The Pride Paradox

The end of June and Pride are both here. It used to be just a weekend, but now Pride really gets to strut it’s stuff for a whole month. And that gives us more time to ponder what Pride is and what it means.

At its basic level, it is the opposite of shame. That’s why Pride started as a riot – it was revolt against shame that had been brewing for several years in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and finally with an explosion in New York at Stonewall. It was an expression of rage and anger about how society was shaming people for things that they should not be shamed for. Society has no business criminalizing the most important aspects of an individual’s self – how they perceive themselves, their bodies, and what they do in their sexual lives as, and with, consenting adults.  

A riot turned into Pride. Then, Pride became a demand for acceptance. It isn’t just enough to not be beaten. No one should be denied a job, or an apartment, or simple respect as a human being. 

Acceptance breeds assimilation – once you can be out as a man attracted to other men, the rainbow colored cop car will eventually show up. 2 women married and raising children become a target demographic for major advertisers, just like anyone else. Trans people who would’ve been kicked out of the army can now go fight for our “country’s interests” in far away lands. Society expects some reciprocity for its acceptance.

The corporations that turn their logos rainbow and extol how much they support you are doing that because we are on the profitable side of the ledger right now. It wasn’t always like that. The utter neutrality of money is just that – it actually doesn’t care about anything. Lots of queer activists worked for acceptance and showed that we were worthy of being treated the same. And, to these entities, our money is just as green. 

But just because Citi Bank may have a rainbow version of its logo, that doesn’t mean that the LGBTQ community is not going to be attacked anymore. We still hear horrific stories of torture and abuse. There are those politicians who deride us and religious people who preach against us. Even though we’ve come far, the struggle goes on.

In order to become an accepted part of society, you become part of that society, even while some parts of that society still won’t accept you. A sort of paradox, if you will.

Also posted on facebook.

Joy and Grief

California is on the cusp of re-opening fully. Maybe other parts of the country are there already, but we’re not and we’ll do it in our inimitable west coast style – easy, laid back, and not rushing into anything that isn’t a new iPhone release party at the Apple Store. 

Ever since I got my second COVID vax shot (Moderna, in case you’re wondering, and I know you are, because everyone asks ‘which one did you get?’), I’ve been waiting for this moment, that time when I can not only feel safe for myself, but safe about other people. SF is at the much vaunted herd immunity level of 70% fully vaccinated and our numbers have been good and steady for more than 2 months now. While I’m pretty sure about my own behavior and ability to keep myself safe from this disease, other people are, well, they are other people, and they have their own level of sanity and sanitation. Being “fully vax’d” takes on a different meaning when it’s the whole city you live in, as opposed to just yourself.

There is a joy that I’m experiencing, of being able to see friends and be social. I’ve been going out more and doing more things in public venues and enjoying myself. Events are going to be happening and we’re all going to better for that. We’ll be completely weird and unsure how to interact with each other after so long a time of living in such a limited fashion. And that’s fine. Be patient and gentle.

There is also the grief, I have several friends who have lost husbands, wives, children, parents, and grand parents to this. And there is also the general loss in or communities – restaurants, bars, venues, small businesses that are gone and will never come back. Things are not going back to how they were, but things never go back to how they were, do they? That is the challenge of grief – realizing that change is the only constant and acceptance is the only way forward.

But I’ll probably be a proper San Franciscan and complain about how things were better before, when I first got here, when the city was cooler, when tech was not so ubiquitous, and rent was lower. After all, talking about how the city used to be is SF’s favorite pastime, and I’ll get to enjoy it again with my friends.

QAnon’s Golden Calf

A while back, I wrote how about QAnon was toxic to Trump, and by extension the entire republican party. Several months ago, some religious leaders in our country declared QAnon to be a Gnostic Heresy, and thus fundamentally incompatible with Christianity. This was the opening of a schism in the evangelical community – how do you absorb a heresy that is sweeping away your followers like this and maintain your power? Because evangelical Christianity is essentially a political movement and an extension of the republican party, QAnon sweeps them both together.

You have to understand that QAnon is the recycled anti-semitic ravings that propelled the holocaust. Replace the word “democrat” or “liberal” with the word “jew” and that’s it. Because the story is about the rape and murder of children, it is extraordinarily seductive and effective and people can very easily fall under its spell. It is a powerful narrative that is hard to be against.

