This isn’t going to be my typical Saturday post where I talk about news stories that either I missed for this week’s round up of links or new developments. I’ve already made a couple of pretty personal posts this week, between my birthday and remembering my late husband on his birthday just a few days later.
And tomorrow would be my dad’s birthday, if he were still alive. Which doesn’t make me sad, by the way. It fills me with a bit of dread, because I suspect there will be communications from some of my relatives that I’d rather not get. I can’t use the phrase that one friend made me practice saying right after Dad died so that I wouldn’t make people who were just offering condolences but didn’t know our history wouldn’t feel bad: “We weren’t close. We’d hardly talked in forty years.” Depending on which family member is reaching out, that comment is likely to get an angry, “Well, whose fault is that?”And I’m dreading it because I got such comments (and confrontations) on Father’s Day and on his previous birthday. Maybe I need to memorize this Stefan Molyneux quote and say that back to any of them who trot out the admonishments that it isn’t healthy for me not to grieve or not to forgive or whatever. The former is the mostly darkly funny, because I did grieve the total lack of a loving, functional father decades before my actual dysfunctional dad died. I took myself to therapy because I realized that many of his abusive behaviors and attitudes were manifesting in my own relationships. I didn’t want to turn into him, so I got therapy and dealt with it, and yes, part of my healing process was letting myself grieve for the relationship that could have been. To grieve for kind of childhood I didn’t have.
I know most of them are doing it because they worry about me. unfortunately, some are doing it because they need validation for their own feelings, or validation of the rationalizations that let them look the other way while those of us living with him were subjected to the abuse. Anyway, being angry at them doesn’t solve anything. I will probably do what I did with most of the messages that came on Father’s Day: ignore them.
But, completely unrelated: I was pointed to some cartoons by an artist I had not previously been aware of, and while checking out his web site, I found this interesting thing he created last March: My Mother Was Murdered When I Was a Baby. I Just Found a Photo of Her Funeral for Sale Online. It reminded me that there are many other ways that one’s childhood can be dysfunctional. But also, it reminded me of a bit of advice I received from one of my lesbian aunties (not an actual aunt) back around the same time I was seeing the therapist. My childhood was bad, yes, but I survived it. Not everyone who suffers domestic violence does. So, while I’m grieving what I didn’t have, I should remember to be thankful that I lived to make a better adulthood for myself.
Please note that I said this stereotype is only somewhat less toxic than many others about queer men.
So a few years ago when I mentioned in blog post that it was my birthday and my age (it was 53 or 54, but I don’t feel like going on an obsessive search to try to find the specific post), some random person I didn’t know commented about how broken-hearted I must be, since everyone knows that fags are all obsessed with being young. I typed a reply to the effect that no, I actually considered myself quite lucky. But then I decided that rather than argue with a troll the better thing to do was to simple delete the troll’s comment and move on.
But I keep running into people making this specific observation, or variants of it. A gay activist who is a frequent guest on news programs passes the age of 50 and all the anti-gay hatemongers start referring to him as an “aging activist.” This is pretty rich coming from a completely white-haired anti-gay pastor who is pushing 70, let me tell you. If a 50-year-old is “aging,” what do we call a 68-year-old, hmmmmm?
So, I’m still a couple years from 60, yet, and I know that I frequently make references to my age, mostly because 1) I am older than the average people active on the internet, 2) I’m older than the average age of people active in the various fandoms I participate in, and 3) I frequently find myself being a little boggled at people who otherwise seem really well informed being completely unaware of (or deeply misinformed about) fairly major things that happened in the world when I was, say, in my 20s.
I was still very closeted in my early 20s when the AIDS crisis began. This mysterious illness was striking gay men down, and not only did the White House Press Secretary laugh and make a fag joke when a reporter asked about the first Center for Disease Control alert about the illness, but all of the rest of the reporters in the room joined in on the laughter. One night at a church service I was sitting with my head bowed when a pastor went on a long digression in his prayer thanking god for sending the scourge of AIDS to punish the wickedness of gay people and wipe them from the face of the Earth. 10 years later, as an out gay man, I found myself going to memorial services of men sometimes younger than I. One particularly bad winter, 16 different people we knew died in a single three-month period. It really did seem that every gay person was doomed. And it didn’t seem to matter that we all now knew to practice safe sex—because condoms can break, and so on.
