Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sunday Afternoon

Lovely late-afternoon sun making the palo verde blossoms glow yellow... woodsmoke on the breeze... a comfy chair in the shade of my mesquite tree, a good book, and a cold beer. It makes a body downright reflective. Well, "reflection" isn't the term. More like "open conduit for random memories."

1977, and I'm living in an apartment complex in northern Indiana with my mom and step-dad. I mostly hang by myself; there are plenty of dumpsters for diving, a small woods to explore, and a vacant lot covered with limestone gravel that is chock-full of plant fossils. I still have two small boxes full of crinoids in the top of my closet. Anyway. I occasionally played with two girls who lived across the parking lot, one a year or two younger and the other a couple years younger than that. They were some brand of Baptist I hadn't encountered before. Early on in the association we were sitting in the room they shared and the younger one--the names escape me, but she was the whiny one--fixed me with a glare and said, "Girls ain't s'posed to wear pants." Befuddled, I looked over at her sister, who was reclining on a bed. She explained, with infinite world-weariness, "It does not please the Lord." I was too green at 10 to fire off a snappy comeback, but I remember wondering why they thought God was so offended by my Levi's but would groove on the goofy corduroy culottes the Jeebus sisters always wore. I mean, come on. Culottes? Flouncy and skirt-like at first glance, but two very pants-like separate slots for the legs anyway. You're telling me God falls for that crap?

More 1977, or possibly 1978. My hamster gives birth to a litter of 9. I name them after the Cubs' starting lineup. DeJesus and Buckner die within days; Blyleven and Madlock are the only two to survive into hamster adulthood. Flash forward to today: Bill Madlock throws out the first pitch at the Cubs game this afternoon and sings the seventh inning stretch. The thrown pitch was much better than the sung one.

Things that bug me: "hampster." "bumber sticker." "rediculous." "ammendment."

Jalapeno update: Plant One has five peppers in progress; Plant Two has three. The plants need snappier names. Reggie and Lothario, perhaps.

Recommended reading: Bitch magazine. Seed magazine. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn.

Recommended listening: Neil Anderson. Sera Cahoone.

All in a summer's day.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Late Friday Afternoon Befuddlement

I am sitting in my office in Tucson, listening to a Seattle radio station over the 'net while examining artifacts from a roughly 3,000-year-old burial. I am trying simultaneously to figure out (1) if this piece of rock is a pendant or just fortuitously smoothed on all its surfaces, and (2) if I should stick with the el-cheapo Kyocera phone or upgrade to the absolutely bitchin' yellow-and-black (always a plus!) Alltel that has more features than I plan on using but is... bitchin' yellow and black.

Somehow I think I'm falling down a bit on the whole try-to-connect-with-the-past aspect of the job this afternoon. A little too much electronic technology is involved at the moment, but then again I don't quite have the time to go out to the river and get all primal. Not that I do that too much any more, but hey.

Yes, this evening will be given over to getting the bike ready to go. Maybe that will re-connect me with some of the primality, and the brilliant inferences will just start flowing from these little piles of stone in front of me. Maybe keeping a bottle of bourbon in here would help too.

Rampant Confusion

Perhaps inspired by the rutting pigeons currently puffing and circling to mark the coming of spring, Arlen Specter is doing his own little bit of neck puffery, threatening to cut off funding to W's domestic surveillance program(s) unless he comes clean about the whole deal, at least to Congress.
"Institutionally, the presidency is walking all over Congress at the moment," Specter said. "If we are to maintain our institutional prerogative, that may be the only way we can do it."
Well... yeah, can't argue the doormat point, but why am I remembering Specter leading the way in handing out free passes to the executive branch, personified by Alberto Gonzales, in the Judiciary Committee's wiretap hearings a couple of months ago? Why do I remember Specter throwing his support behind GOP declarations that the best solution to the wiretapping
problem was to pass legislation making the president's very illegal activities retroactively legal after all?

Specter announced his intent to turn this pull-the-plug amendment to a spending bill into a full-fledged stand-alone bill, and to hold hearings. A bill and hearings! So there's hope for some stubborn remnant of decency here, right?
Specter made it clear that, for now, the threat was just that."I'm not prepared to call for the withholding of funds," he told reporters later.
Oh. Never mind.

He did say that he hopes to raise public awareness of the issue. If that has always been the case, why didn't he hit Gonzales harder? The obstruction and obfuscation was generated in those hearings was more than ample fodder for a public stink-making.

