top of a hill where you can see the entire city spread out below. And, in the night, you can go up to the Hill and lie in the grass and see all the lights of the Denver and you can see the stars real good and there’s always a cool breeze blowing across the top. Usually, Paul and I will go up there and just lie in the grass and talk and watch the stars and the lights. And then we usually end up in the bushes which are half-way down the east side of the Hill. See, there aren’t any lights on that side of the Hill and it gets real dark and nobody hardly ever goes down there ... except Paul and me. And we take our clothes off and lay them on the grass and then we lie down on them and we feel each other’s bodies and we hold each other and we kiss and ...
Paul doesn’t think he’s queer and I know I am and I let Paul think what he wants. Paul feels guilty about what we do in the park and I told him he shouldn’t feel guilty about loving someone ... about loving me. I went through what Paul is going through last summer -- the guilt thing. But, it’s stupid. I know what I am. He’s gotta figure it out for himself.
One night after Paul and I had been to the park, I came home and my dad and Mr. Brown were in the living room drinking beer. My hair was all messed up and my clothes were all dirty and wrinkled. And, Mr. Brown looks me over real good, see, and then he says, “Hey, Frank-boy, you look like you been wrestlin’ in the dirt or maybe you been catchin’ up on some o’ the facts of life. Huh, Frank-boy?” And then he and my dad start laughin’ at me while I’m standin’ there gettin’ all red.
I looked at the simple bastard for a minute and started feelin’ kinda queasy ‘cause he is such a slob, and then I said, “Mr. Brown...”
And then I didn’t say anything and I just kept lookin’ at him.
“C’mon, Frank-boy, whadaya got on your mind?”
Well, I looked at him for a couple more minutes and then I just turned away and went downstairs to the rec room. I started goin’ through these Kung-Fu moves, see, kickin’ my legs and jabbin’ my fists around. And in four fast moves I had the fat, simple bastard on the floor, cryin’ for mercy ... bawlin’ like a baby. Then I put my arms to my side and bowed real low to the fuckin’ idiot lyin’ there on the floor. “So sawly, Chawly,” I said in this Oriental voice, “maybe next time honolable srob think twice about taking on fairy cleature.”
What bothers me most about the respiratory stuff is that today is the first day I've run since Thursday. Running has become a daily obsession and when I miss a day it's not only depressing but I can actually feel the nasty calories and carbs cavorting within me; delighted with my sudden sedentary self.
It's obvious that Sweet Melissa's eleven-year-old hips are beginning to fail her and I have stopped taking her on my daily run. I walk her first thing in the morning and then I head for the park and do my thing. She's contracted what the Vet thinks is giardia (intestinal parasites) and he's put her on flagyl ... a pretty potent antibiotic. I believe she probably contracted this nasty stuff by eating goose poop. She loves the stuff.
Well, I do have a great deal of proofreading and formatting to complete on the novel. Now, the hard part starts: selling it.
As to world events and the machinations of Dubya and his minions... Give me a couple days. My focus is elsewhere right now.
Friday, February 11, 2005
George Bush and Republican leaders have made phasing out Social Security through privatization and massive benefit cuts their top priority for 2005. Members of Congress are choosing sides over the next couple of weeks.
We need to make sure they choose correctly now—before a massive election-style campaign by George Bush and the Wall Street interests gets to them including what might be a $100 million TV ad campaign.
MoveOn’s trying to gather 200,000 signatures to present to lawmakers when they return after the inauguration. You can sign the petition now at:
Social Security is a complicated issue, but the basics are really pretty simple:
° Social Security provides monthly benefits to some 44 million Americans who are retired, disabled or the survivor of a deceased parent. It provides most of the income for older Americans--some 64 percent of their support. It has lifted generations of seniors out of poverty.
° Social Security is not in crisis. That is an outright lie perpetrated in order to create the urgency for radical changes. Under conservative forecasts, the long-term challenges in Social Security do not manifest themselves until 2042. Even then Social Security has 70 percent of needed funds. That shortfall is smaller than the amount needed in 1983, the last time we overhauled Social Security. George Bush's Social Security crisis-talk is an effort to create a specter of doom -- just like the weapons of mass destruction claim in Iraq.
