Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wall Street's Days of Wine and Roses Are Numbered

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
-- Ernest Dowson

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, in a prime example of justifiable righteous indignation, on the greedy "idiots" of Wall Street whose voracious & ugly appetite for spending taxpayers' money like so many overly-eager swine gorging themselves stupid at an ever-diminishing trough as a perverted payoff for helping drive their companies (and our country) to near-ruin.

If these current Welfare "Wizards" of Wall Street can't find a way to somehow make it on "only" $400,000 a year while they are on the public dole, with unemployment at near-record highs, I'm sure there'll be plenty of other folks who'd be glad to take their places. They certainly couldn't possibly do much worse than the sub-par simpletons who ran us off the economic cliff in the first place.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Barack & The Supremes

Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress, works to help young people -- advocates, activists, journalists, artists -- make their voices heard on issues that matter. I'm on their email list & today I got an interesting email from them regarding President Obama's potential for making a long-lasting change & a real difference in the highest court in the country. The article from Campus Progress's website follows below:

Choosing the Court
Barack Obama could pick as many as three Supreme Court justices. His choices could change the Court’s trajectory for decades to come.

By Dylan Matthews
January 28, 2009

At 88, John Paul Stevens could very well leave the Supreme Court during President Barack Obama’s first term. Today, he the court’s leftmost member. He frequently votes with the other members of what is now considered to be the court’s “liberal” wing, Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and David Souter. He also occasionally stakes out a more ambitious position, as he did on obscenity issues in ACLU v. Ashcroft and on search and seizure in Scott v. Harris. But when Gerald Ford appointed him in 1975, Stevens was considered a centrist. This shift was not in Stevens’ ideology; it was in that of his colleagues. He did not grow more liberal; the court grew more conservative.

At first glance there appears to be little Obama can do to reverse this development. The liberal justices are on the older end of the spectrum—Ginsberg is 75, Breyer is 70, and Souter is 69. Of the court’s conservatives, the oldest, Antonin Scalia, is 72, fiercely on his game, and unlikely to go anywhere for a while. Clarence Thomas is 60, and Samuel Alito and John Roberts are in their 50s. The chances of Obama replacing any of them with a liberal jurist—especially if he should serve one term—are slim to none. But if he does get the chance to select replacements for Stevens, Ginsberg, and/or Souter, Obama need not reinforce the status quo. He could, instead, work to revive the wing of the court that has disappeared in recent decades—the one that was to Stevens’ left in 1975.

The liberal wing was led by William Brennan and included luminaries like Thurgood Marshall, William O. Douglas, and, briefly, Arthur Goldberg. This faction of the court formed the core of many of the court’s most critical rulings under Earl Warren. They established the right to privacy in Griswold v. Connecticut, struck down school prayer in Engel v. Vitale, and first required police officers to issue Miranda warnings. They dominated Warren E. Burger’s Court as well, effectively abolishing the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia and, most notably, protecting the right to choose in Roe v. Wade.

But with Richard Nixon’s four court appointments, the tide began to turn. The death penalty was ruled constitutional again in Gregg v. Georgia, laws against sodomy were upheld in Bowers v. Hardwick, and the court moved to limit affirmative action programs in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Then-Associate Justice Rehnquist succeeded Burger in 1986, and Antonin Scalia was simultaneously appointed to Rehnquist’s old associate seat. These moves accelerated the rightward shift. The court ruled against students’ right to free speech in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier and against a right to end the lives of loved ones in a vegetative state, also known as the right to “die with dignity,” in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health.

By the end of 1991, the entire left wing had retired. Douglas and Brennan were succeeded by fairly liberal Republicans (Stevens and Souter, respectively) and Marshall was replaced by his ideological mirror image, Thomas. While liberal rulings would still be made from time to time in the Rehnquist era, the task was significantly harder by the wing’s departure.

If Obama is to restore the tradition of Brennan, Marshall, and Douglas, he must use the few Court appointments he might be afforded to appoint justices unafraid to push for a vision of the Constitution that strongly protects individual rights and liberties.

Some believe that Obama’s cautious political style will lead him to select a moderate liberal from the appellate Court benches, and will cause him to pass up candidates capable of more systemic change. One of his recent appointments, thankfully, suggests a different direction.

