Brown rice soaking in ACV and salt.

Lately I’ve been really into learning traditional ways of preparing food to maximize the nutrient availability, and that’s led to me reading a lot of what I would term kind of “hippie mom” blogs to get methods for soaking grains and nuts. I say “hippie mom” with no disrespect whatsoever, as if I ever somehow decided to have a kid, I would end up falling into that category. Anyway, after reading a recipe on one such blog and absentmindedly straying into the comments, I started clicking into the “about” page and kind of fell down a hole. The blog was a Christian-centered blog; Biblical scripture was featured throughout the author’s description of herself and she described receiving her husband’s permission to start her blogging endeavors. I wasn’t really bothered by this, because although I am no longer practicing, I was raised in a Christian family, went to a Christian elementary school, and religion when used positively gets the high sign from me. I actually thought her story was kind of endearing, in a wholesome kinda way. No shade intended.

But then I clicked on a link to a blog post about a Christian singer coming out as gay, and I was sad. I was hoping she might be one of those free-love type Christians, but she is not. I got to thinking about how to communicate with people who hold beliefs that are so fundamental in an effective way.

The whole impetus for the blog post was that a Christian singer had said he was coming out to be honest with himself, or something to that effect, and that God would want him to live a live where he was his truest self. The author took issue with this attitude, and the trend towards tolerance in Christianity in general, as he (it was a guest post) mentioned that he was disappointed to see Christians applauding his decision to come out. He basically said that Christianity is about denying yourself, and since homosexuality is sinful behavior, the singer should have stayed in the closet and been grateful for his wife and children. He also said that after all the interview requests and fanfare over his coming out dried up, the singer would feel empty and alone because he had turned away from God. So, I’m guessing that means he believes any out queer person is actually deeply unhappy and just deluding themselves.

This is a really self-fulfilling belief system, and it’s difficult to think of a way to persuade someone to embrace supporting the human rights of queer people when they have this setup. I realize that one interpretation (hell, maybe even the right one) of Christian mythology is that humans have free will, but we are corrupted by sin and our moral compass is pathologically flawed. Therefore, we must surrender to the moral compass of God, because, you know, he’s perfect. Since God doesn’t really talk to us (except, arguably, in our heads), we have to go by what’s in the Bible. And the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, in this interpretation.

Now, I have wagered on science and my own intuition and the beautiful spirituality of the observable (and unobservable) natural world. So I don’t believe that the Bible is the word of an all-mighty God that is passing out tickets to a placid paradise only accessible upon my departure from this material realm. Therefore, I don’t believe that my own moral compass is irreparably damaged by an original sin. And I know that my own moral compass spins wildly when I watch the human rights of any group violated, when I see violence perpetrated against them by the state and society, and when I see them isolated and targeted as a group to vilify and demonize. I want for all people to experience love and light in their lives, to live the fullest, most authentic life they can in this world, and to know true equity in our society. I don’t care who you love, what gender or lack thereof you claim, what the color or size or age of your skin is, how much money you have or owe – you deserve that as a living organism on this planet. We are blessed to see this planet as it is today, not by a benevolent or arbitrary deity, but by odds. We shouldn’t squander this life, not because of the possibility that there might be a greater reward in the next life, but because of the probability that there isn’t, and this life is all we have together, here, on this planet, with all this beauty.

But if you’ve surrendered your own moral compass to a deity that may or may not be there, I can’t appeal to you with this argument. Even if you felt a twinge of wrongness when considering the struggles of queer people, you could chalk that up to a manifestation of sin. I imagine that for some, a beloved family member coming out as queer or trans can sway them. Familial ties are much stronger than the abstract tie you have to some random gay person you see on TV. But for so many, as evidenced by the high rate of teen homelessness in the queer and trans community, even familial ties don’t shake their faith in their own lack of moral compass (to be frank). How can these individuals be convinced to support social change that includes equal rights for queer folks and other oppressed minorities, when you can’t use empathy as a weapon?

“Weapon” is a little dramatic, but usually when you’re making a persuasive argument for the humanity of another, you can appeal to the heart of the person you’re making the argument to. In the case of those who have ceded their morality to a higher power, however, since empathy is emotion, empathy is to be distrusted. Our emotions are sinful, because we are sinful. So regardless of whether or not one personally feels bad about the oppression of another group, or even feels it’s wrong, if it’s God’s will for that group to suffer and be marginalized, it’s pointless and even detrimental to one’s own salvation to intervene. And, again, the Bible says, in this interpretation, that homosexuality is a sin. For this straw population I’ve constructed for the sake of this essay, no amount of empathy is going to change what the Bible says, or what they understand that to mean in terms of the social position of queer folks in the world.

