Saturday, April 30, 2011

Depression. . . A Gay Perspective


I know.  There ARE a lot of great things in the great Lone Star State.  I just hate to admit it.

One of the best, in my opinion, is the Turtle Creek Chorale, a mostly–gay male chorus in Dallas.  The Chorale’s music is first–rate.  It does a lot of difficult classical choral music as well as modern serious music and fun music (e.g., music of the 60's).  The Chorale was the subject of a PBS documentary, After Goodbye: An AIDS Story, about the devastation AIDS wrought on the group in the 1980's and beyond.  If you want to see it, and you live to far away to borrow my copy, then you’ll have to order it at the Chorale’s web site, http://www.turtlecreek.org/index.php?/store/dvd/.

Timothy Seelig was the Director of the Chorale for a period of about twenty years.  He recently became the Music Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, the granddaddy of all Gay Men’s Choruses world–wide.  In the documentary, Mr. Seelig is kidding around with the singers and says he knows that all gay men consider themselves depressed.  All the guys laugh.  But it was a laugh of recognition, not of denial.

Fundamentalists believe and preach that we gay people are depressed because we are out of synch with “the Lord’s plan” for us.  If we only were to deny our true gay nature, and pretend to be straight and avoid gay sex, then our depression would be lifted and we would join the ranks of the beatifically happy.

That is total bullshit.

I spent 40 years trying to be straight and avoiding not only gay sex but anything that might in any way be identified as gay.  When I came out, I did so as a person so depressed that I had attempted suicide as the only viable alternative to admitting to myself or anyone else who I really was.  Coming out for me was not an option.  I simply had run out of the energy it took to continue to lie to myself and everybody else.  Coming out was the only way to stop the pain, and there was a lot of pain.  The pain continued after I came out.  My depression improved, but did not go away.  I was prescribed Prozac.  It didn’t really help.  I stopped taking it after two years, and I didn’t see any difference in myself, nor did anyone close to me.

I continued to be depressed overall, with some periods more difficult than others, and with one other serious consideration of suicide (but not an attempt at suicide).  My psychotherapy helped, as did getting to know other gay men and women.  Still, though, the depression continued.  My shrink said once that the damage I had done to my personality by 40 years of total denial of my real self probably would never be healed completely.

I’m happy to report that my shrink was wrong.  My young physician, during an annual checkup, asked me why I was so “listless.”  We talked for a while about my general psychological state.  I certainly didn’t feel depressed at the time, but she told me that everything I told her about myself and my life shouted “depression” to her.  She prescribed a new anti–depressant, Pristiq, which works not only on serotonin levels in the brain but also on the levels of norepinephrine.  Within five months of starting Pristiq, I was a new person.  I haven’t experienced depression of any consequence since I started taking it.  For the first time since I was 16 or 17 years old, I have been depression–free now for several years.

I wanted to write about this because somebody recently told me about their young gay son.  He is in his mid–teens and suffers from mood disorder, even though he is an out gay teenager.  I wanted this person to know that coming out, while a step in the right direction, doesn’t in itself heal the depression closeted people experience.  Once out, gay men and women have to learn how to deal with the bullying, the name–calling, the general societal disapproval, and, most of all, in America, the Christians.  We have to learn to accept as good in us that thing which many other people consider bad.  It takes strength, support, and endurance to do that.  The young gay man about whom I learned from his very loving and accepting parent is just at the beginning stage of this process.  It will take him a while to deal with all the bullshit that society piles on the concept of “gay.”

Life isn’t easy for any of us.  It’s a challenge to grow up, live well, and learn to love.  It’s harder, though, for people—gay people and others not in the “norm”—who have to overcome a lot of useless external obstacles before we can get down to the real business of growing up.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jesus is a Friend of Mine


It’s Easter week.  Easter is a celebration of new life, of hope, of promises kept.  Easter is first, though, the celebration of the triumphant Jesus.  “He is risen!” Orthodox Christians say to one another on Easter morning, to which the answer is, “He is risen indeed!”

