Sunday, June 28, 2009

Concerning Obama on the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots

I've tried to refrain from weighing in too heavily on how gay rights issues are being dealt with by the Obama administration. I was cool with the argument that there are really big issues to deal with, because it 's true. There is no dispute. I was cool with the idea that BHO would get to GLBT issues eventually, and work to maintain his campaign promises, promises he did not have to make. I was excited when BHO called himself a "fierce advocate" for the rights of the GLBT community.

The novelty has worn off.

How does a self-described "fierce advocate" allow the nasty rhetoric of a brief defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to stand without substantive comment, and/or, preferably, a rescinding of said brief so that it could be re-written without the comparisons between gay marriage and incest and the like?

How does a self-described "fierce advocate" state clearly that he does not support the "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" law, then decide not to take the one legal option he has to circumvent the application of the law, through an executive order of stop-loss, or push Congress to act swiftly, especially when support for lifting the ban is at an all-time high across demographic groups?

How does a self-described "fierce advocate" remain quite silent as Vermont, Maine, Iowa and New Hampshire usher in marriage equality, in spite of that "advocate's" continued disagreement (now) based on religion over marriage equality? Wouldn't those who agree to disagree still offer congratulations?

Stephen Colbert offered a good explanation for this "fierce advocacy" on his show last week:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Stonewalling
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford

Feels close to the mark to me, and that's a shame. We don't need a "fierce advocate" like that.

Students of history will recognize that few civil rights movements have advanced as quickly as the gay rights movement, if you use today's anniversary of Stonewall as the start. Those same students also will recognize that never before in the history of this nation has the country been so poised to enact all sorts of laws advancing that cause. Yet, the party in power, under the leadership of the GLBT community's "fierce advocate," is acting as though it does not recognize the benefits of the confluence of these events.

So, I have a suggestion for our "fierce advocate." I think BHO should take a page out of the book of those whose actions he graciously noted we should recognize this month. Take a real stand against those who you think hold some sort of power over you, those who make you nervous about the so-called political implications of being on the right side of history. Fight back against those who want to maintain second-class citizenship for the GLBT community. Remember all of those people who fought back 40 years ago today, and look at how far the nation has come. "Fierce advocates" know that history, and they would also know what to do. Honor those who fought by doing what's right, and it will be one hell of a parade on the 41st anniversary of Stonewall.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Do You Remember the Time When You Fell in Love with a Michael Jackson Song?

Man, I was trying to process the death of Farrah Fawcett, and there I was sitting at Halo with friends, and the news of Michael Jackson appears. Now I am the first one to tell folks that I was not a big MJ devotee, like many. Yet, I fully recognize the power of his position within the context of pop music. He was (I cannot believe I am writing this so soon) the "King of Pop"; there is no dispute.

"Off the Wall" and "Thriller" were the albums that spoke to me the most. Though I love other artists, I am the first to concede that those albums were fucking off the charts. Man! His videos were iconographic, and he always had a presence, always. "Remember the Time" was my song though. The video seems to evoke an African beauty, and a spot on pop sensibility.

A friend of mine wrote that she felt that our childhood was over. From the Jackson 5 cartoon, to the rise of MTV, to the crowning of MJ as "King of Pop," Michael Jackson belonged to Generation X, all of us. I don't care if you were a fan of the hair metal bands, new wave, hip hop or contemporary country, Michael Jackson was a part of the Generation X world. Whether you loved him or not, you acknowledged him.

The king is dead; long live the king. And may he rest in peace, finally.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Don't Cry For Him Argentina

What is it with POTUS hopefuls and women? The moment WYFF in Greenville, SC reported that a Federal Marshal saw Governor Sanford in Atlanta boarding a plane, I, like many others, guessed he was having an affair. The mystery was the gender. So now Sanford admits to an affair with a woman in Argentina that he's known for years (did Mrs. Sanford know her too?). I am only jumping on this because it's guys like Sanford and Senators Ensign and Vitter, men who are so holier than thou when it comes to talking about the need to preserve the sanctity of marriage from the likes of people like me, who deserve these types of comeuppances.

