Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Helpmates


About seven years ago, I went to the Borders Book Store in Sterling, Virginia, to buy a book on gay history.  I had ordered the book through the store in those days before Amazon.  I got in line at the store, and, by the rules of chaos that rule the universe, I was waited on by a male college student.  The kid asked me whether the book was for me, or whether I was giving it as a gift.  I told him it was for me.  He made a show of turning the book every which way and examining it (it was wrapped in cellophane and in pristine condition).  “Oh,” he said, “it’s been damaged in transit.  I’ll have to take 20% off the sales price.”  Nice kid.

I took my book and went to the coffee bar to get coffee and a pastry.  As I was sitting there leafing through my new book, the guy who waited on me came to my table with his own coffee and asked if he could sit with me.  We had a great conversation, lasting about half an hour, in which we found out the basics of each other’s gay lives.  Will, as I found out he was called, was then a sophomore at George Mason University.  We exchanged e–mail addresses, and I’ve been in touch with him ever since.  He’s now almost 27 years old and lives and is social worker in Pennsylvania.

Will’s recently fallen in love.  Every week, I get a different photo of the object of his affections.  This is the first time that Will has felt the emotions that now overwhelm him.  He is as happy as he’s ever been, and I believe he has found a good guy in his boyfriend, Jeff.  He and I have been e–mailing back and forth all afternoon, discussing just what it is that’s happening to him.

I heard or saw, somewhere this past week, a guy say that the best sex is sex you have with the person you love.   Will enthusiastically affirmed that statement this afternoon, then asked me why that is.  Jeff, he reports, isn’t the most accomplished lover he’s ever had, but the sex the two of them have is the best either has ever experienced.  How come?  I am not Dan Savage.  I have no idea, most of the time, why people do what they do sexually.  But to this question I happen to have given a lot of thought, so I was able to share my thoughts with Will.

Once, when one of my daughters was in a romantic relationship, she and I talked about the nature of the good feelings that such a relationship engenders.  We talked for several hours, in the abstract, about why some relationships are so much more exciting than others.  We came to the conclusion that important romantic relationships cause people to feel so good because they represent reciprocated attraction.  How amazing it is to come to know that the person about whom you are so obsessed is equally obsessed with you!  How sexy it is to realize that the one person who so turns you on is equally attracted to you sexually!  That is one contributing factor, I believe, to the amazing sexual feelings that Will now enjoys.  He and Jeff are bound up in a mutual attraction that neither has ever felt before and that neither can really believe.  It’s amazing to read the notes that Will sends.  Half of a note is a declaration of fact, while the other half is a statement of disbelief that such a thing really could be happening to him.

There is more to it than this reciprocal attraction, though.  I’m not a believer in the divine authorship, or the inerrancy, of the Bible.  But I do believe in the truth of one of the lines in Genesis (Genesis 2/18): “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”  Will and Jeff have found in one another possible life–time helpmates.  Both of them believe that their relationship is meant for the long term.  Part of the joy and wonder that comes from their sex, I believe, comes from the delight at possibly having found “the One.”  Not having to face life all on your own, and the prospect of facing it with someone you love, are powerful aphrodisiacs.

There is so much nastiness from the fundamentalists about gay marriage, and that’s especially true now after the great events in Albany.  After going back and forth all day with this 27–year–old gay man, I am more convinced than ever that there is nothing that gay marriage can do to diminish straight marriage.  There is nothing gay marriage can do to hurt our society.  There is nothing gay marriage can do in and of itself to harm children who might be raised by a gay couple.  What gay marriage will do is give Will and Jeff, and all the millions like them around the world, the right not to be alone in life, to have a legal helpmate, to have the dignity of being recognized as loving and responsible human beings.

I don’t know if Will and Jeff will marry, but today I did offer to play the organ for their wedding should they decide to do it (and I absolutely hate playing for weddings).  Regardless of what they decide to do, I am so happy that, if they want, they can get married either in Will’s hometown of Washington, D. C., or Jeff’s little hometown on the Hudson River in New York.  Mazel tov. . . maybe!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A New World


Michelle Bachmann scares me.  She really does.  As Jack Paar used to say, “I kid you not.”

Look in her eyes.  Listen to her when she talks about her god and her religious legalism.  Michelle Bachmann is a true believer in the bullshit that she spews.  Most of these reichpublican politicians pay mouth service to the Tea Party and the fundamentalist Christians.  Bachmann really is a Tea Partyer; she really is a fundamentalist Christian.  I read an interview today—I can’t remember where, but somewhere online—with a woman who had been a member of an extreme fundamentalist sect called the Full Quiver Movement, or something like that.  This movement follows scriptural teachings on the family to the letter.  The husband is master of the house.  The wife’s job is to bear her husband and master lots of children, so that his “quiver” can be “full” of offspring.  Women shouldn’t drive and may not work outside the home.  There is no distinction between birth control and abortion.  Daughters assume adult responsibilities in their fathers’ homes at the age of 12, learning the skills to make them good wives and mothers.  Home schooling is mandatory.  College for women is not favored.  Marriages are arranged by the fathers.  The woman being interviewed pointed out—correctly, I believe—that this is fundamentalist teaching on the family carried out to its logical and literal fullness.  The woman also mentioned Bachmann as a Full Quiver sympathizer.  She isn’t a card–carrying member of the movement because (1) she works in the Congress, and so outside her home, and (2) she exercises authority over men, something the movement never allows.  Still, she agrees with most of the movement’s thinking.

So Michelle Bachmann scares me.

