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2009
 

Menstuff® has compiled information and books on Gay, Bi, and Transgender issues. This section is Robert N. Minor's weekly column featured daily on our homepage. Robert is the author of Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He may be reached through www.fairnessproject.org or at E-Mail.

2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004

Beyond a “Day Without a Gay”
Don’t Let Up Progressive Pressure Now
An Overwhelming Sense of Victimization
Right-Wing Lies and Hypocrisy Shouldn't Surprise Anyone
Are You Sure We’re Not a Christian Nation?
“Is Stonewall Just Old History"
Reaping the Violence of Right-Wing Religion
Home: A Better Place for Using and Abusing Children
Will What the Professionals Say Finally Matter?
Keeping the Religious Right-wing Alive
‘Tis the Season of More Mythology
Marriage. Where Are We Now?

Beyond a “Day Without a Gay”


“Day Without a Gay” on December 10th was a predictable flop. Beginning somewhere as a last-minute protest against California’s Proposition 8, people were asked to call their employers to tell them that they’d miss work because they’re gay.

Then, the theory went, everyone would see how valuable LGBT people are. They’d get the point, regret any discrimination, and embrace our love for each other.

I’ve purposely not traced down the origin of this. Somewhere in some insular blog, one of many that only like-minded people read? Maybe Facebook friends?

I don’t want to know. Please don’t tell me.

I’m usually relieved that somebody’s doing something. And, on second thought, the attempt was successful in providing comedic material for two nights of Jay Leno. It enabled viewers to laugh at being gay, like Jack did on “Will & Grace.”

A charitable explanation is that the idea arose uncontrollably out of overwhelming enthusiasm, desperation, and frustration. Therefore, proposers saw no need to consult people outside of a privileged circle of those not threatened by it.

It was doomed to fail because whoever proposed it forgot that in most of the country people can still be fired -- and are -- for being LGBT. It didn’t consider (or maybe worse, care) that most aren’t high enough in the economic structure to live above discrimination’s consequences. It wasn’t in touch with the reality of other LGBT people’s lives where a boss who’s looking for a reason to fire them because they’re LGBT and legally can’t, now has legal cover: they don’t show up for work.

It would be nice if we all were self-employed, high enough in the economic class system, or working for bosses who’d think this was a fabulous idea that wouldn’t make these bosses look bad. But that’s not most of us. We’re still struggling to make it illegal to fire us for being LGBT so when we do get to marriage equality we can afford a ceremony.

The majority in any group not defined by class is working class. But if all we pay attention to are the images found in LGBT media, our efforts will leave our majorities out.

It’s probably one of the reasons why the Mormon and Catholic Churches were down-right surprised that anyone would be upset with them after they bankrolled Proposition 8. They’re insular too.

They aren’t reading about real LGBT people. They don’t know them as human beings with the range of emotions all humans possess. They discuss them as stereotypes defined for institutional prejudices.

The media and Internet have steered many of us to reading, blogging, surfing, watching, and relating only with those who agree with us. If people only watch FOX, the world looks corporate right-wing. If their friends are all like them, that’s the world.

I sat in a doctor’s office and noticed the older generation of patients reading the newspaper. The twenty-somethings text-messaged the whole time. Yet, insularity isn’t generational; it’s the modern corporate media world, including the Internet.

We speak to our own, hang out with our own, read about, blog about, and complain to our own. Eventually we begin to drink our own bathwater believing it’s champagne.

I’m not recommending we spend more time trying to figure out the radical right-wing who is addicted to their religion and political crusades. We can get stuck in that, getting worked up and endlessly, ineffectively complaining about the unreachable.

Their ideas haven’t changed in decades. Their strategies are quickly identified and seldom new.

I’m not recommending including people like anti-marriage-equality evangelist, Pastor Rick Warren in the inaugural festivities of a President. Given that only two months ago Warren was one of the most televised supporters of Proposition 8, comparing the marriages of LGBT people with incest and child molestation, Obama’s choice was an insensitive expression of heterosexual privilege.

For all the hope I invest in the President-elect, there was no reason other than symbolic to include this media-hungry, cagey, megachurch fundamentalist in the festivities. To respond that Obama did it to embrace inclusivity, or to attract the right-wing that will vote against him anyway, is to affirm the equivalent of promoting prime media exposure for a smiling pastor who spent money and time on TV fighting against the marriages of people of color by comparing their love to incest and bestiality.

For LGBT people, Warren at the inauguration says, first, that Obama believes they have no real power to affect his presidency. For all of their protesting, they’re considered toothless. Don’t even expect affirming symbolism. Evangelicals are more coveted than them.

Second, they’re being told to wait, it’s not their time yet. They should graciously accept all this from those who know better – they’re on the back burner when it comes to rights.

Great speeches and talking-points can’t dilute that symbolism. No matter how liberally Kum Bay Ya this looks, it contradicts a strategic principle of George Lakoff’s linguistic studies (The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st Century Politics with an 18th Century Brain, 2008) -- When you move to the right, you affirm and restore the right-wing frame. Warren’s frame must be worth moving toward in Obama’s world.

I’m not talking about trying desperately to convert people who raise money and crowds by condemning LGBT people to eternal hellfire unless they love the people the right-wing approves. They’re not open to admitting they’re wrong. They’re “open” for converting us.

I’m talking about relating to those in that movable middle who are potential allies if they feel we are their allies. They’re awaiting our presence, support, and voices of our experiences, which, if we pay attention, aren’t that different on a very deep level from their own.

Short-sighted LGBT leaders criticized the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for not limiting its work to gay issues (meaning issues personally affecting the critics) when, believing all oppressions are related, it decided to tackle racism, classism, and ageism. Fortunately, its inclusive approach has trained leaders who are now demonstrating around the country that LGBT people are humans working for all humanity.

The next “Day” will only work if we break these insular patterns no matter how uncomfortable that might be. For the long-term, each of us needs to identify our demographics and then begin to live outside their limitations.

Don’t Let Up Progressive Pressure Now


After a month of criticism, the Obama inaugural committee announced January 12th that Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop would offer an invocation at the inaugural concert on January 18 at the Lincoln Memorial. But then the committee also had to apologize for excluding TV coverage of Robinson’s actual prayer.

At this writing Obama’s people weren’t denying that Robinson’s last minute invitation was a response to intense, sustained criticism by progressives because a month earlier the team had announced that hard-line but smiling, right-wing, purpose-driven, mega-church minister Rick Warren would be on the actual inaugural platform to give the invocation at the January 20th swearing-in on the Capitol steps.

I’m waiting for straight answers. Robinson himself responded back in December to the news of Warren’s featured place by saying the choice was a slap in the face to himself and the whole LGBT community.

Warren, you remember, was a much-publicized supporter of California’s Proposition 8, which took marriage rights away from LGBT people. He compared the love of LGBT people to child molestation, incest, and bestiality. His church’s website refused membership to LGBT people – the page since removed to avoid further criticism, with no evidence of a policy change.

More important than this appearing to be a belated response, however, is, first, the fact that progressives didn’t give up on Obama in spite of this affront. They didn’t believe that, like the Bushites, Obama couldn’t be affected by progressive pressure. They applied counter-pressure to defuse the relentless, well-funded influence he will continue to receive from the Democrats and Republicans who would rather have him become more conservative.

