Monday, January 31, 2011

suicide bombers

A Californian was caught today as he attempted to blow up a large and populated church in Michigan. His motives were religiously based and he was caught by police before he was able to attempt the bombing. I am sure that like the underwear bombed and all the other guys they caught BEFORE they could do anything, the right-wingers will demand that he not be given a civil trial and that he be detained indefinitely until he confesses to collaboration and with whom.

Then again...maybe not. This guy's different.

Speaking of blowing themselves up...did anyone else see this hilariously horrible story about a Russian suicide bomber who blew herself up accidentally when the cell phone company sent her a "Happy New Years" text message? Ha! I know I shouldn't laugh, but that's hilarious...I mean, here she was thinking she's be a martyr and whatnot, and instead gets killed by spam!

small government? sure! now spy on us

So, after tackling Health Care Reform (with a symbolic repeal vote they knew would die), and now Abortion and Marriage Equality in DC, how else are Republicans tackling the debt that got them elected? Well, obviously by passing some sort of bill that falls in line with the Tea Party's "limited government" agenda, right?

Of course not! Instead, they are hoping to pass a bill which would force internet providers to maintain IP addresses and what they look at online for up to two years. Unreasonable search and seizure? I would say so...if airport scanners looked at your body, anonymously, this would look at your brain, but non-anonymously.

Imagine everything you've looked at online for the last two years, intentionally or otherwise, out of any context other than a list of websites. Now imagine someone looking at that and determining from it if you were a terrorist or not. Or, if the information is kept (yes, this is a worst case scenario), imagine if your future potential boss or someone else can look at that information?

You know what the funny part is about this? Judging by past indiscretions, it seems to me the party that wants to pass this is the same party that has had the most embarrassing public sexual faux pas over the last decade or so. If they are so insistent that our private thoughts and searches be public knowledge, maybe the upside is THEIR private thoughts and internet searches will be public knowledge as well. Hmm...could get interesting.

In any case, this should dispel (as though there were any doubt to begin with) any misconceptions that the Tea Party is anything other than a new skin on an old animal. Wait! There's a biblical saying about putting new wine in an old flask isn't there? If the Tea Party wants to be taken seriously for its small government words, then someone should speak out against these intrusive governmental actions.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

words and hammers

Let's imagine a world where Muslims are the majority religion in America. Let's further imagine that Islamic Imam's travel often to a random African State and preach against women who don't wear veils and how they are an abomination and the State needs to take all steps necessary to stop them from ruining the country and the world. This goes on for years, and Mosques in the US send money and anti-unveiled women pamphlets, videos, messages and prayers overseas.

A year or so later, a politician in said state proposes a bill that would make not wearing a veil punishable by imprisonment and/or death, and imprisonment for anyone who doesn't report these women. American Imam's say nothing. A few months later, a local newspaper prints the faces and addresses of women who refuse to veil themselves with the admonition that they should be punished or hung.

Shortly thereafter, some of these women are beaten to death in their own homes.

This scenario is not imagined. The only difference is I've switched the religion and the crime. For years, American Christian pastors, many of whom are "mainstream" and have worked closely with one political party, have done just what I described above, holding conferences, prayer meetings, and sending money and aid to churches in Uganda to fight the "spread" of homosexuality. They have marched in anti-gay parades in Uganda and opened dozens of churches to combat "moral corruption" and raised money in the states to send across the ocean.

After stoking these anti-gay fires for years, Ugandan politicians passed what is referred to as the "kill the gays" bill. The bill makes it a crime to be homosexual, to have homosexual sex, and to not turn someone in for being homosexual. Most ominously, it makes passing on the HIV virus punishable by death.

After the bill, the Rolling Stone (not affiliated w/ the music rag) magazine published a list of "100 top homosexuals" with names and photos urging they be punished or hung. This week, unsurprisingly, another gay rights activist was beaten to death with a hammer in his own home. Upon his funeral, villagers rioted and threw stones, refusing to bury his casket.

How have the pastors stateside reacted? Well, Scott Lively, one of the most prominent, says that he is the REAL victim, having to suffer not brutally being beaten to death, but because he's received almost sixty hate emails. He has also claimed that the brutal beating was probably an ex-lover, not a gay bashing.

Besides the visceral disgust I feel toward this entire situation, the more logical side of me wants to though my blog post will somehow help change things...that people need to realize that the time for even religiously motivated bigotry to end. The excuse "god said so" is no longer (as though it ever was) a valid excuse for creating a culture and environment where people are uncomfortable in their own skin, unsafe in their own communities, and treated as pariahs simply because of who they are.

The pastors who helped to stoke these fires in Uganda are as responsible as if they had given the hammer to the perpetrator of the murders themselves. They have blood on their hands and anyone who supports them, supports their church, or says nothing when the chance to say something presents itself are culpable as well.

Moreover, when you hear homophobic rhetoric and say nothing, you are contributing as well to a culture that teaches young LGBT people that they are not as good as you. You are telling them, tacitly by your acceptance, that they should not consider themselves worth the same dignity and respect as everyone else.