Meanwhile, the GOP Congress has come up with some great ideas for alleviating the financial crunch skyrocketing gas prices are putting on middle America. Number one, of course, is a $100 rebate check to every taxpayer. Think of it! One hundred dollars. That's between two and three tankfuls for people with a
verage-sized vehicles, and less than a tank for Hummer, Excursion, and Escalade drivers (giggle).

It's the equivalent of tossing a quarter to a pestering 10-year-old at your backroom card game and saying, "Here's two bits, kid, now scram" in your best Jimmy Cagney.

But it's more than a simple palliative slap in the face. Take that hundred and multiply it by 100 million taxpayers, and whaddyaget? 10 billion dollars. Ten billion dollars... of taxpayer money... most of which will be paid right back to the oil companies. Should I point out that with that 10B we could buy other things? Should I be a shit and point out that it would buy us a week and a half in Iraq? Of course, should that provision pass, it would mean that the rest of the spending bill it's attached to passes as well, and what else could be lurking in there? Opening up ANWR to drilling? Unfortunately, yes. And, should it be defeated, how many Republicans are going to scream that the Dems took a Benjamin out of every poor and middle class American's pocket?

Long past time to get the bike dusted off and lubed up. And to rediscover my super-local economies of scale.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Gas Pains

My mind is reeling at the little tidbit in the business section today about oil company profits in the first quarter. The top three combined for a record 16-plus billion dollars in profit. Billion, with a B. No wonder Cheney has refused to let anyone in on his secret energy policy meetings. Now, conveniently, W promises to alleviate the supply problems (supply problems? Please. "Greed problem" is more accurate, but likely unsayable) by... eliminating environmental standards that have hampered refinery production.

Oh, goody.

It's a nightmare. A long, long nightmare that's impossible to wake up from. There are simply no limits to human greed, and when that greed is backed up by a post-millenial mindset that says the Rapture is coming anyway (quicker if we hasten it by barreling toward an apocalyptic showdown with Iran), well, it's worse than a runaway train or tidal wave or any other metaphor you can conceive. Because the scale of this self-inflicted disaster is, in the end, inconceivable.

I remember sitting up in '04, watching the returns come in, wondering how so many millions of people could be so short-sighted or ignorant or malevolent as to want the Bush administration to remain in office. Watching the Bushies slither out from each mounting calamity unscathed has been maddening, but maybe it's coming to an end. Maybe people will wake up just long enough to put some Dems in office who actually have spines and other anatomical features conducive to good oversight.

Yeah, maybe.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Boltgirl Lite

Oh Sweet Jesus. I understand now, belatedly, why I avoid Indian lunch buffets. Don't get me wrong--I totally dig Indian food. That's the problem. Went out today to Sher-E-Punjab (highly recommended; they put cilantro in the dal saag) to celebrate the birthdays of a couple of co-workers and now feel like a tick on a dog. Wenn ich nur erbrechen nicht hatten haette, wurde ich viel mehr froelich sein. Christ on a friggin' crutch. I would like to die now, thank you very much.

The weekend was spent picking out bedding plants, building planting boxes, and slinging potting soil. I am now proudly fostering two Sweet 100 tomato plants, one yellow pear tomato, and a purported grape tomato-roma hybrid. I'm especially excited about that one. Two jalapenos and two New Mexico Big Jim pepper plants are in pots, and the cucumber is setting up for a valiant stand against the sun under the mesquite tree. Cilantro, chives, and oregano are in the herb window box, but I couldn't find basil at either Home Depot or Target. And I tucked a few bright yellow marigolds amongst the tomatoes. They look happy. If all goes well I'll have salsa by the end of May.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Post-Easter Religion, Part Deux

Thinking more on the hate mail sent to the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the frighteningly consistent use of the "faggot" and "cocksucker" epithets... it's clear that those particular names were chosen to emphasize the distinction being made by the letter-writers between "me" and "other."

The writers: Christian ==> in possession of The Truth ==> righteous.

The Other, personified by FSM adherents: Heathen ==> wrong, wrong, wrong ==> evil.

What better way to highlight the difference between good and evil than to cast it as straight vs. homo? To be fair, a few "motherfuckers" were tossed in there as well, but when faced with the need for the vilest insult possible, most of the hate-mail authors chose some variant of "gay."