Jesus has been everywhere over the past several days.  He was the topic on ABC on Sunday morning.  He was the topic of one of Rush Lambaugh’s rants.  Franklin Graham was on several TV shows talking about his ideas about Jesus.  And Jesus has been on my mind a lot.

Jesus to me is a hero, even though I no longer can accept the belief that he is/was divine, the only–begotten son of the Father, the second person of the triune Godhead.  His life, as recorded in the Gospels, along with his teaching also recorded there, are a big part of my personal moral, ethical, and human make–up.  I’m not talking about the virgin birth, the stable in Bethlehem, the miracles, or the resurrection.  I’m talking about the Jesus who is recorded as having lived and having died as a preacher, a thinker, a prophet, and an agitator.  That Jesus has always fascinated me.

Interesting to me are the varieties of Jesuses to be found in art.  Most of the depictions are totally wrong.  Jesus was not an effeminate Renaissance European man.  He was a poor Jewish man living in Judea at a difficult time in Judean history.  He was a man of color, being from North Africa, after all.  He was a man with a message, and my image of him always includes a fire in his eyes that shows the intensity of the soul within.  Not for me the Jesuses of traditional America, where he looks like a cool, hip friend of the family who happens to like to wear dresses.

Jesus is a hero to me because his message was the message that gave me power and direction when I was 20 years old, and the message that still gives me a moral compass to use in my life.  When I was a Franciscan, we had two hours of silent meditation every day, kneeling on wooden kneelers in the friars’ section of the church.  During all that silent time, I read the Gospels and came to know Jesus in my own specific way.  Jesus was, more than anything else, a voice of contradiction, not only to the high priests and the Roman authorities, but also to his disciples.  His message was so new, so different, that no one could fathom it initially.

The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’s Declaration of Belief.  That whole section of Matthew (Matthew 5 through 7) is just mind–blowing.  Look carefully at the beatitudes:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

This is radical shit, even for today!!!

I thought about this sermon for many hours when I was 19,20, 21, and beyond.  I still think about it often.  I have come to understand this sermon as Jesus’s blueprint for a life of revolution!

This isn’t the teaching I hear from most preachers.  This isn’t the teaching that drives many American Christians.  This, it seems to me, is the teaching a lot of them totally ignore.

Jesus may be their light, but, if he is their light, I think a lot of modern Christians have installed a rheostat and turned Jesus way down low.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ite, Missa Est


This is about the most intimate piece I have posted on this blog.  This stuff has been in my mind for a while now, and I kept resisting writing it down.  I couldn’t sleep tonight because of it, so here I am at 3:25 AM typing.  I’m trying to get it out of my head and into this computer!

I don’t believe in Jesus as God any longer, but I’m pretty sure he lived and made a huge impact on the world.  I’m not even sure I believe in God, although I have to say believing is more appealing to me than not believing.  What I’m about to write isn’t a statement of belief in Jesus or God; it’s a statement of acknowledgment of the power Christian symbolism holds over me.

From the time I was 14 until I was 22, I went to Mass at least once a day, every day.  When I left the Franciscan Order at 22, I kept away from Mass and Church and religious stuff for several years, until a day in March when I was 28.  From then until I was 41, I went to Mass every day for most of those years, and always on Sunday.  For most of those 13 years, I was organist at our parishes.  As organist, I always played for at least two Masses, sometimes for as many as five on a Sunday (don’t worry, I was paid, and paid nicely, for most of that work).  For a huge part of my first 40 years, then, I was at Mass.

I no longer go to Mass. . . regularly anyway.  Once in a great while, I’ll go for some reason or other, and, when I do go, it’s like I was just at Mass the day before.  The Mass is imprinted on my DNA, I think.  It often takes me someplace where I wouldn’t otherwise go.  Not in the sense of some mystical, out–of–body place, but in the sense of some place inside me where all my memories, emotions, and old beliefs about Mass are stored.  I resonate with the structure of the Mass.  I understand it backwards and forwards.  I know its history.  I know its varieties.  I understand its theology.  The Mass is one of the biggest parts of my soul.

