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Corporate Sponsors, the Olympics and Human Rights

Today is Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

We are only about two weeks from the Sochi Winter Olympics and I’m wondering about the silence of the corporate sponsors and NBC, who has the contract to televise the Games in the States, in regards to the pernicious law against ‘gay propaganda’ in Russia. State run television in Russia has recently launched a disgusting campaign against gay people, especially on their popular program, ‘Special Correspondent’, which has contributed to the climate of fear and hate. The program’s moderator, Arkady Mamontov, referred to gay people as ‘perverts’ and ‘sodomites’, and claimed Europe and America are trying to ‘infiltrate’ Russia to get Russia’s perverts to protest against the State and the Russian people. Europe, especially, is allegedly part of a ‘Western expansion of sin in Russia.’  The show used excerpts from a meeting between international human rights activists and Russian LGBT leaders in St. Petersburg. Apparently, that meeting was under government surveillance and they took language out of context and constructed a conspiracy against the Russian culture, then aired that conspiracy on State television.

This last week, Putin gave a press conference, in which he said gays and lesbians coming to the Games will have no problems. He claimed there is no persecution of homosexuals, for example, gay clubs and bars are completely legal. Same-gender sex is not illegal. But then he ended his comments with the disgusting remark, ‘Just leave our kids alone.’ It is just so hard to comprehend how at this point in time an otherwise intelligent man could make such an offensive, stupid statement. But in Russia, in part because of the growing power of the Orthodox Church and the apparently still quite ignorant public, a despot like Putin, who has created a cult-like following for himself, can manipulate and cajole as much as he wants. His homophobic statement regarding ‘kids’ makes for a pretty empty promise that ‘all is well’ for gay people at the Olympic Games.

In order for Russia to have been awarded the Games, they had to sign off on respect for international norms when it comes to human rights. That is a key component of the Olympic Charter. Russia also signed the European Commission on Human Rights Agreement, which lays out quite clearly the standards for dealing with sexual minorities. Russia currently is in violation of both. Yet, the Russian Foreign Ministry recently put out a propaganda ‘report’ criticizing the UN and the EU for their position on homosexuality and their efforts to force countries like Russia, that have a ‘traditional culture and moral standard regarding homosexuality’, to change and adopt the decadence of the ‘West.’  This is how primitive the Russian government really is under Putin.

The current laws in Russia make freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly a mockery of their constitution. Gay people have none of these constitutionally guaranteed freedoms anymore, and are subject to arrest and fines for even talking about their lives or their relationships in public. Under these circumstances, does anyone really think Gays and Lesbians will have no problems in Sochi?

Coca-Cola, Visa, Panasonic, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, and NBC should all stand up and condemn the anti-gay law, the current homophobic climate on State television, and Putin’s outrageous statement about gay people. They should publicly condemn the human rights violations against gay people in Russia. And they should demand guarantees that there will be no violations of international standards in the treatment of sexual minorities. But they are all silent. In this situation, silence = approval, and I, for one, will be watching carefully how these corporations conduct themselves between now and the end of the Games.  You all should, too.

What is unique and special about Portland, OR?

Today is Tuesday, January 7, 2014.

I’ve been more or less on holiday through December and early January. Now I’m home, family and friends are gone, Christmas tree and holiday decorations are gone…now it’s back to my normal routine, if I have such.

I’ve been reading and listening to people on Facebook about the cities they like, live in, have lived in, and what they don’t like about places, etc. I thought I would write a little blog on what I like about Portland OR, where I currently live. I’ve lived in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Olympia, Boston, Washington, DC, Atlanta, the San Francisco Area, Bismarck and Halliday, North Dakota, Riverton, Lander and Casper, Wyoming. I’ve spent time in most of the large American cities, although I’ve never been in Detroit, Tampa or Miami, Wichita KS, or Virginia Beach/Portsmouth/Newport News.  But otherwise, I’ve spent time in all of America’s major cities.

I moved to Portland OR twenty three years ago and it was a revelation. I had no idea about Portland at that time. I had spent nearly thirty years in the Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia area and consider that area my ‘hometown’, but Portland quickly grew on me, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else at this point.

So, what is it that enthralls me about Portland? First on my list is the fact that there is very little ‘corporate’ presence in the city limits. Most corporations pulled out into the suburbs or to another city completely. Germany’s Adidas and Freightliner still have a corporate presence, and there are corporate insurance companies downtown, but for the most part, Portland’s business community is focused on small, entrepreneurial storefronts that are located in the various ‘urban villages’ within the Portland Metro Area. The result is there are very few tall skyscrapers built to edify corporate egos. The skyline is is not as dramatic as most American cities its size. City blocks are also a lot smaller, with every twenty blocks equaling one mile. In Seattle, every fifteen blocks equals one mile, and in many American cities, every twelve blocks equals a mile. So, Portland is unique in this respect. This means that downtown streets are narrow, blocks are short, buildings can’t have the large ‘footprint’ they can have in most cities, so they can’t be that large, and bicycles and pedestrians have the right of way as a result–not automobiles. Approximately 75,000 commuters ride bikes every day in Portland. I like all of this about Portland.

I love the ‘urban village’ concept here, where each neighborhood within the city limits has its own business district. Some of my favorites are: Overlook/Killingsworth, Kenton, Alberta St., Mississippi Ave., Hollywood, Belmont, Hawthorne, Clinton St., St. John, NEPO 42nd Ave.,  Beaumont, Northwest, and Multnomah Village. Part of this urban planning includes the very first ‘Urban Growth Boundary’ in America in order to preserve the farmland and green spaces outside of the dense urban area, and increase densities within the city limits. In my opinion, it works like a charm in this city. Each neighborhood has its own character and unique shops, restaurants, cafes, boutiques, etc. Portland is not one of those cities where everything looks and feels the same with identical corporate restaurants and stores everywhere–Other than Starbucks and Subway, for some weird reason, They seem to be everywhere. But even though they seem to dominate the urban landscape, Portland has its own home-grown sandwich shops and coffee roasters that provide better quality products.

City transportation is also unique here. I really like the MAX light rail and the street car system. I can walk out of my house, walk 7 minutes to the light rail station, and in 10 minutes I am at the Rose Quarter, in 15 minutes I am downtown. The red line also goes to the airport, and it drops me off inside the Portland Int’l Airport for $2.50. The system has Red, Yellow, Blue and Green lines and a new Orange line will open soon out to the Southeast suburb of Milwaukie. I can take the MAX to Washington Park and the zoo, to LLoyd Center and Clackamas Towncenter malls, the Expo center, etc. The Blue line is almost 40 miles long from Hillsboro in the western suburbs to Gresham on the eastside. And if I want to go to the southern suburbs, like Wilsonville, I just transfer at Beaverton and take the commuter train.

