Tag Archive | bigots

Weekend Update 7/7/2018: White people who think the police are fugitive slave catchers

l to r: Pool Patrol Paul, Permit Patty, BBQBecky [Image: Michael Harriot (Jasmine Edwards, HipHop DX, Emen)]

l to r: Pool Patrol Paul, Permit Patty, BBQ Becky—what do they have in common? [Image: Michael Harriot (Jasmine Edwards, HipHop DX, Emen)]

Yesterday’s edition of Friday Five included the story of a 12-year-old black kid who was mowing a lawn (which he had been hired to do) when neighbors called the cops on him. That was not the only episode of a white person calling the police on a black person this week: Pool Patrol Paul.

So, a woman and her daughter went to use the pool owned by the neighborhood Home Owners Association, of which the black woman is a member (which means she is one of the owners of the pool). There are a couple of different videos of the incident, with the guy explaining that it isn’t racial, he’s just enforcing the rules. A white woman in the background of one video points out that she wasn’t asked to show her ID. A few moments later, after the police determine the the black woman has a valid keycard to unlock the gate, and the white guy tries to imply that the black woman stole the key card from a valid resident, an different white woman says, “You didn’t make me sign in!” The guy has subsequently resigned from the board of the home owners association, resigned from his position as the “pool chairman” and either was fired or agreed to resign from his job.

The funniest take I’ve read on this was written by Michael Harriot: Sentient Marshmallow Calls Police on Black Woman for Swimming in Her Own Pool, which is where I grabbed the image above, because he has a theory as to why certain white people, as he asks, who do “white people believe the cops are their personal fugitive slave catchers. Are police supposed to be universal technical support for white people? Why are white people like this?”

At least Pool Patrol Paul remained non-violent, unlike Pool Patrol Paula (no relation): A white woman allegedly hit a black teen, used racial slurs and told him to leave a pool. Then she bit a cop. Last week a group of 15-year-olds showed up at a pool, invited there by a friend, and this woman started yelling at them that they couldn’t be there. The boys (and at least one other witness) say that she used a racial slur, which is what prompted one of the kids to start recording it on his phone. The phone really set her off, because he shouts and comes at him, trying to bat the phone away and she hits him several times. She asks angrily, “How does that feel?” after hitting him. The boys retreat, at least one can be heard very politely saying, “Yes, ma’am, we’re leaving.” Police, reviewing the video and talking to at least one witness at the pool, then got an arrest warrant and went to pick her up. She fought the two cops at her home, injuring both of them—biting one severally enough to break his skin. She’s been charged with assault and battery on the teen, plus two counts of assault on the cops. She’s out on bond, but she has also been fired from her job.

I saw at least one comment to the effect that Pool Patrol Paula, since she got violent with the cops, has some other issues and this shouldn’t be considered a racial case. That’s the wrong way of looking at it.

Let’s go to the case of Pool Patrol Paul insisting that he was only doing his duty as the pool chair person, which including making sure the facilities weren’t used by non-members. When it was pointed out that he didn’t ask anyone else there to prove they belonged, he dodged the question. One of the explanations given over the fact was that he simply didn’t recognize her, since she had bought the house and moved in recently.

Seems plausible, right?

One of the big disconnects that people who are not members of a marginalized group have about the nature of racism, sexism, homophobia, and so forth, is that bigotry is about feeling a burning hatred for those people. But bigotry is much, much more subtle than that. The video indicates that the pool was pretty crowded. It was a hot day, it was Independence Day, so a lot of people were there. It is not possible to believe that in that situation that he carefully assessed every face around the pool, ticking off names from his mental list. As two of the white women there pointed out, he wasn’t enforcing the rule that everyone sign in—until the black woman and her black daughter showed up.

Systemic bigotry is a subtle, insidious force that we absorb throughout our lives. It tints our perceptions, creating filters in our minds that we don’t process consciously. Our brains are really good at classifying things, people, and sounds we recognize. But it classifies them according to these assumptions that we don’t always understand.

I have no problem believing that Pool Patrol Paul did not literally think, upon seeing the two enter the area, “Uh, oh! Can’t let the n—–s in the pool!” It’s more subtle than that. All of the white skinned people moving around him registered to his subconscious as folks who belong, without him thinking about it. The racial issue made him notice the woman and her daughter, and once he noticed, only then did he think, “I don’t recognize them.”

He asked her her name and address. He went into the office, then came out and asked for her ID. In subsequent attempts to explain himself, he first claimed that he forgot the address by the time he got inside to look her up. Then he changed the story to say that the address she gave was for a part of the subdivision that hadn’t completed construction. Then he said that she gave two different addresses.

What really happened is: she gave him a name and her address. He went inside and looked that name up, and it was the name of a home association member registered at that address. But his gut told him she was lying (later he told the police that it’s possible the key card was stolen). So he went back and asked for her ID.

And the problem is that he never asked himself why his gut was telling him she didn’t belong. And given what statements have come out since, he still hasn’t asked himself that question.

