Thursday, April 28, 2005

Dixie Crass

Yes, the southern United States has its mind-numbing simulacra of “old-fashioned” this and that and endless housing editions now full of vinyl domestic barns too big for the people buying them to afford to decorate (all of which can all be found north of the Mason-Dixon Line, too, by the way). But the South is a still a place full of crumbling romanticism, hard-won lyrical soul, and in the Ozarks where I come from, a smiling mysticism. I love it. Despite the fact that a good 60 to 70 percent of the folks in Dixie would rather John and I not live there, I love it. The way a child sometimes has to separate itself from an abusive parent until they get their act together; I love it. I'm not saying my attachment is healthy, but my cultural DNA is not likely to allow my feelings to change.

However, my blinders to the South's dark side have been off for a while now. Obviously this side has always been there, but it has shown up in a special way with the Religious Right's recent (last 25 years or so) takeover of the GOP. In addition to the sinister “love-based” constitutional amendments that have swept the area like F5 tornadoes sucking the wind out of Southern gay and lesbian families, now there is an attempt to remove any hint of gay people from the region.

In Arkansas, a book ban that would have disallowed any mention of families other than those headed by one woman and one man fortunately died in committee. The bill was focused on text books. My friends Duane and Todd gave me a heads up about a more recent book ban attempt in Alabama that seems more like a would-be book burning to me.

The CBS story is here.
"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.

Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries.

Let's erase gay people and some Shakespeare from cultural (I use that term loosely when speaking about Representative Allen) consciousness. I don't know what a classic is, but I know gay folks ain't one. If people like Allen have it their way, this would be just one more step on the road to the “final solution."

He shouldn't undersestimate gay folks' ability to fight back though. Ever been to a gym where gay men are working out? These guys are huge! And I know quite a few lesbians I wouldn't want to tangle with in a dark alley (and that's evidently where people like Allen think we skulk around). Add a dash of oppression to size and strength and you have a classic recipe for "whoop ass." Open carefully.

Monday, April 25, 2005

How I Would Gannon Myself into the White House

A letter, posted by Raw Story, from Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has been written to White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan requesting some answers about why Gannon/Guckert had unrestricted access to the White House. We're hearing crickets so far (he's been asked to respond to these questions before, though without the SS records they have now).

Here is how the letter would read if I wrote it.

Dear Scott,

What's up? Since you got hitched we never hear from you. Someone said you grew a beard.

We understand you losing touch with us. I bet keeping up with Pope George II has you busier than a legislator on Palm Sunday. But remember, from today's Cardinals, future Popes come, you know what I mean?

All right now, speaking of quiet pontifical cover-ups, quick question: how did our buddy Jeff Gannon get refrigerator rights at the White House? I mean, I know he's got that trendy sprawled out naked military man look and everything, but he only pulls that off if he's wearing the dog-tags and the army boots (sorry, Marine boots) at the same time. And no offense, but you and I both know the "Hey, y'all look, I'm military even though I've never served in the military" look was over the second your boss tried it on.

While we're talking about clothes, I know the closet you shop in is usually full of suits, but I'm working to make a look happen that you may want to try. I call it "Pope-rageous"--9 yards of meringue-colored silk, a big stick, and a reupholstered brownie beanie and you're good to go. It's a high-octane look for us "loose fit" guys (Don't hate me for that. I'm a friend.).

But you must promise to shoot me if someone ever manages to push Cardinal-wear into vogue. I don't care how shamelessly you cover up a scandal, no one should be made to wear that much red unless they're skipping up the back stairs of Miss Kitty's saloon with a drunken cowboy, okay? Oh, we were talking about Jeff.

Seriously Scott. I'm sure you realize I've been blogging since last September. That makes me at least as qualified as Jeff to bounce around the White House without the Secret Service demanding I sign in and out and stuff. All that writin'! Who am I? A GOP talking points editor? (BTW, those Secret Service guys? They're like the White House's UPS men. Hot! That stone-cold look will be cookin' longer than the U.S. will be in Iraq.)

Scott, sometimes, I, like Jeff, would like a little alone time at the House while you and your press buddies are off on Air Force 1 with his Eminence. Is that too much to ask? You know I'm not faulting you. You try really hard to be fair and all. In fact, if you want to clue me in to the real story of how Bulldog gets to jump all over the furniture at the Hizzouse when I see you next, I can wait.

And I won't question your judgement in the meantime. I'm actually pretty sure there must be a funny story about how Jeff ended up there. My theory is he thought he was headed to the White Party and got a little confused. Though with the stupor the GOP has been running around in, one could forgive that mistake, okay? You know I'm just kiddin'.