PDX Airport is another reason I like this city. It’s the most amazing airport I have ever been in. It’s nicely designed, well-organized, easy to get through security, and it has the best bars, restaurants and shopping bar none. AND! the Port of Portland that runs the place has a rule that no vender can charge more inside the airport than they charge in the community at-large. Thus, a Laurewood micro-brew in Terminal A still only costs $4.50, and not $6-8, as most beers cost in most airports. The restaurants and wine bars, brew pubs and cafes, fast food and shopping, plus the Cascade Station shopping area near the long term parking, all contribute to a model airport that other cities should really try to emulate.

I also really like the culture in Portland. Theater, for example. There’s a lot of it. Here’s a partial list of the live theater companies in town:  Artist’s Repertory Theater, Portland Center Stage, Lakewood Theater Company, Broadway Rose, Northwest Children’s Theater, Oregon Children’s Theater, Miracle, Imago, Bag & Baggage, Third Rail, Profile, and Portland Playhouse. Then there’s the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is world famous as an homage to the Bard. As a result, the theater community is actually quite large for a moderately sized city.

Music venues–Portland is wild for its Indie Music scene. I looked not long ago in the Willamette Week, and there were more than 200 music venues performing on any given night. Of course, the city has its Symphony, Ballet, and theater for traveling Broadway shows as well. There’s also the ‘Schnitz’, which is a performance venue downtown that hosts traveling lecturers, musical shows, etc. Portland is a very ‘crafty’ city as well, with quilters, canners, creative gardeners, bicycle builders, and artisans of all kinds who show their wares at the Saturday Market or the weekend Farmer’s Market at Portland State University.

The professional creative community is also quite large because of the advertising and marketing firms here–the largest is influential Wyden & Kennedy. Designers and graphic artists seem to flock here for work in advertising or for one of the many clothing firms like Adidas, Nike, Jantzen, Columbia Sportswear and Pendleton Woolens. Creative computer types who design games and websites, etc, also have opportunity here in the city and in the westside ‘silicon forest.’  These people add to the creative verve and overall culture and tone of the city.

Portland is also a college town. This is a list of four-year colleges and universities in the metro area:  Reed College, Lewis and Clark College, Linfield College, George Fox University, Pacific University, Warner Pacific College, Portland State University, University of Portland, Marylhurst University, Multnomah University, Oregon Health & Sciences University, University of Western States, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, and Washington State University-Vancouver.  There is also a branch campus for the University of Oregon in Old Town and for the Oregon Institute of Technology in Wilsonville. I also really like the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and their science education program. These colleges and universities add a vibe and feeling to the city that is both intellectual and fun-loving. Without their presence in the city, you couldn’t have the largest independent bookstore in the English speaking world, Powell’s City of Books. If you’re ever in Portland, it is an absolute must.

Part of that ‘fun’ in that ‘fun-loving’ is the beer, wine and food culture, which is amazing in Portland. It is the largest producer and consumer of craft beers in the world, has an outstanding and growing distilling industry; there are over 200 wineries within a two hour drive from downtown. and according to TripAdvisor, there are 3,487 restaurants in the city. close to 500 bars and pubs, and well over 60 breweries in the city limits, more than any city in the world. Portland also has the most ‘food carts’ than any other city in the world. Being someone who loves food, beer and wine, I’m in heaven here.

Portland also has a number of amazing parks, including the largest and smallest urban park in the U.S. I particularly like Mt. Tabor and the Chinese Gardens. The Rose Test Gardens are exquisite in the summer as well.

Sports are important to some people–there’s no pro Baseball or Football teams here, but there are still the Portland Timbers (MLS), Portland Thorns (women’s soccer, current U.S. national champions) and the Portland Trailblazers (NBA), and the semi-pro ice hockey, Winterhawks.  Other than that you have small college sports of all kinds, although the Univ of Portland Pilots are Division I in basketball and soccer, both men’s and women’s. I like going to see the Timbers play as well as the Portland State University Viking’s football games.

In addition to these cultural facets of life in Portland. I happen to like the weather. It’s dry and warm from late spring through mid-Fall, then it’s cloudy and wet as we reach the rainy season of winter. But as the rest of the country right now is sitting in a deep freeze, today was 43 degrees F with a light drizzle. You can have your extremely hot summers and arctic cold winters in the Midwest and East. You can have your hot, humid summers and cool to warm humid winters in the South. I like the four seasons here in Portland, although winter usually doesn’t bring much snow, and if at all, then mostly a light dusting. Sometimes there’s a little frost on the windshield, but so far this winter, that’s only happened on one day at my house. Another reason, I like living in Portland–the weather is generally very moderate.

The geography is also pretty amazing in that you can drive an hour east to the Cascade Mountains and Mt. Hood for winter sports or an hour and a half west to the Pacific Ocean. Or you can drive into the Columbia Gorge to Hood River or The Dalles and explore the fruit orchards, wineries, breweries, windsurfing, white water rafting, hiking, hot springs and spas, and so much more.

So, what’s not to like about Portland? It’s a moderately large city with about 605,000 in the city limits, 2.3 million in the census-identified Metropolitan Statistical Area and 2.99 million in the Combined Statistical Area (all of the extended suburbs and exurbs and close commutable cities). The area ranks as the 19th largest urban area in the U.S. It’s one of America’s best cities. It’s liberal and open; there are a lot of LGBT people here, yet it’s only about 9% African-American. There is a much higher concentration of Asian and Hispanic people than African-Americans with a total minority population just over 25%, much lower than most major American cities. So, I wish there were a little more diversity in the city.

But in spite of my past, I am now an Oregonian and Portlander. I’ve given up on my Washington State and Seattle identities and really can’t imagine ever living up there again. This is home now for all of the above reasons–and I love it here! I don’t think it’s all that ‘weird’ like people try to make it out to be. I mean, it has its quirkiness and strange people, but I don’t think it’s too much–the television show ‘Portlandia’ notwithstanding! Now, that show is weird; I think much weirder than the city itself.  Does Portland seem weird and goofy compared to a mid-western or southern city? Probably, but that’s why I would never live in those parts of the country. Portland is home for me and my husband. As a married gay couple of nearly eighteen years, we are ‘normal’ here. We don’t have to immerse ourselves in the gay community and eschew the ‘straight’ world outside. It’s all the same here. We don’t have to go to a gay establishment to feel comfortable showing affection, to hold hands or even to kiss. Our circle of friends is both gay and straight and it’s wonderful. When we go out, no one looks weirdly at us or stares like they’ve never seen a gay couple before. We’re just part of the overall fabric of the city and its people. Portland is open, free, accepting, and liberal, and with all of it’s urban amenities and culture, it’s just the ideal city to call home.

 

 

 

My List of Favorites in Portland

Today is Monday, December 16, 2013.

It’s the end of the year 2013 and I thought I’d go through my list of favorite places in Portland, Oregon. Different publications do this through polls, but I’m just going to tell you where I like to hang out; where I like to eat, drink and be merry.  I am lucky enough to live in what is often considered one of the top 10 best cities in the United States to live, work and have fun.

My favorite brewery:  Breakside in the NE Woodlawn District.

My favorite restaurant: Laurelhurst Market in Laurelhurst on E. Burnside

My favorite French Fries:  Pause (restaurant) in N. Portland at Interstate/Webster

My favorite burger:  Hop and Vine on N. Killingsworth.