° Phasing out Social Security and replacing it with privatized accounts means one thing: massive cuts in monthly benefits for everybody. Social Security privatization requires diverting taxes used to pay current benefits into privatized accounts invested in risky stocks. Without that money Social Security benefits will inevitably be cut -- some proposals even cut benefits of current retirees. These benefit cuts are inevitable, since diverting Social Security money into privatized accounts means less money to pay current and future benefits.
° Every serious privatization proposal raises the Social Security retirement age to 70. That might be fine if you're a Washington special interest lobbyist but it is incredibly unfair to blue-collar Americans with tough, physical jobs, or for African Americans and Latinos with lower life expectancies.
° Privatization means gambling with your retirement security. There is probably an appropriate place for a little stock market risk in retirement planning -- but it isn't Social Security. Privatization exposes your entire retirement portfolio to stock market risks -- and the risk that you'll outlive any of your savings at retirement. You can't outlive your Social Security benefit.
° So who does benefit? Wall Street. Giant financial services firms have been salivating for decades over the prospect of taking over Social Security. Wall Street would make billions of dollars in profit by managing the privatized accounts -- money that would come directly from your benefits.
° Action is urgently needed today. President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress are joining forces with the financial services industry for a major campaign to convince the public there is a major crisis and pressure members of Congress to vote for privatization. Action is needed now before it is too late. Please sign MoveOn’s petition to protect Social Security at the link below.
Thanks for doing this.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
In a rare reference to an actual vote tabulation, The New York Times on Thursday reports that in the "diverse" city of Mosul, with 60% of the count completed, the overall turnout seems slightly above 10%, or "somewhat more than 50,000 of Mosul's 500,000 estimated eligible voters."
This, of course, is no minor matter: Iraq's leading Sunni Muslim clerics said Wednesday that the country's election lacked legitimacy because large numbers of Sunnis did not participate in the balloting. Sure, many of them are simply sore losers (they lost an entire country) but that doesn't make their reaction any less troublesome for Iraq's future, especially with the cleric-backed Shiite alliance apparently headed for a landslide win.
Dexter Filkins of The New York Times warned Thursday that the widespread Sunni boycott "could even lead to the failure of the constitution; under the rules drafted last year to guide the establishment of a new Iraqi state, a two-thirds 'no' vote in three provinces would send the constitution down to defeat. The Sunnis are a majority in three provinces."
This from the Washington Post this morning reports Dubya's proposed budget reflects the fantasy world in which his administration exists (the budget was probably written in purple ink). The budget cuts domestic spending drastically and then sets a not to exceed threshold for domestic spending for the next five years. Nope, we're not is Kansas anymore! Indeed:
...the president has proposed trimming domestic spending at Congress's annual discretion from $391 billion this year to $389 billion next year and then freezing it at that level for five consecutive years. White House budget director Joshua B. Bolten suggested there was a precedent for such a request in the 1990s, when Republicans first took control of Congress. But domestic spending declined in only one year of that decade: 1996. Indeed, since 1962, domestic spending has never held steady or declined for two years in a row, let alone five, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
This from this morning's AlterNet provides a mother's thoughts (who lost a son in Iraq) on Dubya's war. She was supposed to have appeared on the Larry King show but got bumped by the Michael Jackson trail. God, we've got some fucked-up priorities. This is an excellent read which provides, in part:
This war was sold to the American people by a slimy leadership with a maniacal zeal and phony sincerity that would have impressed snake oil salesmen a century ago. The average American needs to hear from people who have been devastated by the arrogance and ignorance of an administration that doesn't even have the decency or compassion to sign our "death" letters.
