Tuesday, November 30, 2004

White Christmas -1954

This is the fiftieth anniversary of a film I can't stop watching- Irving Berliln's White Christmas starring Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and the remarkable, yet often unnamable- Vera Ellen (who I'm convinced is the only woman to actually realize Barbie's body proportions in real life). And while she isn't the star, fabulous Mary Wickes makes me believe that she is loving every minute of being typecast as the meddling housekeeper.

This movie sneaks up on you. When my older sister used to make our family watch it back when I was in high school I acted like I didn't enjoy it much (a requirement when you are working over time not to appear gay while watching show tunes), but after seeing it once I was hooked.

Despite its predictability and its relentlessly catchy, sometimes campy score, which it has in spades, I like it for the complex issues surrounding it that it isn't even aware of:

1. The near death of the movie musical. "Choreography", the number where Danny Kaye makes fun of Martha Graham by showcasing Vera Ellen's nervous tapping, is actually a cultural bellweather. Modern dance had reached the consciousness of mainstream America. Irving Berlin may have been betting on the movie musical crowd to reject Graham's abstracted dance forms. They probably did, but the future didn't. By the end of the 50s, modern dance had a long-term hold on the arts and the movie musical had all but died out.

2. Transient idea of home. Call them "circus people" or just post-modern, but the idea of two club performers randomly tripping off to Vermont with two other club performers they just met only to form lasting bonds in a place that instantly feels like home but where they have no intention of staying is a very today idea. I'm sure it was a narrative convenience then, but I love how it seems so natural now. I tell myself that Betty, Bob, Judy and Phil will always visit Pine Tree, VT.

3. Minstrel shows?! One sequence waxes nostalic for this long-lived phenomenon of using African-American cultural forms (at the expense of African-Americans) to entertain. My mom grew up with minstrel shows (they were performed in high school like a talent show!). To my knowledge there is not an actual black person to be seen in White Christmas except one. He is the nameless club car waiter on the train from Florida to Vermont.

What I think is interesting, if not quite redeeming, about the way the Minstrel scene is played is that it is perhaps the most stylized part of the movie--there is no black face, the song is sung in a stiff way that is nothing like the stereotypes they recall. The set is this crazy hot pink and lapis blue color and has no reference to any culture of which I know. It is almost like they wanted to, but they didn't want to include this number.

The bad news: The fact that something so stylized could still be recognized by people as "minstrel" means that it was pretty embedded in cultural memory. The good news: I watched it for years before realizing that the number referred to minstrel shows, which means a lot has happened in the last 50 years to remove this hurtful mode of representation from popularity.

I would love to watch Spike Lee's Bamboozled, a film about a modern day minstrel show back to back with WC. And all of this makes me wonder what a gay minstrel show might be like. In some ways WC already is one. Watch it and you'll see what I mean.

4. Men in drag. Okay, Bob and Phil dressing up as women to sing Sisters wasn't exactly cultural news but drag is drag.

5. "Gee I Wish I was Back in the Army." War nostaligia always surprises me. Did those WWII vets really miss the war? Or did our country just miss the feeling of being unified with a bunch of guys against an obvious common enemy. Did we used to think of wars as extended college football games? I guess I kind of see that today, though the enemies are harder to spot. Funny how all movies about war become about the war closest to us.

6. Someone is always pouring someone else a cup of coffee.

So why do I like this movie? Aside from the addictive songs, I think it may be because I'm nostalgic for nostalgia. Good nostalgia is quickly dated as well as fun and interesting. With a few clinkers, WC fills the bill. But nothing in contemporary times comes close to meeting that need. Maybe Elf (which probably will end up being the defining holiday movie of this decade). The movie A Christmas Story is a dead ringer, but it was made in 1980s, the earlier part of which was kind of like the 1950s.