I blame Paul. I blame Paul for just about all the crap spewed by fundamentalist Christians toward people whose beliefs differ from their own. I used to spend more time than I should cruising around Christian Forums in an effort to try to understand the mindset behind the public pronouncements and attempts to change public policy that struck me as mean-spirited. The main rift I saw between the fundamentalist evangelical camp and the liberal Christian camp boils down to the base people draw from--it's either Paul and his
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17; apparent emphasis on "rebuking, correcting")
or Christ and his
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:40).
The former mindset sees ad hominem insults as rebuking and correction, and conflates them with love. When confronted with their self-posed question, "What would Jesus do?" they nearly invariably reply that Jesus tossed the moneychangers out of the temple and whacked the fig tree that didn't bear fruit, so they're only following his example when they spew profanities at nonbelievers. When they see one of the least brothers of Christ, whether it's the homeless guy in the median, or a migrant worker, or a single mother on welfare, or even just somebody who's different from themselves, they don't register that whatever they do to this person, they're doing to JC hisself. They're rebuking.

Because The Other chose to be what He is. He willfully disobeyed God somewhere along the way, and so opened himself up to being corrected by the righteous, who aren't doing it because they enjoy it, mind you, not because rebuking someone feeds into your self-image of righteousness, but because it's their duty. Because when they call you a cocksucking faggot for satirizing Young Earth Creation, why, they're just doing what Jesus did in the temple, and what Jesus would surely do to you were he sitting at the keyboard himself today.


Better than asking what Jesus would do is asking what you would do to Jesus. If the homeless guy in the median asking to wash your windshield for a buck was actually Jesus, what would you do? If the person marveling over the Tiktaalik fossil's usefulness in arguing for evolution was actually Jesus, would you call him a cocksucking faggot? What would you do if Jesus H. himself came down in full Jesus regalia and stigmata, looked you in the eye, and asked you why you thought "gay" was an insult at all? Instead of seeing moneychangers and Pharisees in the Other, try seeing Christ there. Try seeing if that changes your behavior toward other people. And if it doesn't, ask yourself why.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Promotion of Vice and Prevention of Virtue, Part Next

So, having written about the new parameters of the abstinence curriculum, I came across Digby's post on the Purity Ball--quite possibly the most unnerving manifestation of the movement I've yet seen. This event, recently held in South Dakota (courtesy of the Abstinence Clearinghouse), can pretty much be summed up as Ritualistic Surrender of My Sexuality to Daddy. Girls don prom dresses to be escorted by their fathers to a Dominionist's wet dream of a formal dance where dad and daughter pose for prom-style pictures under a heart-shaped arch of balloons.

The highlight is the exchange of vows part of the program where girls and fathers read pledges to each other. Here's the girl's part:
I pledge to remain sexually pure...until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. ... I know that God requires this of me.. that he loves me. and that he will reward me for my faithfulness.
And here's Dad's scripted reply:
I, (daughter’s name)’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.

(Let's review. This event is pushed by an organization that is deeply involved in providing sex ed abstinence curricula to schools. The highlight of the event has both parties involved invoking God. Please, if anyone tries to argue to you that abstinence is based on sound science and pursued in service of public health rather than proselytizing, please please please knock them upside the head. But I digress.)

With this creepy little ritual, the girl surrenders her sexuality to the protection and control of, first, her father, and second, to her future husband. She frames herself as an object to be given as a "gift" to a presumably unknown man in the future, a gift that will only be of worth if she has eschewed all sexual activity (apparently at any level of stimulation; see my previous post) beforehand. The father's place as not only the temporal head of the household, and not just the spiritual head, but the freakin' "high priest," is cemented. Trip-trap over to the Clearinghouse's website and look at the pictures. Many of the girls making these vows to father and God look to be barely out of the single digits, with likely only the faintest glimmer of recognition of what the script they're reading is really talking about.

The people who poo-poo the notion that abortion restrictions and abstinence movements are, at their cores, solely about controlling women's sexuality need to take a very close look at the laws and bizarre rituals growing out of those movements and try to come up with compelling arguments supporting their positions. They need to explain why there are no parallel rituals prescribing male purity prior to marriage, why females are being targeted not only as the commodity to be protected from sexual sullying but also, contradictorily, the very source of sexual pollution if left uncontrolled and unchecked by paternal intervention (thus the mindset manifested in the MO legislature's refusal to fund birth control for low-income women, on the grounds that it would lead to promiscuity).