Elena Kagan, whom Obama appointed to the position of solicitor general, is the outgoing dean of Harvard Law School and has shown a strong commitment to social justice. She has a particularly outstanding record on speech issues and would make an outstanding Supreme Court justice. Winning confirmation for her may not be easy: When President Bill Clinton nominated her to a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1999, Sen. Orrin Hatch refused to even hold a hearing on her nomination. But by selecting her as solicitor general, which has been a stepping stone to the Supreme Court for past justices like Marshall and Robert Jackson, Obama may be signaling an intention to prepare her for a seat when one opens up.

Beyond Kagan, a number of other academics, including Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh and former Stanford Law Dean Kathleen Sullivan have impressive liberal credentials and would make excellent justices. Koh and Sullivan in particular would be historic appointments. Koh would be the first Asian-American justice and Sullivan would be the first openly gay one. Alternately, Obama could appoint a progressive politician like Deval Patrick or Jennifer Granholm. Historically, former elected officials like Earl Warren and Hugo Black have been tremendously effective as justices, due to their ability to count votes and lobby for their opinions. Patrick in particular would be a great choice. He has previous experience as assistant attorney general for civil rights and he has expressed strong support for Massachusetts’ state supreme court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

Regardless of the particular names he decides upon, Obama should be concerned with not just finding the candidates who have the most impressive resumes, but those who demonstrate a willingness and ability to bring back the constitutional vision of Brennan/Marshall wing of the Court. It is the only way out of the institution’s current, very uneasy, center-right equilibrium.

Dylan Matthews is a first-year student at Harvard. He is regular columnist for Campus Progress and has his own blog, formerly known as Minipundit.

The actual article can be found on Campus Progress’s website by clicking here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"For The Bible Tells Me So" Redux

The Sundance Channel was showing For The Bible Tells Me So today, and I watched it again & felt the same things I felt when I saw the movie originally, and I cried again. Seeing this wonderful film again reminded me of the first (and probably only) movie review I have ever written, and I wanted to include it on my blog today. Fair warning: the review is long & winding (something new for me, right???) & can never really describe just how I really feel. Suffice it to say, I was deeply moved. Below is a trailer for the movie:

Started off with Anita Bryant getting a “fruit pie” in her face during a press conference & then a press conference prayer for perpetrator to be delivered from his “demon lifestyle.” Childish as it seems, I never get enough of the guilty pleasure of Anita's banana cream pie facial!

Next I saw Jimmy Swaggart proudly stating, "I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry, and I'm going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that, I'm going to kill him and tell God he died.” The congregation’s response? Laughter and applause. For some reason, I personally don't believe that the good reverend will ever need to worry about such a thing ever happening to him.

Never heard anything about Billy Graham but I did from Franklin Graham who proudly stated that God loves us homosexuals, but he will still judge us on our damnable sin & is still not happy with us.

There was the husband-and-wife preaching team Brenda and David Poteat from North Carolina, whose daughter, Tonia, is lesbian. Mr. Poteat explains that God loves you but you have to love Him back. Where being gay is concerned, I guess loving God back just isn’t enough.

Mrs. Poteat said how ashamed she was that, after her daughter came out to her, she would instinctively think of how her daughter performed sexual acts with another woman, instead of seeing her as her own flesh-and-blood. She says that while she has overcome that misconception, she still has problems with her daughter’s “lifestyle,” but she does accept that the woman her daughter has chosen as her life partner has made her daughter so very happy & Mrs. Poteat is at least happy for both of them in that respect. The Poteats still apparently don’t agree with their daughter’s “lifestyle” but they still love her. I guess a small victory is better than none at all.

Chrissy Gephardt (daughter of former US House Majority Leader, Dick Gephardt) & even Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, were married for a while to people of the opposite sex but each eventually comes to the conclusion that they could not wish their God-given sexual orientation away and they couldn’t simply act str8 to “fix” their lives & that they couldn’t go on lying not only to themselves but to their wonderful spouses, who also deserved to live with & love someone who could love them the way a spouse should. I didn’t know before the film, but I found out that, at his consecration as Bishop, Robinson had to wear a bullet-proof vest due to death threats. I guess “God’s work” can be such a messy affair sometimes.

The film covered the favorite word of the Religious Right where homosexuality is concerned: “abomination”. They said that, according to the Bible, it is also an abomination to eat anything that comes out of a pig & certain kinds of seafood.

In the film, they interviewed Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer, the chief rabbi of Los Angeles-based Religion-Outside-The-Box said, "A few verses above and below it says you shouldn't plant two different seeds in the same hole, you shouldn't co-mingle your crops ... There is other text that says you shouldn't wear linen and wool together. To just pick out, this is the one that we're going to follow ... the Bible doesn't come that way -- it's selective reading ..."