What is it about power that seems to render these men incapable of thinking clearly with the head found at the top of the body? In the case of Sanford, I am just stunned that he was so ready to get out of SC that he didn't even do the minimum for his state Even if it hadn't been an affair, he needed to make sure that SC was prepared. Anything could have happened to him between Columbia and Buenos Aires.

Well, I ain't cryin.' Though I do admit that I feel sorry for his family. It takes a real ass to leave your family to hook up around Father's Day.


Jill Scott. What is there not to love? Incredible voice. Talented actress. Moving poet. Classic sistah/friend/diva beauty. The first time I heard Scott's voice was at the Uptown Movie Theater in Cleveland Park, here in DC, waiting for my movie to start. I have loved that voice ever since.

Jill Scott -- "Not Like Crazy/Free"

I am particularly fond of the song "Free," for reasons obvious to those who know me. Governor Sanford might appreciate aspects of "Free" too, but I digress.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Where in the World is...Governor Sanford?"

Imagine if BHO would have even thought of pulling a stunt like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. How do you simply disappear with no public word to anyone, including your spouse or your Lt. governor?

I suppose things will be alright now that Sanford is supposed to be back on the job tomorrow. I think the state's Lt. Governor Andrew Bauer will be scheduling a meeting very, very soon.

So, is this something we should expect if by some strange happenstance, Sanford became POTUS?

UPDATE: There has been an interesting development. So, was Sanford on the Appalachian Trail or not?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Which Would You Want in the Military, the Openly Racist, the Former Criminal, or the Openly Gay?

I read this piece by Matt Kennard at with real interest. By the time I was done, I felt even more angry about the policy of "Don't Ask; Don't Tell." The U.S. Military is continually, according to Kennard, relaxing or not enforcing the standards that govern who should be allowed in the military with regard to racist or criminal activity. Yet, it seems comfortable with the notion of drumming out gay or lesbian service members. WTF!!!!???????

It offends me to my core that there are straight up racists, intent on actual violence (eventually) within the U.S, allowed to serve this country. Our military is training these folks, shrugging its shoulders when evidence shows that they are infecting like a cancer our troops. Is it widespread? I hope not. But, it would no doubt send some on the right into full apoplexy if we focused on finding out. We all remember the reaction that hit DHS for a Bush era requested report on right-wing extremism (a reaction that pretended that there was not an earlier report issued about left-wing extremists), in spite of its prescience.

Let me break it down this way. My father was in the Marine Corps (Vietnam vet). My step-father was in the Army (Vietnam vet). One of my brothers was in the Air Force (first Iraq War vet). Both of my grandfathers were WWII veterans. I grew up in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. I care about the military. I recognize its value, and honor what it stands for. But it amazes me that I would not be welcome, just as I am. It bothers me even more that someone like me is seen as a threat to unit cohesion, while someone who is a gang member, criminal or supremacist (as long at he/she is straight) gets a pass.

That makes no damn sense.

UPDATE: The NPR show "Fresh Air" focused on DADT today. Here is a link on historian Nathaniel Frank's perspective on the issue, as well as information on his book Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America. And here is a link to Terry Gross' interview with Alex Nicholson, a recent veteran.

Monday, June 15, 2009

30 Years Later: Iran and Revolution?

I have followed with amazement the events unfolding in Iran. And I have really enjoyed the coverage that has been coming from The Daily Dish; it has been invaluable in trying to understand both what is happening on the ground, as well as what these events could mean.

So often, I've heard touted this idea that the Iranian people were actually fans of the West, much to the chagrin of the religious leadership of the country. I only remember flashes of the events from '79 (I was 11), particularly the taking of the American hostages. Following the freeing of the hostages, I hadn't given Iran much consideration. It was President Bush's naming the country as one in the "Axis of Evil" that brought Iran back into my mind.