When there is no time or energy for nostalgia, we can (as we should anyway) lean on the more powerful side of Christmas, which is Christ as hope for the future. This is a little harder to get a hold of since you can't pop Jesus into the DVD player, but it probably does me some good to have to seek him more deliberately in some years than in others.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Letter to a Baptist Preacher

Recently the Southern Baptist Convention in Arkansas adopted a resolution denouncing same-sex marriage. Below is a letter of response from me to the pastor of a very large Southern Baptist Church in Arkansas regarding the resolution. The pastor was once a youth pastor at my home church and was a good friend of our family. I write him so that he hears another perspective on this issue. I leave his name blank here to protect his privacy.

Dear _________,

I wanted to write a follow up letter to our earlier exchange in order to express my disappointment with the Arkansas Southern Baptist Convention's recent resolutions regarding the Federal Marriage Amendment. Our brothers' and sisters' language is cloaked to sound as if its goals are to protect marriage. I would argue that if that were truly the case, something might have been done to shut off the valve to no-fault divorce many years ago. I read recently that divorce is one statistic where Arkansas actually leads the way. I also understand a "covenant marriage" solution, rather than a state constitutional amendment, will be pursued to address the problem.

In the meantime, the words "heritage" and "tradition" are quietly becoming coded in the same sinister way that "state's rights" and the Biblically-based notion of "racial purity" were some time ago.

What is it that destines Southern Baptists to be on the back end of every social movement of consequence throughout its history? They lagged behind (or fought against) slave rights, women's suffrage, civil rights, and now there is their fight to further ban same-sex marriage rights. Jesus was ahead of the justice game, not behind it.

I suppose fear of the unknown plays a large role. But to me it is scarier to prefer the form of something over the quality of it [edt. Biggie up Pastor Mike for this argument]. Before the suffrage movement, the form of voters (only males may vote) was emphasized over the quality of women's ability to vote.

In the struggle for same-sex marriage rights, Southern Baptists have emphasized the form of male-female marriage (and as of 1998, a hierarchical form at that), over the quality of marriage itself. The result is that Britney Spears, convicted criminals, and contestants on reality TV's marriage shows are deemed more qualified to handle the responsibilities and rights of marriage than John and I are. Sorry to be judgmental, but I think John and I have a little more going for our relationship.

It is the "form over quality" logic that kept slavery alive and women from being Sunday School teachers back in Paul's time. Now it keeps a couple of gay veterans who have been together in a committed relationship for over 50 years from being buried next to one another in a veteran's cemetery in Arkansas. And it keeps gay parents (and there are hundreds of thousands in the U.S.) from protecting their children in the same ways you can protect yours. Emphasizing form over quality is rarely a good idea, but it is a persistent one. My dream is that one day, Southern Baptists, as well as all believers, will begin to see the pattern and change it. In the meantime I hate the sin, but love the sinner (as I often hear).

Many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are misguided on the issue of same-sex marriage, as I am on other topics. If they understood things from where I sit, I don't think all of them would make the same decisions. Thankfully the intersection of Christ's kingdom with this world keeps us from staying perpetually stagnant and hopeless. And the Holy Spirit has a way of dragging us by the ear to where we need to be.

It is hard for me to bear what Arkansas did in the last election. John and I do not feel welcome there anymore, and certainly not in any Southern Baptist churches I know. But the Holy Spirit comforts us and we have hope that one day things will change there. In the meantime, the world is a big place and we will try to keep our strength up so we can ride this wave of liberty and justice with Jesus rather than paddling behind or against it.

Thanks for listening to me on this issue--again!

Your friend on the "religious left",

Troy Smythe

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Sounds of the Season

It is the night before Thanksgiving. I love Thankgsiving. One of my constant prayers throughout the year is that God will help me live gratefully. With its lack of hoopla, Thanksgiving for me is the easiest part of the Christmas season (I consider Thanksgiving to be the Christmas kick-off) in which to get focused spiritually. The second easiest time is during the week after Christmas. Thank goodness for those 12 days of Christmas! I need everyone of them.