I discovered a few more abominations in Proverbs, Chapter 6:

16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Many Christians who do not know me and do not want to know me may see my very life of one half of a relatively-stable committed same-sex relationship as an abomination, but I have to wonder, after reading these words, if those very same “good” Christians who “speaketh lies” and who “soweth discord” amongst my former brethren about my “sin” aren’t looked upon by the God they claim to love so dearly as a similar “abomination”. Wouldn’t that be a really ironic & sad kick in the pants??

In the film, Archbishop Desmond Tutu states simply that homophobia is a not-so-distant relative of the evil of apartheid, which he himself endured & helped to subsequently conquer, and calls them both what they are, "contrary to the heart of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

In 1988, Mary Lou Wallner’s daughter Anna “came out” to her in a letter she had mailed to her mom. Being a deeply religious family, in the letter, Anna said she loved God & she knew God loved her & that she hoped her mom wouldn’t try to change her.

A couple of weeks later, her mom finally wrote back to her, and said, in part, “Undoubtedly, the most difficult part of your letter was the gay thing. I will NEVER accept that in you. I feel it’s a terrible waste, besides being spiritually and morally wrong. For a reason I don’t quite fathom, I have a harder time dealing with that issue than almost anything in the world. I do and will continue to love YOU, but I will always hate that, and will pray every day that you will change your mind and attitude.” (as a matter of fact, in the trailer for the film, the “I will always hate that” part is shown to the singing of “Jesus Loves Me”).

A few years later, after very little contact with her daughter except for another letter stating how her mother’s response to her coming out was devastating to her & that she could not forgive her for what she saw as her mother’s abandonment of her, Mrs. Wallner received some awful news. I have cut & pasted the following few paragraphs from Mrs. Wallner’s website (TEACH Ministries—To Educate About the Consequences of Homophobia) as she explains it better than I ever could:

On February 28, 1997 at 10:00 p.m., I received a phone call from my ex-husband and Anna's Dad. At about 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, Anna had been found hanging from the bar in her closet. She had been dead for 15 hours. It was ruled a suicide by the coroner -- no autopsy, no note, no nothing -- but days, weeks, months and years of pain and anguish.

I have heard it said that when a loved one dies of suicide, there is a sense of utter failure. I can identify with that. I did not love her unconditionally, even though I knew 1 Corinthians 13 well. Among other things it says, Love is patient...and kind; Love is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs...It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres.

Throughout these years, since Anna's death, I have done a lot of soul searching to figure out just what part I played in Anna's death. I have wrestled with who I am and how I treated my own flesh and blood.

No matter what else happens in my life, I will always acknowledge the pain and tragedy of Anna's suicide. However, her death has also brought me face-to-face with the untruth I have been taught throughout my life by the church. My transformation has occurred through a wonderful gift given to me by God: getting to know, understand, and love GLBTA (Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Allies).

I am now proud to call myself an ally and am honored to count these children of God amongst my closest and dearest friends. This new awareness has been supported through intense study of biblical passages, as well as continued dialogue with individuals on both sides of the issue.

Recently, I went to the curio cabinet that holds Anna's pictures and dolphin collection. I said to her, "I will never again treat a gay person the way I treated you. That's a promise!"
Anna hanged herself in her closet using her dog’s collar & I will always remember the picture they showed of Anna with that collar around her neck. I will also always remember what Mrs. Wallner said about how she was going to provide to other gay & lesbian sons & daughters who have been abandoned by their families the love she could never find in herself to share with her own daughter. Those words nearly brought me to tears. Not for me or my journey thus far, but for Mrs. Wallner herself, doomed forever to carry around in her heart the knowledge of how very much her love & acceptance would have meant to her daughter. Her pain must be unspeakable.

Jake Reitan, son of Phil and Randi Reitan, had come out to his parents as a young teenager. The Reitans were a family of Evangelical Lutherans whose lineage was replete with pastors in the church & who held the same beliefs regarding homosexuality that they had always believed the Bible & their church had taught them. When it came down to the long-held dogma & the love of their youngest son, they were torn, and they decided to keep it the “dirty little secret” in their family & had advised Jake to keep this to himself til he graduated from high school, for fear of what might happen to him.

Mrs. Reitan told the story about an incident that occurred shortly after Jake came out. She said that they lived in a house in Minnesota that had a long driveway & that she had come outside & had seen something written on the ground at the end of the driveway. When she got to the end of the driveway, she saw the word “FAG” written in chalk on the ground. She rushed inside & got some water & a scrub brush & she erased it before Jake had a chance to see it. She had become deeply scared because she knew now that the secret was out.