What does the Purity Ball imply about the mother's role in her daughter's growth and development? How, exactly, is the father to "cover" his daughter in authority when it comes to matters of sex? If a purity pledge girl does engage in pre-marital sexual stimulation, what punishments befall her due to her violation of this added layer of accountability, not simply the God of Leviticus and St. Paul but now Daddy the High Priest as well?

Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, Part 937

Some tidbits I wish were random and unconnected, but which unfortunately line up neatly...

From the Feds, a clarified abstinence-only policy defining abstinence as eschewing not just fucking but "any type of genital contact or sexual stimulation between two persons" outside of marriage, which , of course, is explicitly defined as involving one man and one woman. No further explanation of "sexual stimulation" is offered, leaving some pretty hazy areas for neophyte pledgees to navigate. Does sexual stimulation include kissing? Phone sex? Smoky hot eye contact that twinges you so deeply you're happy to drop a fifty on the table, leaving the waiter a 200% tip, if it means you can get your date out to the car quickly so you don't have an orgasm right there in the restaurant? Or maybe the people who wrote this claptrap have never experienced anything like that, or--even more sadly--maybe they really think the capacity for sexual stimulation exists only in that narrow zone between the legs.

Left all but unsaid are the implications for gay kids. No sexual stimulation of any kind involving another person until you're married. Marriage is limited to opposite-sex pairs. Well, at least the official prohibition against masturbation hasn't come down yet, so, until then, here's your bottle of baby oil and a wad of kleenex, kid. Go nuts. Draw a smiley face on it and maybe you'll have a shot at a meaningful relationship one of these days.

Next up, a bill introduced by the Ohio legislature that not only would make it a felony for a woman to have an abortion, but also makes it a felony for her to travel to a different state for an abortion, or to transport or otherwise aid a woman in leaving the state to terminate a pregnancy. Never mind, for the moment, that this law (should it be ratified) doesn't have a chance in hell of passing Constitutional muster (niggling little details like the interstate commerce clause should eat it alive).

Just think about it for a second, and try to come up with a response other than what the fuck? What's the real purpose of this grandstanding? Is it some grotesque loyalty oath writ large for Ohio Republicans? What end can possibly justify these means that make the legislators look like ignorant rubes trying to out-idiot the legislatures in South Dakota, Mississippi, and Missouri? Why write a law with such shoddy (shoddiness barely escaping nonexistance) legal underpinnings? No state can hold its citizens accountable for state laws outside the borders of that state. It's pretty simple. It's why you can buy fireworks in Missouri and not be arrested for it when you get home in Illinois; it's why California highway patrolmen don't cruise I-10 east of Yuma nailing cars with CA tags that are abiding by Arizona's 5-mph-higher speed limit. Did these guys enter some secret contest giving a prize to the legislature that can write the most outrageously restrictive abortion legislation with nobody noticing? Sorry, fellas--we're noticing.


Remind me, again, why we're fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan (quick, somebody nudge W awake and remind him of his original war while we still have guys left to fight it). Remind me how the administration framed that one--not just to destroy the infrastructure that supported and fostered Al Qaeda, but to liberate the women of Afghanistan. Remember all that "W is for Women" crap? The Taliban have to be laughing their asses off right now. The adminstration is inspiring cultural change far more insidious and radical than the scruffy bearded guys over there in the caves ever could have dreamed of on their own.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Post-Easter Religion Corner

So anyway, I read a flyweight historical novel over the weekend (The Burning Time, by Morgan... somebody), a bit of fluff purporting to be based on the court transcripts from the first witchcraft trial held under the Inquisition in Ireland in the late 1300s. The premise was far more promising than the execution, so to speak, or maybe I'm just way too easily distracted by glaring historical errors. Please, if you're writing a novel set in pre-1500 Europe, do not make repeated references to the peasants harvesting more summer squash than they know what to do with. And for the love of whatever goddess, god, or tree you worship, don't cut and paste words and syntax wholesale from Wicca For Dummies and transpose it onto your scenes of 14th century Celtic pagan rituals and think no one will notice. More Blessed Bes and Merry Meets flying around that book than at the monthly SCA confab over at Himmel Park.