Just remember that the next time you hear some kid say "that's so gay"...then imagine it's your 12 yr old brother, sister, cousin or friend who grows up hearing that--that every bad thing that happens, that every lame-ass or annoying thing in life is "gay"...and then ask me again why we have to have Pride parades or "flaunt" sexuality.

I'll just leave this post at this point or I'll keep ranting and it'll be too long and dissuade people from reading it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

bait and switch

While Michael Steele, outgoing head of the Republican National Committee and erstwhile giver of gold nuggets of comedy was on Rachel Maddow claiming that the Republican Party was no longer fighting the culture wars, the Republicans in office have been frantically fighting the culture wars.

You see, while the Tea Party that brought them to office supposedly represents fiscal conservatism (something I discussed here) their second order of business appears to be a two fronted assault on the culture wars. Namely, abortion and gay marriage.

When it comes to abortion, they are attempting to pass a law that would further limit the ability of people to use federal funds for abortions. This seems cut and dry, but what they're really doing is re-shaping what counts as rape, defining it in the bill as "forcible rape". This would mean, for those of you who don't think it through any further than the authors of the bills, that if you are drugged and raped, raped while you're passed out drunk, or molested and get pregnant at 13 (statutory rape), then not only can you not use federal funds to pay for your abortion, but also if you have a health care plan that is tax exempt, you cannot use that either. Moreover, if you do pay for your own abortion or any follow up care, then you cannot claim those as medical costs to make them tax exempt. Read about the "No Federal Funding for Abortion Bill" yourself. (Don't you love how clever these folks are with naming convention...and also don't you love my kitshy use of "folks" makes me less arrogant, no?)

Now for the more ironic front. Remember of the Tea Partiers carried around "don't tread on me" flags and railed against federal usurpment of states' rights? Well, anyone who lives in the District of Columbia gets no representation in the House or Senate. They have a mayor, and a city council, and that is who runs the district. However, there is a loophole which states that the house of Representatives gets final say over what happens in DC. So, when DC passed a law recognizing and legalizing marriage equality, many Republicans outside of DC were very, very angry. (If I were a voter in, say, Ohio, I'd be pissed my representative was taking time to worry about somewhere I wasn't...but that's just me). So, now they're trying to pass the "Defense of Marriage Act DC", making marriage equality in DC, which is now legal, illegal. Because nothing says, "no culture wars" like a guy from Iowa changing the laws in D.C. to make it illegal for people to marry in order to "protect marriage".

You'd think when something is so blatantly obvious as this--that the Republican Party still stands on one side of the culture wars--that no one would try to deny it. It's in their platform, you can watch them debate and stumble over one another be more anti-gay and abortion, and yet, they deny that's what they stand for?

This is a case of bait-and-switch. To mix my analogies, this whole budget crisis crap is the equivalent of shaking a shiny object up high so they can steal your wallet when you look at it. They will NOT balance the budget and will NOT cut the deficit, but they will talk about while all the while trying hard to stack the bench with right-wing judges and curtailing the right to abortion, the right to marriage and re-establishing a Christian religion in our State functions.

perception and changes

Almost 11 years ago, I was studying Arabic at DLI--it was December of 2000. I had never known anything of the Middle East, Arabic culture and history or the language. On the first day, one of my professors, a man with prematurely white hair, piercing eyes and a voice that sounded as though he was made for the radio, told us we needed to learn only one word: Respect. Anything else, he said, was good to know, but ultimately unimportant.

That day, we were introduced to the rest of our teachers. The first two were from Iraq, another two were from Egypt, and one from Lebanon. They were all very different--one was a woman who reminded me of the grandmother from The Nutty Professor. She was sarcastic and witty and very plump and would laugh with a jolly laugh when you'd say something incorrectly (like when instead of saying to her that I was "born ready" I said, "I'm a ready boy!"). Another was young, maybe his late twenties or early thirties. He introduced me to hookah, to Kan Zaman (a hookah bar in Haight Ashbury in San Francisco) and dressed in a lot of Diesel clothing. He was a bouncer on the weekends.

One I remember in particular looked a little like the elf-dude from labyrinth. His head was too large for his body and he always had saliva at the corner of his lips. I remember him teaching us the letter "wow" walking up to each of us and making us repeat the sound "ooo" over and over until he looked like he was rabid. He was one of the kindest men I'd ever met and incredibly easy going. He would answer to almost anything with, "mmmm....OK!" ("Teacher," we'd ask, "can we leave early?" "mmmm....OK!" "Teacher, did you eat your lunch already? We're hungry, can we eat early?" "mmmmm....OK!")

We laughed at his good natured humor once and asked why and replied, " see..." and then went into the following story:

He was a professor at the University of Baghdad and was married with three kids. His wife had fallen in with some members of an anti-Saddam party, not politically, but professionally and personally, but because of this, she was targeted by the Baathists. He explained to us that she had eventually been blown up by a bomb planted in their car. For years afterwards, he checked his car every day before getting into it, until one day, he was driving to work and realized he was being followed. He went home after work, sold everything, and paid to have his family smuggled out of Iraq. He took literally all the money he had and gave it to a human smuggler. The smuggler got him and his sons through Syria and into a boat to get them to Europe. He and his family were below deck when he noticed the engine had stopped. He went topside to find that his coyote had abandoned them in the middle of the Mediterranean. After washing ashore in Turkey, where he was arrested and beaten in Prison, he was eventually released, and he and his sons worked waiting jobs until they eventually applied for, and received, immigration to the US.