My favorite non-food tavern/bar:  1856 at NE 15th/Prescott

My favorite restaurant/bar:  Hop and Vine, N. Killingsworth

My favorite Alt Beer:  Crazy Ludwig’s Alt, Lucky Lab

My favorite Pilsner/Lager:  Breakside Pilsner

My favorite Koelsch:  Occidental Koelsch

My favorite Pale Ale:  Breakside Woodlawn Pale

My favorite IPA:  Breakside Wanderlust

My favorite local winter ale:  HUB’s Abominable

My favorite non-local winter ale:  Anderson Valley Winter Solstice

My favorite German style Helles:  Occidental Helles

My favorite German style Dunkeles:  Occidental Dunkeles

My favorite Caesar Salad (w/ Chicken):  Pause, N. Portland

My favorite winery:  Maresh-Redbarn outside of Dundee

My favorite Riesling:  Maresh-Redbarn

My favorite Chardonnay:  Anam Cara (Newberg OR)

My favorite Pinot Noir:  Maresh-Redbarn

My favorite Cabernet Sauvignon:  Zerba (Walla Walla) but there’s a great tasting room in Dundee!

My favorite inexpensive red wine blend:  14 Hands Hot to Trot

My favorite place to relax:  Chinese Garden in Old Town/China Town

My favorite Italian Restaurant:  Mama Mia’s (downtown)

My favorite Thai Restaurant:  Beau Thai in NW

My favorite Chinese Restaurant:  Shan Dong in Hollywood

My favorite wine-tasting:  Magnolia’s Corner in Hollywood

My favorite local coffee roaster:  Stumptown

My favorite coffee house:  Pied Cow in the Belmont District

My favorite dessert restaurant:  Papa Haydn’s

My favorite cake:  Papa Haydn’s ‘St. Moritz’

My favorite artisan bread:  anything from Ken’s Artisan Bakery

My favorite donut:  Helen Bernhard’s, buttermilk old-fashioned, East Broadway

My favorite bakery/boulangerie:  Petite Provence

My favorite Portland clothing manufacturer:  Pendleton Woolens

My favorite local bourbon:  Monkey Puzzle from McMenemin’s

My favorite route to walk:  The Eastside Esplanade and Waterfront Park

My favorite park:  Mt. Tabor

My favorite view of the city:  from the Sellwood area on the bluff above Oaks Park.

Best place in the world to go roller skating:  Oaks Park Roller Rink

My favorite movie theater:  Progress Ridge Cinetopia

My favorite theater company:  ART

My favorite Portland band:  Pink Martini

My favorite bridge:  St. Johns

My favorite Mexican Restaurant:  none…everything I’ve ever found here in the Portland area is average to good, but I have no favorites. None compares to what I’ve had in San Diego!

My favorite bar food/Happy Hour:  15th Avenue Hop House

My favorite Portland musicians:  Jeff Donovan and Anne-Marie Sanderson

My favorite chocolatier:  Alma Chocolates, NE 28th ave

My favorite BBQ:  Russel Street

My favorite spaezle:  Widmer’s Gasthaus

My favorite German-style fondue:  Gustav’s

My favorite Schnitzel:  Widmer’s Gasthaus, pork

My favorite really expensive restaurant:  Paley’s

My favorite classic diner:  Overlook

My favorite breakfast place:  Gravy, N. Mississippi

My favorite neighborhood/urban village:  Alberta St.

Christ, Love, Marriage, Sexuality, and Duck Dynasty

Today is Friday, December 20, 2013.

I’m going to update this particular blog to include the controversy over Phil Robertson’s comments on the sinful nature of gay sex. It has created such a tempest in teapot across the country, I suppose because he’s a reality TV star on A&E. He didn’t say anything I haven’t heard Christian hetero men say before. I wasn’t outraged and I wasn’t shocked. In spite of his claim to ‘logic’ in his statement, nothing he said was really logical at all. He showed his ignorance on two fronts:  scripture and gay sex. In the first place, I will try to prove that according to Jesus there may not be any spiritual issue around any sexuality as long as it’s oriented towards relationship or celibacy.  And as for gay sex equating to anal sex, I guess Phil doesn’t know that straight couples also do this? Anal sex isn’t exclusive to gay men. So, why is Phil’s imagination running away with him? Why do so many homophobic straight men always think of specific sexual behaviors that they themselves do with their women, but they associate their own behavior with love and affection, unlike their view of gay sex. Apparently, they think two men can not fall in love and express their love and affection in the very same way as a hetero couple.  But I can forgive him on those two counts without it bothering my conscience. Ignorance can only be healed by education. Rather than suspending him from his job, I’d make him go on a hunting retreat with very masculine, handsome gay men who like to hunt, and see if a little sensitivity training and male bonding might not help. His statement, however, parallels the judgmental attitudes of many Christians, Jews and Muslims, and certainly echoes the homophobic laws recently passed in Russia.

I have been watching the drama in Russia concerning the LBGT community and the new law banning so-called ‘homosexual propaganda’. I have become facebook friends with Nikolai Alekseev, the founder of MoscowPride, and one of the leading LBGT activists in Russia. After seeing what he is attempting to do in his activism and the government reactions, after reading the new Russian law and also listening to Russian politicians try to rationalize their support for it, I’ve concluded there are two basic reasons for the Russian attitude towards homosexuality–1. There’s still a belief in the Freudian view that there’s something called ‘latent homosexuality’ in all people, and it only takes a little propaganda and recruitment to lead children to ‘the dark side.’ So, banning any visible signs, symbols or conversation about homosexuality should keep what’s latent latent, and children will grow up heterosexual. Here in the West, we’ve been subject to studies on sexuality from the late 40s to the present, and the general consensus is that there’s  a spectrum of sexualities from completely gay to completely straight, and Freudian ‘latency’ is pretty much bunk.

And the other, second issue is religion, i.e. Christianity and Islam. I don’t have enough historical or theological background to tackle the Quran, so I decided to investigate the New Testament to find out what Christ said about the subject of love and sexuality. I was completely surprised to find that the Book of Matthew has Christ’s teaching on the subject!

But before I could really be sure I was reading things correctly, I had to examine multiple versions/translations and, boy, there is quite a difference from one to the other! I, therefore, decided to find a Vulgar Latin version to read something maybe a little closer to the original text. Then I looked at the German Luther version to read something not in English. All together, I examined 18 different translations of Matthew and discovered in Matthew 19 Christ’s view of male/female relationships, marriage, divorce and men who don’t associate with women. Oh, yes, indeed, He mentions the subject!!

