Wednesday, December 31, 2008
My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is much more generous with the $50,000 she won on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Apart from the nice little chunk of cash she gave each of her children, she paid for a family vacation in San Diego this past weekend. She paid for the rooms in a very nice hotel, she paid for every meal, she bought plane tickets for those who needed them, she paid for San Diego Zoo tickets, she spoiled her grandchildren with overpriced memorabilia and treats that their parents would never buy them. All we had to do was show up. And then enjoy a weekend of having grandparents and aunt and uncles entertain our children.
It was fabulous--a great way to end the year.
What did your mother-in-law get you with her game show money?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
You may know that today is winter solstice and tonight Chanukkah begins, but did you know there is another holiday today, celebrated only in cyberspace? Today is Inter Solstice, a day to celebrate the holiday season by making charitable donations in honor of your online friends. So just for you, dear blog reader, this morning I've made a (small) donation to Doctors Without Borders.
If you'd like to spread the holiday cheer to all your virtual friends but aren't quite sure where to start, you can find a few ideas here.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
If I honestly take into account how important religion once was to me, the removal of God from my life really was equivalent to the death of a loved one, and at the time I was so relieved to be free of a belief system that had caused me so much pain that I never took time to mourn. The other day my father-in-law sent me an article about studies being done on the positive effects of religion on health. The article says that critics of these researchers see an agenda to sneak religion into science and point to the impossibility of separating religious belief from other factors such as the social involvement a religious community brings. I had actually been pondering the effects my lack of religion has on my emotional wellbeing for a few weeks before I read this article. Like the critics of these religious researchers, I worry about jumping to unfounded conclusions about the necessity of religion to human health, but I am interested in what it is about religion--whether the sense of belonging or the beliefs themselves--that contributes to physical, mental, and emotional health.
In an attempt to do a little research of my own and to fill that hole left in God's wake, I've decided to give the Universal Unitarian church a try, hoping to find in it a place where I can be part of a community of people who have common goals of finding peace for themselve and others, but require no belief in any kind of doctrine. I've also found a renewed interest in Buddhism and other forms of spirituality. I feel no need for religion to explain the nature of the universe to me--I trust science and basic observation to suffice there--but I am interested in finding what one atheist Buddhist minister from the UU church describes as "a roadmap to train the mind for happiness."
Meanwhile, I suppose I'll enjoy Christmas for its trees and pretty lights, for the joy of giving and receiving, for the happy times with family and friends. It's hard sometimes to see beyond the pain and suffering brought to the world both historically and recently by people who call themselves Christians, but this Christmas season I'll do my best to remember the good things Jesus and his teachings offer, to find some common ground where I can rejoice along with those who believe him to be the son of God.
You might not know that November was National Wear Your MoHo Uniform to Church Month. Despite the fact that I've never liked the term MoHo much and I don't consider myself a Mo(rmon )Ho(mosexual), I thought it would be nice to participate in honor of my many gay Mormon friends. I ran across a couple problems. First, I don't go to church or, for that matter, any place that requires a dress shirt and tie. I overcame that problem this morning, albeit a week late, by attending a service at the local Unitarian Universalist church. I was overdressed for their casual Sunday meeting, but not so much that I felt uncomfortable.
The second problem was that although I have several blue dress shirts, it turns out I don't own a single green tie. I found a remedy by reversing the official MoHo uniform with a green shirt and a blue tie. MoHo purists, who stick to the official (albeit backward) definition of the term as a Mormon who happens to have ties to homosexuality, might find this inversion appropriate, as I am by their definition a HoMo, a homosexual who happens to have ties to Mormonism. Never mind the fact that the shirt and tie really don't go well together at all.
Please note, everyone, that if this trend catches on and other LGBT former Mormons hop on my green-shirt-and-blue-tie bandwagon, leading to the adoption of new terms to define gay Mormondom--i.e. "Are you a Blue Shirt?" "Oh, no, I used to be, but now I'm a flaming Green Shirt."--I want you (I'm looking at you, Oxford English Dictionary) to remember that I was the first.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Possible Reasons I Don't Remember Any of the People* I Went to High School With Who Have Recently Found Me On Facebook
2. Similar to #1, but not so much popular as recognizable. As in, "Hey! I remember him--he was that white guy I went to school with."
3. A variation on #2: Perhaps one of the other two** white guys I graduated with was more popular than I and people are mistaking me for him.
4. The whole experience was just so traumatic that I've blocked it out.
5. I was so self-absorbed in high school that I failed to recognize there were other people around me***.
6. I am not really me, but rather a clone of me who was given (most of) my memories in order to pass as me while the real me rots in a secret prison somewhere in La Mancha.
7. Alien abduction****.
*And when I say "any of the people" I mean anyone but you, dear blog reader who happens to be a high school friend who has recently found me on Facebook. Because of course I remember you.
***Note that this is likely true (of me in high school as well as me in the present) whether or not it explains the failure to remember old acquaintances.
****Note that #6 and #7 are not mutually exclusive.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
- GenderAnalyzer is 64% sure that FoxyJ is a man. Wouldn't that make for an interesting twist in our story? Boy, we really fooled you all, didn't we?
- GenderAnalyzer is only 58% sure that Samantha Stevens is a woman, noting that she's fairly gender neutral--apparently Tolkien Boy needs to do a better job of impersonating a female.
- GenderAnalyzer is 98% sure that Theric is a woman. I know that Th. often posts comments using his wife's Blogger ID, but has Lady Steed secretly been writing her husband's blog all this time?
Friday, November 21, 2008
I am not by nature a very social person. I like my quiet and I like my solitude. It's pretty horrible of me to feel this way, but often when the children are demanding my attention I wish they'd just go away. I sometimes envy my single friends whose time is their own, who can spend five hours reading a book or browsing Wikipedia or taking a nap and not have to justify their use of time to anyone (never mind the fact that few people, single or not, ever have five hours of free time to do anything).