After that, he said, there isn't much that is really important enough for him not to be easy-going about. It was a conversation that changed the way I look at life.

I think back now about these people and myself, and how 11 years ago, these things going on today seemed unimaginable. That people are overthrowing governments--that the US has toppled governments--that the will of the people is spilling into the streets and overcoming regimes that have held power for decades--that my friends have been fighting for decades...these are all things that, when I joined the Army, would have seemed impossible.

But, they are not impossible, and nothing is. I try to imagine a similar change in my life as has happened to my teachers and their families a decade from now. That some turmoil or natural disaster toppled the government and endangers my family. How would I react, or what would I do, but it is hard, if not impossible to imagine. This is, however, the reality under which millions live today.

Strange to think about when my biggest issue this morning was that my roommate didn't clean out the coffee pot.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SOTU "liveblog"

2153: The Battle of Iwo Jima? WTF does that have to do with the debt other than it's emotional and so is the debt? Also...that photo was staged.

2151: suggestions: Stop the EPA from monitoring air quality. Deregulate? Because deregulation and free market solutions DIDN'T contribute to the economic collapse?

2149: They should move the telepromptor closer to the camera so it doesn't look like she's looking over my shoulder. Also, the stimulus worked according to most economists.

2148:How exactly did Michelle Bachmann get important enough that her speech is covered to begin with?

2129:I stopped listening to Paul Ryan nine minutes ago.

2130: Suddenly realized I missed most of it. Now, onto the "rebuttals". I'm oddly horrified to hear what Michelle Bachmann has to say.

2111: Why does the President insist on pronouncing "Pakistan" correctly, but "Iraq" and "Chile" don't get correct pronunciations? Also...Biden needs to stop smiling.

2109: Boehner might cry again...

2108: Started watching the SOTU late. Ginsberg looks really old. Boehner looks really bored and less orange than usual.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I was watching some random show on A&E today where they buy a house and fix it up. The lady selling the house had grown up in it and her father later died in the house. It was a tiny little thing, but FULL of crap. The dude was a hoarder. Anyway, the lady lowered the cost of the house because the buyer said he'd take care of all the junk.

I assumed they would throw everything away, but I was wrong! There's this really cool company called junkluggers that clears out houses of junk. But, instead of throwing it all away, they recycle or donate and only as a last resort, junk. When they donate our goods, they get a receipt which they return to you for tax deductions.

I just thought it was a rather clever and easy business model--one man's trash is another man's treasure, right? But, in the case of Junkluggers, it's literally true! What an awesome small business--green and it profits the customer AND the business.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

defying the common perception

In completely surprising news, the recent census data shows that the area with the highest number of gay/lesbian parents is the South. That's right, the South.

I'm not entirely surprised by this, because I think most perceptions of the LGBT community are derived from television and not reality. Luckily for us, television is most often wrong, and while it can be a boon to change, it can also grossly mis-represent "reality" and cause further ignorance.

I think the reason no one "saw this coming" is because we all assume that the LGBT community is monolithic and homogeneous. That is, however, not the case. LGBT people come in every color, creed, race, religion, age and culture--including "southern" (although, that is admittedly not one of the aforementioned categories).

What else? Black and Latino couples are TWICE as likely to be raising families as white couples! I don't know why I find that so amazing, but it's probably because after Prop 8 passed, there was a quick reaction to blame black churches. That reaction was wrong, and the census and new data show that the minority community is actually MORE accepting and supportive of marriage equality than the white community. That being the case, it makes sense that minorities are more likely to be raising their own families as well.

I don't know what the overall take-away is from all of this other than we all need to stop assuming and generalizing. Moreover, we have to come to realize that the LGBT community is more diverse than commonly thought. I think these are awesome developments that will help push us all further toward equality, but I do fear that there is a greater schism developing within the LGBT community and one that needs be addressed. While I look forward to a day when all Americans are treated equally, I would hate to see the LGBT community simply mirror America in it's good AND bad aspects. It would be a pity to see "equality" in a decade's time simply mean that we have a community split in the same socio-economic ways as the rest of the country when we should all be helping one another to be successful and prosper.


The Tea Party, as it's been sold by the lame-stream-media, represents the following:
  1. reduce the deficit
  2. smaller government
  3. libertarian/federalist principles least that's what we've been told. A short read over the news today, however, and it appears as though (as Andrew Sullivan puts it), they are just normal republicans wearing different hats (three pointed with powder wigs).

Why, you ask? Well, let's look at each point.

First, they are not anti-deficit, they are anti-tax. That's why they pushed so strongly to extend the Bush Tax Cuts even though it would INCREASE the deficit. Here is Freedomworks (headed by former House Speaker Dick Armey) explaining why. Basically (again, Sullivan says it best) the Tea Party doesn't care about the long term deficit, but only in the short term gain provided by lower taxes.

