Author Archives: Gary Lorentzen

About Gary Lorentzen

Vietnam Vet, B.A. The Evergreen State College, Olympia WA. 1975. Teacher Certification/History, Univ of Wash, Seattle, 1978. German major, Portland State Univ. 1986 (Deutsche Sommerschule am Pazifik), M.A., Germanics, Univ of Wash. 1989. German Instructor, Portland State Univ + Chemeketa College (Salem), 1991-92. Retired high school German teacher, 2013, Vancouver, WA. Married to Dan Koperski; we live in Portland OR.

Foreword to the Queer Astrology Conference Journal

It has been a year now since the first Queer Astrology Conference took place in San Francisco and it is perhaps time to reflect on what happened there, how it came to be and where it will lead us into the future. There was an initial gathering of interested astrologers last spring in San Francisco, whose discussions and idea-sharing led to the planning of the summer conference. There was surprise expressed by many that there had not been a Queer Astrology Conference before 2013. After all, academic studies in Queer theory and Feminist theory have been part of mainstream intellectual efforts for more than thirty years now, and gays and feminists long ago found a kinship with astrology and astrological studies. So, why was there this cultural lag within the astrological community that has taken so long to bring Queerness and Feminism into mainstream astrological inquiry and criticism, at least to the degree that there could be a Queer Astrology Conference in 2013?

A thorough answer to that question is probably more complicated than what can be outlined in a foreword to these transcripts of last year’s Queer Astrology Conference. There probably needs to be a serious academic study of the history of feminists, gay people and their contributions to the field of astrology. However, there are rather common-sense suggestions for possible answers to the question based on the remembrances and insights of those older astrologers who began moving astrology in a new, humanistic direction in the late 1960s and 1970s, and who knew very well most of the gay and queer astrologers of the period. To that end, my conversations with Donna Cunningham, Alan Oken, Diana Stone, and Erin Sullivan helped me remember some of the queer and feminist astrologers who shaped the study and discipline of astrological practice. They reminded me that the struggle for civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights of that period opened up the previous astrological community to hippies, a new generation of intellectual and well-educated astrologers, Blacks, young Feminists and Gay men. This new generation of astrologers began integrating their life-experiences and their education into astrological practice, and as a result, new astrological theories and ideas began influencing the world of astrology. New concepts like Marc Robertson’s ‘Cosmopsychology’ and Michael Meyer’s ‘Humanistic Astrology’, the influence of classical mythology and archetypes presented by Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung in re-interpreting planets and their roles in human behavior, as well as the continued work in depth psychology originally introduced by Dane Rudhyar in the 1930s (‘The Astrology of Personality’) and promoted and further developed by Liz Green, Howard Sasportas, et al, all served to bring a new astrological culture and a new body of literature into being. Part of this period of innovation included a large number of gay men and women who proved to be a driving force behind this new humanistic approach to astrology.

In spite of the queer and feminist influence in the new humanistic approaches, being openly gay was still problematic in astrological circles in the 1970s and 1980s. In spite of the very nature of astrology, most students and practitioners were not that open to knowing who was queer, much less having open discussions about it. Initially, all of the queer astrologers stayed quite closeted. This was reflected in the society at large, but when the AIDS epidemic began, it decimated the ranks of our gay astrologers. No fewer than fifteen gay professionals died during the epidemic and the initial impetus for a Queer Astrology died with them. Millions died across the country and queer people began to get angry at the lack of response and the general prejudice and ignorance. It became necessary to act up and act out—and that meant change the culture to accept ‘coming out’ as a part of the queer experience. This also began to happen in the astrological community. Gay astrologers began outing themselves, because it was clear that silence meant death. Open discussion, recognition and honest discourse were the goals for those of us who were still alive. Although things began changing in the country and around the world, within astrological circles coming out didn’t seem to make much of an impact. In the final analysis, we had simply lost too many of our most important queer astrologers to AIDS and there just weren’t enough voices left to bring the message home.