Several years ago, I went to Mass celebrated for people who belong to a gay Catholic group called Dignity.  A young, hip priest celebrated the Mass and did a beautiful job of it.  After the priest consecrates the bread and wine, there is a rubric that requires the priest to say, “As often as you do this, do it in memory of me.”  That night at the Dignity Mass, the priest didn’t say his line as the rubric directed.  Instead, he said, “When you do this, remember me.”

You’re probably wondering what difference that made.  Well, for me, it made some kind of huge difference.   Such a difference that I started bawling and couldn’t stop.  The new words sounded (and sound now) so human to me.  If I were to ask my girls to do something for me after I die, I would ask them to do it and “remember me,” not “do it in remembrance of me.”  I saw Jesus at the Last Supper, facing betrayal and death, surrounded by his best friends (as well as his traitor), asking his friends, when they celebrated Seders in the future, to think of him.  That is sad and poignant to me, and very, very human.  I had never before understood the emotional and human content of those words.

Carl Jung wrote a lot about symbolism, and especially religious symbolism.  He saw and appreciated its power.  The Mass, for me, is the epitome of what Jung taught.  It’s a meal.  The meal is God’s way of giving himself totally to human beings.  The early Church Fathers, when they established the Mass as a regular service and not just a Seder, knew, I believe, the value of that specific meal symbol.  Every culture values the sharing of a meal.  Whenever I eat with someone for the first time, I feel closer to that person.  Something in us, I guess, accepts eating a meal as more than just a way to get energy into our bodies.  The universality of the symbolism of the meal gives the Mass a universal basis for understanding.  Add to that the belief that the food at this meal is God himself, giving himself, and you just don’t get a symbol any more powerful.

There are parts of the Mass that are prayers of petition, I know.  But most of the prayers in the Mass are prayers of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving.  That is another part of the strong symbolism of the Mass.  Why say such prayers?  The God that is being worshiped is omnipotent and totally self–contained.  What is the purpose of adoration, of thanksgiving?  A Benedictine monk once told me that God is delighted with humans’ prayers of adoration and praise and thanksgiving.  The monk said that God allows himself to be delighted, and thereby gives human beings a power to influence in a very small way the Godhead.  The prayers of the Mass, especially the oldest prayers in the Canon, seem to me to teach people what the monk said without having to say the words outright.  People delighting God together. . . that’s powerful!

I admire and respect the Mass.  It’s so many things.  It’s prayer, of course.  It’s also therapy.  It’s drama and theater.  It’s biblical education.  It’s beautifully musical (assuming talent of composer and performers).  Most of all, I guess, it is what it is and it doesn’t change.  It’s now pretty much as it was 1800 years ago.  More than that.  Prayers in the Seder Haggadah are in the Mass.  Prayers in the Jewish synagogue service are in the Mass.  The Mass connects me with Jews way back to the time of Jesus and beyond.  The Mass is an amazing piece of work, an amazing piece of art.

There.  I really do feel better.  An agnostic’s appreciation of Catholic liturgy.  How boring.  I am tempted not to post this to FaceBook.  But I promised someone I’d post all my blog stuff to my FB page, so. . .

Be kind, gentle reader!  Don’t block me. . . please!!!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Carpe Diem


It’s raining.  A lot.  We had flooding over the weekend, so this new deluge probably will bring trouble in various places around town.  Still, I love rainy days.  I get all introspective and shit, which, at my advanced age, is a way of being that I tend to enjoy.

Last night, we watched a movie on NetFlix, Handsome Harry.  It’s the story of a guy—Harry—who, while in the Navy in the 1970's, falls in love with another sailor.  David, the sailor with whom Harry falls in love, is gay and totally self–accepting.  Harry is a mess of fear and self–hatred.  There is a good bit of story involved, but the crux of the movie is that Harry, 30 years after falling in love with David, has married, had a son, and divorced.  He still loves David, though.

The death of a mutual Navy buddy brings Harry and David together.  Harry, it was obvious to me, wants to pick up where he and David left off 30 years before.  David has reservations about that, although he still has feelings for Harry.