The constant so-called wisdom from the mainstream media’s pundits is that the country is really “center-right.” If only the evidence supported that claim, of course. Even when McCain tried to scare us by portraying Obama as a “socialist,” there was no evidence the country cared.

But expect the unabated din of advice that Obama must govern as Clinton did – as a “centrist.” Today that means conservatively, for the reality is, as playwright Tony Kushner put it: “What used to be called liberal is now called radical, what used to be called radical is now called insane, what used to be called reactionary is now called moderate, and what used to be called insane is now called solid conservative thinking."

Keeping pressure on Obama in the midst of disappointment and feelings of betrayal from both gay and straight people who worked for him, was actually an act of faith and hope. While other liberals chastised them for holding Obama to this higher standard, divided the movement among those who wisely “understand” and those who are stubborn “complainers,” and told the critics to just sit down, shut up and take it “for their own good,” the hopeful reminded Obama that he has numerous supporters whom such things will upset.

Secondly, progressive critics used the moment to unmask the man who would like to be “America’s Pastor.” Unlike what the right-wing did with a few out-of-context sentences from Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, they unearthed the whole of Warren’s thinking and found nothing to distinguish it from the intolerance of the James Dobsons, Pat Robertsons, and John Hagees.

Since Warren believes that only those who accept Jesus will be saved from eternal torture, he has said Jews and others won’t make it, gay or not. And as a rejecter of evolution and women’s reproductive choices, Warren fits comfortably among the theocrats.

Even more telling is the now exposed reality about the very reason given by Obama’s advisors when defending the choice --Warren’s heavily publicized crusade against AIDS in Africa. Senior Obama advisor David Axelrod invoked this on a December 28th Meet the Press as a key response to progressive critics.

The Nation Institute’s Max Blumenthal writes that Warren doesn’t actually publicize many details of his much-touted AIDS effort for good reason. Blumenthal found that: “Warren’s involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating AIDS in favor of abstinence-only education.”

So even in this, Warren’s is the radical right-wing approach. And, as Blumenthal documents, one result of promoting the prevention of condom distribution due to Warren’s influence has been to reverse the dramatic gains against AIDS in the pioneering effort of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the 1990s.

Back home, when the late California Democrat, Rep. Tom Lantos, led the last Congress to lift the abstinence-only requirement imposed by Republicans in 2002 on African countries receiving US AIDS funds, Warren immediately flew to Washington. He joined Chuck Colson and other Christian right-wing leaders to kill any change and preserve the failing abstinence-only requirement. Now that sounds like a “crusade.”

Continual pressure by progressives and exposure of those who would move the new administration to the right are crucial now more than ever. There’s little time to rest.

One group that recognizes this is the Service Employee’s International. It has launched a “Change That Works” campaign. “Winning an election only provides an opportunity for change,” its President Andy Stern explains of the effort to hold the administration accountable to progressives through initiatives that echo past calls from the broader progressive movement.

In the January 14th Wall Street Journal, Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Mater with Kansas and The Wrecking Crew, warned against us letting down the push toward progressive change no matter how much Washington is enamored with the cult of centrism.

“There is no branch of American political expression more trite, more smug, more hollow than centrism,” he writes. It’s seductive, but its real function is to prevent the effective enactment of progressive policies.

“Centrism is a chump’s game. Democrats have massive majorities these days not because they waffle hither and yon but because their historic principles have been vindicated by events. This is their moment. Let the other side do the triangulating.”

Now, more than ever, it’s our patriotic duty to Obama and the new Congress to hold their feet to the progressive fire.

An Overwhelming Sense of Victimization


The student in my office was really convinced that as a male he was going to get a raw deal all around. He’d been accused by a female student in my largest class of stealing her I-Pod, and she had reported it to the police.

After questioning by the police, who found nothing, he sat in front of me and said: “I know this is a liberal school and so I’m just afraid that whatever a girl accuses me of, I’ll be considered guilty cause I’m a guy. I don’t think this is over.” He was visibly shaken, conveying a sense of hopelessness.

He worried that I’d hold it against him, I suppose as a “liberal” professor in what I consider a fairly middle of the road university that he considers leftist. Who knows, he was thinking, what could lie ahead for a white male like him?

I made a quick point: “My evaluation depends upon your work in class, and because this is a “liberal” place you’ll be considered innocent until proven guilty, like everyone else.” It sounded as if the police were done with the matter, and I couldn’t vouch for how a “conservative” place might handle this.

The doom never materialized. Things calmed down after the police completed their investigation. He’s in class acting like any student.

But what’s been running through my mind since is the fact that this nineteen-year old student who was privileged to come to the university after graduating from a private, all-male, college-preparatory school was already convinced that white males are getting an unfair shake and that “liberals” are the cause.

Enough ink has been spilt analyzing the feelings in many white males that they are victims of everything from feminism to affirmative action. So we know there are many sources.

And one of the standard dynamics of any oppression is that when a victim stands up to the oppressor, the oppressor flips into the victim role, even saying: “I’m the greater victim here, and no one’s paying attention to my victimization.”

There’s something tacky about it. But it’s a recognizable, ongoing theme in AM talk radio, FOX News, conservative blogs, and right-of-center books and articles – white men don’t have a chance anymore.

So many men have absorbed it that their anger surfaces quickly in disagreements when I discuss gender conditioning, no matter how much I speak of how men must be mistreated to be conditioned into the very American machismo that devalues women in comparison.

There’s no question about it -- men are hurting in our culture from the failures of an economic system ruled by other white men. But the spokespeople who benefit from that system don’t want their own privilege examined.

So they’ve honed the ability to focus attention on non-males and men of color who are also victims of the system. The result is a diversion that keeps people who should be allies in the fight to change the cultural-economic system that’s hurting them from doing so together. The energy is wasted fighting each other.

Rationality doesn’t prevail in this discussion, I’m sorry to say. The facts about which groups really do suffer from this cultural-economic setup don’t phase emotional responses.

Recent studies continue to show that women lag behind men in all economic categories. They still make 78 cents for every dollar a man earns in the same job.

And another study released this past month mirrored the national trend that women are gaining little ground as business leaders and even losing board director positions.

New unemployment data shows that as the recession continues women will surpass men on the nation’s payrolls. So, eureka, there’s data to use to support men’s victimization.

But this very fact is based upon the dominance of men in the major industries. Women dominate the lower-paid service jobs (hotel maids and food-workers) and most large-scale layoffs have been in male dominated industries that pay so much better.

Discussion of the feeling of male victimization, however, is so at a non-rational feeling level for many men that fear and hurt rule it rather than logical argument or evidence to the contrary from the broader culture. Facts become mere opinions, and untruths spread by the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O’Reillys are repeated constantly in support.

On top of this, the very masculine conditioning that keeps the system going still says men aren’t supposed to admit their fear, hurt, or confusion, especially to each other. Instead, real men are supposed to believe that they will beat the system by mastering it, not face the fact that they can’t without the help of others, that is females and men whom they see as less masculine.

Convincing well-conditioned men that we are all in this together and that the system, not those other human beings, is the problem, contradicts how “real men” are supposed to respond. The solution calls for connection, not further illusions that healthy manhood is isolatingly self-made.

So, anger and scapegoating are the responses. And attacking messengers who disagree brings temporary relief.