Similarly with Paula—she seems to be a more inherently violent person, but again, it isn’t just that she’s violent, it’s why she immediately assumed those boys didn’t belong at the pool (where she was just a person using it herself; she wasn’t responsible for enforcing any rules), and therefore were legitimate targets for assault. When the cops came to her home a couple days later to arrest her, of course she was outraged! She had done nothing wrong, in her mind.

Michael Harriot was on to something with the comment about perceiving police as personal fugitive slave catchers. These incidents happen because on a fundamental level, people like Pool Patrol Paul and Paula, and BBQ Becky, and Permit Patty, and the neighbors who called the police on a 12-year-old for mowing a lawn, all perceive certain people as not belonging. More than that, they perceive the presence of (in these cases) black people in these places as a wrong that must be righted.

Until they understand that about themselves, they’re going to keep doing things like this, while loudly proclaiming that they aren’t bigots.

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Oppressed Oppressors: Civility Isn’t What You Think

© Craig Froehle. Creative Commons license "Attribution-NonCommercial" .http://www.drawninpowerpoint.com

© Craig Froehle. Creative Commons license “Attribution-NonCommercial” http://www.drawninpowerpoint.com (click to embiggen)

“conservative: fuck your feelings snowflake libtards. Trump is here to end your political correctness, lock up immigrants, trump that bitch, grab her by the pussy, fuck you! 'I don't think I want you as a guest at my establishment.' conservatives: WHAT HAPPENED TO CIVILTY?”

(click to embiggen)

Civility = treating white people with respect. Political correctness = treating anyone else with respect'."

A lot of people were sharing the above tweet, which is nice and succinct. When I quoted it on twitter, I added, “I would amend that the civility = treating cis het nonliberal white people with respect AND defference, but otherwise nailed it!”

Because that’s the thing, it isn’t just about respect, it’s about a very different bar for the definition of respect. The folks who are up in arms about civility aren’t just used to being treated with respect, they are used to being respected as an authority or someone else who deserves deference and reverence and esteem. They are not referring to the most basic level of respect that every person is entitled do just for being human.

And they think that when other people don’t honor them in this way, that means they were justified in not treating other people as less than human.

It’s like they also have a nonlinear understanding of time, right? Their past actions and behaviors are being justified by the fact that people are calling them on the bigotry and intolerant behavior.

Full quote: “I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lies are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men and women are prosecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must--at that moment--become the center of the universe.” —Eli Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

Full quote: “I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lies are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men and women are prosecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must–at that moment–become the center of the universe.” —Eli Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

To Conquer the Kingdoms of Sin — more confessions of a queer ex-evangelical

Jesus doing a facepalm next to a rainbow: “Guys, I said I hate FIGS”

Jesus literally never said anything about gay people. And in fact, the 6 Biblical passages that seem to say so now do not at all in the original languages. (click to embiggen)

I saw this interesting article being shared this morning: The Southern Baptist Church is in a multi-decade decline and it is accelerating. That article is by Ed Stetzer, who is a statistics guy who has held a job with the Southern Baptist Convention with responsibility to study membership and so forth. This article is his farewell as he accepts a distinguished teaching position at Wheaton College. In the article, he tries to dispel the myths that some within the church keep bringing up as part of a mass denial of the fact that the denomination has been shrinking for many years and there is no sign that the bleeding of the membership is going to stop1.

He tries in the article to layout the problems that denomination is failing to address. And he makes a nice point that simply praying for something without doing the work to make it happen is not merely impractical, it’s actual contrary to the teachings of the Christ they claim to follow.

But he doesn’t come out and say what really needs to be said. I can’t tell for certain if he is being vague in his comments about how they need to engage with the culture and spend less time pursuing culture wars because he knows the article wouldn’t be published if he is blunt, or if he is afraid to say it, or if he’s in denial himself.

He tiptoes around it, saying things like “As of yet, we’ve not made it to the point where we have… become known for what we are for rather than what we are against.”

But the clue that leads me to believe he probably is still in a bit of denial is when he says, after implying that the church is waging battle on two many fronts of the culture war, “For many of our neighbors, our warring is interpreted as being against them.”

No, Mr. Stetzer, it is not an interpretation Or perception that you are warring on us. Fundamentalist evangelical churches and affiliated organizations are literally attacking a whole lot of their neighbors.

The attacks on queer rights are the ones I most often link to or comment on, but that isn’t all of it. And even if they were, the way the fight is waged is a series of assaults on the lives and well-being of the queer people in question. At the same time that the church and related institutions keep cozying up to the special interests of big business and billionaires. So they are both ignoring Jesus’s teachings of “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” as well as “sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

Long before I reached a point where I could fearfully say outloud to a friend, “I think I might be gay3” I chafed at the church’s political choices. It wasn’t until my midteens (the early 1970s) that the SBC officially stopped opposing racial segregation. Even after that, a lot of churchs and affiliated organizations actively opposed civil rights laws, including the Voting Rights Act. That didn’t seem to line up with the command to Love Thy Neighbor.