I've actually tried living that fantasy life of solitude, though, and it wasn't as great as I'd imagined it would be. It was, as a matter of fact, kind of lonely. Tonight Emily Pearson posted a little about her evolving thoughts on marriage, citing a line from Shall We Dance?:
[We get married] because we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything – the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things. All of it. All the time, every day. You’re saying, “Your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed, because I will be your witness."When I lived alone for three months in a mildewy basement apartment in Seattle, with much of my time free to spend as I pleased and no one who cared what I did or didn't do, that's what was missing: a witness.
I'm thankful to witness my children's lives as they grow, to have them to witness mine. I'm thankful to put them to bed every night by 7:30 and have peace and quiet for the rest of the evening. I'm thankful to have someone to spend those evenings with, and I'm thankful that person is FoxyJ, who's happy to spend those evenings together watching a movie or playing Scrabble, but is also happy to pass the evening quietly reading a book or browsing the internet. As I write this post the children are sweetly sleeping (is it bad that I love them most when they're asleep?) and Foxy is sitting on the guest bed next to the desk, researching for a paper on Titus Andronicus (never mind that the play ends with everyone brutally murdered and/or eaten). We each have our solitude, but we have someone to witness that solitude, to be there when we decide we aren't in the mood to be alone anymore.
All things considered, I'm a pretty lucky guy.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
It really doesn’t matter what you call it. If you have some legally sanctioned relationship with the bundle of legal rights traditionally belonging to marriage and governing authority has slapped a label on it, whether it is civil union or domestic partnership or whatever label it’s given, it is nonetheless tantamount to marriage. That is something to which our doctrine simply requires us to speak out and say, “That is not right. That’s not appropriate.”Official LDS church press release, 13 August 2008:
The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.Salt Lake Tribune, 17 November 2008:
In a written statement to The Salt Lake Tribune late Monday, church spokeswoman Kim Farah said, "The Church is not planning on commenting on civil unions for the time being."
But spokesman Michael Otterson suggested a few days ago to a Washington Post reporter that the church's post-election remarks were "based on civil unions in California and that no decision has been made regarding similar rights in Utah," the paper said. "I don't want to give the impression that the church is saying civil unions in all cases are OK," Otterson was quoted as saying.
So now I'm confused. Are civil unions okay or not? Why would you say one thing in one context but something completely different in another context? Perhaps this explains it:
Leaked internal memo, LDS church, 4 March 1997:
Elder Oaks was the first to recognize that in the political process that in order to win this battle, there may have to be certain legal rights recognized for unmarried people such as hospital visitation so opponents in the legislature will come away with something. This is proving to be the case [in Hawaii and California].In other words, in liberal states like California and Hawaii, the church is willing to allow gay couples little perks like hospital visitation rights in order to get them to shut up, but in ultra-conservative Utah no such concessions are necessary. When passing Prop 8 was all that mattered it was important to make it clear that they're pro-marriage, not anti-gay; now that they've won it's not so important.
It's one thing to see politicians put words together creatively and even lie in order to get what they want, but it's downright depressing to see religious leaders, who you'd expect to be concerned with truth above all else, so skilled at the dirty game of politics. I was angry this morning but tonight I'm just sad.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Even the fact that the church regularly told its members to vote for anti-gay legislation didn't concern me too much, because it's not like Mormons make up a significant portion of the voting population in many areas of the world. The past six months have proven me wrong in my assumption about the extent of Mormons' potential influence on secular legislation, but even now I'm not particularly invested in the church announcing that same-sex relationships are just as valid in the eyes of God as opposite-sex relationships. They're welcome to go on believing that homosexual behavior is sinful, so long as they learn to keep the legal codification of that belief within the bounds of their own membership.
So today my answers (a) and (b) remain the same, but I'm no longer so sure about (c). My belief that the LDS church was unlikely to ever change its stance on homosexuality was based in the same reasons most Mormons will give: the eternal nature of gender and family relationships are so entwined in basic Mormon doctrine that it would be impossible to pull the beliefs about homosexuality out without unraveling the entire belief system.
I began to question this assumption, though, a couple months ago when Scot posted about a talk given in 1954 by an LDS apostle in which pretty much the same arguments the church uses to oppose same-sex marriage today were used to oppose mixed-race marriage then. It's really quite jarring to read the racist rhetoric used in talks like this one--I was born a year after the revelation that gave black men the priesthood and so have seen very little of this side of the church's history. To think that church leaders could talk like this at BYU or in General Conference, and that people just accepted it, is both apalling and enlightening. One can't help but wonder if fifty years from now Mormons will be just as appalled by the heterosexist rhetoric used in today's fireside devotionals and conference talks.
It's hard to imagine how the church would reconcile acceptance of homosexual relationships with the rest of their doctrine, but I'm sure it was once just as hard to imagine how a God who is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" would change his position on plural marriage or on the exclusion of the "descendants of Cain" from the priesthood. The common explanation of those changes now, looking back, is that the church changed policy, not doctrine, or that it was just a matter of the Saints misunderstanding God's will. I doubt, though, that those Saints would find your opinion any less heretical if you were to go back in time and tell them this.
Over the past several weeks I've developed a theory: In order to survive an institution must evolve; the LDS church has shown this ability to evolve and thus has thrived over the past century and a half. One of the church's virtues, in fact, is its ability to change, based on the doctrine of continuing revelation. If not, it would have died out a century ago. There came a time when in order to survive the church needed to change its position on plural marriage; the world at large simply wouldn't tolerate a church that continued to practice a marriage system that had mostly died out in Western civilization centuries earlier. It changed and it survived. Later, there came a time when the world at large would not tolerate a church that continued to deny some of its members the most basic and essential rites of its doctrine (i.e. eternal marriage) based simply on their race. This is not to say that anyone was going to step in and take away the church's right to practice its beliefs, but that people would not want to associate with a church they saw as racist, and so the membership would dwindle away to nothing. The church changed and it survived.