Finally, this from the Denver Post's Diane Carman in which she reports that U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, has demanded that PBS (Public Broadcast System) refund the federal funds it used to produce a show called, Sugartime in which the diversity of the American family has been examined through several episodes. Ms. Carman writes:
So far, it has showcased an orthodox Muslim family, evangelical Christians, Mormons, children living with grandparents, Norwegians in South Dakota and single-parent families.
Yet despite the fact that an estimated 1 million children are reared by same-sex parents in this country and that the state of Vermont recognizes same-sex civil unions, the 30 seconds of "Sugartime!" devoted to the issue were too much for that flaming heterosexual education secretary, Margaret Spellings.
And, what was so offensive about this particular episode? Ms. Carman provides:
It showed the women - get this - lending a lasagna pan to some friends. Spellings put a stop to that straight- away.
"Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode," she wrote in a letter to PBS demanding that the network refund the money used to produce the show.
Quivering PBS executives dropped "Sugartime!" and refused to distribute it to member stations.
Well, Denver's independent t.v. station KBDI has contracted with the producer of the show, WGBH in Boston and will air it at 7p.m. this Wednesday and again at 8a.m. this Sunday. Additionally, the subject of a special edition of "Colorado Inside Out-Live" (also on KBDI) will address the actions of the Secretary Spellings as well as discuss the issue of same-sex parenting. This will air on Wednesday, 7:30p.m.
The neocon credo of fear disgustingly infests this nation ... or, at least, fifty-one percent of us.
Way to go KBDI!
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Saturday, February 05, 2005
I responded to Eric: Thank you, Eric, for your comment. I understand -- to an extent -- the cultural taboo that homosexuality represents in the Asian culture. It is sad. It is tragic. And, even here in the good ol' US of A, some young men find it easier to end their lives than face the perceived (mostly real) ostracism that will come their way from family, friends. Indeed, we're (the US) experiencing one of those historical cycles of vicious biblical ballyhoo which cannot but affect negatively on young gay men/women's perception of themselves. You've hit on something that I wrote about, again, a very long time ago. I'll try to post it today.George
First of all, a reminder who Anita Bryant was and who, at one time observed: If gays are granted rights, next we'll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nailbiters.
Secondly, I think Ol' Jimmy Swaggert's latest is instructive: Last Sunday Christian evangelist Jimmy Swaggart shared a shocking confession to his congregation during a worship service that is broadcast to a global audience. In the middle of his sermon, Swaggart proclaimed that he would "kill" a man that looked at him with romantic intent.
"I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry."
"And I'm gonna be blunt and plain, if one ever looks at me like that I'm going to kill him and tell God he died."
"In case anybody doesn't know God calls it an abomination. It's an abomination! It's an abomination!"
..."I'm not knocking the poor homosexual. I'm not. They need salvation just like anybody else.... I'm knocking our pitiful, pathetic lawmakers. And I thank God that President Bush has stated we need a constitutional amendment that states that marriage is between a man and a woman."
Gay, Young and Confused
It is two days before Christmas and I sit here in my apartment listening to the music of the season from my stereo. It is beautiful music and it is made more beautiful by the wonderful voices of pre-adolescent boys ... so pure and innocent. I wonder, though, how many of those voices, how many of those young boys are beginning to recognize they are different; that there is something in them that is quietly urging them to travel dark and different roads, unsure roads into the fulfillment of some unarticulated yearnings which they are feeling so intensely but, yet, unable to understand? Yes, I wonder how many of those boys are gay but still unable to attach that label to what they are feeling within themselves?
My most profound condemnation of Anita Bryant and each of the pitiful homophobes is that through their prolific ignorance they are inflicting the most horrible sadness upon young boys, adolescents who are beginning to recognize the nature of their sexuality.
Most of us share a common period in our lives when the knowledge that we were, indeed, homosexual was a terrible awakening. My own experience came when I was twelve or thirteen and realized that those feeling I had been experiencing for as many years as I could remember were the feelings of a homosexual. And, as soon as I had labeled those feelings I responded by kneeling at the pew during Sunday mass and extolling the Virgin Mary and all the saints in heaven in such an intense manner that I hoped I would somehow be made "normal." Well, the Virgin and all those saints didn't come through and now, I thank them vigorously. Yes, thank god, I'm gay. It has not, by any means, been an easy road to travel. But, travel it I have and each day that passes convinces me more that being gay is indeed something very special. It is a blessing from I know not where. But, it is a blessing.