As much of an optimist as I’ve always been, in the face of all the overwhelming chilling life experience, I seriously doubted that I would live to see my 50s.
So, I am not in the slightest bit sad or embarrassed to have reached the “ripe” age of 57. I’m not sad that my beard is mostly white, because I’ve earned every one of these grey hairs! I’m not ecstatic that some of the medical issues I’ve always had are getting worse as I get older. I’m not joyful when I read about the death of someone (famous or not) that I’ve known and admired for years. I know that that is going to happen more often, that’s just the natural consequence of the passing of time.
Getting older has its drawbacks, yes. But the alternative is worse, right? So I say, “Bring it on!”
Among my role models growing up was a very cantankerous paternal great-grandmother (who taught me how to listen in on the neighbors’ on the party line phone, among other fun things) and an even more ornery maternal great-grandfather (whose jobs when he was younger had included driving souped up cars, including sometimes outrunning the police, to deliver illegal alcohol during Prohibition). Both of them said and did things around us kids back then that embarrassed their own children (my grandparents and great-aunts and great-uncles), and I fully intend, if I’m lucky enough to live as long as them, to similarly embarrass some of my younger relatives and acquaintances.
On ocassions such as birthdays, one is often asked to share some words of wisdom. I’m going to give you two pieces of advice, one from each of the aforementioned great-grandparents:
“Life is too short to carry grudges or worry about what other people think of you.”
“Never let the revenuers piss on your parade.”
There are a few things to note about this particular transition of the seasons at least where I live. First, we officially can enter summer 2017 into the weather record books for a couple of different things. It was officially the driest summer (going by solar summer: June 21-Sept 21). Seattle summers are usually relatively dry, particularly compared to our Novembers, but this year was exceptional. Only 0.52″ of rain total, and it is worth noting that 0.50″ of that rain came in the last six days! Which certainly contributed to many days that the city was blanketed in smoke from various wild fires in British Columbia, Eastern Washington, and Central Oregon.
Summer 2017 also tied for the hottest summer ever recorded (1967). Though it is worth noting that 2014 and 2013 are tied at second hottest only one-tenth of a degree cooler (and 2015 was two-tenths of a degree cooler, so we definitely have a trend going).
But that nightmare is over, at least until next year. The jet stream has shifted. We got light rain last weekend, the daytime highs have been in the high 50s to mid 60s all week. We may break 70 again late in the week, but that’s a considerable improvement over the temps just two weeks ago.
So, autumn is here! Time to start thinking about Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations. Time to break out the pumpkin spice (I actually started experimenting with pumpkin spick cocktail recipes the day we got the first rain last week).
Welcome to fall!
Content Warning: the following essay (which will also touch on dangerous misperceptions and myths about sexual orientation) includes some specifics about physical abuse of children and worse. Only click when you’re ready … Read More…
Which is really sad. Mostly I blame the decades-long war on unions waged by mostly the Republican party. They have managed, somehow, to convince people to believe, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that businesses have always given out wages and benefits out of the goodness of their hearts.
I don’t understand how anyone who has worked for any business larger than a mom-and-pop operation can believe that.
It’s not that profits are driving business decisions, it’s that maximizing benefit to business leaders while milking short-term profits without investing in workers and their skills for long-term benefits.
You can keep talking about the economic insecurities of angry white guys, but you have to recognize that the source of economic insecurity is not market forces, or immigrants, or equal opportunity laws. It’s the people in that top 1%. And somehow we’ve got to get those scared angry white guys to recognize that they are being duped.
There was a lot of talk during the meeting about insurance—either that our current insurance carrier didn’t want to cover us against theft and vandalism for parts of the building that were unlocked at night, or they were going to raise our rates significantly, I don’t recall which. There were a number of people in the congregation who felt maybe we should start locking the main building. “We aren’t in a tiny town and it isn’t the fifties,” is how I think one person put it. Another person told a story of homeless people routinely sleeping in churches and sometimes not being careful about where they went to the bathroom.
