Patrick Swayze on a Pottery Wheel!

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According to our resident Delphic barnacle, Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has come “out of nowhere.”

Let’s talk about that.

We live our lives in an online environment characterized by hateful, ideologically violent ad hominem attacks, hit-and-run partisan rhetoric, and the guilt-free savaging of people we call friends. We have done for years. Day in and day out. And you are what you eat.

Women assume all men want to rape them. Whites assume all blacks want to rob them. Blacks assume all cops want to kill them. Americans assume all Muslims want to blow them up. And we all assume that anyone who disagrees with us in any way must be our enemy, and at the very least can never be our friend. And the kicker is, none of these are completely groundless assumptions.

We live in a world of exceptions proving rules.

When I walk across campus, I am nearly run down by people so absorbed in their iPhones that they forget other people exist. We carry on conversations with distant strangers (twits with tweets that we are), while our nearest neighbors are virtually unknown to us. And when I do happen to catch someone’s eye, it’s often hard to distinguish between latent fear and outright dismissal.

We are terrified of everyone and everything. We populate our world with ghosts and specters of threats and danger (we ain’t talkin’ Patrick Swayze here!), and we embody those spirits in the forms of all the Others we don’t know how to approach: Muslims are terrorists, the transgendered are perverts, Mexicans are rapists, and African-Americans are thugs and welfare queens. Full stop.

Then, to put the friggin’ cherry on top, we wrap all this bullshit up in a nice, neat bundle of jingoistic self-satisfaction: we are the U.S.A., dammit, and we’ve stopped by to save the day! Can we help it if the rest of the world is too blind to see how much it needs our “assistance”?

We are a nation of self-absorbed, narcissistic, multiphobic war hawks with a collective God-complex.

Donald Trump? Yeah…what a shocker!…

To Pee or Not to Pee…

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That is the question.

Okay, Christians, you asked for it:

Take your religious freedom and shove it! This is not freaking about YOU! And don’t give me this crap about how these anti-transgender laws provide a “baseline protection” for your religious freedom. There’s already a baseline protection for Christians in this country: being a Christian in this country. 501(c)3s, anyone? It’s on our money, it’s there every time we insist on political candidates “clarifying their views” on faith, and it pops out whenever anybody talking about anything anywhere in government “God blesses” America, as if it’s some sort of spiritual freaking punctuation mark.

In case you don’t get it (and probably haven’t thought about it), preventing the transgendered from using the restroom of their choice is equivalent to insisting that I, a straight male, use the ladies’ room. A transgender woman is a woman, not a man dressed like one; a transgender man is a man, not a woman in disguise. Simple as that. Kind of like a Christian who discriminates against others just because he can is an asshole, no matter how he dresses.

I am tired of wearing kid gloves on this issue. Religious freedom is not about pooping on others; it’s about freedom from getting pooped on by others. It’s about freedom from people like you. So, for the love of God (literally), keep your pooping to yourself. In the restroom of your choice. AS IT SHOULD BE!!!

Sins of My Fathers

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Without ash to rise from, a phoenix would just be a bird getting up.

– Schmidt

I want to talk about race, and gender, and some of the other things I’m not supposed to talk about because I’m white and male. Which characteristics I of course chose for myself when the gene genies contacted me for that traditional prenatal identity consultation. This was after the prenatal press conference in which I explicitly endorsed all the injustices committed by all the white males before me, throughout history.

I have news for you: Hogwarts is not real, and there is no such thing as a Sorting Hat. I was born, and I have acted (for better and for worse) on my own account and no one else’s; my impact as a person can be judged fairly only by that rubric.

But that is not the rubric against which I find myself measured. I am told that, regardless of who I am or what I have done, I am complicit in a multitude of previous sins. I am presumed guilty, and am placed beyond proof of innocence. And anything I say can and will be used against me in the court of public opinion.

