Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas is Evil

The Christmas season has officially begun. I know this, because a Walmart employee was trampled to death today (Black Friday) by a mob of Christmas shoppers. Happy birthday Jesus.

People say Christmas is a time to spend with family. Why do you need an excuse to get together with your family? If you love them so much, shouldn't you want to be with them more than once a year? And what about the large proportion of us who don't want to spend time with family, people for whom holiday celebrations are a cruel form of torture?

People say gift giving is a form of appreciation. First of all, that is a bunch of garbage. Most gift giving is a series of obligatory grab bags and "they got me something, so.." If you want to show appreciation, why only once a year? And are we so incapable of meaningful human interaction that the only thing we can come up with is putting yourself in debt to give your niece a GAP gift certificate?

People say this is the season of peace and good will. Considering the shopper death march of today, I shouldn't even have to address this one. Anyone who has ever been near a mall at Christmas knows that people are full of everything but peace and goodwill. And going into a spending frenzy or throwing tinsel on a dead tree is not going to bring peace to the earth. Ask how many of those peace and good will Christmas celebrators are also against war.

The people who claim they are celebrating Christmas for religious reasons may be the most delusional of all. Do you really think Jesus would have wanted his birthday to be about stocking up on video games at Walmart? If this was really about celebrating Jesus, people would be giving away their extraneous stuff and figuring out how to live simply and righteously.

My personal favorite may be the tradition excuse. How many stupid things are done in the name of tradition? Traditions can and should change. Killing trees and heaping a lot of crap onto landfills is not going to make our lives any better. Come January 1st you are just going to be hung over, in debt, and not on speaking terms with several relatives.

Bah humbug.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Prop 8: Direct Your Anger Where it Belongs

Immediately after Proposition 8 passed, the blame game began. And while it is perfectly legitimate to try and understand who voted for it and why, it is perfectly counterproductive to vilify those individuals and give them up for lost.

The blame in this case has been, by many, placed squarely on the shoulders of the black community, a larger percentage of whom voted for the measure than any of the other groups in California that people keep track of.

One of the first discussions I heard on the subject was on the Rachel Maddow Show. Maddow had Princeton professor Melissa Harris Lacewell on to talk about why so many African-Americans voted for Prop 8.

To their credit, both Maddow and Lacewell point out that the vast majority of people who supported Prop 8 were white. Lacewell argues that the people against Prop 8 never made effective arguments to the black community. Watch it and see if you can spot the glaring hole in their discussion.

Where is mention of the people who are both gay and black? Where are their voices in all of this? Where is someone like greling supposed to turn when confronted with hate from all directions?

I had been eagerly awaiting a response from my new favorite blogger, Monica Roberts at TransGriot. She was insightful as usual. In addition to pointing out the glaring lack of attention paid to the African American community during the campaign, she brings up the much larger issue of how invisible black GLBT people are within the GLBT rights movement.

It seems the GLBT rights movement has some of the same frustrating problems that steered me away from the feminist movement and frustrates the hell out of me working in nonprofits. Everyone talks about being "inclusive." At best that usually means "consulting" with a few supposedly representative minorities. Until people from all backgrounds - racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, whatever - are core voices in these movements and organizations, they will never succeed.

Perhaps more importantly, as Monica so wisely pointed out, the blame game is part and parcel of the usual divide and conquer strategy. When women, African Americans, Latinos, GLBT, and all the rest of the people who have been screwed to varying degrees by the current hierarchy get together - we can accomplish something. The only reason people like Dick Cheney still have power is that they have kept us mistrusting and fighting each other instead of them. Time to tell them to F-off with that strategy.

And here's something interesting. A study of public opinion actually found that black Americans were more likely to support job protections for homosexuals than white Americans. So why is the black community supportive of job protections, but not marriage equality? The same reason the white community doesn't support gay marriage - religion.

Another fascinating study (thanks for that Monica) is Say it Loud I'm Black and I'm Proud. In it, when GLBT respondents were asked about their experiences with black heterosexuals in four areas - families, friends, black heterosexual organizations, and religious institutions - only religious institutions showed more negative than positive or equal experiences.

Rather than create divisions between Americans or schizophrenia in those people who don't neatly fit into some arbitrary groups, lets focus on the real problem. The movement for Proposition 8 was led by religious organizations. The support of Prop 8 in communities, black and white, always had religious justification. Just check out the commentary to this article on Black Voices. The problem is religiously based intolerance.

Now anyone who knows me knows how I feel about religion. I find it hard to belief that religion ever does anyone any good. But I grudgingly admit that religious organizations were crucial in the civil rights movement and in bringing support and services to poor communities.

People should never forget that the same bible that Martin Luther King took his strength from was also used to justify slavery. Conversely, Martin Luther King took a bible that had been used to justify slavery and turned it around to compel people to do the right thing. If that kind of change in attitude is possible, then so is a change in attitude towards GLBT rights. Now, play this video of Wanda Sykes, get riled up, and do something.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Disastrous Political Interference by the Catholic Church

You would think 1,000 years of intolerant rule would be enough, but the Catholic church continues to interfere in matters of state all around the world.