That does not change the fact that many gay men were behind the humanistic and psychological approaches to astrological interpretation and they were, in fact, the first phases of what we would now call the ‘queering’ of astrology. However, once we lost so many of our great astrologers in the ’80s-90s, we also lost the momentum in developing a body of openly queer literature, theory and criticism. Without their presence, inspiration and charisma, queerness in astrology simply languished. The global astrological community simply did not evolve any further in its understanding of queer people and their lives. Interpretations of the birth chart most often reflected the archaic, pathological view of queer sexuality as inverted, perverted, confused or simply willful rebellion. Astrologers were still telling people that their sexual identity could be found in the birth chart. Both gay astrologers and gay clientele were still being alienated by those so-called experts who had such answers for them. In fact, many astrologers still believe and maintain that they can find ‘homosexuality’ in the birth chart. This fact alone makes it clear that the process of queering astrology is not complete—we still have hard work ahead of us. However, there is now a new generation of astrologers that has been influenced by Queer and Feminist theory, and they are part of a larger cultural shift that includes and integrates queer and gay people into our mainstream, everyday life. They are open-minded, filled with empathy and new life and intellectual experiences that are beginning to change astrological attitudes, culture and practice, just as my generation did back in the 1970s. They have made it a goal in this postmodern world to deconstruct astrological interpretation and practice and renovate it with queer and feminist theory and criticism. They have begun anew where the older generations’ queer and gay astrologers and their efforts left off.

The Queer Astrology Conference of 2013 was a first step in bringing these new efforts into focus. Their influence is beginning to be felt at mainstream conferences where even the older generation has begun talking about sexuality and relationships in a new light that is colored somewhat queerly. So, I applaud and encourage their efforts here to continue the work that was begun decades ago, work that was influenced by queer and feminist theory, but that unfortunately was left incomplete after the tragic impact of AIDS in our astrological community. The challenge is to develop a new body of astrological literature that will reflect what has happened here and now, as well as fulfill the dream of the previous generation of queer astrologers. This current movement to queer astrology, to organize conferences, and to create a new mode of interpretation must result in the publication of these ideas in our collective body of astrological work. This book is clearly a first effort in creating our future and an excellent start in educating our colleagues as to the nature of the vision.
Gary Lorentzen

Is the West to Blame for Russia’s Actions in the Ukraine?

Today is Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A recent article by John J. Mearsheimer (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141769/john-j-mearsheimer/why-the-ukraine-crisis-is-the-wests-fault) blames the U.S. and the E.U. for Putin’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine. His basic theory is that the ‘West’ moved into Eastern Europe by allowing countries there to join the EU and NATO. This is a direct threat to Russia and when the pro-Russian president of Ukraine was ousted over developing closer ties to the EU and a new pro-West president took over, that was too much for Russia and now Putin has to set things ‘right.’ His first step to setting things right was to take Crimea. He has also made a concerted propaganda effort to discredit the new Ukrainian administration by calling them ‘fascists’ and saying the ouster of the pro-Russian president was ‘illegal.’ And now, of course, he’s launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine which could lead to a full declaration of war between the two countries. And all of this, according to Mearsheimer, can be blamed on the U.S. and the E.U.

Although I understand the point of view, and I think it’s true that Eastern European countries have wanted to join the EU and NATO, the crisis still comes down to Putin’s desired hegemony and a reconstituted Russian empire. And it’s probably true a handful of Ukrainian politicians are extremely right-wing, but that label coming from Putin merely means those politicians in Kiev are extremely anti-Russian.  I would submit that Putin’s cult of personality, inappropriate take over of the media, state assassinations of journalists, the collusion of the government with the oil industry, the desire to recreate a Russian empire and ‘golden age’, and the scapegoating of the Russian LGBT community with laws that read like the anti-Jewish laws of the 30s in Germany, all sound a helluva lot more ‘fascist’ than anything coming out of Kiev. 

Russia would have attempted to rebuild the Russian empire with or without instigation from the West–Putin made that clear in his first run for President. In fact, his announced desire to make Russia a world power again preceded any expansion of the West into E. Europe, which happened at the request of those E. European countries who wanted protection from Moscow’s reach and clearly articulated intentions. I’ve always questioned whether it was wise for the EU or NATO to expand in the region, but I think it’s a leap of logic and a misinterpretation of the history to lay the blame on the EU and NATO for the Ukrainian crisis. It is, after all, still Russia that is invading a sovereign nation that doesn’t want anything to do with Moscow. Some apologists for Putin are likening the crisis to ‘tough love’, which presupposes a familial bond. There has never been a familial bond between Ukrainians and Russians; the history between them is brutal and grievous. Ukrainians never accepted well their forced inclusion in the Soviet Union, the murder of 1.3 million Ukrainians under Stalin, and the cynical attempt to assuage their hatred by giving them Crimea in the 1950s. But now Russia, as a non-communist country, wants to continue this paternalistic treatment of the Ukrainians, and that is not the fault of the ‘West.’