I’m told that men shouldn’t be involved in the gender debate, that they should just listen quietly and be educated. Fair enough: quiet listening is necessary to education, and speech before learning leads only to Fox and Friends. But there is a time for quiet listening, and there is a time for taking what one has learned and getting into the conversation, respectfully but actively. Otherwise, there isn’t much point in learning in the first place.

I’m told that Black Lives Matter. And they most certainly do. But I’m also told that this is a claim that must exist in isolation; that to suggest, as a member of the white community, that my life also matters, that indeed all lives matter, is an act of imperialism and violence. I am told by those speaking out for their own worth and meaning as people that if I do the same, I am worthless and meaningless. Meanwhile, on many levels, the whole argument misses its own point, given that we are prosecuting it as a multitude of refugees stands helpless and homeless at our borders, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens stand helpless and homeless on our street corners, and all the rest of us stand idly by demanding more attention for ourselves.

I refuse to accept this. I will not play this game nor will I acquiesce to these rules, any more than anyone should give in to the arbitrariness of socially-imposed classes and categorizations. Justice is never about taking dominance away from one voice and giving it exclusively to another. Justice can only come about by way of dialogue; it must involve both the wronged and the perceived wrong-er.

The debate over feminism cannot thrive if it is framed in a such a way as to intentionally alienate or shut out the male voice, not because women are incapable of solving their own problems, but because men are a fact, unfortunate though it may be. We exist; we are everywhere. And if we’re the problem, then we have to be a part of the solution. Otherwise, you’re repairing the roof by tearing down a wall.

Black lives matter. White lives matter. Middle Eastern lives matter. Unborn life matters. Life matters. Wherever it is found, behind whatever sort of face it hides. This is the underlying problem: we think that in order for one group to matter, another has to matter less. This misconception of meaning has provided the framework for every violent human arrangement in history, from slavery to the Cold War to the War on Terror. Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter is but one more example of this false dichotomy. If we are to reach a point at which either black or white lives truly do matter, then it must be in tandem with one another, and alongside all other life. This is a zero sum issue: either all lives matter, or none of them do.

Recently, I read the following quote by radical feminist Alicen Grey:

It’s painful when I hear/see quotes from men, waxing poetic about how violent and inhumane “we” “humans” are “to each other”. When historically and globally, males account for the vast, vast majority of violence. Mostly against women. I used to wonder, how could these men – fancying themselves profound and in-on Truth – possibly call “humans” violent when they are technically the source? But I guess that’s what happens when the only people you consider humans are other men.

In other words, it doesn’t matter what I say, or in how many positive ways I contribute to the quest for social justice, gender and racial equality, or anything else. I am, in the most literal of senses, worth-less, beyond any possibility of betterment, trapped in the web of my original sin: the penis. I am generational evil incarnate. Regardless of my individual character, I am defined by my class and, consequently, disenfranchised. I am refused the right to contribute on the presumption that anything I say is by definition suspect. I am barred, not just from the conversations surrounding gender and racial issues, but from any conversation at all. How’s that for violent, imperialistic speech?

I hear her, and I appreciate (if I cannot fully understand) the pain that animates her words. Women have been sorely mistreated by men, African Americans have been devalued by white America, and ethnic minorities the world over have been abused and murdered by majorities the world over, for far too long. But anger, while a powerful and constructive tool, becomes merely destructive when wielded as a weapon. This may be temporarily satisfying, but it is not ultimately productive. Alienation as a response to alienation only creates greater alienation.

I will not apologize for things I did not do and have not done. No one should have to. What I can (and will) do is my best with my life to ensure that the unjust actions and words of my predecessors and contemporaries are, through my own actions and words, to some measure counteracted. I will honor, respect, and speak out for the rights of women, African Americans, and any others to whom they have been denied, and I will fight alongside anyone (Alicen Grey included) who is interested in bringing about a more just social order for all people. I may not move mountains, but I’ll go down swinging. I will be your ally.