Ms. Bryant was not championing the cause of homophobia when I first began to understand the nature of my sexuality. At that time, the only things with which I had to contend were keeping my secret to myself; fighting the conditioned (I was raised a Roman Catholic) guilt my thoughts and desires bred; contending with the intense yearning for a same-sex relationship and wondering constantly if in all the world there was someone else who had the same inclinations as I. It was surely a difficult time for me. It was the worst of times; times that were saturated with confusion, sadness, unrequited love, fear.
Today, with the mouthings of Ms. Bryant being disseminated throughout the country, I grieve for young boys who know they are homosexual. What profound melancholy must infest their lives with the onslaught of the pitiful homophobes. What immense confusion and fear must drown their minds and hearts in the deepest, darkest pool of guilt and sadness.
Oh, shame on your soul Ms. Bryant. If there is a god in heaven, may be gather the tears of the young homosexual boys you have caused to feel such horrible pain. And may those tears be spread across the universe as stars for only those boys to see. And may those stars radiate such hope and comfort and joy and love for those homosexual boys, they -- the stars -- will burn you words, Ms. Bryant, to ashes within your mouth.
If it were given to human beings to decide one day if they would be hetero or homosexual, Ms. Bryant's words would have some valid meaning and I would not question her right to live comfortably with her conscience. But such is not the case. The choice is not ours to make. And, to that end, I take comfort in Winston Churchill's reflection that, "The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with the shield, however the Fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour."
The scars we as homosexuals carry are deep and, at times, painful. Perhaps this is why we live our lives so intensely and grasp at the joy of life and love so vigorously ... to purge the pain that is inflicted on us by the pitiful homophobes. Yes, and if there is ever a final reckoning we can display our consciences framed in love and tempered by our good lives lived in the face of fearful oppression and hate. The oppressors will have nothing to show but mouths filled with ashes and hearts made putrid by the stench of inhaling their own ignorance and hate; by the sorrow they have inflicted upon the lives of innocent boys.
First published in Out Front magazine in January, 1980, under the pseudonym Michael George.
Friday, February 04, 2005
Someday, I’ll tell my parents …. someday
I’ve not told my parents I’m gay. Someday I will tell them. Someday. But, when that day comes, what will I say? How can I explain to them that being a homosexual is so much more than desiring and experiencing same-gender sex? How can I explain to them what is in my heart and mind? Indeed, how can I explain to them the essence of my soul which is a homosexual essence so much more intense – a fire of immense proportions – than what I perceive to be the essence of heterosexuals? Essence? Soul? Yes, perhaps I tend toward the mystical and romantic. But, there is that … feeling which is silent and invisible but is nonetheless present in me and every gay person I have ever met. It is a feeling that, somehow, transcends the vapidity of sanctified fictions preached by the holy men and women who chastise my existence; it is a feeling that, somehow, in my life I am reaching for a far more potent vitality than procreation. Perhaps I confuse you. Let me explain.
Twice this winter while sitting in Cheesman Park, eating my vegetarian lunch – nuts, carrots, orange juice – a gaggle of long-necked geese, usually about thirty birds, has gathered on the snow-covered lawns below the parking lot where they dig below the layer of snow with their beaks and eat something from the earth below the white freeze. Both times I have see the geese, they have been constantly apprehensive of the sounds and movements around them and, periodically, one or two of the dominant males have spread their wings to warn the rest of the gaggle of possible danger. Both times, the geese have been frightened away from the park, once by a lovely brown and white spaniel and once by three young children who approached the birds cautiously and quietly but not cautiously and quietly enough.