But back to the beginning of the Christmas season. These days on any given trip to Meijer's (like a less sinister Wal-mart for those non-Indiana folks out there), you will find me scouring those holiday CD bins. I rarely buy anything, but I look for special Christmas music that will inspire good times as we do stuff around the house. Even though my taste tends to skew toward the traditional, I thought I might share my top 10 favorite holiday titles in case anyone wants a short cut to musical holiday inspirtation.

10--Amy Grant, A Christmas Album (1983).

"Album" says it all. So 80s in a lot of ways. Michael W. Smith's synthesizer dates Grant's recording, but her sincerity and true love of the holiday more than makes up for this trait, I hesitate to call it a flaw. I went to church with Amy for awhile when I lived in Nashville and got to see her interact with her family. When she sings about her Tennessee Christmas, rest assured it happened pretty much that way for her. One aside, when my friend Felley and I were in college (in the 80s) we changed "Tennessee Christmas" to "Arkansas Christmas" and performed it for our friend Adam's mom, Mary. We lied and told her we wrote it. She was so impressed. Thanks Amy.

9--Julie Andrews, Greatest Christmas Songs (released 2000, but probably recorded back in the 1960s)

Mary Poppins/Maria von Trapp sings your favorites. And everyone needs at least one English Christmas album. If you are more of a pop person than a madrigal dinner person, what's not to love about this one?

8--A Christmas Festival with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops (Released in 1987, recorded in the 1950s and 1960s)

Another standard with the original recording of Sleigh Ride and the most dreamy version of Winter Wonderland ever. Great driving music, too.

7--Louis Armstrong and Friends, What a Wonderful Christmas (Released 1997)

So cool it won't matter what your tree looks like. Eartha Kitt (meow!), Peggy Lee, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, not to mention Louis Armstrong.

6--Christmas with the Pops, Erich Kunzel and the Cincinatti Pops Orchestra (1990)

Compilation tapes can be dicey--either too many of the same old songs or too many of the ones you hate. This is an exception. The Cincinatti Pops are a really good orchestra and this CD is full of rich surprises. A random and inspired feature isToni Tenille singing the Christmas Waltz (the Captain must have been at sea. He doesn't show up.). Rosemary Clooney sings White Christmas and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I love Walking in the Air from the animated Christmas short, The Snowman, which I can never seem to catch on television.

5--Nat King Cole, The Christmas Song (Released on CD in 1986) AND/OR Bing Crosby, White Christmas (Released 1992)

Do you really need me to explain?

4--Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas (Released 1988)

Do kids who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s still have this is an inseparable part of the childhood Christmas experience?

3--Amy Grant, Home for Christmas, (1992)

Amy grows up. Beautiful, gentle, moody, but not too heavy. Breath of Heaven (Song of Mary) is like overhearing an intimate prayer (Mary is owning up to the shock and trepidation of being a savior's mother) that reveals some of the faith-weight of the holidays. All of the songs have sophisticated orchestration that never gets too uppity.

2--Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, A Christmas to Remember (1984)

I want to be Dolly Parton. When I decorate for the holidays I have her and the set of the movie White Christmas in my head. You either get Dolly or you don't. She blurs the line between commercialism and holiness in a way that I LOVE! This CD has the most fun songs on it. And unlike a lot of Christmas recording artists, Dolly wrote most of them. New songs that managed to sound like Christmas songs--a Christmas miracle.

1--Blind Boys of Alabama, Go Tell it on the Mountain (2003)

I came across this CD by accident last year. It should be a future classic. The BBs have been around the gospel soul music world for over 60 years. They know what they are doing. Their unobtrusive innovation comes in the way they let the traditional rethink itself. They, with George Clinton, sing Away in the Manger as Jesus and his family probably would have sung it, as the blues rather than a lullaby. Chrissie Hyndes's In the Bleak Midwinter is lonely but beautiful--again, kind of like Christmas might have been and is for many today. I Pray on Christmas and The Last Month of the Year make it impossible for me to sit still. Not too many Christmas CDs can make me think I missed something in the Christmases of my youth. This one does.

