Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Notre Dame Our Mother

I wonder how much matters to anyone, ultimately, until it becomes personal. I like to think my compassion is boundless, not situational, and then reality comes and smacks me upside the head.

The SoulForce Equality Riders are a group of young 'uns (remember, I'm old) who have been visiting religious colleges and universities across the country, attempting to deliver messages of inclusiveness and justice, urging these institutions to adopt gay-friendly policies for their students and staff, getting thrown off campuses and arrested left and right. Huh, I thought, sucks for them, but that reception probably wasn't completely unexpected. And they must at least have gotten the satisfaction of standing up for the right thing.

Then Soulforce hit Notre Dame.

Some of the Equality Riders, accompanied by a couple of gay Notre Dame students, were charged with trespassing when they laid a wreath at the Tom Dooley statue at the Grotto, the lovely shrine that replicates the Grotto at Lourdes in France, a quiet refuge of rock, moss, and trees that's the first visit for many people when they make their pilgrimages back to campus.

If you don't know Notre Dame (or if you're under 50), you may not know the name, or you may know it only from the ancient Kingston Trio song. Dooley, a Notre Dame grad, was a Navy doctor in World War II and went on to work in southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, rescuing 600,000 Catholic Vietnamese and relocating them to South Vietnam. God, Country, Notre Dame. Dooley epitomized the Notre Dame spirit of service to humanity and, above all, love of the university, a love immortalized by a bronze plaque at the Grotto bearing an excerpt of a letter he wrote in December 1960, as he was dying of cancer in Hong Hong, to University President Fr. Ted Hesburgh:
But just now . . . and just so many times, how I long for the Grotto. Away from the Grotto Dooley just prays. But at the Grotto, especially now when there must be snow everywhere and the lake is ice glass and that triangular fountain on the left is frozen solid and all the priests are bundled in their too-large too-long old black coats and the students wear snow boots . . . if I could go to the Grotto now then I think I could sing inside. I could be full of faith and poetry and loveliness and know more beauty, tenderness and compassion.

The only thing that could possibly tarnish the image of the revered Dooley, the sainted Dooley, in the University's eyes, is the fact that he was most likely a gay man. That's why they SoulForce guys wanted to put their wreath at his feet. And for bringing up that uncomfortable truth about a Catholic university's poster boy hero, the riders were charged with criminal trespassing and the students were threatened with suspension.

I knew before, of course, that ND is a pretty conservative place. Hell, half the students are enrolled in the College of Business Administration, most come from affluent families, and it's Catholic. But I still managed to think the best, to focus on the social justice preached from the pulpit most Sundays when I went to Mass at the Basilica, to remember the spirit of the Notre Dame family that buoyed me through countless days of adolescent angst.

No, I didn't go there. I got in and was named a Notre Dame Scholar, thankyouverymuch, but received a better scholarship from Northwestern and so went there instead. But my heart never left Notre Dame. I had gone to high school across the street from campus and lived just a few blocks away, attending Mass there and even biking over for vespers every evening in the summertime. I spent hours at the Grotto near Dooley's statue, sometimes praying, sometimes meditating, sometimes just sitting and soaking in the history and vibes of the place. Even after my mom left South Bend and I moved to Chicago, it was the home I always came back to. It was a constant, and my place there was secure.

I sit here and type this with the aid of a mouse scooting across a Notre Dame mouse pad. I have ND shirts for every day of the week. My office is divided from the larger lab room, in part, by a Notre Dame flag. A hockey jersey autographed by the captain of the '81 -'82 team hangs on my wall. There may be a link in the sidebar on the right to the DomeCam. On October 21 of this year, when Brady Quinn's 45-yard toss settled into Jeff Szmardzija's hands to cap an improbable comeback against UCLA, I damn near hit my head on the ceiling, and when the players stood arm-in-arm in front of the student section after the game, singing "Notre Dame, Our Mother," the tears in my eyes came from that particular swelling of the heart and soul only the Golden Dome can inspire.

Yeah, if you understand, no explanation is necessary; if you don't, well, it probably all seems more than a little psychotic.