The presence of those geese in Cheesman Park, right there in the middle of Capitol Hill, righter there in the middle of Denver surrounded by people and cars and the noises of people and cars and the primordial threat to those incredible beasts (they can fly, for God’s sake!) represented by all of that civilization; the presence of those particular birds in that particular environment touched me deeply. It touched me as deep as the magnificent Teutonic hardness and concomitant sweet, soft, wonderful gentility of the Beethoven Piano Concertos. It was a joyous experience transcending all rational explanation. It was just … an experience. And, I do not believe the experience was the natural outgrowth of my education or cultural awareness. No, I felt the way I did about the geese – and Beethoven – because I am a homosexual. Call it the gay sensibility, if you like. Call it whatever you like, but I am convinced I felt what I did because I am gay. And, yes, how do you explain such things to your parents?
Archibald MacLeish wrote that “…Man can live his truth, his deepest truth, but he cannot speak it. It is for this reason that love becomes the ultimate human answer to the ultimate human question.” Oh, yes … and, how does one explain to his parents the love, the pure, absolutely potent nature of the love of man for man? How does one explain that homosexual love is deep and consuming – when one has it – and debilitating and painful – when one loses it?
It was Andre Gide, Nobel Prize laureate, who wrote in Corydon that, “You must also recognize the fact that homosexual periods, if I dare use the expression, are in no way periods of decadence. On the contrary, I do not think it would be inaccurate to say that the great periods when art flourished – the Greeks at the time of Pericles, the Romans in the century of Augustus, the English at the time of Shakespeare, the Italians at the time of the Renaissance, the French during the Renaissance and again under Louis XIII, the Persians at the time of Hafiz, etc., were the very times when homosexuality expressed itself most openly, and I would even say, officially. I would almost go so far as to say that periods and countries without homosexuality are periods and countries without art.” Yes, and how do you explain to parents that, in homosexuals, there is a profound respect for beauty in art and literature and music and that in homosexuals resides the stuff of creation of the most exquisite art and literature and music? How do you explain to parents who may admire Norman Rockwell and Lawrence Welk and the Reader’s Digest that in Michelangelo Buonarroti and Tchaikovdky and Gertrude Stein and E.M. Forster there is a beauty so far beyond their paltry admiration for paltry art that the difference is no less stark than that between gold and lead?
How do you explain to parents that gay men are not ashamed to cry because gay men understand there is emotional impotence in not crying when compassion and depth of experience and sadness and joy can only be adequately expressed in tears? How do you explain to parents that what may seem effeminate in gay men is just, simply, the ability to transcend the inbred American image of what a man should be; that masculinity is something so much more than emotional hardness and insensitivity? How do you explain to parents that gay men are infinitely more comfortable with their masculinity than most heteros? How do you explain to parents that homosexuals throughout history have contributed to humanity in the most civilizing and productive manner? How do you explain to parents that homosexuality is as natural to a homosexual as flight is to birds? How do you explain to parents that homosexuals are not sick and decadent? How do you explain to parents that you have been a homosexual for as many years as you can remember; that sexual orientation does not involve choices, but involves natural imperatives which are not wholly understood but are, nevertheless, intensely vibrant, intrusive, potent? How do you explain to parents that you are what you have always been and always will be and that you have not become a stranger in their house simply because you have acknowledged your homosexuality to them? How … how do you explain such things to parents?
Albert Camus wrote in The Night of Truth, that “Nothing is given to men, and the little they can conquer is paid for with unjust deaths. But man’s greatness lies elsewhere. It lies in his decision to be stronger than his condition. And, if his condition is unjust, he has only one way of overcoming it, which is to be just himself.”
Yes, I have come to terms with myself, my gay self. I know myself. Perhaps my parents will also come to know me as I am, a homosexual trying his best to exist in a society which has been less than hospitable to him.
Someday I will tell my parents I am gay … someday.
First published in Out Front magazine in 1980, under the pseudonym, Michael George. It was republished that same year by Update in San Diego.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
A Denver Police detective once told me that anyone who stays out past midnight is either “…crazy or queer.” I was only fourteen or fifteen at the time and had a pretty good idea that I probably fit into the latter of the detective’s two categories. It wasn’t until I was twenty-four – after a baccalaureate and two years in the Army – that I discovered the detective was partially right in his assessment of the nature of nocturnal creatures who haunt the streets of Denver past midnight.