I am less afraid of her today than I was yesterday because of the enactment last night of the Marriage Equality Act in New York.  I watched the proceedings on the internet and, with tears flowing, was soothed by the rational thinking, the reasoned exchange of views. . . good old American politics at work.  Even Senator Diaz, the one Democrat who opposed the law, wasn’t threatening or mean in his ranting—he was just upset.  Those Senators convinced me that, at least in some places in this country, civility, respect, and rational balance still matter and still are practiced.  There was very little mention of god, of cardinals, of bishops, of pastors.  There was a good deal of talk about equal treatment, the American tradition of fairness, and the need for government to support all its citizens.

As long as there are good, solid politicians at work here and there in this country, I hold onto the hope that, in the end, all will be well.  The poor will be helped.  The sick will have the care they need.  Strangers will be welcomed in this country as valued additions to our common culture. Our kids will get good public educations that include accurate history and real science.  Women will win back their reproductive rights.  Labor unions will succeed in getting back some of their lost power and influence.  African Americans will continue their progress towards full equality under the law and in society.  Queer people will marry, have kids, adopt kids, get divorced, and otherwise live their lives just like everybody else.  Those are the things that fair–minded and reasonable politicians can provide for us IF we elect them and IF we stay on their case about the votes they make on our behalf,

Pat Robertson tried to be elected President and failed.  He was probably less attractive a candidate than Bachmann, but also, in my view at least, much less scary.  I don’t believe that Bachmann will be nominated and I certainly don’t believe that she ever can be elected President. 

I can tolerate Bachmann’s bullshit and the bullshit that the reichpublicans now are throwing at the President and at the Democratic half of the Congress as long as I keep in my mind’s eye the Senators in Albany and their common human decency.  Maybe, eventually, I’ll see Bachmann as the anachronism she really is and no longer be afraid of her.

Thank you, New York!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Coming Out & Marriage Equality


Mayor Jason West
As I usually do, I watched the Rachel Maddow Show tonight on MSNBC.  One of her guests was the mayor of New Paltz, New York, Jason West.  Mr. West and Rachel talked about the marriage equality bill pending in the New York State Senate.  Mr. West is the mayor of New Paltz who, in February, 2004, decided to perform weddings for same–sex couples in his town.  He lost his reelection attempt in 2007, but was just reelected to a four–year term that started on June 1, 2011.  When he isn’t a mayor, Mr. West is a house painter.  He holds several academic degrees and is very articulate on many issues, including marriage equality.  He is 34 years old.

When Mayor West performed the same–sex marriages back in 2004, he was arrested for violating laws and the Constitution of the State of New York.  All charges were dropped, but the fact that he was charged at all shows the hostility he faced in his town over this issue.  In 2007, he lost the mayoral election, in part at least because of the bad feelings still in play in the town over his attempt to foster marriage equality.  He said tonight that the animus towards him largely has disappeared, as witnessed by his recent election to the same job he lost in 2007.  He attributes this change of heart to a broader change throughout the country in attitudes towards gay people generally and marriage equality specifically.

Several times during his chat with Rachel, Mayor West said that one of the most powerful tools that gay people have, and that gay people in the last several years have used, is coming out.  Initially, I thought he meant coming out for marriage equality.  But it became clear as he and Rachel talked that he meant coming out of the closet.  He said that he believes his town, and the whole country, has changed so rapidly and so dramatically in their view of gays and gay issues because so many gay people—famous celebrities and ordinary people alike—have come out of the closet.  When straight people get to know gay people as individuals, colleagues, neighbors, and family members, their understanding of what it is to be gay changes.  As straight people come better to understand gay people, he said, their attitude about issues like gay marriage and gay adoption changes and their concerns about these issues tend to evaporate.

To come out, when to come out, how to come out, and to whom to come out all are very personal decisions.  Every gay person knows someone who has had major negative repercussions because he or she has come out.  Jobs are lost.  Friends are alienated.  Families are torn apart.  All these bad things do happen.  Most gay people, though, have much less dramatic coming out stories.  There may be difficult times, but generally these difficult times run their course and life becomes better because the gay person is free of the bondage of the closet.

Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk made coming out his gay political cause.  He saw the power that gay people could have if every gay person were known to be gay.  He also saw the need for young gay people to know that there are millions of other gay people in this country, and that most of them live peaceful lives.

I have a friend who is 68 years old.  He is gay and in a long–term relationship with his “roommate.”  He is retired from the U.S. Navy and is active in teaching meditation skills to people in the San Francisco area.  In my view, he has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by coming out.  I’ve been pleading with him to do just that ever since his retirement, fifteen years ago.  I was 40 when I came out.  He can be 68.  It’s still good.  He has over 30 nieces and nephews in his large Irish–American family, all of whom would benefit from his coming out.  He has two nephews who are out and proud gay men.  His family has traditional Catholics who have a problem with these gay men in their midst, but most of his family are professionals who welcome the honesty and health that these two young men display in their out gay lives.  My friend resists coming out because of the negative reaction he expects from the few traditional family members.  He wants to be on good terms with all his family as he enters the final stages of his life.  I am going to send him the link to this post.  He fully supports marriage equality and fought like hell against Proposition 8.  Maybe if he realizes that his coming out may make a difference in just one person’s view of gay marriage, he will do it.  Maybe he and his “roommate” can, after 25 years together, make it legal and get married!