The chapter starts out with Christ teaching the disciples about his view of marriage. They ask him about the issue of divorce, since they had heard He was against it. He said he was against it, in spite of Moses’ acceptance of it. He maintained that Moses only allowed divorce since men were so unteachable and emotionally unintelligent, there was nothing else he could do. But, in reality, it was never really meant to be, and in the new age He was going to ban divorce. The following are two translations of the conversation that followed and my analysis/commentary on them:

Vulgar Latin Matthew 19:10-12

10- dicunt ei discipuli eius si ita est causa homini cum uxore non expedit nubere 11- qui dixit non omnes capiunt verbum istud sed quibus datum est 12-sunt enim eunuchi qui de matris utero sic nati sunt et sunt eunuchi qui facti sunt ab hominibus et sunt eunuchi qui se ipsos castraverunt propter regnum caelorum qui potest capere capiat 

10-And then the disciples said to Him, “If that’s the situation between a man and woman, then it isn’t expedient (good, practical, appropriate) to marry. 11-He said to them in response, “Not just anyone can grasp (understand) this proverb (idea, teaching), but rather only those to whom were given the capacity to [be with women will understand it]. 12-That is to say, some men were born from the womb eunuchs, some become eunuchs because of other people, and some cut themselves off [from women] for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever has the ability to understand this, understands it.

The first thing that occurs to me is the use of the verb ‘dare’ in the perfect passive ‘datum’, which literally means ‘to give’ and ‘has been given’, but also means ‘surrender; give over to’ or ‘attribute or ascribe to’. In this context, it seems to be saying that the teachings about marriage and divorce are attributed to, ascribed to or meant only for men who are oriented to women and marry them. If a man is meant to be with women, then this teaching about divorce is meant for him.

 However, Christ leaves open the possibility that not all men are destined or meant to be with women when he talks about ‘eunuchs’. Clearly, the word ‘eunuch’ is used here metaphorically. The Christ does not appear to be referring literally to men who have been castrated, because in the third example in verse 12, He doesn’t use the word ‘eunuch’. In the Latin, it’s expressed in a passive reflexive verb form (se ipsos castrav.erunt): “are cut off by themselves”, i.e., for their own reasons, and specifically for spiritual purposes (for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven). This suggests the word ‘eunuch’, as used in the first two examples, is a metaphor for men who do not relate sexually to women. In researching castration in 1st century CE Roman culture, I found that there were two meanings for eunuch: one that described a man’s sexual behavior as celibate or not active with women, and one that described a man who had been castrated. That carried over into early Christian culture and continued well into late antiquity among Byzantine Christians who also used the term in those two ways. So, we can safely say this Matthew 19:12 reference indicates celibacy or a non-sexual orientation to women.

 In looking further into various translations of these verses, the German Luther Bible stays very close to the above Latin version—in fact, much closer in meaning than many early modern or modern English translations.

 Luther German Matthew 19:10-12

10- Da sprachen die Jünger zu ihm: Steht die Sache eines Mannes mit seinem Weibe also, so ist’s nicht gut, ehelich werden. 11- Er sprach zu ihnen: Das Wort faßt nicht jedermann, sondern denen es gegeben ist. 12- Denn es sind etliche verschnitten, die sind aus Mutterleibe also geboren; und sind etliche verschnitten, die von Menschen verschnitten sind; und sind etliche verschnitten, die sich selbst verschnitten haben um des Himmelreiches willen. Wer es fassen kann, der fasse es! 

10-And then the disciples spoke to him:  if such is the situation of a man with his woman, it is therefore not good to become married. 11-He spoke to them:  Not just anyone grasps the concept, but rather only those to whom it has been given. 12- For there are some cut-off [from women], who were born that way from the womb; and there are some cut-off, who were cut-off because of people; and some are cut-off, who have cut themselves off, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept [what I’m saying], should accept it.

Luther takes the Latin verb ‘datum’ (literally meaning ‘have been given’) and translates it directly with the German ‘gegeben ist’, meaning here something like ‘to whom it has been granted.’ This seems to be echoing quite directly what is intended in the original Vulgar Latin, that is, the teaching is meant for those men who relate to women and want to marry.

 As for those for whom the teaching is not meant, Luther doesn’t use the word ‘eunuch’ at all in his translation. He uses instead the verb ‘verschnitten’, meaning to have been ‘cut off or cut away’, a direct translation of the Latin ‘castrav erunt’ used in the 3rd example in verse 12.  Luther seems to be translating verses 10-12 to mean ‘removed from or cut off from’ relating sexually to women, because the word ‘Eunuch’ as well as the verb ‘kastrieren’, to castrate, existed in 16th century German. If he meant literally a castrated man, one would assume he would have used ‘Eunuch’ or ‘kastriert’.

I looked at over a dozen English translations of Matthew 19:10-12 including the following versions: King James, Wycliffe, American Standard, Revised Standard, New Revised Standard, New Century, Good News, Complete Jewish,  Hebrew Names, Common English, English Standard, Bible in Basic English, Tyndale, Weymouth, New International and God’s Word.  It is rather astonishing to me the variety of meanings given in these various translations. Some actually translate the verses to mean ‘castrated men’, which in the context of the teaching, makes no sense. Some just say celibate or renounce marriage. One version suggested that Christ said in the first example in verse 12 that some men were born without desire for sex, but then translated the second example as ‘castrated’ and the third as ‘renouncing marriage’.  In the end, I studied the Latin and Luther’s German versions, reviewed all of the above versions and came up with my own translation that I believe clarifies the teaching:

10-And then the disciples said to Him, “If you require this kind of relationship between a man and a woman, then perhaps it’s best not to be married to a woman at all.” 11-He said to them in response, “Not everyone can understand this, but If you are oriented to be with a woman, then this teaching is meant for you. 12- That is to say, some men are born not to be sexual with women, some men are socially conditioned not to be sexual with women, and some men cut themselves off from relating sexually to women for their own reasons, for example, for spiritual reasons. If you have an open mind about this, you should be able to understand what I’m saying.”

Christ seems to be telling his disciples there is an orientation to be or not to be with women. You can’t just decide that you are or aren’t going to be with a woman because you won’t be able to divorce her. You have the choice if you’re choosing celibacy for spiritual reasons, but otherwise He seems to be saying, you follow your nature and accept the responsibility. What I find fascinating in these verses is the subtle but clear message that a man’s sexuality is not a spiritual issue, but if he’s oriented towards women, then he’s obligated to get married and remain committed to her and the relationship to protect her from potential abuse and harm from society. It becomes a spiritual problem for the man if he divorces her for selfish reasons, leaving his wife to suffer the social consequences. Based on verses 1-9, it’s obvious that Christ is trying to protect unmarried and/or abandoned women from being socially ostracized and abused, suggesting that it’s the man’s fault if anything happens to her once abandoned and on her own. However, Christ makes it abundantly clear that not all men are meant to be with women and that is not, apparently, a spiritual issue. It’s a matter of your genetics (birth), or it can be a matter of learned, conditioned behavior, or it can be a choice. It’s not important. What IS important is how a married man treats a woman and how committed he is to the marriage.