I’ve been thinking about this movie all morning.  Obviously, the story resonates with me because I was a lot like Harry.  But on a more general plane, the story makes me think about people and opportunities throughout my life.  Some of the people and opportunities I embraced; many I didn’t.  The ones that I let pass me by are the ones I think about most often, generally with regret.

A handsome, fit pool boy in Dallas, who was studying medicine at the University of Texas, was interested in me, God knows why.  A pianist in D.C. with whom I made background music for an art exhibit wanted to “go someplace private.”  A lady called once and offered me a great job in Newport, Rhode Island.  A sweet Baptist Navy chaplain went out of his way to try to be friends with me.  A friend from work invited me on a cross-country car trip back in the early 1970's.

All of these, and so many others, were opportunities that I rejected out of fear or laziness or feelings of low self worth.  All of these are missed opportunities that I now regret having missed.

Renée, a lesbian buddy, says that she wants to end her days sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of a cabin in the North Carolina mountains regretting all the wild and nasty things she did, not regretting all the wild and nasty things she decided not to do.  I get her point.

I have said “yes” to enough of life’s goodies to be happy on the whole with my life.  I have said “no” to enough of those goodies, however, that some days I am filled with regret.  Like Harry in the movie last night, I have been offered some once–in–a–lifetime gifts that I have turned down.

I urge my daughters to be more open to the goodness of life, always to expect surprises just around the bend.  That’s what makes up our lives—surprises just around the bend.  I hope that each of them will say “yes” to all the once–in–a–lifetime gifts that come their way.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hate Speech

Bobby Griffith

I should be downstairs with the others tonight.  It’s Saturday after all and the girls are coming together and who knows what they’ll get up to.  But I have to get all this somehow out of my system.

I’m reading the book, Prayers for Bobby, by Leroy Aarons.  It’s been out for almost 20 years, I guess, but I’m just now reading it.  It’s the story of Bobby Griffith, a gay man from Walnut Creek, California, who committed suicide in 1983 at the age of 20.

Instrumental in his suicide was the fervid conservative Presbyterianism of his mother and their local church.  Mary Griffith, Bobby’s mom, has become an advocate for gay youth, and she has seen the error of her “Christian” ways.  Too late, though, for the beautiful boy who was Bobby.

I am angry and afraid as I read this book.

Christians did this!!!!  Just as they have done to so many other gay kids and young adults—including me—they made Bobby believe he was worthless in the eyes of God and humankind and that, unless he lived a life of impossible denial, he would always be worthless and dirty and no good.

I believe the Christian Church, when it comes to its attitudes about gay men and women, is a hate group and it should be denounced as such.  Its members sanctimoniously tell us gay people that we have “chosen” our “lifestyle” and we need to make another choice or we will remain an “abomination.”  They base their beliefs supposedly on Leviticus and Romans.  What they really base their beliefs on, in my strong opinion, is fear of the different, and the need for everyone in the world to conform to their ideal of human life.

The Church must—MUST—stop this.  Liberal congregations must speak out loud and in the media condemning the awful things that the fundamentalist sects preach night and day on TV, radio, and in print.  Individual tolerant Christians have to have the courage to say to their ignorant coreligionists that they are not only wrong, but sinfully, criminally wrong in their complicity in so much human suffering and death.  Moderate and liberal Christian parents MUST teach their children that being gay is being gay by God, and that taunting and name–calling and physical violence against gay kids is wrong, not Christian, sinful, and criminal.

If the Church wants to repent of all the evil it has done to gay kids, women, and men over the millennia, then it needs either to support gay people or shut the fuck up.  If we don’t tolerate a basketball star using a gay pejorative on the court, then how in the hell can we tolerate the garbage that Christian churches spew Sunday after Sunday about gay people.  It is hate speech, pure and simple, and it needs to be called as such and it needs to stop!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Father's Lament


What’s a father to do?  Being a dad has been the most educational experience of my life.  Today, I had another lesson in my ongoing graduate program in fatherhood.