The Reitans eventually became activists for gay rights amongst the religious community in America & have worked to make life easier for their son & for all the other sons & daughters who had to travel their son’s path. The film showed that the Reitans were even arrested for trespassing in Colorado Springs, Colorado trying to deliver a letter to James Dobson explaining how his “Focus on the Family” ministry actually actively hurts countless numbers of families who love & care for their GLBT family members when, among other things, he compares gay people’s very existence as much a threat to Christianity as Nazis were to the Jews during World War II & when he tells families to refuse to accept their gay child. Because the good doctor refused to focus on this particular family & listen to their concerns about how they felt attacked by his group, the mountain came to Mohammad. After being confronted by the police guarding the Focus on the Family property from this "assault' & explaining that if they took one more step they’d be arrested, Phil Reitan explained that he was an American and a Christian & a father who loves his children & that he demanded to tell Dobson what he’s doing to all those families. Phil & Randi, with their son’s arms around them, all stepped forward & were peacefully taken away in a police van, but the world was there in the form of cameras & other protesters & the moment was marked forever where this family who saw themselves as victims of this “godly” man’s ministry had said, “No More!” It was a beautiful thing! Contrast that with one of the letters that the Reitans received for daring to stand up to this Man of God, an anonymous “fan” of Dr. Dobson’s writing in a letter to the family, “Death to the Faggits!”.

The movie also brought up an interesting dichotomy where these anti-gay ministries are concerned. They talk about how the believe in the literal translation of the Bible, especially as concerns the “abomination” of a “man lying with a man” is concerned, but they conveniently forget the literal command in the Bible to take all you have and give it to the poor, and what an abomination in the eyes of the Lord must be the ever-growing profits of these ministries, while the poor are getting poorer. How selective their literal interpretation of the Bible is!

Gene Robinson’s parents, conservatives from deep in the heart of Kentucky, tell of their son’s life. They talk about how, when he was born, he nearly died & that he had physical problems & that no one expected him to live very long or, if he lived, to be able to do or be much. From his earliest years, they told of how he loved God & how he studied the Bible & how he knew he wanted to share God’s love with the rest of the world. His parents, with the deepest Southern twang I’ve heard in a long time, spoke with pride of how their son had overcome so much in his life & how he had worked so hard to tell the world the Good News of his God’s redemptive powers. His parents were there when he was consecrated as Bishop & his parents even placed the Bishop’s garment on their son during the ceremony. They said that God had made their son “that way” & of their belief that the Lord had had His had on Gene & brought him through so much so that he could be a beacon of hope for those who had forgotten how to hope. Speaking of hopelessness, the film also quoted a statistic I had never heard before: gay & lesbian people are 3 to 7 times more likely to commit suicide that those who are not gay or lesbian. Sounds like Gene Robinson is more needed than I thought.

The film revealed that hate is really a violent form of fear. Not that I believe that everyone who says they are “against homosexuality” hates gay people, but it’s hard to come any other conclusion about those people who say “Slaughter the Gays” or “Death to Faggits” or “God Hates Fags” or that AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuals.

All in all, biased as I may be, I don't think that the film disparaged anyone. The film certainly presented a certain point of view & that point of view is certainly widely unpopular in most Christian circles nowadays, but it does very much humanize those of us who have long been all but demonized in popular religion today & shows that not all people of God see a sin that needs ridding when they see people like me.

It also opened my eyes to understand that to get from there to here is sometimes a long, painful, soul-searching journey, just like my own lifelong trip from deep inside a cold, dark closet to the warmth of truth & freedom.

When I think of people like Mary Lou Wallner and her daughter Anna or Phil or Randi Reitan and their son, Jake, and how their lives were changed forever when their children came out to them (each with obviously different results) and how they were forced to challenge what their churches have always told them was undeniable truth and how they were made to see things quite differently with the passing of the years & the circumstances of their lives, I'm left wondering now if what I have endured to this point in my life had never happened I would truly appreciate life here on the other side of that closet.

Silly as it may sound, maybe Dolly Parton's right when she said if you want to enjoy the rainbows, you're gonna have to stand a little rain! Considering the foregoing, I think "a little rain" is a bit of an understatement, but still the thought remains.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Prayers For Bobby

I just finished watching the Lifetime Network movie, Prayers For Bobby, and I wanted to share a few thoughts about it:

When your life hurts so much, when you feel as if you have to spend nearly every moment fighting your own heart, when you come to realize that all you’ve ever known as truth has been a lie, when you lose all joy in life and in living, when you have become disconnected from the world around you & you feel like an outcast amongst people who used to love you, it’s understandable to want to find a way out of all of it, and it’s tempting to think that stopping a barely-beating heart—especially an “obviously” faulty heart—is the answer. What of worth could possibly be lost when you are made to feel that there is no value in the mis-creation you’ve become anyway? No matter what your view of a possible afterlife or lack thereof, sometimes some of us come to believe that nothing--NOTHING--could be worse than the shadow of a life we’re living now.