When I came out, I worried about rejection from several different quarters. I didn't think to worry about Notre Dame. So when I read about the SoulForce kids being arrested, the students suspended, and the fact that AllianceND (the campus GLBT group) is not only not officially recognized by the university, but also barred from meeting on campus, it felt like a personal kick in the teeth. Yes, yes, I know ND's conservative, but... this is me. It was minus an order of magnitude, perhaps, but still very similar to the feeling when my coming out to my dad didn't go as well as I'd expected. Yes, I know he's conservative, but, but, but... this is me.

Dad's still in the process of coming around, seven years later, but at least it's in progress. What's the dad:university ratio? How many years does that mean it will be before the university so many of us love and consider a spiritual home decides to come around and accept all of its children unconditionally?
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley,
Hang down your head and cry.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Wages of Age

God, I'm old. Sometimes I say an event or, say, a weekend was more fun than I should be allowed to have. This weekend was one of those, and the issue apparently is not how much fun I should be allowed to have, but how much fun my cranky aged body can stand to have.

Friday night was Gaelic Storm, playing to a decent house at the Rialto. I am a very bad lesbian. I keep falling in love with male Irish guitarists. God, can those boys (and the female fiddler) put on a show. Excellent guitar by the scruffily cute Steve Twigger (friend of Woy Wogers? I must ask), fine accordion and showmanship by Pat Murphy, most excellent work on the bagpipes, tin whistle, and uillean pipes by the Canadian guy, who was raffled off after the show. I stopped drinking at the intermission when I realized I was about one pint away from buying every CD and shirt they had, as well as putting in a bid on Mr. Twigger. The only disturbing image was the piper playing the electronic bagpipe, which is basically a chanter hooked up to a cord. Well, that part's fine. The bad part was the way he held it. Conversation in the bathroom line:

Me: The piper is really good.
K: Except that it looks like he's playing his penis.
Woman in front of K: He was totally playing his penis.
Me: So I guess it really is a bag pipe.

Anyway, the evening featured three Guinness pints that were more or less danced off, so I told myself, having crowed beforehand with K about Guinness' relatively low caloric and carbo baggage. Jesus. As thrilled as I was to have gotten through three without falling down, it bothered me to be evaluating my beers on the basis of carb levels. Truth be told, it bothered me to be excited about getting through three without falling down. In the old days that would have been naught but a warmup act.


Saturday saw three more beers go through the system, albeit over a longer span of time than Gaelic Storm's first set (love them! did I mention that already?). The family started hitting town, the first wave being my uncles and their wives, which meant a trip to El Charro for piles of carne seca.

Maybe it was the last beer on top of a slightly dehydrated day. Maybe someone in the kitchen selectively poked my plate, my girlfriend's, and the part-time housemate's. Maybe, by pure coincidence, the three of us developed carne seca intolerance at the same time. Gastric distress ensued and lasted through the next morning. It is not a hangover, I kept telling myself. I am certain this is sheer coincidence.

Sunday, then, started out on something of a draining note, built up on a crescendo of a soccer game on a hot field, and finished with the clanging cymbals flourish of the Fourth Avenue Street Fair.

Several thousand people on 4th Avenue.

I didn't buy anything, but did notice many different vendors and cool stuff. Wheat weaving! Metal art! Blue fading to purple was the glaze de rigeur at every ceramics booth. And it was heartening to see that not many people dragged their dogs out onto the hot asphalt.

Blown-glass octopus I coveted mightily. But I left my $95 in my other pants.

So I spent a dollar on the KXCI prize wheel and picked a Built to Spill single out of the box. Not bad. The rest of the evening was devoted to dinner and more than I am used to drinking, even though "more" here means "two or three followed by a glass of red wine." Monday was rough. I am officially a lightweight. Why, oh whyyyyyyyyy?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bil Asks, Bil Receives

From Bil Browning:
I'd like to ask you to point your readers to my most recent post (a few minutes old!), Tony Dungy and the whole shebang. I'm pointing folks to the American Values Alliance's site - let's send them some money as versus the cash raised for the Indiana Family Institute. The AVA will put the money to good use. I know, I'm the Executive Director. :)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Busy, Busy

I really meant to do a stunning photoblog of my very exciting life as a lab archaeologist, but forgot to bring my camera to work. Picture the scene when you drop a beer bottle on a tile floor, and then scoop up all those shards of glass plus a thousand more, pretend they're made of flint instead of glass, and dump them in a pile on a desk. Add some calipers, a digital scale, a keyboard, and several cups of coffee to get the full effect of my daily professional existence.