It’s amazing to me that Mayor West has such a clear insight into this issue.  I always think of coming out as something that we all have to do for our own mental health and quality of life.  Mayor West, like Harvey Milk, gives coming out so much more weight than that.  He knows, as Harvey knew, that coming out is first and foremost a public political act, whether we individual gay men and women realize it or not.  We will never know whose life has been impacted by our honesty: a teenager in Pennsylvania, a voter in West Virginia, the father of a gay kid in Florida, or a State Senator voting on marriage equality in New York.

“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.” From a tape recording (1977) quoted by Randy Shilts in The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982), p. 372.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fathers Day Ramblings of a Gay Dad


One of my daughters says that she is afraid to get into a relationship with a nice man because she’s afraid he’ll turn out to be gay, like me.  She doesn’t tell me this, of course, because she would be afraid it would hurt me.  She tells her mother and her mother tells me.  It doesn’t hurt, strangely enough.  It makes me feel good in a way.  While I would want her to be open to all men to whom she is attracted, especially the nice ones, I am flattered that she apparently sees me as a good person.

This is one of the results of being an out gay father. . . turning my daughter against nice guys.  I regret that.

Other results I do not regret.  My daughters all are strong, independent, and successful women.  They live on their own.  They pursue their various careers.  They maintain their own relationships.  As far as I know, all of them are straight, but all of them are strong gay–rights supporters and friends of the gay community.  Several of them enjoy friendships with gay men.  None of them is uncomfortable being around gay culture, and they enjoy gay humor and camp.

I will never know entirely what impact my being gay has had on these four women.  I doubt that they have figured it out entirely for themselves yet.  I do know that their mother and I have made them aware of the varieties of relationships, affections, and sexual expressions.  Although one of them seems to be a Republican (I sometimes can’t sleep at night wondering where I went wrong with her), even she is an open, accepting, supportive person who supports marriage equality, anti–bullying, and other gay–related issues.  My one daughter who is married is married to a man who is entirely heterosexual (probably 0 on the Kinsey Scale), but who also is a strong supporter of gay rights.

I have so many memories of them confronting, or being confronted by, my gayness.

When they were in their early teens, they and friends of theirs discovered my gay porn stash.  I didn’t know about this until a few years later, after I came out to them.  When I came out to one of them, she said to me essentially that my coming out confirmed a lot of things in her mind, one of which was the obvious explanation she had concocted after discovering the porn.

Years later, this same daughter came to DC to have dinner with me.  She brought her then–boyfriend.  I took them to dinner at one of the best restaurants in the gayborhood in which I lived.  I forgot that the restaurant had a drag show on Saturday nights.  So my daughter and her friend were treated to a fairly decent show.  My daughter seemed to enjoy it.  Her boyfriend was miserable.  At one point, he put his head on his arms on the table.  He couldn’t watch any more.  We hurriedly finished out dinner and left.

I’ve taken them all to gay pride in DC and they all enjoyed the sights.  They all loved the Dupont Circle neighborhood in DC where I lived for a while—its stores, its restaurants, its beautiful men.  They all came to be right at home with the environment there, including some unusual things like the store that sold sex toys.  One daughter bought a supply of cum rags at that store to give to her male friends one Christmas.  That same daughter came back from a trip to some city up north and brought me as a gift the largest gay pride flag I now own.  For my birthday, it’s not unusual for them to give me cards with pictures of sexy men on the front.

As I hope I have been a support to them in their various difficulties, they have been huge supports to me when I have been depressed and lost after coming out.  Their acceptance and love for me have gotten me through some bad days and months.

I know that, each in her own way, all have suffered because of my being gay.  They had to hold their breaths while their mother and I developed a post–coming–out living arrangement.  They have had to integrate my gayness into an understanding of their relationships with me as they grew up, an integration that has raised questions for each of them.  One of them was attacked for having a gay pride sticker on her car.  They have had to face the questions of friends.  They have put up with all the negative shit with a kindness and maturity that is amazing to me.  Each one in her own way has shown loyalty, strength, and love in the face of the unpleasantness that my being gay has caused them.  None of them holds it against me.

After I came out, I went through a period where I thought that my life before coming out had been wasted, and that I was living a life meant for someone else, meant for a straight man.  That thought has gradually disappeared, replaced with an understanding that I lived the life that was presented to me, through the eyes of my very naive and screwed–up self.  I made many mistakes before coming out, but I didn’t make any choices that I knew to be bad or harmful.  I did the best I could.  I think the girls know that.

And what I know more than anything else at this stage of my life is that the life I have lived is far richer than any other life I could have had for one simple reason: if I had come out when I was in my teens or twenties, I never would have been the father to these four amazing women.  Having had a part in bringing them into the world, and then bringing them to adulthood, has been the best thing ever to have happened to me.  I am blessed.  I am lucky.  I am gifted by these four women.

I love them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rowolf



I have a crystal rock that my daughter, Beni, gave me several years ago.  I use it as my focal point for meditation every day.  I learnbed this technique from a friend in Florida who in turn was taught the technique by a Native American shaman.  I try to lose myself in the facets of this rock, and ultimately quiet all my brain chatter so I can have at least 15 minutes of inner quiet.  The rock, whose name is Rowolf, is in the photo that is to the left of this text.

Tonight, Rowolf and I had a rough time.  I was thinking first about my health, then about my daughter, Annie, who will be moving to Williamsburg, Virginia, this summer, and finally about a posting on FaceBook this morning from a young gay man in the mid–West who is having a hard time being gay in a very fundamentalist environment.