If it is the most basic, human part of our being that holds us here & gives us any sort of reason to believe that it can get better somehow, it is the de-humanization we experience when WHO we are is reduced to WHAT OTHERS THINK WE ARE that can rip it all away, leaving us with nothing to hope for, and ultimately severing the last tether that binds us to the temporal realm. With nothing of substance keeping us here, we start to wonder why we bother at all.

It’s not an excuse for giving up & for ending a life too painful to keep enduring, but it is the reason we oftentimes believe we have no other choice. In the near poetic search for surcease of sorrow, however it can be realized, too many who cannot continue to face a life where they have been made to feel as if they don’t belong, accept what their worn-out hearts see as the only & ultimate solution. In the haze of the ruins of their beyond-sad existence & in a formerly-familiar world woefully unkind to strangers, tragically, some see certain death as preferable to a constantly uncertain so-called “life”. It doesn’t make it the “right thing to do,” but—sometimes for some of us, numbed to reality & left with what we believe is no other choice—ending the nothingness of life seems the only way to finally break free from the lies, and the shame, and the pain.

Then there are people like me: people who had just enough of the Old Time Religion in their upbringing to believe in the sin of suicide, or who, believing that constant suffering was simply the stuff of life, just somehow couldn’t bring themselves to do the deed. In many ways, the fate of those who, to paraphrase the poet John Gillespie Magee, Jr., “have slipped the surly bonds of earth” in a desperate attempt to leave behind the darkest corners of life from whence they grew weaker by the moment to “dance the skies…and [touch] the face of God,” are heart-breakingly similar to those of us who chose to stay & suffer, except we only died on the inside, leaving but a shell to stand as a nearly-living testimony that we were once more than the thing “they” have convinced the world—and us—we are.

Either way, breathing or not, we are just as broken…and, though we may not believe it, to God—if not to all who call His name—just as loved…

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pro-Choice, Pro-Obama

A reminder to me of one of the MANY reasons I cast my sacred vote for Barack Obama.

I really like this part of President Obama's statement:
"While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services."
Thank you, Mr. President!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"...we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass...that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself..."

President Obama's Inauguration Speech

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: "Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive ... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"...Gay By Divine Rite..."

I am still in tears.

I don't really watch Oprah Winfrey much. I have nothing against her at all, but I just don't usually catch her show, but apparently recently she had an episode entitled, "Spirituality 101", and one of the guests was Sedric, a gay, African American man. The panel of "experts" (I guess that's what you'd call them) were speaking to this man about his sexual orientation & Rev. Ed Bacon from All Saints Church in Pasadena, California actually said something that Oprah says she had never heard a pastor say before:

"Being gay is a gift from God."

The second of the three experts was Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center, who agreed with Rev. Bacon, said that Sedric was made in the image of God and, therefore, he was "gay by divine rite." Wow! I've never heard it put that way. The third expert, Elizabeth Lesser, of the Omega Institute, didn't speak at all about Sedric's situation in the segment I saw on YouTube (and have included here).

"Being gay is a gift from God."

Such simple words, yet it has taken most of my time on this planet to finally understand that & to really believe it. During my life's journey, as I am sure you all know by now, I don't think that "gift" was a word I was able to use to describe my sexual orientation until relatively recently. For most of my life, I think it is safe to say, it sure didn't feel like a gift.

I have included the Oprah Show clip & the clip below that is the video of Rev. Bacon speaking at what appears to be his home church & explaining his conversation with Oprah & the responses Oprah & he got after he spoke those simple words.

I had to share them with you:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"You Say You Want A Revolution..."

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right...
"Revolution" by The Beatles

I am a big fan of Jay Bakker & Revolution Church, and it has been Jay & his "Revolution"-ary stance on GLBT rights from a Christian perspective that has been part of my spiritual rehabilitation.

Jay has been doing Q&A's for a while now on YouTube & I submitted a question a while back about whether Jay has ever performed a same-sex marriage or commitment ceremony. Today (January 17), Jay provided his video answer!