One of the associate pastors rose to his feet on that one and said, “Call me foolish if you want, but I think the proper response to finding a homeless person sleeping in your church should be to offer them a meal, and then ask what other help do they need!”
I grew up in Southern Baptist Churches where the tradition is that all business decisions related to the church are decided by the congregation as a whole. At regular intervals the usual Wednesday Prayer meeting would begin with a business meeting. Any congregation member, no matter their age, who attended the meetings had a vote. I had been attending business meetings at the many churches we attended (as my family moved) for as long as I could remember. I seldom remembered one that became more impassioned than that debate about whether to put locks on the sanctuary door.
It was beginning to look like as if the majority was leaning toward adding the locks. And then one elderly member of the congregation struggled to stand up. She had been frail and needed a walker to get around for some years, but she never missed a service at the church. She let the person sitting next to her help her to her feet, but then she sort of shook him off and raised her face as if she was speaking to the heavens themselves, and I hadn’t heard her voice sound so firm in years. “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me. And they will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick and in prison and did not help you?’ And he will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whenever you did not do it for the least of these, you did not do for me!'” She paused, looked around at all of us, and then added. “We call it a sanctuary! That is what it is supposed to be! This isn’t our house, it is His house, and he already told us what we ought to do!”
And then she sat down.
Every one was very quiet for a moment, then someone said, “I move that we do not put locks on the sanctuary.” About forty of us said, “Seconded!” And the deacon conducting the meeting said, “Everyone in favor, signify by saying ‘amen’?” That was a very loud chorus of “amens.” Then the deacon asked, “Any opposed?” And I think one person said “Nay,” and he was immediately admonished by his wife.
Before I move on, a few notes. It has been many years since I considered myself a Christian. I usually say that I didn’t reject the church, but my denomination (which is still anti-gay decades later) rejected me. At that time, I felt I had no choice but to look for spiritual fulfillment elsewhere. I usually define myself as Taoist, now. But when that woman started quoting the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, I found myself murmuring along with her. I wasn’t the only person, by any means, but my point is that I was the kind of kid who could quote entire chapters of the Bible from heart. Some of those passages still speak strongly to me.So, yes, I was one of the people a bit outraged when so-called christian televangelist Joel Osteen, mega church pastor in Houston, Texas, refused to open his building as a shelter to his neighbor flooded out of their homes: Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch opens to Harvey victims only after backlash. The church’s statements have been slightly contradictory. There are plenty of posts on the internet you can track down of people living nearby walking to the church during the time when the church claimed it was flooded to show there wasn’t any flooding. And during the time when they said it was not locked people walked up and took videos of themselves trying doors and so forth.
So let’s get a few things straight. Osteen’s “ministry” preaches so-called prosperity gospel, the essence of which is: if you’re rich, that’s a sign God likes you. If you’re not, maybe he doesn’t. This runs absolutely counter to almost every word Jesus actually said. The church in question isn’t just a megachurch, it is a former sports arena that the “ministry” purchased for millions of dollars, then spent at least 70million more renovating. The renovations include installing two artificial waterfalls inside the church, yet somehow in all of that they neglected to put in any symbols of Christianity: there are no crosses or any other signs inside the sanctuary that indicate in any way that it is a christian house of worship. Thousands of TV cameras and screens and a top-notch sound system so that you can always see and hear Osteen, though.
While the child inside me who used to love reciting John 16:33, or Matthew 5:3-16, or Matthew 25:31-46 gets outraged at Osteen’s actions, I can’t really say that he is much of an outlier of typical evangelical christian thought. Most evangelical christians believe, whether they say it aloud or not, in the Just World Fallacy: if bad things happen to you, they are almost certainly a punishment from god. In other words, if you’re poor, it can’t possibly be because the entire system of the economy and society is geared to transfer wealth and resources from everyone else to the rich, it’s because you’re probably secretly doing something sinful. If you get a horrible disease, it isn’t caused by a virus or chemicals you’ve been exposed to in your deregulated workplace, et cetera, it’s because you’re doing something sinful, et cetera. And therefore, poor people, sick people, and so forth don’t deserve help and compassion. Like Osteen’s prosperity BS, it is the opposite of what Jesus actually taught.