In Matthew 5, Christ also says that He fulfills the old Law, and that, as the Son of Man, he is the new archetypal man for the new age. He is the new model for a new spiritual culture and tradition. Then to back that up, in Matthew 15, He says we no longer have to adhere to Levitican Law to be ritualistically clean, for it is what’s in the heart and what comes out of your mouth that makes you ritually clean or unclean. It’s not the food that goes into your mouth or washing your hands that determines your level of cleanliness for worship, but rather the words, thoughts and ideas that come from the heart and come out of your mouth. He also criticizes people for being rigid  about following Levitican rules and not His ideas. Christ lays it out clearly in reference to this in Matthew 11, that even those communities previously destroyed by their own sin, for example, Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, will be forgiven before those who stick irrationally to old dogmas and don’t follow his new teachings. That’s a pretty shocking claim. Superficially, this often becomes interpreted as simply the punishment for turning away from Christ. However, there’s something deeper in the message. This is specifically about being dogmatic about Leviticus and the Old Testament rules for worship, and not just a general admonition for not following His teachings. 

The way I read it, the core message of Christ’s teachings has to become central to spiritual practice and we can now abandon the old ritualistic requirements for worship. The new standards still include some of Mosaic Law, for example, the Ten Commandments, but beyond that the only thing we need to pay attention to are the teachings of Christ, whose central message is ‘love’. In Matthew 5: 44-47, “ 44- But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45- so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46- Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47- And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that!” (Good News translation)

So, it’s clear to me that all of the listed abominations in Leviticus are no longer spiritual issues for Christians. Christ did not adhere to those rules and clarified why. The only specifically worded rule against same-sex behavior, other than Paul’s admonition of ritualistic same-sex behaviors at the altar, pedophilia and random acts of lust, is in Leviticus, and it seems Christ didn’t have much use for those rules. That being the case, and considering Christ’s teachings on male sexuality and marriage, where is the problem with same-sex relationships when they are based on commitment and love?  It is obviously a problem within Christianity for heterosexuals as well as homosexuals to give oneself over to sexual lust without an emotional relationship and some level of commitment between the two people.  OK, I can accept the premise that it’s a ‘sin’ to have sexual relations without the benefit of an agreed upon commitment between the consenting adults. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I can accept the premise. But there is nothing in the New Testament and nothing in the teachings of Christ that would prohibit two adults of the same gender to commit to each other in a loving, long-term sexual relationship, for example, a marriage. In Paul’s letters, he talks about the sin of pedophilia or the sin of ritualistic sex at the church altar, or giving yourself over to lust randomly with someone of the same sex. But even Paul doesn’t say anything about a committed adult same-sex relationship.

So, where is this rigid, dogmatic fundamentalist anti-gay sentiment coming from within Christianity? Why are so many Christians not reading and following Christ’s actual teachings regarding such an attitude and such treatment of others, when the Good Book lays it all out quite clearly that such attitudes and treatment of others is, in Christ’s view, sinful? Certainly, there can be no confusion over the definition of marriage, since the only time Christ really focuses on marriage is when He says heterosexual men should be married to women and once they are, they must remain so for life. He does describe what the relationship should be like, but he doesn’t really define marriage at all.

My conclusion is that based on Christ’s actual words, a person’s sexuality is not a spiritual issue. It’s what one DOES with that sexuality that is or isn’t ‘sin’. Within a Christian context, a heterosexual shouldn’t be promiscuous, nor should a homosexual. A heterosexual should develop a durable, committed, loving relationship. A homosexual should theoretically do the same. It’s fascinating that in Christ’s teachings on love and marriage, He never once suggested that marriage’s primary purpose is procreation. His overriding concern was protecting women from societal abuse because of being unmarried or divorced.  I can only assume, our contemporary social problem accepting homosexuality as just another sexual orientation, and that same-sex marriage is somehow un-Christian, is a cultural tradition rooted in a long-standing homophobia and bigotry from the early Middle Ages, and it’s not specifically related to the teachings of Christ in the New Testament at all.

Afterword:   Referring again to the situation in Russia, they seem to be stuck in Old Testament thinking, on the one hand, and Freudian psychoanalytic theory on the other. In the final analysis, they are delusional and ill-informed. They are behaving in exactly the way Christ says they should not, and they believe in a psychological theory that has long been abandoned in the West. This is also the case in the West among those fundamentalists who preach against homosexuality, marriage equality, adoption rights, etc., and equate homosexuality automatically with pedophilia. The majority of Russians and ‘our own’ fundamentalists are cut from the same cloth and neither is correct. They are guilty of cherry-picking from the list of abominations in Leviticus and irrationally adhering to them as ‘law’, although Christ taught very exactly not to do that in the Book of Matthew, and warned that doing so would make it more difficult than even the sinners of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom to receive forgiveness from God.  These people who quote from Matthew 19 to define marriage as described by Christ are not reading the whole set of verses 1-12 that outline Christ’s views on the subject. Just as in the West with our homophobic fundamentalist Christians, the majority of Russians are morally and ethically wrong in the stand against homosexuals and their equality in society. What they’ve done with the law against ‘homosexual propaganda’ is a serious violation of human and civil rights.

Returning to the topic of Phil Robertson’s comments regarding the sinful nature of gay sex and his strange delusion that only gay men have anal sex–or at least that’s what I thought he was saying–I believe there’s an argument against the whole idea of heterosexuality being the only ‘moral’ sexuality and anything else is sinful, and that argument comes straight from the New Testament, as I hope I’ve demonstrated here. The Biblical reality is there is no prohibition of gay relationships, and by extension, gay sex, beyond criminal behavior like rape, immoral relations based on fleeting lust (I assume that’s like one-night stands, bath house or glory hole sex), and ritualistic sex at the altar. Those prohibitions are no different for heterosexuals. It also seems clear to me that Jesus had a sense of sexual orientation in his instruction to the disciples on marriage, divorce and for whom his message was meant.

Christians almost exclusively draw from the Old Testament, e.g., Sodom and Gomorrah and Leviticus, to support their argument that homosexuality, as a sexual orientation to the world, is sin. But in Leviticus it’s called an abomination–an act that makes you unfit for worship in the temple–something quite different than sin. They often bring up Paul’s letters as well, but Paul never says a word about committed, loving same-sex relationships–he was exclusively concerned with pedophilia, uncontrolled lust, and ritualistic sex. And other than the ‘eunuch’ references, Christ doesn’t bring up the subject at all. So Phil Robertson either hasn’t really studied his Bible, or he’s allowed himself to be duped by other ignorant preachers. They read and study the Bible, but not objectively. Rather they have their opinions and formed assumptions about homosexuality then find language in the scriptures that supports those assumptions.

This is rather unfortunate for everyone, but here Phil Robertson became a victim of his own assumptions and prejudice that he rationalizes as ‘freedom of religion’ and ‘freedom of speech’.  Indeed, he has those freedoms in our society, but he was still wrong in saying what he did. He believes he knows what he’s talking about, but not being gay and not being a biblical scholar puts him in this awkward position. Spreading denigrating remarks about an entire category of people, even if you wrap it up in free speech and tie it with the bow of religious belief, will result in a swift and certain wide-spread criticism and indignation.

