Straight Ally

straight ally symbol

“A heterosexual and cisgender person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, LGBT social movements, and challenges homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.”

When I was in college in the mid 1980s, I was pre-law. I was put in charge of an internship program that was part of a free legal clinic. I was director with a small staff of interns and one of my duties was to recruit new interns. One day I was talking to one a young woman in my program about groups I could visit on campus, to speak about recruitment. She suggested the Gay and Lesbian Student Union. I said I didn’t know if I would be comfortable with that group. She said, “you don’t have any trouble being comfortable with me.” Yeah, I had no idea. Should I have? She hadn’t told me, but is it something of which I should have been intuitively cognizant? No, but that’s not the best question.

A better question is whether I would have treated her differently if I had known. I hope not and I seriously doubt it, but had just admitted to her that in my own mind, I had an issue with gay and lesbian people. They made me uncomfortable, in some way that I’m not sure I could have qualified.

Society’s attitudes were different then. It was in 1984 and I was only 23. I came from a small town with few, if any openly gay people. The Moral Majority was telling American that gay equaled AIDS, while the Reagan administration was busy not helping. So I was given a teachable moment, from which I took away, at the time, the certainty that I had a lot to learn about people and our lives together. But very little idea where or from whom I would learn it. So I promptly, conveniently, forgot about it.

In my 30s I joined what could unarguably be called one of the most conservative churches on the planet. I don’t mean purblind tight-ass, sanctimonious American conservative. (No offense.) I mean Orthodox Christian, the old church, the old calendar, liturgy in Slavonic. I didn’t go there looking for conservativism. I went looking for communion with God. And nobody there was saying anything political; no preaching against gay marriage or anything. I was just vaguely aware of the church’s stand on such matters, that homosexuality is sin.

The Orthodox Christian Church is beautiful in many ways; mystical, ancient and eastern. Completely insulated from American politics, in my experience. Conservative to the point of believing that righteous government is wielded by a God-anointed Czar. No matter how conservative you think American “Christians,” of the kind that can follow Trump and Pence, can act, they are still very liberal and humanist compared to some people I have met.

There were a few points of doctrine that I had a problem with. I believe that pets go to Heaven. I don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that sins are acts that separate the sinner from God and arise from our own selfishness, not from states of being. Sins are not acts that piss off other people; nobody has the right to tell you what your sins are. And certainly love can never be a sin. Acts that piss off other people are called pet peeves and crimes, which is why it’s imperative that we prevent tight-ass people from legislating their sins into our criminal legal codes. I believe that whatever your church chooses to practice, the law of the land is equal protection of the law for everyone.

There I was, though, in that beautiful church with those kind and gentle people. In my 30s, my opinion about gay rights was that people should keep their private lives private and stop demanding that the rest of us endorse their proclivities. I think that’s exactly what  I would have said at the time. And of course, I was completely missing the point. I had more learning to do.

When I visited family in San Francisco in the 1990s, someone suggested we go to the annual Pride parade. I recoiled at the idea, partly because I wanted to go to Marin County, enjoy some peace and quiet and relax. There’s a place, or was, in Occidental, that makes some pretty damn fine waffles. Also I was a good Christian with no desire to watch people cavorting in the streets. It seemed to me that sexual and gender identity wasn’t a reason for a demonstration in public. After all, heterosexual people don’t do it. It didn’t occur to me that hetero people should be glad they don’t have a reason to demonstrate.

Two more decades have passed. I’ve made gay friends, transgender friends, I have a transgender loved one, and I have learned that not only was I wrong about LGBTQ people, I was wrong about the culture in which we live. “In the world there is, parallel to the force of death and constraint, an enormous force of persuasion that is called culture.”[i] That culture had persuaded me to think that some of us were normal, others not, and that I was being cool by saying that normal people should tolerate others – live and let live – and the others should fade into the background noise and be tolerated.