In the video below, Jay answers 3 questions, and the last one is mine, so I wanted to post his video answer.

I highly recommend Jay & his church to anyone in need of their own personal faith Revolution!


"...a new declaration of independence...from...small thinking, prejudice & bigotry..."

Maybe I've taken our soon-to-be-President's message of Hope too much to heart, and maybe I am more excited than I should be to hear the person who will soon hold the Highest Office in The Land even mention the word "gay" in an inclusive & respectful way, but this excerpt from President-Elect Obama's speech as he left the Philadelphia train station today heading to D.C. for the inauguration reminded me that the American President can be more than just the country's CEO, the President of these United States can be the personification of the hopes & dreams of an entire country. In the even more difficult economic times to come, it's good to know that we'll have a President at the helm whose eyes and heart are wide open.
We are here today not simply to pay tribute to our first patriots but to take up the work that they began. The trials we face are very different now, but severe in their own right. Only a handful of times in our history has a generation been confronted with challenges so vast. An economy that is faltering. Two wars, one that needs to be ended responsibly, one that needs to be waged wisely. A planet that is warming from our unsustainable dependence on oil.

And yet while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our founders displayed. What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives - from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry - an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.

That is the reason I launched my campaign for the presidency nearly two years ago. I did so in the belief that the most fundamental American ideal, that a better life is in store for all those willing to work for it, was slipping out of reach. That Washington was serving the interests of the few, not the many. And that our politics had grown too small for the scale of the challenges we faced.

But I also believed something else. I believed that our future is our choice, and that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, north, south, east and west, black, white, Latino, Asian, and Native American, gay and straight, disabled and not - then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Meet Nick...

Nick Vujicic.

That’s one of those names that you will probably remember forever if you’ve ever heard of him, or if you’ve ever heard what he has to say.

Nick is a Christian motivational speaker. On his website, he writes of his life’s purpose:
God has used me to let people know in countless schools, churches, prisons, orphanages, hospitals, stadiums and in face-to-face encounters with individuals how very precious they are to God. Secondly, it’s my pleasure to assure them that God does have a plan for their lives that is purposeful. For God took my life, one that others might disregard as having any significance and filled me with His purpose and showed me His plans to move hearts and lives toward Him. Understanding this, though faced with struggles, you can overcome too.
By all outward appearances, Nick & I have very little in common. But, we all know, it’s not about what we behold with our eyes that even begins to explain the value of our lives, and our value to God. The shell in which our eternal souls reside at this moment is the least permanent—the least meaningful—part of who we really are, so the fact that we will never be mistaken for twins, or the fact that the way he has lead his life bares very little resemblance to my own is not just obvious, it is also irrelevant.

The story of Nick’s life & his ministry can be found on his website, Life Without Limbs. I think, though, the most important word in website title is Life because, though—at first glance--Nick would have every reason in the world to be bitter, and sad, and angry, and though he may have felt all those things & more at some point in his life, it is his life that he is so obviously thankful for.

Nick & I have lived our lives very nearly a world apart, but we share at least one thing in common: our belief that God has a purpose for even the most broken of His children. The “broken” to which I refer, of course, means physically or spiritually or emotionally, or in any other way. If Nick & I share anything else in common, it is that we haven’t always known that there was any real purpose to our individual brokenness, beyond the pain that seemed to define our so-called lives.

I’ve come to understand that we humans sometimes must have our time to hurt & to grieve & to be angry & to become familiar with & even resentful of our perceived imperfections & to even believe that we have no value at all; that we are pitiful & unworthy; that we have no right to hope for a new day or to dare to dream of being more than we are right now. It seems we must sometimes indulge the self-pity—even if for a while—in order to finally be done with it, to wring it out of our lives & to finally come to understand the value & the honor of just giving up, and giving it all to God. That’s another thing Nick & I have in common.

For so long, I wondered why I had to endure a life entirely bereft of any sense of humanity or a connection to the world outside my closet. I wondered why I was left to suffer & to take up space that could be used by someone or something that actually mattered. I became so angry at God &--without really knowing it—myself. When all that comprises your “life” is pain & anger & darkness, it’s easy to see death as sweet release. I remember wishing that God would just have mercy on me &, since I wasn’t “brave” enough to do it myself, end my suffering in whatever way He could manage. I wasn’t picky. I didn’t care how it ended. I just wanted it to end.