Whatever sympathy I had for Russia’s situation vis a vis the West disappeared with Putin’s ‘reminder’ that Russia was still a major nuclear weapons power. That kind of asinine Cold War rhetoric is not helpful and reveals Putin’s immature emotional state. It makes everyone sit up and wonder what this loose cannon will do next. You can’t blame the West for this situation. If Russia hadn’t expressed the desire to rebuild its empire back in the 1990s, the Eastern European countries wouldn’t have sought refuge in the EU and NATO. If Putin hadn’t behaved so badly as President, his ‘sphere of influence’ would have stayed relatively intact. If Putin and the Russians hadn’t descended into their frightening nationalism, their neighbors may not have looked elsewhere for their international relations. Because Putin now decides to act like a paternalistic bully over his loss of influence in the region, is not a reason to blame the U.S. and the E.U.

Liberals, Conservatives and Confederates

Today is Friday, August 15, 2014

I’m sitting here this morning drinking my usual cup of coffee and perusing the headlines from across the nation and the world, thinking nothing has really changed much. I turn sixty-four this week and looking back in my life time, the world situation feels ‘same old-same old’. Same old conflicts, same old reasons, same old ignorance–and it isn’t just about the Middle East. This political nightmare in Ferguson MO resulting from the overreach of law enforcement, is nothing new, and even worse, the ideological nonsense that is now being spewed from conservative talk radio, radical right wing media and social media, and Fox News that ultimately blames the victim and sides with local, out of control police force, is also not new.

As someone who majored in U.S. History at the university, thinking about 18th, 19th, and 20th century America, I realized, following that historical thread to the present, it is in some ways the same old tired history of conflict between political ideologies that are centered in sections or regions of the country. Historians call it ‘sectionalism’ when referring to 19th century America and it’s often identified as one of the root causes of the Civil War. It’s also about the very existence of free Blacks in American society that has historically been divided from the very beginning of the country by two fundamental mentalities: liberal and confederate–not liberal and conservative.

I realized back in 1979 living in Atlanta GA, that there was a white ‘confederate’ mentality that still existed in the body-politic of America. My very first teaching assignment as a history teacher was in suburban Atlanta and my text for U.S. History was called ‘The Nation’ and a supplemental history reader was called ‘The Natural Superiority of Southern Politicians.’ In these materials, there was no mention of the Civil War, but rather only ‘the War of Northern Aggression.’  Around Atlanta, you saw bumper stickers with the Confederate flag and the caption, ‘Forget, hell!’ There were KKK rallies conducted east of the city at Stone Mountain. There was a mayoral candidate, I.B. Stone, who ran on an openly racist ticket. (Thankfully, he didn’t win!)  With all of this, I realized, there was a ‘confederate’ mentality that still existed.

The North may have militarily won the Civil War, and we may have added the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution to ensure that African Americans were full participants in American society, but the terrorism of the KKK and the general ‘confederate mentality’, ultimately led to the southern states rejecting those three amendments and finding legal means to reverse them. This ultimately led to Jim Crow and the Plessy vs Ferguson case of 1896 that created two completely separate racial societies and loss of civil rights for Blacks.

By the 1960s, this segregation became intolerable and the struggle for civil rights eventually turned the confederate culture upside down. These ‘confederates’ began losing their grip on America and, until recently, I thought we had succeeded in eliminating this primitive mentality, in spite of my experience in Georgia in the late 1970s. But the Tea Party, which originally was all about using taxes to bail out the big banks in the 2008 economic collapse, transformed into a political movement that seeks to re-assert the old ‘confederate’ mentality and agenda. This is not ‘conservative’ and don’t be fooled when they call themselves ‘conservatives’, because they are not. They have a very narrow political agenda that seeks to return women to a subordinate role to men by giving government the right to control women’s reproduction; by strengthening so-called ‘2nd Amendment’ rights to own and carry any weapon they want; by fighting against extending civil rights to gay people, and rejecting any change or action by the current ‘Black’ administration. The current situation in America is unacceptable to these ‘confederates’ precisely because it strengthens the impulses of the mid-1960s liberal political agenda to eliminate the confederate ‘culture’ that had succeeded in the latter 19th century through the 1960s.

The modus operandi of these confederates is to resist, stonewall, and obstruct whenever possible. They want to use the authority of law to impose their agenda just as ‘they’ did in the late 19th century in gaining control of the southern state governments and through the terrorism of the KKK after Reconstruction. They are democratic only when they are in control, and when they are not, they manipulate the authority of law to impose their agenda; they resist, obstruct and wield their ‘guns’ and Confederate flags in symbolic displays of ‘we the people’ and ‘don’t tread on me’ sloganism. This behavior is not ‘conservative’–it’s confederate. The sooner real Americans realize that this confederate mentality lies beneath the current political struggles in this country, and that it is just as traitorous now as it was in 1861, the sooner we can neutralize the Tea Party and eliminate the political gridlock inside the Beltway; the sooner we can deal with law enforcement that has become militarized for no good reason other than to perpetuate the inherently racist and undemocratic confederate mentality (as we now have seen in Ferguson MO), and the sooner we can apply the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the political process without interference from more primitive motivations to keep this country in a racially divided state.