Curious to see if the facts supported this theory, I looked up the historical growth rate of the church and found this on Wikipedia:
At first glance the graph supports my theory. Right around 1966, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, there's a rapid decline in the growth rate, which doesn't find its way back up until 1989, once the church had had a decade to move away from its image as a racist organization. Before my supporters pat me on the back and my naysayers jump on me, though, let me say that this correlation is far from proving causality. It doesn't take into account, for example, the fact that the late sixties also saw a lot of mission-age young men otherwise occupied in Vietnam, which would certainly have an impact on the growth rate. For all I know studies have been done showing the race issue had absolutely nothing to do with the drop in growth rate.
But I believe, nonetheless, that if the church had not changed its position on race it would not currently be the 13 million-member worldwide organization it is. There would have come a tipping point in public opinion after which people simply would not even talk to representatives of a church that held onto antiquated beliefs about race.
That time will come too for homosexuality. This post about evolving public opinion on gay rights and gay marriage (which I just don't get tired of linking to) suggests that time is not all that far away. Either the LDS church will change or it will cease to exist. History--not only the history of the LDS church but also the history of the similarly-dogmatic Catholic church--tells us that ceasing to exist is not a plausible reality. I suspect that long before it gets to the point where most people (within and without the church) are no longer willing to consider the possibility of a faith that excludes same-sex couples, the church will change.
Of course the skeptic in me sees this as a simple matter of LDS leaders changing what are ultimately arbitrary beliefs, but my theory doesn't require the assumption that the church is not indeed led by a prophet inspired by a true and living God. The Mormon understanding of the revelation on the priesthood is that Spencer W. Kimball pleaded and pleaded with God until he received the answer he sought--that all men could hold the priesthood. Perhaps all that's needed here is a prophet, spurred by a declining growth rate, who pleads with God until he gets the answer he's looking for, an answer current leaders don't see not because it's not there but because they haven't even thought to ask.
Or, alternatively, the world might fall subject to a cataclysm brought on by global warming or terrorism, sending people running back to the comforting arms of fundamentalist religion and the reassuring belief that it really was all the gays' fault. Because it always is.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
But some people just couldn't get past the fact that in their minds a soft c and z should sound like an s. It doesn't help that most North Americans' exposure to Spanish is through Latin America, where they've corrupted the language and completely lost the "th" sound.
When I came back to the states I saw other returned missionaries who had served in Spain and pronounced their cs and zs correctly there but since coming home had reverted to what in Spanish is known as seseo, a sort of reverse-lisp. Their excuse? They didn't like being made fun of by the returned missionaries who had served in Latin America. I vowed never to follow that path of weakness. I had learned Spanish in Spain and gosh darn it, that's the Spanish I'd speak until the day I die.
It's been nearly eight years now since I came home from Spain and I've done a pretty good job of retaining my pseudo-Spaniard accent (by which I mean my American accent that tries to be Spaniard). Despite the fact that 95% of my interaction with Spanish speakers has been with Latin Americans who find my accent at best amusing and at worst incomprehensible, I've stuck to my guns.
But now my five-year-old daughter is learning Spanish from a Hispanic teacher in a California school. It would be one thing for me to pronounce words differently than she hears them at school when I'm speaking Spanish or reading a Spanish book, but this afternoon I was helping her with some reading homework and decided to make some flashcards to help her learn the sounds. I was grouping letters together by the sound they make, so for example a single card has ba and va because in Spanish the b and v are identical. I went back and forth on whether to group the soft c and z sounds with the s sounds because in my mind they are entirely distinct and to say otherwise is blasphemy. But S-Boogie has a hard enough time with phonetics as it is, so I decided it would be best to swallow my pride and teach her the same thing she's learning at school.
When I made that first card with sa and za together as if they make the same sound, a little piece of me died inside. The funeral will be held on Saturday.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
I spent much of the past several days restraining myself from writing posts that formed themselves in my head. As I did so, I discovered that if I just wait long enough someone else will say what I was going to say.
First, here is a faithful Mormon's explanation of why she opposed Proposition 8. It's good to remember that the question of gay marriage is not the war between homosexuality and religion that it's been made out to be. As this woman eloquently reminds us, we are all "alike unto God," and there are people of all faiths on all sides of the issue.
This is particularly pertinent in light of the protests at LDS churches and temples that have taken place since last Tuesday's passage of Prop 8. Presumably in response to these protests and other understandable demonstrations of anger at the forces behind Prop 8, the No on 8 campaign issued a statement reminding their supporters that "We only further divide our state if we attempt to blame people of faith, African American voters, rural communities and others for this loss."
The LDS church, of course, has issued its own response to the protests, claiming that "It is wrong to target the church and its sacred places of worship." Many bloggers have responded to this press release, but my favorite response so far is that of Chanson at Main Street Plaza: "If you open up a grocery store in the middle of your chapel, you can hardly complain that people are disrespecting your 'sacred places of worship' by shopping there." (Not to mention, I would add, that the church-supported Yes on 8 campaign has been stomping all over the sacred ground of other peoples' marriages and families for the past six months.)
Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish implores angry anti-8 protesters to "chill." He notes the fact that young voters overwhelmingly voted against 8 as evidence that this is only a temporary setback for marriage equality. This view is further supported by Gallup polls Scot has posted at Isocrat.org showing how rapidly public opinion is swinging toward support of gay rights in general and same-sex marriage specifically. Those who oppose marriage equality must recognize they're fighting a losing battle.
Dale Carpenter at The Volokh Conspiracy recognizes the right of people to express their anger at the LDS church's involvement in Prop 8, but notes the danger of picketing their places of worship and calling for tax audits:
Stop the focus on the Mormon Church. Stop it now. We just lost a ballot fight in which we were falsely but effectively portrayed as attacking religion. So now some of us attack a religion? People were warned that churches would lose their tax-exempt status, which was untrue. So now we have (frivolous) calls for the Mormon Church to lose its tax-exempt status? It's rather selective indignation, anyway, since lots of demographic groups gave us Prop 8 in different ways — some with money and others with votes. I understand the frustration, but this particular expression of it is wrong and counter-productive.He suggests instead that gay couples lead sit-ins at marriage license bureaus in California, peacefully demanding their constitutionally guaranteed right to be treated equally until the government steps in and does what it must.
