After my last post on Sally Kern, I came upon this video on YouTube that I had to share. No terrorists here. Just people in love and their friends and families celebrating that love!
After my last post on Sally Kern, I came upon this video on YouTube that I had to share. No terrorists here. Just people in love and their friends and families celebrating that love!
Yesterday, I posted about how we as a country need to move past traditions of hate and violence. Today, I read a post from Queerty, which exemplifies the type of vitriol we as a country and as members of the human race need to steer clear of.
Sally Kern, the Oklahoma State Senator who is infamous for stating that “[homosexuality is] the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam,” attempted (rather miserably) to clarify her statement that garnered her much criticism. In an interview with Peter LaBarbera, president of an anti-LGBT organization called the Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (obviously a fun and lively group), Kern continued to spew inflammatory statements that did nothing to support her claim that her words were “taken out of context” or “distorted.”
Here are Kern’s words “proving” she was the victim of misrepresentation:
“You know if you just look at it in practical terms, which has destroyed and ended the life of more people? Terrorism attack here in America or HIV/AIDS? In the last twenty years, fifteen to twenty years, we’ve had maybe three terrorist attacks on our soil with a little over 5,000 people regrettably losing their lives. In the same time frame, there have been hundreds of thousands who have died because of having AIDS. So which one’s the biggest threat? And you know, every day our young people, adults too, but especially our young people, are bombarded at school, in movies, in music, on TV, in the mall, in magazines, they’re bombarded with ‘homosexuality is normal and natural.’ It’s something they have to deal with every day. Fortunately we don’t have to deal with a terrorist attack every day, and that’s what I mean.
. . .
[Homosexuality is] more dangerous, . . . because it will tear down the moral fiber of this nation. We were founded as a nation upon the principles of religion and morality, if we take those out from under our society we will lose what has made us a great nation, we will no longer be a virtuous people, which we see happening already. And without virtue this nation will not survive.”
Obviously, Senator Kern was misquoted but only if she lived in Bizarro World, where everything is backward. But she doesn’t live on Bizarro World, and neither do we. If she lived on Bizarro World, then her hate speech would be filled with love and acceptance and her snarling face wouldn’t frighten young children either. On this world, her words are filled with venom and her face, well, I’ll be polite and let you draw your own conclusion.
What Senator Kern fails to see is that there are other factors in the world far deadlier than HIV/AIDS or even terrorists. Alcohol is responsible for more than 75,000 deaths a year. Should we return to Prohibition and eliminate this threat because it is far deadlier than either homosexuals and terrorists according to Kern’s reasoning? Additionally, an average of 195,000 people die each year from in hospital deaths that could have been prevented. Should hospitals and health care professionals who spend their lives helping people be treated as criminals worse than terrorists? If we follow Kern’s thoughts, then yes!
Obviously, the only reason Kern speaks such poison about homosexuals is simply because she hates them. Not because they are more dangerous than terrorism. She isn’t really concerned about keeping Americans safe if the only group she regularly attacks is a group of already prejudiced people, who are not solely responsible for spreading HIV/AIDS.
Additionally, Kern also doesn’t understand the driving force behind the founding fathers of this nation. They were not Christians as we know them today. They were religious men (for the most part), but they were Deists. Deism was the belief that God existed but that God didn’t involve himself with the day-to-day lives of humans. The Deists moved away from organized religion and lived according to principles of morality that included acceptance of others, even those that were different from them. Washington accepted the Freemasons while others did not. Adams declared the accomplishments of Jewish people as far surpassing those who persecuted them. Thomas Jefferson thought very little of clergy and organized religion because he felt abuse of power was common among those of faith who wielded absolute control over their flock.
These men, these Founding Fathers, created this country not to exclude but to accept all. After all, the country was made of immigrants who were considered distasteful in the countries they fled.
So to those like Kern who ask us to follow the nation those Founding Fathers envisioned when they drafted the Constitution and created the laws that governed this nation, they were looking to creating a haven for everyone, not a select few.
One day, I hope Sally Kern finally gets it right.
As the day concludes on this ten-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, I find myself at an unusual loss for words. The magnitude of the events on that day still baffle my mind, and the pain that continues to reverberate through the nation remains strong, rippling outward and touching us all. It makes me wonder if the nation will ever truly recover and if we won’t constantly keep one eye on the sky, waiting for the next terrorist attack.