As if one object lesson in just how uncompassionate and unchristian many of these so-called religious leaders are, at the same time this was unfolding, another group of evangelical leaders were doubling down on their anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-sex, anti-joy hateful rhetoric: Evangelical Leaders Release Anti-LGBTQ Statement On Human Sexuality. The fact that some of those “leaders” have been involved in serious scandals trying to cover-up rampant sexual abuse within their organization is really all anyone needs to know about them.
But someone else described these situations far more eloquently long ago:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
—Jesus, as quoted in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 21-23.
Both were digital alarm clocks with that formerly ubiquitous red LED display, though Ray’s was a large print display, because without his glasses, even if he picked up a regular alarm clock and held it so close that his nose was almost touching the display, he still couldn’t read the numbers. My alarm clock was a clock radio, and I always set it to start playing NPR about a half hour before I needed to wake up, then the alarm when I had to get out of bed. Because I was less likely to be a Grouch Monster™ when the alarm went off if I’d been eased into waking up by the radio. After Ray died, I kept both alarm clocks. For one thing, while my eyesight had never been quite as bad as Ray’s, I liked the fact that I could read the large print clock from the far side of the bedroom when I didn’t have my glasses on.
When Michael moved in with me the year after Ray died, he already owned an alarm clock. And since he also had a job where he needed to get up at different times each day for work, it made sense to have a separate clock. But we didn’t get rid of my second clock. Instead we moved the clock radio to the far side of the bedroom, which I found made it less likely that I would hit the snooze alarm a bunch of times and oversleep. Over the years, the clock radio had to be replaced a couple of times. And Michael’s clock’s display went wonky and had to be replaced, but the large print clock which had been Ray’s just kept chugging along.
Or at least, that’s what I told myself.
I don’t know how old the clock was, because Ray already owned in when we started dating in 1990. But that means it was at a minimum 27 years old this spring when Michael and I were packing. Not surprisingly, after 27+ years of use, some things didn’t work as well any longer.
- One of the features the large print clock had which was innovative and unusual in 1990 was a battery compartment in the bottom of the clock so that if you kept fresh batteries in there, the clock wouldn’t lose time during a power outage. The clock wouldn’t actually stay lit up or sound its alarm when it was on battery back up, but you didn’t have to reset it once the power came back on. Now it is pretty standard for electronics to have a in-built mini rechargeable battery for this purpose, but back then it was unusual. The battery backup stopped working years ago. You don’t want to know how many times I changed the batteries and cleaned the contacts in the battery compartment, or shone a flashlight into it while I peered through a magnifying glass trying to fix it before I admitted to myself that the memory chip or whatever it was that the batteries powered must have failed.
- A couple years after the battery backup stopped working, the alarm became inconsistent. You could set the alarm, and when it came time for the alarm to go off, the clock would try to sound an alarm. But sometimes all you got was a click and a single weird little chirping noise. other times the buzzer would sound, but it wasn’t very loud. Other times it chirped and chirped and chirped until you turned the alarm off. Very rarely did the buzzer just buzz loudly. But since by this time I had a clock radio that had two alarms in addition to the radio, I didn’t really need the alarm on this clock any longer. But the large print display I still had a use for.
- More recently, the power cord had gotten twitchy. By which I mean, if you bumped the power cord, it would temporarily lose power. And because the battery backup wasn’t working any longer, that meant that basically if you sneezed in the vicinity of the clock, the display would go dark until you jiggled the cord again, and then you had this enormous blinking 12:00 on the screen. Now, I’m not saying the cord was frayed or otherwise showed any sign of the sort of wear that would make it a fire hazard, I think the iffy connection was actually inside the body of the clock on one side or the other of the rectifier (this is the part inside most electronic devices that converts the household 110-volt alternating current into the much lower voltage direct current that circuit board and chips and such use). So this didn’t represent a fire hazard, just an annoyance.
- Cosmetically, the faux-gold coating on some parts of the plastic bezel around the display had been wearing off. The labels on some of the switches and buttons necessary to setting the time had faded to the point of being difficult to read, and there was a half-inch-long crack in one corner of the display.