Finally, Rowolf did her magic, and I was quiet.  The peace that came to me was strange.  Gradually, I realized that everything my mind had been busy worrying about was essentially one thing: I was worried about things over which I have absolutely no ultimate control.  I can see my doctor and do what she tells me to do, but I’m still—sooner or later—going to get sick and die, regardless of how well I take care of myself.  Annie is 28 and she is going to move with her fiancé, get married, and have a life in which I will play a minor role.  She has been taking care of herself for a lot of years now, and she will make her decisions, and all I can do is love her and hope for the best for her.  The kid in the mid–West is the person about whom my worries are most useless.  I don’t even know him.  He may not be who he says he is (although I doubt that).  He is going to make his way through the coming–out process in his own way, in his own time, and with his own strength.  In the face of all the things about which I was worried, I am totally helpless.  The only thing I can do is wish Annie and the mid–West kid the best and make sure both know that I am on their side.  The only thing I can do in the face of my mortality is to accept it and to make the most of each day.  I can change nothing.  All I can do is accept.  This wasn’t a new realization, of course.  It just came to me in a strange way.

I remembered what a very liberal friend of mine—a Christian socialist, as a matter of fact—told me about American politics a few weeks ago.  Politics are not the reality, he said.  Politics are the game societies play.  The reality of a society isn’t how the government is structured or peopled.  The reality of a society is how its members—including its government—take care of one another.  While I should fight injustice and act for justice and generosity in this country, I shouldn’t let the game overwhelm me.  At the end of the day, each day, my friend suggested, I should look to see if I did anything at all to make somebody else’s life better.  I need to act to make one single minute contribution to someone’s life much more than I need to fight, or analyze, or otherwise play the game.

This advice was the answer my inner voice gave to me tonight when I was able to shut down my noisy mind and listen.  If I spend my day looking for an opportunity to make a single specific contribution for the better for someone else, then I will spend much less time worrying about problems over which I have no control.  My priorities are the opposite, I think.  I give myself over to worry about the fundamentalists, the republicans, the teabaggers, and the homophobes, and, if I do anything to make a positive change for someone else, it’s almost beside the point.  As a result, the things I try to do for other people tend to be less thought out, less valuable, less loving.  Let the republicans and the teabaggers and the homophobes do their damnest.  I certainly can’t do anything about them.  What I can do is give my mother two hours on the telephone, if that is what she wants, and really have a conversation with her rather than half–listen to what she’s saying.  What I can do is take the time, and take the risk, of listening to a young gay man’s repeated complaints because no one else will listen to him and no one else in his life can understand, even though I’ve heard it all from him 100 times before.  What I can do is take a real interest in the people, including my own daughters, who want to tell me what their life is, listening and being positive and offering no advice whatsoever.  If I do these things, my Rowolf voice told me, then I won’t have so much time to worry about things that I have no business worrying about anyway.

That’s where I am at 64 years of age.  I have to be told time and time again that all control is an illusion, that life is a gift not a certainty, and that I am made for others, not for myself.  People learn these things in high school psychology, if not sooner.  Not me!!!  I fight all the time to be in charge, even though I know I never have been in charge and never will be.  I am a leaf on a lake, going where the tide takes me.  Period.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Rant In the Matter of Religion v. Spirituality


The FaceBook page, Proud to be Filthy Liberal Scum (one of Justin Rosario’s pages, of course), had a brief discussion yesterday about atheists and morality.  That discussion reminded me that I get annoyed all the time at the lack of precision in the use of the word “religion,” especially when I am in a discussion about “religious” people trying to do bad things to other people.

So I decided to rant a little about this topic.

Dictionary.com defines religion this way: “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”

Wikipedia defines it another way: “Religion is a cultural system that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and moral values.   Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.”

Merrian Webster Online defines it as: “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”

I was taught in my Latin and Theology classes that the English word "religion” comes from the Latin noun religio, which, in turn, comes from the verb ligare, meaning “to bind or tie to.”  Wikipedia agrees with what I was taught, and gives this interesting tidbit: “According to the philologist Max Müller, the root of the English word ‘religion’, the Latin religio, was originally used to mean only ‘reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety’ (which Cicero further derived to mean "diligence"). . ."  Note that the original meaning had nothing to do with pious morality.

So. . . what have we here?

Religion at its core isn’t about morality.  It’s a world view informed by the particular religion’s perception of its god(s).  Religion includes first of all a theology (a shared understanding of the nature of the divine being or beings it worships), then a cosmology (a view of the universe, its creation, its structure, its history, and its future), a set or moral standards based on theology, and a set of norms for the worship of the deity or deities.

Religion is first and foremost concerned about those things that the human soul must do to bind itself to the divine.  Flowing from that are all other aspects of a religion.  Religious morality is designed to guide the soul in its relationship to its god(s).  Religious morality is in the ten commandments.  Religious morality is in the behavioral strictures imposed by the canon law of the Catholic Church.  Religious morality is in the requirements imposed by the Koran for prayer.  Religious morality is really religious law.  It tells the soul what it must do to bind itself to its god(s), or, to put it in Roman Catholic terms, what it must do to stay in a “state of grace.”

Religious morality is not spirituality.  Religious morality does not require the soul to love its gods.  It, rather, requires the soul to honor, obey, and maybe even fear its gods.

Religion is communal.  It is a set of beliefs and practices shared by people who accept the god(s) whom the religion worships.  Spirituality, on the other hand, tends to be individualistic and interior to the person.  Spirituality to some extent is “sharable,” as St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila did in their writings about their individual search for the divine.  As a professor from China taught us young seminarians so long ago, “Religion binds; spirituality loves.”