Policemen have a way of expressing themselves in nuts and bolts terms which is probably a manifestation of the manner in which they view the world: there are good guys and bad guys out there and that’s that. Anyway, I did discover that my detective friend understood one facet of the gay lifestyle better than I: Gays are predominantly night people. Whether non-gay night people are preponderantly crazy is left to anyone’s assessment.
Growing up secretly gay wasn’t easy, especially since my father happened to be a cop. I was intensely curious, though, about queers and picked up any bit of information I could about the where, when, why, how, who, and what of that outlaw society of men who liked/loved other men. And, as I said, by the time I was fifteen, I knew queers stayed out late and I soon learned from my friends that queers gave each other blow jobs. And, while driving through downtown Denver, my father announced that there was one place I should never, ever be caught dead in and that was a little bar – he pointed it out to me – called the Court Jester. I don’t know why my father was worried about me – at fifteen – being caught dead or, much less, alive in a downtown bar full of queers.
Maybe he saw something in me that no one else saw. I don’t know. It’s possible, though. Cops get to be pretty good at reading people’s character. It becomes instinct with them after a while. It has to be. At times, their lives depend on whether or not they have read somebody right.
I was incredibly naïve then, at fifteen. One of my favorite teachers, Mr. R, who taught science with a sly smile and an occasional slap on the ass for those of us who he seemed to like best, invited me and two of his other pets to go camping with him over a weekend. My father refused to let me go (there’s that cop instinct, again) but the other two guys packed their sleeping bags and took off with Mr. R.
The following Monday, Mr. R and the two young men didn’t show up for school. After my father came home that night, I learned that Mr. R had had a “heyday” up there in the hills with those two innocents and a warrant was out for his arrest. One of my father’s detective friends vowed to kill that sonofabitch, Mr. R, if he ever saw him again. My father told me that Mr. R was “sick” and I was lucky I hadn’t gone camping with him. The two innocents came back to school on Wednesday and laughed about the whole thing. And I … well, I just wondered what it meant to have a “heyday” with anybody.
By the time I was sixteen I knew enough about queers to keep me curious to know more. They stayed out late; they gave each other blow jobs; they hung around the Court Jester; some of them were even teachers and, AND!, sometimes they had HEYDAYS! God, I was at the point where there was nothing much in the world I desired more than to have heyday with somebody … preferably Frank Allison who swam the butterfly (I did breaststroke and freestyle) and whose locker was next to mine. Even though I had given my treasured initial ring to Linda Jo Ramsauer and, thereby, pledged my heart to her for eternity, my fantasies were still consumed with Frank and me having a heyday together in one sleeping bag up in them thar hills. To this day, there is something so exquisitely sensuous about camping out in the Rockies that words simply won’t do justice in description.
I was sent off to college at the tender age of seventeen – I had skipped third grade – and, for the first time in my life, I was confronted with my own freedom. My naïveté about life and the world was certainly immense and, to tell you the truth, having the freedom to do what I wanted without daddy’s approval was, at least confusing. Usually my friends made up my mind for me and, while my study habits were adequate to keep me in school with grades which were depressingly average, I could be found, at lest three nights a week, in one or another of the local pubs in Boulder, drinking pitchers of beer and wondering constantly about this guy or that guy who I might happen to catch staring at me from across the dimly-lit interior of the bar. My friends had secured a fake ID for me and, with their help, I was beginning to learn a great deal about the practical things in life, which can only be taught over a cold beer in the dimly-lit, smoky, interior of one beer joint or another. And, my knowledge about queers was being constantly fed by the off-hand remarks my friends would make like, “You’d better keep your ass outa the second floor john at the library. Them faggots gonna rape your little booty one of these days;” or “The whole, fuckin’ first floor wing of that dorm is crammed with fuckin’ fairies.” Suffice it to say, I spent a great deal of time visiting that second floor john at the library and strolling through the first floor wing of that notorious dorm. I never did run into anything that resembled a queer, or what I thought a queer should look like. I didn’t happen to think that even I didn’t look like what I thought a queer should look like. And, now that I think about it, all those hunky young men I used to pass going into or coming from that second floor john at the library were probably as queer as I and just about as shy and scared to death to reveal themselves to just anybody. No, gays weren’t particularly liberated then in the late sixties and early seventies. Being gay was a particularly nefarious indiscretion then.