I fear that in the near future, there will be an alliance created between the various neo-Confederate, radical right wing, neo-Nazi, white supremacist and the religious right organizations, or at least an effort to unify them, into a political movement that will seek to re-gain control of the social, political and cultural narrative in the country at the expense of racial and ethnic minorities, women and LGBT.  We’re beginning to see a ground swell of this kind of nonsense in reaction to Obama’s election. We must stay vigilant lest these elements in the body-politic find their way into local, state and federal governments. If they do, we will face a political and constitutional crisis as serious as the formation of the Confederate States of America was.

Why I Have Become Anti-Religion

Today is Sunday, July 20, 2014.

It’s Sunday and I woke up this morning thinking about the conflict in Gaza and the problems for non-Muslims in Iraq. Then I reflected on the Hobby Lobby decision in this country, and it suddenly dawned on me that religious fanaticism has really taken hold of people’s minds around the world. It seems to me this is a world-wide phenomenon, from African and Russian Christians criminalizing gay people to radical Muslims demanding Christians in Iraq convert or be killed. Our own Supreme Court has sided with fundamentalist Christians who own companies allowing them to discriminate against their employees who don’t follow the bosses’ religious beliefs. There are still recalcitrant efforts on the part of social conservatives to roll back gay marriage and women’s reproductive rights. All of this somehow in the name of God.

I used to not care what religion anyone was, or, indeed, whether they were any kind of believer at all. But it now seems to me that mainstream, normal religious sentiment is dying and being replaced by a virulent form of religiosity that seeks to deny any rights to anyone who doesn’t believe. Now these believers have made it their mission to infiltrate the political process in order to ‘protect’ their chosen life-style as a believer, and literally to hell with everyone else. But they need no protection, in my opinion. They are all still allowed to believe whatever they want. They can all attend any church they want. They can believe in whatever mythology or dogma they want. That right can’t be taken away from them. But it’s really disturbing to me that they don’t want to allow non-believers any rights at all. They seek to enforce their religious beliefs on everyone–they want a Christian nation in the same way the radical Muslims want an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East.

Thankfully, we live in a society that is ruled by Law and thus far, in spite of the Hobby Lobby insanity, we are moving forward into the 21st Century with a general attitude that says everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These radical fundamentalists, however, believe that because we allow women the right to plan their own families and control their own bodies, or gay people to participate fully in the society, that somehow this is an attack on them and their beliefs. In order to protect themselves they feel the need to disallow basic human and civil rights to others in the name of their God. And they are adamant to ‘take back’ America by trying legislation to allow them to discriminate against others if those ‘others’ somehow violate their beliefs. Perhaps they should just put up a sign on their businesses that says ‘Christian-owned, we reserve the right to discriminate against anyone who is different from us, and if you work for us you will have to follow our beliefs.’ It seems the US Supreme Court agrees this is OK (Hobby Lobby decision), and the rest of us would know not to do business there.

Such people are, in my opinion, anti-social and need to be re-educated and rehabilitated in order to live well in this pluralistic society. In no way should their right to religious freedom be abrogated, but if their religious ‘practice’ includes denying the rights of others to live their lives freely and openly, then it is incumbent upon all of us rational, thinking people to fight back against the ignorance and the undemocratic behavior.  Religious fanatics have renounced the basic tenant of our Declaration of Independence–that we have a God given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and on our own individual terms. No church can transgress that secular principle without violating the most fundamental idea behind the foundation of the United States.

So as it stands now, I have become rather anti-religion, if religion is going to set itself up above the Law and demand that this country become a theocracy and in the process deny us the right also to be secular or even atheist. I have lost my patience and any respect for such religious people. Does that mean I won’t celebrate Christmas? No…ridiculous. I like Christmas! I don’t care that it’s a Christian holiday. But I will also be looking at the politics of all of this with a very critical eye and I will not hesitate to support any politician who wants to isolate this fundamentalism and neutralize their political influence.