The absolute best response to Prop 8 and the LDS church I've heard all week comes from Equality Utah and Utah Senator Scott McCoy. In a news release today they've invited the church to back up its statements that it "does not object to rights ... regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights" by supporting proposed legislation that would grant these specific rights to same-sex couples in Utah, who currently do not enjoy these legal protections. I see this proposal as a win-win situation: gay rights takes a major step forward in Utah, and the LDS church gets a chance to prove to the world that they are not the bigots many people believe they are. Most importantly, it's a chance for the church and the LGBT community to find common ground and work together rather than against each other, which is what I wish would have happened six months ago. Regardless of your faith or your stance on same-sex marriage, I urge you to sign your support to this effort to bridge a gap that just days ago looked unbridgeable.
Finally, I want to mention a couple things that have touched me in the past few days. First, I was grateful to get calls from family members who likely disagree with my position on the LDS church and Prop 8, but were nonetheless concerned for me personally because they knew this has been hard on me emotionally. I've made it clear before that Prop 8 has no legal impact on me or my family, and I don't pretend to suffer in the same way as my friends whose legal rights have been taken away, but I would be lying to say that my experience has been that of the concerned straight liberal who cares about gay rights from a purely intellectual standpoint. In a less-than-rational way, I have felt personally attacked by the church I was raised in, and I appreciate those loved ones who have expressed genuine empathy for this feeling, irrational as it may be.
Perhaps related to that sentiment, I was touched to discover yesterday that one of my brothers-in-law, who I've never before heard express much of an opinion about anything, has been very vocal on Facebook about his anger at Mormons' support of Prop 8. I don't know whether his fervor has anything to do with me or if it's just your basic liberal indignation, but regardless I'm happy to feel that solidarity with him. Tonight he shared a video of commentator Keith Olbermann making a powerful case for why everyone--everyone--should support marriage equality, even if you don't know a single gay person. It just about brought me to tears.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
I would like to celebrate Obama's victory with the rest of the nation, and I am excited to be part of this historic moment, but I can't stop thinking about the families who will be hurt by Proposition 8. Perhaps President Obama will hold true to the promise he made to the LGBT community to repeal DoMA, and maybe that big step forward will compensate for this huge step backward.
I've been planning for a while to take a little break from blogging after this election. I think I'll do that. Maybe just a few days, maybe a little longer. I'll be back when I have something to say that isn't bitter or angry.
EDIT: Maybe I'm conceding defeat too early. I'd love to see the final count show a last minute turnaround.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Saturday, November 01, 2008
In a recent post I accused Mormons who follow their prophet's call to arms, despite their own consciences telling them this is wrong, of being at best selfish and at worst cowardly. My friend Theric commented that my accusation "tends to suggest that you equate faith with fear, when, really, they are opposites." He's right. Fear is antithetical to faith. I agree with this assessment so much, in fact, that not so long ago, when I was a man of faith, I named my son based on that very idea (and I say I named my son because FoxyJ wanted another name and I only won in the end because she was too drugged after the emergency c-section to care).
One thing that bothers me so much about the Proposition 8 campaign, and particularly because it is religious people who are behind it, is that it is not based in faith, but in fear. I'm speaking now not about those who recognize that discrimination is wrong and are considering voting for it anyway because their prophet told them to, but of the people who wholeheartedly support this discrimination. The way the Yes on 8 campaign has spun the argument, it is not the rights of gay couples that are in danger, but rather the rights of churches and religious parents. They cite inaccurate and irrelevant legal precedent to paint a picture wherein same-sex marriage equals kindergarteners being taught about gay sex and temples being forced to marry gay couples or shut down.
The problem with this reasoning--well, one of the problems because there are many--is that it has nothing to do with same-sex marriage. None of these horrible things Prop 8 supporters fear are direct consequences of gay people getting legally married. They are things these people fear will happen if gay Californians can legally marry. They're afraid of losing their rights to practice their own religion and to raise their children according to their own values. And so what do they do? They take away someone else's rights in order to protect themselves. That's not an action based on faith. That's all fear.
A faith-based response to concerns about a supposed threat to religious rights would, first of all, show faith in humanity. Although Gordon Hinckley, the former president of the LDS Church, said many disparaging things about homosexuality, he was not one to look at the world around him and see conniving liberals out to corrupt him and his family with their devious gay agenda. When members of the church expected him to stand up in General Conference and bemoan the decaying state of the world, instead he spoke of acts of kindness he saw everywhere. He reached out on several occasions to people of other faiths and to people of no faith in attempts to work together for the betterment of the world. I don't mean to compare Hinckley with current LDS president Thomas Monson because Monson may well take this same approach in other contexts and Hinckley may well have done the same as Monson in this context (in fact he did, but I don't think quite to this extent), but Proposition 8 is not based in this same optimistic view of the world. Whereas an optimistic, faith-based worldview would have sought ways to work together with the gay community to ensure that everyone's rights are protected, the pessimistic, fear-based worldview represented by Prop 8 instead turns lesbians and gay men into enemies of religion. Do not unto others what you would have them do unto you, Prop 8 says, but rather do unto others what you fear they'll do to you. Don't turn the other cheek; rather, get them before they get you.
