Archive for July, 2015

mary’zine #74: July 2015

July 27, 2015

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my gay Friday

Friday, June 26, 2015. What an amazing few days in America. The Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act came down on Thursday. That was enough good news to hold me for awhile. But when I logged on to Facebook Friday morning I saw that SCOTUS had declared same-sex marriage the law of the land. I could hardly take it in. The Internet exploded with rainbows, cheers, and celebratory videos. The first couple to get married under the new world order were two elderly men. A crowd was watching. The civil servant who performed the ceremony asked the “I do” questions and finished with “as vested in me by the Constitution of the United States,” and a raucous cheer went up. In a world of so many disappointments, these spine-tingling moments are a rare treat. I wasn’t celebrating the cause of marriage for myself, because always a bridesmaid, etc., but for me it was about feeling like a proper citizen, finally, of the country of my birth.

It so happened that I hadn’t slept the night before. I play fast and loose with the biological realities of sleep. I can usually make up for a sleepless night with a long winter’s nap during the day, but on this day I was too excited. I did finally catch 3 hours in the afternoon, and from then it was on. I was on Facebook for the rest of the day and all night, trying in vain to keep up with the many postings and videos and all-rainbows-all-the-time. It would have been nice to take part in the celebrations in a friendly crowd, but Facebook proved to be a wonderful source of contact with friends and strangers. My friends Mary and Sharon kept checking in with me and sharing stories, sharing my delight and relief. They’re both straight, but as Mary said at one point, “We’re all gay today.” My emotions were all over the place: the joy of seeing lovers in happy tears… crowds outside the Supreme Court and San Francisco’s City Hall in cheers… the Schadenfreude of watching blustering clergymen claim we were all going to hell… the shock of the most extreme reactions, such as, oh, let me pick one: that we should all be executed because Holy Bible. Without Facebook, it would have been a lonely day, since all of my gay friends live far away. P e-mailed from Oregon that she was glad she didn’t have to move to Canada. But mostly, the cheers and camaraderie came from the vast Interwebs. I don’t think I left my desk between 7 pm and 7 am, long past the time when my body was saying “Enough!” I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in two days, and by 3 pm on Saturday I was still too excited to settle down and became quite giddy.

***

Neither SCOTUS decision affects me directly: I have health insurance thanks to Medicare and the University of California, and I have no intention of ever getting married. But this landmark vote is bigger than marriage. Were we citizens before this? Sort of. We paid taxes, we voted; for all intents and purposes, it seemed, we were equal in the eyes of the law. But not really. Why, in my day… it very nearly came to pass that gay teachers and others working with children could be fired or never hired to begin with. Thanks, Phyllis Schlafly! How do you like us now, Anita Bryant? (Seems they’re both still alive; but no angry fists in the air, how come?)

It’s striking that the rhetoric of the homophobes back in the 1970s was on a par with the rhetoric now… although I don’t remember anyone promising to set themselves ablaze in protest of any pro-gay turn of events. So the fanatics are still peddling the same old lies and prejudices, most of them Bible based, but what changed was the will of the people. “The people” are not ideologues. What changes the outlook of a regular person is not the Bible thumper thundering on her TV screen but the gradual realization that gay people are not a different species, or confined to urban centers, or men dressed like women and vice-versa, but their sisters, brothers, children, friends, and a few hardy (or outed) celebrities. It was a revolution, truly. Or, OK, an evolution of slowly dawning understanding that there are gay people in all walks of life and in most if not all families.

To this day, the right-wing fanatics are trying every argument to refute the decision, to claim that the Supremes are “activist judges,” that the new order is anti-Bible and (a new wrinkle) an attack on “religious freedom.” The Bible people have not given up their constant drumming of the message: “God’s law” [as inexpertly interpreted by them] should be the law of the land; unelected judges (i.e., SCOTUS) have no authority in these matters. Even Antonin Scalia tried this argument, causing me to wonder, “So who elected you?” Funny, but all the would-be Joans of Arc suddenly shied away from the flames of martyrdom. That one preacher who promised to immolate himself if the decision went the way it did had an about-face and claimed that he had only said he might, or he would, or maybe he would if the 10,000 ministers he claimed to have in his pocket would join him. It was the classic “end of the world” prediction that has to be awkwardly explained away when the sun still rises the next day. The funniest threat was the bold claim that the “Christians” would move to Canada. A Facebook friend of mine wondered “Who will tell them?” … that same-sex marriage has been the law there for 10 years.

It’s good to know that the sanctimonious religious right don’t always get their way. One of the naysayers I came across online raved that he always “voted the Bible,” so I responded, “You can vote on the Bible? Where do I sign up?”