Second--smaller government. Here's Tea Party Nation and their advice to go back to an era when one had to own land to vote (no, seriously).
The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.

And, lastly, federalism. Former Governor Gary Johnson was giving a talk at a Tea Party rally when he was asked about marijuana. When he explained that making it illegal was a burden on the government, a tax on the prison system and generally bad policy, he was booed. Yes, booed. Also, a recent poll shows that the Tea Party is actually more Anti-marriage equality than even Senior Citizens.

So, what's my point? My point is just that we've all allowed ourselves to buy into this make believe "Tea Party" when it's not really true. What the Tea Party is is:
  1. anti-tax
  2. regressive government
  3. socially conservative/fiscally conservative (small c's)
None of those are "bad" things on their own, but they are vastly different from what we've been sold. So, before you tie a tea-bag to your head, be sure you know what it is the group you are part of may not line up with what you think it does, or what you've been told it does.


Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there’s time, the Bastard Time.

I am depressed.

Not "shoot myself" depressed or, "I haven't talked to him in a while, maybe I should call?" depressed. Just "normally occurs in the life-cycle of a person and will pass soon enough" depressed. Besides, the only thing more depressing than being depressed is having people pity your depression and then try to make up for being shitty friends by calling. Then, they're not interested in you or in trying to talk to you at all, but only in trying to feel like a less shitty friend. (just an observation, not a barb aimed at anyone)

There are a lot of reasons, some of which I understand, some of which I don't. But, for those of you who have read Sweet Thursday will recognize the above quote, or know what the "third voice" is.

I got through this often, actually, the downward spiral. It's when I get depressed about something trivial, then I become an annoying bum who's no fun to hang out with, then I'm a lonely bum because, being no fun to hang out with, I'm alone. It spirals downward until...somehow it stops. I don't know why, and I can't say when or how, but it does. Sometimes it's a great meal. Sometimes a bottle of wine, sometimes, just a good poop or a nice night's sleep or my mom calling randomly to laugh about something she saw on TV.

That being said, there are plenty of individual things I could point at recently, some literal (the fixed, chipped tooth that is now re-chipped and annoying me since now I know it's there) some figurative (the third voice). I feel like any one of them would be a simple annoyance, but because there are so many, they've become a wall of sorts, which I can't quite figure out how to get around, over, under or through. And so, instead, I just sit here, depressed, staring at it all.

Luckily, like most things, Steinbeck saw through it all. And so, there's always hope--
Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I went back to West Point for a wedding, which I will write about at another time (but I should say "Congratulations" at the very least to Marjana and John Bidwell).

West Point is always has been and if you read my letters home as a New Cadet, even then I knew that while I may be sweaty, tired, hungry and a little scared, the place itself was remarkable in its beauty. I went today with Caroline Gunther, an old friend from High School. We haven't seen one another in over a decade, but she went with me to the wedding and I gave her a walking tour. It was nice to finally share WP with someone again.

West Point always elicits so many conflicting emotions. Hanging out with cadets and seeing how much potential they have, how many experiences await them and how much they WILL do is a little like holding a baby--just in this case, the babies are adults. (Hmm...bad analogy). At the same time, seeing the Cadets having the experiences you had makes it hard not to feel nostalgic.

More than nostalgia, however, is the realization that while there are so many friends you miss and can't wait to see again, we each have friends that we miss and will never see again. It makes it hard to see the Cadets, enjoying one another, and knowing that each of them will probably endure the same losses we have. I drove away remembering those friends we've lost and feeling so happy to have had the experiences I have had...because I am a better person for having known them, even if only for a short while.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Good Republican Thought

Finally some sanity amongst the masses!

I've been wanting to compile something like this for a while, but suddenly I feel compelled, after Krauthammer, someone I often disagree with, said something that I completely and one hundred thousand and ten percent agree with. You see, after he, Krauthammer, was on the panel to discuss Obama's speech at the memorial, Krauthammer liked it, along with two others. Rush Limbaugh wasn't having any of this and said,
They were slobbering over it for the predictable reasons. It was smart, it was articulate, it was oratorical. It was, it was all the things the educated, ruling class wants their members to be and sound like.
Krauthammer was back on Fox news and asked to react to that statement and said,
As one of the three slobberers...I find it interesting that only the ruling class wants a president who is smart articulate and oratorical in delivering a funeral oration. It's an odd and rather condescending view of what the rest of America is looking for in their president.
Yes! Yes, yes, yes!! For the first time in a while the fissures between smart and sane conservatives, with whom I often disagree but who always think through their points before speaking and have a genuine intellect to be reckoned with, finally stopped pandering to the anti-intellectual wing of their party (*ahem* Palin)! This is the same argument I've been making to anyone who would listen to it for YEARS now, so it's nice to hear someone else say it.

Another sane conservative whom I know little about other than one policy position--"Right on Crime" a conservative group that advocates for prison reform is headed by Governor Grover. He calls for re-thinking mandatory sentencing, allowing for more reform of non-violent offenders and other sane, fiscally and socially conservative methods to help end our ridiculous recidivism as well as overcrowding. Kudos to him!