 

Link

Today is Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It is well-known that countries like Uganda, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe have recently passed anti-gay legislation, criminalizing homosexuality, while the Americas and Europe are moving to integrate gay people into the fabric of society. The situation in Uganda is especially bad because of the law that was signed on February 14, 2014 that has mandatory prison sentences for being gay. This has led to a serious wave of violence against gay people in Uganda as well as their complete isolation, segregation or removal from all social life in the country–no jobs, no legal place to live, thrown out of families, etc. The law resulted in a wave of refugees from Uganda across borders, mostly into Kenya. But that hasn’t solved their problems. Here is a blog-link that graphically presents the situation. It is heart-wrenching…

http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2014/06/16/ugandan-gays-in-kenya-desperate-sick-and-fear-death/

 

Who’s Responsible for the Debacle in Iraq?

Today is Saturday, June 14, 2014.

Watching the events unfold in Iraq over the last week, I began to ask myself who exactly is responsible for this situation? How did it come to this that a radical splinter group of Al Qaeda should succeed in laying siege to Mosul and Tikrit with plans to march on Baghdad? The easy answer, which I think is the wrong answer, is that the Obama and Bush administrations share the fault. If Bush hadn’t gone into Iraq in the first place…if Obama had agreed to arm the moderates in Syria against Assad…if Obama hadn’t ended US boots on the ground in 2011, this couldn’t have happened.  These are over-simplified answers to my question and I think, in the end, wrong answers.

In reading and examining the crisis, it is clear to me that both Turkey and Maliki, President of Iraq, are at fault. This debacle could have been avoided if the Turkish government had been paying attention and had responded to clearly articulated threats from ISIS well before their 4000-man ‘army’ invaded northern Iraq. Turkish policy in the region is a dismal failure and the result is more than a dozen of their embassy personnel are now being held hostage. ISIS let Turkey know they were coming into Mosul and that the embassy would be attacked if the embassy personnel were not evacuated. Turkey did not respond and, apparently, even as late as June 6, when ISIS was already in Mosul, the government said there was no credible threat. Something is rotten in Ankara. Turkish defenses could have been there to meet ISIS as it came across the border, if they had taken the threats seriously and responded appropriately.

In addition to Turkey, President Maliki, himself, has not put any effort at all into integrating Sunnis, Shias and Kurds into the new national Iraqi system. He has not created a welcoming, diverse government or Iraqi social and political culture. This has alienated everyone in the country and continues the age old denominational and sectional rivalries in the region. The result is many Iraqis in the northern part of the country welcomed ISIS coming in and taking over. The coming civil war, and I think that’s where this is leading, could result in a radical Islamic caliphate that is extreme in its religiosity and desire for a theocracy. Their underlying objectives include eliminating Western influences from the social and political culture and returning the system to a traditional, medieval theocratic society. Ultimately, the current situation is a direct result of 19th century and early 20th century European imperialism in the region which set up the borders as we now know them in the Middle East in 1916, completely ignoring the realities in the sand regarding tribal relationships, religious affiliations and ethnic sensibilities.

There is also the problem of the Iraqi military. Some units were given orders to withdraw from any conflict with ISIS, which on the surface looks like a conspiracy within the Iraqi military leadership to allow ISIS into the country.

We can argue all we want as to whether Bush’s initial invasion of Iraq was right or wrong. The reality now is there was a democratic process put in place for national elections, Maliki won, and he has not done well as President. You can say Obama’s policies in the Middle East have failed, and you might be right when it comes to Syria, but in all other respects this isn’t about current US policy in the region. Obama is considering strikes against ISIS, but has made it clear that troops on the ground will not happen. Hawks in congress are complaining that military action should still be on the table for consideration. I don’t think the American people have any stomach for putting more resources into Iraq. To what end? No country in the West can hope to resolve the problems that are endemic in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. This is now an Iraqi problem…a problem for the democratically elected President Maliki to sort out. The US has done enough and there’s no hope for any kind of real stability unless Maliki makes the right overtures to the minorities in the country and genuinely welcomes them into the system and encourages diversity in representation and participation in the government.

The best thing Obama can do is put pressure on Maliki to create a full representative government that includes all minority groups. If the people of Iraq feel enfranchised, they’ll resist the radical theocrats like ISIS and Al Qaeda. Maliki has to act quickly or Iraq could collapse under the current crisis.

 

Link

Today is Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Saturday, May 10th, something occurred here in the U.S. and in Europe that can only be described as a breakthrough–a moment in time when suddenly the world is now different and without question better. A transvestite, Thomas Neuwirth, aka, Conchita Wurst , of Austria won the Eurovision song competition with her incredible rendition of ‘Rise Like a Phoenix.’  There was a swift negative response from Belarus and Russia calling it decadent and inappropriate for their television audiences. Of course, they would say something that ridiculous; they’ve recently taken giant steps backwards in their societies regarding the LGBT community. Ironically, the song was the #1 download in Russia on Sunday. Here’s a video of the performance if you haven’t seen it yet:

But it wasn’t just in Europe that we saw a breakthrough. Michael Sam was drafted by the NFL to play for the St. Louis Rams–the first openly gay professional player. The media was there when the announcement came through and he jumped in joy, grabbed his boyfriend and kissed him–oh my! For the whole world to see! But the media treated it like they did any other player they covered in the draft, so I have to give it to the sports media for behaving well and reporting it in their usual banal routine manner. AND THAT’s THE REAL BREAKTHROUGH.