I’m old enough to remember when official Baptist theology was not pro-life. In fact, among those Baptists willing to voice their anti-Catholic beliefs, the Catholic Church’s strong stand against abortion was used as an argument that Catholics were not a Biblical faith. Seriously! Southern Baptists used to look at the verse in the old testament which stated that a person who injured a pregnant woman such that she lost the baby was not the same as fatally injuring a child and was no worse than injuring a non-pregmant woman as proof that unborn babies were not yet people.

The shift in abortion was a calculated one by a number of evangelical leaders who met in the 70s to discuss what to do about fundraising now that segregation didn’t whip up the troops to donate. Again, that sudden about-face made no sense to teenaged me.

When Falwell’s so-called Moral Majority rose as a political force and allied itself strongly with the Republicans and doubled down on opposing women’s rights, gay rights, medical treatment for AIDS patients, and nondiscrimination laws in general, that was the final straw.

If there are people in the fundamentalist evangelical community in general–and Southern Baptists in particular–who want to turn around this downward spiral in membership, they have to change. They have organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom suing left and right to thwart gay and trans rights as well as lobbying politicians to pass anti-queer laws. Jesus never said a thing about queer people, but he commanded his followers take care of the poor, the sick, prisoners and even to welcome refugees4. Where is the evangelical organization suing government officials for withholding funds for the poor or the homeless or the disabled? Where is the evangelical organization lobbying in politicians for more funding for the poor, the homeless, the sick, the disabled or resettlement of refugees?

Their usual argument is some BS about charity being a private duty, rather than a governmental one. But you can’t demand that government enforce your private religious beliefs about marriage and gender and so forth while claiming to believe that government shouldn’t do these other things your holy book actually demands.

Evangelicals got themselves into this ridiculous hypocrisy because of two things: leaders who are addicted to money or power of both; and the dearly held evangelical myth that they are always the persecuted. The nakedly greedy leaders like Joel Osteen and Franklin Graham harp on the culture war issues and characterize any gains for “other” people as an assault against “true Christians” and rake in the dough. More sincere leaders like the late Billy Graham become so blinded by the thrill of access to Presidents and Congresspeople and other leaders, that they let their proximity promote the fearmongering of unscrupulous politicians.

And too many of their congregants eat up the rhetoric, becoming so inflamed with the fervor to fight so-called evil, that they don’t see the real evil they are inflicting on others. Instead of looking at other people as the neighbors they are commanded to love and care for, they see them as armies of sin. And their advocacy, donations, and rhetoric constitute very real attacks on people, not sin.

If they want to stop this decline, it won’t come from a new emphasis on evangelizing, as Stetzer asserts in his article. That would be as meaningless as praying without working. Instead, they need to focus on things their Christ actually told them to do: love your neighbor, feed the hungry, take care of the sick, clothe those who have nothing, be kind to the meek and powerless.

Do good, and people will see those good works and will stop feeling like enemies under attack.


Notes:

0. The title of today’s post is a lyric from the hymn “The Kingdom is Coming” word by Mary B. Slade, music by Rigdon M. McIntosh, # 409 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.

1. When I first read his assessment that the church will cease to exist for all intents and purposes in decades, my only thought was, “Darn! Not sooner?”2

2. Don’t get me wrong, I was raised Southern Baptist and I have a lot of fond childhood memories of deep friendships there. But as I have said many times, I didn’t abandon the church, the church drove me away.

3. Which didn’t happen until I was 25.

4. Again, I learned my strong sense for social injustice by reading the Bible they claimed to follow.

Bigot Bulletin: Principal and Police Officer who harassed students at Oregon high school are both fired

“Good news: An oregon high school police officer and principal have been fired for anti-LGBT discrimination, including telling gay students they were going to hell, and forcing them to read the Bible as punishment for being gay.”

(click to embiggen)

I decided that this can’t wait until Friday. This is an update to a news story I shared as part of a previous Weekend Update: Oregon School Officials Who Discriminated Against Gay Kids Fired.

For some background: Gay teen says she went to school resource officer after getting bullied — and he told her she’s going to hell. The “resource officer” is a local police officer assigned to the school supposedly for the purpose of protecting the students. But he wasn’t the only problem. The principal of the school punished gay kids who reported incidents of being harassed (including at least one incident where the principal’s son nearly ran two of the other kids down with his car while yelling anti-gay slurs). Teachers who tried to help the kids in varying ways were retaliated against by the Principal and the district Superintendent, and so on.

So the Oregon Department of Education sent in an investigator. The local officials admitted to several issues, including that they had forced the gay kids to read and recite passages from the Bible as part of their punishment. The ODE investigator issued a report finding that the actions of the officials probably constituted illegal discrimination under Oregon law as well as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of church and state. A final finding was pending, but the state ordered to school district to come to a settlement with the kids and their parents by the end of April. They didn’t.

During that time, many more former and current students came forward, with more incidents of anti-LGBT and racial discrimination. Meanwhile, the ACLU was pursuing a lawsuit against the district.

Monday things came to a head: ACLU OF OREGON REACHES SWEEPING SETTLEMENT WITH NORTH BEND SCHOOL DISTRICT OVER LGBTQ DISCRIMINATION AND BIBLE READING.

How sweeping?