I'm no longer a person of faith, so I need to find another antidote to the fears I have, the chief of which lately is the fear of living in a world with people who are willing to abandon reason and justice in the name of a fear they erroneously call faith. For me hope fills that space once taken by faith. Hope not for things which are unseen, but hope based in the things I do see. Hope, for instance, that comes from taking a look at the progress we've made on the road to equality in just the past twenty years. I have hope that California voters will speak out on Tuesday against discrimination, but I ground that hope in a recognition of the reality that many have been convinced by the scare tactics of the Yes on 8 campaign. And like my believing friends, I recognize that "[hope] without works is dead." Which is why I've talked so much about Prop 8 on this blog, in the hope that I'll convince someone, anyone, that voting no on 8 is the right thing to do; this is why I've donated the very little I can afford to the No campaign; this is why I'll be standing outside a polling place on Tuesday, reminding voters that a No on 8 is a vote for equality. If all this and the much greater work of thousands of others fails and the proposition passes, I'll grieve with the people who suffer from this discrimination and then I'll hope with them for the inevitable tomorrow when we'll be past all this. This hope I have in humanity, even the parts of humanity who currently oppose same-sex marriage, is not based in naive optimism but in historical evidence: the human race has always moved forward; we may experience setbacks along the way, but as we continue to embrace reason we leave behind us the irrational fears of the past.
Hope is my anti-fear. Here's hoping that better tomorrow comes sooner rather than later.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
But I wonder if he get in,
Who he gonna open up the door for?
I don't want to discourage my folk
I believe in hope,
I just want us to want more
Politricks is a game, how they keep us contained,
Gotta be more that we can hope for.
Democrats and Republicans
Just two sides of the same coin.
Either way it's still white power,
It's the same system, just changed form.
You wanna vote? Please do.
Cast your ballot, let your voice be heard.
But what I do wanna say is
After the election you'll see, mark my word.
--Dead Prez, "PolitricKKKs"
But on a positive side,
I think Obama provides hope - and challenges minds
Of all races and colors to erase the hate
And try and love one another, so many political snakes
We in need of a break
I'm thinkin' I can trust this brotha
But will he keep it way real?
Every innocent nigga in jail - gets out on appeal
When he wins - will he really care still?
--Nas, "Black President"
I spent much of the last few weeks feeling rather hopeless. I could do nothing but watch helplessly as my finances turned into a big fat mess thanks to a bounced paycheck. The stress literally made me feel chilled and nauseated. Unrelated except in the feelings it produced, I also watched helplessly as polls showed public opinion in California swinging toward Proposition 8. This proposition will have zero effect on me and my family, but still it consumes all of my emotional energy. I know enough people it will hurt and I know there are thousands more I've never met. Other injustices--instances of racism, sexism, war--produce similar feelings of sickness and anger in me, but this particular one has beaten me down so much because my family and friends, my religious background, my geographical location, and my sexual orientation have placed it at the forefront of my life.
The thing that started to pull me out of that pit of despair last week, even before the financial situation resolved itself, is another thing that has very little to do with my personal life: a mixtape put together by a bunch of hip-hop artists in support of Barack Obama. Now, I'm well aware that Obama is no Messiah. I'm not expecting Obama's America to be one where the streets are paved with gold (or cheese, if you're an immigrant mouse). The political hip-hop duo Dead Prez, breaking from the rest of the hip-hop industry that uniformly praises the advent of a black president, warn that when Obama is in office we'll see he's no different from any other politician, and tonight my friend Theric expressed a similar view. I'm not going to discard the opinions of either Dead Prez or Theric because they both make valid points, but I do think that both express a cynicism that I hope proves unfounded.
The reason that mixtape gave me hope is because it's evidence of a small miracle. You have to understand, hip-hop is not known for its optimism, particularly when it comes to politics. Hip-hop has its roots in a culture that has found itself beaten down and ignored by the government for centuries. Noting that as a young man he never saw a reason to vote, Jay-Z says, "Politics never trickled down to urban areas because we don't affect who's in office." He notes the cyclical problem of urban blacks not voting because politicians don't care about them and politicians not caring about urban blacks because they don't vote. This status quo is reflected throughout the past thirty years of hip-hop's existence--pick up any rap song that goes even slightly political and you'll find lyrics expressing a complete distrust of any and everything related to government. If you don't believe me, go listen to Public Enemy. The Barack Obama mixtape represents the first time in hip-hop's history (as far as I know, anyway) that artists across the board have come together in support of a presidential candidate. It represents the first time many of these artists--artists who young people across the nation, black and white (and every other color on the spectrum), look up to--have expressed hope in America.
As Theric points out, presidents have far less actual power than we tend to think. One thing they do have power to do, though, is to inspire the American people--and for that matter, the world. Our current president has spent much of his two terms trying to inspire fear. Barack Obama inspires hope. Theric agrees with me on this: Obama "will probably be good for the soul of America if elected," he says. Perhaps where we differ is in the weight we place on having that quality in a president.
I don't have 100% confidence in Obama's ability to solve all the nation's problems. I don't even have 100% confidence in his ability to solve some of them. But I do have hope that four or eight years into an Obama presidency America will be a better place than it is now, and that hope in and of itself gives me more hope.
(to be continued)
Monday, October 27, 2008
Next Monday, November 3rd, is my birthday. I'm sure most of you have been fretting for months about what to get me. Well I have a suggestion.
See, the day after my birthday is another, though somewhat less well-known, important day. It's Election Day. If you give me the gift of voting for Barack Obama and/or voting no on Propositions 8, 2, or 102 if you live in California, Florida, or Arizona, respectively, you will not only make me happy, but you will make the world a better place. But the important part is making me happy. If you can manage to vote in California, Florida, and Arizona, all the better.
In all seriousness, if it doesn't violate your conscience and you want to donate to the No on 8 campaign in my honor (or even not in my honor), I'd be honored.
And also in all seriousness, please vote. For who or whatever your conscience tells you to vote for. But especially if your conscience agrees with mine.