And it does not stop there. Arkansas began marrying same-sex couples on Saturday after the state supreme court declared their ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. Of course, there’s a movement to appeal the decision, but until that appeal has been certified, gay marriages are taking place. Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia have all had their marriage bans declared unconstitutional recently–and now Idaho as of yesterday. In April, the Oregon courts were set to hear arguments to remove the ban on same-sex marriages, but the State said it wouldn’t defend the law, because it was in clear violation of the Constitution after last June’s Supreme Court decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act. However, an out-of-state ‘family’ organization filed in court to represent the defense of the ban, so marriage equality in Oregon has to wait until the court decides what to do with that. This morning at 9:00am in Eugene OR, a federal judge began hearing this outside group’s petition. The judge will have to decide whether the group even has standing in the State of Oregon–that still is not clear–to be able to present arguments for keeping the ban. I don’t understand enough of the law to know whether some socially conservative religious/protect-the-family group from the Midwest has the right to go to another state and basically be a proxy for the state Attorney General. Somehow that sounds unlikely to me. There could be a decision as early as 11:00am this morning. So watch for it!

Ironically, the resistance to the constitutional support for same-gender marriage, flies in the face of social reality. The first same-sex wedding was performed in Annapolis at the US Naval Academy on Saturday as well. That’s another amazing breakthrough after the gay witch hunts in the military during the 1980s, then Don’t Ask Don’t Tell beginning in 1993, and its demise a couple years ago by a presidential executive decision.

The transformation in this country regarding civil rights began in the years after WWII, but the 1950s and early 1960s were difficult after the 1954 decision, Brown vs Board of Education that ended segregation of the races. The white resistance to integration became extreme and it took the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to start moving this country in the right direction. For LGBT, the first public effort to protest the government’s persecution, prosecution, pathologizing and demonizing of gay people began with Frank Kameny and the Mattachine Society’s first demonstration on July 4, 1965 in front of the White House. They went on to demonstrate against the State Department hiring/firing practices. Here’s a short report on Kameny and his efforts with some old footage from 1965 of the first protests.

So, what began in 1965 as a small, mostly ignored protest by a group of gays and lesbians, then picked up steam after the Stonewall riots of June 28-July 3, 1969, and gained some level of national sympathy after the Harvey Milk assassination, has now reached some kind of fruition. There’s a new energy in the country around these issues and amazing social and legal breakthroughs as we witnessed them this week. There will always be the Bible thumpers who won’t mind their own business and will continue to resist these changes. But, you know, let’s not hate them. Love the sinner, hate the sin of bigotry and prejudice. We are changing in spite of their resistance and there is no going back. The breakthroughs, at this point, seem irreversible.

UPDATE:  The Federal Judge in Eugene ruled that the National Organization for Marriage had no standing in Oregon and he wasn’t about to allow a third party to come in to testify as a proxy for the state government, when the state didn’t request it. But he still hasn’t ruled on the case that he heard in April.

Does the Crisis in the Ukraine Indicate an End to Global Norms?

Today is Sunday, April 13, 2014

I was originally thinking I would wait until the end of this month to see what develops in the Ukraine before I wrote another blog. However, the situation this weekend has begun to change rapidly from the lull of last week. I am struck by the similarity of the current situation in Eastern Ukraine to last month’s events in Crimea. Once again we see fascist-dressed, heavily armed, paramilitary terrorists taking over public buildings in the cities, ‘protesting’ the government in Kiev and demanding independence from the Ukraine, ostensibly to create an Anschluss with Russia. This is not a spontaneous, grassroots pro-Russian movement that has arisen from the people. The coordination, the weapons, the unmarked uniforms, the strategies, etc., make it clear to me this is being coordinated by the Russians. They have amassed 35,000 to 40,000 troops along the border and mobilized tank units and fighter jet squadrons. it won’t be long now and Russia will invade Eastern Ukraine just like they did Crimea. And if the government in Kiev and the Ukrainian people don’t resist, like they really didn’t resist what happened in Crimea, there won’t be much international support for their objections to Russia’s actions, or at least, the response will be relatively luke warm.