  • Principal fired
  • District dismisses Resource Officer and requests local police assign a new officer
  • District will create a diversity committee (keep in mind that teachers already tried to set up a Gay-Straight Alliance and were stopped by the principal) which will hold celebrations for Coming Out Day and Ally Week and will issue an annual report on how the school is doing on issues of diversity, inclusion, et cetera
  • District will hire an anti-discrimination expert to help them craft policies to appropriately respond to harassment and discrimination
  • District will donate $1000 to a local queer support group

Additionally, as a result of the state investigation, the district will be under supervision of the state ODE for at least five years while all of this is monitored. The remaining bit of less than awesome news from my point of view on this is that even though the state’s investigation and the discovery process of the lawsuit found that the district Superintendent knew about all of this and committed some of the retaliation from teachers who tried to help the queer kids, he isn’t being fired. Maybe everyone assumes with the state breathing down his neck he’ll behave?

I get such a bee in my bonnet on these stories because of my own experiences being bullied as a kid. More than one teacher and administrator told my parents that until I acted like “the other boys” or “normal” there was nothing they could do to prevent the bullying incidents. Never mind that some of the worst bullying came from teachers. In middle school I was called “faggot” and “sissy” by four specific teachers far more often than most of the other kids. And then there was the time I was the one threatened with expulsion for being bullied again and again, unless I attending regular counseling sessions where, apparently, the counselor was trying to teach me to act like a normal boy.

A lot of people think that those kinds of days are behind us, but these incidents happening for the last several years at this school are merely one of many such cases. Fortunately, the ACLU keeps coming in to represent the students, and again and again the districts wind up paying big penalties for their discrimination, bigotry, and bullying. As Dan Savage has asked (many times) when will public school administrators get it through their thick heads?

And I agree with Dan on another thing. This story is a good reminder to go make a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon!

Oppressed Oppressors: Hateful, Angry Men

"Stop making excuses for hateful, angry men"

(click to embiggen)

I’m a news junkie who bookmarks stories all the time, which is why for years I posted a weekly round up of those bookmarks in a Friday Links post. I’ve scaled that back to the Friday Five, in part because by limiting the number of stories I post I don’t have to share quite so many outrage-generating stories. But sometimes it’s useful to share some of the less than happy news. If you don’t know about the people who are trying to take your rights or livelihood away, you can’t do anything about it, for instance. So this post is going to be about a couple of different seemingly unrelated stories of angry, hateful men in the news lately, along with some commentary. If you don’t want to read about that sort of thing, don’t click through. Otherwise… Read More…

Weekend Update (3/10/2018): Another homophobe arrested for being a sexual predator

“I refuse to take gun control suggestions from people who ave never touched a gun, eat soap, and get confused about which restroom to use. Merica.” “'How can you talk about gun control when you're never fired a gun' how y'all anit gay and you've never sucked cock?”

(click to embiggen)

Once again stories that didn’t make it into the Friday Five, or new developments in stories that did, have come to my attention. So I’m going to share them with you, along with some commentary and context. Dan Savage used to post this irregular feature on the blog of the Seattle biweekly newspaper, The Stranger called “Youth Pastor Watch.” He had a Google news alert looking for the key phrase “youth pastor” and he would post stories about youth pastors being arrested or charged with molesting girls or boys, having affairs with the wives of congregates, and occasionally other crimes. And there were always concern trolls asking why he only posted news of youth pastors committing crimes. So he started occasionally throw in a story about a Youth Pastor who was in the news for doing something good. And half the time the youth pastor who hadn’t committed a crime would be shown the post with his story in among all these horrible crime stories and he would post a comment to the blog to the effect, “Not quite sure what I’m doing in this post.” You can’t please everyone, I guess.

The point of his posts and my referencing the now is merely a subset of a bigger problem. The evidence of the hundreds, nay, thousands of virulently anti-gay pastors and politicians who have turned out to be hiding some sexual shenanigans of their own has reached the point that I seriously think it should be required of journalists and police to start sniffing around in the background of the vocal anti-gay folks. In hopes of stopping things like this for going on for years: After Threatening Suicide, Anti-gay Pastor Ronnie Gorton Indicted on 47 Charges of Sexually Assaulting Boys. One of this guy’s victims was under 13 years old when the sexual assaults started and went on for more than seven years. At which point he found another teen victim. For some more details Munford pastor indicted on 47 counts of sexually assaulting teens.

I don’t want to deny anyone due process. But this stuff is crazy.

Other pastors have similar secrets: Pastor was ‘counseling’ the young, naked man tied up in his car, he says. Please note that’s what he says, now. When the police first came up to the car parked on a well-lit residential street that neighbors had called in for suspicious activity, the pastor had a different story. The young naked man was bound in nylon rope, sitting in the front seat. The minister was sitting in the back and had to “re-arrange his clothes” when he saw the police walking up. That pastor didn’t identify himself right away, and tried to assure the cops nothing wrong was happening because “We were just playing. We meet up from time to time to play.”