We saw during the election and the subsequent riot at the Capitol just how far a conspiracy theory can push people. Combine the conspiracy theory with the hitlerian technique of the Big Lie, and you can easily seduce enough of any given population to your own ends. Trump, in amplifying QAnon and mixing it up with his own baseless claims of election fraud, was able to harness it to his own ends. And his ends do not match those of anyone else, not the republicans, not the evangelicals – no one save for Trump himself.

As Trump is rallying his troops at CPAC, something very interesting happened: his followers paraded a Golden Trump through the lobby of the convention center. When you combine this with the infighting happening in the republican party, i.e. Liz Cheney vs Kevin McCarthy, you begin to see where this is all going – the end of the Reagan coalition of the religious right and the republicans. Trump delivered to the evangelicals many things that they wanted that previous republicans didn’t, and now they get to follow his Golden Idol around Florida.

Remember what happened to the Israelites after they built and worshipped the golden calf.

Why Pagan?

I was raised Roman Catholic and never had a single spark or connection with anything that was taught to me. Eating bread that is now flesh? Wine that is blood? The resurrection? A human sacrifice on a cross? You can always be forgiven, no matter what you do, and get a clean slate just by asking?

We were in first or second grade, studying and preparing for First Eucharist, and one of the lessons was in the church. The priest opened the vault on the altar and showed us the communion wafers that we were soon to take. Our church was in that late 1800s Industrial American Neo Gothic style that is so prevalent in the Mid-West. Built before Vatican 2, the altar was on the back most wall with a huge sculpture around in. The vault was built in there and had 2 motor driven metal doors. There was a key hole next to the doors, the priest inserted and turned the key and THUNK THUNK the 2 doors slid open in order to revel the blessed body of the savior, a collection of round, plain ice cream cone style wafers. He then showed us his chalice and poured the wine and water into it, making a thin transparent red liquid that reflected the ceiling chandeliers with a little bit of golden sparkle. 

It just all seemed so removed from my experience, these lifeless crackers and watered down wine. I had already experienced a connection with nature from the trees in our yard. I knew those trees were a family because they told me. Not a family like humans, but still a family nonetheless. And I could feel that they were alive with spirit in a way the blessed  bread of Christians just isn’t. In fact, the church seemed to be a place that was devoid of energy. It was pretty, and had great acoustics, and it certainly commanded authority. It could also be quiet and contemplative. But I was never moved there, never felt a presence, never experienced peace, joy, or tranquility in that place.

I didn’t experience a void like that with the trees and I knew that was something I needed to follow.

Rush Limbaugh is Dead

There’s a lot of “ding dong the witch is dead” right now over the news of Rush Limbaugh’s death. And rightly so.

I remember the first time I heard him, it was in my mom’s car. I had come home from the University of Iowa, where I was studying english and writing at the time. My mom thought he was hilarious, which you have to acknowledge was part of his charm and allure. However, I was completely horrified at the things he said wrapped up in that mocking, biting humor and I was completely unprepared for how he was going to lead a massive change in how our society perceives itself.

At the time, U of I had rhetoric as a required class for freshmen and Reagan had just repealed the Fairness Doctrine. This became a focal point for our class – how does the regulation of public speech affect the public? What happens to free speech when you remove requirements or guidance for public interest broadcasting to be truthful and balanced? What happens in a society when lies can be substituted for truth and viciously attacking those who disagree with you becomes entertainment? We were about to find out with the advent of Limbaugh.

Limbaugh was the first pundit to truly push what was acceptable on radio and in public commentary in the new Reagan era of an unaccountable, unrestricted media. And then to watch it unfold in front of me that afternoon riding with my mom was truly weird. This was the case with both of my parents, both well educated and relatively fair minded people, they became entranced with his act. It was the first time that I saw how powerful media can be in influencing people. The obvious lies he peddled that they believed because he made them entertaining. The outright racism that he dressed up in humor and made acceptable. The mocking of basic decency every time he opened his mouth. He encouraged hate and reveled in vileness, all to ‘own’ the libs. 

Our media landscape is poorer, more reactionary, and lie infested because Rush Limbaugh helped pave the way. He was an awful person who did awful things to our society. It was with great pleasure that I read his obituary.

Trump Derangement Syndrome

Originally published on facebook, 10/23/2020

It is the craziest of times, it is the most insane of times – don’t you feel like you’re losing your mind?