If I were President, or Pelosi or Reid, prison reform is where I'd focus next. It would save states and the federal government money, it would put good people back on the streets to help stabilize neighborhoods and otherwise be win-win for all.

go, go Army experience

I keep having these awesome moments when I think either, "I really like the army" or, "Thank God I'm in the Army or..."

Today, it was as I was reading facebook and the news. A friend of mine posted that, now out of the Army and in college, he's disappointed by the level of worldly knowledge his classmates have. When in an Arab studies class, three students brought up India and Pakistan as examples of Arab culture. He, having been to Iraq twice, knew better. At the same time, I am vociferously reading about what is going on in Tunisia right now.

Why did I think, "Thank God I'm in the Army..."? Because throughout my time in the Army, I've had the opportunity to meet and interact with people from all over the world. We have all been Officers in our respective militaries, yes, but that similarity allowed us to discuss things in ways that I imagine civilian counterparts would not. We have a base of understanding from which to explain things to one another.

So, when I read "Tunisia" in the headlines, not only did I know where it was (something that shouldn't be too surprising or remarkable for a college graduate, but which is probably the case), but I also didn't think of the State in the abstract. I thought immediately of MAJ Qatari, whom I've had to my house for drinks and dinner. I thought of his wife and his daughters, and wondered now only how they were doing, but what MAJ Qatari was doing.

Opportunities and experiences like that, which shape my understanding of the world and events, are rare outside of the military (I assume). I'm beginning to realize just how grateful I am to have had, and keep having, those experiences.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

queer reality and queer imaginary

I read two articles that I thought contradicted each other in a quite amazing way, both of them about queer issues.

The first was a short, but celebratory, blurb about that gay storyline in 90210, and how the gay character is about to have a new boyfriend. Here is what the article says will soon happen:
The set-up for the hook-up: It’s Spring Break when the onetime BFFs bump into each other. As Tripp recounts Teddy’s prep school rep as quite the ladykiller, things take a very interesting turn when Teddy comes out to his presumably straight pal. One unexpected lip-lock leads to another… and then thatleads to a surprising reveal.
The second isn't an article, but a blog, where people submit pictures of themselves between the ages of 4 and 14, demonstrating to the photographed subject a moment when s/he can see him or herself and knows s/he was queer at that age. The blog is called "Born this Way". Here is a sample posting:
Britton, age 5 Richmond, VA (1983)

This is me wearing my Grandmother's wig and giving a lot of sass.
I did try to butch it up a
little with the NASCAR shirt, though I think the Daisy Dukes might be a dead giveaway.

I probably would have been embarrassed about this photo 10 years ago, but now I think it is hilarious.

I was the original
Golden Girl.

The reason I found these two posts so interesting is because they are SO far apart in terms of how gays view themselves. There are those, gay and straight, who like to imagine that there is no difference between gays and straights--that there is no "queer culture". These are the people who will constantly refer to themselves as "straight acting". There is an entire industry devoted to perpetuating this idea, and I refer to it as being "self-loathing". In this category, I would include most pornography, abercombie and fitch, and 90210. In this mindset, straight people are better, and gays are judged on a sliding scale of how passable they are in the straight world--the "straighter" one acts, the better he/she is.

Look at the storyline above. The gays in it aren't even really gay. They've never suffered persecution because of their sexuality, they've never missed out on anything--not dances, not proms, not athletics, because they've never been gay. In this fantasy world, sexuality is something that, like a light switch, hits them only post-pubescence and, when it does, they magically find other "new gays" who are also beautiful, athletic, "straight acting" and similarly un-baggaged by years of being bullied and teased. In fact, not only were these gays "not gay" before, but one of them was a "real ladykiller"! Did you get that...he wasn't just NOT gay before, but he was straight--so straight, in fact, that the girls loved him!

On the other side, you have reality. You have kids who grow up with sexual identities before they know what sexuality is. For them, they cannot "pass" in the straight world and before they even knew they were gay, the world knew they were gay. These kids don't wake up one day after being lady killers. They get picked on for not being good at kickball...they get teased in Junior High because their voices don't change as quickly or because they're more interested in school plays than in Pop-Warner football.

I think the first view, while not completely imaginary, is dangerous as it is pushed through hollywood, through marketing, through porn and other mediums, into young gay psyches, because it teaches young gay kids in group two to hate themselves. It's the equivalent of telling young black kids that the "whiter" they can be, the better they are. We have to teach our youth that they are good how they are, that they are worthwhile precisely BECAUSE of who they are, not despite it.

We've made great strides, but we're still in the Cosby phase of gay culture, where the only acceptable way to be "gay" is to be "straight". We need to move past this, and when we can, that is when we will have won, and equality will be within reach.

the Giffords Memorial

The other day, when Congresswoman Giffords was shot, I did not have TV or internet. The first information I had came over a status update I read on my smartphone. I immediately felt sick and called a new friend I'd just met who lived down the street. It was about ten AM here and I called him in a panic, "I need to come watch your TV!"

It had just snowed the night before and I was ridiculously scared to drive two blocks to his house, but I did, wearing no shoes and was only lucky to find a jacket in my truck. I ran upstairs and turned on the news while he played facebook and texted friends about work and school.