Playing is not counseling. Clearly, the pastor was afraid he was going to be arrested for kidnapping or something, so he told the truth. Sexual play. The young man probably has a humiliation/exhibition kink, and the pastor like to jerk-off while making naked young men do whatever he says. Mostly technically not illegal (public nudity laws being a thing), but when you rant from the pulpit about the supposed sexual immoralities of other people, encouraging your congregation to oppose gay rights laws in order to stamp out perversion, et cetera… well, no one at all should be surprised when it turns out you have more than a bit of experience with that perversion.

And I’m going to have to remember this the next time:

“If you insist that ‘How can you talk about gun control when you’re never fired a gun’ is a valid argument, then I’m free to conclude that the only reason you could possibly have a legitimate opinion about gay sex is if you have a lot of experience with it.”

(In addition to that fact that this liberal queer blogger used to be a card-carrying member of the NRA, has owned guns, has used those guns to hunt various animals for food, and so forth, as I explained here. So by their logic I can indeed lecture them about gun control.)


ETA: And then I saw this story after posting: Medical Board Finds Ex-Gay Torture Psychiatrist Guilty Of Having Sex With Male Patients. It wasn’t just having sex. Two of the patients thought the groping and such was supposed to be therapy at the beginning. So there was some coercion/deception going on. One of the patients was an 18-year-old sent to the doctor by his parents…

Offended offenders — the joke is on who, exactly?

“When art becomes merely shock value, our sense of humanity is slowly degraded.” — Roger Scruton

“When art becomes merely shock value, our sense of humanity is slowly degraded.” — Roger Scruton

We hear it all the time: “How dare you call me racist! I don’t hate anyone! I was just making an observation.” And there’s: “It is so rude of you to call me a homophobe! I’m just advocating for my beliefs {that queer people don’t deserve legal rights/to exist openly in public spaces if at all}. You’re the real haters!” Let’s not forget: “Can’t you take a joke? You’re trying to silence me!”

People behave like jerks, make threatening remarks, harass people, advocate for policies and propositions that will cause actual harm to others, and then get angry if other people take offense. They try to hide behind the idea of free speech—they’re just expressing themselves, and everyone has a right to do that, right? But the defense is built on one or more false equivalencies. The most basic is equating disagreement with censorship. If you say that all Freedonians are criminals, and I point out that isn’t true, and show the statistics to prove it, you haven’t been silenced. If other people decide the don’t want to listen to your rants about the evils of the Freedonians anymore, they stop inviting you to their social events and if you show up uninvited they ask you to leave, that also isn’t silencing you. The right to express an opinion doesn’t obligate other people to listen. Then there’s the false equivalence that accurately describing some of their statements as bigoted is just as bad as the bigotry we’re decrying. And so on.

But the defense that really annoys me is the, “But I’m only joking!”

I have several responses to that. The first is: every bully and abuser who ever lived has tried to claim that they were only joking, or they were just playing around. They didn’t meant to cause those bruises or broken bones or to break that laptop or whatever. It’s a lie. Maybe the bully and the bully’s audience were laughing, but real harm is being done.

The second response is: the fact that you think a particular topic is suitable for joking demonstrates the ignobility of your intentions. They only way that one can think the sexual assault is a joking matter is if they either don’t think the sexual assault is a bad thing, or if they think the victims of sexual assault are worth less than other people. There are topics that go beyond the pale, understanding that requires moral fiber and empathy. Not knowing that tells us you possess neither.

The third response is that doing something like “ironically” pretending to believe neo-Nazi ideology is indistinguishable from actually doing it. In other words, if you’re pretending to be an asshole, it doesn’t sound or feel any different to your targets than when a “real” asshole behaves that way. It also has a very scary normalizing effect. The more people feel it is acceptable to express racial bias, for instance, the more likely some of them are to act on the racial bias.

And my fourth response is that jokes are supposed to be funny. Calling entire classes of people inferior, saying they are a waste of space and so on isn’t funny. The objection that is usually raised around this point is that they are just trying to make people think, and they have to shock people out of their complacency to do that. I’ll agree that good political humor pokes at us to get us to think outside the box, but these guys aren’t quite getting it.

“Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?” “Electricity is really just organized lightning.” “Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.” “At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom.” “'I am' is reportedly the shortest sentence in English. Could it be that 'I Do' is the longest sentence?”

Several classic George Carlin one liners. (Click to embiggen)

Let’s look for a moment at the work of a comedian who was often characterized as offensive. The Late George Carlin said things that shocked some people’s sensibilities. Go listen (many recordings abound) to his notorious “Seven words you can’t say on TV or the radio” routine and tell me that wouldn’t give people in the Religious Right conniptions. And sure, you can pull out individual lines from his routines and make him sound almost like some of this current generation of jerks with their racist or homophobic or misogynist rants on their Youtube channel. But that’s taking him out of context. Look over the classic Carlin corpus (excluding the last few years where he seemed to turn into a prophet of doom and things got a little weird) and you’ll find the most prevalent underlying theme is summed up in one of his best one-liners:

“Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?”