I realized that I knew very little about the contemporary circumstances of the country, though I was familiar with the importance of Persia in the development of civilization generally. These past few days have really peaked my interest. If indeed the people of Iran want to become a part of the global community with peace at the fore, then I wish them well.

In the meantime, I am going to really look into what is happening there, and then I will give a more substantive post.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

So Who's a "Quintessential" American?

I've been sitting here trying to find a nice way of saying this, of being judicious and restrained. It's not working, so let me just put it out in the street: I friggin' loathe the idea that the "quintessential" American is essentially Scandinavian, with blond hair and blue eyes. Talk about an image that needs to be banished.

I was reading Andrew Sullivan's blog (a daily read), and he posted about the potential benefit of having an athlete come out of the closet, while still playing his sport (sadly, we are still misogynistic enough when we need a guy to come out to have the maximum impact). Sullivan provided a link to an article written by sportswriter Jeff Pearlman, "the gay athlete." Since I totally agree with both Sullivan and Pearlman on this point, I followed the link, read the article, and found myself nodding my head in agreement, up to a point.

In Pearlman's description of "Americana," he wrote the following: "...Americana—a symbol of all that is good and righteous about who we are and what we stand for. It is a warm day in the sun; a beer and a hotdog; red, white, and blue bunting and the national anthem before every first pitch. It’s a beloved blue-eyed, sandy-haired boy chasing down a long fly into the gap."

I was right there with Pearlman, until he got to that boy. Nope. Sorry. So not buying it. I just find it both fascinating and sad that this image of what is essentially an American has been sold all over the globe. If immigrants and foreign visitors see Americans as blond and blue-eyed, then where does that leave someone like me? I've an old friend, American, who is originally from Vietnam; he often refers to white Americans as simply "Americans." Yet, with other Americans, my boy will use racial and ethnic monikers. I've asked him where that description leaves Americans like me, like himself? He couldn't really answer my question.

I think that we have placed ourselves, because of our tortured racial history, into an interesting corner. I've heard many white Americans ask why American minorities will not simply be "Americans." It might be just a tad difficult when those same people might give a description of what is an American similar to what Pearlman has described.

All I know is that I am a multi-generational American, on both sides of my family. I know that some African country exists somewhere in the past, as does some European country, as does some east coast Native American community, but I am just as quintessentially American as the nearest "beloved blue-eyed, sandy haired boy." It's a shame that too many of my fellow Americans don't automatically see that too. The time will come when we can abandon that false physical image of an "American"; unfortunately, that time, apparently, is not 2009.

UPDATE: Please note that if you link to the Pearlman article, the photo is of a brotha with a rainbow flag in his hand. A friend suggested that I make that point, though I still hold that it does not really undermine my overarching argument.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Extremism in Action

My heart and prayers go out to the family and friends of Stephen T. Johns, the security officer who was killed this afternoon at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. His actions helped to save so many others who were in the museum this afternoon, and he should be honored for his sacrifice. My heart and prayers also go out to the family and friends of Private William Long, who was murdered at an Army recruiting station in Little Rock, AR at the beginning of the month (this story did not receive the coverage it deserved).

Extremism, regardless of ideological perspective, can breed hatred like that witnessed here in Washington and Little Rock (not to forget Wichita). The suspects in these cases had enablers who parroted things that no reasonable human being would ever believe, but these men did. And they acted. I am trying hard not to lay blame, but it is difficult to ignore the climate that we are in right now. Islamic and white racial extremism were the triggers here. As a society, we must do all that we can to tamp down the effects of outrageous and usually false commentary. If we don't, we will end up with more victims like Mr. Johns and Private Long, and we can't afford to lose people like that.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Obama's Speech on Gay Rights (?)

I have to agree with columnist Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post. BHO should indeed do a speech on gay rights, essentially give us all a taste of this self described "fierce advocate" for the cause. I agree with many that the gay rights movement is indeed the latest iteration of the broader American civil rights movement.