Still to this day, we ask how such a thing could have happened. We contemplate what could have been done to prevent it. We hunted those down responsible, and we have tried to make them pay. But will any of those things help the victims (we as the nation are those victims) still traumatized by the crime? For the criminal we truly seek isn’t a single person, or a group of revolutionaries, or a country. The true criminal is a tradition of hate and violence.
That is what we have to change.
When I think of the tradition of destruction this world and its nations have so far emblazoned on the skin of our planet, I am reminded of a short story called “The Lottery” written by Shirley Jackson and published in the late 1940’s. In this story, for those of you unfamiliar with its plot, an unassuming town in Somewhere, USA holds its annual lottery. Slips of paper from an old black box, which is battered and contains remnants of the original box used in the town’s first lottery, are drawn. The family that plucks the slip of paper with the black dot will produce the winner. When The Hutchinson family unfolds their paper and see the black dot, additional slips of paper are added to the box, one for each member of the family. Each family member must then draw from the box, and the one who drew the paper slip with the black dot is the winner. When the mother of the family, Tessie Hutchinson sees the black dot on her slip of paper, she begins screaming “It isn’t fair!” The town then converges on her and stones her to death.
Why did this happen? For the simple reason Jackson gave us in the story: “lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.” The town’s lottery is a sacrifice to the fertility gods, and the purpose of the lottery is to guarantee a bountiful harvest for the upcoming season. As then and still to this day, readers wonder why would Jackson write this story? What was her point?
For me, the point is quite simple. Jackson is comparing the barbaric tradition of stoning someone for the sake of a good harvest to traditions themselves that are hurtful and destructive. According to Jackson, such beliefs shouldn’t be allowed to exist. They should be changed. If not, then someday we will become the victim of hateful and destructive tradition. We march through life hurting others, through our actions and/or thoughts, and rarely give them a second thought. It’s time we all start thinking and start changing how we live and how we treat others in our family, in our neighborhoods to the cities and states and countries beyond our own personal spheres.
If we can do this as inhabitants of this planet, not just this country, then further hate and destruction like 9/11, the Nazi Concentration Camps, or the Spanish Inquisition, to name a few will never happen again.
We have all been given this same planet by God, or fate, or providence, or natural evolution (whichever you believe for it doesn’t really matter), and we need to treat each other with only love and nurturing if we intend to survive as a species.
Sometimes it takes a disaster like 9/11 to realize the true power of hate, which only begets more hate. While it may sound cliche and/or simplistic, the only thing that truly heals is love and hope for a better tomorrow.
Yesterday, we departed our home in the heart of the conservative crossroads in the red state of Texas to head for the only welcoming blue blip –Austin. After a two and a half hour exodus through political signs and bumper stickers that called for Texans to secede from the union or praised Republicans and Rick Perry (who was applauded at the recent GOP presidential debate for having the most executions under his leadership, a proud moment for Texas indeed), it was a fresh breath of air to arrive in Austin and enter the gates of the Travaasa Spa. (Click the link to go to their website.)
Once we arrived at their Welcome Center, we were greeted by a spa representative who escorted us to the front desk. They checked us in without once batting an eye at two men staying in a room with only a single bed. This is a spa in Austin. Two gay men are nothing new here.
After our check in, one of the representatives met us at our car in a golf cart and hauled our about-to-be-seriously-pampered tushes and our luggage to our room, which came with a spectacular view of the Austin Hill Country.
Since we arrived after all the activities for Friday had already been completed, we enjoyed a leisurely dinner and headed back to our room, where we stared at the night sky and enjoyed life.
In the morning, we attended a meditation session. Those who know me, know that I’m not the “groovy, hippie” kinda of guy. I was more than reluctant to sit cross-logged in a room I envisioned to be filled with incense or listen to someone who most likely smokes marijuana telling me how to see through my third eye and cleanse my chakras. But when I entered the room, it wasn’t the nightmare I envisioned.
No incense clogged the room or my sinus cavities. The woman who led the class was quite pleasant and didn’t appear to have taken any hits of Mary Jane prior to the class. I didn’t see the shining auras surrounding my body nor did I imagine a cable shoot out of my spine and head to the center of the earth, where all my bad mojo was to be deposited. When she first told us to visualize this, I couldn’t help but think she was asking me to take a spiritual dump into the earth. Naturally, I lost some focus after that hilarious image, but I recovered and relaxed. My husband, God love him, saw the colors and asked her what the colors meant. While they talked, I meditated on my inability to see the grand spiritual spectrum he saw. I wondered if there was some fundamental flaw in my psyche that prevented me from reaching that deep down inside myself. Either that or I lack depth as an individual.