But I'm not kidding about how much better a guest I am likely to be during all of those liesurely hours-long strolls through the White House offices when the press is nowhere in sight. Now I'm not trying to be judgemental or anything, but isn't Jeff a little too prone to nekkidity to be let loose around all that antique upholstered furniture? You better check the security tapes (do you guys even still use those?) to make sure he wasn't sitting around naked on the Duncan Phyfe sofa in the Vermeil Room. Otherwise you could end up with the ghost of Jackie Kennedy-Onassis up in your stuff. That woman was all kinds of serious about her home dec, okay? I bet Clinton gets nightly visits to this day!

We can talk about all of this when you and what's-her-name stop by here on your way back to bar hop in Texas. In the meantime, consider this--I'm clothed most of the time, I go by only one name, I actually have held every job I've ever said I held, and my divorce from reality is not yet final. Here's hoping for a White House Day Pass--The Gift that Keeps on Giving.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

Open (White)House

Bill Clinton had Monica. But who was having Jeff Gannon (aka James Guckert)? That is the question begged by John Byrne at Raw Story.

Gannon made more than 200 appearances at the White House during his two-year tenure with the fledging conservative websites GOPUSA and Talon News, attending 155 of 196 White House press briefings. He had little to no previous journalism experience, and previously worked as a male escort.

Perhaps more notable than the frequency of his attendance, however, is several distinct anomalies about his visits.

Guckert made more than three dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gaggles aboard Air Force One-which raises questions about what Guckert was doing at the White House.

On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing. Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out.

In March, 2003, Guckert left the White House twice on days he had never checked in with the Secret Service. Over the next 22 months, Guckert failed to check out with the Service on thirteen days. On several of these visits, Guckert either entered or exited by a different entry/exit point than his usual one. On one of these days, no briefing was held.

Maybe you've never heard of Gannon/Guckert, the male prostitute turned White House reporter/shill. Here's a sanatized version of his story from the Washington Post. Here's a more complete version from Daily Kos. And here's a story with pictures from AmericaBlog. It shows what Jeff looks like (kind of important) and outlines the gay prostitute side of things (Heads up-the graphics are PG-13, but some of the links in the AmericaBlog story are really racy--click with caution.)

It's a “rags to riches” story really, well actually a “car repair shop office manager/personal escort with no journalistic experience to a semi-permanent fixture on the White House briefing room floor” story.

In the scheme of big government, is it such a large deal that an anti-gay, Republican, male prostitute finds himself with access to the White House on a “bottomless” day pass? Aside from the brilliant hypocrisy that blinds the eye like a gaze into the noonday sun, there are more weighty issues attached to this story. Thankfully, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) thought so too, and made a Freedom of Information Act request about Gannon's White House activities.

As Byrne points out-Gannon was at the White House even when the press was not being briefed. There also were visits where he signs in but doesn't sign out (or vice-versa) from the home/work place of the President of the United States. I knew the president was casual to a fault about most things, but this is a little extreme, isn't it, especially given our post-9/11 concerns? What was Jeff doing at the White House during these unaccounted for periods (there are several)? How does a male escort go from no reporting experience to frequent, regular and, more alarmingly, extraneous (as far as journalism is concerned) White House visits in a matter of weeks? Hmm…maybe Guckert does have some stories to report after all.

Should we be more concerned that White House security is so lax or that a prostitute turned reporter was having some private q.t. with White House staff? Honestly, I don't care whether or not he was working at his other job while he was there. I do care to know, however, if he was having the kinds of meetings where the American people end up getting screwed with more paid for propoganda information like they got from Maggie Gallagher. She is the journalist who "forgot" she was being paid $21,500.00 by BushCo to promote the administration's anti-gay marriage rhetoric, or Armstrong Williams, the journalist who the administration paid $240,000.00 to "report" his support of No Child Left Behind. (I wonder if Tim Lahaye came up with the title for that bill.) Add that to all of those fake "town hall" meetings Bush is becoming famous for and maybe you can understand my concern about what Bulldog was doing at the White House.

Lax security or blowing the propoganda organ. In either case, America, we have a problem. Quick, click here to rub a bald head with the president for luck!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

"Back to You, Satan"

My brother and sister-in-law live in Plano, TX where media is evidently linked to satan. Biggie up Raw Story for seeing this.

I wonder if Criswell is related to W. A. Criswell, the famous preacher who pastored First Baptist Church, Dallas for years. I have this random memory of sitting on the floor of the fellowship hall at FBC, Batesville during an afterchurch social and watching a puppet show. Our youth director, Bob James, had this hand-puppet singing a song called "I'm Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Criswell" (sung to the tune of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"). The song revolved around how all of this puppet's sermons were based on someone else's ideas. You have to appreciate that level of humor at a church social.