What is mysterious to me is the lack of international response to the crisis. China has made it clear they support the sovereignty of the Ukraine, but they haven’t condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Israel is the most pro-American country in the world, yet, they haven’t condemned Russia’s actions. India, the largest democracy in the world, has refused to comment on the crisis. When you look more closely at each of these countries’ relationship to Russia, you find relationships that are crucial to each. Their national interests, at this point, would not be served by condemning Russia. Yet, in each case, Russia also presents a potentially serious threat. Russia supports many of the Arab countries and groups, including Syria and Hezbollah, both more than willing to see Israel pushed into the Mediterranean Sea. India has border issues with China and it seems it would be better served by siding with the U.S. on the crisis in the Ukraine. If Russia is allowed to annex territories from a neighboring sovereign nation, it sets a precedent for China to do the same in India. China also has a long, extensive border with Russia and has had conflicts over border territories before. If Russia gets away with the Ukraine, this could be a signal that China’s border could also be vulnerable, if history is any lesson.

This concerns me. Since 1945 and the end of WWII, international norms have been in place that make it unacceptable to annex territory from another sovereign nation. These rules were put in place in response to the violations and land grabs of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. Aside from the little ‘hot wars’ of the Cold War that followed, these international norms helped maintain a standard for international peace in the latter part of the 20th century. Israel’s land grab and settlements in the West Bank have been condemned by almost everybody, but China, India and Israel itself haven’t condemned Russia. I have to ask myself, what does this mean for the 21st century? This is the first serious crisis of the new century and, if global norms regarding sovereignty and secure national borders are ignored or abandoned, we are risking a peaceful world and another world war in the relatively near future.  So, from my point of view, Russia needs to be stopped in order to protect these standards and norms of international behavior that have existed for the last seventy years.

The cult of personality around Putin, his clear desire for a new fascist imperial Russia, his rather naive sense that he can hold Europe hostage with gas and oil, in fact, his push over the last decade to recreate the Russian economy based almost exclusively on oil and gas, his forced take-over of the Russian media, which included the assassination of journalists who criticized him, and now his push into the Ukraine, all lead me to believe the weak democracy that developed after the collapse of the Soviet Union has been lost and Putin has replaced the process with a permanent ‘presidency’ in order to bring Russia forcefully back to a position of oppositional power to the U.S. and the E.U. This does not bode well for the 21st Century. Once again, reactionary fascist forces will oppose and compete with the democracies of the world seriously threatening them. Ironically, this time it will be one of the victims of the last fascist efforts to dominate the world, Russia, that itself is turning fascist. WWII for the Russians is called ‘The War of Survival’ and their war with Nazi Germany killed 22,000,000 Russians. I can’t believe their collective memory is that short, but their actions in the Ukraine and the demise of their democracy under Putin suggest they are not making the right connections to their history. The Soviets under Stalin killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1920s and 1930s in their take-over of the region and the forced collectivization of the agricultural sector in the then new Soviet Union, and the western Ukrainians have not forgotten that fact. In part, this is a reason for Kiev’s hatred for Moscow. It is just tragic that Russia has apparently forgotten its history and is now about to repeat one of the most catastrophic periods in all of Russian history, and in the process destroy global norms of behavior, which will threaten world peace.

 

 

 

Russian Reactions to the Crimean Crisis

Today is Sunday, March 23, 2014

I was waiting for the week after the Full Moon of March 16 to see what would happen in Crimea. True to form, within a week of the lunation, Putin annexed Crimea. In a previous post, I suggested we would get a foreshadowing of what was to come shortly after the Full Moon, and I think we have. The increased amassing of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border has caused alarm even inside Russia where the state-controlled media haven’t reported objectively on the situation. We are getting information, however, that the Russian people have a sense of impending aggression towards the Ukraine, and there was a mass demonstration in Moscow with more than 50,000 people in the streets demanding Putin keep his “hands off the Ukraine”.  http://rufabula.com/articles/2014/03/16/moscow-said-no-to-war

I still think the real crisis will come in the last two weeks of April as the fall out from the annexation of Crimea and the military intimidation the Russians are now demonstrating give the rest of the world time to formulate a unified reaction. Interestingly, and synchronistically, there will be a Solar Eclipse during that time triggering what political astrologers of the world refer to as the grand cardinal cross with stressful planetary alignments in the region. I am in contact with some of these astrologers in Russia and the Ukraine as well as in other Slavic speaking countries, and they are worried. We here in the States can sit back objectively, somewhat dispassionately, and worry just a little, but we will not have the same direct experience as these on-line friends in the region.

