Friday, July 21, 2006

Catching Up

Lots of things to talk about, so let's jump in.

To Give or Not To Give
MSNBC.com's money section features an article on handling panhandlers. The article was surprisingly honest, and even featured common thoughts from the head of an organization that helps the homeless, including beliefs that not all homeless folk are genuinely poor. I'll leave the judgements to you, but the upshot is that it's better to not give to panhandlers. That part wasn't surprising. There was an article in a recent edition of USA Today that looked at how welfare reform has changed the country, with large drops in the number of families on welfare rolls, but you have to wonder just how much if large cities like San Francisco and Chicago have beggars on every corner. What is undisputed, in both articles, is that panhandling and welfare, can't, won't, and shouldn't be the be-all and end-all for sustaining life, and low-paying menial and clerical jobs aren't cutting it either. Let's make it easier to get education and training for higher skilled jobs, bring down the price of property so that maybe we don't have to lose support services to cheaper places overseas, and perhaps we won't have such a huge problem with poverty.

I'm Not Gay, and Neither Is My Girlfriend
For the record, I'm not one of those homosexuals who either needs every homosexual in the world to come out, nor do I think every well-dressed, pretty man or strong woman is queer. My people have to stop claiming everyone. Quite frankly, some folks we have, we don't want! Okay, maybe just me. Conversely, heterosexuals who aren't gay need to stop unconcsiously demonizing queers by making declarative statements affirming their heterosexuality. Case in point, when Oprah speaks, people listen. The August issue of O magazine focuses on friendship, and features an extensive interview with buddies Oprah and Gayle King. They're so close that each of Oprah's homes has a room for Gayle (Oprah doesn't want a tv in her bedroom, but Gayle insists that hers does). And, Oprah shares a truth that as much as we want to believe that marriage is an equal thing, or rather, unconditional, it's not, but their relationship is unconditional. This isn't the first time that Oprah's been a little less than gay-friendly. She used to do a pretty decent show for National Coming Out Day, but then she spent an hour with author J.L. King, whose book explodes the myth of the down low, making it seem that most Black men are cheating on their women with men, and another hour with author Terry McMillan, to discuss her nasty divorce from husband Jonathan Plummer, who had to endure verbal pummeling from both women. I'm not suggesting that Oprah either tell a lie about her friendship, but what happens (and happened in People magazine) is the "I'm not gay" part is what is teased out and inflated, not "There's nothing wrong with being gay."

And speaking of gay, I was in Chicago, performing in several events for the Gay Games. Lots of music, lots of hot weather, and lots of fun. Aside from a small group of pro-het marriage supporters, and one heckler at the choral concert, who was silent through the entire evening, I didn't encounter anyone who was anything other than supportive and friendly. Oddly enough, and I do mean odd, there supposed to have been a group of anti-gay Christians who hung out in front of Steamworks, a large and very popular gay bathhouse in Boys Town (Chicago's gay district). The Christians were offering to pray for potential patrons, that they would turn from their "destructive" lifestyle, blah blah blah. I'm always amused at where these clowns choose to appear -- they're never at concerts featuring openly gay gospel artists, nor are they at picnics for gay families. And, in news coverage of the Games, a gay man, whose name I wish I knew, but I do know he's either the head of a gay rights org or part of the Games, is in a dialogue with Peter La Barbera, head of the Illinois Family Institute (and someone who is unusually well-versed in gay male sexuality), and this guy says:
"It is offensive that you would reduce tha lives of gay and lesbian people to their genitals." Brilliant!

Try to keep cool and dry, my friends. More later.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Great Marriage Machine

Okay, the title's a bit unwieldy, but so is the rationale behind this morning's conclusion that same-sex couples in New York don't have a guaranteed right to marry. In the decision, justices felt the decision should be passed to the legislature, with the upholding of heterosexual marriage because het couples can reproduce.

What? Perhaps the early reporting of the decision makes the justices seem like eugenics-mad Victorians, limiting the purpose of marriage to joyless mating. Ultra conservative Christians have a similar argument for the so-called protection of marriage, claiming that God intends marriage for heterosexual couple only because they're supposed to multiply, creating new Christians. So, then, are we to conclude that het couples who are infertile are societal failures? Christian failures? Have women, once again, been reduced to procreation machines?

I won't bore you with my views on same-sex marriage. It's like television -- you don't like the program, change the channel. Or more like ordering at a restaurant -- don't eat the fish if you want chicken, but don't tell me fish shouldn't be on the menu.

In this week of thinking about life,liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (BTW, did anyone else have trouble publishing on Blogger yesterday?), have we completely forgotten that America was founded on the principle of protecting who we are as individuals? Are gay couples that much of a threat? And are we that frightened of change in our society?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

For All

Okay, so I'm a day late. I'm of the say-nothing-until-one-has-something-to-say school, so I didn't say anything. Here goes.

230 years ago, America's founding fathers signed a piece of paper meant to ensure and uphold the rights of the individual, decreasing government's intervention in the day-to-day life of individuals, well, mainly White men, but I digress. Religion wasn't supposed to unduly influence lawmaking, which would therefore hinder the rights and development of the individual. Needless to say, we've done an about face and are rapidly moving toward a Christocracy that threatens to ensure the rights of the Christian, irrepsective of race or ethnicity, unless you're an immigrant, legal or not, irrespective of gender, although many Christian churches still push male supremacy from the bedroom to the pulpit, and without regard to marital status, unless you're cohabitating or a same-sex couple, although some local governments are trying to purposely protect heterosexual marriages with express prohibition of legal recognition of same-sex couplings. My point isn't so much a God Bless America, flag and apple pie idolatry of all things Americana as much as it is frustration as usual, at the whitewashing of what it means to be American.

New York is often referred to as a melting pot, a soup, if you will. So is America. I've said before that the thing about soup is that all the ingredients, when cooked together as in a soup, eventually taste the same. Put carrots in a chicken stock, and they stop tasting like carrots -- they'll taste like chicken. Throw noodles in, they'll taste like chicken. Corn, poratoes, parsley, they'll taste like chicken. There's your melting pot. I've often thought that America is more like a salad, or at least that's what our founders intended. Although the salad dressing bring the ingredients together, you can still taste each item; the greens, the protein, the croutons.

I'd love for us to be like salad and less like soup, and I think we are. We've turned niche commemorations like Kwanzaa, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Chinese New Year into commonly recognized celebrations. We've even begun to recognize, albeit on a smaller scale, Gay Pride. But louder and louder voices are calling for a "soupifying" of America, with federal protection of heterosexual couples, increasing support for privatization of everything from education to art to public works, and idolatry through prohibition of flag burning and protesting at military funerals (and don't flame me -- protesting at any funeral is a lousy thing to do, but not necessarily something that needs to be legislated). Despite easily accessed information about the false facade put up by The Ozzie & Harriet Show, there are still those in power, and gaining power, that want America to be a Christian nation with men on top, women on the bottom, and no queers. That's just not the way it is.

I want America to really receive and embrace the tired and poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free. I'm not anti-American, or un-American, or quasi-American because I am not, and don't want to be what some say I should be. I am an American.