Since all people have stories of being hurt by another human being of any demographic, there’s always a convenient personal story that can be interpreted in terms of gender or race to support the feelings of victimization, and generalized on an entire group.

So, it’s an overwhelming mythology to fight to help our brothers see that the victim role isn’t a place to land. That there are hurts from individuals in everyone’s life that need the healing emotional attention men aren’t supposed to give them.

That adding our anger to that of other victims might really feel like the manly response, but it obscures the fact that the culprit is a system that’s inhuman to us all, a system that sets men up to emulate a role that gives them privileges at the expense of their full humanity.

That we have to recognize that sometimes we personally are the targets of what our gender has built in the past. And that it’s past time we took our part in breaking the patterns of masculinity that we didn’t choose, but have made things such a complicated mess.

It’s the tallest of orders.

Right-Wing Lies and Hypocrisy Shouldn't Surprise Anyone


All of us who follow incidents of right-wing leaders’ lies and hypocrisy, aren’t surprised by the new study reported by the Journal of Economic Perspectives that concludes conservatives use as much, and probably more, online pornography as more liberal people. It fits with the overall psychology of remaking the US in the right-wing’s image.

As for lying, whether it’s repetition of the false claim that the Employee Free Choice Act would prevent workers from having a secret ballot about unionization, or claims that LGBT couples can’t parent effectively, both the religious and the political right-wing lie repeatedly. When you’re a true believer, you think lying is just part of the war for Truth.

And the method the right-wing pursues, whether that’s on the 700 Club or FOX News is to lie again and again even in the face of others who’ve exposed the lie. Nazi Minster of Propaganda and close associate of Hitler, Joseph Goebbels identified the strategy: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

And Goebbels also hoped for a mainstream media with FOX News and others at the helm that was useful for repeating the big lie: “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”

It takes someone like Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart to aggressively confront the deceptions in a way that most corporate media fear doing. Stewart last month successfully campaigned that the so-called premier financial network, CNBC instead of critically reporting the business world’s collapse, had been in bed with its duplicitous CEOs, promoting their windfalls at the expense of every 401k owner.

Stewart had to do so by confronting CNBC’s responses to his criticism as lies. Since there’s tape of almost everything, it was painful to watch his smackdown of CNBC’s Jim Cramer of “Fast Money.”

Why Cramer would confront Stewart would be beyond me if I didn’t know that with oligarchy goes an arrogance that believes others can’t touch them. And crucial to the response of the financiers who got us into this mess is the message that the little minds of the rest of us just wouldn’t understand “big” finance. So, trust just them to fix the mess they made -- while they lap up their bonuses.

Just as lying is denial, so is the hypocrisy that condemns others so as not to face the inner demons that plague much of the right-wing. So says Harvard Business School’s Benjamin Edelman of the study of porn users: “Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by.”

The surprise would be if anyone is surprised by that.

This study looked at credit card data from 2006-2017 that indicated online purchases of pornography. Thus, it measured not merely those who consume porn online but those who actually subscribe to it, the more dedicated users.

Eight of the top ten pornography subscribing states voted for John McCain. Six of the lowest ten voted for President Obama. Residents of Utah were the largest per capita subscribers to porn.

Residents of twenty-seven states that have gay marriage bans have 11% more porn subscribers than those that don’t. States where the majority of residents agree with the statement: “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage” are higher subscribers than those where the majority disagrees.

Then it tied the results to previous studies of attitudes toward religion. It was almost humorous to hear that church-goers bought less online porn on Sundays whereas their expenditures on other days of the week were in line with everyone else.

It’s not hard to find explanations for the hypocrisy displayed in these and other studies, such as those surveying which states have the highest divorce rates. Remember, they found red states the highest and Massachusetts with same-sex marriage the lowest.

Edleman speculated: “One natural hypothesis is something like repression: if you’re told you can’t have this, then you want it more.” Or, as addiction specialists know: “repression leads to obsession.”

In the middle of a culture that’s sick about sexual activity, and a dominant right-wing religious message that sex is dirty, there’s much more involved.

Railing against sex is popular. It has proven religiously lucrative as a result. The cultural sexual anxiety fomented by the right-wing also provides the guilt and shame it needs to recruit its victims.

Religious addiction leads the right-wing to fantasize against all evidence, including their sexual experiences, that abstinence-only education promotes their sectarian values and discourages sex.

Then again, projection of one’s sexual insecurities and shame on others is a time-tested way to suppress those issues. We see this in the simultaneous fundamentalist condemnation of and obsession with same-sex sexual activity.

Religious addiction is also a standard way to repress sexual anxiety, guilt, shame, and addiction. Then it labels the sexual activity of those without sexual anxieties sick and sinful.

Amanda Marcotte, author of It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments, underlines another issue. The main selling-point of straight porn is its basis in gender stereotyping, she writes.

It’s geared toward men, not women, and the right-wing’s own worldview tells men to marry a “good girl.” You know she’s “good” because she’s not enthused about sex, especially sexual experimentation.

But males, the gender stereotype continues, really want sex and even experimental sexual behaviors. You can’t do that with your “good” wife. So, you’ve got to turn to the “bad” women online.

For some it goes further, Marcottte notes, with the growing market appeal of porn that shows men insulting, spitting upon, raping, or coercing women. A sexually liberated, feminist culture, she argues, would have less need for huge amounts of porn.

Before that happens, what we’ll continue to see and, I hope, be non-enabling enough to point out, is the scapegoating of everyone else for the sexual sickness of the right-wing. The more miserable they are, the more their denial must, and will, produce lies and hypocrisy.

Are You Sure We’re Not a Christian Nation?


When President Obama told a press conference in Turkey last month that, “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation,” the usual suspects reacted in the expected ways.

Those of us who value the ideal of our people’s civil rights and privileges not tied to any one religion or another appreciated his follow-up: “We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

The political and religious right-wing, of course, went bananas. No need to rehearse that here.

Their predictable expression of well-practiced outrage – OUTRAGE -- is all over the airwaves and Internet along with their repetition of bad history about the country’s supposed foundation on the Ten Commandments and the “Christianity” of our Founding Fathers. Those claims have been debunked again and again.

The problem is that, whether or not we consider it our foundational ideal, the country actually has been a culturally Christian nation. Christian symbols, institutions, and language have dominated discourse and thinking in the same way white, heterosexual, upper-class, and male have been privileged culturally. More than 62% of Americans still think the US is a Christian nation.

Members of other religions know how they have to keep up with, and react to, this dominance. The Jewish community understands how important Hanukkah has had to become in reaction to Christmas, which US courts have judged a cultural, not religious, holiday.

Yet, we also know that when anyone happens to point out the privilege someone participates in, a usual reaction is the feeling of victimization by the person from the privileged group, the rehearsal of how they have been individual victims of some individual not in their group. That’s what’s been happening to challenge those who are reacting in fear of loss of Christian privilege with resentment and revenge. And they’ve been responding for decades as if they are the victims of everything (“culture”) in the US.

The cover of the April 13th Newsweek offered no comfort for the fearful when it announced: “The decline and fall of Christian America.” The story reports that the current 62% in the Newsweek poll who think the US is Christian continues a decline from 69% last year and 71% in 2005.