While the line works great on its own, it was actually the introduction to a longer bit, where he went on to make humorous observations about foolish and dangerous and weird things that people do while driving. It ranged around for a bit, and the audience laughed. You could certainly characterize the routine as making fun of bad drivers. And that doesn’t seem all that different from someone else having a comedy routine where they make fun of women, or immigrants, or queer people, right? But that’s not what the routine does. Every version of it I ever heard him perform varied a bit, but all stuck to one underlying theme. And it’s in that line I quote. That line isn’t just a joke, it’s a thesis statement.

Read it again: “Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?” Explicitly it says that we classify and judge people in categories like stupid and maniac by extremely subjective criteria. But implicitly it is also saying that sometimes all of us are idiots, and sometimes all of us are maniacs. Because implicitly everyone that we observe is an idiot for driving too slow, knows they we are maniacs. And every person that we can see is a maniac for driving too fast, can observe that we’re driving slow and therefore we are idiots.

Yes, the point of his routines is that some people do very foolish things and isn’t it ridiculous that such people exist? But by the time he has covered the subject, there is a point where he says something that hits close to home. We, the listeners, see ourselves in some part of that routine. In that way, his routines adhere to the classic definition of political humor: to hold a mirror up to society.

That is humor with a purpose. That is how you jostle people out of their complacency. You hold up a mirror, so that we look into it and see our own foibles and flaws. But what these other guys are doing? They aren’t working with mirrors. No, they are putting targets on other people, aiming their fans at those targets, and encouraging the fans to pull their triggers.

That is why the rest of us don’t listen to their rants. We disinvite them from our events. We tell them that their behavior is not welcome at our conventions or on our forums and so forth. That isn’t censorship, that is making a choice of who we will associate with. It’s deciding that we don’t need jerks and abusers in our lives.

Orlando Pulse Shooting must be remembered for the anti-queer hate crime that it was

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, Orlando Weekly.

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, Orlando Weekly.

Nine months ago today an angry man walked into Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, and murdered 49 people. According to the FBI and his own family, during the weeks and months leading up to the attack, he had become more noticeably outraged every time he saw gay men in public together. He plotted the crime carefully. He set up fake profiles on gay hook-up apps and used conversations there to find out which night clubs would have the biggest crowd. It was a carefully crafted anti-queer hate crime.

A crime that is still being prosecuted: Orlando Nightclub Shooter’s Widow Is Denied Release On Bail.

I’ve written before about why this particular crime hit so hard for queer people in general, and me in particular. I’ve also written about why it is unacceptable to argue there is nothing that we can do about this kind of crime: They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced, either. I’ve also written about why we shouldn’t ignore the anti-LGBT hate crime aspect of this act of terror, and why the people who do so are perpetuating and enabling the hate that caused it.

And I’m not the only one: Call the Orlando shooting what it was: a homophobic hate crime, not ‘an attack on us all’.

I didn’t let myself write about the shooting on the 7th- or 8th-month’s mind1 date of the shooting because the lingering depression from election night made it too easy for me to leap into slathering rages over things. I had a very difficult time writing a post at the 6-month mark because of it. But there are reasons we shouldn’t forget: Gov. Rick Scott Honored Pulse But Never Mentioned LGBT People – Florida’s governor described the shooting as terrorism and never noted it targeted queer people.

I’ve gotten into the spiral of argument with some people that all hate crimes are crimes intended to cause terror, so it is technically correct to call it a terrorist act. And while that is true, it sidesteps the issue of just who was the crime intended to terrorize? We know that the gunman was targeting queer men. We know that because of all the angry outraged rants his family and colleagues have revealed during questioning. We know because he told his wife that he wanted to kill fags (she knew what he was planning, which is why she’s under arrest). We know because of the conversations he had on hookup apps where he would engage in conversation with gay men and ask which clubs were the hottest—where can he go to find the biggest crowds, the most popular places for gay men to have a good time?

He did not commit this crime to terrorize straight Americans. He was out to kill as many queer men as he could, and to put the fear of death into all queer people not to be out. That’s the point of this crime: to make queer people hide, go back into the closet, stop being out and open and unashamed of who we love. And if you don’t refer to this crime as an anti-queer or anti-gay or anti-LGBT crime, then you are doing exactly what the gunman wanted: you are erasing us from public life and discourse.

And if you get insistent and defensive about failing to mention that it was a anti-queer crime? That tells us, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that on some level, you agree with the gunman.

That’s not me calling you a bigot. That’s you being a bigot.

If you don’t like to think of yourself as a bigot, then you need to do something about that. A really good first step is to admit that being uncomfortable denouncing a crime as an anti-queer/anti-gay/anti-lesbian/anti-LGBT/anti-trans crime is a symptom of some level of prejudice. Which you need to let go of. Start calling this shooting what it was: a hate crime aimed at the LGBT community.

Victims killed in Pulse in Orlando this last weekend.

Victims killed in Pulse in Orlando June 6, 2016. (Click to embiggen) (Facebook/AP/Reuters/Rex)

Yes, 49 people were killed in Orlando that night. 49 queer Americans were gunned down. 49 queer people who just wanted to be out and happy and not have to hide who they were instead were murdered. 49 queer people were murdered by a man who was outraged at the idea of two men kissing in public. Remember them. Don’t erase their identities. Don’t erase their killer’s anti-gay hatred. Don’t ignore the toxic homophobia the pervades American society and fed the gunman’s hatred. Don’t help the killer erase us. Don’t.