Please stop using our children to manipulate people. Not just the children you've literally used in your commercials without their parents consent, but also the children of heterosexual couples everywhere you claim to be defending (from a threat that doesn't exist) and the children of same-sex couples who you conveniently sweep aside, lest their existence ruin your argument that gay couples only want marriage for selfish reasons, unlike those selfless heterosexual couples who do it for the children.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The wicked who fight against ZionI understand that this song was written in the 1860s, when the LDS church had recently been chased, by threat of extermination, out of the United States. I can see the need for a persecuted minority group to feel that God is on their side, that he will punish their enemies. A hundred and fifty years later, though, now that the church is an international organization with millions of members, even more millions of dollars, and some pretty jaw-dropping political power, I find this verse rather terrifying. Particularly considering the fact that, by many definitions, I am among "the wicked who fight against Zion" and that's my daughter up there singing that. Shouldn't you be teaching these children that, I don't know, the wicked will one day be overcome by our love for them and come to accept the truth of a God who cares as much for them as he does for us? Instead you're teaching them that God--a God who, by the way, is known more often than not to exercise his will through the hands of his followers--will smite these people, who are also his children? Do you suppose it's time to rewrite that verse? Or maybe just choose a different song?
Will surely be smitten at last.
That said, the Primary Program was today and, apart from that bit of dissonance, I enjoyed it. S-Boogie and her classmates all mumbled their parts into the microphone adorably, sweet voices sang about a faith that adds meaning to their families' lives, and an endearing lack of appropriate intonation made just about every line spoken over the pulpit amusingly unintelligible.
Friday, October 24, 2008
And what does John McCain have? A Lauryn Hill CD hidden in his glove compartment. Which doesn't count because Lauryn Hill hates white people.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I've achieved so much in life,
But I'm an amateur in love.
My bank account is doing just fine,
That's when I stopped and banged my head on the desk.
Screw. You. India. Arie.
And your stupid bank account.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
And on top of the half a million he got to take home, you'll always have the thirty minutes' worth of video footage staring up your nostrils that some cameraman thought was a good idea. I'm sure you're flattered. :)
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Meanwhile, I watch with horror as polls shift toward favoring Proposition 8. Earlier this week I received an email inviting me to come to this broadcast on Wednesday night. I don't resent receiving the invitation--I got it because I'm on an email list that notifies me of elders quorum activities and honestly FoxyJ's ward members are the only live social interaction I have lately (and really they're good people, regardless of their support of Prop 8)--but I resent the fact that thousands of people are putting all this effort and money into hurting families who are different from them, all in the name of protecting their own families from an imaginary threat. The recent shift in the polls is attributed largely to a recent ad campaign claiming (with no factual basis) that same-sex marriage is a threat to churches and children, an ad campaign funded by donations that come primarily from members of the LDS church.
If you're reading this and you're as sickened as I am by these attempts to legally discriminate against families headed by same-sex couples--or even just a little bit sickened by it--please donate what you can to efforts to counter these lies with truth. Sadly, elections are often not determined by which side is telling the truth but rather by which side has the money to speak louder. I don't often ask people to donate money to causes I believe in, but that's about all I have the power to do right now.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
This epic story of Greek gods living in a dilapidated house in twenty-first-century London and the mortals they drag into their power struggles is utterly delightful. Phillips's reimagining of the mythic gods is at once cleverly original and true to the source material. If Homer were writing today this is exactly how Artemis, Apollo, Aphrodite, and all the rest would look and behave. On top of that, though, Phillips adds a layer of humor that makes this fun to read and an engaging plot that makes it difficult to put down. The story is filled with twists and turns that surprise while at the same time feeling entirely natural and logical. Perhaps I'm most impressed by this because it's a weakness in my own writing, but I'm in awe of the way Phillips allows her plot to be driven by well-developed characters; she fleshes them out completely, lets them do what they want to do, and the story is built naturally on the consequences of their actions. The novel opens, for example, with Artemis and Aphrodite forcing Apollo to swear not to harm mortals, and everything that happens afterward depends on that simple act, with the conflicting motivations of major and minor characters adding layer upon layer of complexity to the butterfly effect of events.
And I even liked it despite the fact that library gave me a copy with the other cover.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
The Fobcave, meanwhile, won't change much. It will be the repository of all the "everything else" things I feel like blogging about, which is pretty much what it's always been.
Friday, October 03, 2008
I felt pretty horrible when Foxy told me. Here we've already moved the poor girl to a different state and made her leave all her friends behind, and then a month into kindergarten when she's just starting to feel comfortable with her new friends, we yank her out and throw her in with another bunch of strangers, where the teacher won't even be speaking English. On top of that, the new kindergarten is a morning class and we really really liked the afternoon schedule we've had. At the same time, though, we've been saying for years that we'd like to get her in a Spanish immersion program and as bad as it is to transfer after a month of kindergarten, it would only be worse to transfer after a year.
So we decided to do it. Today was S-Boogie's last day at her old school and Monday will be the first at the new one. She's spent the past few days alternating between excitement and anxiety about the change. This morning she was particularly stressed and grumpy, no doubt because she knew it would be her last day, and I was no help at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. I know this may come as a shock, but apparently getting stressed because your child is stressed and then yelling at her to stop crying isn't actually a good parenting technique.
The thing that's been bothering me all week is that I remember kindergarten. We are no longer in the realm of parenting mistakes like letting a toddler watch too much TV, which we all know will have negative effects, but really who's to say it's my fault Junior has an IQ of 64? No, we're at the point now where forcing our daughter to switch schools a month into the school year could potentially ruin her life and she will resent us forever because of it. Her earliest experiences and memories of school--those that will shape the course of the next twenty years of her life for better or worse--hinge on a single phone call. (And boy am I glad it wasn't me who made that phone call and told the secretary "yes.") The power in our hands to positively or negatively affect the life of this little person we love so much, coupled with the ignorance of what will ultimately have positive effects and what will have negative effects, is rather terrifying.