Wikipedia again: “In a wide variety of traditions, spirituality is seen as a path toward one or more of the following: a higher state of awareness, perfection of one's own being, wisdom, or communion with God or with creation. Plato's Allegory of the Cave, which appears in book VII of The Republic, is a description of such a journey, as are the writings of Teresa of Avila. It often includes the practice of disciplines such as meditation, prayer, fasting, following a spiritual preceptor, the reading of sacred texts, etc. Spirituality includes both inner growth and the outward manifestation of this growth.  The Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba stated that, ‘the spiritual path is like climbing up to the mountain top through hills and dales and thorny woods and along steep and dangerous precipices. If there is one thing which is most necessary for a safe and sure arrival at the top, it is love. All other qualities which are essential for the aspirants of the Highest can and must come to them if they faithfully follow the whispers of the unerring guide of love.’”

The outward manifestations of spiritual growth would include such things as changes in behavior, changes in social interactions, or changes in a person’s concerns for the poor, the wretched, the reviled.

The definition of spirituality isn’t linked to a belief in any god(s) or to a membership in any religion.  Spirituality is a person’s inner struggle for enlightenment, peace, understanding, acceptance of reality, etc., etc.

Atheists are not, of course, religious.  They don’t follow the theology of any group.  Most atheists I know are, however, spiritual.  They look into themselves to find an anchor, a compass, a set of criteria against which to measure their own and others’ behavior, and by which to understand the vicissitudes of human life.  Most atheists I know, then, are moral in that they live their lives trying to show those beautiful human qualities their inner dialog has taught them are good.  Without the given laws and rules of a religion, I believe that atheists are forced to be spiritual; the only place they are going to find rules for life is in the depths of their individual humanity.

Many religious people also are spiritual.  I don’t mean to say that religion and spirituality are exclusive of one another.  I mean to say that many, many people are deeply spiritual without being at all religious, or even theistic.

The other side of the coin, unfortunately, also is true.  Many people are fervently religious without being at all spiritual.
Jesus, in Matthew 23/27–28, addresses the difference between religion and spirituality: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”  Jesus had to deal with televangelists of a sort, too.


Christian fundamentalists are religious, without question.  They bind themselves to god by the ten commandments and by the rules and regulations imposed by their particular religious branch and their specific preacher.  Many of them don’t appear to be spiritual, though.  They interpret scripture like a judge interprets the law: “Scripture says what it says, and I’m sorry if you don’t like it.”  They hold on tight to their formulations of religious belief because that is all they have.  Not for them the scary interior work that spirituality requires.  Not for them the life–changing awareness that deep spirituality always brings.  Not for them the humility that real self–understanding always includes.  They and they alone have the laws of god.  They and they alone, following those laws, are good.  They and they alone are worthy of blessing.

End of rant!  Happy Pride month, dear readers!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Arnett Winfrey Hawkins, My Dad (on his 87th Birthday)



Had my father lived, today would have been his 87th birthday.  He was born on June 9, 1924, in Woodville, Virginia, a small town in the shadow of the glorious Blue Ridge Mountains.

When he was 5 or 6, his youngest brother, Herbert, playing with matches, burned down the house in which Dad and his sister and five brothers lived  with my grandfather, Henry, and my grandmother, Lucy.  My grandfather bought some land half–way between Washington, Virginia (known as “Little Washington”) and the town of Sperryville, Virginia.  The land and the wonderful home my grandfather built there also were in the shadow of the great mountains.

When Dad was nine, his father was killed.  Dad had been one of his father’s favorites.  My grandmother told me that Henry would take my Dad everywhere with him.  When his father died, my Dad was crushed and, in my opinion, never really got over it.  He would tell my brother and me stories about his father that made it very clear that Henry was Dad’s first and greatest hero.

Eight or nine years after my grandfather’s death, my grandmother, with the help of her oldest son, had gone through all the money that she had received when Henry died.  She had to sell her Sperryville home—to my Aunt Pauline and Pauline’s husband, Jack—and she bought a large townhouse on East Capitol Street in Washington, D. C., seven blocks from the U.S. Capitol.  My Dad did not want to move to DC with his mother.  He had grown to love horses.  He cared for the horses that his family owned, and he rode with the Rappahannock Hunt, a group of horse fanciers who enjoyed fox hunting.  For Dad to leave the home his father had built, and his horses, was a second huge trauma for him.

Dad was in High School in DC when World War II started.  In June, 1942, he graduated and became fodder for the draft.  He did his best to avoid the draft, going so far as to travel by train across country to Washington State, where he tried to get a job with the airplane industry.  Such a job would have exempted him from the draft.  He failed at getting such a job, and the exemption, so he joined the Army Air Corps.  He served in Europe, but, as far as I know, he was never involved in combat.  He worked from the rear, maintaining planes that others flew into combat.

After the war ended, Dad returned to his mother’s home in DC.  There he met my mother, who, with her sister Marie, was a WAVE and a roomer in my grandmother’s home.  Mom says that Dad at that time was “cute” and that she fell in love with him.  I’m not sure what would have happened had Mom not become pregnant (with me), but my sense is that they would not have married otherwise.  My Dad’s family hated Yankees and Catholics, both of which my mother was.  My Mom’s family did not like Dad from the minute they set eyes on him.  Still, the pregnancy trumped personal feelings and prejudices, and they married.  I was born in January, 1947.  My brother, Bob, came along in March, 1949.

My parents’ marriage was a mess almost from the beginning.  Dad was very insecure.  Anytime my mother did something out of Dad’s sight, Dad was convinced that she was having an affair with somebody.  This insecurity persisted, and worsened, throughout their marriage until Dad’s death.  Mom tried several times to leave him and get a divorce, but she always changed her mind.  She didn’t believe she could afford raising two boys just on her salary as a secretary.