Sprinkling Goldwater

It is so cold in Indy that John fired Sam up. Thank the LORD for woodstoves and for John who was willing to go out to the garage to get some firewood while I sat shivering underneath a blanket. As a way of resisting the temptation to explain to God how everyone here had already put up their winter clothes and that weather like this makes it difficult to wear those strappy sandals people have bought I decided to look on the bright side of life (cue Monty Python song and whistle).

Today I bring you the quotable Barry Goldwater, thanks to Wikiquote. For those too young to remember, Barry Goldwater was an Arizona senator and Republican party candidate for president in 1964 (lost to Johnson). He is often credited with being one of the founders of the modern conservative movement. While I'm no fan of the implications of his personal politics in the short term, he was the kind of Republican I can respect--someone who was committed to protecting individual freedoms and limiting government's role in dictating the course of our personal lives.

Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality, ladies and gentlemen. Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.

* Acceptance Speech  as the 1964 Republican Presidential candidate.

Goldwater supported some civil rights acts and not others, which led some to regard him as racist. I find the the first part of that quote scary because I see it happening now. And the last two sentences have a strangely appropriate resonance for today as well.

* I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

* Acceptance Speech as the 1964 Republican Presidential candidate. Variants and derivatives that are often quoted include:
Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue.

Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Moderation in the protection of liberty is no virtue; extremism in the defense of freedom is no vice.

This is why I do what I do, though I must admit I do tend to shy away from "extremism."

* When you say 'radical right' today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.

* The Washington Post (July 28, 1994)

Amen and pucker up everybody!

These days, I, like Goldwater, am displaying Libertarian, as opposed to Democrat or Republican tendencies. If he could be a sort of Libertarian in the Republican party, maybe I can be one in the Democratic party. I am really beginning to see the need for the Republican point of view as well as the Democrats and those very fun Libertarians. What I have decided I have NO use for is the homogenized monoculture that is encouraged by one party holding all of the cards.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I Like My Cynicism Straight Up

I have not posted in awhile, mainly because I'm a little worried about how cynical I am these days. And I'm not talking Mark Twain cynicism. I'm more Maureen Dowd cynical. I think Maureen is hilarious and pretty much on target most of the time. But her style of smirk writing is not really for me--most of the time.

What has me down?

Well, first there's Tom Delay. Having been able to reshape the ethics committee so he can do the moral/political equivalent of cheating on his wife-“Hey, it's not illegal!”-without remorse or respect for good faith government, he now wants Republicans to define what makes “a good judge.”

From Jesse Holland at the AP:
One way would be for the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the clause in the Constitution that says "judges can serve as long as they serve with good behavior," he said. "We want to define what good behavior means. And that's where you have to start."

I love that the words “good behavior” can even form on this man's lips. And the Republicans are all about defining good behavior these days, aren't they? Political dissent evidently doesn't fall into their definition. John's dad, Don, was over here for his birthday dinner the other night and he echoed a thought that has been playing in my own mind for a few months now-“When did political dissent become an undesirable thing in our country?”

We were speaking of course of the upcoming attempts by Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist and other Republicans to unplug the filibuster. Kind of sad to think that Republicans want to remove the political last resort of the underdog made famous by Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

I can just see Delay a year from now. "Let's see, no ethics committee power, check. Judges behavior redefined by Republican majority, check. No tool for political dissent, check. Okay folks, it's official. We have a totalitarian state. Now I got to go. Has anyone seen my lastest Abramoff travel itinerary? Those elephant tusks in Kenya aren't gonna pry themselves loose!"

Wait there's more! If you buy now, TIME magazine will make Ann Coulter its cover girl. Oh, wait. They already did. Who's Anne Coulter? She's the best-selling conservative author who says what all of those scary people who would like to bomb people they disagree with are thinking.

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

--Ann Coulter as quoted in the New York Observer, Aug. 20, 2002

"RE: McVeigh quote. Of course I regret it. I should have added, 'after everyone had left the building except the editors and reporters.'"

From Right Wing News

For me, the saddest thing of all is that many of the hard-working and good-hearted people of the U.S. seem oblivious to the fact that our country is being hijacked by people who talk like Jesus's block captain while acting like satan's pool boy.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Gay Brother-Straight Brother II

A few days ago I wrote my first entry in a series I'm calling gay brother-straight brother. It is a celebration of a unique kind of friendship that has meant a lot to me over the years.