If you are able to post a comment without creating your own blog (I keep turning that feature off and it keeps turning itself back on), share some of your favorites! Might save me some time at Meijer's.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Picking the Past

Marriage/equal rights for gay people has presented an interesting question to those on both sides of the issue: how is the gay rights struggle similar to/different from other civil rights struggles?

Some people believe the struggle for equal marriage rights is (or isn't--depending on who you are) similar to the struggle for racial equality. A short and sweet blurb on that from a Newshouse article:

(Begin quote) Arbogast and his longtime partner, Steve Forssell, both 42, were deeply disappointed by the election. The two, born and still living in Washington, D.C., contacted a Canadian attorney and started the application process for permanent residency there.

"We don't want to get married, that's not it," Arbogast said. "But when 11 states have the opportunity to do the right thing, and all 11 in landslide fashion go against a civil rights measure, it calls into question, do we want to be here? And the answer is no."

That doesn't mean, he added, "that we hate the U.S. or are rescinding our citizenship or hate the president. What it means is, we feel like `coloreds' in the '60s: good for TV, fun at a party, but certainly not equal." (End quote)

While I identify with that last sentence with uncomfortable ease, I am now thinking that the glbt (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) struggle may have more in common with the women's suffrage movement. The issue for women (at least white women) back in the early 20th century, wasn't whether or not they were free to go in and out of public places at will (well, there were those clubs). It was more about restricting the rights of women under the patronizing guise of "doing what is best" for them.

I've linked before to this Lasley essay which examines the Southern Baptist's 1998(!) vote to write "wife submission" into their faith and message statement. It is a striking and frightening exploration of how the logic of slave ownership in the South was used to create a 20th century velvet collar for Baptist wives. Before you dismiss the idea as as Southern Baptist problem, you should take a look at it. It is pretty revelatory in its explanation of how seemingly "normal people" get from love to oppression without ever leaving the comfort of their own church pews.

I'm going to challenge myself to get to know the women's suffrage movement in the coming days. If anyone knows of good resources for this, please share!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Indiana's Rising Bigot Tide

Here it comes. The vote we've all been waiting for. I don't know how many more times I can come up for air in this state.

Okay. I'm going to postpone my trauma and temper tantrums. But how do we fight this? I refuse to sit around waiting for this to happen.

And can someone please tell me what the hell this part of Alting's statement means?

"I voted in favor of it," Alting said. "I feel very emotional on that kind of vote. I lost my wife to cancer years ago; I wish I had my wife today to remind them of the importance of the bond between a man and woman.

"That’s just how I believe and that’s how I will vote."

Frankly, I feel very emotional on this issue as well. As painful as his wife's death was, I bet he did not have to deal with all that John and I will have to when one of us passes. Why does his remark, sad as it is, make me so angry? Perhaps it is his absolute assumption that John and I can have no bond that approaches the one he shared with his wife simply because they had differing reproductive systems.

I believe I'll start by asking for an appointment with Alting (yes, after I've calmed down). And I'd like to invite at least one of my Indiana friends who has a stake in the outcome of this, and you KNOW who you are, to join me. I'll bring the government document that outlines how we are marginalized by such votes, you bring the partner and kids.

Monday, November 15, 2004

I'm Your Jeannie in a Bottle Baby!

Those of you who read my earlier deconstruction of Bewitched had to expect that I would eventually drop the "I Dream of Jeannie" shoe as well. Now is the right time for a lot of reasons.

It is no revelation that American society was considering the idea of empowered women in the 1960s as never before. Was the concept so simultaneously intriguing and bizarre to mainstream America that shows like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie were cathartic transitional objects? Before Bewitched, witches were the evil by-products of unchecked feminine desire. Harem girls before Jeannie were romanticized fantasies of passive femininity.

Things had changed by the 1960s. Witches lost their satanic edge and harem girls had a will of their own, but the perceived need to repress those who are "different" was still in tact then as it is now.