Since I know that cannot be the case, I chalked my inability to board the Yellow Submarine as my need for control. I rarely hand over the reigns of my life to anyone, in any circumstance. Still, I felt relaxed, so the class wasn’t entirely wasted on me.
Now, after a short stint by the Infinity Pool, where I baked in the Texas sun among other liberals who could have cared less about the two gay men sharing the pool deck with them, I now prepare for my 80 minute deep sleep aromatherapy massage. It will be 80 minutes of pure bliss, and while I might not hand over my chakras or my third eye to a meditation specialist, I have no problem handing over my body for a good massage.
Like most southerners, I do my best to remain polite. It’s the proper thing to do, and it was how my mother and grandmother raised me. Speaking your mind, especially if the comment was unkind or cruel, was just not allowed. However, my southern upbringing sometimes conflicts with the blunt vitriol many gay men use like a battering ram. Like a gay Sybil, I remain in conflict with my two personalities.
Being polite and telling it like it is constantly war within me.
So, today, I shall simply let facts speak for themselves. No judgments. No critiques. No vitriol.
I came upon photos of Camp 2011 in the Pocono Mountains, which is in Pennsylvania for those who are a tad geographically challenged. It was a 3 night party, filled to the rim (oh my!) with barely clothed, almost perfectly sculpted manflesh. Events such as mud wrestling, dolphin riding (on dolphin floats in the pool, for those of you who really needed clarification), dancing at a foam party (a dance floor filled with, you guessed it, foam!), and a score of other activities awaited the campers who decided to pitch their tents at the campsite for the weekend.
DJ’s spun dance beats, disco lights lit up the campground at night, and drag queens strutted on stilettos. Even some adult film stars (that’s the southern way of saying porn stars), such as The Maverick Men (site NSFW) attended the event.
The party was even hosted by Aussie Bum. I love Aussies and their bumwear! Who doesn’t?
Needless to say, it looked to be quite the party. I wouldn’t know from personal experience. I wasn’t there in the foam dancing, or in the mud wrestling, or on the dolphin riding (OK, that just sounds wrong).
You see, as you may or may not already know, I don’t live up north. I live in the south, deep south, like deep in the heart of Texas south, where meat is a vegetable, men adjust their crotches in public while chewing tobacco, and pick up trucks are not only the rage but sport rubber-made testicles. They even have a website where you can purchase them!
I know. It’s extremely sad.
We don’t have camps like the one in the Poconos, but there are gay campgrounds here. Yes, even in the red Lone Star State of Texas. I’ve even been to such a campground, and let me tell you, it’s a tad different from the one with the foam party, DJ’s, and porn stars. Now, I promised no judgments and to let the facts speak for themselves, so I’m going to remain a true southern gentlemen.
Here are the facts of the southern gay campground:
Throughout the year, the southern campground I’ve visited on more than one occasion hosts theme parties for Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, and Halloween. Attendees don’t have perfectly sculpted bodies. This is Texas after all, where grease and fried foods reign supreme. The lack of perfect bodies doesn’t bother me. I’m not perfect, and in fact, I’ll admit to feeling like the Belle of the Ball when I’m at the campground. It’s a feeling I could grow accustomed to!
The themed weekend parties typically last a couple of nights. Events such as costume contests, barbecuing, and swimming in the above ground pool fill the day and evening. It can be quite relaxing, which I assume is a nice change of pace from all the dancing, wardrobe changing, and hair re-stylying that likely occurs throughout the day at the campground up north. In Texas, you can simply come as you are. Which is nice. At times. Sometimes it’s okay to dress up a little. (oops, I promised no judgments, just facts).
So, back to the facts.
Events are typically relegated to board games, meals with all the fixin’s (I wonder if they eat at the Poconos camp), and chatting poolside with music blaring from someone’s iPod. No DJ comes to spin the discs for us.
Unfortunately, Aussie Bum doesn’t sponsor the themed parties at my campground. I doubt those Aussie Bums would be able to find it. Even GPS devices have difficulty plotting a route along the winding roads that look like they’re leading to Camp Crystal Lake in those old Friday the 13th movies instead of a pride flag waving gay campground.
Beggars, however, can’t be choosers. While my southern campground is nothing like its sister (well, sister might not be the correct word. Maybe second cousin twice removed better fits their relationship), I still am grateful for its existence.