All those tiny rocks tax my sanity enough to require occasional distracting breaks. I should have learned by now to just look at pictures of puppies, but instead, my status as an expatriate gay Hoosier has led me to Bil Browning's blog and the posts about Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy's efforts on behalf of the anti-marriage equality lobby in Indiana.

The volume of comments left on those posts were enough to crash Bil's server yesterday, and the mean-spiritedness and downright asshattery in their content was enough to crash my good mood. Cruise through the comments to see my very astute musings, if you want; not much point in cross-posting them here except for ego stroking, and the asshats have beaten that ego down to just about nothing.

Gaelic Storm at the Rialto tonight.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Brief Respite from the Madness

Gonzo's on his way out but the boys bogged down in Baghdad are not. Garrison Keillor apologized, sort of, but I still don't get it. Property taxes are up 25%.

So, naturally, my thoughts turn to books. The latest reads in the Boltgirl household have been The Mammoth Cheese, by Sheri Holman, and Lighthousekeeping, by Jeanette Winterson. The storycrafting of The Mammoth Cheese evokes Jane Smiley at her best, with the bonus of being free of annoying characters I would sooner strangle than read one more sentence about. Think Moo and Lidie Newton, or A Thousand Acres before people start going nuts. Anyway.

I had looked forward to Lighthousekeeping for a long time, after reading excerpts on Winterson's website, and I'm not sure if I am let down or merely finally comfortable enough with her writing style that it didn't register as much more than a blip when I finally read it through in one sitting. It was okay. She plays around with the narrative structure in a different way than in the other books of hers I have read (granted, each one is an exercise in a different style), and it works. Pew is a good character, not one of her most fanciful creations, but serves his purpose well.

NCAA basketball? My men's bracket is hopelessly screwed and my women's is heading toward a tanking as well. No big bucks coming my way this year. Kim Malkey still annoys the shit out of me. But at least there have been a few stunners on the women's side to make up for the general lack of upsets by the men. Go! Heels!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Four Years of War

March 19, 2003, I was propped up in the living room watching TV through the fog of a major concussion. I dimly remember the flashes of shock and awe against the Baghdad skyline, the hazy green night vision images of the 82nd Airborne parachuting into the city, the breathless dispatches from embedded reporters, the vague sense that we should be worried for the boys in the army and marines but that it was going to be another 52-hour Gulf War cakewalk with a few scratches and more casualties from traffic accidents than from hostile fire.

My head hurt and my stomach lurched through appointments with neurologists I can't remember to this day. I know my partner and the kids were there at home with me, but all my recollections are of being alone with the jigsaw puzzles I obsessively worked, and the war on TV constantly.

It took a full year for my brain to completely emerge from the fog. And today, March 19, 2007, four years after the beginning of the war that Rumsfeld assured us would be over in no more than six months, the war that Cheney assured us would resolve with US troops being greeted as liberators? Today 3,217 Americans are dead, no one can say for sure how many Iraqi civilians have joined them, and the fog of war is thicker than ever.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday Music Smackdown

Whatever. I read and re-read the Keillor column and roughly a bazillion comments on each side and still am missing the big obvious boat on what a brilliant piece of satire it is. And in the process I managed to be so deeply ironic and satirical myself that even I didn't notice my own apparently brilliant argument that gays don't have to put their kids before their own lives, as the anonymous commenter on the last post pointed out.

Which only goes to show that you can take the girl out of the southern Illinois trailer park, but even a tornado won't take that trailer from where it's firmly jammed up my ass, impacting not only the sigmoid colon but the complex reasoning centers of my brain as well. Thanks for that. I remain befuddled.

In that case, I'll forego misguided social commentary/rabid gay hypersensitivity/lack of reading comprehension or understanding of literary devices for the rest of the afternoon and point Irish-minded readers in the direction of Liz Carroll and John Doyle. Saw them last night at the Berger Center and was blown away. This was the first time I'd seen Carroll live. The fiddle remains elusive to me, maybe because of how in untrained hands it sounds like a cat being skinned alive, so when I watch a master at work (like Carroll or Eileen Ivers), it's pure magic. Doyle just makes me want to burn my guitar. He is an amazing craftsman, both on guitar and mandolin. I first saw him years ago when he was touring with Ivers and the incomparable Jerry O'Sullivan, and tentatively fell in love. It's a sealed deal now. I could listen to him forever.