Annie, one of my four daughters, 28 years old now, needed me to help her take care of some business.  Deciding it would be better for her to drive the 80–some miles from the D.C. area to here in West Virginia, she graciously came out after she finished teaching for the day.  She usually teaches students who need special care; this week she’s teaching advanced kids.

I was in my “Father Knows Best” mode.  I had unilaterally decided, before she arrived, how best to proceed.  I figured we go in, take care of business, and be on our way in 15 minutes, 20 tops.  We enter the store, and I open my mouth to start our business.  Annie very politely took over.  Gracious, knowledgeable, and extremely savvy, she had the manager eating out of her hand in two minutes.  I made the mistake of trying to intervene and only delayed things.  She finished her business, I signed what I needed to sign, and we left.  The final transaction was nothing like I had planned.

Annie didn’t need me.  Again.  She and her fiancé live their lives capably and well.  They take care of themselves and one another, and they don’t need me.  Annie, with help only from her fiancé, has finished all the requirements and will receive her M.Ed. in graduation ceremonies on Saturday, May 21st.  She did it all with out me, with the exception of my proofing a paper or two.

Her three sisters are no different.  Each has her own home, her own career, her own car, her own friends, her own interests, her own life.  I am only a fascinated cheerleader and observer.  These four people at one time were dependent on their mother and me for everything from the roof over their heads to changing their poopy diapers.  Now I am the one, it seems, who is increasingly dependent on them for news, connection, and family—and, some day, maybe, for elder care.

I am so happy and so proud that they all have established themselves and are doing what they want to do—where and with the people they want to do it.  That’s what being an adult is all about.  I do, though, miss them, not so much as they are, but as they used to be.  When they come to visit, full of life, and news, and stories of all kinds of things that are happening to them, I am so happy to see them.  But it just isn’t the same.  They are their own people.  They are people I deeply love, but they aren’t the sweet little girls with whom I fell in love 30 some years ago.  They have their own ideas, their own opinions, their own political views.  One of them voted for McCain/Palin in 2008, an action that prompted me, first, to consider suicide, and, ever since, to wonder what the fuck I did wrong as a parent.

My baby girls are all grown up.

What’s a father to do?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Clarifying Two Points in my Post, " Christian Bashing"


Steven Clark read what I wrote and made several welcome comments.  I'd like to address the following part of his comments:

"Most of your rant facts were accurate (except for the early followers of Christ killing and somehow figuring Hitler was killing Jews, Gypsies, and Christians for Jesus. Your rant might be more effective if you distinguished your players better"

I'm sorry for the confusion, Steven!!!  Here is some clarification that I hope will help:

1. re the Holocaust: I don't claim that Hitler killed Jews (or did anything else) for Christ. My point was that Christian anti-Semitism and the existing prevalent Christian culture led to the environment where the holocaust was possible.

2. re early Christians persecuting & killing those who believed differently, I was thi8nking of the Arian heresy and all the fighting that went on with that in the 4th-6th centuries. I checked the Catholic encyclopaedia to get the history (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07256b.htm):

[citation begins]The Council of Nicaea anathematized the heresiarch [Arius himself], but its anathemas, like all the efforts of the Catholic bishops, were nullified by interference of the civil power. Constantine and his sister protected Arius and the Arians, and the next emperor, Constantius, assured the triumph of the heresy: the Catholics were reduced to silence by dire persecution. At once an internecine conflict began within the Arian pale, for heresy, lacking the internal cohesive element of authority, can only be held together by coercion either from friend or foe. Sects sprang up rapidly: they are known as Eunomians, Anomoeans, Exucontians, Semi-Arians, Acacians. The Emperor Valens (364-378) lent his powerful support to the Arians, and the peace of the Church was only secured when the orthodox Emperor Theodosius reversed the policy of his predecessors and sided with Rome. Within the boundaries of the Roman empire the faith of Nicaea, enforced again by the General Council of Constantinople (381), prevailed, but Arianism held its own for over two hundred years longer wherever the Arian Goths held sway: in Thrace, Italy, Africa, Spain, Gaul. The conversion of King Recared of Spain, who began to reign in 586, marked the end of Arianism in his dominions, and the triumph of the Catholic Franks sealed the doom of Arianism everywhere. [citation ends]

Thanks to all for tolerating my ranting!
Geezer Ed

Christian "Bashing"??????????