There may be no foam parties, or DJ’s, or scores of perfectly sculpted manflesh, but good guys go to this camp. I enjoy their company over a board game, or while tossing about the horseshoes, or even lounging in the pool. It’s a far more relaxed campground than the one I described earlier. You come as you are and you’re treated like family. You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to be popular. You just have to be you.
In the grand scheme of things, who could ask for anything more? Well, if we’re asking. A few more perfectly sculpted bodies would be nice. An occasional DJ and even a sporadic foam party would make me happy too.
But no place is perfect, I suppose. Not the high intensity camp filled with dancing, debauchery, and divas or the more sedate Texas camp complete with cozy, carefree camaraderie.
All in all, they both sound like heaven to me! So I guess sometimes holding your tongue and being polite allows you to see the good in everything. I guess Mom and Nan (my term of endearment for my grandmother) were right all along. As usual.
I’ve created a book trailer for my novel Moral Authority, thanks to the wonderful program that is called iMovie. What have I done without iMovie before this?!?! I’m beyond addicted. Likely, my addiction will be the subject of a future blog as friends and family members alike turn against me and run!
Anyway, here is the video. I hope you enjoy it!
Review by Gerry Burnie (please click the link to see the full article on Gerry’s book review website)
“Moral Authority” [CreateSpace, August 2011] is author Jacob Z. Flores’ debut novel, and what a debut it is! Flores has conceived a dystopian plot every bit as prophetic and sinister as George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” except that in this case the unforgiving focus is on homosexuality as the ‘thoughtcrime’ and homosexuals as the prescribed enemies of ‘the common good’. Therefore, my hat goes off to him for having tackled (successfully in my opinion) a demanding literary challenge of this complexity so early in his career.
The story centres on Mark Bryon, a quite average graduate student who in ordinary circumstances wouldn’t attract any undue attention apart from being young and attractive. However these are not “ordinary” times when every move, both public and private, is subject to scrutiny by those who have voluntarily subjected themselves to a morally-incorrupt, corrupt state: i.e. “The Moral Authority.” Therefore, there is a very Orwellian tone throughout, including a ‘Big Brother’ in the person of Samuel Pleasant, ‘Newspeak,” and the subjugation of free thought.
There are also the usual twin pillars that form the basis of most fascist regimes, e.g. a simplistic reason for being, and a perceived enemy—both within and without. For example:
According to Randy Gonzales, over the past thirty-five years the United States managed to save itself from moral corruption because of the newest branch of our nation’s government. Since its inception by President Sarah Palin in 2014 and the constitutional amendment she and the Republican majority helped pass the following year, the moral downslide the country experienced then had not only been halted but come about at least 180 degrees. Gone were the days of media violence and pornography. All illegal drugs and associated crimes had been virtually eliminated. Murder, rape, gang violence, thefts, domestic crimes, prostitution, and even vandalism accounted for less than 10% of the overall crime rate in the entire nation. As a result, communities within the United States enjoyed a golden age. 14
And the perceive enemy:
Constitutional amendments and which all had their origins from within the Moral Authority, freed this country from such unhealthy lifestyle choices that caused many health and societal problems, such as homosexuality, obesity, smoking, alcoholism, and even profanity. To commemorate the thirty-fifth anniversary, the Supreme High Chancellor of the Moral Authority, Samuel Pleasant, planned to address the nation the following week. Speculations already abounded that Supreme High Chancellor Pleasant intended to unveil further social legislation to better streamline this nation’s morality. This came about due to recent attacks against moral law instigated by a group of domestic terrorists calling themselves the Human Rights Campaign. 15 [Emphasis mine].
The story then builds on this theme, and as it progresses the plot gets darker and darker in very much the same fashion as totalitarian states rule by edict and the point of a gun. However, at no time does the author push any of this over the top so that credibility is strained. Even in the latter parts of the story when the Moral Authority’s “K3s” are at their cruelest (i.e KKK, the equivalent of the Nazi’s SS elite guard), the reader is never caused to doubt that it could happen.
Along the way, however, the author does make some cogent observations in the context of the narrative, i.e.
According to Mark’s research, the number of Americans cited with violations of the moral code of respect had risen in many major U.S. cities. The manpower and resources alone used to enforce such petty violations could be better redirected to rehabilitating offenders who committed more egregious crimes in the nation, 33
which is a point that applies beyond this fiction to real life. I might add, as well, that the hidden cost of every law—large or small—that is made and enforced is a diminution of our civil liberties. I think this is the message to be gained from this story.
On the other hand, I think I could be tempted to accept a law that restricted unruly children in restaurants, i.e.