Certainly, these are strange days where everything seems to be off balance and careening towards some weird unknown destination. It is a moment in time where everyone seems to suffer some kind of mental issue. One of the more popular disorders that people have these days is Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS).  Contrary to certain claims, it isn’t a disease that affects Left/Liberal/Democrats, it’s a disease that affects Right/Conservative/Republicans. And, unfortunately, its effects are felt by all.

Opposition to Trump is enough for his followers to accuse you of suffering from TDS, because they simply cannot understand why anyone would oppose their glorious leader. Consider the following short list:

– Trump made fun of a man with disabilities.
– Trump bankrupted a casino.
– Trump said the he and his daughter Ivanka had sex in common.
– His family stole money from a cancer charity to pay for portraits of Trump.

Any one of these alone is enough (and should be enough) to make you question his morals and his competence. This was all well known before he became president. But, his followers rejected the evidence of their eyes and ears in an Orwellian obedience to Trump’s most essential command: vote for him.

While you can keep denying reality, it does have a way to force the situation and make you deal with it. With the relentless onslaught of denial, it is inevitable that something breaks. There’s just no way that the human brain can keep rejecting the evidence of its eyes and ears and continue to function properly.

With the pandemic, this loyalty has taken a very dark turn. A couple of weeks ago, I was having an online conversation with a Trumper. They said only ‘some’ people die from the corona virus, and when I pointed out that those were real people with real families, they replied with a laughing-so-hard-crying emoji. 

In the past few days, in Idaho, where hospitals are full of COVID patients and the medical system is collapsing, elected members of local health boards have point blank said that the corona virus is a hoax and they have rescinded mask mandates. These are non-medical professionals and they say that the medical professionals need to investigate what’s making everybody so sick, because “it’s not the corona virus”. 

This is derangement, plain and simple. Following Trump has made them deranged enough to deny the reality of this pandemic. They are denying that people are dying and laughing at you when you point that out to them.

Look at Trump’s behavior now in the final 2 weeks of the campaign. He had an interview with Lesley Stahl. His press secretary presented her with what was claimed to be his health plan, and it was a book full of blank pages. Again, he is commanding us to reject the evidence of our eyes and ears, it is his final and most essential command. And to follow his command, is to be become deranged, because that is the only way to truly follow him.

We’ll all have to struggle with the lingering effects of this. 

Is Trump faking us all out?

Lots of folks are speculating that Trump is faking us out with this corona virus diagnosis. They cite how the WH is one big lie machine (alternative facts, dontcha know) and the speculation is he can claim a miracle drug has saved him, and then ride that into victory.

Maybe, but highly highly doubtful IMNSHO.

POTUS lives in the world’s most protective bubble, admitting that he got the virus makes no strategic sense because it means his government failed to keep him safe. Failure is never a good look.

He interacted with donors and now they are PISSED. You can’t anger the people who give you money. 

Other republicans are now being reported as corona +, namely 2 republicans on the judiciary committee. They need them for the ACB hearings. If this was a hoax, there wouldn’t be other people getting sick if they are needed for that. Plus, there’s bunch of WH reporters and staffers who are also being reported as corona + (9 as I write this).

And, my biggest reason why this is not a hoax – it completely undercuts his campaign message about having managed the pandemic well. Why would you vote for the guy who said it was a hoax, inject bleach, it’s going away, it affects almost nobody, and then he comes down with it himself? It contradicts ALL of his messaging from the moment this virus appeared. 

No, I would expect them to cover up a + result long before they’d try to fake one.

How Trump Can Win

originally published on Facebook 8/28/2020

The race is on – can Trump win? Maybe, but I’m very doubtful…

With the conventions over, we now have a better view of how the race is going to run and won. What will determine the outcome? Let’s look…

COVID

Last night, CNN’s Jim Acosta reported that a senior White House official told him that the administration was going to go for a herd immunity approach to the virus. Let it rip through the population and get everyone infected to achieve immunity. Sweden has been held up as the model for this approach, but they suffered massive death and just as much economic hardship. That doesn’t seem sensible to me. Plus, the NYT has shown through their polling research that in any given district, as the corona virus cases and deaths increased, Trump’s approval decreased, a direct relationship measured in real time. If they adopt this, there’ll be lots of dissent, and it’ll be a disaster. Just imagine the news stories about the children who die from it after a big push towards herd immunity.

