A New President, But the Same Old Homophobia: Proposition 8 Wins in California

November 6, 2008

The sun seemed to shine a whole lot brighter yesterday morning after America voted to get Barack Obama into the White House by an overwhelming margin. The NYTimes headlined: “Racial Barrier Falls as Voters Embrace Call for Change”. Just as Germany tore down the Berlin Wall, we cast our votes to overcome this conveniently-exclusionary thing called Race. We are Making History.

So, what the hell were the states of California, Florida, and Arizona thinking when they simultaneously voted to BAN same-sex marriages? Let’s stop discrimination but only with regards to Race? Hey, go right ahead with those barriers against same-sex couples? Yes, we are Making History indeed. Who ordered the Rain on Our Parade.

According to the NYTimes yesterday afternoon: In California, 52% voted for a ban on same-sex marriages (already deemed legal by the California Supreme Court back in May). Homophobes in Florida and Arizona won by even bigger margins. Arkansas passed a measure that bars gay men and lesbians from adopting children.

THIRTY states have now passed bans on same-sex marriage. Only Massachusetts and Connecticut consider same-sex marriages legal. Rhode Island and New York recognize marriages performed elsewhere.

Why do religious fundamentalists consider marriages between same-sex partners such a profound and urgent threat to the traditional family unit headed by a male/female partnership? Aren’t the cultural trends towards divorce and single-parenthood even bigger (more logical) threats? And speaking of race, why do so many black and Latino votes support the bans on same-sex marriages?

It seems to me: If you want to fix the family, fix the FAMILY. Don’t blame other people. Don’t exclude alternate lifestyles. Really, Stop The Hate Now.

These bans are crimes against humanity. As Obama’s win unleashes a “Flood of Hope” worldwide, we need to direct some of that energy against the bigots that hide behind the dark cloud of religious fundamentalism.

Yes We Can. Let the Sunshine In.


Kings and Kingmakers at Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner

October 19, 2008

NYT’s top cultural chronicler Bill Cunningham ran the lead photo above for his “Evening Hours” page this Sunday. From left: Cardinal Edward M. Egan, Alfred E. Smith IV (great grandson of Smith), Nan Smith, and Senator Barack Obama at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner held on October 16th at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.

The dinner reportedly raised $4 million for underprivileged children. Which is (undeniably) well and good. It also brought together — in royal white tie — the city’s (arguably, the nation’s) political, cultural, and media elite: both presidential hopefuls, both state senators, the city’s 3rd-term-seeking mayor, a Catholic archbishop, news anchors, and so on and so forth.

Power. With a capital-P. I can’t help but think how much of our futures were shaped that night.

No surprise to anyone that politicians must pal around with the ruling dynasties of wealth and religion in order to get work done. But I am curious about whether and how Obama’s promise of change will weather these dominant regimes with which he is ostensibly at odds.

Certainly, there is no choice. Obama MUST/WILL become the next American president. There is much at stake. One hopes his presidency radically alters photographs such as this.


Church Blesses Weapons of Violence

October 7, 2008

The NYTimes ran this as one of their top photos yesterday. The caption:

A Roman Catholic priest followed by military officials blessed 50 new machine guns in Kauswagan, a town on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, to help the military in its operation against rebels belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The question: Should a priest be blessing machine guns? Should the church be deciding who is worthy of life?

Father, Father: Make love not war.

Photo: Agence France-Presse – Getty Images


Beijing Olympics: The Curse of the Five Fuwa Mascots

June 19, 2008

fuwa

These five Fuwa characters are the official mascots of the Beijing Games. Based on the five traditional Olympic rings (designed in 1913 to represent the five major continents), four symbolize China’s most popular animals and one stands in for the Olympic flame.

According to the official website:

Each of Fuwa has a rhyming two-syllable name… Beibei is the Fish, Jingjing is the Panda, Huanhuan is the Olympic Flame, Yingying is the Tibetan Antelope and Nini is the Swallow.

When you put their names together — Bei Jing Huan Ying Ni — they say “Welcome to Beijing”…

Turns out, the mascots also represent five curses. According to Reuters:

After a devastating earthquake struck Sichuan province last month, Internet users tied four of the five Fuwa mascots to the calamities that have struck China…

One Fuwa is a panda, the totem of Sichuan [earthquakes]. The others resemble a torch, reminding netizens of the protests against the international Olympic torch rally; a Tibetan antelope tied to widespead demonstrations in Tibetan areas; and a swallow that looks like a kite, linked to a deadly train crash in Shandong province.

The final Fuwa, sporting a fish, was left unexplained… until widespread flooding in southern and central China claimed dozens of lives in June.

Reuters reports that government censors have been removing postings about the curse so as not to fuel the superstitious. The Games, however, are still scheduled to begin at 8:08 PM on 8/8/08 — 8 being a lucky number for certain superstitious Chinese.