Culture wields power. Power is inherently paranoid and potentially destructive. “When somebody goes outside the cultural norms, the culture has to protect itself.”[ii] So the LGBTQ movement is cultural self-defense, not an uprising to overthrow the culture norms, though that may be necessary and may come at great cost. None of which would be quite so obvious to me if not for the great homophobic backlash of the Trump de-evolution.

Before Trump made America hate again, civil rights seemed to be improving. Ferguson notwithstanding, I was more relaxed. I didn’t feel like the rights and wellbeing of people I care about were in jeopardy from the society I life in. Things have gone very much awry and as always the issues of civil rights for LGBTQ persons are no less fundamental and compelling than those of persons of color. They are the issues of us all. And I’m forced to admit that my opinion of 20 years ago was really a subtle form of self-righteous apartheid.

A few things are clearer now than they were in the halcyon days of Obama: First, that a reformation is necessary to secure the blessings liberty to those whose civil rights are every bit as morally imperative as those of hetero and gisgender people like me. The reformation must profoundly change this culture. Second, the culture has it coming, by God. Third, people like me have a moral duty to take sides and speak out, and the reformation will go better for everyone if we do. “Normal is just the average of deviance;” it doesn’t exist.[iii] All life is a spectrum, and if people like Trump and Pence, and the alt-right zombie army they’re building are normal, I want no part of their part of the culture.

I’m not suggesting that churches should be required to perform gay weddings. I’m as much for freedom of religion as freedom from religion. I’m saying the right to marry is a civil right and the government should make no law prohibiting its free exercise. I’m saying that no religion or cult should have the power to legislate its creed and impose its beliefs on anyone who doesn’t freely accept that creed. This culture has been poisoned by fear and tied back to to dogmas of fear, prejudice, protectionism, and doublethink. A reformation of compassion and unequivocal inclusion will do us all a world of good.

I said that after college, I had a lot to learn. I think it’s ironic that I learned as much from the people who hate people who are different than from people who in the crosshairs of that hatred. Fascists never seem to realize that hatred and paranoia (homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia) sow the seeds of their own destruction. Even bystanders can watch bullying for just so long. Now I wish I knew then what I know now, and I wish I knew now what I don’t know yet. “All kinds of sadness I’ve left behind me. Many’s the day when I have done wrong.”[iv] But I know that everyone deserves respect and equality. Our law demands it. And while any person doesn’t have equality, no person who does should go quietly or rest easily.

pooh piglet wind

[i] Albert Camus.

[ii] Robert Pirsig.

[iii] Rita Mae Brown

[iv] Jethro Tull

J. Kyle Kimberlin
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Choices to Make

Imagine this: you’re on a long overnight flight and the pilot announces that since everyone on the plane is over age 18, the in-flight movie will be hardcore porn. The movie starts and you take exception. It’s not your kind of entertainment. The flight attendant says maybe you shouldn’t be such a prude, it’s only sex, and maybe you have a problem you need to deal with. I have a feeling there’s going to be a scene, yes? A bit of a roshambo.

On a number of occasions lately, I’ve had someone tell me that my distaste for seeing and hearing Donald Trump is a problem with me. I should “toughen up.” I’m too stressed out and uptight about him. And I have a civic duty to consume all the news about his crimes and incompetence that I can feast my eyes on. I try to explain that the only person in charge of what goes in and out of my brain is the same person who decides whether I watch porn. Me. And I choose No.

The Clown Prince Covfefe is a horror show. He’s a con man, a misogynist, a megalomaniac, a national shame, and a waste of carbon. He’s also the national obsession. Not since Watergate have the people been so addicted to such a national shitstorm, or wasted so much of their lives on something so stupid. And on a daily basis, entirely meaningless to the average American.

Being obsessed with the nightly news minutia of the daily clusterfuckery of the so call president is not a sign of good citizenship, it’s a sign of obsession. Obsessed is as obsessed does. So I’m here to tell you that if you want to get on with your life and think about the things that add value to your existence, and the people who brighten your path through this land of grief and exultation, I’m with you brothers and sisters. Check back with us later about this deal. Trump is not your problem.