Footnotes:

1. “Month’s mind” a practice in some traditions where family and friends gather about a month after someone’s death to celebrate that person’s life2.

2. Yes, I’m pedantic enough that I don’t like using the word “anniversary” to refer to periods of time of less than a year. I know people have been doing it verbally since at least the 1960s, and in writing since the 1980s, and I’m not normally a staunch prescriptionist regarding dictionary definitions, but this one still bugs me a little. Most of the terms that have been proposed to substitute (mensiversary, lunaversay, and uncianniversary) for this monthly commemorations strike me as silly. But knowing that there is an older, if obscure liturgical term, that I can pronounce it easily, I’m going to give it a try.

Confessions of a public restroom avoider

“If you don't like trans people using the bathroom, just look away like you do with corruption, war, poverty, environmental destruction, and homelessness.”

“If you don’t like trans people using the bathroom, just look away like you do with corruption, war, poverty, environmental destruction, and homelessness.”

Midway through my second grade year my family moved from Colorado to Nebraska. My dad’s job in the petroleum industry meant that we moved a lot (ten elementary schools in four states). I had a number of unpleasant experiences the first week at the new school. I misunderstood several things. The teachers and other school officials simply didn’t tell me about several rules. And the other kids weren’t exactly welcoming to the new kid. when I say unwelcoming, that’s putting it mildly. The second or third day there, I was cornered in the bathroom by several boys only some of whom I recognized from my classroom. They wanted to know if I was the idiot who got in the wrong line at the lunch room. I don’t remember everything that was said to me, but they communicated as only grade school bullies can that I was a stupid sissy—a freak who didn’t belong with the real boys.

The school was far more regimented than either of the previous grade schools I had attended. There were rules and assigned times for everything. We were sent to the restroom at three specific times each day, for instance. And my new bullies singled me out for taunting and humiliation every single restroom break.

I didn’t want to explain what was happening. Previous incidents of being bullied by other kids had always resulted in my dad yelling at and beating me for being a pushover. When I attempted to stand up for myself as he’d said, I got in trouble at school, which resulted in more yelling and beating. So I couldn’t let my parents know what was happening in the bathroom. And I knew I couldn’t let the teachers know, because eventually they would inform my parents.

So I stopped going to the bathroom.

I convinced my mom to let me walk home for lunch instead of eating at the school cafeteria. I don’t remember how I convinced my parents, but I did. I used the restroom at home in the middle of the day. At school, when we were marched off at our appointed times midmorning and midafternoon, I would loiter outside the restroom until we were collected and taken out to recess. Since I was eating at home, I skipped the midday restroom trip. I changed my drinking habits. I stopped using the drinking fountain at school, because if I didn’t drink water I wouldn’t need to pee as often. And so on.

I managed to avoid going into the restroom at that school almost entirely for the rest of the time we lived in that town. I still got bullied on the playground, in the classroom, and so forth. But because teachers were always nearby, the kind of bullying that happened was slightly less horrible that what could happen when a bunch of the mean boys had you trapped in a room that the adults seemed to never enter.

When we moved to a tiny town in Wyoming next, I wasn’t able to avoid the restrooms. The town we moved to didn’t have a school, so we rode a bus to a town almost an hour’s drive away. I can still remember how scared I was at what would happen the first time I went into that school’s bathroom. That school was less regimented, so I as usually able to get by with only one trip per day, and I could time it so I wasn’t using the restroom when a lot of the other boys were. Similarly with the town back in Colorado but near the Kansas border that we moved to for the last part of my third grade. And the next town, and the next.

Even when I was in high school, I learned to avoid certain bathrooms and certain times of the day. Because yes, even in my teen years, there were guys ready and eager to demonstrate to the class faggots just how despised we were, and the boy’s restroom was a place that they could do so with impunity.

I’m not trans. I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of the trans community. But I am very familiar with that cold fear that strikes like a fist in the gut when walking into a public restroom and someone looks at you in a less than friendly way. I’m a grown ass man in my mid-fifties, and there are still moments of anxiety any time I am in a public restroom and there are other people in there with me. There are little checklists that part of my brain runs through. Am I behaving the way I’m supposed to? Is this person going to interpret something I do in the wrong way?

Heck, part of me still freaks out if a straight co-worker strikes up a conversation in the restroom at the office! Making eye contact or saying anything to the wrong guys was the surest way to get bullied when I was a kid, and it doesn’t matter how many years ago that was, the conditioned reflexes are still there—the surge of stress hormones and keying up of fight or flight response happens every time.

So these bills and court fights about where or whether trans people can use restrooms at school and other public accommodations strike close to home. I get really upset that people think keep portraying the queer people as the dangerous ones in public restrooms.