Anyway. Once I decided to view the story as more of a modern parable than a historically accur
ate account, it was slightly more enjoyable, a tolerable mini-saga of the terrible price exacted by attempting to preserve your spiritual integrity in the face of religious intolerance. It made me consider how various groups of people react to religious issues in different ways, how the ultra-religious tend to categorize the fight to maintain church-state separation as fear or hatred of religion. I never quite understood that until very recently, say last week. It is, I believe, because that is their conditioned reaction to belief systems other than their own--fear.

I came to this enlightenment courtesy of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, of course, not so much by the power of its gospel (despite the powerful allure of pirates, to which I am not in the slightest immune), but by the vituperative e-mails sent to the Pastafarian founder by good Christian folk. Some seemed to be motivated by genuine concern for the man's mortal soul, but many others can be condensed into:
LISTEN DUMBASS YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE SO COOL BECAUSE YOU THINK SOME PUSSY SPAGHETTI MONSTER RULES THE FUCKING WORLD YOU STUPID FUCK YOU NEED TO FIND JESUS YOU STUPID MOTHERFUCKER.
I just find this fascinating. Many, many of the e-mails used more permutations of "fuck" than even I drop in my worst moments--which, if you know me, can be quite a few--while simultaneously exhorting the reader to find Jesus. And then they're signed "God bless."

The consistent themes and wording running through these (at least the ones that seem to view the FSM as a genuine religion rather than the satire it's intended to be) are (1) concern that the FSM is leading people away from the True Faith, so please turn to Jesus (worded politely), (2) if you believe in the FSM you are fucking retarded, (3) if you believe in the FSM you are a fucking faggot, (4) if you believe in the FSM please go kill yourself, (4) if you believe in the FSM I hope your kids are fucked up and you get anally raped and eaten by animals.


Maybe this is an unfair assumption, but it seems a fair bet to me that the same people saying FUCK YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS look at pictures of Muslims rioting over cartoons or blowing up each other's mosques and find it proof positive that Those People are monsters. I guess I'm equally unable to understand religious paranoia as they are to understand my lack of religious fervor, but if a perceived insult to your religion is all it takes for you to go on a physical or verbal rampage that is completely contrary to the stated tenets of that religion, well, it's time to take a deep breath. Is your god so fragile that he can't withstand the scorn of a lowly human? Does he really need you to do his judging and smiting for him? Think about that for just a second or two. If an omniscient, omnipotent being really needs humans to carry out the dirty work for him between bouts of bowing down in obeisance, is that really a deity worth worshiping?

Dyngus Day

Dyngus Dzien! Today is Dyngus, the Polish day-after-Easter holiday celebrating the end of the Lenten fast with heaps of good food and questionable behavior. Oh, and lots of beer. Growing up in South BendIndiana, of my friends were Poles from the West Side, so I was well-steeped in Polish traditions. Dyngus Day is celebrated with a huge dinner of roast chicken, sausage, potatoes, cabbage, kluski, green beans, and a pie on every table. The centerpiece is a cake baked in a lamb-shaped mold, usually covered with shredded coconut for an appropriately wooly appearance. Men run around switching the women's legs, and the women retaliate by throwing cold water at them. Not sure of the appeal of that last bit, but it's also a day of political grandstanding, with the candidates for local office (all Dems, natch) visiting the various taverns and social clubs for a beer, a speech, and a turn on the dance floor to whatever polka band is playing.

It should be an interesting Dyngus in South Bend today (typical conversation in the Bend on the morning after Easter: "Are you going Dyngusing this afternoon?" "Yup."). There's certainly ample fodder for discussion. Nuking Iran? Covert military operations already underway in Iran?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

God, Holy Week used to be such the huge deal to me. Back when I was much younger and not yet perceptive enough to recognize the rather large disconnects with reality that ultimately drove me from the Catholic church, that is. I lived just a couple of miles from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the big beautiful church on the campus of Notre Dame. I always went to the 10:30 mass ("Smells 'n' Bells" in campus parlance) that hearkened back to the High Mass of the pre-Vatican II church, with the full choir and twenty priests concelebrating.

I didn't think as much about the Church then as I did about the simplicity of that Chuy guy's message. It all made sense then--love everyone and treat others as you would want to be treated and give your resources to help those less fortunate than yourself. As a teenager, kneeling under the Gothic Revival arches and vaults in the air thick and heady with incense, surrounded by the other members of the Notre Dame family, I was certain I could feel that universal love and interconnectedness reverberating through me as surely as I felt the bass notes from the massive pipe organ and the vibrations of a thousand sets of vocal cords raised in song.