The mother and father looked exhausted, and he could see why. Their two preschool aged boys were in the middle of a pretend sword fight with their chopsticks as stand in swords. Obviously, there were no moral officers here as the parents would certainly be in violation of the code of respect concerning the appropriate behavior of children in public. 35[Emphasis mine].
Altogether this is an engrossing story from beginning to end, a real page-turner and superbly written. I nominate Moral Authority byJacob Z. Flores as the most outstanding debut novel of the year. Five Stars.
As my family of five prepares for the relaxing weekend that is Labor Day (yeah right!), I can’t help but think about Provincetown, Massachusetts. (The picture to the left fails to capture its beauty although it makes a good attempt).
For the uninitiated, Provincetown (or Ptown, as those who know her well call her) is a place unparalleled on Earth. When one reaches its shore, either by plane, ferry, or car, the sense of freedom and acceptance one receives here can’t be explained in words. In fact, words are simply not enough. But I will do my best to make my point.
Imagine a place where the stresses and cares of the outside world unfasten themselves from the yoke tied around your neck. Envision a setting where people are friendly and mean it. Picture being in a crowd of people and never once feeling alone.
Many of my non-gay friends often wonder: what’s so special about Provincetown (or Providence-town as many of them call it. Provincetown isn’t Providence, Rhode Island, but few see the difference!)
But I’m eight tracking here.
My non-gay friends cite various paradises they’ve visited. Hawaii. The French Riviera. Costa Rica. The Bahamas. In all those places, they’ve released their stresses, said goodbye to their cares for a few days, and made friends with many happy people.
And I’m happy for them. We all deserve those places.
But for those of us who love someone of the same gender, few places exist where we can truly be free.
I’ve been to Hawaii, Costa Rica, and many places around the world too. The beauties I’ve seen there have truly been exceptional. I certainly don’t deny that. But what my “non-gay” friends have difficulty understanding is that Ptown is where “being gay is normal.” It’s where I can walk hand-in-hand with my husband and kiss him without fear of reprisal. It’s where I meet other gay people like me, who are professional, educated, and just plain fun. In Provincetown, I’ve created so many friendships that I know will truly last a lifetime, despite the distances that may separate us.
So with the coming of Labor Day, which is the last hurrah for Ptown’s tourist season, I think of my friends that I’ve just left and will see again next year. To the Townies who I’ve grown to love–Maria, Michele, Earl, John, Kevin, and Bosco, I look forward to sharing more meals with you next year and probably a few drinks too!
To all my other Ptown friends Mike, Chris, Ron, H.L., Tony, Jerry, John, Gary, Brian, and Mike L., I can’t wait till we trek to tea and spend our days sunning, chatting, and dancing. I’m counting down the days until we are reunited.
And as always, when it happens, it will feel like no time has passed between us at all.
For those who think I’m naive, I know Provincetown isn’t perfect. No place is. But it comes as close to perfect as any place can get. Blemishes exists, but I don’t see them. You always look past the faults of those you love.
And Provincetown, I love you!
With this landmark post. I officially kick off my website and my blog.
I must confess though that starting down the road to creating this site induced more anxiety than writing my novel Moral Authority or going through the publication process. I’m the first to admit that I’m not technologically minded. (Those who know me are at this moment thinking d’uh). You see, I often leave such complicated technological tasks in the hands of my ever-component husband, who seems to be hardwired for this stuff. He speaks in tekkie terms that I don’t understand nor have any desire to.
RSS Feeds? What’s that? And what am I supposed to feed it? Everyone knows I can’t cook!
A web host I assumed was some fancy spider throwing a party on her web.
A dashboard is located on my car, not the control panel of a program where I’m expected to drive a website. Where the hell’s the wheel?!?!
But with patience, and with a few swerves off the electronic highway, I’ve learned a few tricks even he doesn’t know. I know about widgets and installing plug-ins. I may be a novice, but I know more than him about it now, which makes me feel very accomplished (and boastful)! I can create hyperlinks faster than a fifth grader. While that might not be fast, I’m doing better than a fourth grader. Accomplishment #2! I completely understand RSS Feeds and have even included one on my page, courtesy of Queerty. (FYI: It took me less than a minute to establish that link!)
My technological proficiency, which up until this moment consisted of word processing, sending emails, and browsing the web, increases by the minute. Within the year, I may even be somewhat competent.
I look forward to continued growth in this area, and I’m excited to share my thoughts, rants, critiques, opinions, and more with those of you who stop by for a visit.
This should be an interesting journey for all who desire to take it with me.