Months ago, I had been at a Giffords Rally where I met many other state and local politicians. I came away from the rally with a new found sense of political belonging. I felt closer to a government that represented me than ever before, being able to sit and talk to the politicians about issues on a one to one basis...but also seeing moms with strollers, college kids, old men and women...all kinds of people do the was exhilarating!

Tucson is a small big city. Everyone knows's kind of ridiculous, but in a good way. So, when Giffords was shot, I felt like I'd been hurt, personally. I worried that friends I knew were there, I felt like my family had been targeted...and I'm not even a Tucsonian!

The is a very particular zeitgeist in Tucson that is difficult to explain. It is a quiet town, but with a fiesta mentality. The tailgates are fun, and almost family affairs, and while it may not seem like it when you arrive, once you're there, Tucson takes you in. People are there for one another and close to one another. You go to a bar and the bartender knows your name...and go to another bar, and see the old bartender as a patron, and the girl working the door was in your college class or church or yoga group, and will see you next Sunday morning at Congress for Brunch.

The feeling that something precious had been ruined, something bigger than the individuals, including Giffords and those who were killed, was hard to shake. I wasn't there, so I can't say, but from here, I felt oddly violated. Tucson had always felt like normal incarnate--it was almost oppressively so. So that fact this happened there, at a grocery store, just shattered expectations and realities.

When I heard there would be a memorial, I was glad. It would help bring people back together, to overcome what could easily become a sense of doom and an emotional morass. When I heard the President was coming, I was even happier. It seemed as good a time as any to put aside politics and say, "This is who we are, and we will get through this."

My friend Sam was instrumental in organizing and developing the memorial. He designed the logo that would be used on T-shirts, flyers and posters and was, according to his facebook, so happy to feel like he was a part of helping people to overcome the feelings they were having--to help people rebind themselves to their prior sense of normal and help more forward.

When I read articles such as "Conservatives React to Memorial T-Shirts" I don't get angry--it helps me realize that politics isn't as important as reality, and that by viewing reality through the lens of politics, we risk ruining and losing much. This memorial wasn't about conservatives or liberals. It was about bringing this community locally, and the country in general, together and pulling us out of the sense of doom that we could easily slide into. It WAS a pep-rally. It was a wake. It was a recognition that we cannot be made to lose ourselves in pity, but that we must move forward. Gabriel Giffords wants that and it's the only way to keep the hope that she now represents alive.

It was, in my eyes, incredibly successful for what it was, and I'm so proud of Sam and everyone involved in bringing it together. For those who don't understand what it was, I fear they never will, and that can't be helped. But, for those who did and do understand, we learned from it. We grew from it, and together, we'll move forward from this.

awesome dental story

When I got to Fort Riley, I had to in process dental, like always. Basically, you take the dental clinic your dental records, they do a quick once over to see when the last cleaning was etc. and you go on your way...quick...painless...usually.

I, because I never got my wisdom teeth pulled, always have to get my teeth x-rayed because on first sight, it looks like I should get them pulled. Then, they look at the x-ray and say, "well, you CAN get them pulled if you want." I say "no" and we go on our separate ways until my next cleaning.

This time, however, I sat down, and a Second Lieutenant comes in as well. I was madly texting a friend because I'd just seen something funny, and the doctor comes in and says, "Captain Harmon, you're next..." and I follow. I had already had my x-rays, so I was ready for the dismissal, and the doctor says, "we have you scheduled for an examination and cleaning."

I reply with a startled expression that this was NOT what I'd signed on for, and he rechecked my packet and says, "Lieutenant Harmon, serial number XXXX?" I explain that I am Captain Harmon, not Lieutenant, and that my serial number is YYYY. The Lieutenant hears this, and points out that he was the one they were looking for, and that we have the same name. We're also in the same unit...awesome.

Anyway, now I'm in the chair, and the doctor says, "well, while you're here, let's do a quick examination anyway." So, she opens my mouth and starts looking around and then says, quite casually to her assistant, "cavity forming on number 2 and 3, need to re-fill number 31" or something like that.

I freak out. I've not had a cavity since I was in the third grade! I barely drink coffee. I don't drink soda (except when with Rum) and don't smoke or do I have cavities?? I even floss on occasion! (let's be honest, how many of you floss on the daily?) Anyway, the dentist says I have TWO cavities, on my two front teeth, and the cap/fill from the one from third grade needs to be re-done. Seriously? I'm thirty and I've got cavities? WTF.

So...into the dentist I go today, where they proceed to numb the heck out of my lips, tongue and mouth in general and fill my cavities. While doing, so, the doctor says, "hand me fill #X" and the assistant hands it to her. She holds it up to my teeth and then says, "a shade darker." And continues.

Then she says, "While I'm doing this, do you want me to fill in these chips?" I, at this point, have this extender thing in my mouth that keeps my tongue from moving forward and my lips from closing. It looks like something out of a SAW movie. I give the thumbs up, but my heart is pounding as I realize that I've had chipped teeth this whole time and didn't know it!