I talked to my mom a bit about this subject, because she is a Christian, and my deceased grandfather, who I adored and deeply respected, was a pastor for his entire adult life. I wanted to know what she thought he would have said if I asked him about this stuff, because I grew up feeling that he embodied what Christianity could be at its best. Unfortunately, by the time I was mature enough to be willing to listen to his wisdom about Christianity without argument, he was at the end of his life and not in a mood to have the kind of conversations he so frequently had, and loved, when he was younger. It turns out my mom feels the same regrets about not having those kinds of conversations with him! Because she knew he tended towards the Republican end of politics, she avoided talking to him about how he reconciled his love for all humanity and his kind, redemptive nature with some of the policies of the GOP and some of the verses in the Bible. If we were unwilling to have that hard conversation with my grandfather, who was a relatively reasonable person to talk to about controversial topics, I can only imagine how many families go through their lives without ever challenging each other’s beliefs and trying to understand them. I’m not going to say it’s this kind of situation that led to the election of the current President of the United States, but it’s sure the kind of situation that led to people being shocked his election was even a possibility.

I digress. This has been a long, windy road to conclude: I’ve realized I can’t save them all. I am going to have to accept that there are going to be some folks who will only be brought into a more just and loving society by force. It sounds counterintuitive, but is nevertheless true. Some people are just going to fight us tooth and nail and never concede or give up.

Still, it’s hard to accept that it’s possible we could all agree that soaking our grains is good and making kombucha is amazing, but not agree that we’re all equally divine and worthy of each other’s love and acceptance.

 

 

So Obama is backing a “compromise” between Congress and the military that will “pave the way” for a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Whew, that was a lot of quotation marks. Anyway, again, this just brings us a little bit closer to actually tossing that crap out the window, but it’s dependent on the military brass eventually deciding that the sky won’t fall if gay people get to be honest about being gay. It’s just such a joke that we still, in 2010, have this wholly unnecessary policy when our “allies” — i.e., the UK, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, hell, even Israel — have done away with this policy and their militaries haven’t turned into a remake of “The Chorus Line”.

It really is physically hard for me to wrap my brain around DADT, the argument against gay marriage, and homophobia in general. I just can’t believe that people can support those kinds of viewpoints, and be so blatant about it. A former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO from the U.S. actually suggested that the Srebrenica Massacre was not prevented because the Dutch had allowed openly gay soldiers to serve in their military. Seriously. Because apparently, being gay makes you weak, and unable to defend anyone properly. Surely there weren’t extenuating circumstances that uh, didn’t involve Dutch soldiers having some kind of gay tea party while a genocide took place.

Obama pledged during the campaign to eliminate DADT. But he also pledged to close Guantanamo and to enact universal health care. The plan to close Guantanamo started out strong but just kind of fizzled, and we know the disaster which passes for universal health care. With the Republicans lining up against repealing DADT (as more and more of their ranks resign from Congress over gay sex scandals, of course), and the complete ineptitude of the Democratic caucus, I’m wary of getting excited over this “compromise”. But HRC seems to think it’s great, and since there’s no trans folks that need to be thrown under the bus for this to happen, you know they really mean it, right? Because trans people aren’t even included under DADT since they can’t even join the military in the first place.

So how much do you want to bet that HRC’s activism on this issue ends when DADT is over? We still have a long way to go for trans people to even have the privilege to be in the military and be quiet about being trans. Not that being quiet is a good thing, but there’s definitely privilege involved in just being able to serve. Of course the “T” is so easily dropped from GLBT when issues like this come up. Trans people are constantly told they have to wait, that they’ll get picked up on the next round. HRC is notorious for this. And what about other differently gendered/non gendered people who wish to serve openly? Am I being unrealistic in thinking we should fight for all this at once?

There’s just so much work to be done.

By now you’ve probably heard about the gay couple in Malawi getting sentenced to 14 years in jail for having a commitment ceremony. If not, there’s the link. Now what with this happening and that scare about the Ugandan anti-gay bill that would give gays the death penalty, and all the wars and starvation, I imagine it’s hard for some not to just say “damn, Africa is all types of fucked up” and go about your day because we hear about Africa’s misfortune in passing all the time. But let’s take a second and think about why Africa is all types of fucked up.