There are other figures that bother the privileged. People who are agnostic, atheist or report no religion are up 3 points to 11%. 6% describe themselves as following non-Christian religions. 68% said religion is losing influence in American life, compared with 58% in 2000 and 39% in 1984.

Those who claim to have “old-fashioned values about family and marriage” have also decreased 13 points since 1987 to a current 74%.

In addition, the Gallup organization released the results of polls in 139 countries conducted between 2006 and 2008, concluding that: “in countries where a higher percentage of citizens say religion is important in their daily lives people are also more likely to say that their communities are not good places for ethnic or racial minorities to live.”

In the midst of all this, out-going guru of the extreme right wing religious/political institution Focus on the Family, James Dobson delivered a farewell speech to his staff that reflected all of this, especially his distain for Obama’s stunning political victory as the triumph of evil. “We are awash in evil and the battle is still to be waged. We are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say we have lost all those battles.”

“Humanly speaking” in right-wing religious speak, of course, means the evidence in front of us. But evidence neither deters nor softens the message of those dedicated to ensuring that America fits their sectarian religious image at the expense of anyone (the evil) in their way.

These are the people, after all, who use words like “tolerance” and “multiculturalism” as equivalents to satanic. So, Dobson and his ilk are not saying the culture wars are over. They’re not surrendering.

For the right-wing, they can’t. And that’s the most important point for us to understand.

They need psychologically to see the US as a Christian country. That’s why it’s important to repeat and support the writers who defend the inaccurate history about the founders wanting it to be so.

They need to remake the US into a culture that enforces their view of the Kingdom of God. That’s why they’re still working on it against all odds.

This puts them out of touch with the ultimate concern of their founders. In everything ascribed to Jesus of Nazareth, there’s nothing about his concern that the Emperor of Rome be a follower. There’s nothing in any of the New Testament about any effort to turn the Roman Empire into a Christian nation.

The basis for all this isn’t in Jesus or the Apostle Paul but in the need to feel, to be confirmed, to convince themselves, and to impress others, that they are right. Instead of “narrow is the way,” the so-called culture wars are based on the need to be in the majority in order to confirm their righteousness.

The rise of the political activities of the religious right-wing in the last five decades is rooted in their fear of being wrong because they were being marginalized by the culture. Faith in their god wasn’t enough.

Used by political and economic conservatives who otherwise laughed at them, I argue in When Religion Is an Addiction, they were ripe for the picking. Soon they could picture themselves as mainstream and, thus, vindicated.

It took too much faith to wait any longer for the constantly postponed Second Coming. Marching and rallying, and legislating against all that threatened them helped them cope.

So, even though the news, for the religious right-wing isn’t good, it’s not evidence that their viciousness, manipulations, expenditures, and stealth tactics are over. In fact, they’re likely to become more desperate.

As we watch the movie of the brave knight fighting the dragon, it’s when the beast seems to be slain that we know there will be at least one more swing of its powerful tail. And to assume the dragon is dead would be to miss its most potent blow.

Beware. 62% still think this is a Christian nation.

Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction, Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.fairnessproject.org.

“Is Stonewall Just Old History"


Forty years ago, June 28, 1969, a group of street people and drag queens in Greenwich Village enacted the “Bunker Hill” moment of the movement for equal rights for transgender, lesbian, gay male, and questioning people in the US.

This motley crew didn’t decide to hold a fund-raising event at some swank venue. They fought for their rights on a city street outside a sleazy gay bar.

They didn’t sit around complaining, theorizing, or rehearsing how they hadn’t been treated fairly. They already lived mistreatment personally and acted to end it.

They didn’t await approval from the leaders of existing LGBT organizations who felt dressing acceptably was necessary to gain acceptance in the system. They weren’t interested in looking “the same as you” – as straight as possible.

They didn’t seek the love and approval of their abusers. They fought for change in the power structure that was beating them down.

They fought back against another police raid at the Stonewall Inn that for them was the last straw in never-ending harassment. It wasn’t theoretical. They experienced it all personally.

The “Stonewall Riots” that were the result communicated the fact that LGBT people weren’t going to take it anymore. A year later the first Gay Pride marches took place in New York and Los Angeles commemorating “Stonewall’s” anniversary.

Everything about the activities of Stonewall is liable to offend somebody today. But it symbolizes ideas that go far beyond equality with straight marriages and gaining the attention of businesses that want to make money off of everyone equally.

First, its politics were local. It began where the hurts were.

Marriage equality is being tackled state-by-state while our President and most of our Congress want to support something less than marriage for LGBT people. The fact that our President will not support marriage equality is quoted regularly to support on-going discrimination.

In the midst of setbacks such as the California decision, our national LGBT organizations can be part of this progress to the extent that they return to the states a portion of the funds and activists they solicit regularly from locals.

Most other LGBT issues are local. Anti-discrimination statutes are more likely to come city-by-city, county-by-county, and state-by-state than from the federal government down. Our Stonewall-commemorating energies need to be there.

Second, the goal of the fighters at Stonewall was not to be liked or loved. How often do abused people seem to want to go further than ending discrimination and abuse as if they need affirmation from the dominant group to be okay?

Our goal is to end what’s hurting LGBT people and to marginalize those who hurt them, whether the right-wing and its religious mask ever love LGBT people or not. The objectors to equal rights are going to have to take care of their own multiple psychological issues, the many that manifest themselves in homophobia and the need to enforce the straight role on themselves and everyone else.

A student of color told me she was tired of affirmative action because when she did get rewarded, the assumption was that it wasn’t based on her merit – that really she was inferior, basically unqualified, or lazy. She was convinced that getting rid of affirmative action would solve that.

I asked her what the people who benefited from discrimination thought of people of her color before affirmative action. Without missing a beat, she shot back: “That we’re lazy and inferior.”

“So,” I asked, “before affirmative action they thought you were lazy and inferior, and after affirmative action they think you’re lazy and inferior. Doesn’t sound like a change. The question is: would you rather face those stereotypes with a legal chance to move ahead or without it?”

Third, the Stonewall fight for equal rights was about power – who has it, who will do anything to keep it, who’s power is built upon the status quo, and who must be confronted with alternative power.

Power doesn’t corrupt. It just gives those who don’t value equality over money and control the power to enforce their values on us all.

It’s power – moral, economic, intellectual, and communal – that convinces the powerful that there’s value in sharing their power. It’s not because we’ve out-niced them.

I know, I know. Liberal people don’t want to think in these terms. They’re hoping for the powerful to just get it by persuasive argument and continual dialogue. Then they’ll surrender their privilege and the profits that are based in discrimination.

Thank goodness the union movement years ago, or the civil rights movement, knew better about power. Where would we be if they’d have been constrained by fear of disturbing the peace?

They knew that power didn’t have to be mean, vindictive, or irrational. They also knew that it had to come from a personal sense that they were not powerless.

That’s why voting isn’t enough. Our political movements can’t just settle for periodically recommending whom we should elect.

They must unceasingly follow up with those we support, pressuring them to do the right thing. They must be there holding the office-holders accountable, as if we really do have power.

A vote next time around, politicians need to believe, should never be taken for granted. Those forces invested in present power know how to buy anyone’s political power.

In an interview with Tavis Smiley, Harry Belafonte recalled a story Eleanor Roosevelt told him. Her husband introduced A. Phillip Randolph and asked him: "what he thought of the nation, what he thought of the plight of the Negro people, and what did he think ... where the nation was headed."