Dad had a ferocious temper that would go off with little or even no provocation.  He was emotionally and psychologically abusive to my mother, my brother, and me.  From the time we were very little, my brother and I knew to fear Dad and to avoid him if possible.  With me (and only me), he added physical abuse.  He would smack me around for no reason that I or my mother could determine.  I have forgotten most of these incidents, but my brother hasn’t.  My brother still has nightmares about Dad’s hitting me.  He remembers just about every instance.  When he recounts one of these episodes, I most often will remember it, but only because my brother brings it up.  I guess I blocked these things.

Dad was a heavy drinker.  He and my mother had a house on seven acres in the country in Loudoun County, Virginia.  The property had a barn where Dad would spend a lot of his time during the day.  He retired at the age of 47 (some disability claim), and, after retirement, most of his waking time was spent in the barn.  It was there that he kept his alcohol.  He died of cirrhosis of the liver.  His death certificate had as a contributing cause of death “chronic severe alcoholism.”  When I saw that, I was flabbergasted.  I never knew Dad to be drunk.  My mother says that what I need to say is that I never knew him to be sober.

My brother and I over the years independently have reached the conclusion that our father was gay.  There are so very many indicators of it.  He had a long and exclusive relationship with a married dentist that kept the two of them away from their families for almost every weekend while we were growing up.  They spoke for hours on the phone during the week, and they would get together during the week at least once.  Dad, as a kid, was taunted by his macho brothers for being a sissy because he was skinny and he liked to read.  Other things, too, convince my brother and me that Dad was deeply in the closet.  That would explain a lot of his raging, unfathomable anger, as well as his deep insecurity.

Dad did give me some positive things.  He was thrilled at my academic achievement.  He would take my seminary report cards into his office and bore his colleagues with them.  He told me many times how much he admired the work I did in school.  He allowed me to come to love the country in which he was born and raised.  I spent many summers during my teen years with my Aunt Pauline in the house my grandfather had built in Sperryville.  To this day, I believe that is some of the most beautiful country on earth.  He contributed to my love of reading.  Dad read always, even, apparently, when he was drunk.  Our house was full of books when I was growing up: fiction, history, politics, and biographies.  He made me appreciate careful handling of money and budgeting, an appreciation that has seen me safely through some tough times.

On the whole, though, I am not mourning Dad today.  My mother, my brother, and I each have had to deal with Dad’s memory since his death.  Each of us has done this, and the way I would describe our dealing is that we all have closed the door on most of our memories of our life with Dad.

Still, he was my father, he was a wounded man, and today is his birthday.  My wish for him is that he has found that peace in death that eluded him always in life.
Dad and I, c 1973 (sorry about the tie!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

reichpublican sexual scoundrels through history: an informal tour

The following list of reichpublican sex scoundrels was compiled by a guy whose nom d'internet is "Damon."  He posted this list as a comment on a story concerning Rep Anthony Weiner.  I haven't checked these for accuracy, but I know that some of them are absolutely true.  I post them here as an indication of the horrible hypocrisy atqork in Mr. Weiner's case.


"Damon" writes:

The difference between Weiner, who is an idiot, and past republican scandals is illegality. . .

Mark Foley
U.S. Representative
(September 28, 2006)

The Crime: Sending sexually laced, gramatically challenged instant messages and e-mails to teenaged boys in the Congressional page program for more than 10 years.
The Hypocrisy: Chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. One of the foremost opponents of child pornography in the Senate.
The Quote: “get a ruler and measure it for me”

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Ted Haggard
Leader of the National Association of Evangelicals
(November 2006)

The Crime: Paying male prostitutes for sex and snorting crystal meth.

Now admits he's bisexual.
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Larry Craig
U.S. Senator
Senate Liason for Mitt Romney’s Presidential Campaign
(June 11, 2007)

The Crime: Soliciting sex from an undercover cop in an airport bathroom

The Hypocrisy: Craig twice voted against adding the words “sexual orientation” to the federal hate crimes law. Craig also voted to give states the right to refuse to recognize gay marriage–a right they already had, but the Senator wanted to really, really prove he didn’t like gay people.

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Bob Allen
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
Florida Chairman of John McCain’s Presidential Campaign
(July 11, 2007)

The Crime: Offering an undercover cop $20 to allow Allen to blow him in a men’s room in a public park. After being arrested, Allen tried to explain that he only offered to blow the cop because the cop was a “burly black man” and he “didn’t want to become a statistic.”

The Hypocrisy: Allen was one of 21 Florida legislators to sign Gov. Jeb Bush’s friend-of-the-court brief supporting the state’s ban on gays adopting children, and he co-sponsored an unsuccessful bill that would have enhanced penalties for “offenses involving unnatural and lascivious acts” such as indecent exposure.

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Republican Congressman, Rep. Ken Calvert,Riverside,Ca.,

was found with a prostitute in his car –incidently, he immediately lied as to who and what he was– by a Corona Ca. police officer after having bargained his rather young (although legal age)street walker into doing that which they were discovered to be doing for less than $15.00. He is a millionaire.