Of course it’s ironic that the Malawi government is enforcing a law that was imposed on them through colonial rule. But think about it — hundreds of years of colonial rule here. Africa kind of has a right to be backwards on this. I mean, black people in America do some stupid shit and we’ve been free longer than Africa has been decolonized. And the colonial powers — in Malawi’s case, Britain — are the ones who taught them that a) being gay is wrong, b) being gay IS VERY WRONG, c) now being gay is ILLEGAL. And if you’ll journey to that link up there about the Ugandan bill, you’ll see that “Christian” representatives from the U.S. are telling them that being gay is a Western problem and gay people from the U.S. are coming to GET THEIR CHILDREN. Believe it or not, African countries don’t like anything that smacks of colonialism. “But Tasha, you just said the anti-gay law in Malawi is colonial” It’s complicated. Being gay is not high on most Africans’ list of things it’s desirable to be. And they definitely don’t want their children “indoctrinated” with that mess. So when U.S. human rights activists come in trying to tell them that being gay is OK, and these right wing Christians warn them that the U.S. “homosexual movement” is trying to infiltrate them, they react in a not-so-positive way because it’s seen as a large Western power trying to influence their country immorally. Regardless of whether or not they got the idea from colonialism in the first place.

It’s kind of like how we financed the mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets and now they’re using that training to fight us. You can’t meddle with an entire continent’s consciousness and not expect it to come bite you in the ass when you’ve decided you’re more enlightened than you were when you were doing the first meddling. For whatever reason, in colonial times it was apparently in Britain’s best interest that Africans hate gays. Now they’re just continuing on in that tradition and you’re surprised? They were taught, fully taught to believe that homosexuality was evil. Just like they were taught to despise their dark skin so they are now bleaching it, enforcing the dichotomy you wanted them to. Just like how they were taught their hair was ugly so they are now straightening it, to be what you told them was beautiful.

So before you judge the attitudes and actions of these African people towards gays, think about where they got them. It’s much like the old “Where’d you learn to smoke those cigarettes?” line. We know. At least we should.

[Ed. I was informed by two of my lovely commenters that the “gay couple” in Malawi is actually a straight couple, as Tiwonge Chimbalanga (a member of the couple) is a trans woman. So in addition to homophobia, we’ve got transphobia! Awesome. This is what happens when you “trust CNN”.]

borninflames1
I’d had “Born In Flames”, a Lizzie Borden film from 1983, in my Netflix Instant Queue for a while now and I just managed to watch it today. Set in the not-too-distant future, it takes place 10 years after the U.S. has gone through a second (bloodless) revolution and become the world’s first socialist democracy. Unsurprisingly and quite realistically, not much has changed for PoC, women, WoC, the poor, queers, or pretty much any other traditionally oppressed group of people. The film follows 4 groups of women activists: the Women’s Army, a grassroots organization that fights for labor equality, organizes feminist protests, and performs vigilante actions against would-be rapists and street harassers, led by Adelaide Norris; Phoenix Radio, a black women’s underground station fronted by Honey, who espouses kind of a spiritual/mental fight against oppression; Radio Regazza, a white women’s underground station with more of a punk rock sensibility; and the Socialist Youth Review, a mainstream Party newspaper spearheaded by upper class “intellectual” white women (one of whom is played by Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow) that mainly exists to reinforce the Party line regarding women’s rights.

I won’t go into great detail, as I urge you to watch the movie if you’re interested. It’s kind of disjointed and better seen than explained.

The movie starts out going back and forth between the 3 counter-revolutionary women’s groups as they discuss the current state of civil rights for all people, especially women. It’s pretty much agreed that the situation is dismal, but they disagree on what needs to be done to change it and how involved they want to get. The first part of the film focuses on Adelaide Norris, the leader of the Women’s Army, the organization that seems to be doing most of the organizing and heavy lifting. After several demonstrations and vigilante actions, the situation is not any better, so Adelaide feels armed resistance may be the course the Women’s Army will have to take. She takes a trip to the Western Sahara, where women and men are fighting against colonial forces trying to recapture that territory. On her way back home she is arrested for attempting to smuggle arms into the country. She is jailed and assassinated by the government while incarcerated.