Then I grew up and moved out into a world where, I eventually learned, that simple exhortation to love and serve was just a hippie smokescreen cherry-picked to obscure the real message of Christianity, which is to follow the anal nit-picking of a humorless, self-hating git named Paul, to use the Bible as a cudgel to smack down everyone who doesn't follow the same dour proscriptions against human nature Paul did, to "love" people different from yourself by condemning them and claim that those who perceive your actions as hatred are bigots who hate Christians. That's what I'm picking up from Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Michael Marcavage, and their ilk, anyway. I can't help but think
, were he to come back for a visit, Jesus would yank the planks from their eyes and then knock them upside the head with them.

The last Good Friday I spent at Sacred Heart was in 1985, my senior year in high school. The mail had come just before I needed to leave the house for church, and there was the big fat envelope from Notre Dame I'd been hoping for, the letter that told me I was admitted and designated a Notre Dame Scholar due to good grades and letters of recommendation. It was hard to get through the service with the appropriate solemnity, given the very good news indeed I'd just received. The next week I got another fat letter from Northwestern with a much bigger scholarship offer, making the decision moot and setting me off on my journey to Chicago and, eventually, Arizona. I often wonder how my life might have unfolded if I'd aggressively gone after some grants and ended up at Notre Dame after all. I wonder if I'd be sitting inside the Basilica today, still believing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wedding Season

Spring's upon us, meaning the hetero wedding season is in full swing. Not the weddings themselves--goodness, it's not June yet--but the planning is certainly churning all across the land. I was married to a guy for a while, back in a former life that seems more like three or four lifetimes away. We were young and I was apparently a little clueless about who I really was. Not much harm came of it, no permanent injuries, anyway, and I got a magnificent son out of the deal, so on balance it was well worth the 14 years or so of life invested therein.

The ex is getting hitched in June, officially joined in a state-sanctioned union to a nice woman. I'm sure they'll be very happy together, and I'm hoping their signatures on the marriage license will somehow translate to my own karmic tab being stamped Paid In Full by the end of the reception.

I'm dreading it. Not out of any simmering jealousy, of course, nor doubt that getting out of that marriage was anything less than a necessity or foregone conclusion. Maybe it's because, despite the fact that I will attend with my partner of five-plus years, that we will depart for said wedding from a house we bought together and whose mortgage papers have both our names and sets of initials all over them, well, the ex is the one getting the party, the joint filing on the 1040EZ next year, the thousand or so federally recognized rights, and the general societal recognition and approbation.

I wonder if it should bother me this much. I wonder if my discomfort is really about the fundamental inequality the whole Wedding Weekend represents, or maybe some inner fear that the ex and his new wife (and her son) will be able to offer the kid a home and family life that is altogether more seamlessly integrated, comfortable, and appealing than what I've been able to offer him. I wish I didn't feel like I've failed him.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Hum-a-lum-a Humala

Ollanta Humala has forced a runoff in Peru's presidential election. He's positioning himself as a nationalist and a populist who will kick out the foreign corporations and return power to Peruvians, the mestizos and Indians in particular. Sounds great. Except that the last time somebody promised the same thing in Peru it resulted in a guerilla movement that ruled through sheer terror. Peru was an economic mess under Garcia, an environment that allowed the Sendero Luminoso to grab the imagination of the peasants (and then grab them by the nuts once the movement acquired enough machetes, machine guns, and grenades). Vargas Llosa was okay, but Fujimori made a complete mess of the country. He eliminated the terrorist threat posed by the Sendero, to be sure, but did it by effectively declaring himself dictator and suspending the constitution.

Meanwhile, foreign-owned consortiums continue to get fat off the copper mines in the south and the silver mines in the jungle, with very little returned to Peru. The US-based Southern Copper Corporation (formerly Southern Peru Copper Corporation) does some community affairs work, you know, irrigation canals, school funding, and ongoing archaeological projects such as the one I worked on for two summers in the late '80s. Their local workers make okay money, and if they're fortunate enough to live near a company-built hospital they have access to substandard medical care (as opposed to the absent medical care enjoyed by most of the lower class). But for the most part, Peru's a poor country that's been teetering on the edge of stability for decades, a place that's ripe for a dynamic guy like Humala who says the words the peasants want to hear.