Trump is a problem for a very small number of people who can solve it; for the rest of us, he’s a situation. A problem, by definition, has a solution. If you can’t solve it, it’s not your problem. For further reference, see The Serenity Prayer. You probably know it.

Most of the time, I don’t give a f–k about Trump. I did for a long time, but I said here on this blog even before the election that he wasn’t worth our undivided attention, and I’ve said it since. So eventually, I carefully considered the fact that there are a limited number of things about which I can realistically give a f–k on a daily basis, and Trump isn’t one of them.

Giving a f–k means you care. You’re willing to give a certain about of your time, energy, money, and spiritual and mental resources to the subject. If you are willing to do this for Trump, then great. It’s your life. Respect to you. But I am deliberately trying to declutter him from between my ears. I’m throwing away something that adds no value to my life – the 24/7 Trump Show – in favor of concentrating on things that do. That’s my free choice. That I elect to feed my mind and soul on better things, things that add value to my brief existence, that’s the sign of a human mind at work. It’s not a sign of weakness.

Sorry but I’m not sorry. It’s my brain and I get to decide what not to give a f–k about, then not give a f–k about those things. I’ve tried being honest and reasonably polite and if that doesn’t work, I’ll try communicating differently. But since I’ve been honest and clear about this, I don’t have to be sorry.

Beyond the appropriate expressions of resistance, including voting, worrying about Trump is optional. He doesn’t know that he doesn’t matter but I do. Now you do too. And it’s important because having a problem that’s obviously beyond your control and not freely chosen is the definition of suffering, in a world where real problems are inevitable and happiness comes from solving them.

We can’t always choose what happens to us. Most of us didn’t choose for Trump to happen to us. But we can always control how we interpret situations and how we respond. I’ve decided not to be obsessed with the daily ritual of inhaling the fumes of our national dumpster fire. I need just enough information on an occasional basis to be ready to resist when resistance becomes actionable and realistic.

So I don’t watch MSNBC every night. I don’t listen when Fuckface Von Clownstick is talking, or any of his minions. I don’t watch videos of his putrid Velveeta visage wobbling around on screens. I read weekly magazines, with words printed in them. Old school? Yeah, works for me.

“Giving too many f–ks is bad for your mental health. …The key to a good life is not giving a f–k about more; it’s giving a f–k about less, giving a f–k about only what is true and immediate and important.”
– Mark Manson

In other words, life is too short for this shit.

alec-baldwin-trump

 

 

Commander in Cheese

…on the obedience we all give to Trump.

Imagine this: One night you’re watching TV and Trump appears in a breaking news address, live from the Oval Office, with the portrait of Jackson behind him. He’s gripping his diamond encrusted golden iPhone and live-tweeting as he says, “I’m the president now and trust me I’m the best president there ever was, really fantastic, and I command all of you to think about me every day, a lot every day, and it will be some really great thinking because it’s about me.”

Would you do as you’re told? Well, some people would. But the majority of Americans would flip the bird at their TV, say something to the effect of kiss my ass you ignorant and perfidious bastard, and spend the rest of the evening thinking about Trump anyway.

What? Yep.

What if El Cheeto Bandito could make you think about him for hours every day, and every evening before you go to bed, without ever saying that’s what he wants? No demands or commands or pleas, just continuous, unflinching, attention. How much and how often do you think about Trump? You’re thinking about him right now, and you think about him a lot. So do I.

“But wait, no,” you say, “we have to keep watching him, we have to keep an eye on him because he’s fucking up the whole country and pounding democracy flatter than hammered shit and he must be vigilant or he’ll get away with it.”

Prove it. Prove that our constant vigilance is making an actual difference. There are 340-some-odd million Americans. How many have to be learning about the latest Babyhands Atrocities at any given moment?

“But I don’t worry about him because I like him or support or agree,” you insist. “I think about him because I hate him! I haaaaaate him soooo muuuch! And I haaate every treasonous sumbitch who voted for him and I hope they pop like a big bag of Orville Redenbachers on the stoves of hell foreeeeever.” Cool. I’m with you on that. But all that hatred hurts Vile Lord Damput exactly how?