In a side note, all Green Linnet CDs are 20% off through the end of the month.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

In Which We Realize We Spoke Too Soon

There is some fresh outrage left after all, I find, when the attacks come not from the predictable right but from someone I thought was on my side. Sort of like when I came out to my dad.
I’m used to being attacked by right-wingers obsessed with gay sex and fixated on anti-gay stereotypes. It’s a new and different sensation to be attacked so crudely by a man of the left—particularly when that man’s fat ass squats in a large glass house.

Garrison Keillor's mind-boggling column trashing same-sex parents on, here. Dan Savage's most excellent takedown (and the source of the above quote), here.

while opinion is divided, comments on, Slog, and other blogs are running about 4-1 in favor of "wtf" over "satire." Keillor's column was baffling, given his progressive track record, which in itself tends to support the possibility that it was intended to be satire. However, I'm disinclined to accept that, if for no other reason than that a writer as experienced and precise as Keillor (whether you like him or not, his ability as a wordsmith is pretty much beyond reproach) should be able to understand that satire only works when it's thinly veiled. Readers need to be able to see through the absurdities on the page; they must function as a lens through which society's shortcomings and leaders' failings are magnified and made clear. The kinds of cues needed to accomplish this are absent in this piece. When the end result is bafflement, not only is the piece not effective satire, but it becomes something that can be used against the very cause it's purportedly written to support.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Another Big Gay Boat Ride Post

A co-worker who has been out in the field for the better part of the past month was back in the office this morning, catching up on the past few weeks' worth of low-grade work drama and the outrages of the greater world. Again, the latest blows raining down from various quarters shock and sting her, while my sense of them is older, less acute. Punch the same spot on my shoulder over and over and eventually it begins to numb, successive hits blurring into a dull ache. She feels them only indirectly, but because of that sympathetically feels each one in the distinct sharpness of the slapping sound it makes.

My co-worker is straight, and stunned to have heard, in the last fourteen days or so, Ann Coulter smugly and publicly call John Edwards a faggot and Joint Chiefs Chair General Peter Pace piously and publicly call homosexuals immoral. Have these things become more prevalent in the last few years, she wonders, or are we just more sensitized to them by the paradoxical evolution of our societal sense that kneejerk attacks on gays aren't that acceptable any more?

In either case, she's appalled and angry.

Me? I think I spend far too much time online, so I find out not only about the high-profile salvos from Hardaway and Coulter and Pace but also the ones that go to more specific, second-tier audiences (such as Michael Savage) or the ones that only hit the local news and then are picked up by the gay blogs (such as the 72-year-old gay man in Detroit beaten into paralysis and, two weeks later, death). When the world is aggressively sought out in this fashion, the barrage is unrelenting.

It makes me tired more than anything. Tired of consequence-free bigoted approbation coming from "legitimate" sources who would be pilloried if they made the same broad, sweeping, blatant distortions and lies about a religious or ethnic group. Tired of public figures and private individuals getting a free pass for the ugliness they spew and the oppression and violence they sow because "it's the way I was brought up" or "it's what my religion teaches."

Tired of wondering what fresh crap my son will have to put up with tomorrow or next week because his mom's a dyke. Tired of wondering how many kids are going to find themselves kicked out of the house tomorrow because they gravely miscalculated how safe they were in coming out to their parents. Tired of hearing other people reduce my entire existence, and the lives of people like me, to a single sex act they find repulsive.

Tired of the sting not being sharp and fresh any more.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dick! Dick! Dick!

Dick Cheney has plenty to say about the Democrats' hazy plans to end the war by curtailing funding for new troops:
"When members speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines and other arbitrary measures, they are telling the enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out," Cheney said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Of course, when our guys are outnumbered 1,000 to 1 and regularly blown up by devices that don't pose much risk to the insurgents planting them--unlike, say, the risk of injury or death sustained by people who engage in an actual firefight--watching the clock between explosions and waiting is pretty much the strategy of choice too.