Later today, after Foxy helped S-Boogie calm down and she had a nice last day at the old school and I spent several hours hating myself for being so utterly incompetent as a parent and reassuring S-Boogie several times that it's okay to cry when you're sad and that I'm sorry she feels sad, she somewhat randomly hugged me and told me, "I like it when you give me hugs because that's how I know you love me." I hope to... Whoever that somehow that will be enough.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
When we moved in here we bought two majestic palm plants at Ikea. Within a week or two the leaves were turning brown on one of them. I fought and fought but in the last week or so I've accepted that it's time to give up the fight. The plant is dead.
If this were a matter of me being airheaded and just forgetting to water or otherwise neglecting my plants, that would be one thing. I'm an obsessive person, though, and I've obsessed over these plants. I looked up proper care for each of the plants, I bought orchid food, I tried to find the perfect spot in the house where they'd get the right amount of sunlight. All to no avail.
The powerlessness of it all is kind of depressing.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
And then I stopped because I looked out the window and there he was, passing by on his way back wherever he'd come from. And the window was open.
Had he heard me talking about him? How embarrassing. What if he thought I was a horrible person? Worse, what if he thought he was a horrible person for having a poochy tummy and wearing a wifebeater? What if he went home and he was so distraught that he actually beat his wife? Who was I to cause such turmoil in this man I'd never met?
And in that moment a heavenly light shone down on me (Foxy had turned on the kitchen light) and I learned an Important Truth: Before you go mocking some stranger who you've no right to judge, be absolutely sure he can't hear you.
Thing is, I thought Mormons and Evangelicals and Baptists already had a common enemy. I guess he wasn't enough of a threat to bring them together, though. Turns out the Beatles may be bigger than Jesus, but only the gays are bigger than Satan.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
In Which I Blaspheme Someone Who Is Reportedly Bigger Than Jesus
(and quote a swear word while I'm at it)
I think that some Beatles songs are done better by people other than the Beatles.
Yes, I recognize the absurdity of someone who hardly even knows what a chord is daring to criticize the greatest band in the history of humankind, but bear with me for a minute--assuming you haven't already left.
I actually feel this way about a few of their songs that have been covered by other artists, but the one I'm thinking of at the moment is their first single, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." In the YA novel Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, which I'm reading in preparation for the movie, one of the characters explains why this is such a great song (and uses a bit of profanity, which I preserve because you didn't really think that G rating would last long, did you?):
Perhaps the most fucking brilliant song ever written. Because they nailed it. That's what everyone wants. Not 24-7 hot wet sex. Not a marriage that lasts a hundred years. Not a Porsche or a blow job or a million-dollar crib. No. They wanna hold your hand. They have such a feeling that they can't hide. Every single successful love song of the past fifty years can be traced back to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." And every single successful love story has those unbearable and unbearably exciting moments of hand-holding. Trust me. I've thought a lot about this.
He's right, it's brilliant, but the thing is, I don't think the song as the Beatles perform it conveys that message as powerfully as it could. It's a beautiful idea, this simple yearning for a simple touch, and it's all there in the lyrics and the melody, but then they've got all this other stuff going on--drums and harsh rock-n-roll guitar stuff--that makes it sound more like a party song. Granted, it worked for them, else we wouldn't even know who the Beatles are, but I don't think it serves the song itself as well as, for instance, T.V. Carpio's version from the movie Across the Universe.
In the film, Carpio is a teenaged girl watching her secret crush from a distance, dying to have that one touch, that magic that passes between two people when they hold hands. To emphasize her beautiful vocals, the instrumentation is limited to an acoustic guitar and, I believe (but may be revealing my music ignorance here), a subdued bassline. The bass strums out the beating of her heart as her voice trembles with raw desire. It makes me feel all tingly inside.
You don't have to take my blasphemous word for it, though. I've included both versions below so you can listen to them simultaneously and judge for yourself.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
In any discussion about homosexuality and the LDS church between believers and nonbelievers, the following exchange has a 95% chance of occurring in some form or another:
Nonbeliever: I'm tired of your church hating on the gays.
Believer: No, you misunderstand. We love the gays, we just disapprove of their sinful actions/lifestyle.
Having been on both sides of this argument, I recognize and respect the distinction between actions and people. I question the appropriateness of an individual or organization judging the actions of other people that affect no one but the "sinners" themselves, particularly when the act in question is every bit as personal and meaningful to the people involved as the same act is between any husband and wife, but still I recognize the distinction. In all my criticism of the church I am meticulously careful to maintain this distinction. I have said that I find the church's political stance regarding Proposition 8 anti-family and more recently that I find the decision made by some church members to vote against their conscience in order to be obedient unethical, at best selfish and at worst cowardly. I have not once said that the church is anti-family or that the people who make that unethical decision are selfish or cowardly. I make selfish and cowardly decisions all the time but to say that I am a selfish or cowardly person wouldn't really mean anything, because every human being is selfish and cowardly by that standard.
It's extremely frustrating, then, that several times in the past few months I have been accused by friends and family members of being hateful toward the church and its members. I do not hate Mormons, else I would hate the majority of the people who are most important to me, and I do not hate their church. I have noted on several occasions the good that the church does. This doesn't change the fact that the things they do to harm other people make me furious, and I reserve the right to express that anger. If it is hateful of me to express indignation when I see people hurting other people, then it was hateful of Christ to throw the moneychangers out of the temple. Hate and anger are not synonymous.
I understand that those of you who are faithful Mormons hold very high opinions of your leaders, your church, and your God. I assure you I hold very high opinions of some of the other people I've criticized. Accusing me of hate every time I express anger at the unjust actions of these people serves only to send the message that you wish to invalidate my opinion. Which doesn't make me feel particularly loved, sinner that I may be.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
This week I came across an interesting article responding to Barack Obama's claims that a John McCain presidency would not bring "a dime's worth of difference" from the current administration. Now, regular readers no doubt have picked up on the fact that I'm a passionate Obama boy. I like his stances on the war, on the environment, on gay rights (well, more so than any other presidential candidate ever), on the economy (to the extent that I understand economics), on just about everything, but even more so I feel like he's a sincere person and when he says he's dedicated to make real and lasting change, I believe him. The one thing that bothers me about his campaign, though, is his insistence that John McCain is a clone of George W. Bush. I'm not crazy about McCain, and one of the things that bothers me most is that he seems intent on continuing Bush's pointless war in Iraq, but honestly, he's not Bush.