John Eargle is a person I love very much. He is a composer, songwriter, musician, worship leader, athlete, and even a good roofing estimator. We met when I was part of an ex-gay ministry in Arlington, Texas called Living Hope.

If you read this blog much, you know I have mixed feelings about ex-gay ministries (ministries that attempt to reorient same-sex attracted people). I had a number of positive experiences at Living Hope. Though ministries like this have some goals I no longer support, I think my time at Living Hope and my efforts to reorient on my own provided me with a smoother landing into Christian manhood than I might have had without them.

The ministry was housed at the church where I belonged, Vineyard Christian Fellowship. I know. It sounds like a yuppie wine cult, but it isn't. It's a yuppie church with a good heart. That's where I met John. I went to the Vineyard because I appreciated that this church didn't see me as despicable, an identity that gay people frequently absorb from society. And I credit this perception in large part to John.

If someone has entered an ex-gay ministry, chances are at one point or another they've heard that they are at best sick and at worst an abomination to God. Over the years I've met a lot of Christians who passionately pursue God while simultaneously believing that God finds them revolting because of who they are drawn to romantically.

When I met John I had a bad case of the above. By that time I'd admitted to myself, and a few others, that I was attracted to guys. You might think no longer denying this reality would be freeing, and in some ways it was. Initially, however, having the truth on the table almost seemed to be more than I could bear--admitting I liked guys also freed me to embrace that I was who they were talking about killing in Leviticus. I had “Jesus loves me” playing in one part of my brain and “God wants you dead” in another.

My extreme anxiety manifested in fight (judgment) or flight (addictive behavior) impulses. John was the embodiment of Christ for me at that time. If I acted like an ass he still wanted to hang around me. If I did something stupid and unhealthy, he still wanted to be with me. Not in a counselor kind of way. He wanted to hang out. He asked my opinion on interpreting scripture and what I thought about his relationships. He valued my views on politics and Christianity. He asked me to pray in ministry situations, even when he knew I was struggling in other parts of my life.

I was once afraid that the love of my friends was dependent on me never rocking the boat. John demonstrated that this wasn't true. He confronted me and encouraged me to confront him if something was funky between us. The insights he offered as a result were rich. I asked John once what he learned from a particularly important relationship of his that failed. His response was, “it is more important to be loving than it is to be right.” That's a challenge I still find hard to live up to.

Sometimes ex-gay ministry involves straight guys mentoring same-sex attracted guys who were not successful at traditionally “American male” activities (sports, outdoorsy things). The thought of a guy who “throws like a girl” learning to throw a football properly may seem ludicrous to you. Yes, I know how little throwing a football has to do with true masculinity. And yes, we know that there are lots of very athletic and outdoorsy gay men. But believe me, as someone who never had a clue about such things and who missed out on a lot of traditional bonding experiences as result, I was grateful for some second chances to have these experiences with a non-threatening person.

I was grateful when John took me rock climbing, taught me to roller blade (okay, in Chelsea that's not so straight, but he was teaching me a little hockey, too), and helped me to throw a football. He was always patient and never mocking. He offered to help, but never prescribed it. I don't believe in re-parenting, but I do believe in continual parenting. Though he is only a couple of years older, John was being a very good father to me.

I have always had a heart for worship and some musical skill. John is a gifted worship leader and saw potential for me to grow in that area, too. When he approached me about learning to lead worship, my lack of self-respect (and ultimately my lack of faith) surfaced.

“There are so many people here (at the Vineyard) who do this well. Why would God need me to lead worship?” I asked.

John's response was, “What if God just wants to bless you? Is that okay?”

Wise, objective and thoughtful. Gentle, humble, yet confident to a fault. All are traits I admired in John (still do). I was told in ex-gay ministry that I was attracted to guys because of an unconscious need to possess qualities I admired in men but didn't see in myself. If I recognized that God had placed these qualities in me already I wouldn't look to men to fill other needs. I think that notion is half right. Half right notions are often dangerous, but they are still half right. I am a much more whole person now that I realize all that God has put in me. John taught me to look for and see the truth and to live in as much fullness as grace will allow, for which I will always be grateful. God has freed me to love and be loved-- without judgment and without fear. Did the truth change my sexuality? No, but it did help set me free.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Gay Brother - Straight Brother

John and I are lucky to have many good friends, some of whom are straight guys. I've decided to blog over the next few weeks about our straight brothers. I'm using the term "brothers" to distinguish between deep friendships and those "I-have-lots-of-gay-friends" relationships you hear some politicians talk about when they are working to limit their "friends'" freedoms. I believe these brother relationships are under-reported phenomena that, like crop circles, should be celebrated.