They are telling me that Putin is forcing statements from cultural leaders to support Russian expansion and nationalism. They will comply because their existence and financial support depend on following the party line. Russia’s theater, film and music industries are supported by the government and they have their super stars like any country. These super stars of popular culture are under pressure to announce their support for Putin, his politics, and his actions. There has been a noticeable drop off of facebook postings by the gay activist community in Russia since the Crimean crisis began, and what they are posting is a relatively mumbled approval of Putin and an unconvincing criticism of the Ukrainian government and people. In general, the propaganda coming out of Russia paints the Ukrainians and their new government as ‘fascist,’ when in reality, like any country, there is a spectrum of political view points from extreme right to the extreme left…from those who are adamantly against Russia and Russian influence in Ukrainian affairs to those who are completely for Russia being their political and cultural model.

This week, the Ukrainians went ahead with a new agreement with the EU to be ‘closer’ and to work on developing further their trade and cultural relations. At the same time, Putin sent thousands more troops to the Ukrainian border in an obvious attempt at intimidation. In addition, Putin has recently publicly suggested the ethnic Russians in the Baltic States are a concern of his. I don’t think he’s bluffing. I think we’ll see exactly what he has in mind next month.

What is Putin Risking?

Today is Monday, March 10, 2014.

I’ve been thinking about what happens next should Crimea be returned to Russian territory after the coming referendum. What impact will that actually have? If the world, and especially the E.U. and the U.S. don’t stop it, is it tantamount to ‘appeasement’? After all, we’ve seen Putin march into Georgia, and the world more or less let it happen without much push back. Did that embolden Putin? Now he’s trying to take the Crimea. What’s next? All of the Ukraine? Belarus? The Baltic States? There are voices from many corners of the international political scene who are suggesting that Putin has to be punished on some level, if for no other reason but to let him know this will have serious repercussions for Russia in the future.

But what repercussions? Just what is Putin risking by moving into Crimea? Russia’s economy is not that large or stable given the size of the population. It has only been 22 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic infrastructure for existing and thriving in a global capitalist economy is not quite complete. Should the U.S., the E.U. and others put economic sanctions on Russia, it will have a long term negative effect on the domestic economy. Putin has made it clear that he supports a Eurasian Economic Union as a next phase of globalization in that part of the world. Russia stands to benefit enormously from such an economic union, and without it, Russia’s economy will develop much more slowly. His move into Georgia was bad enough, but now the situation in Crimea, which is in complete violation of Russia’s international obligations, which Putin and Medvedev signed off on, creates an atmosphere of distrust. If Russia can so easily turn its back on its international agreements, who, in their right mind, will still want to put their investments into such a country? The world markets are sensitive to perceptions, feelings and emotions, and right now, the markets will not be happy with Russia if they take over Crimea. Any resulting sanctions against Russia will have a serious impact on the Russian people and the overall domestic economy.  There may be an initial positive nationalistic response–a rallying around the Russian flag, so to speak–but it won’t take long for dissatisfaction to set in, if their economy sputters–and it will.

Although I think Putin’s military response here was an emotional and rash reaction to the February 21st agreement in Kiev and Yanukovich’s ouster, the move was predictable given Putin’s larger agenda in Eastern Europe. If Putin ever believed, though, that he could separate Russia’s economic development in a globalized world economy from what I think is a necessary resulting global geopolitical culture, he will certainly suffer from the consequences of that belief after this Spring. He can’t continue to believe that he can keep Russia’s political culture from Western influences. He defiantly stands against the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights regarding gay issues in Russia, for example. He criticizes American and European social culture and stands behind the ‘traditional’ social culture of Russia. The politics of this situation has created a large-scale international critique of Russia’s ‘backwards’ ways. This irritates Putin to no end. Now, unfortunately for Putin, this move into Crimea ultimately isolates Russia geopolitically, threatens future investments in the country, and makes Russia too much of a risk for most countries and leaders to have serious, close relations. The situation has consequences much farther reaching than the international criticism over gay rights.

The U.S. and E.U. will have to bail out the Ukraine, because if they don’t, it will give Putin reason enough to stabilize the situation there with his military. Yet, such a Russian response will only destabilize the entire Eastern European region and create a political and economic earthquake for the E.U. and then, of course, for Russia as well. I can only hope that Putin is not so blinded by his nationalism and emotionalism that he can’t see the seriousness of the larger picture here. He could be risking Russia’s entire future as well as any lasting, positive legacy of his administration. At this point, he has refused to back down from his position in Crimea. His actions are seriously threatening Russia’s reputation and future role in the world of the 21st Century.