It has come out that it was the Archbishop in San Francisco who requested and received help from the Mormon church to pass California's Proposition 8 (defining marriage as between a man and a woman). The Mormon church then sent a call out to its members to raise money and donate time to make sure the measure passed.

In Nicaragua, it was a Catholic church led movement that enacted a complete ban on all abortions. The ban, a violation of international law, imposes harsh criminal penalties on doctors who perform abortions and has made the medical community afraid to treat women who have miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies. Within a year, the ban had cost at least 80 women their lives.

The Catholic church tells people who to vote for. They rarely say outright the candidate by name, as that will get them into some hot water. However, they tell their followers to vote based on one issue and one issue only - abortion. If Hitler were against abortion, and his opponent for it, they would say vote for Hitler.

The fact that our current anti-abortion president is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands in war doesn't matter. Whether or not the next leader's policies will help save some of the tens of thousands who die every day of starvation doesn't matter.

The Catholic church has almost always been on the wrong side of human rights - from the inquisition to appeasement of Hitler to the continuous subjugation of women. And they - the people who brought us an epidemic of horrific and concealed sex abuse - want to dictate the morals of our governments?

How dare they.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

A Thank You Letter to President George W. Bush

Dear Dubya,

You've probably been feeling underappreciated lately, with that 71% disapproval rating and all, so I wanted to take a moment to send you a little thank you note.

I thought trickle down economics and neoliberalism were here to stay, but your brilliantly mismanaged collapse of our economy has those formerly sacrosanct concepts gasping for air.

I thought the Christian Coalition and other "family values" groups would hold us hostage forever with their close-minded, self-righteous morality, but your example of how wrong an evangelical can be has opened many eyes.

I thought poverty in America would remain a subject hidden forever from public discourse, but your criminal negligence after Katrina left it stranded on New Orleans rooftops for all the world to see and talk about.

I thought no democrat could win against a war hero who accused them of socialism, terrorism, elitism, or (the most heinous) non-christianism, but association with your failures was to a candidate what communist party membership was to an actor in the McCarthy era.

I thought a black president was an impossible dream, but you shrewdly made people hate you so much that their prejudices seemed insignificant.

So thank you, Dubya. We have paid a heavy price in suffering and lives lost, but today's possibilities would not have been possible without your incompetence.


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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Obama is Going to Win Florida and Here is Why

Whenever anyone talks about Florida, they always make it seem as though winning Florida hinges on the votes in South Florida. But Florida is a big state and who wins or loses depends on more than just a handful of Cubans and Jews in South Florida.

In fact, South Florida is in the bag. It always votes democratic, despite the heavily Republican Cuban vote. In the 2004 presidential election Miami-Dade County favored Kerry over Bush 409,732 to 361,095. Broward County, where Ft. Lauderdale sits, was even more democratic with 453,873 voting for Kerry and only 244,674 for Bush.

In the 2000 Presidential Election Gore received 39,275 more Miami-Dade County votes than Bush. And Gore received a whopping 209,801 more votes than Bush in Broward County. That's about 69% of the vote. If it were up to Dade and Broward Counties, Florida would have gone democratic in both of the last presidential elections.

I would expect to see those democratic number rise even higher this election. George W. Bush's disastrous presidency will certainly push the votes in that direction, but so will demographic and generational changes. Look for an increase in votes from the citizen children of non-citizen immigrants who arrived from the Caribbean (particularly Haiti) beginning in the 1950s. Their children can vote, and I'm guessing they will.

Further, the Republicans' main voters in South Florida are an aging group of white Cubans. Their children may still be Republicans, but their ideological dedication isn't nearly as strong. What's more, later arrivals (many of whom are Afro-Cuban and have more ambivalent feelings about the Cuban government) may have a more open mind.

Regardless of how much Obama wins by in South Florida, it is northern Florida where the race will be won. It is northern Florida, which more closely resembles Georgia, that usually votes Republican in national elections. Duval County (Jacksonville) favored Bush in each of the last two elections. In 2000 it was 152,098 to 107,864 and in 2004 it was 220,190 to 158,610.

Duval County is about 30% African American, but only 60% of of African American voters in Duval showed up in 2004. A significant increase in black voting in Duval could turn the county democratic. If northern Florida counties turn democratic, and I believe some of them will, Barack Obama wins the state comfortably.

Another northern and Central Florida trend to keep an eyeball on is the influx of Puerto Ricans to the area. While the Puerto Rican community in the Orlando area has been growing for some time, it is only recently that they have been moving to places like Sarasota. Puerto Ricans tend to vote democratic.

McCain's campaign seems to have assumed that they would continue to pull in the Central and Northern Florida counties that have traditionally gone Republican. Or maybe, as Adam Nagourney reports in the New York Times article While McCain Looked Away, Florida Shifted, they believed that "Mr. Obama, as an African-American, would have trouble winning support from two of the state’s key constituencies: Hispanics and Jews."

If his report is true, it is delightful. Republicans have been trying to convince us that we hate each other and that we do not have common interests for so long that they actually started to believe their own hype. Once again, they counted on racism to help them win an election. But this time it is going to backfire in a huge way. Sweet.

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