Same-Sex Weddings See First Light of Day in California

June 17, 2008

ringsLast month, California’s Supreme Court issued a landmark decision to overturn state laws that restricted marriage to unions between a man and a woman. Today, county clerks in 58 counties across the state began issuing official marriage licenses to hundreds of same-sex couples. YES!

It’s an historic day and the media has been running incredible photos and stories of newlyweds. The first marriage was performed by San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom, for a couple in their 80s. The couple had married in 2004, only to have this right stripped away, and their license invalidated.

This points to the still-precarious legal status of same-sex weddings in California and the rest of the United States. In November, voters in California decide whether to rescind the Supreme Court’s decision through a ballot measure that could revert the definition of marriage back to heterosexual unions.

Exclusionary efforts are underway. In a condescending statement quoted in NYT, a Florida-based group called Liberty Counsel said the ceremonies “make a mockery of marriage.” An Arizona-based group called Alliance Defense Fund is inciting discrimination and succeeded in getting one county clerk to cancel all same-sex weddings.

LA Times reports that very protesters showed up physically today because they are focusing on the ballot measure later this year. Another conservative group, protectmarriage.com, emailed supporters that they will fight in November and cautioned against protesting Tuesday’s ceremonies. The group warned: “Media outlets would love to see us engage in fierce protests and hostile demonstrations of outrage. … We must not fall into this trap.” Already, the group has submitted 1.1 million signatures earlier this year for the ballot measure to amend the state constitution. Now THAT’s a mockery of human rights.

Today, California opened a window to a new day in America. But the fight for equal rights for all is not over. Keep that window open! We need lots more happy days like today.

Here are just a couple groups that could certainly use your support: Human Rights Campaign and in New York, Empire State Pride Agenda. Feel free to add in comments.


Revival of India’s Ancient Sanskrit Opens a Debate about Contemporary India

June 15, 2008

As India grows wealthier, summer camps that teach children Sanskrit are increasingly popular. Supporters of the Sanskrit revival consider the ancient language integral to Indian culture and national pride. Others disagree.

Opponents see it as a Hindu nationalist effort to turn back the clock and claim the supremacy of Hindu thought in a contemporary India that now includes Muslims and other religious minorities.

The teaching of Sanskrit is an increasingly political issue. The Washington Post reports today that Sanskrit teachers are being viewed with suspicion and scholars are warning against exploiting India’s reverence for its ancient language to privilege Hindu traditions.

Historian Arjun Dev is quoted:

It is critical to understand Sanskrit in order to study ancient Indian civilization and knowledge. But the language should not be used to push Hindu political ideology into school textbook. They want to say that all that is great about India happened in the Hindu Sanskrit texts.

Today, Sanskrit is just one of 22 official languages in India and is considered a dead language by many. As essential to Asia as Latin is to the West, it is the world’s oldest known tongue dating back to the 4th century BCE and is revered as the language of the gods. Knowledge of Sanskrit was historically seen as a marker of social class and educational attainment.

It is currently spoken fluently by only 14,100 people in a nation of a billion, although recent revival efforts have apparently succeeded in initiating “at least four million Indians into speaking the language without making the mistake of associating the language with the Hindu religion, the exclusive preserve of the upper caste Brahmins”.


Republican Radio Host Calls for Murder of Media Activist

June 14, 2008

Michael Reagan, eldest son of Ronald Reagan and national radio talk show host, is calling on listeners to kill Mark Dice, political activist and founder of a Christian media watchdog called The Resistance. Reagan’s words:

How about you take Mark Dice out and put him in the middle of a firing range. Tie him to a post, don’t blindfold him, let it rip and have some fun with Mark Dice. (full audio link)

What provoked the former president’s adopted son?

Apparently, Mark Dice and his group of 3,000 Christian activists had been urging people to send letters and DVDs to U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq informing them that 9/11 was an inside job produced by the American government. In an interview with Fox News, Dice explained his motivations for “Operation Inform The Soldiers”:

I don’t want the soldiers who are risking their lives in Iraq to be used as pawns in the creation of the New World Order… We want U.S. troops to know that we care about them and are doing our best to make sure that they don’t have to risk their lives based on false pretenses.

While we do NOT agree with or endorse Dice’s platform, Reagan’s open call for murder is just plain repulsive. A transcript of the words he used on his radio program:

We ought to find the people who are doing this, take them out and shoot them. Really. You take them out, they are traitors to this country, and shoot them. You have a problem with that? Deal with it. You shoot them. You call them traitors, that’s what they are, and you shoot them dead. I’ll pay for the bullets.

Dice certainly knows how to fight back. He has filed a report with the FBI, is considering legal action, and is calling for Reagan to be fired immediately.

It’s not often that we see two right-wingers throwing fire and brimstone at each other. Perhaps a reality tv show is in the works.