They fill my cavities and chipped teeth and then use that ultraviolet light thing to set everything. They had used it when I had braces years before and I remembered it. But, what I'd forgotten was how, afterwards, the coloration of your teeth is ridiculously changed. The whites are whiter, the yellows are yellower, so you initially look a little like a cheetah. So, I look in the mirror to see my newly shaped front teeth and all I see are ridiculous streaks of white on yellow and every single imperfection there is.

Meanwhile, I've no control of my salivary glands and my lips are swollen up from the stretchy thing. So, I'm drooling and look like I got punched in the mouth.

Combine that with the random stretch mark I got and scars from the appendectomy and it's going to be a LONG time before I'm comfortable either taking my shirt off where anyone can see or smiling. Hmm...should make dating a breeze! Who DOESN'T want to go out with someone who sternly keeps his lips closed and refused to take off his shirt?


"peculiar" says Brit Hume

Brit Hume and other FOX News commentators were talking about the memorial service in Tucson. What I found interesting was Brit Hume's comments about the native American prayer which opened the memorial. By the time the blessing was over, according to Brit Hume, the presider had,
blessed the reptiles of the sea and he had prayed to the four doors of the building and while I'm sure that all has an honorable tradition with his people, it was most peculiar.

Now, I'm not one to judge a prayer. In fact, I had written years ago, after the Native American Heritage Dinner at West Point, where we had one of the cadets do a native blessing as well, that I found it "odd". Not so much the particulars about the blessing, but that if it had been any other religion, most people wouldn't have been as accepting. What I mean to say is, because it was a Native American blessing, everyone stood incredibly reverently as she poured some tobacco leaves out and said the blessing. I imagined an Imam intoning "allah akbar" or a Rabbi reading from the Torah and know, a lot of people wouldn't be so reverent in those cases.

I also like the use of "his people". I assume he means Native Americans, but I wonder who he considers Brit Hume's people. Brit Hume is able to admit that he finds "OTHER people's" (those are scare quote/bunny ears, not actually quotations) religious traditions "peculiar". Maybe he'd be more comfortable with the likes of the "His people". Maybe something like the quote below, from a famous Christian...a little more to his faith tradition?
God set a standard in this earth and he demands obedience to HIS standard. Humans are a work of God--they're HIS work, and he set HIS standard amongst them, and he said, "Obey."
before you find out who it is (and no, not Hitler) agree or disagree...then click here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I've been offline for a internet was just hooked up today.

In the meantime, I've rented a cute little old house in downtown Manhattan, Kansas. It's .8 miles from the strip of bars and two blocks from the grocery store. If the walk weren't so perilous due to snow right now, it'd be walkable for me...easily bike-able in winter!

Anyway, so after the appendectomy crapsky that went down, there wasn't much new or changing in my life. I've been doing a lot of inprocessing at work and otherwise getting unpacked and settled in. It started snowing, which sucks miserably, and my truck got stuck twice in a matter of minutes. I'm getting new tires tomorrow and spending half of my dwindling resources (I forgot to put in for a travel advance, so all that awesome time I spent in Austin, the gas here, the rent and utilities set up...I paid out of pocket, which normally the Army pays).

So...there's that. Coming up, I have MJ's wedding at West Point and I start actual work next Tuesday. Should be a good time for everyone! (the wedding, not the work).

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

coops and grizzlies

Today, I had lunch at the People's Grocery. It's a local grocery cooperative where if you pay a small fee, you're part "owner" and have a vote on how the store is run. You also get a small discount. The prices are slightly higher than at the big box store down the street, but most of the things offered are either organic or locally grown. The staff is friendly, the store is quiet, and there's always a delicious rotation of local and seasonal foods to be had (today was kale-slaw and a sandwich with locally harvested grain bread).

I walked away from it thinking that not only did I like the idea, but I didn't understand why there weren't more of those. It's in walking distance of my new house, and most of the college area nearby, and is far, far healthier than fast food. For ten bucks or so, I had a good sandwich, and apple, kale-slaw and a water. It's not three dollar Taco Bell, but it's surely not high-priced either. (Then again, ten dollars a day isn't "starving college student" prices either...but there were some cheap heat-at-hope options healthier than and similar to top ramen).

I came home and started reading my blogs and ran into yet another Palin Fox News interview. I sometimes wonder what it's like, the schedule at Fox News. I mean, who decides when she's a politician being interviewed, a celebrity guest, a news pundit or otherwise? In any case, she was talking about what makes one a "Mama Grizzly" and went on to say:
a liberal woman who understands that it's individual rights and responsibilities that can pull one up when they are exercised appropriately certainly can be a Mamma Grizzly, cause a Mamma Grizzly is all about protecting the young and we protect the young by teaching them how to work, not relying on another bear in our case, not to rely on bigger government to solve our problems and to provide solutions to everything that we face its all about individuals, it's about families, it's about communities...

I tried to square that with what I'd just experienced at the co-op. The men and women who had decided to support local, small business, and thus keep local farmers and healthier foods a viable alternative to the mass produced foods that have spread salmonella and other diseases very recently. I wondered if any of them considered themselves as being "dependant" upon the government or were looking for someone to "pull them up" and the answer was no.