My text for today comes from FaceBook (again).

This morning, discussing what it means to be a “liberal,” Patty Kadlec wrote, “And regarding religion, it seems lately that liberals are very free to bash religions which to me does not seem very tolerant.”  You can read the entire discussion at http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1896582625339&comments&notif_t=video_reply

I responded to her initially by writing that religions in the hands of fanatics are dangerous and that I have the right to yell when religious people do evil things.  Christians have done, and today continue to do, a lot of harm to innocent people.  Acting in the name of Jesus, his early followers persecuted and killed people for believing something other than they believed.  Christians, on their crusades, created an anti–Western antagonism among Muslims that exists very concretely to this day.  Christians terrorized Europe with the Inquisition.  Christians and Christian anti–Semitism were responsible for the Holocaust.  Fundamentalist Christians today are trying to created a culture of ignorance, intolerance, and superstition in this country that is as much a menace as anything our external enemies are trying to do to us.

In writing all that, am I “bashing” Christians?  I honestly don’t know.  I honestly don’t care.  All of it is true.

What I am not writing, and what I do not believe, is that Christianity should be shut down, although objectively a case could be made for just such action.  Christians who take care of the business of making themselves holy are people I respect, admire, and most often like.  Christians who work to help the poor, the sick, the young, the helpless, the immigrant, the ignorant—all these Christians, in my mind, are the real Christians and the world can’t have enough of them.  These are the Christians I believe Jesus would recognize as his followers were he to return today.  I don’t yell about these Christians.

I rant about the Christians that threaten this country’s level of intelligence, tolerance, and justice.  I rant about Christians who believe that wealth is de facto a sign of God’s favor.  I rant about Christians who are secretly racist in their attitudes toward the poor, immigrants, and undereducated inner city young people.  I rant about Christians who home school their children so that their children aren’t exposed to the cultural gathering place of public education.  I rant about Christians who believe in Intelligent Design and who refuse to believe the science behind warnings of global warming.  I rant about Christians who are so keen on the myth of “The Rapture” that they refuse to engage in the reality of our current world.

In writing all that, am I “bashing” Christians?  I honestly don’t know.  I honestly don’t care.

One last rant on this topic (for today, anyway).  I found myself sincerely resenting Ms. Kadlec’s use of the word “bashing” in this context.  As a gay man, I find it almost obscene that a person worried about “disrespect” of one of the mightiest institutions on the face of the Earth (the amalgamated Christian church) would use that word to describe what she sees as impolite or negatively critical  treatment.  When liberals are making life so difficult for Christians that young Christians commit suicide, then that would be bashing.  When liberals refuse to acknowledge the reality of Christians’ love for one another and seek laws to restrict expression of that love, then that would be bashing.  When liberals wait outside Christian churches with baseball bats, seeking to club an unsuspecting Christian on his/her way home, then that would be bashing.  When liberals are allowed to refuse to hire Christians because of their belief, then that would be bashing.  Speaking the truth to Christian believers about the harm that they and/or their coreligionists are doing is not bashing.

Here ends the lesson for today.  Thanks be to God.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bad Moon Rising


I’m not sure what to think about the budget compromise that happened last night.  I guess the most positive thing I can say about it is that I think it made the best of a very shitty situation.  Given last November’s election, and the resulting constitution of the House of Representatives, could I have expected anything better?  No, I don’t think I could have realistically hoped for better.  And it could have been much worse.  Still, I was sad last night because progress in areas like women’s rights, education, and health care now seems to be up for renegotiation.  Programs and policies, such as Medicare and educational aid/loans, that I pretty much took for granted now are in serious trouble.