The Economy and the Stock Market

Trump is famous for following the stock market and hailing it as the economy. The general economy sucks right now, so he has to push the performance of the stock market, which is spectacular right now. However, October is the traditional month for economic crashes, and Warren Buffet’s crash indicator is blinking red.

Kenosha

The teenaged vigilante is being hailed by the right wing. But, as I suspected, he has a past that is troubled and possibly criminal. By raising him up as a good guy, while simultaneously putting down Jacob Blake for the exact same kind of past, they will only amplify the issue of race in this country. White Americans are majority in favor of the BLM movement and of working towards racial justice, a new phenomenon in America. How can the majority support racial justice, but support the teenaged mutant ninja vigilante at the same time?

Protests, Riots, and Crime

This is the weak spot. Trump sees it, the right wing sees it. If they can make this the narrative, they have a chance. Consider the following:
— The protests have a majority support, peaceful protest is as American as apple pie. The racial injustice they highlight is something the country wants to address, the numbers in the crowds plainly show that.
— Nobody likes riots. Are they the work of Antifa or the 3% white supremacists? They have to convince people that right wing agitators don’t exist, but they do. This is going to depend upon how much each group gets tagged with the violence. Right now, there is more credible evidence that right wing agitators are responsible. Will that change?
Crime is at a generational low in this country, even with the recent uptick, it is still less than half of what it was in the mid 1990’s. People in cities are safer than they were then. So, he needs to make it look much worse than it is. But, who is the president right now? That becomes a sticky question, as Trump famously takes no responsibility for anything, but how can the president not be responsible to some degree? Especially if he keeps pushing how bad it is. I’m not sure how a sitting president can make the country look like it is suffering a crime wave and argue to be reelected.

It looks like Trump is going to run a law and order campaign, much like his hero Nixon did in 1968 and 1972, it is his only real option. But, I suspect that is not going to have the same effect. The electorate of 2020 is not the same as it was in either of those races and I think this is a mistake for him to go that direction without tying in police reforms and racial justice. I’m working on a piece about that, look for it soon.

For Trump to win, a few things will have to happen- the virus will have to magically go away so that death and sickness go down, the stock market doesn’t crash, the economy stops bleeding jobs, there will have to be incontestable evidence that the left wing agitators are a greater threat than right wing agitators, and he has to somehow convince people that a crime wave has taken over the country for which he bears no responsibility. These things could all happen, but I have my doubts.

QAnon is Toxic to Trump

originally published on facebook 8/26/2020

QAnon is toxic to Trump, he just doesn’t know it yet.

QAnon posits that there is a global cabal of satan worshipping pedophile cannibals running the world. Somehow, they’ve infiltrated the government and many parts of our society. Trump and the republicans have now openly embraced this idea, thinking that it will lead to political power. However, evangelical leaders are starting to denounce QAnon as a Gnostic heresy. A schism has opened up, and it will only get wider.

There is an inherent tension in any conspiracy theory because ultimately it is a lie. The purveyor of the theory can use many different techniques to convince people of its truth, but ultimately what they are selling is rubbish. The believers of the theory eventually will see this. At some point, the brainwashing wears off, reality crashes in, and they suffer cognitive dissonance.

I’ve often made the joke- what’s the difference between a cult and a religion? About 150 years. QAnon is only around 3 years old. There’s another 147 years to go before they have the institutional strength of being a religion behind them. Ultimately, it is a belief system that is flimsy at best, because it has not had time to develop. Evangelical Christianity is much older and has much more sway because of its age, it is an institution, it is trusted, it has power, and it does not like competition, especially competition that it can’t absorb. QAnon is a threat to their own power, but it is too weak to succeed. QAnon will, however, do a lot of damage.

Many Christian rituals were absorbed from other cults, it has a long tradition of doing so. However, it can’t absorb a tradition that is antithetical to its own beliefs. While QAnon can co opt the Republican party, I’ve suspected that Christianity can’t co opt QAnon, and my suspicions are proving correct, as the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is now confirming. The rejection of QAnon by the elite of the Evangelical Christianity will split and weaken both movements.

The evangelical embrace of Trump was always a deal with the devil, Trump is not Reagan, he can’t project a wholesome image of himself, and he just doesn’t care about morality. As we’ve seen in the Jerry Falwell jr saga, we are also now seeing it in the QAnon saga, he corrupts everyone he comes into contact with.

Everything Trump Touches Dies.

Evangelical leaders denounce QAnon