As I have recounted many times on this Ark, I have cried that proverbial river of tears & I became quite familiar with self-hatred. I know now that the only way out of the deep, dark hole I had unwittingly helped “the world” dig for me was by finally asking God to lead me out. It has taken me so long to get from there to here, and I know that I’ve still got far to go on my spiritual voyage, but now I know the secret: in order to gain even a measure of control & direction in my life, I had to give up the control I tricked myself into believing I had in my life.

Just like Nick, I had to learn to stop measuring my life by what I could not be, or could not do, or could not hope for. By beginning to allow God to truly work His will in my life, I’ve begun to see that I placed value on all the wrong things. With Nick’s story & the video below, God is reminding me that I still have much to learn & much to look forward to as He uses what nearly killed me to heal not only my own life, but the lives of all of those people in the world who, unfortunately, know my story by heart.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Equal Marriage Rights = Civil Rights

There’s not necessarily a lot new in this pro-equal marriage rights post, titled Even Same-Sex Marriage Is A Basic Civil Right on The Huffington Post, but I am impressed that the author of the post, Menachem Rosensaft, is—among other things--a devout man of faith, who is a professor at the Cornell University Law School , Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Holocaust Survivors’ Memoirs Project, and the son of two Nazi concentration camp survivors.

I think that, from a possibly semi-selfish point of view, hearing people of the Jewish faith (especially those, like Mr. Rosensaft, who have a direct link to the horrors of World War II) speak up & advocate for GLBT people helps to remind the world that all kinds of people have long been victims of ignorance & irrational fear. I think it also helps to remind that part of the world who—by circumstance—are more casual observers in the worldwide battle for human rights understand that what homosexual people seek & aspire to is not really any different than those lofty (and sometimes even not-so-lofty) ideals that spring eternal in the breast of any of the other members of the family, homo sapiens.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Obama Invites Bishop Gene Robinson to pray at Inaugural Event

President-elect Obama has invited openly-gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to give the opening prayer at the inauguration ceremony this Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial .

I am sure there will be many people who will be discussing why Bishop Robinson was given this opportunity, and if the choice of Robinson was meant to counter-balance Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to give the Inauguration Day invocation, and the political implications thereof, but—for me personally—this is a huge step toward healing the hurt in my heart caused by even the inadvertent message sent to me by this man who will be President, and in whom I have placed so much of his nearly-trademarked hope, that I must yet again defer my dream of equality for the sake of political expediency.

I know that I’ve made my feelings about Rick Warren known here, and I won’t go into it any further, but I just wanted to say—in the same place where I made my displeasure over Warren known—how much I appreciate my new President hearing the concerns of so many GLBT people—and our wonderful, loving allies--about the kind of message Obama’s choice of Rick Warren was sending to those of us who had genuinely come to believe we could expect better from this President.

All this reminds me of a line I once heard or read somewhere that seems somehow apropos:

There is no sound, no voice, no cry in all the world that can be heard until someone listens.

Thank you, soon-to-be-President Obama for not just hearing us, but listening to us.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How Great Thou Art...How great, indeed!

Today, I did a little YouTube surfing. Sometimes I get a song stuck in my head, and I just HAVE to find it on YouTube to satisfy my musical curiosity.

For whatever reason, today I was humming that long-time favorite, How Great Thou Art. I am not sure the last time I actually sat down & listened to or sang this beautiful song (beautiful in spite of the way I sing it! ;-).

In watching one of the random videos on YouTube for this song, I was reminded of one of the stanzas in the song that really got to me today, to wit:

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burdens gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

I think that part of the song means more to me now than it ever has. I have traveled many a mile in my faith walk. I have endured so much & cried more than my share of tears. I promise I’m not boo-hooing or throwing a pity party for myself (again), because I know that anyone who has somehow managed to hold on to faith in a world not always faith-friendly, has had their own trials & their own challenges. I’m sure it’s difficult for anyone to cling to something so sublime & so physically insubstantial as faith. To believe in something that, by mere definition, is impossible to prove scientifically, can never be easy for any of us in the “modern age” (or of any age, really) where faster and faster & more complicated computers by the day, can derive a solution to nearly any problem or any question, but which cannot even begin to derive the value or the strength of faith. We come to count on a constantly advancing technology as a regular part of our every-day lives, and so, in an ever-more-cynical All-Information-All-The-Time world, it becomes too easy to doubt what we cannot see or prove. In the primordial battle between our hearts & our minds, where faith is concerned, only the open heart can foster that which is, at once, so ethereal yet--in order to sustain us & to guide us in who we are as human beings--so iron.