Most of us share a common youth. Most of us grew up holding our secret very deep inside us. Most of us have weathered the quiet, intense, personal storm of our youth. And, curiously enough, as we have grown, so too has the world around us.
Indeed, my detective friend announced at a small dinner party the other night that, “Anybody who stays out past midnight is just plain crazy.” Period. No mention of queers. Perhaps my detective friend is just mellowing out with age.
Or, yes, perhaps that slight twinkle in his eye as I shook his hand was not so much the effect of the bourbon and water as it was an acknowledgment that queers aren’t so bad. Why, even his best friend’s son is one.
(First published in Out Front Magazine, September 1980)
Let's get another thing straight: the moment when Safia Taleb al-Suhail embraced Janet Norwood, whose son was killed in action in Iraq, resides in a stomach-churning netherworld between revolting and disturbing. It was revolting for its exploitation of the pain of this mother as a political prop for Bush's speech. Byron Norwood, a Marine Sergeant from good ol' Texas, was killed in the destruction of Fallujah. It was disturbing because the media's perception of the hug was such a product of desired delusion: please, please, please don't let this mother's son have died in vain, please don't let that man on the podium have sold us a bill of goods.
And the Rude Pundit is sick of hearing how "bold" is every fucking thing Bush proposes. If George Bush took a shit in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Orrin Hatch would appear on Fox "News" to declare how bold a shit it was and how mighty a loaf was pinched out and how are the Democrats going to deal with a President who is unafraid to take a dump with a stone Lincoln staring at him. It is not "bold" to target gays for isolation and denigration in the Constitution; it is not "bold" to cut domestic programs that mainly help those in poverty so that massive tax cuts can be made "permanent;" it is not "bold" to say that you want to create a Social Security system that no longer guarantees a retirement benefit for seniors and that cuts benefits to others; it is not "bold" to hinder scientific developments under the veil of "protecting life;" it is not "bold" to declare that that we should make sure that people on death row are actually guilty; it is not "bold" to imply that you will use military force to impose your political will on other nations. If this is what passes for "bold" in this America, then, indeed, cowards should hold their heads high and declare that their pusillanimity is actually "bold" retreat. Or maybe such "bold" people will just ink their fingers purple in solidarity with Iraqi "voters." Or the truly "bold" will dress in purple (like Condi).
From what Dubya said last night in the State of the Union, I've just barely slip-slided into that age bracket which will not be affected by his grand, shaky plans for an overhaul of Social Security. But, you younguns had better be aware and very, very interested in what Dubya believes should be done with Social Security.
Dan Balz writes in the Post that:
For younger Americans, who Bush knows are more receptive to his plan, he emphasized both sweeteners and reassurance. Personal accounts, he said, could provide a larger retirement nest egg than the existing system. But he was quick to add that there would be protections to minimize risk. Bush will face more questions from younger workers as they learn how complicated the accounts may be and that they face a reduction in promised benefits because of the president's plan.
Bush also tried to provide a cushion against criticism that his plan would require the government to borrow as much as $2 trillion over the next 10 years to cover the transition to a new system, detailing plans to phase in the personal accounts slowly, starting in 2009, with an estimated transition cost of $700 billion to $800 billion.
The president and his advisers were far more willing to offer specifics about the personal savings accounts than they were about the steps required to keep the system solvent. Those omissions, administration officials say, were deliberate to give congressional leaders more maneuvering room to find a consensus later this year. But that stance still leaves the administration open to Democratic criticism that it is avoiding the toughest questions about the plan, and reaction last night was uniformly negative among Democratic lawmakers.