In the end, FDR responded: "You know, Mr. Randolph, I've heard everything you've said tonight, and I couldn't agree with you more. I agree with everything that you've said, including my capacity to be able to right many of these wrongs and to use my power and the bully pulpit. ... But I would ask one thing of you, Mr. Randolph, and that is go out and make me do it."

“Make me do it,” presidential candidate Barack Obama repeated at a fundraiser in Montclair, New Jersey. He wanted a show of power.

Stonewall, then, doesn’t symbolize some of the models we wish would bring effective change. It really symbolizes what we’re prone to forget.

Reaping the Violence of Right-Wing Religion


The murder of George Tiller marks the eighth person and fourth doctor since 1977 killed in attacks on people working at women’s health clinics by people spouting formulaic right-wing rhetoric. Expect more attacks on representatives of a variety of “liberal” institutions with the growing right-wing culture of violence targeting those who threaten the comfort of their beliefs.

Enough commentators have documented the accused killer’s relationship to violent right-wing rhetoric, such as Bill O’Reilly’s, to evoke righteous-sounding denials by the “offended” right-wing. Others, such as Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, seem to celebrate.

The accused, 51 year-old Kansan Scott Roeder was a registered Republican who had been arrested for possessing bomb materials in his car, a member of an anti-government, white separatist group called the Montana Freeman, a sporter of a fish symbol with the word “Jesus” inside it on his car, and a regular at so-called peaceful anti-choice protests.

In 2007 someone identifying as Scott Roeder posted on ChargeTiller.com: “Tiller is the concentration camp ‘Mengele’ of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgment upon our nation.” He embraced the right-wing violent rhetoric: “holocaust,” “genocide,” “death mill,” “baby killer” and God’s judgment.

We know the standard response from the religious right-wing to such violence. They portray the Roeders they inspire as extremist psychos, isolating from them to deny any responsibility. They act as if the choice of killing an abortion provider would be the normal response of every mentally ill person, not one fueled by their demonizations.

LGBT people know this denial strategy. They’ve heard the words of right-wing preachers that demonize and dehumanize LGBT people -- with claims that the Bible or God are behind the righteous violence -- repeated while people harass, torture and kill them. The religious rhetoric of the right wing provides ultimate justification for such violence.

Yet religious right-wing leaders deny any responsibility, as if, after all, no one should take the words they constantly preach and yell seriously. Even Rick Warren -- the radical right in a Hawaiian shirt -- embraces this violent language with claims like: “Evangelicals consider abortion a holocaust.”

What’s happened since the rise of the Christian Coalition and the embrace of economic and military conservatives by the religious right-wing is the development of a religious culture of violence. It’s not isolated only among the most extreme. It pervades most right-wing Christianity today.

The Jesus they embrace isn’t the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount who tells them to turn the other cheek. He isn’t the one who told Peter to put away his sword when Peter tried to defend him, scolding: “Those who take the sword, will perish by the sword.”

They embrace the violent Jesus of the Biblical book of Revelation out of whose mouth comes a double-edged sword. They look forward to a literal fulfillment of Revelation’s destructive scenes with plagues, earthquakes, tortures, and battles destroying their enemies, the descriptions of the killing of a third of humanity, and blood flowing “as high as a horse’s bridle.”

As if Revelation weren’t graphic enough, they indulge in the sixteen books and videos of the “Left Behind” series that translate the detailed violence into contemporary techniques and liberal enemies. Harvard Divinity School professor Harvey Cox concluded that their appeal includes the "lip-licking anticipation of all the blood."

Time magazine commented: "the nuclear frights of, say, Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears wouldn't fill a chapter in the Left Behind series. (Large chunks of several U.S. cities have been bombed to smithereens by page 110 of Book 3.)" But the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association recognized the lucrative series with its Pinnacle Award in recognition of its “outstanding contribution” to “society at large.”

The torture employed by the Bush-Cheney presidency is fully defended (Who would Jesus torture?) by the culture of violence of the religious right-wing. But it’s nothing compared to the final eternal torture that they cherish for those who disagree with their violent beliefs – everlasting violence that they consider fundamental to their faith.

Hell, that place of unimaginable eternal abuse by a “loving” Father, will finally vindicate them. The long-held Christian belief that those in heaven will love watching others suffer eternally is reaffirmed in a 2005 book accepted as an MA thesis at Reformed Theological Seminary, entitled Seeing Hell. Quoting its thesis: “this knowledge and sight of the condemned dead is not troubling to the saints, but rather gives more cause for praises.”

And their emotional life includes the fear that without belief in that unending torture, no one would live morally. They need the prospect of such violence to act morally.

They promote the culture of violence in their sanctuaries. Such supposed places of refuge not only feature sermonic justifications of divine violence, but often feature films of it.

Mel Gibson’s Jesus-slasher movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” which film critic Roger Ebert called: “the most violent film I have ever seen,” and critic David Edelstein labeled “The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre,” is merely the best known. And parents take their children, even force them, to experience a film that Ebert said deserved an NC-17 rating, commenting: “no level-minded parent should ever allow children to see it.”

Right-wing religion is also one of the last bastions of the defense of hitting children. As Professor Donald Capps argued in The Child’s Song: The Religious Abuse of Children (1995): “It supports the abuse of children by providing theological legitimation for the physical punishment of children, and it more directly abuses children by promoting beliefs and ideas that are inherently tormenting to children.”

Plainly, right-wing religion itself has become a culture of violence. The result is guaranteed to be more violence played out against its enemies. That’s why it thoroughly embraces our war machine and unrestricted guns for everybody.

We’re not going to change this by expecting its devotees to agree with us. We must face it, speak up, and tell it like it is -- soon.

We might not want to say such things about people’s sincere beliefs. But we can’t afford to treat the right-wing religious culture of violence as more sacred than the lives of those it’s snuffing out.

Home: A Better Place for Using and Abusing Children


When children return to school, most will be safer there than at home. In spite of all the nostalgic attempts to keep us believing “the American family” is an idyllic refuge, statistics say that home is the most dangerous place for children.

It’s hard to believe because schools are a place where the violence taught by adults to children also gets acted out. But if the figures of victimization of children in our schools were even close to those for our homes, we’d be declaring it a national epidemic.

Making schools safe for all children, such has LGBT kids, continues to be a struggle. What should be a no brainer – we want every child to be safe in our schools – finds the right-wing objecting to it because it might promote the mere tolerance of “homosexuality.”

It’s the endorsement, one objector said to the Safe Schools Movement in Minnesota schools, “of homosexual propaganda.” From there the objectors rise to hysteria and fear tactics.

LGBT kids are hardly safer at home. A 2006 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study found that 42 percent of homeless teens identify as gay. They're out there because their families threw them out. And this doesn’t even count the on-going abuse of these kids in the home when they stay.

But this is a part of a larger problem -- families are the place where children are most often abused and used. And it’s not a set of isolated incidents.

A study of 991 American parents reported in the November 2003 issued of the Journal of Marriage and Family, reported that most parents bully their children. One of the researchers, Murray Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire concluded: “nearly all parents, regardless of other demographic characteristics, used at least some psychological aggression as a disciplinary tactic.”