This spurs the other feminist groups into action, including the Party group of women who run the Socialist Youth Review, who had previously refused to endorse any revolutionary feminist group because it would “hurt the overall goals of the Party”, which sounds so much like Democrats today asking you to vote for their shitty candidate because if they’re not elected, the REALLY bad guys will win. The paper begins to print stories decrying the government assassination of Adelaide Norris, which eventually gets them fired. The radical women’s groups send out a team to hold television station managers hostage so they can get a tape of one of their leaders played telling about the assassination. They’re arrested and the two feminist radio stations, Radio Regazza and Phoenix Radio, are firebombed. The two stations emerge again as one, and the now united feminist groups decide that violence is their only viable option in the face of tyranny. Interestingly, they end the movie with a woman planting a bomb at the World Trade Center and it exploding as a newscaster broadcasts in front of the buildings.

Apparently the movie was filmed over the course of 5 years, so that might explain why it meanders in some ways. For the first half of the film I wasn’t really digging it, although I thought it was awesome that there were so many black women feminists in it and that the main character was a black lesbian. But other than that it seemed kind of cliche and honestly not very enjoyable. But as it progressed and more action was taken it gained momentum and I became more interested in it. By the end I felt almost empowered. I even polished my ankh necklace and busted out some Egyptian Musk incense.

The way the “establishment” women were portrayed really mirrored how white women in positions of power act towards WoC, poor women, women with disabilities, etc., basically telling them that they must put their own best interests aside for the good of the overall cause. I could definitely see this situation happening in our overly complacent society. The majority of the women in this film were of color, which was refreshing. Overall, I was glad I had watched it.

So go put this movie in your Netflix queue and get all the details I missed.

For those in the public eye, speculation about one’s sexual orientation is commonplace. When red flags (not the fun kind) like being an unmarried woman or a “confirmed bachelor” go up about someone newly thrust into the spotlight, speculation can reach a fever pitch. Such is the case with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. However, what raised the flag was not her marital status or her position on “don’t ask, don’t tell”. It appears the main reason the lesbian rumor started was due to comments by 4 anonymous alleged Harvard Law School students posted on Epinions.com. What really sold it in many people’s minds was the Obama camp’s oddly desperate-sounding denials of the rumors when they first started. And when some digging brought to light juicy tidbits like pictures of Kagan playing softball and her apparent sparse dating record in college, that just fueled the fire.

Of course it’s ridiculous to suggest a woman is a lesbian because she played a softball game at which those with cameras were present, or because she dated few men in college. But the right wing opponents of her nomination will take anything they can get. In response Democrats have dispatched, of all people, Eliot Spitzer to defend Kagan’s honor. The two were friends at Princeton and Spitzer swears she dated other men (not him) during her time there. And her law school roommate is also sure that Kagan is straight. The way these rumors are being handled calls into question why being gay is such a dealbreaker for a Supreme Court nominee. Are the hamhanded denials really necessary? If she were gay, would that be the end of her brief career as a potential Justice?

Besides the unnecessary effort being expended to prove she’s not gay, what also irks me is the suggestion being made by some openly gay journalists that if Kagan was gay, she has a responsibility to be out about it. If the question is asked, they say, she should have to answer. And if she were gay, it apparently would be a boon to liberals because it would mean she definitely had progressive stances on key issues. This irks me as well. Ever heard of the Log Cabin Republicans? I think it’s somewhat offensive to suggest that being gay automatically makes you progressive. How many closeted gay Congressmen have consistently been anti-gay rights in their political actions? Gay folks don’t have a corner on the liberal market. Their views vary as much as straight folks’ do.

I don’t think public figures have a duty to declare their queerness. Yes, it would be awesome if Kagan were gay, out, and progressive. However, she’s not obligated to inform us of the details of her private life. What really needs to be critiqued is the Obama administration’s response to the suggestion that she might be gay. In making it a Big Deal, they’re inferring that there’s something politically dangerous about being gay. Kagan herself has been mum about the issue. Which is her right, but letting everyone else assure the public that you’re not gay seems a bit off. If the case is “She’s Not Gay, Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That!” saying it once should be enough. I just think the way this is being handled by the left borders on offensive. I expect as much from the Fox News set, but I’d like to think so-called progressives could stand to be a little less hyper about the rumors.

Unfortunately, the only way I see this ending is if Kagan herself states which team she’s playing for. Is there a People cover in her future?