Amazingly, Cheney hasn't had much to say about another issue at the center of presidential war spending, you know, the surprise announcement that obscene war profiteering, no-bid contracting, Cheney pension paying Halliburton is moving its headquarters to Dubai.
Texas-based Halliburton, which was led by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995-2000, did not specify what, if any, tax implications the move might entail. It plans to list on a Middle East bourse once it moves to Dubai -- a booming commercial center in the Gulf. The company said it was making the moves to position itself better to gain contracts in the oil-rich Middle East.

"This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years," said judiciary committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.

Halliburton's malfeasance is responsible for a sizeable chunk of the war's drain on the treasury ($2.7B in overcharges, at last count) and enormous profits for its executives and shareholders ($2.3B last year, a record). And now Halliburton is a Dubai-based corporation that will be pouring exactly no tax dollars back into the American treasury to, say, help fund the VA programs and hospitals returning soldiers and marines rely on to patch up their bodies and psyches. In the face of this, Dick Cheney has the temerity to castigate the Democrats for "not supporting the troops" when they show signs of balking at continuing to dump dollars on the conveyor belt running to the Iraqi incinerator.

Dave Lindorf at the Atlantic Free Press sees something darker than mere profit lust at the base of the Dubai move, given comments describing the move as "putting Halliburton in the 'primary theatre of the entire product' and a 'move into the hub for the entire world':
So how do we feel knowing that virtually the entire supply line for our over-extended troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is now in the hands of a Dubai corporation, and that it has its hooks into the central policy arm of our government, Blair House and the Office of the Vice President?

Next time Halliburton’s KKR subsidiary serves our troops toxic, bacteria-ridden food, or puts untreated Euphrates River water into their canteens, maybe we should look harder to see if this was just another case of corporate corner and cost-cutting, or whether something more sinister was at work.

We — and members of Congress, if they still remember how to do their job — ought to be asking whether Halliburton's move to Dubai has anything to do with anticipated business should Cheney get his way and the U.S. attacks Iran this spring. Since such a war would inevitably include the destruction of much of Iran’s state-owned oil industry, it would represent a huge new business opportunity for Halliburton, which first and foremost is an oil-services company.

This smacks of a little too much tinfoil conspiracy thinking for my tastes, but the Iran possibility could certainly be a tasty little chocolate shaving atop the larger tax-break cream pie Halliburton's helping itself to. Shame has become a rarer commodity than oil.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sudden Onset Summer

Summer slammed into Tucson yesterday, as if it had been hiding behind a saguaro in order to jump out at us when we least expected it. It came on much the way winter did, all of a sudden after weeks of mid 50s, clouds, and occasional rain. Then wham, Wednesday brought sun and 80s and I don't think we're looking back. It was like hopping a plane and getting off in a different place, with no gradual acclimation. The sun is suddenly staying up later, or maybe I'm just noticing it now because I'm driving around after dinner with the windows down and can see the light and feel that the thermometer isn't threatening to bottom out with the clock.

The change of seasons, abrupt as it may be, always reminds me that my frame of reference for such things is firmly anchored in my school days. I still get the whiff of carefree summer days right around the corner, and in unguarded moments am driving my dad's truck around a little town in southern Illinois instead of dodging traffic on Campbell Avenue in Tucson. It's a different place and I'm a different person.

This evening I put in this season's crop of doomed tomato plants. No peppers were to be found in three stops at different big box stores; perhaps they heard through the underground that they should hide when I come calling to escape a certain yellow, crispy fate. The cilantro breathed a sigh of relief when it was potted in terra cotta and placed inside the kitchen window. Here's hoping for at least a salad's worth of fruits before the hundred-degree days take their toll.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

On Being Michael Savage's Syrup of Ipecac

Yes, these days we do need a scorecard to keep track of which right-wing commentator made which bigoted statement about gay people; no news there. No news, old news, so what else is new? They're coming with jaw-dropping speed and frequency, almost to the point of making it difficult to keep getting worked up about them, but if we don't get worked up I fear the attacks will regain some cachet of 1950s legitimacy.

I will leave the business of Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a faggot, for now, since she's being thoroughly shredded and eaten even by fellow conservatives.

Michael Savage, though, gets a special (if overdue) shout-out this morning. Savage presented his radio audience with this little tidbit (a clip of Melissa Etheridge's Oscar acceptance speech) on February 26:

ETHERIDGE: I have to thank my incredible wife, Tammy, and our four children, Becky and Bailey and Johnnie Rose and Miller, and everyone --

SAVAGE: Turn it off. Get her off my show. I don't care what her name is. I don't like a woman married to a woman. It makes me want to puke. How's that? I want to vomit when I hear it. I think it's child abuse.