The issue, as I see it, is that people like Palin continue to frame the debate in ways that simply make no sense in the context of the laws and ways that we ACTUALLY govern. The Republican Party (or, at least, the part of the Republican Party that doesn't disavow Palin and her ilk) aren't for individual rights and responsibilities, they're for corporations rights and no responsibility. When they say they're for "small government" what they mean isn't that they don't want the government to do much, it means they don't want the government to do much to corporations. They're fine when the government regulates the bedroom, and otherwise pick and choose which government actions are the intrusion of the nanny state and which are just good for business.

If Mamma Grizzlies are about individuals, families and communities, then why do those Mamma Grizzlies' political aims tend to destroy local communities at the benefit on conglomerations? Why are the against improving the school systems nutrition program to stop the massive spread of type II diabetes? Why are they against allowing gays and lesbians to HAVE families? Because they're not really for any of those things. They're using those things as a cover for what is, in reality, simply a drive to deregulate business and spread the free market ideology throughout every aspect of government without regard to ACTUAL outcomes while simultaneously trying to impose an antiquated sexual morality on a population that long since rejected it.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Bachmann for President!

Oh wow...please tell me this is true. I can't imagine anything that would make the next elections a Democratic landslide than the idea of a Bachmann run for President or Vice President. Seriously...if we thought two years ago was a train wreck, this will make that Titanic look like a smooth sailing summer cruise.

The funny part is, the way the nomination process works, I don't think the Republican Party leadership will have any recourse. Republican grassroots have figured out how to effectively game the system to get whomever they want. It's democracy by rule of the mass and the entire reason that, rightfully or wrongly, the founders built into the system the electoral college--so that people who AREN'T political neophytes can overrule the will of the majority.

Three years ago, during the last Presidental Primaries, the Democratic Party was beholden to the will of the "Superdelegates". Who were they? They were prior Presidents and Vice Presidents, Governors, heads of state Democratic Parties etc. They are people who have been in high elected office, or run high profile statewide or collegiate parties and others--people who have shown through their experience that they understand governance. They could have, theoretically, given the nomination to Hillary instead of to Obama. They didn't, however, and things went majority rules. Many people said we should change the process to allow for things to go purely democratic, but this possible fiasco on the Republican side demonstrates why that might be a BAD idea. On the Republican side, there are no breaks built into the system for when things go off the tracks.

And let's be serious...a Palin/Bachmann ticket is, by all accounts, things going off the tracks. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put on some popcorn and build a nuclear fallout to enjoy the show, and the other in case my fellow citizens aren't as smart as I think they are.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

I'm in Kansas!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

two weeks and an appendix later.

So, what's happened with me as of late?

I left Tucson in a bittersweet goodbye, saying farewell to some amazing friends. I hadn't been with Stuart that long since we were at DLI together, and seriously, it was like we hadn't been apart. I guess that's how good friends are--time may separate you, but things are just like they were once you're together again. We picked up some new faces, Caleb, Sheneka and Lauren, as well as Will, someone who became more special to me than I'd have expected. Of course, as always, this happened right before I left, so what was supposed to be a clean break was, instead, a long, drawn out and sad good-bye which leaves its mark still.

I drove from there to Austin where I hooked up with all my old friends. I stayed at Dan's house and a week of drunken debauchery ensued. The highlight, however, was the gift exchange, which wasn't so much of an exchange as a "santa-Dan" night, when he gave everyone presents he'd gotten them. I did not get anyone anything, and felt pretty bad about that. In any case, my present was beyond perfect. It was a photo of my boys, on the lake in Austin, in one of those moments that I'll never forget: sun setting, tans just showing, smiles lubricated by drink and hours and fun. Around the photo was a quotation, hand printed by Dan. It is the rare present that captures nostalgia of a moment still present.

From Austin I drove to Oklahoma to see my friend Will and his family. His boyfriend had flown out from DC as well, and when I arrived, the family was very well inebriated and enjoying the holidays. We talked and laughed and drank until everyone but Will and I went to sleep, at which point we went to the lake in the backyard and threw hoola-hoops, trying to get them to skid on the ice back to us. We jumped on the hay bales and otherwise explored the farm until we were too tired to move or drink and I crashed on the couch in preparation for my drive to Kansas. It was the perfect first night for me on a real farm.

The next morning and four hours later, I arrived in Kansas. I got a haircut and shaved and checked into work. That night, I went to a bar with some kids I had just met, had three beers, and went home. Upon arriving home, my stomach began hurting so bad, I forced myself to throw up and curled up in a fetal position on the floor. I called my mom, on the verge of tears, and told her I was hurting. She made me promise I'd go to the hospital, which I did.

Long story short, I had an emergency appendectomy. The best part was, people from work whom I'd only met once to say, "Hi, I'm CPT Harmon and I'll be working here soon," stopped by to see me. Drugged out on morphine, smelling of my own sweat, booty hanging out the back of my medical gown, I attempted to recognize and interact with them--mostly an epic fail. But, I did think, when I was capable of thought, wow--only in the Army will this many people who barely know you stop by the hospital to see you--and I like that.

So, that's a brief re-cap of the last two weeks and why I missed new years 2011. But, here's to a good year coming, and best wishes to all!