I was in college from 1964 through 1969, with a year out for my novitiate.  Those were amazing years culturally and politically.  The seminary faculty was composed of priests generally to the right of faculties in secular schools.  I remember our English professor, Fr. Eric, complaining about the tightness of the jeans that men were wearing (“Those pants are so tight, you can tell the guy’s religion!”).  Another professor, Fr. Cyprian,  repeated over and over again the classical adage, In medio stat virtus (“Virtue is found in the middle”).  Our Dean of Studies and sometime Greek and Latin professor, Fr. Myron,  repeated his favorite mantra, “Be not the first by whom the new is tried, nor last to lay the old aside.”  Moderation and caution, then, were the admonitions we were hearing while the world, including the Roman Catholic Church, changed around us.

Over the years, I’ve remembered those times and that advice.  I’ve come to understand that, while the experiences of the 1960's changed many of us, those experiences did not change the generations that have arisen since.  Many people in the younger generations seem to me to be generally reactionary, and I just can’t understand that.  Where is their idealism?  Where is their questioning?  Where is their wonder at the marvels of freedom and of adult life?  A lot of them seem to want to go back to a time they never knew, a time that many in my generation thought we had permanently killed as we protested our way through the 1960's.  The likes of Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck—all of them seem to want it to be 1953 all over again.  Some of this type of person are in the Congress now making cultural and budgetary decisions that, if enacted, would put us back in the 1950's.  That knowledge makes me worry about what will happen in the next two years.

I adopted my own mantra in the 60's: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  I have failed many times in my life, and I am not good at failure.  You’d think I would be better at it, having gone through it so often, but I still think failure sucks.  Failure, though, is one of the two possible results of the nothing–vetured–nothing–gained philosophy.  Risking failure, I have to figure out what kind of “venture” I want to explore in the coming months leading up to November, 2012.  I know that I have to dare to do something. 

“I see a bad moon rising.”  We can’t have another election with results like those of 2010.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hatred or Anger?


There is a woman who has been in my life sporadically for 27 years.  We are friends.  But this woman gives me a lot of heartburn:

1.  She voted for Nixon in 1960, then for President Johnson in 1964.  Her vote for Johnson was a sympathy vote because she still was mourning President Kennedy.  In every presidential election since 1964, she has voted for the Republican candidate.

2.  She now considers herself a Teabagger (although she hates that word).

3.  She thinks people on welfare are universally lazy and should be forced to work, regardless of their circumstances.

4.  She considers my being gay to be my “choice,” and she constantly refers to my “gay lifestyle,” two huge no-no’s in my list of horrible attitudes.

We haven’t been close to one another physically since her retirement in 2002.  She calls me, though, four or five times a year to check in and see how I’m doing.  She called this morning when I was at my doctor’s office getting my annual physical.  I was waiting for the doc when she called, so we wound up talking for about a half hour.

When I think about this woman, I get angry.  Her attitude of entitlement and certitude are like fingernails on a chalk board to me.  When I think about her in her absence, I come up with brilliant and cutting things to say to her and save them up for the next time she calls.

But when she calls, I realize that I actually like this woman, that she really is my friend, and all my bon mots go flying out the window.  She is, beneath all her neanderthal political beliefs, a generous, warm–hearted person who sincerely cares about me and about all her other friends, of whom there are many.  The best part about knowing this woman, for me, has been the lesson she’s taught me: the human organ most important in friendship is the heart, not the brain.

I think about her today because of something that has come up on FaceBook.  One of my friends on FB has told me several times that he sees hatred in my postings.  I’m not sure against what or whom he believes this hatred to be directed, but he sees it apparently.  I have spent some time lately trying to figure out if I have hatred in my life, and if so, hatred for what or whom.

Most of the people that I think I dislike are people I don’t know, or don’t know very well.  It almost always happens that, if I get to know someone well, I’ll like the person.  I honestly don’t think there is one human being whom I hate.  I have to say, too, that I don’t believe it’s possible for me (or anybody) to hate someone I don’t know.

There are people and things that I may seem to hate:

1.  the Republican (ReichThugliScum) party.