Fear that children’s later problems are caused by lack of strict punishment might make parents and authorities reluctant to label the types of aggression they use on children as abuse. But, Straus reminds us: “There is no empirical evidence to indicate occasional psychological abuse, such as the frustrated parent ‘blowing off steam’ is harmless.”

If this were all, we might slip by. We’d certainly like to write this off as over-concern.

But in spite of all the “stranger danger” scares pumped up by the mainstream media, study after study has shown that children face the greatest danger from violence and sexual abuse from people they know—parents, relatives, family friends, and caretakers.

A 2006, 5-year report from the US Department of Health and Human Services looked at the 905,000 children under age 18 who were victims of abuse that had risen to the level of reporting it to the authorities. 83 percent were abused by parents and another 10 percent by foster parents, daycare staff, unmarried partners of parents, legal guardians, or residential facility staff.

In terms of sexual abuse, 26 percent were abused by their parents and another 29 percent by other adults they already knew.

In the same year, a Centers for Disease Control report said 91,278 infants under a year old experienced nonfatal abuse or neglect, including nearly 30,000 who experienced maltreatment in their first week of life. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, three children die every day in the US as a result of abuse or neglect.

Add to all this the adult exploitation of their children -- parents using children to fight their own insecurities, childhood hurts, and feelings of inadequacy. The question such children get when they arrive home isn’t “Have you been good?” or even “Have you done good?” but “Did you win?”

Take the 5,000 child beauty pageants held in the US each year. This $5 billion market-driven industry provides a source of huge profits for many interested parties based on parents consenting to the exploitation of their children.

New York Times columnist, Frank Rich, responding to the whole JonBenet Ramsey affair wrote: “Today the merchandising of children as sexual commodities is ubiquitous and big business – not just in beauty contests for toddlers… but everywhere – from the increased garishness of Barbie displays at the local mall to the use of Sally Mann-esque child models in home-furnishing magazines.”

In 2007 the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls reported a strong connection between the endurance by young girls of premature emphasis on sex and appearance and “three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression or depressed mood.”

Our boys are also used to make up for the insecurities of their parents, often on the playing field. SportingKids magazine conducted a survey of 3,300+ parents, coaches, youth sports administrators and youth that found that 84% witnessed parents acting violently (shouting, berating, using abusive language) during athletic events. The most violent examples to make the news have included the fatal beating of a youth ice hockey coach in Massachusetts by an irate father and the assault of a youth baseball umpire by a coach in Florida.

Even at home, violence can be used to keep sons within the boundaries of acceptable masculinity. It can be accepted that violence is just a part of a boy’s life through punishment, with the message that he should take it like a man and realize that it’s a part of the power relationships between men.

It’s not a pretty picture or one we want to accept. Alice Miller, child psychologist and prolific author on the effects of Western child-rearing practices sees all this as a part of the “poisonous pedagogy” that results in grown children’s fascination with an ever-violent culture and its entertainment.

She goes even further to write: “Human beings feel the urge to be destructive only if they were subjected to cruelty at the beginning of their own lives. A child who had been loved and respected will have no motivation to wage war on others.” (The Truth Will Set You Free, 2001)

This is more than we want to face. Change the subject back to schools. Quick!

Will What the Professionals Say Finally Matter?


Over a quarter of a century ago, in January 1975, the American Psychological Association urged “all mental health professionals to take the lead in removing the sigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientations.”

On August 14, 1997, it adopted a resolution that raised ethical concerns about attempts to change anyone’s sexual orientation, reaffirmed psychology’s opposition to anti-gay bias, and reasserted every client’s right to unbiased treatment.

In 1999, with ten other professional organizations, it issued “Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel.” Its goal was to counter the psychologically baseless rise in the aggressive promotion by religiously-based groups of so-called therapies to change one’s sexual orientation, saying they were potentially harmful and of little or no effectiveness.

Along with the American Psychiatric Association and the American Counseling Association, the professionally ethical standard had been established. In August 1998, the APA candidly explained earlier opinions: “Homosexuality was once thought to be a mental illness because mental health professionals and society had biased information.”

Yet, the beat went on among the biased. Science and professionalism be damned. Don’t confuse me with facts.

You can understand religious bias. It’s got a long history of demeaning, enslaving, and destroying others. Those people choosing to accept the anti-gay interpretations of the Bible, tradition, and other authorities hung on to the interpretations that promoted it.

We can’t know why they did (there are many personal psychological dynamics why people need to be anti “the lifestyle”). But in the midst of changing scientific understanding and other interpretations of those same passages and traditions by other believers, and the criticisms from those who completely rejected their belief-systems, they hung on to anything that promoted their views.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone. The right-wing devalues science and evidence on most issues if they can’t use it to promote their sectarian religious beliefs.

Acting with feelings of righteous indication, yelling, and drowning out rational discourse seem to delude many victims of the powerful into feeling they have some power. And there’s a lot of money to be made by corporations, including the media, in promoting the lies and conflict theater.

As many of the health care town halls have shown this last month, clinging to lies out there about health care reform, evolution, climate change, or the economy, is as much a national pastime as yelling at the ump or ref at a sporting event. Same for hanging on to lies told about LGBT people,

Believe FOX News or the religious gurus that keep things in place. Forget any solid data that might challenge your mind.

But science continues to analyze things, especially issues that continue to be misrepresented in public discussion. So, again on August 5, 2009, the American Psychological Association adopted a resolution stating that the ethical standard for mental health professionals is to “avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.”

At its annual convention, the approval of the “Resolution on Appropriate Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts” was based upon a 138-page report (with a 25 page bibliography) from a professional task force that had spent two years systematically investigating the evidence of so-called “reparative therapy” or other sexual orientation change efforts.

Some of the report’s observations:

“Same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations per se are normal and positive variants of human sexuality – in other words, they do not indicate either mental or developmental disorders.”

“Homosexuality and bisexuality are stigmatized, and this stigma can have a variety of negative consequences (e.g. minority stress) throughout the life span.”

“Gay men, lesbians, and bisexual individuals form stable, committed relationships and families that are equivalent to heterosexual relationships and families in essential respects.”

“We found that there was some evidence to indicate that individuals experienced harm from SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts]…. These negative side effects included loss of sexual feeling, depression, suicidality, and anxiety.”

“There is currently no evidence that teaching or reinforcing stereotyped gender-normative behavior in childhood or adolescence can alter sexual orientation. We have concerns that such interventions may increase self-stigma and minority stress and ultimately increase the distress of children and adolescents.”

The report also recognizes that this science will not inform certain right-wing religious prejudices against LGBT people and suggests alternatives for those LGBT folks who are stuck with the need for a religion that says they love the wrong gender. In these cases counselors should “explore possible life paths that address the reality of their sexual orientation, reduce the stigma associated with homosexuality, respect the client’s religious beliefs, and consider possibilities for a religiously and spiritually meaningful and rewarding life,” such as exploring a community of faith that affirms them.

Right-wing religious institutions, of course, are responsible for the guilt, shame, demeaning, bigotry, and self-hate, that those who seek to change the unchangeable about themselves have internalized enough to be suicidal when they fail. Negative feelings were not inborn, but taught incessantly by society and its religious leaders.

So, the APA reiterates professional standards again in the midst of regular misuse of “psychology” by antigay religious people to cover their religious prejudices. The debate really, then, is about the use of religion and religious arguments not anything psychologically wrong with LGBT people.