Unlike Samantha in Bewitched, Jeannie must live by that stupid Genie code of ethics, "Do as master says." Two words for Anthony Nelson: horse shit! If I were Jeannie, I would have "accidently" blinked him to the moon and high-tailed it back to Baghdad--well maybe Istanbul now, at least until we stabalize Iraq (now we're talking fantasy). But Jeannie, like a lot of us, sometimes forgot how powerful she was when the constraints of arbitrary rules swarmed around her. And she complied out of love for Major Nelson. I'm not sure why the Southern Baptist Convention doesn't make I Dream of Jeannie required viewing for converts.

Anyway, Bewitched was definately a few steps ahead of IDOJ in terms of feminist thought. If Bewitched was the 1960s female/male struggle from a feminist point of view, Jeannie modeled how a less-enlightened heterosexual man might prefer to fight the battle--with a scantily clad sparring partner who when push came to shove could be commanded to smoke back into her bottle like a disobedient dog to its bed.

Samantha struck a chord for gay people who understood the benefits of a powerful community in a world that is fearful of them. But giggle and jiggle prone Jeannie, in my mind, represents the outsider alone in the provinces, with no one else like them around to offer perspective on who they are. The formulaic evil-twin showed up from time to time, but by and large Jeannie lacked the social network of like-gifted folks that Samantha had. And all she had to remind her of who she really was were the mealy-mouthed screams and nervous laughter of her "master." Still, all cultural ground was not lost with I Dream of Jeannie. The interior design world still feels the ripple of that velvety bottle get-away

I have to give Jeannie credit. I'll never understand how she slept for two millenia on what amounts to a well-upholstered restaurant booth. And I like her smiley optimism. She rarely internalizes Major Nelson's rejection. She simply believes he is not smart enough to know what is best for him, and out of love she does what she must in spite of his annoying rants. I wish I had known myself as well when I was younger. Like Jeannie, I had the experience of being alone in a place where I felt very different--believe me when I tell you that Batesville is no Chelsea. But I tended to believe and even parrot back what was said about gay folks, even though the people who were supposedly setting my standard had no experience (if they were to be believed) with being gay.

What I lost as a result of growing up in a don't ask/don't tell environment I've had restored now that I'm in a place where I'm loved and valued for who I am by all kinds of people. I wish (insert blink and head nod here) for my fellow small-town gay Arkansans (and Louisanans, and Missourans, etc.) a little of Jeannie's self-confidence and naive wisdom. You are growing up gay in a community that not only ignores you, but now devalues you to the point of writing discrimination into its constitution to keep you in your bottle. This is bound to have negative effects on your life. Someone who could live in an outsized shampoo bottle for two thousand years and come out smiling has some pretty miraculous emotional resouces to draw upon. For those of us who are not so lucky, I recommend seeing a shrink other than Dr. Bellows and/or getting out of Coco Beach all together.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Pink Panthers

I've decided that supporters of equal marriage rights for gay people may need to form a new political action group like the Black Panthers back in the 70s to forcefully push its agenda. And if I could choose where to start the movement it would be with gay hairdressers in Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham, Oklahoma City and Little Rock.

Billie, a well put-together Southern woman from (substitute name of any prominent southern city here) walks into the salon where she's had a standing appointment for the past 15 years. She checks in at the front desk to let Shane, her (gay, gay, gay) stylist know she has arrived. She sees him at his chair tending to an earlier appointment and gives him a sweet smile and a quiet wave before sitting down to wait for her visit with him.

As she catches her reflection in one of the waiting area mirrors she admires how well her cut has lasted. She wonders what Laura Bush would look like with a decent haircut. She makes a mental note to ask Shane what he would do with the First Lady's hair if he were given carte blanche. She also wants to know why the wife of a United States president who is also a Texas millionaire can't manage to find a suit that fits her. As she meditates on the First Lady's image she reminds herself to ask Shane if he thinks those little wrinkles around Laura's mouth might mean she smokes. She suspects so, but the only smokers she knows are the ushers at church who light up outside the building once the preacher starts his sermon.