 

 

The Up Hill Struggle for Gay Rights Continues

Happy Thanksgiving! Today is Thursday, November 28, 2013. I was thinking how grateful I am to live in the state of Oregon where my marriage is legally recognized. It could be better, in that Oregon doesn’t allow same-sex weddings, so we had to get married in Washington State, but Oregon does recognize us as legally married.  I believe Oregon’s status will change with the November 2014 vote and we’ll join the growing list of states with marriage equality.

I keep abreast of gay rights issues around the world, and especially now in Russia since last June’s law that bans ‘homosexual propaganda’. This law ostensibly protects children from information that would ‘harm’ them. I have been in contact with one of Russia’s leading gay activists, Nikolai Alekseev, who is, in my opinion, incredibly brave to fight against the Russian authorities and this draconian law. His organization is called Project GayRussia, and he has a website and Facebook presence. you can peruse his posted activities at  http://www.gayrussia.eu , and I would encourage everyone to look at the site. (You can click on ‘translate’ at the top, and it will give you a pretty bad English translation, but you can still get the main ideas and information.) He updates daily and it has a wealth of information on legal challenges, and government activities, and he includes lists of names of Russian authorities and organizations that actively persecute gay people.

The situation in Russia seems to be getting worse, not better. Every attempt to assemble gay people in Moscow and St. Petersburg is quashed by the authorities. There is no freedom of assembly or freedom of speech for homosexuals. A recent international gay film festival had two bomb threats and a government official shut down one film for ‘pornography’ and ‘harm to children.’  All requests for permits to assemble are denied. Alekseev files a legal challenge each time they are denied a permit and he plans to take each one to the European Court of Human Rights, if they lose in Russian courts.  Alekseev’s agenda is to promote: 1. freedom of assembly  2. freedom of association  3. freedom of expression  4. overturning the ban on blood donation  5. laws against hate speech and crimes   6. marriage equality  7. repealing the law against ‘homosexual propaganda.’  He needs all the international support he can get!

It looks like Latvia will try to pass a similar ban on ‘homosexual propaganda’, also with the objective of ‘protecting children’.  Specifically, the initiative bans any representation of same-sex relationships or marriage in children’s educational institutions or care facilities. It also bans children from participating in or observing any event whose purpose is to advertise or promote equality for homosexuals or marriage equality. There is a process in place for gathering signatures for the initiative enough to put on a ballot for public election. And there are rules for such initiatives to pass in an election, but it does appear that there is some public support for a law similar to Russia’s.

The situation in Germany is pretty much the status quo. In 2001 Germany passed a ‘civil union’ law that gives gay couples similar rights to hetero-couples. Since then there has been a push for marriage equality and the Social Democrats, as a political party, have backed that initiative. However, they have not been able to get a majority in the Bundestag, and Chancellor Angela Merkel refuses to support it. She was re-elected in September, so it doesn’t look like marriage equality will happen in Germany any time soon, even though according to polls, the majority of Germans support it. Apparently, not every German ‘Land’ allows gay adoption either, and so far there’s been no progress in the Bundestag in passing a country-wide law allowing it. 

Greece has recently taken down barriers for a ‘civil union’ law, but there is no move towards full marriage equality there. You have to be thankful for every little step forward, though.

Here at home, there has been a lawsuit filed against the state of Texas over their ban on same-sex marriage. The complaint claims that the Texas law violates the Federal law and the Constitution. If the courts in Texas agree, then the state constitution will be stripped of its ‘marriage equals one man and one woman’ clause. The claimants say they are being harmed by Texas because the federal government recognizes same-sex marriage based on last June’s Supreme Court decisions; it isn’t a matter of ‘States’ Rights’/10th Amendment because the main body of the Constitution makes it clear in its ‘full faith and credit’ clause, that all states must recognize marriages from other states. Texas neither allows nor recognizes same-sex marriages, which the claimants say is a violation of their rights. If the court upholds the Texas law, it will of course be appealed, and I assume all the way to the Supreme Court, if need be.  Speaking of courts, the 9th Circuit is about to consider whether a native Siberian from Russia can be given asylum in the U.S. for being gay. If the court says yes, that would open the door for gay people in homophobic countries that persecute and prosecute homosexuals to get political asylum here. Let’s hope the 9th Circuit approves!

So, although progress is being made, and gay rights, in general, have gained some traction in the world, there is still an uphill battle to reach absolute equality. African countries, other than South Africa, are down right medieval in their homophobia. The Religious Right still actively campaigns against equality both there and in the West. Equality will happen, but probably not until this younger generation becomes the leaders after 2040. I have every confidence in this generation of young people to treat this issue as a human rights issue and not a religious one. On this Thanksgiving Day 2013, I’m thankful for all of my young friends out there who understand the real nature of this very important issue and support gay people and their civil and human right to be as they are. I’m thankful that I have the right to be married and have my marriage honored and recognized. I’m thankful for people like Nikolai Alekseev who put their lives on the line to fight for their rights.

My Problem with the Common Core Standards in Education

Today is Sunday, November 17, 2013

I haven’t blogged in a while–just hanging back to watch things out there in the world. I’ve been thinking about my former career as a teacher (now retired) and how much I hated No Child Left Behind and how much I was suspicious of the new Common Core standards that were replacing NCLB. After a lot of reading, I am completely against Common Core in our educational system for the following reasons:

1. Teaching and learning are never completely quantifiable. Teaching is not a scientific process–it’s an art. Learning occurs when there is a human bond created between student and teacher and, in that relationship and interaction, the student’s mind is opened and freed from ignorance. By that I mean that the student no longer ignores certain things and takes in the possibilities. A teacher is a mentor and facilitator for learning. To educate means literally to ‘conduct out of’.  A teacher helps lead the student out of ignorance through developing a panoramic openness to life and the world. There are NO data that can measure or quantify that kind of learning.

2. Common Core is a bureaucratic model that ignores real learning and the student-teacher relationship in favor of a data-driven set of measurements that, in the end, say nothing about the real impact a teacher has on a student’s learning. It is being used to evaluate teacher effectiveness, yet it removes the student from the equation and looks only at standardized test scores to measure the ‘effectiveness.’  Since learning is in all reality an outcome of the student-teacher bond and interaction, these derived data can never truly measure the effectiveness of the teacher, nor can they ever measure the degree to which the student has opened his/her mind to life and the world.

3. Common Core still ignores the real basic skills necessary for students to open and free their minds. There was something quite powerful in developing the art of penmanship, or art and music in any form, and mastering grammar, math-facts, spelling, phonics and geography. Common Core, as with No Child Left Behind, relies on standardized testing that is not based on those basic skills. Students will still come into High School without the skill sets in language, literature, math, and history/geography to do well with high school curricula. High School teachers will be in the position to have to ‘fix’ these students before they can begin to work on the more advanced skills needed to complete the High School curriculum. This puts teachers at a disadvantage vis a vis standardized testing and the evaluation of their effectiveness as teachers.