And wouldn’t you know it? Mike Huckabee claims he’ll “call down fire from heaven”—“if he has to.” I like that bloviating empty threat. First, you have that kind of power, do you? And second, what’s stopping you? Has he even read the Bible lately? One assumes he prefers the New Testament, but in his feeble mind he has conflated the love-loving Jesus of the New with the Old god of fire and brimstone. I’ll bet Jesus didn’t even know what brimstone was. So, Mike, and all the other hate-mongers, wake up and smell the coffee. You are a dying breed, and that is the best news of all.

Ted Cruz had the audacity to proclaim the day of the decision “the worst 24 hours in our nation’s history.” (As Sean Hannity cheerleads, “I couldn’t have said it better myself.” High praise!) Worse than Pearl Harbor? 9/11? the wars and assassinations that all but dominated the 20th century? What an odd, unforgivable thing to say.

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***

One of the things that nagged at me on that monumental gay Friday was the thought of the grieving friends and loved ones of the nine people killed in the black church in Charleston 9 days earlier. The funeral of Rev. Pinckney was happening that day. I saw the video of President Obama giving the eulogy and singing “Amazing Grace” with the other black people on the dais (and one very short white woman—or did I imagine her?), and it was so moving. It made me happy to see them there, responding with grace and dignity—and without a whiff of defeat—to a sickening tragedy.

I was disgusted when some Republicans tried to turn that tragedy into an attack on “religious freedom.” As usual, the so-called Christians are trying to make it all about them. They think this is ancient Rome and they are being fed to the lions. So courageous, those martyrs. Forced to bake a cake for people they don’t approve of. It would be farcical if it weren’t so maddening. I have to hand it to them, though. They know how to co-opt a legitimate struggle for civil rights by using the same language to assert their own oppression. They have a sincere belief that homosexuals shouldn’t have the same constitutional protection as righteous gun owners. Since when does disapproval have the same status as religious principle?

To these paranoid, self-aggrandizing, smug “Christians,” who are apparently bored with being the majority religion and want to return to the good old days of persecution, I say: Who asked you? Why does our finally acquiring the civil rights that you have had all along have anything to do with you? Are we taking something away from you? Do you think it’s more exciting to be forced to fight for your so-called principles over a cake than to attend a safe, completely legal church service once a week? We are not vilifying you.

I came across a great word for their impotent fury: “poutrage.”

These wannabe theocrats and arbiters of all that is good and holy paint themselves as the put-upon victims, the humble pilgrims who only want to pray to their god in peace but are prevented from doing so by their disapproval of others having the same freedoms they enjoy. Freedom apparently means something different to them than it does to the rest of us. I say, go back to that special book of yours and read what Jesus had to say. Seems you’ve forgotten what your “faith” is all about.

FfdfP

Police state

July 23, 2015

Not to be an alarmist, but—

What is a police state? I used to think of it as working like it did in Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm: the redefinition of common words (and hence the laws) coming from the top down. But if the police, at the lowest rungs of the authority ladder, get to do what they’ve been doing to (mostly) black people lately, it makes me very, very afraid. Hitler couldn’t have done what he did without the apathy and acquiescence of the German people. And now that we see a video of a mundane traffic stop, where the driver (Sandra Bland)  is upset and made increasingly more upset by the cop’s ridiculous (and mostly illegal) demands, I can just imagine that the response of millions of white Americans is, “She should have done what he told her to do.” Now, think about that. We theoretically have rights. But try to exercise them, and if you piss off a guy with a badge, a gun, and an easily bruised ego, your rights don’t mean shit. And now, if police don’t know the law, you have no 4th amendment rights, sayeth the Supreme Court.

AIDS activists used to say, “Silence = death.” Now it seems that disobedience to the police, for any reason, = death. This is dangerous precedent. Young black men are shot dead because they’re seen to be dangerous. Now a young black woman is dead in police custody because she didn’t abjectly comply with an enraged cop’s phony commands. What will it take for us to stop blaming the victim and stop treating police like judge, jury, and executioner? The Patriot Act is scary enough, because “terrorism” is the buzzword and the excuse for any governmental action. But now this low-level encounter—a traffic stop!— between a citizen and an armed authority also ends in death. So long after slavery, blacks may be “free,” but increasingly they’re treated like criminals for no reason. And the rest of us self-righteously jump on and exclaim, “She or he should have just complied!” As the German pastor Martin Niemöller said, in part, ” … they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” Please, stop and think about it, when you hear yourself thinking, “But she wouldn’t get out of the car!” “But he ran!” “But he may have stolen something!” “But he was big for a high schooler!” None of these things warrants the death penalty. Try a little empathy, it goes a long way.


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