Billie smiles as she thinks about how month after month she shares more of her thoughts with Shane than she does with some of her own siblings. She certainly sees him more often and could more easily live without some of them. As Shane says goodbye to his earlier apointment at the desk, Billie makes her way back to his chair. Before she has a chance to ask her Laura Bush questions Shane turns to her with a clipboard in his hand. Smiling, he says,

"I'm so glad you're here. My gay colleagues and I are asking customers who believe in us to sign petitions that support our right to marry our partners. We've decided that we can only serve customers who support our families' basic rights."

"Oh, Shane. You know I love you, and I would do anything to support you and Frank. But I don't think men should marry other men. And the Bible says so, too. I hope you understand."

"Well, I think I do. And you're sweet to say you love me. We've shared so much together over the years. I'll miss our regular appointments. As a courtesy to our customers who can't support our marriage rights, we are referring them to Harley's Barber Shop down the street. It's just a few doors away, and there's a barber pole out front so you can't miss it."

"What? But I have an appointment with you."

"Oh, don't worry about that. Harley doesn't believe in appointments, so you should be able to walk right in and hop in the chair."

Shane hands Billie her purse and gently grabs her arm to help her toward the front desk. She stares at him with a frozen face waiting for the joke to end. Her heels tap out an SOS signal of uncertainty as she is led to the door.

I'm not sure how the story ends. Any ideas? BTW, there actually already is a Pink Panthers group in Canada, but their energy is directed against the gay community. I was telling my friend Rosie about my version of the Pink Panther plan and her response was that if something like this ever really happened "Southern women would definately vote their hair."

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

New Campaign Signs

I was in Portland, Maine this past week working with my friend Dana who is Director of Education there. She walked me through their Becoming a Nation exhibition (it and the museum are definately worth a trip). The final room had the quotes below all over the walls. They were so powerful that I asked her to send them to me. The quotes were selected before the election. Seeing them after the election I was surprised by how prescient she was to pick them. Especially interesting to me now is the Jefferson quote. The one that resonated with me the most was the Buck quote I mentioned earlier. I plan to turn some of these into yard signs for our house.

None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free
Pearl S. Buck, 20th-Century Author

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin, American Statesman

The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, US President 1933-1945

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
Wendell Phillips, Abolitionist

Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.
James Baldwin, Author

Government is not reason. Government is not eloquence. It is force. And, like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
George Washington, US President 1789-1797

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine
Thomas Jefferson, American President 1801-1809

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people
John F. Kennedy, US President 1961-63

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Revisiting the FMA

And if you thought the Federal Marriage Amendment was going to go away just because so many states manage to be bigoted on their own just fine...read this.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Red State Embargoes and Boycotts

Rosie sent me a concession speech from Adam Felber in LA that is hilarious, sad, and true. The gist regarding secession is posted below because it is giving me some ideas.

"There are some who would say that I sound bitter, that now is the time for healing, to bring the nation together. Let me tell you a little story. Last night, I watched the returns come in with some friends here in Los Angeles. As the night progressed, people began to talk half-seriously about secession, a red state / blue state split. The reasoning was this: We in blue states produce the vast majority of the wealth in this country and pay the most taxes, and you in the red states receive the majority of the money from those taxes while complaining about 'em. We in the blue states are the only ones who've been attacked by foreign terrorists, yet you in the red states are gung ho to fight a war in our name. We in the blue states produce the entertainment that you consume so greedily each day, while you in the red states show open disdain for us and our values. Blue state civilians are the actual victims and targets of the war on terror, while red state civilians are the ones standing behind us and yelling "Oh, yeah!? Bring it on!"

More than 40% of you Bush voters still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. I'm impressed by that, truly I am. Your sons and daughters who might die in this war know it's not true, the people in the urban centers where al Qaeda wants to attack know it's not true, but those of you who are at practically no risk believe this easy lie because you can. As part of my concession speech, let me say that I really envy that luxury. I concede that."

So secession? Maybe not quite yet. Still I'm really starting to wonder if the South shouldn't have been allowed to secede after slaves were liberated for all of the reasons Felber mentions above. Is it too late? If it is, maybe the blue states could secede. I'm sure the red states wouldn't mind. They think we are amoral snobs anyway.