I seldom agree with people like Glen Beck, but he has been an outspoken critic of Common Core for all the right reasons. Here is a video presented by Glen Beck of a high school student critical of Common Core that puts things in perspective. And I completely agree with this student’s point of view and criticism.

http://www.glennbeck.com/2013/11/15/did-this-just-give-the-best-anti-common-core-case-ever-made/

Constitutional Conservatives and the Tea Party

Today is Thursday, October 24, 2013

I’ve been watching the controversy over comments about the tea party being similar to the KKK–Grayson vs West on the cable news channels, for those who might not know that this has flared up. West is Black, a self-proclaimed ‘constitutional conservative’ and a tea party supporter, who has had political aspirations in the GOP. Grayson is a typical liberal politician who is often a ‘talking head’ on CNN and other cable outlets. Grayson likened the tea party to the KKK because of the constant racist insults from so many tea party supporters–calling him a Muslim because of his name, the Kenyan, singing ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ at tea party rallies, and these are probably the least offensive things that I’ve heard since Obama was elected. West took issue with the comparison to the KKK and Grayson won’t back down from the comment.

Although I’m not sure the tea party can be equated to the KKK, when they unfurl Confederate battle flags and promote a quasi-Christian, freakishly extreme, fundamentalism that denigrates gay people, demands that the Congress take the right to control women’s bodies and their family planning, rejects rational comprehensive immigration reform because of their xenophobia and jingoism, generally supports a very primitive social and cultural agenda, AND they insult the President with racial slurs, it’s hard for me to have any sympathy with true constitutional conservatives, like West, who align themselves with this GOP faction.

“Constitutional Conservative” is a euphemism for small government, deregulation of the economy and states’ rights. The term doesn’t–or shouldn’t–include racism, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, misogyny, and xenophobia, none of which is codified in the Constitution, and where it WAS originally so codified, it has been amended to reflect American society as it changed over time. So, in my mind, a Constitutional Conservative should embrace the amendments that expand civil rights and extend everyone’s equality under the law. After all, those things are in the Constitution that we have today, and whether legal minds want to ‘loosely’ or ‘strictly’ interpret the Law, is not the point and is reserved for our Supreme Court and law schools. Whether conservative or liberal, there’s no chance of stripping the Constitution of its Amendments to return to the original document of 1789. If that’s what Constitutional Conservatives want, they’re delusional–as delusional as the tea party is.

In spite of this ‘conservatism’ that is focused on the role of government in the economy, there is an affinity with tea partiers’ social/cultural agenda. This is a huge part of my problem with the tea party–it isn’t just about ‘small government’ and less government involvement in the economy. There’s this idealized, romantic sense of some illusory golden age of America when we were fundamentalist christian, straight, white, Anglo-Saxon male-dominated with a completely laissez-faire economic system. However, I’m not about to support a u-turn to that kind of culture when we were isolationists, women, Indians, Blacks and gay people were second class citizens or worse and the economic cycles of boom-bust were so extreme it delayed our emergence as a world power until we adopted more rational economic policies and began expanding civil rights. I agree, we have to shrink the debt, but then let’s focus on that and leave these primitive social and cultural values in the dustbin of history.

This may require the Constitutional Conservatives and the moderate wing of the GOP to jettison the social-cultural extremists who want more on the agenda than economic reform. The ‘Dominionists’ in the tea party, for example, want to create something akin to a protestant Christian theocracy in order to protect ‘America’ from God’s punishment for things like women’s rights to determine their own lives and families, gay rights and marriage equality. Everything from hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes are blamed on liberal, secular cultural trends. If they can find a way to bring down the liberal, secular government, they’ll do it–Ted Cruz’s and Michelle Bachmann’s commentary on the October government shut-down and debt ceiling fiasco is proof positive.

So, OK, ‘Constitutional Conservatives’, let’s see you do your thing and help bring down the debt. Let’s streamline government so that it’s more efficient. Let’s work to improve the government that is of, by and for the people. Conservative is not anarchist. It’s not irrational belief and anti-intellectual. It’s not undemocratic in order to prove point or get your way. It’s not racist, homophobic or xenophobic. So, let’s see people like West, who clearly have clout and influence, step away from the medieval, religious agenda of what seems to be the majority of the tea partiers, and do something truly conservative and good for America. To launch a cultural war against an increasingly diverse American population to whom the secular liberals want to grant fully expanded civil rights under the law, is not ‘conservative.’ It’s reactionary and politically primitive.

The Religious Right vs Secular Liberalism

Today is Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I heard a clip from a radio show where a religious right-wing activist, a guy named Swanson, attacked the Girl Scouts for being communists and lesbians, and pleaded with listeners not to buy Girl Scout cookies, ‘the food for idols.”  The whole thing struck me as so wrong and so perverted as a political message that I had to do some reading and research about the religious right. I read about ‘Dominionism’ and its role since the late 70s in the American political process and discovered this recent article by Chris Hedges. He says it so much better than I ever could, so I’m going to share the article with you here.

http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Radical-Christian-Righ-by-Chris-Hedges-Christian-Right_Government-Bullying_Government-Corruption_Right-Wing-Extremists-131007-879.html

The Future of the Republican Party

Today is Saturday, October 19, 2013.

I’ve been reading and listening to all the aftermath from the October 17th vote to open the government and raise the debt ceiling, and on the surface, it seems pretty clear that the conservatives in the GOP miscalculated when they tried to use the A.C.A. as the bargaining chip for funding the government or paying our debts. It seems that, even if a simple majority of Americans doesn’t like or trust the A.C.A., according to the polls a massive 75% saw no reason to shut down the government and resist paying our debts, in order to make a conservative point about it. I think this plays well for the moderate Republicans as we go forward, and the conservatives will have to figure something else out, if they want to stay relevant.

A few of these conservatives are moving in a direction of a third party–a split int the GOP that would create a new conservative party and leave the GOP to the moderates. The philosophical divide is pretty clear in the party, so it seems rational to forecast a potentially permanent split. However, there’s a danger afoot here. There’s another scenario possible, which I find disturbing. Here’s a quote from Matte Kibbe, the CEO of FreedomWorks, a so-called ‘grassroots’ organization to promote conservative causes and help finance conservative candidates.

“Grassroots activists have an ability to self-organize, to fund candidates that they’re more interested in, going right around the Republican National Committee and the Senatorial Committee,” he added. “That’s the new reality. Everything’s more democratized and Republicans should come to terms with that. They still want to control things from the top down, and if they do that there will absolutely be a split,” Kibbe warned. “But my prediction would be that we take over the Republican Party, and they go the way of the Whigs.” (CSPAN interview, October 18, 2013)

OK, I get what he’s saying, but there’s something unnerving about the quote. FreedomWorks isn’t really a ‘grassroots’ political organization. It’s funded and backed by very big money. I found this information about this and other so-called ‘grassroots’ conservative organizations.