Today I want to honor my friend Adam. I have known Adam for about 30 years--since we were kids growing up on Goff Drive in Batesville, AR. In our group of Batesville friends, Adam was a middle child. Not the youngest, but still a younger sibling of one of the older kids (we are all in our thirties now). His sister is Mandy, whom I also adore and who likely will have a blog entry devoted to her one day.

Anyway, Adam is known for a lot of things that when seen in print might make you wonder if he is well-liked at all. He is famously cheap--the kind of cheap that will start a conversation with "guess how much I paid for these shoes?" He is actually only cheap when it comes to himself (and unfortunately for them, the girls he ends up in relationships with). And he is only frugal with his money. He is very generous with his time. In fact, his last two visits to Indy have corresponded with our moves to new homes. Each time he acted like hauling furniture was what he was hoping to do with his free time that weekend and just pitched right in.

Adam blows his nose a lot and makes as much of a scene about it as he can. He prides himself on never being without a handkerchief. He can't really grow a beard and refuses to shave most of the time, so he can look scraggly on occassion. He told me once someone said it looked like he had ants crawling on his face. On a dare, he went an entire year without a haircut. He sort of looked like Kurt Cobain. He loves John Denver, Bod Dylan, and bluegrass. He likes tennis and golf. He is facinated by art and teaches English in China. He is a graduate student in Chinese history. Adam has almond-shaped eyes, though his family is from Virginia. On his first day at school in Arkansas some prophetic kid asked him if he was from China (or "Chiner" as Mary, Adam's mom would say), to which I'm sure Adam, even as a six year old, had an appropriately sarcastic response. Adam also is known for his sense of irony, that greatest of gen-x traits. He is one of the funniest people I know.

Adam came to Indy to spend Thanksgiving with me one year shortly after I moved here. I was still single. And after 10 years of trying to change something that would not be changed, I had decided that I was going to be honest with myself and figure out what it meant to live my life as a guy who could only fall in love with another guy.

My apartment was a tiny studio on the 28th floor of the only high-rise apartment building in Indy. That night as we lay in bed looking out over Indianapolis and talking about his last semester in China, I threw in the ultimate of non sequiturs and told him I was gay.

Actually, anyone who had to suffer through my coming out speech back then knows that it was a long one--full of explanations about how I tried everything to change, hadn't lost my faith, etc. Adam really is like my brother or I probably wouldn't have waited until we were in bed to tell him this. A lot of straight guys, like Jimmy Swaggert for example, imagine that they suddenly become the most attractive and irresistable guy on the planet when a guy tells them he is gay. Adam knew me and himself better.

After my lengthy revelation to which he listened respectfully, Adam was quiet for a moment and then said, "That's fine." Then matter-of-factly, "Have you been to your first gay bar yet? Because if you haven't we should go to one while I'm here."

While I didn't know what to expect from him, this was not on my list of top ten predictable responses. "I haven't been to a gay bar. I've never really been much of a bar person. Is it okay if we don't go?"

"Sure, but where are you going to meet other gay guys in Indianapolis?" He said in a "we need to fix this problem" kind of way that made me realize my dating life now had its own pit crew.

"This church I've been going to welcomes and affirms gay people, so I've been getting to know some guys there. Do you want to go on Sunday?" He said he did, so we went before he had to get back on the road home.

Not long after that I met John at Sunday School and within a year we fell in love. Adam came to stay with us one weekend when John was fishing in Canada with his dad. Adam arrived after John had left for his trip. By then, we were living in a house John owned.

For me, one of the problems with not being able to get married was figuring out how not to overstep my boundaries, which translated in this case to doing my best not to rearrange all of the living room furniture into a layout that actually looked good and facilitated conversation. It has since become apparent just how little John cares about such things.

Adam finally said, "Just do it. You know you will eventually anyway. You might as well while I'm here to help." So he helped me rearrange the entire living room, clean it up, dust, vaccuum, etc. (no small task this). I felt much better. Not too many friends will support your OCD tendencies by helping you put them into action.

I'm happy to say that since I came out to Adam not much in our relationship has changed. Our visits are still always too short, but that is part of growing up. We don't get to hike through the limestone-bluffed hills of Arkansas with our friends anymore. But there is a little more trust and transparency between us. And our time together has the worn feeling of Adam's frayed and faded (and kind of smelly) Yankees baseball cap, which like most of his clothes, he refuses to throw away. It seems that the people who are most comfortable with who they are and who have really thought about their values are the ones who freak least when a gay person shows up in their life. It may be unforgivably trite, but I believe true friends are a gift from God. I'm grateful for the brother I have in Adam.