Mr. Kazerooni writes, in part:
Without exception, the Iraqis I talked to inside and outside Iraq saw voting in Sunday's election as, first and foremost, a vote for the immediate withdrawal of occupation forces and, second, a vote to take control of their day-to-day lives, which have only worsened as a result of the White House's incompetent mismanagement of Iraq.
Electricity remains intermittent; unemployment hovers over 40 percent; security is limited; clean water is irregular; and gasoline is scarce in a country that sits on top of the world's second-largest oil reserves. Iraqis' patience is wearing thin with foreign forces they see not as liberators but as occupiers intent on starving the country of its resources.
The following is from today's AlterNet:
The Truth about "WMD"
A special message to AlterNet readers in New York City,
Portland or Buffalo -- don't miss Friday's premiere of
Danny Schechter's latest documentary, "WMD: Weapons of
Mass Deception." Narrated by Tim Robbins and called
"More cohesive and devastating than Fahrenheit 9/11" by
the Boston Phoenix, "WMD" serves as a scathing indictment
of the media's role in selling the war in Iraq. For more
information or show times (plus future openings), go to
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
How To "Be Happy" For the Iraq "Elections":
No, no, really, it's great, it's really, really fuckin' great that there were "elections" in Iraq. Really. Nothing was as inspiring as those lines and lines of men dressed in average, everyday Western-ish clothes and women in head to toe robes. 'Cause, you know, the Shia are a bit more conservative about the whole "women's rights" thing.
But, still, c'mon, how could you deny the power of the dyed finger, the jubilation of gunfire in the air. Holy motherfuck, you'd have to be "hardhearted" to not be moved to pissing yourself in joy and tears. Sure, sure, there were nearly deserted polling stations or none at all in the Sunni areas, with 1700 people voting out of the 400,000 in Ramadi, 8,000 out of the 200,000 in bombed-out, corpse-ridden Fallujah. But, you know, no one expected the Sunnis to vote. Sour grapes and all that rot.
So, join the parade of voices declaring, "Freedom, sweet road to freedom," loving the dyed fingertips that look like you anally probed Barney, shouting "Springtime came early to Iraq," and avoid the naysayers who say nay, like Fareed Zakaria, opining that elections do not a democracy make. Yeah, you know, all those voters got to go through that big damn clusterfuck of a ballot, pages and pages of "lists" of candidates, all secretive, but, c'mon, everyone knew what list to vote for, right?
No, really, let's celebrate the act of voting, even if, in the end, the election doesn't change much and is just another mile marker on the road to legitimizing the occupation. Even if there's still no plan to bring American troops home for at least another two years. Even if, even if . . .
But, c'mon, everyone. We should be acting like the proud parents of a baby, should we not? A severely disabled baby? We're just so thrilled to have a child, but, Christ, what hardship and heartache lie ahead. But it was worth it, right? Isn't that what we need to keep telling ourselves over and over, as more and more loss happens, that it was just fucking worth it?
Otherwise, the act of voting was just like watching a mime. See, there is no box, but it sure as hell looks like that fucker's trapped.
// posted by Rude One @ 1:02 PM
United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 percent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.– "U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote," The New York Times, Sept. 4, 1967
and ends with this:
Lyndon Johnson was excited about voter turnout in Vietnam in September 1967. Eight years, three presidents and millions of dead people later, that excitement proved to have been wretchedly illusory. There is no reason, no reason whatsoever, to believe that the Iraq election we witnessed this weekend will bring anything other than death and violence to the people of that nation and our soldiers who move among them. History repeats itself only when we are stupid enough to miss the lessons learned in past failures. The wheel is coming around again.
What's in between -- which comes from William Rivers Pitt of TruthOut.Org -- is informative and provides a counter to the ecstasy about the vote which, I'm sure, Dubya -- and the media -- will revel in during tonight's State of the Union.