“Taken together, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks (another far-right political group seeded by the Kochs) and Murdoch’s News Corp, owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal , form the corporate headquarters of a conglomerate one might call Tea Party, Inc. This is the syndicate that funds the organizing, crafts the messages, and channels the rage of conservative Americans…” (Adele Stan, AltNet, 10/24/10)

According to Joan McCarter of the Daily Kos, the origins of this alternate conservative wave in the GOP allegedly go back to the early 80s with the tobacco industry funding potential 3rd party conservative movements. As early as 2002, the Kochs and tobacco-related CSE were conspiring to create a national organization akin to what we now call the Tea Party. With the 2009 spontaneous ‘uprising’ against the bailout, these billionaire power brokers saw their chance and stepped in to push for and fund the ground swell of reaction to ‘bailout economics’ as well as to support any potential political candidates that they could find, (e.g. Ted Cruz).

So, Matt Kibbe is actually talking about ‘Tea Party, Inc’ as a syndicate taking over the GOP and forcing the moderates out. I’m not usually a paranoid person and I never fall victim to conspiracy theories, but this situation makes me very nervous and should be a concern to all. He’s letting us know what their plans are for the future of the GOP. This isn’t ‘grassroots’ at all, no matter how they would want everyone to believe that. Their funding sources are too rich to believe what’s happening is truly ‘grassroots.’ These arch-conservative billionaires and their syndicate can’t buy as much of the moderate GOP patronage as they thought, so now they’re apparently planning to destroy the party and take out the moderates from the political equation. We simply can’t allow them to do that. Their tactics and strategies are undemocratic and their vision for this country is so 19th century, it’s more than frightening. I’m not saying yet that they are fascists, but there’s a strong resemblance in their attitudes, political aggressiveness, and in their laissez faire economics bundled with governmental and military functions, and frighteningly conservative social agenda.

If the GOP falters in the 2014 mid-term elections, you will see Tea Party, Inc suddenly with a great deal of money to throw around for the 2016 elections. And if they can take over the GOP in the next two years, and send the moderates ‘the way of the Whigs’, as Kibbe says, we will see the country divided and polarized to a degree not seen since the Civil War. The Democrats and the GOP moderates need to protect the government and the American people from this ‘Tea Party, Inc.’  They have to put a firewall around them and keep them contained until we can find a way to make THEM go the way of the Whigs.

Now That It’s Not Over

Today is Thursday, October 17, 2013.  So it looks like my Social Security check will arrive after all and my husband heads back to work this morning at the Veteran’s Administration. We have three months to breathe before things heat up again threatening to shut down the government and default on the debt. These extreme conservatives who have driven this sixteen day exercise in futility need a history lesson, I think. I’ve been thinking seriously about the conservative claims that America is on the brink of collapse; American influence is on the decline; the American way of life is being replaced by some socialist hell led by the devil himself, President Obama, whom they ironically and stupidly often characterize as a kind of Black Hitler. (So, tea partiers, is President Obama a socialist or a Nazi? He can’t be both!) And to let all this happen will lead to the end of capitalism and democracy in America as we know it.

In any case, I was born in 1950 and have watched this country in the post-war period, experiencing  on some level the administrations of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush1, Clinton, Bush2 and now Obama. I’ve experienced the polarization over Vietnam, the corruption of Nixon, the politically ineffective but heartfelt idealism of Carter, Reagan’s questionaable trickle down economics and deregulation, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Communist Bloc, Bush1’s amazing international coalition in Gulf War One, the Clinton boom years and US intervention in Yugoslavia, 9/11 and the Iraq/Afghan wars…and no matter how much we as Americans disagreed with this that or the other policy, we always took the middle path to tolerance if not acceptance of differing political points of view. The Democrats learned their lesson about extremism in the ’72 election and it took a while to reconfigure their political objectives and platform and have relevance again nationally, but in the end the pendulum swings in our politics have always led to consensus and great strides forward in American political, social and economic life.

My point is this: In the last 60 years, in spite of our domestic political disagreements, this country has produced the largest and most successful middle class in the history of civilization. We have created the most politically stable, militarily powerful, economically vibrant, culturally creative, globally influential country in history. We have most of the best universities in the world and our music and film industries have global reach. We are envied, admired, hated, and loved for all of the above reasons. And we did all this with a sense of humility, moderation and compromise.

Now, however, we have no civility, humility, moderation or compromise. Our extremist conservatives have this apocalyptic belief that America is on the brink of collapse and they are desperately trying to avert the Great Disaster. This is ostensibly due to our spending-to-debt ratio and the A.C.A., combined with social/cultural developments like gay rights/marriage equality/gays in the military; increasing non-white, non-Christian, non-European electorates; their inability to change abortion laws, and then there’s a non-white man in the White House with a ‘Muslim’ name.  So, they use procedural tools in Congress to block the democratic process in order to force their intolerant and extremist views on everyone.

This modern form of conservatism has been on the fringes of American political life ever since I was a kid–well, they became fringe once they had been marginalized after McCarthy was censored and discredited in 1956-57. But I can remember them as the John Birch Society or, in the 60s-70s, Lyndon LaRouche and his followers. There’s also a distant element of Libertarianism in this new conservatism with ideological roots going back to Ayn Rand. You know this just by the presence of Ron and Rand Paul in the GOP, although any real Libertarian philosophy is very minimally present in the tea party ideology. Yet, today, this form of political extremism is dominating the GOP. Without a doubt, debt and spending are problems we have to solve, so from a fiscal and economic point of view, I have some sympathy for that tea party issue. Beyond that, these extremists seem to me to be nearly anarchistic in their hatred of government, and their social positions are so primitive it seems their calendars still say 1313 and not 2013.

If you listened to Ted Cruz after last night’s vote ending the shutdown, he still raged on about how the A.C.A. will bring us to the apocalyptic brink of disaster, as if he were some modern St. John giving a new exegesis of Revelation. This silver-tongued demagogue knows how to turn a phrase and speak with conviction and that’s what makes him so dangerous. He has this religious sense of the coming American Apocalypse, he sees signs of it everywhere and he’s smart and articulate enough to convince millions who aren’t thinking critically about his words.  We’ve seen his kind in American politics before– McCarthy and Huey Long come to mind. It never ends well for these people if history is any guide!

What is disheartening to me is the fact that Ted Cruz and his tea party cohorts are politically safe in their own districts in their home states. The gerrymandering in the last round of redistricting in the South, particularly, has created very polarized local politics without much chance of finding middle ground on anything or defeating tea party candidates. So, I expect that we will continue to have to fight against the politics of the American Apocalypse into the next couple election cycles. The GOP needs to look at this problem very carefully. They need to find a way to neutralize the tea party within their ranks or risk irrelevance in the near future. As it is now, they have no ability for long term planning or problem-solving–after all there hasn’t been a budget since 2009. This is the PRIMARY job of the House of Representatives, so it’s pretty clear these elected officials are ineffective in doing the job they were elected to do. Since the 2010 mid-term elections and then the 2012 national elections, the wave of recalcitrant tea party lawmakers has made doing the business of government very difficult. In their zeal to stop their believed collapse of America, they have successfully created fear in the hearts of business and foreign governments over the ability of the U.S. to continue to lead the world. The tea party strategy could, in one grand Irony, cause the decline of American influence in the world, if we can’t control them.