As much as I knew/know God loves me, and as much as I have loved my Lord since I came to know His name, I wouldn’t be entirely truthful if I told you that I never, ever doubted for a moment that those who claim to speak for Him might be speaking even a speck of truth when they blare from their pulpits their beyond-sure knowledge of my unacceptability in the Kingdom. Just as with many others like myself, I’ve never been able to take my status as a child of God for granted. It’s not easy trying to remind yourself every, single day that God loves you even if His people do not…or cannot…or will not. It’s really tough sometimes to keep holding on to a truth—and to a faith—when all the world seems to see things so completely differently—and insists so loudly that what makes you different is also what makes you fatally flawed. Maybe faith was never meant to be easy, and maybe it requires strength beyond what we mortal humans can muster by ourselves. From my own personal experience, I do know that, once its roots had taken anchor in my heart, my faith held on to me, even when I felt like I could not hold onto it much longer.

Of course, where this issue is concerned, I have become an expert at rambling (probably comes from all those years when I dared not utter a single word about what was going on on THIS side of the huge walls I stubbornly built around my own heart), but what the beautiful song, How Great Thou Art reminds me of today is that Jesus “bled and died” for even someone like me. That simple but stark & life-changing fact is why I am still here today…and why I still dare to Keep The Faith in spite of “the facts” that others create to try to separate me from God.

“They” may have their beloved “facts” & “they” may have the all-consuming pride of their secure knowledge of God’s heart. I will settle for having a simple truth…so simple, in fact, it’s sometimes easy to forget in the constant spiritual war without end: I’ve got the blood of the Lamb, and—while “they” may work feverishly at trying to convince me & the world otherwise—like that other old song goes, “No, no, they can’t take that away from me…”

Friday, January 9, 2009

Is it January 20th yet?!?!?

Below, please find David Letterman's Top Ten Bush Moments.

My question is, how'd he narrow it down to just 10???

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Who made HIM President?!?!? Oh, WE did!!

I almost, kinda, sorta, a wee bit, feel guilty in posting this article from a website called 23/6, that reports on the absolute shock & fear that the same neo-cons & their enabling political pachyderm pals who blithely drove our country into the current ditch in which we find ourselves are enduing as they watch Barack Obama pick the people who will be running the federal government. My mother taught me to never gloat, so I very nearly hate to rub what is supposed to be a victory for the entire country (even the world) into the faces of those who have to be dragged kicking & screaming into the 21st century. They cannot believe that the President-Elect, to use 23/6’s words, “… isn't appointing the same people John McCain would have appointed if he had won.”

What the…???

Amazing how deep & dark runs the GOP stronghold State of Denial, isn’t it???

What nerve of Barack Obama to behave like he has not only won the election, but got the most votes of any US Presidential candidate ever!! I think there’s a pretty good reason for that, though: EX-MAVERICK-TURNED-BUSH-SIDEKICK, JOHN MCCAIN & HIS LIPSTICK-WEARING-PIT-BULL OF A SOUL MATE SARAH “THE MOOSE KILLER” PALIN ACTUALLY LOST THE ELECTION OF ‘08—even if “only” by about 9 ½ million votes!

I guess, since they long ago ran out of anything approaching real ideas & since they obviously have nothing constructive to add to the new national conversation, all the Republicans have left is whining & obstruction, and--if history is any indication—they’ll soon run both of those strategies together with their political fortunes & any real chance they have to be part of a badly-needed solution to the ugly mess they’ve worked so hard to create—even further into the ground before you know it.

While I'm not really one to encourage or offer hope to a political group who largely has no compunction whatever in promoting the idea of befouling our nation's most sacred document with the codification of a permanent second-class citizenship for GLBT people, perhaps all is not necessarily lost for the (formerly) "Grand" Old Party. In the link above to the 23/6 article, there's an awesome pie chart included that provides some pretty good advice to the remnants of Dubya's party, in case they still believe in life after (near-political) death.

One year and one day ago...

January 3, 2008: The day the world (or, at least these United States of America) refused to stand still any longer...

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Little Queer Trivia

What is the largest city in the United States with an openly gay mayor?

Before yesterday, the answer would have been Providence, Rhode Island , with a population of just over 175,000. David Cicilline has been mayor of Providence since 2003.

As of 12:01 am, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009, however, the correct answer is: Portland, Oregon, with a population of over half a million. Sam Adams, former Portland , Oregon City Commissioner, was sworn in as Portland’s mayor by Oregon Supreme Court Justice Virginia Linder on New Year’s Day.

Interestingly enough, Providence Mayor Cicilline, is still the only openly gay mayor of a state capitol in the U.S. (Oregon’s state capitol is Salem).