He repeated the "child abuse" accusation shortly thereafter, although it was nearly swamped by the other bon mots used to describe gays:
You say there are people who are sexually confused, who think that they're men when they're women. They're not normal. Normal people are not like that.

Maybe the police will come and take your child away in a few years if these scum-sucking vermin continue this brainwashing garbage.

So we get the gist: gays are child abusers, and raising a child in a home with two parents of the same gender is abusive. Too bad Mr. Savage wouldn't know what real abuse was even if it slapped him in the face.
Normal people are like Mommy and Daddy. Mommy and Daddy are normal.

Because straight is normal. And normal is not abusive. So when Daddy bundles eight-year-old you into a single-engine plane and crashes that plane into Grandma's house to get back at Mommy for divorcing him, well, that's not abuse. Or when Daddy kills four-year-old you and stuffs your body into a plastic tub in a storage unit and is strongly suspected of offing your five-year-old brother as well because Daddy's in a nasty custody dispute with Mommy, gee, that's not abuse either. But when Melissa Etheridge accepts her Oscar and, like every other Oscar winner, lovingly references her partner and children, that's abusive.

Is that hyperbolic on my part? Yup, totally. Because while rational people would not project these two cases of heterosexual filicide onto all heterosexual parents as evidence of their unfitness to raise children (despite the reporting of such heinous acts on a near-daily basis), anti-gay people tend to seize on any individual instance of child abuse by a homosexual (whether that person is a parent to the abused child or not) as rock-solid evidence that gays shouldn't be anywhere near kids, let along allowed to parent them.

And then, most disturbingly and dangerous of all, are the people like Mr. Savage, whose visceral reaction at the mere thought of gay parents--even loving ones--is all the evidence they need to "prove" that gays are abusive, abnormal, uh... scum-sucking vermin.

At least he's honest. He's the face of anti-gay bigotry laid bare, stripped of the Bible-based, child welfare-based, natural law window dressing piled on, layer after layer, in an attempt to conceal the nonrational gut reaction at the base of all the opposition to civil rights or even recognition of gay humanity: If it makes me want to puke it has no right to exist.

Thanks, Mike. You're a beautiful fucking human being.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Here We Go Again

Here we go again, gearing up to go around again.
In November, Arizona became the first and only state in the nation to turn down a measure defining marriage.

Now Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, says he is counseling Arizona lawmakers to make sure they offer a more acceptable ballot measure next time around — one that doesn't ask voters to deny benefits to couples.

Great. The anti-marriage equality Prop 107 narrowly failed at the polls last November, purely because the campaign against it went to great lengths to avoid all but the most oblique or buried (three or four clicks deep on the website) references to gay people. It was probably too much to hope that the anti-gay side would stand down after that volley failed, content with banning same-sex marriage at the statute level rather than by constitutional amendment. Way too much to hope, as it turns out.

But forces in this state have already said they won't settle for anything less than a constitutional amendment that makes it illegal for even straight couples to enter into civil unions or receive domestic-partnership benefits.

"I strongly disagree with Matt Daniels' comments," said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which authored Proposition 107. "Our goal has been to protect the institution of marriage, not just the name of marriage."

Bullshit. Your goal, Ms. Herrod, has been to kick gay people in the teeth any way you can under the guise of a moralistic "will of the people" ballot measure. If you wanted to "protect marriage" according to the arguments your side has spewed, you'd do better to outlaw divorce, outlaw civil weddings (and perhaps any religious weddings not performed under the auspices of a Christian or Jewish ceremony), and mandate procreation.

Of course, this forces me into the paradoxical position of having to root for a Herrod-formulated proposition to be the one landing on the next ballot, given that version's failure the first time around. If the Center for Arizona Policy puts forth a reworded measure explicitly denying civil unions or benefits only to same-sex couples, while preserving them for straight couples, there's no way it would pass constitutional muster. The downside would be the huge symbolic gobsmack of seeing exactly how many of my fellow citizens would gleefully vote for such a vindictive piece of legislation.

It wouldn't be surprising, but that wouldn't make it any less sad.