Which is why I was a little confused as to why he chose a person who is Bush--except maybe even more evil and more laughably ignorant on things that people who want to be leader of the free world should know--to be his running mate. It occurred to me that perhaps just-right-of-center McCain felt he needed someone who would pander to the religious right, but seriously, was there ever any concern that extreme rightists would vote for Obama? What it comes down to, of course, is the obvious answer: McCain chose Palin because she's a woman. As if that's somehow empowering to women.
Oh, right, I was trying to be fair and balanced. Damn, I'm no better at it than Fox.
But she still scares me.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I feel much better now.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Lest you think I perfectly fit the granola-fortified stereotype I try so hard to emulate, I must admit that the end destination of this trip was no farmer's market or liberal political rally or hemp t-shirt store. The honest truth is that I took my son to the other side of town so that we could buy cheap ice cream cones and play at the McDonald's Playplace.
But I'm still cool. Really, I am.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Sunday, September 07, 2008
See these two young men? Jack and Ennis were hired to watch some sheep. Their boss was very clear about the rules: At night, Jack would stay with the sheep on the mountain while Ennis tended the camp. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?
But as you see here, simple rules are sometimes a little too tempting to break. What you're watching now is the moment when our young friends go wrong. Jack's a little tired of sleeping with the sheep every night, so Ennis offers to trade places with him. Seems innocent enough, right? Even noble, you might say, for Ennis to help his friend out like that. But breaking the rules never helps anyone.
In this next scene here you'll see how Jack and Ennis slip a little bit farther. Tonight, Ennis is feeling a little tired, so rather than go back to the sheep after dinner, he lies down next to the fire, promising he'll get up after a short rest and do his job. Elders, there is no excuse for shirking your duty.
Watch the dominoes continue to fall: Now it's the middle of the night and Ennis is shivering in the cold while Jack sleeps in the warm tent. We see again that Jack has what appear to be altruistic motives--he wants his friend to sleep better. So now Jack invites Ennis to sleep in the tent with him.
Now let me just point out that by this point these two young men have not only veered far from the counsel their boss gave them--for Jack to watch the sheep while Ennis watches the camp--but they are also breaking the number one most important rule you'll find in your little white bibles: Never ever sleep in the same bed as your companion.
Watch closely now and see what happens when Jack and Ennis break this rule. I know some of you will find this a little repulsive (and I hope you do), but I want you to keep watching so you understand what happens when you justify rule-breaking.
Now you don't want that to happen, do you? (If you do, go talk to your branch president now.)
As you can see, the scene cuts now to the morning after, and what's happened to the sheep? Yes, one of them has been killed, presumably by a coyote. That, elders, is the wages of sin. I'm going to stop the movie now on this image of Ennis holding a dead, bloody sheep, so that you remember this lesson. Don't let yourselves fall onto the slippery slope of rule breaking, or you just might end up like Jack and Ennis.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
I have now been to three concerts. The first was a free Michael Franti and Spearhead concert in Salt Lake City two years ago, marking not only my first concert but also the first time I exposed my children to secondhand pot smoke (Little Dude was not quite six weeks old at the time). The second was a not-free Erykah Badu concert (opened by the Roots) that I saw in Seattle this past June. Not quite as much pot at this concert, but then this time instead of Foxy and the kids I went with a friend so it wouldn't have mattered as much. Today was another free Michael Franti and Spearhead concert and this time we brought the kids again. This concert, the annual Power to the Peaceful Festival at Golden Gate Park, was quite a bit bigger than the last two--Foxy heard them say there were about 50,000 people there and I'd believe it--and involved quite a bit more pot.
This was everything you'd imagine a huge hippiefest in San Francisco to be: dreadlocked people wandering around in very little clothing, people wearing bellbottoms and peace signs, men wearing tux vests with tutus, people doing yoga stunts, people on stilts twirling hula hoops, people selling magic brownies and rice krispie treats, overweight lesbian couples painting little watercolor scenes... It was like being in Forrest Gump--or, you know, any other movie set during the sixties. There was a little flea market of shops selling products made mostly of hemp, vegan food stands, flyers going around demanding more thorough investigations of 9/11 and encouraging teachers to work a segment on cocoa fair trade into their curricula.
In all it was a six hour event and we planned to get there about two hours into it in order to make it to the scheduled kid-friendly activities, but between traffic and our underestimation of Golden Gate Park's size, we arrived two hours later than planned, which ended up being fine. We missed all the performers that I'd never heard of, slowly made our way through the insane crowd (with a stroller!) while Ziggy Marley performed, and found a spot to put down our blanket on the grass just as Michael Franti came onstage.
Though we were ridiculously far from the stage, I enjoyed his performance. He did a bunch of favorites from past albums, as well as several from a new album that's going to be released this coming week--and which I bought today and listened to on the way home. I also bought a t-shirt because I wanted something to commemorate my first true hippie experience. I was hoping for something that said "I went to the Power to the Peaceful Festival in 2008 and I love Michael Franti and I think war is stupid and gay marriage is great but honestly I don't like the smell of marijuana," but as it turns out that shirt was about three sizes too big because of all the words. So I settled for this one:
The back has the number 10 on it so that when you're watching the Spearhead vs. Coldplay game and I'm running around on the field you know which one I am.
In summary, I had fun today. I liked being among such a huge group of freaky people, I liked freaking my wife to a sexy love song while everyone around did the same, I liked dancing to rebel rock while my children sat on my shoulders and swayed their arms. I will, however, never ever again attempt to push a stroller (or help someone else trying to push a stroller) through a crowd of 50,000 intoxicated people.