OR! Let's talk embargo and boycotts. Both are very difficult to enforce. There is a lot I do not know about interstate trade laws, but how hard would it be for blue states to begin restricting trade to certain states? It would be a crazy ride to get there, but if blue states started to trade only with those states or even areas (urban vs. rural) or companies that did not commit civil rights violations it could be really interesting. Could we figure out a way to pretend the red states do not exist? I'm already not spending money in states with constitutional amendments banning same-sex unions. Is there a way to beef that up?

Even if only the threatened minority communities--women, ethnic groups, glbt people participated I think we'd see some results. After all, Coors hired Mary Cheney for a specific reason years ago and that was to bring gay business back into the fold after the glbt community recognized Coors' anti-gay values.

But we have to be vigilant. Pete Coors began to offer domestic partner benefits, while simultaneously giving tons of money to anti-gay organizations. Do you see? He offered dp benefits, which costs little but gets him glbt business and sympathy. BUT he also quietly donates scads of money to anti-gay organizations, which costs a little more, but in return he receives far right-wing support. So the only loser here are glbt people. Pete has an appearance of looking supportive of civil rights, as he does his part to destroy them. No one can say these people aren't clever.

Economic secession from the red states is what we are talking about (this will be challenge for us since we live in one, at least for now). I can certainly live without Coors. What are some other red state products we can live without? What are some blue state products we might want to see red states live without? What else can we do to avoid spending money in these bigoted cesspools? What exceptions might we make if a state or company is truly trying to support civil rights?

Friday, November 05, 2004


Color me depressed. I have the same sense I had when I was five and tornadoes hit Batesville. It was sudden chaos. My kindergarten class huddled under a flimsy table as one of the three monsters that hit our town roared down the street outside our window. After it passed, there was silence and things moved in slow motion for what seemed like days. I suddenly felt very alone and though I wouldn't have said it this way at age five, vulnerable in a way I didn't know was possible. That night I was tired from all of the adrenaline rushes, but I couldn't sleep. For no specific reason, I wanted to cry.

I feel like that now, and I'm incredibly angry. My eyes have bags under them big enough to hold loose change. My friends, like me, are dumbfounded that our country chose the ludicrous facade of morality and security Bush represents over the promise of a more honest, compassionate and intelligent administration. Whenever I see John (my John, not Kerry), I have to choke back tears because of what is now written into state constitutions all over the U.S., including my home state of Arkansas.

As I sit here in the Indianapolis airport I can't speak to anyone. I keep looking around thinking, "six in ten of you were stupid enough to be fooled by Bush--again!" I know it sounds judgmental. At the moment I can't help it.

Now I'm headed to DC for work. I hate that I have to be any where near that poor excuse for a man. I hate the sound of his affected voice. I don't know how true Texans stand it. I hate his dismissive attitude, his razor-thin veneer of sincerity. I hate his absolute dependence on people more intelligent and mean than he is to fill his head with something to say that might possibly pass for substance. I hate that he has NO clue about the experiences and problems of the people who voted for him (much less the ones who didn't). And I hate it that those who voted for him expect him to understand their needs--him, for whom even the concept of an honest day's work is an abstracted myth at best.

If you think I'm making a bigger deal out of this than I should and feel the need to tell me so, I recommend that you don't and that you KISS MY ASS instead. Don't tell me that now that he has won, even if it was a fair election, that I should get behind the president and support him. That is like telling a black person in the 1950s to ignore Jim Crow and support the administration that allowed it. Bush won't help protect me and my family, so he and his can wander around in their drug-induced stupors alone as far as I'm concerned. If they can't face his presidency sober, what makes people think it will be better for the rest of us?