The Center for Arizona Policy's mindset is summed up by this passage from their position paper on "Public Policy and the Church:"

Sure, Christians could and should strive to obey God's Word without worrying about everyone else. But if we really believe that God loves everyone, and we know that His revelation about how we should behave would benefit everyone, isn't it the ultimate expression of Christian love to strive to have public policy reflect the perfect wisdom of God's law in every way possible?

So hey, we could go ahead and live and let live, but wouldn't it be so much more loving for us to impose our narrow interpretation of our religion's holy book through legislation compelling everyone in the country to live by the rules we chose for ourselves? Fuck. What truly galls me is when these people insist they're not really Dominionists; it's just that their vision of perfect wisdom to be enforced with the cudgel of the law coincides--amazingly--with a fundamentalist reading of the Bible. And then they howl that by not formalizing Christian religious dicta into American civil law, we're forcing the True Christians to live like us heathens.

Mandating marriage equality does not compel straight fundamentalist Christians to marry someone of their same gender or eschew a church ceremony, any more than legalized abortion compels all pregnant women to go in for a D&C. That's the reality-based version of the world. In their twisted zero-sum version of the world, opening all civil contract law to all competent, consenting adults constitutes the creation of special rights that diminish their own.

I am sick of it all.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Measles shot? Check. TB? Check check. HPV? Aaaaaiiiieeee!!!!

Chalk this one in the column of ongoing things I just don't understand. This would be the Gardasil kerfuffle, the consternation raised by Merck's introduction of a vaccine that has tested at near-100% effectiveness in preventing two of the most common strains of cervical-cancer-causing HPV. One in four women carry the virus, which can be identified as causal of nearly 70% of all cervical cancers.

The rational world short version: get the vaccine before becoming sexually active and dramatically decrease your chances of contracting cervical cancer.

The fundamentalist short version: get the vaccine and have carte blanche for a lifetime promiscuous, unprotected sex starting right now.

Actually, that's not really fair to fundamentalists, since they're not the only ones balking at vaccinating preteen girls against a sexually transmitted disease. Some people object to the cost ($400 for the three-shot regimen), others to the addition of another mandatory vaccine to a growing list of requirements for their kids to attend school, others to the sense of a creeping nanny state... and some otherwise rational folks just get the willies when faced with the need to dovetail "sex" and "my daughter" into the same thought. Even the revered Ellen Goodman isn't completely immune:
Nor am I surprised that parents are queasy. It's not easy for any parent to accept that their middle-schooler should get protection from a sexually transmitted disease, even with the risk of cancer.

This queasiness is shared by other people I have talked to, people who, again, are usually more in line with what I consider clear thinking [disclaimer: granted, I'm a generally leftish nutter, but still].

Me: What's the problem with it?
Them: 12-year-olds? They shouldn't even be thinking about sex.
Me: That's exactly the point. You need to administer the vaccine before they're sexually active for it to have the best chance of working.
Them: Yeah, but 12?!?
Me: ...

If HPV were spread as innocuously as mononucleosis or viral meningitis, in morally neutral ways such as getting sneezed on or sharing a can of soda or--brace yourself--kissing someone, as even abstinent teenagers are wont to do, we wouldn't be having this discussion. There might be outrage at the cost, but not at the mere idea of vaccinating children against a virus that can lead to suffering and death when they become adults.

People who don't skip a beat when talking about their dreams for their far-in-the-future grandkids or wonder how much they'll have to pay for their daughters' weddings suddenly get green around the gills when forced to think about the sexual implications of those dreams and plans. Look, here it is. Your sweet little girl, god willing, is going to grow up someday, and will most likely engage in sexual intercourse with at least one person in her lifetime. Even if she completely abstains from sexual contact of any kind until she's in a committed relationship, there is absolutely no guarantee that her eventual partner will be HPV free.

And if you don't want to think about your daughter having consensual sex, should I even bring up the possibility that she will be sexually assaulted at some point? How about the fact that one in three victims is under the age of 12?

Cervical cancer is only one of a myriad of health concerns facing adult women in the US. But the vaccine has given us the chance to scratch one big bogeyman off the list. Uneasiness with the reality of your daughters' sexuality is a sorry excuse for balking at the opportunity to protect them against a completely preventable condition. The next time you dream about your grandkids, dream about them having a healthy mother.