When I actually type these things up, it seems really ludicrous that I hung onto the clock as long as I did, right? And it is ridiculous. But it’s not that unusual for people to let small annoyances like this build up to a ridiculous point and try to keep muddling along. How many times have you known someone in a relationship which had obviously soured or become awful over time who didn’t notice the thousands of little ways they were walking on eggshells to keep the peace?
Yeah, part of the reason I was more willing than was reasonable to overlook the growing list of problems with this clock is because it had belonged to Ray. And I am a sentimental fool, so of course I don’t want to get rid of something that had any fond memories attached. And yes, the alarm clock did have fond memories associated with it. Not to get too graphic, but it was the only light on in the room the first time we made love, after all. But the other part was the human tendency to make-do with something because it seems easier to keep the thing we’re familiar with than to replace it.
As it was, the clock radio, though many years newer than the large print clock, was also beginning to develop some issues, and the alarm clock on Michael’s side of the bed had a crack in the display that made it difficult to read from some angles. And so Michael bought a brand new bedroom clock for the new house within a day or two of the move. And he found a single clock that replaced the functions we had actually been using on the three old ones. The main display shows time, day, date, and the temperature in the room. It has a radio, multiple alarms, alarms you can specify for different days of the week, and it has an adjustable, focusable laser display that projects the time on the ceiling or a wall in very large print so I can read it in the dark (and it doesn’t have to be that dark, just dim in the room) from across the room without my glasses.
It’s a very big improvement, it wasn’t expensive, and one little clock takes up a lot less space than the three old things we had before.
Change doesn’t have to be bad!
It is impossible to grow up in a racist society and not absorb a lot of racism. It is also impossible to grow up in the U.S. as a white person and not benefit from all that racism. Part of it is the generational thing: we lived in nicer neighborhoods than we otherwise would because our parents, grandparents, and so on benefited from preferential hiring practices, redlining of mortgages, and unequal distribution of resources for public schools. And it’s easy for us to say, “Well, that was the bad old days. Things have changed, now, and besides, I can’t do anything about it.” But it isn’t just the bad old days. Racist assumptions are baked into all of our social conventions, institutions, and business practices. Studies have shown again and again that changing something as simple as making a name look less ethnic on a resume substantially improves the odds that a submitted resume will get result in a call for a job interview, for instance. We see it in statistics of which people cops decide to stop and question, let alone the ghastly statistics about police shootings.
So if you’re like me, looking at this news this weekend and being horrified that an angry white man who drove his car into a crowd killing a woman (and wounding at least 19 other people), while people ranging from ordinary citizens to news anchors and even the president are bending over backward to say that bigotry isn’t involved—it isn’t enough to say, “Aren’t they terrible people?” We have to be willing to admit that these terrible people were enabled by a society which explicitly benefits white people, whether we individual white people think of ourselves as racist or not.
Some other folks have explained it quite well: How “Nice White People” Benefit from Charlottesville and White Supremacy:
“For white people who don’t self-identify as disciples of Richard Spencer, David Duke, and/or the ancient demon Beelzebub, there is extreme anxiety around the accusation of racism. We see this fear of blame in Trump’s statement. “Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama” seems to say, ‘Hey, there’s been a tense racial climate in this country forever. It’s not anyone’s fault!’ Except the opposite is true. American white supremacy has been a problem forever, and it is all of our fault, fellow white people.
“White people benefit from white supremacy. Period. Peggy McIntosh spelled this out for us in 1989, but apparently we’re still not quite getting it. Her famous piece, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” lays out undeniable ways that it is simply easier to be white in this country, like always having a boss who is a fellow white person, or, you know, being able to eat Skittles at night without getting shot. Most white people didn’t ask for this privilege. Actually, that’s the whole idea. White privilege is an inherent advantage that easily goes unnoticed and unacknowledged. Rather than stuffing down the sense of shame associated with this obvious unfairness, why not work to even the playing field?”
The referenced article by Peggy McIntosh is also a very good read: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.
“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.”
We can’t just shake our heads and blame it all on those people. Society as a whole, including us, are to blame. The first step is recognizing that the problem isn’t something which was forced on our country. The problem isn’t something that just appeared recently. The problem has always been there. It has been growing and getting angrier for years. We are part of the problem, so we have to be part of the solution. We have to find ways to oppose this racist authoritarian movement with more than just words.