I don't care if you are a family member, colleague, or fellow Christian. If you imagine that another four years of the same illustrious mess we are in now is the best we can do for our country, you can't hear me and I can't hear you. You ignored the true concerns of this nation for the sake of what you think (how, I cannot possibly imagine) is a model of morality, security, or fiscal responsibility and voted for the worst president in our history--twice!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Could the provisional votes in Ohio pull this off? I hope so. It would be such a testament to our country's democratic process if people who almost didn't get to vote were the deciding factor.

Even if Kerry does not win, and even if all those young folk didn't turn out to vote like we thought, a LOT of new people did. And they were people who waited in line for hours, people who took the trouble to vote early in many cases, people who had not been registered in years. I want to honor the number of people who turned out to vote their conscience, whether or not they voted for Kerry.

Don't mistake this entry for a concession or even an "I'm okay if Bush wins" speech (I'm so not). But the American voters, again those who actually took the trouble to vote, should be celebrated.

It ain't over yet.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Tim Russert's Freakin' Blue Board

Tim Russert has finally pulled out his electronic blue board. I'm getting flashbacks to 2000. And yuck! Karen Hughes just got onto NBC.

Tom Brokaw just asked Hughes if Bush was beginning to think about how to heal the hurt that this election has created. Karen didn't answer the question (blah, blah, he has tried to change the tone in Washington, blahbity blah). But I can tell you that Bush would have to work hard to heal the wounds he's created and we all know Bush isn't in to hard work. That would fall into that category of things he says he does, but actually doesn't do.

Seriously, Toronto or Montreal? Any advice on which would make a better place to win?

But it isn't over yet!!

Long Night

Ugh! It is most inconvenient for residents here in Fast Food Nation to have to deal with the chronological curveballs that time zones and lawsuits throw us on election night. So far only 15 percent of returns have come in. No real surprises at this point, except that even though our country has had to endure a long swim in the toilet as a result of this administration's incompetency the election is still very close.

My impressions at this point are as follows:

I may have overestimated the tendency for newly registered voters to cast their vote for Kerry.

I may have underestimated just how slimy Republicans can be with regard to litigious voter repression in Ohio.

Monday, November 01, 2004


What We Don't Say Can Hurt Us

I ran across an article in HRC's recent issue of Equality . It mentioned that most glbt people do not discuss with their heterosexual friends and family how politics affect them and their future . I can guess some of the reasons:

1. Not everyone is confrontational
2. There may be some internalized shame about having "caused our families enough problems already" by being gay (though we have no choice in the matter)
3. We do not want to lose our friends who are okay with us as long as we "don't flaunt" our sexuality

I'd love to hear of other reason people have if you have the time.

I have very close friends who do not talk about how they are being affected by the anti-gay marriage issue with their family. A lot has to do with their historical family dynamics and I totally understand--for better or worse our family dynamic is confrontational. In some cases, my friends are out and their partners and their children are loved and embraced by their families, which speaks volumes to and about their families.

But (and I usually have a big butt, I mean but)...I have found with my own family that I cannot expect them to get a balanced point of view about political issues from the information sources that are out there. I don't mean to advocate slamming family members for having preconceived notions about things (even as a gay person I held on to them for a long time). I do think, however, it is important to mention even in passing the ways we are affected.

Here is one related anecdote that actually involved the district superintendent of our church. We were having our annual check-in meeting with him (called Charge Conference in the Methodist church). He was about to retire and asked us if there was anything we would like for him to relay to his successor as something that needed attention. I mentioned that as one of the teachers in our Sunday School with many children of same-sex couples, I am starting to hear questions about why it is that their parents cannot be married in our church when people who are not even attendees are allowed and wondered what he would say to them. He didn't show much regard for my question--sidestepping it by discussing our need to pray for one of our ailing Democratic congresswomen in the area, as if she was responsible for how things went down in our church (she attends another church).

Do I think my question will make a large change? No, but I do think our children are valuable enough for me to keep people who make decisions that affect their lives from sliding past the issue without ever thinking about it. At next year's conference I believe I'll see if one or more of the children who are asking these questions might be interested in posing them directly to the new district superintendent. And I'll take the role of making sure the question is answered respectfully.