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Roy Cohn and G.David Schoen

and their quest against homosexuals and Comunists in the Army on behalf of Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsen and after Roy Cohn’s fellow aid and boyfreind Schoen (pronounced “Shine”) was denied preferrential treatment by the Army during Schoen’s basic training
duty; they would not allow him to ride in the cab of a truck while the rest of his unit rode in back, and would not allow him to wear a unissued fur trimmed hood when noone else had one. Cohn started the contraversy by getting Senator McCarthy to called of the first televised Congressional hearings in history!
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A 1970′s Congresswoman Elizabeth Holzman discovered gay Republican Congressmen and their aids “nude sunbathing” (or something) on the House Portico –for that she was given a position on the House Judiciarry Committeee that she would have waited decades to get otherwise (they five new positions to give a spot). (She retired later and wrote a current book on impeachment–this happened during the Watergate Scandal.) It seems that a higher percentage of gays in both the House and Senate were conservative and Republicans, than Democrats, and all of this raises the issue as to whether or not the right wing, on personal basis, subscribes to their policies so as to seem to be more “straight” and to hide their sexuality and to compensate for being “gay”.

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In Wisconsin, Republican state Senator Randy Hopper,

while claiming to still live with his wife, was actually living outside the district he represents with a much younger 25-year-old mistress. In early 2011, the mistress was hired by a conservative lobbyist firm and given a state employee's job at rate of pay much higher than the previous person doing the job.
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Roy Ashburn,

the conservative Republican California state senator, who was arrested in March of 2010 for drunk driving after reportedly leaving a gay bar, has acknowledged that he is gay. Ashburn, a divorced father of four, has repeatedly voted in opposition to gay rights, and in 2005 hosted a rally in favor of "traditional marriage." He has voted against expanding anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation, recognizing out-of-state gay marriages and establishing a day honoring gay lawmaker Harvey Milk.

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Mike Duvall,

a Republican politician and a former member of the California State Assembly, resigned after his sex comments were broadcast in Sept. 2009. In the video, the married family-values crusader from Yorba Linda talks in graphic detail about women he said he slept with -- at least one of whom appeared to be a lobbyist with business before the utilities committee on which Duvall sat as vice chairman.

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Mark Sanford,

governor of South Carolina, disappears during Father's Day weekend, returning to confess an extramarital affair in Argentina.

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John Ensign,

Senator from Nevada, resigned only when it was clear he would be expelled from the Senate after confessing to an extramarital affair with a married staffer, claiming she was trying to extort him.[16] Later, it was learned he was attempting to pay her and her husband off through his parents and finding them jobs.

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Alan David Berlin,

He is an aide for Senator Jane Orie of Pennsylvania. He is also a furry who contacted a fifteen year old boy over the internet, and offered to "yiff" the boy in a panda outfit, while his parents weren't home. The parents discovered the graphic emails on the boy's computer and called the attorney general's child predator unit sometime in May. Police raided his home and discovered various furry outfits such as a wolf costume, as well as a cat outfit; all complete with two holes cut out at the undersides of the costumes. He is now arraigned in Dauphin County jail on a $250,000 bail.
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Matthew Joseph Elliott,

former aide to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was convicted of sexual exploitation of a child.

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Vito Fossella,

the only Republican member of Congress from New York City, admitted to police to having a child out-of-wedlock when stopped for drunk driving.

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Robert McKee,

Republican delegate from Western Maryland, announced his resignation after authorities seized two computers, videotapes and printed materials from his Hagerstown home in a child pornography investigation. McKee also resigned his position as executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County.

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Derek Walker,

former Eagle Scout and candidate seeking the GOP nomination in a race for north-central Pennsylvania district, was charged with felony burglary and criminal trespass stemming from an encounter last year with an ex-girlfriend, during which he allegedly broke into her home and used his cell phone to videotape her engaged in an intimate moment with another man.

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John David Roy Atchison,

Republican prosecutor, was arrested for soliciting sex from a 5-year old girl, then killed himself three weeks later. At the time of his arrest, Atchison was an "assistant U.S. attorney" appointed by President Bush's attorney general.

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John Bryan,

Republican city councilman, killed himself after police began investigating allegations that he had molested three girls, including two of his adopted daughters, ages 12 and 15.

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John R. Curtin,

Monroe County state Republican committeeman, was convicted of molesting an underage teenage boy and sentenced to serve six to 18 months in prison.

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Donald Fleischman,

Brown County, WI, Republican Party Chairman, resigned his post after he was charged with two counts of child enticement, two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a child and a single charge of exposing himself to a child.

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Glenn Murphy Jr.,

chairman of the Clark County Republican Party and president of the Young Republican National Federation, resigned both posts, after the Clark County Sheriff’s Department began investigating Murphy for alleged criminal deviate conduct. A 22-year-old man claimed that Murphy performed an unwanted sex act on him while the man slept in a relative’s Jeffersonville home. During the investigation, a similar accusation from 1998 came to light.

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Armando Tebano,

Schenectady County Republican Chairman, pleaded guilty to fondling a 14-year-old girl.

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Steve Aiken,

campaign manager for a Republican candidate for Congress in Arizona, former Quakertown, PA, police officer and self-proclaimed reverend, was convicted of having sex with two underage girls.
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Louis Beres,

chairman of the Christian Coalition of Oregon. 3 of his family members accuse him of molesting them when they were pre-teens. In August 06, Beres confessed.
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Jim Gibbons,

then US Rep. and Republican candidate for governor, was accused by a Las Vegas casino ****tail waitress of grabbing her, shoving her against a wall and threatening her after she rebuffed his advances.[61][62] Since elected Governor, Gibbons is under investigation by the FBI on corruption charges and is embroiled in what looks set to become a very messy divorce.
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Don Haidl,

Assistant Sheriff of Orange Country, in violation of California's rape shield law, led a smear campaign against the child his son poisoned and then violently gang-raped on videotape, adding up to 24 felony counts. He said that his son "acted accordingly" because the child was a "slut".