Since the White House decided to issue a proclamation at the beginning of gay pride month, it would be fitting for him to offer his words at the close of the month. June 28, 2009 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. I couldn't think of a better day to hear words from the POTUS.

When Some on the Right Lie

I have really come to appreciate the site Media Matters ( It has done an excellent job of sorting out the lies that are being put out there by the right. For the record, I would appreciate something that sorts out the lies that are put out by the left as well. Truth is the key here, as well as honest assessments of the things that are reported in the news.

Media Matters has an excellent post showing how some on the right are being quite open about fanning the flames of misunderstanding regarding BHO's trip to the Middle East. There are too many people in this country who accept, without even thinking, that anything related to Islam is inherently evil. One of my biggest critiques of the Bush administration was its effort to render complicated things simple, banking on the hope that Americans, impatient as we certainly can be, would simply accept what the administration had to say. Very few things in this world are simple. We, as Americans have to come to grips with that, if we really are to understand how the world, beyond our individual lives, works.

BHO's speech was good as an introduction to a new American strategy for engaging the Middle East. It was an appeal to the future leaders of the Middle East. It acknowledged the mistakes that we all have made (which is something too many on the right have difficulty bearing; yes, even the United States makes mistakes). Though I do not remember who said it, I agree with the idea that we will have seen a sea change when a leader from the Middle East could give a similar speech and live to tell the tale.

Please take a look, and see how some on the right, as Media Matters noted, have deliberately doctored BHO's words to serve their own ends, while presenting lies to the people who actually trust their words.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On Cheney: Truth Will Out

So what happens now? There remains a steadfast group of Americans who are convinced that Iraq and Saddam Hussein worked directly with Osama bin Laden in the planning for 9/11. Yet, the one person in the former administration who was "clear" about that connection during his tenure as VPOTUS has stated publicly that there was no connection.

I didn't support our going into Iraq, because I didn't believe the reasons presented by the Bush administration. I'd argued to friends that if the goal really was to get rid of Hussein, then assassinate him and install a more U.S. friendly regime. There was no need to create elaborate, and ultimately false, reasons for going to war with Iraq. I am still mad that we did not finish doing what we were supposed to do in Afghanistan, and I worry if it is now too late to salvage what we were supposed to be building there. And, it still amazes me that the most ardent fans of the last POTUS, as well as those who will invoke 9/11 at the drop of a dime (or the sound of dissent from their position), are not outraged that we did not get the person we fully know orchestrated the attack on the country.

Ultimately,we owe our men and women fighting in Iraq an apology. We sent them into war under false pretenses, in my opinion. It's beginning to look more like torture tactics were used to try to generate "intelligence" solidifying a link between Hussein and bin Laden. We abandoned Afghanistan, and let Pakistan stand idle while their leaders did nothing but cash checks from us. And, as Jon Soltz noted in his post on Huffington Post, some within the administration seemed to play up the religious aspects of the war, as though this were a 21st century crusade.

As much as I like BHO, I hope that I do not lose perspective and forget that he is simply a politician fully capable of making mistakes (how about that economic team) and disappointing his constituents (ask some in the glbt community right now). But, I wonder if any of those die hard supporters of the last administration will ever admit that their guys got it wrong (remember, I am talking about die hards; many of my conservative friends made their disappointments with the previous administration clear).

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Dave Matthews Band is Back!

I remember when a future roommate of mine from graduate school introduced me to the Dave Matthews Band in 1994. "Under the Table and Dreaming" remains one of my favorite albums of all time, and I loved the fact that the band was multicultural and multi-racial. It was like listening to music that reaffirmed my world view of diverse people coming together and working to create something beautiful and lasting.

Well, I am excited about the new album coming out tomorrow, "Big Whiskey and The Groogrux King." And it is a shame that Leroi Moore has passed away in the meantime. We were privileged to be able to listen to his saxophone playing. Check out the first release:

"Funny the Way It Is"