2.  the Catholic Church.

3.  fundamentalist Christian churches.

4.  fundamentalist faith groups of any stripe.

5.  groups that are anti–learning, anti–intellectual.

6.  people who home–school their kids to keep them from being exposed to diversity of belief and opinion.

7.  men who oppose a woman’s right to choose.

There are others, but these are the ones that have given me the most inner grief over the years.

When I think about these institutions and people, I have to say that I don’t see hate for them in myself.  I really don’t.  What I see is a huge reservoir of ANGER!  I am one mad motherfucker!  Until I came out, this overwhelming anger was directed at myself, with predictable consequences: depression and “suicidal ideation.”  That depression and that “ideation” have gone away over the time (20+ years) that I have been out.  The anger, however, still is with me.  Now, though, it’s directed at the churches, the parties, the people who have made my life much more difficult than it had to be, and have made the lives of Beni and my girls more difficult because of me.

I believe that my treatment as a gay youth and young adult was unjust in the extreme.  That is true of all gay people, especially those who are boomers or older.  Anger, in my opinion, is the only sane reaction to injustice.  My anger, now expressed in healthier ways, leads me to want to help, want to get involved, want to march, want to picket, want to yell, want to boycott, want to change what little part of the world I may be able to change.

So I acquit myself of the charge of hate, but plead totally guilty to the lesser charge of anger.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Strangers in Good Company


I just watched one of the best movies I've ever seen:  Strangers in Good Company.  It's a Canadian movie, made in 1990.  Seven elder Canadian women and their younger bus driver are stranded in a remote area near Quebec when their bus breaks down.  The movie is almost a documentary in its honesty and naturalness.  I've never seen a movie like it.

Apparently, the makers of the movie outlined the story in broad strokes and then hired the women who would participate in the fictional story.  The women, however, play themselves.  There don't appear to be any lines or any specific direction.  The characters just live on the screen for almost 2 hours, showing us how they each separately and all together might react to being stranded for several days.

There is a nun, a lesbian/feminist, a Mohawk woman, and several other beautiful characters who deal with the challenges of being stranded.  Each of the women eventually tells the other women - and us - about themselves and their lives, their loves, their hates, and their happiness.  The women are by and large very different from one another, but each of them is respectful of the others.  They form a community of friends that I envied.  Nothing was taboo.  Every question could be asked, but not every question had to be answered.  They cared for one another, fed one another, and, all in all, had a ball in that ugly old house by the beautiful lake in Canada.

These elder women seemed to take everything in their stride.  Their were no recriminations, no bitchiness.  Although there was one woman who may have been a diva under other circumstances, she was gentled into her humanity by her fellow strandees.  The women take this experience as it comes, enjoying those parts of it that are enjoyable and stoically enduring those parts that aren't.  Is this the way it really would have happened had these same women been stranded for real?  I have no idea.  I enjoyed believing, though, that the women were as noble as they seemed to be in this story.

I kept thinking what a different movie it might have been if men, or a group of young women, were the characters in the story.  The sturm und drang of it all!  I can picture the men arguing over who would best be able to repair the broken-down bus, over who would be the most successful hunter and fisherman.  I can picture younger women worried about their families, their jobs, their lives.  I can picture both the men and the younger women so engaged in their worrying and fretting that the beauty of the experience passed them by.

I do believe that age mellows.  It has mellowed me, I know for a fact.  When I saw how the women reacted to their hardship, I believed that their grace under pressure could be real because I have seen it in other older people I have known.

This movie is a tribute to women everywhere who have made it into their 60's, 70's, and 80's.,  The movie says clearly (to me anyway) that life is like the machine that makes gemstones smooth and shiny.   The contraption goes endlessly round and round, rubbing the gemstone against other rocks until the gemstone is bright and shiny and beautiful.  That's what life does to the lucky and open among us.

The women in this movie show how beautiful it is to be old.

If you are looking for a great movie, watch Strangers in Good Company.  Please!  It's available on Netflix on DVD and streaming.

This is NOT an April Fool post!