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Jeffrey Ray Nielsen,

Christian conservative activist and lawyer with close ties to Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Scott Baugh, head of the Orange County Republican Party, was arrested for having sex with a 14-year old boy.

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Jeffrey Patti,

local Republican Committee chairman from Sparta, NJ, was arrested for distributing what experts call "some of the most offensive material in the child pornography world" - a video clip of a 5-year-old girl being raped.

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Brent Schepp,

Republican County Board Candidate was charged with molesting a 14-year old girl and killed himself three days later.
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Adelphia Communications Corp.:

Donated large sums of money to some of the most conservative members of Congress. They are also the first cable company to offer hard-core adult movies to subscribers.

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John Gosek

Republican Mayor of Oswego, N.Y.was arrested after paying a confidential informant $250 to introduce him to two 15-year-old girls at a hotel.

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Dr. W. David Hager

Bush appointee, member of Focus on the Family's Physician Resource Council, player in movement to ban the morning-after-pill. Had an adulterous affair, before divorcing his wife he sexually abused her, including sodomizing her in her sleep.
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Neal Horsley

has called for the arrest of all homosexuals. During an interview with Alan Colmes on the Fox News Radio's The Alan Colmes Show, he admitted to having engaged in sex with a mule at age 11. "When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule," he said.
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Jeff Miller, (R-Cleveland),

Senate Republican Caucus Chairman in Tennessee and the sponsor of Tennessee’s Marriage Protection act, getting divorced (as of April 2005) because of an affair he was having with an office aid. Miller described the Tennessee Marriage Protection Act as a means of preserving the sanctity of marriage. He opposed an amendment, however, which stated that “Adultery is deemed to be a threat to the institution of marriage and contrary to public policy in Tennessee.”

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Jeffrey Kyle Randall,

Republican Mayor of Clarkfield, Minnesota, was sentenced to 275 days in jail for molesting two boys--ages ten and 12--during a six-year period.
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Don Sherwood,

Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Eventually admitted to an affair with a woman 30 years younger than him, after she accused him of physical abuse and attempting to choke her.
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Bobby Stumbo,

former Floyd County, KY, Republican Party leader, was arrested for having sex with a 5-year old boy.
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Jim West, Spokane Mayor.

Supported a bill, which failed, would have barred gays and lesbians from working in schools, day-care centers and some state agencies. Voted to bar the state from distributing pamphlets telling people how to protect themselves from AIDS. Proposed that “any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person” among teens be criminalized. Had a sexual affair with an 18 year old boy.
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What Would Jesus Do? A Sentimental Meditation on Mr. Weiner


At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.  But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said.  "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."   (John 8/2-11)

When I was a Franciscan novice, we had two periods of silent meditation in chapel each day:  one in the early morning, one in the evening before supper.  For a lot of my novitiate year, I meditated on the scripture from John’s Gospel, above.  Twice a day, every day, for months.

The business with Congressman Weiner and the harsh reaction of so many people – Democratic and Republican – made me think of this story often throughout the day today.

I notice that, after Jesus challenged the Pharisees, they all walked away, “the older ones first.”  As I get older, I find it more and more difficult to judge anyone else’s personal behavior.  So much contributes to behavior such as that to which Mr. Weiner confessed yesterday.  If he is at all like I am, he probably won’t be aware of all the causes of his behavior until months and years from now.

I have lived a long time, I have failed more than I have succeeded, and I have hurt more people than I have helped.  I have hurt the worst those who love me the most.  I have done stupid, thoughtless things.  I have been selfish and uncaring.  I have been, and often still am, an asshole.

I am lucky, though.  I have been forgiven.  Not one of the people whom I have most hurt has failed to forgive me.  The motivation for their forgiveness often eludes me, but I know their forgiveness is real, and I know I have been given the chance to “leave my life of sin.”

This business with Mr. Weiner just sucks.  People all over the place are yelling for him to resign.  People are judging his mental state without having ever met him.  People are turning on him for many reasons, most of which I am sure are valid.

Forgiveness is a gift.  The word “pardon” comes ultimately from the Latin phrase “per donam,” which means by way of a gift.  Gifts are freely given.  Gifts aren’t deserved.  If something is given that is deserved, it isn’t a gift.  The Gospel story of the woman caught in adultery shows Jesus not only pardoning the poor woman, but also showing the bystanders that they also have been guilty of bad behavior and they also have been pardoned. . . by their wives, by their society, by their god. . . pardoned. . . forgiven.

Mr. Weiner may have his character flaws.  They say he has a volatile temper and has huge turnover on his staff.  He may be juvenile in his sexual obsessions.  By his own admission, he has been a bastard to his wife.

He also has been a great advocate for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the vulnerable in this country.  He has used his great intellect to speak effectively on the issues that I and so many of my family and friends consider to be vital.  He is a passionate fighter for justice and fairness.  Isn’t he worthy of a second chance here?  Isn’t he a right recipient of the gift of forgiveness?  His life is now, and probably will be for a while, hell.  He suffers and his family suffers.  If Jesus came upon Mr. Weiner today, and all the modern Pharisees were circling Mr. Weiner with stones at the ready, what would Jesus do? 

What would Jesus do?  “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at him," Jesus would say to all of us, Mr. Weiner’s countrymen.  At this, we, having heard Jesus, would go away, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with Anthony still standing there.  Jesus would straighten up and ask him, "Anthony, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"  "No one, sir," Anthony would reply. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus would say. "Go now and leave your life of sin."