Everyone needs to eat, drink, breathe, and yes, people also need to pee from time to time. We have public restrooms for that. A number of places in our country have had laws and policies that explicitly allow people to use the restroom of the gender they identify with for many years, and there has never, not once, been an incident of a trans or otherwise queer person using those policies to assault anyone in a restroom. The only incidents of people going into a restroom to harass women have been straight anti-gay people doing it to try to make headlines in order to justify these bathroom bills or to yell at a woman who doesn’t want to sign their anti-trans petition.

Seriously.

This isn’t about privacy. It isn’t about protecting women or girls. It is about making it impossible for trans people to exist in public spaces at all. It is about punishing trans and gender non-conforming people. It is about giving bigots an excuse to harass queer people or anyone who seems maybe a little queer.

Devils in very poor disguises

Pastor Manning's church sign in the news again: “Tribulation Trump is one nasty cracker possibly having sex with Ivanka.”

Pastor Manning’s church sign in the news again: “Tribulation Trump is one nasty cracker possibly having sex with Ivanka.”

It’s been a while since I’ve written about James David Manning, the “pastor” of the infamous Harlem hate church with the notorious hateful church sign. The church is currently in default of taxes, water, and sewage bills far in excess of a million dollars and fighting a losing battle over those fees and a bunch of zoning violations to have its building seized. Manning made the news briefly last year when he endorsed Trump for president, and his church sign claimed that Jesus would endorse Donald, as well. A while later, he withdrew the endorsement, because Donald indicated that the murderer who perpetrated the mass shooting at the Orlando gay nightclub, Pulse, was a bad person. Can’t condemn the murders of queer people and still be a christian, now, can one?

“Jesus would endorse Donald Trump,” Manning's sign proclaimed last sprint. “Vote Trump make Harlem beautiful again.”

“Jesus would endorse Donald Trump,” Manning’s sign proclaimed last spring. “Vote Trump make Harlem beautiful again.”

Then, he seemed to flip back to endorsing Donald when he took some of the candidate’s statements to indicate it would be legal for christians to shoot Mexicans, muslims, and liberals.

It boggles my mind that someone can claim to be a follower of Jesus while spewing such hate. I mean, seriously, being overjoyed at murder? Looking forward to committing murder with impunity yourself?

What boggles even more is that people who claim to believe in the man who said “love thy neighbor as you love thyself” will follow these hatemongers and proclaim them great faith leaders.

We have people like Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio saying things like ‘The Real Brownshirts Are In The Homosexual Movement’. That’s pretty rich coming from a guy who was removed from one of this jobs at the American Family Association because his anti-semitic and anti-muslim comments raised a bit of an uproar too close to a Republican fundraising event in 2015.

Then there’s Scott Lively Scott Lively: Trump Must Ban Gays From Intelligence Agencies Because They’re Conspiring Against Him. Lively is currently involved in a lawsuit for crimes against humanity (I kid you not), because he gave encouragement and material assistance to get Uganda to pass kill-the-gay laws. And that’s some of the least insane evil stuff he’s been involved in. But he’s the president of Abiding Truth Ministries, so he is, of course, hailed as a Christian leader.

“The bible condemns Trump’s acceptance of sodomy and I withdraw my support. Sodomy is more dangerous than jihadis.”

“The bible condemns Trump’s acceptance of sodomy and I withdraw my support. Sodomy is more dangerous than jihadis.”

I’m not sure what has prompted Manning to turn on Trump again this week. There’s probably a new sermon up on his youtube channel explaining it, but I can’t deal with listening to any more of his hate and craziness. I have to admit that I kind of like the nickname “Tribulation Trump” for Donald. But I’m sure that Manning will flip-flop back to loving Donald again, he just needs to do something hateful enough that Manning recognizes him as a fellow devil, again.

There are even more poorly disguised devils in the news, of course. Yesterday a lot of people, particularly right-leaning news and blogging folks, were being shocked, shocked to learn that Milo Yiannopoulos has argued in favor of adults having sexual relationship with underage teen-agers. He has specifically insisted that this is not only good, but tried to claim that it is normal in the homosexual community. All of which is BS, but really shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. It’s not as if he hasn’t said this sort of thing many times before. Nor is it at all inconsistent with his other attitudes.

So let’s unpack that a little. In the past, Milo has espoused a lot of undeniably racist opinions. He has orchestrated harassment campaigns against women, particularly women of color. He has encouraged violence against trans people. He has excused actual calls for genocide from some of his neo-nazi friends. He has advocated so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” He has previously made sexual references to teen age boys. But it is only when he has specifically advocated for adult men having sexual relationships with 13-year-old boys that the Republican party, the organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference, his fellow writers & editors at Breitbart, Bill Maher, and Simon & Schuster are objecting? In other words, all of those people and institutions are okay with racism, misogyny, transphobia, hate crimes, and genocide.

Let me repeat that: the Republican party, conservatives who organize CPAC, Breitbart writers & editors, Bill Maher, and the publishing house of Simon & Schuster don’t just turn a blind eye, they happily endorsed racism, misogyny, transphobia, hate crimes, and genocide. When people show you who they are you should believe them.

Also, it seems a lot of people are easily fooled by someone who says outrageous things when those outrageous things are attacks on people they dislike.

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