Assuming, that is, that you’ll let me…

SBC Houston: Discrimination 2013

For anyone who cares, the Southern Baptist Convention is about halfway through its 2013 annual meeting in Houston, Texas. This year’s theme? “Revive Us … That We May Be One!” I thought (for the hell of it) that I’d share a little bit about how this is playing out. So sit back, and prepare to roll your eyes, walk across the room, pick them up, and roll them again…

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Item #1: In the interests of Christian unity, the SBs moved to remove Lake Shore Baptist Church of Waco, Texas, from fellowship with the convention. Characteristically quick on the uptake, they did this only 12 short years after Lake Shore did it for them in 2000, upon publication of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

(This one’s rather near to home, since my wife Tammy is Lake Shore’s office manager.)

The rationale behind this motion? Lake Shore supports Planned Parenthood. They even–wait for it!–give money to that evil, evil organization. Which, by the way, has nothing to do with an abiding interest in issues of women’s health. No, it can only mean one thing: these rogue Baptists are “promoting abortion.” Which as far as I’m concerned demonstrates a very shallow understanding of what Planned Parenthood does. Yes, they do perform abortions–I can’t argue with that; it’s on their web site (along with links to information on parenting and adoption options, by the way, for those faced with this difficult decision). However, if one bothers to read beyond that point, it turns out that they also offer comprehensive sex education programs for children, youth, and parents, facilitate access to birth control, and provide a number of important health-related services such as gynecological exams, HIV testing, and breast and cervical cancer screenings. They even assist with adoption procedures.

Obviously, no good can come from supporting this bunch of crazy-eyed, fanatical PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT WOMEN.

I’m no fan of abortion–let’s get that straight right here and right now–but it strikes me that the ones really “promoting abortion” are the folks who insist that groups like Planned Parenthood not be allowed to educate children and youth about the responsibilities of human sexuality. Also, it seems to me that to vilify this organization because of what amounts to three percent of their operating budget is to miss the forest for the trees. However, the abortion debate in conservative Christian circles is a zero-sum affair: it trumps every conversation, and it allows no room for other considerations. I was told in 2008 that my vote for Barack Obama amounted to a vote for abortion. Not for health care; not against environmental depredation; not in favor of social justice. For abortion. End of discussion.

Because they can’t see past this admittedly important issue to all the other equally important issues in its wake, the SBC feels it necessary to jettison their fellow believers, with neither inquiry nor debate (not to mention a decade too late), because Lake Shore’s congregation believes women should have greater access to vital healthcare services. Coming from a bunch of folks who just finished singing “Mercy said no, I’m not going to let you go, I’m not going to let you slip away, You don’t have to be afraid,” this seems a little odd…

Item #2: There will also be a vote on a resolution declaring that federal (read, Obamacare) contraception policies are a threat to religious liberty. ***See Item #1***

Item #3: A third resolution deals with Southern Baptist church sponsorship of the Boy Scouts of America. They’ve gone gay, you see. And any organization that’s a friend to gay kids is NOT a friend of theirs. SNAP!

Thus, on the heels of a long and fruitful relationship between the Southern Baptists and the Scouts, the SBC is proposing to encourage its affiliated congregations to end their support of the BSA. This is just a friendly admonition, of course…although one assumes that any congregation that chooses not to heed this advice will eventually find itself on the Lake Shore chopping block. And this is a bit strange, coming from a denomination historically based on the autonomy of the local church.

But let’s not forget that famous expression of Jesus’ love in Matthew 19:14: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Unless they’re gay.'”

Item #4-5: In addition to their “no gays in the Scouts” stance, the SBs have decided to go all in and add “no gays in the military” and “no gays in the wedding chapel” to their list of unifying resolutions. It would seem that both the striking of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the legalization of same-sex marriage represent a clear and present threat to the religious liberty of Southern Baptists. The fact that the failure to take either action opposed represents a clear and present threat to many people’s civil liberties seems to be of little concern.

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In sum, I think we should all applaud the SBC’s efforts to promote unity through cutting ties with anyone who disagrees with them in any way. Pretty sure they won’t be missed…