But he'd be an even worse disaster. No government is immune to corruption, but the Panel of Me thinks nascent nationalist movements run by former military coup leaders are more susceptible than most. Put the mines under state control and kick out the DEA, and where do you stop? It's a very intoxicating cocktail he's chilling the shaker for. And there's nothing like several thousand guns backing you to fuck up an initially good idea. If he wins, does he really think the Bush administration will sit by idly and do nothing while he takes Peru on the same hard left turn Venezuela and Bolivia recently took? Does he plan on forging Peru's new path without the support of the World Bank? I mean, come on--with Paul Wolfowitz in charge, how many low-interest loans realistically will be heading Peru's way?

Anyway, I care about this because of the time I spent in Peru and the friends I made there, most of them Aymara peasants who owned two changes of clothes, a pair of sandals made from old tires, and not much else. The majority of the population gets shit on no matter who's in charge. It would just be nice to see a power structure that doesn't invite even more misery.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Homo Solidarity, Part Uno

I was going to do a piece on evangelical histrionics concerning the “War on Christianity,” but Homer’s post yesterday about a nasty, short-sighted, self-loathing gay boy who is just sick of the old-timers perpetuating the stereotypes of the “culture of death” (yeah, the boy in question actually used the phrase “culture of death” in reference to his fellow gay males) made me change my mind.

The issue facing every minority group comes down to who gets to define the group, what standards are requisite for membership, and how far outside the out-of–the-mainstream mainstream you can venture before either pissing people off or getting your ass disowned, and what makes that disowning either a travesty or something you had coming by being stupid.

The letter-writing kid doesn’t like older gay men who insist on having random sex (I think he tossed in "shrieking" too) and keep driving that wedge between gay folk and full societal acceptance by the J. Crew crowd. Funny how it’s always the reviled minority community--pick your minority of choice--that’s expected to tone down its more demonstrative and visible members or risk being discounted by the mainstream because of them. It’s the gay community that gets defined by the leather guys and the dykes on bikes in the parade—hell, we’re defined by the parade, period. Because some members of the population find their outlet in public expression once a year, we all should be denied full membership in this society, and we’re all somehow responsible for this boy’s discomfort.

Funny how that rule doesn’t get extended back to the prime group responsible for perpetuating discrimination. Funny how quickly the Christian community disavows Pat Robertson’s more bizarre statements and insists he’s not representative of Christianity, and how quickly that palliative gets swallowed and somehow internalized by an entire nation. Because it sure would be unfair to call all evangelical Christians bigots based on the statements and actions of a few, right?

Blaming drag queens and circuit party boys for the failure of middle Red State America to accept gays and lesbians as equal citizens is beyond dishonest. It’s exactly what the bigots want us to do, because it deflects responsibility away from them—where it belongs—and back onto the people they would victimize. The guys in boas on a parade float, or the guys getting some anonymous dick in the back room of a bar don’t reflect my own reality in the specifics of their lives any more than I represent them with my mundane monogamous two-kid two-dog smoke-free go-to-the-lesbian-bar-annually-if-that household. But I will always fight for their right to live their lives by the freedoms in the Constitution rather than the narrowly defined limits of WASP America, and would hope they’d do the same for me.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Tired Monday

The blah weekend was punctuated by almost getting massively rear-ended on the Superstition Freeway in Phoenix. The boy learned a valuable lesson, distilled to "that's why you always check your mirrors." Anyway, disaster was narrowly avoided via creative use of the no-man's-land between the carpool lane and the regular traffic lane (see skidding vehicles approaching from the rear? check your mirrors and scoot outta the way) and I got an unfortunate closeup of a nasty two-SUV collision inches from my rear bumper.

In other news, the Arizona legislature is scrambling to pass a law criminalizing bestiality, which apparently was removed from the books 30 years ago in a clean sweep of archaic statutes. Too many incidents of this particularly vile brand of animal abuse have been surfacing lately, from the horrific story of a sexually abused and maimed greyhound to a deputy fire chief attempting to boink his neighbor's sheep. It's stuff like this--definitely the greyhound, definitely the fuckheads who skinned a puppy alive last year and dumped it on the rez--that makes me rethink my opposition to capital punishment.

I'm waiting, of course, for the inevitable letters-to-the-editor wondering why bestiality is being punished while that other, you know, heinous sin is being celebrated. Maybe I'll be wrong; I certainly hope so.