It’s about spreading and maintaining sectarian religious positions. And it’s been going on too long against decades of professional studies to the contrary often because those of us who disagree won’t label religious prejudice clearly as religious prejudice.

It will continue to be sad to watch LGBT people who won’t leave their abusers but need their love, acceptance, and affirmation so much that they will live lives of denial and depression. But we’ll be clear.

This is only about the religion you have chosen. It’s your choice. Your suffering is your own. Feel that your love is sinful if you need to feel that.

But don’t blame psychology for your sectarian beliefs about LGBT people. Don’t tell them any longer that they‘re the sick ones.

Keeping the Religious Right-wing Alive


Almost 80 million people voted for a Barack Obama that talked about real change including single-payer healthcare and the end of Wall Street and other corporations pulling the strings in Washington. A march of -- at most -- 60,000 in Washington in September should mean nothing – that’s only about 1/10th of one percent of the people who voted for the loser.

But for reasons I’m not clear about, bipartisanship, meaning making sure the majority doesn’t rule, is a mantra of this president and a gang of six who act morally superior to the rest of the misguided citizens and politicians who want healthcare for all and fair economic rules.

Every time I hear one of these six paragons speak, the issues they are working on are always those from the right-wing. The views of the left were rejected before we began with the excuse that the left is impractical and naive. It’s the losers on the right that get their attention, especially as a reward for disrupting a joint session of Congress shouting the President lies.

One comedian quipped that the goal of bipartisanship for Obama and conservative Democratic leaders is to keep the Republican Party alive so they can take back the Congress in 2010. Another, Bill Maher, calls the Democrats our national corporate party and the Republicans the party of nutcases.

None of this works with the right-wing. It does alienate the base of people who wanted real change and makes the voters wonder if anyone but the right-wing can get things done in this country. It helps those who attempt what they believe is a high road feel good, but it also feeds the cynicism out there.

How many times do they have to promote a bill for a stimulus package or health care that’s compromised so much to the right-wing to be ineffective, only to watch no Republicans support it? How many times does one give in to a right-wing bully who’s goal is to prove Obama is a bad president by picking on one presidential advisor (Czar) after another, before one realizes that bullys aren’t defeated by letting them win.

Expecting to win over any of the right-wing who didn’t vote for Obama or the more progressive Democrats by enabling them is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results – a definition of insanity.

When will people get that THE ONE GOAL of the Republican Party is to defeat this President and Democratic Congress. For more extremist elements on the right-wing, it’s to lynch the uppity Negro.

Nothing has changed. What looks like a threat to the right-wing -- the election of a “liberal” non-white president to reverse the triumph they thought they had secured with the election of the Christian hero they thought they had in Bush – is the new greater evil they must fight.

Adele Stan, Washington Bureau Chief for AlterNet is dead on. The religious right “is not dead; it has simply had a makeover.” (“Right-Wingers Marching in DC Is Big News – But the Same Old Faces Are Pulling the Strings,” 9/14/09) It’s been folded into a new coalition, “which emphasizes the resentments of white people who feel economically and culturally threatened, while occasionally referencing the evangelical fervor that marks the latter-day religious right.”

The religiously addicted are still here and still shooting up. Always in the background are their usual causes: anti-women’s choice and dehumanizing LGBT people.

They haven’t given up undoing any gains that have been made. Equality Maine knows that now, and Iowa will see it happen too. They can’t go cold turkey on what gives them the feeling of being righteous when all around them seems to be contradicting what they’ve bet their worth on.

But something else is the personification of every evil now.

As I argued in When Religion Is an Addiction, their fix is still political activities. What gives them their high is all the user activities seen in marching and organizing to defeat evil, now personified in this non-white President who can represent every satanic threat from socialism to fascism, from Communism to the end of the country as we know it.

No wonder it’s easy to get church-going people to carry thoroughly disgusting signs or throw aside all decorum to disrupt what they see is the devil before them, represented by elected officials. No wonder it’s easy for their signs to picture the President in terms of every demonic image for them -- a witch doctor, the Joker, or Hitler. It might as well be the anti-Christ or Satan.

The mainstream media isn’t going to do anything but enable the addicted. Even without FOX News, it’s still trying to portray them as having legitimate grievances.

The enabling response is to try to appease, to reason with, to compromise, to act as if out-nice-ing them more will bring the addicts around. But this attention only feeds their addiction.

A healthy response is to move forward, stay on task, protect ourselves, and pursue the change that will fix a country that is desperately sick. We don’t have to be mean or hateful, just confident about what needs to be done.

America’s disastrous health care system is responsible for incalculable amounts of illness, death, lost productivity and federal deficit — not to mention anxiety, anger and disgrace, writes investigative reporter Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone. And it’s not going to get fixed, he adds, because it’s encased in another failed system: the U.S. government.

Rather than attempt to remedy the problem this summer, our government sat down and demonstrated its dizzying ineptitude. “We might look back on this summer someday and think of it as the moment when our government lost us for good,” writes Taibbi. “It was that bad.”

I hope he’s wrong.

We must do this for ourselves. The addicted will just have to stand back and complain.

But, they’ll grow even stronger if we continue to appease what can never, ever be appeased in them.

‘Tis the Season of More Mythology


The Norman Rockwell American Thanksgiving is a feast of mythology about pilgrims and Indians sitting down like buddies giving thanks to the Christian god for a successful harvest. Add the picture of the perfect American family, every member home for the holiday, sitting down together feeling blessed by their Maker for the over-eating opportunity their country has provided.

Whatever it’s real, less fanciful history, and however dysfunctional family get-togethers really are, Thanksgiving is the perfect day to remind us of the fact that nations promote myths that sustain them.

In the field of religious studies, identifying a mythology is not a comment on the historical accuracy of the stories in question. History happened back then, but a myth is a story that says something meaningful to someone today.

A myth can be historically accurate (or not), but its power and meaning is that it informs, directs, justifies, and touches emotions about framing the present. And all countries have myths that teach from childhood what loyal citizens of the nation are supposed to believe about what it means to be American, French, Chinese, Egyptian, or whomever.

National myths sanctify ideals that the powers of the state want represented as part of national identity. They’re taught by schools and others so incessantly that they become unquestionably so.

Whether or not George Washington ever really chopped down any cherry tree, we’re to understand that honesty is American, while those who teach it might be as dishonest as it takes for them to maintain their privileged societal positions.

The power of these dominant myths can obscure their historical inaccuracy. And if so, they can teach what is good for enforcing the way things are, with the current powers, prejudices, and expectations in place.

They discourage as hopeless the chances of anyone who wants to change the system and its power structure. And doubters and questioners are suspect of something like treason.

LGBT people, people of color, and others who’ve missed out on mainstream privileges, know the dominant myths about their communities that support prejudice. They stumble over them regularly -- running into those who have accepted myths about them without question and hearing them repeated in the media.

How fitting, then, when celebrating this season of Americana, to remember two of the big myths that keep people disempowered. Myths that a deep reading of American history -- not the official history of our schools -- proves are historically false. Myths that if exploded will no longer keep everyday people from believing that they can change things.

Myth 1: The salvation of this country is in electing great leaders who will solve our problems. Presidents and other big heroes are responsible for America’s progress.