Here’s the ironic part. Our obsession with Trump, our addiction to the continuous effluvium of his stupidities, and our hatred of him and his supporters and everything they represent really does do a lot of damage. To us.

Der Hair Fuhrer is not worthy of a passing thought, let alone our constant contemplation. But we are giving Darth Donald vast tracts of our time, our sense of peace and contentment, our full attention, and ultimately our lives. And we’re giving all that up for free. He is sucking the happiness out of our homes and families, the focus out of our work, and the light out of our days, and we’re letting him do it. The stress is shredding our nervous systems and robbing us of sleep.

Enough. I say enough. It’s time to evict The Landlord from the vacation rentals between our ears for non payment, commission of waste, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Let’s cut back, way back. Let’s learn to pace ourselves because impeachment is going to be a long and muddy road. Maybe check the news every few days to see if the Republic still stands, OK. But otherwise find our way back to the things we love and Beings who love us and get on with our lives. There is no better way to beat the Trumps of the world than to show them they don’t matter, they don’t dominate, and we will not follow them into the darkness.

That Man is a Success

When I was young – a teenager – my parents gave me the quotation below – framed – for the wall of my room. It has lived on in my mind for 40 years. I only wish that Emerson had made it gender-neutral, because I have known just as many admirable women as men, to whom its enlightenment applies.

While the day’s calamity for Trump may leave many of us feeling vindicated, outraged, or sickened, I also feel sad. So much that is beautiful and kind, gentle and true about human life is so often and so wantonly demeaned. It goes light years beyond the fact that he is no gentleman. Power is still consistently given to men who think people are possessions, that women and children, the poor, the sick and weak, the marginalized and the outcast, are subject to domination. That is sad, and it’s even sadder that some targets of their twisted, onanistic self-gratification seem to accept this, even to support this particular contemptible and toxic troglodyte.

We may not get another chance to teach such evil, insentient men – once and for all – that they are wrong. And to show the women and girls of America that they are awesome and equal, that their value in the world is intrinsic and inalienable. So no one has the right to grab them or bring them down.

Peace to you Reader, and to the women in your life who have taught you love and strength, intelligence, courage, and dignity.

 

That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;
Who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who leaves the world better than he found it,
whether by an improved poppy or a perfect poem or a rescued soul;
Who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
Who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Memorial

As we Americans once again commemorate our war dead, and pay respect to the families of those who “gave the last full measure of devotion,” I wonder:

Will we ever come to terms with the fact that many of their deaths were preventable?

They not only died for us, they died because of us and our pride, arrogance, and nationalist ego-centrism.

We Americans are sure that we can do anything we set our minds and collective will to do. Why not peace?

Why can’t we learn to treat other people with respect, and so to gain friends instead of making enemies? We are so hell bent in self-righteousness, so mired in fear of others – and so completely confused about who they are – that millions of us want a dictator in our highest office.

Our dead didn’t die so that America would be weak and terrified, but we are. After 9/11 we raised flags and were defiant and strong for a while, until Bush-Cheney told us to be terrorized, and so we were and so we remain.

History will not be kind about the fall of the American Empire. For 15 years we have declined into willful ignorance, the victims of fear and selfishness. Trump is the distillation of that consciousness.

We don’t deserve a new birth of freedom if we deny it to each other.

We don’t deserve safety unless we stand up for the refugees and give them refuge.

We are not worthy to consecrate a moment, let alone a day, in honor of our dead, until we pledge in our hearts and minds that no more shall die in vain.

 

The Tables

So if I’m picking up the signals, conservatives are claiming that the man killed by cops in the Oregon standoff was trying to surrender. Witnesses say that’s a lie. Liberals claim the cops’ shooting was justified.

Two thoughts:

When did support for flagrant rebellion against the Establishment become conservative, and support for law enforcement become liberal? Haven’t the tables turned in some insane way?

This word, conservative: I do not think it means what you think it means.