There are people who expected a young, Illinois senator to be this special savior. So they thought that just supporting the right person would produce progress.

They didn’t want to believe that he was already a part of an established system. They wanted to believe that he would be different enough in economic and political policies to somehow change the old ways that transcend the two entrenched political parties, including the party in which he was skillful enough to climb to the top.

The historical reality is that this is not how progressive change has ever taken place in the US no matter how much we think the solution would be the election of another Lincoln or FDR.

It’s the social movements of the everyday people that moved our leaders. When so moved, they then took credit for what was accomplished as a result: “There go the people, let me get out in front of them and look like I’m leading.”

American historian Howard Zinn concludes from his exhaustive study that American mythology downplays or omits the importance of everyday people’s social movements and thus -- “a fundamental principle of democracy is undermined: the principle that it is the citizenry, rather than the government, that is the ultimate source of power and the locomotive that pulls the train of government in the direction of equality and justice.”

Myth 2: The wars we have entered are forced on us by the needs of the American people but ended because of the heroics of great leaders. Yes, there might have been a few “bad” wars, but they were necessary.

Historically, it’s the exact opposite. Zinn shows that war “is manufactured by political leaders, who then must make a tremendous effort – by enticement, by propaganda, by coercion – to mobilize a normally reluctant population to go to war.”

In 1917 the government sent 75,000 lecturers around the country to give 750,000 lectures to persuade the people that it was right to enter World War I. Thousands of people were put on trial and imprisoned to suppress opposition.

FDR, as James Polk before him for the Mexican War and Lyndon Johnson after him for the Vietnam War, had to lie to the American people to convince them to support entrance into World War II. Historian Thomas Bailey, puts this in what he thinks is a positive light: “Franklin Roosevelt repeatedly deceived the American people during the period before Pearl Harbor… like a physician who must tell the patient lies for the patient’s own good... because the masses are notoriously shortsighted and generally cannot see danger until it is at their throats.”

Wars begin for buisness reasons and end when the people have had enough. Everyday people and their movements force an end when they rise up, realize their power, and demand change.

The fact that these myths are untrue is a reminder that, yes, we can make change, that it’s not hopeless if we choose to act in hope and don’t wait for the right leader, Democrat or Republican, to do the right thing.

Zinn: “no pitifully small picket line, no poorly attended meeting, no tossing out of an idea to an audience or even to an individual should be scorned as insignificant.”

The holidays are a good time to reread the history beneath the myths. How about, Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present?

Marriage. Where Are We Now?


With November’s poll results, marriage equality continues to fail when put on the ballot. We can’t ignore the progress that’s been made, but the American people remain an easy mark for those who claim protecting marriage involves denying it to LGBT people.

If we use marriage as the measure of what’s happening for LGBT people in the country, we’ve chosen the wrong measure. It’s a sensational issue, for sure. On both sides, national organizations have bet donation asks on it. But expect more disappointments ahead.

A better measure of progress is the success of non-discrimination ordinances particularly on the local level. Here’s where everyday people are.

As in Kalamazoo and Salt Lake City, these changes aren’t confined to gay havens on the coasts and our largest cities. And the Mormon Church supporting a non-discrimination ordinance in Salt Lake after buying anti-marriage votes around the country, is a telling sign of the symbolic place of marriage in American politics and consciousness.

In addition, the reaffirmation of legal civil union rights in Washington state, tells us that there is something about the idea of marriage that keeps us stuck. It’s beyond any homophobia, the politics of wedge issues, its success in money-raising for anti-gay organizations, and all the religious justifications for anti-gay prejudice.

LGBT people are the scapegoats, and the ballot measures extending marriage equality are lightening rods, for what marriage really means to people in the US. Marriage is itself the problem.

Those who have fought tirelessly in Maine, California, and the forty other states where it’s illegal, with thirty also banning it constitutionally, should not be scorned. The battle is an up-hill one because of what “marriage” deeply says to most people.

Marriage is not just a legal concept here. If it were, it would already be as successful as civil unions.

It’s a symbol, like motherhood, Santa Claus, and the flag. It not only symbolizes an ideal people go on about and LGBT people would like to get in on, but a guilt-inducing reality that’s doing very poorly for most people.

LGBT people hold the ideal itself in their hopes. In terms of human rights, they have the right to every sick, failing institution straight people have.

But it’s the actual reality in the light of the ideal that marriage symbolizes that keeps it an issue for those who would deny it to LGBT people.

Marriage for many symbolizes dashed hopes. Fifty percent fail. That doesn’t mean the other fifty percent are personally living in the bliss that marriage is supposed to bring them.

We’re not just talking about people who stay together with abusive spouses because the exiting is scary, or those who feel that they could never do better. Living as if one has compromised one’s life, done the best they could, settled for inevitable disappointment, and just agreed to make it through, is what marriage has become for many.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if marriage hadn’t promised so much more. It wouldn’t be so disappointing if it hadn’t been idealized and pushed by our social, economic, and religious institutions, and most media.

Its expectations are so high that when they don’t materialize, it becomes more a symbol that highlights the personal failings to meet the ideal for those who embrace it. Something about them – their character, their personality, their bad choices, their inadequacies – the symbol reminds them, is to blame for their disappointment.

The symbol is full of mythology represented in that ideal, commercially lucrative marriage ceremony followed by a honeymoon that lasts forever, the intertwining of the two in harmony, and the sex that will become better and better as they grow emotionally closer.

Marriage, the symbol, is supposed to involve happily-ever-after-ness, or, at least, personal fulfillment. It’s supposed to save us from our loneliness and provide a companion who always accepts us just the way we are, warts and all.

Why, then, the joke: that scientists have found a food that stifles peoples’ sex drives – wedding cake? Why, then, the wives who report being lonely in their marriages, or the men who have decided they’d rather be workaholics than find their fulfillment at home?

Why, then, the complaints that the romance is gone, “the honeymoon is over,” and the incessant justifications that all this is normal? Why, then, the feeling that this person has not fulfilled the needs they were supposed to fill in marriage? Why does the grass start looking greener elsewhere even when one has committed to always keep it mowed here?

As long as the symbol claims to represent ideals that are probably unrealistic or seldom realizable, marriage is more likely to symbolize one’s personal failure to have attained these ideals. It will remind us we have failed.

There might be some who have the ideal. They’re out there somewhere, but they’re not us.

When asked, many married people are in denial. Facing its failings for those who have not divorced would enforce the sense of one’s personal failure.

Denial is rife. Evidence those who are totally surprised that there is anything wrong with their marriage when a spouse announces they’re unhappy and want a divorce.

It’s not that all the fifty-percent that are still together are unhappy. But we see again the principle that those who are the least secure are more likely to project their problems on others.

To the extent that marriage really symbolizes disappointment, failure, and insecurity, to that extent I must “protect” it all the more and project my emotional problems on others, like LGBT people. I overreact by denying it to others.

The future of marriage is not bright in itself. Our broader culture would rather blame than take a deep look at what we are expecting from a very sick institution.

It would be nice to believe sooner than later that LGBT people will be allowed to participate legally in this symbol. Less likely is the fact that the institution will become a more successful one.

If marriage were now, though, LGBT people wouldn’t be its scapegoats.

© 2009 Robert N. Minor

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