Thursday, August 25, 2005

The God of Homophobes?

This topic has been on my mind ever since I wrote my little rant about Straight White Males. I know much of what I am about to say is going to boil the blood of the faithful but please take a moment before reacting to truly try to understand what I am saying. This is not just some mean-spirited attack on Christianity. This is an appeal to the humanity of those who use religion to justify hatred of others because of thier race, religion or sexual orientation and those who use it to justify hating themselves. A few days after sparking off that last controversial debate I was on Maurice Broaddus' messageboard discussing racism and discrimination in general when the discussion turned towards gays in the church. My comments went like this:

"... I will try my best to be diplomatic here, but the Christian church is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to the oppression of sexual minorities. And I mean even the most liberal of them. How would you feel if you went to church and they said "We accept you and welcome you even though we think that your very nature is a sin against God and nature."

I remember visiting my mother's church to see a play. The basic idea of the play was that faith can cure anything. Positive message. Except what was it that faith was supposed to be curing in this play? One man's drug abuse. That's positive. Another woman's partying and promiscuity. That's positive. And then one young girl's homosexuality. What? My mother didn't get why I was so offended by this. She kept telling me that her church welcomes gays and wants to help them. "Why does the church assume that gays are in need of help?" I asked. "Because homosexuality is a sin." She replied. "I see, so your church is not accepting of gays." I replied. "Oh yes we are," she said, "We want to help them." "By telling them that they are diseased and in need of a cure? That's real accepting." And round and round we went.

What if you were a young kid who was already feeling terrible because he had just realized he was gay with all the social stigma that comes along with that. You go to church and they keep telling you that you are sinning against God and that you were suffering from some type of mental disease that you could cure through faith. You watch a play that shows a sinful young homosexual finding God and getting cured. So you pray and pray and ask God to take your sinful nature away but nothing happens because you are what you are. So you start feeling even worse about yourself. Your friends ridicule you, society ostracizes you, and now even your church has told you that you are fucked up. Is there any wonder why the suicide rate among gay teens is so high?"

And remember this is just about those congregations that do welcome gays, many do not. Most cast homosexuals out of the flock as soon as they are discovered. Most churches preach fiery sermons blaming homosexuality for the fall of the entire moral fiber of America and a sign that Armaggedon is near. Basically, telling everyone that God is about to destroy the world because your neighbor sleeps with another man.

It is no secret that I have no love for religion for many reason. The biggest is because of my undying love of truth and reason. The other is because I can never understand how my people who have been enslaved for centuries could so willingly adopt their slavemaster's God and willingly bow before yet another master, the great overseer in the sky. Sorry, I bow to no one. The other is because I think it impedes people's ability to reason clearly and it has turned my mother into yet another mindless zombie. And the biggest is because the religion I grew up with, Christianity, is filled with hate and intolerance which has spawned millions of hateful intolerant people who justify their hatred with the bible. And before you say that these people are misinterpreting the bible please read it. I think you'd be surprised.

In Leviticus 20:11 the Lord says unto Moses: "If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

How can a religion that on its surface professes to be so peaceful and loving contain such hate? But more importantly how can genuinely sweet and loving people accept it? How can the very people this hatred is aimed at still accept it?

I have never understood how people can read such hateful intolerant crap in the bible and say "Well, I don't believe that part." or, "I don't accept everything the bible says." or, "I choose to interpret it differently." How many different ways can you interpret hate? How many different ways can you interpret the fact that the bible says all homosexuals should be put to death? How then can we continue to call this wrathful intolerant deity the God of love? Remember the laws governing chain of evidence? Garbage in. Garbage out. If you can admit that there are things in the bible that are contrary to your beliefs, thing that you believe to be false, vicious, nasty, and hateful, things you do not accept, how then can you believe any of it? Garbage in. Garbage out.

There seems to me to be no ambiguity about it, no room for interpretation. It says quite clearly that God is a homophobe who thinks all homosexuals should be put to death despite the fact that he created their very nature. Yet, we have gays who flock to the Christian church, struggling to hold onto a faith that has clearly expressed hatred for their very existence. What sense does this make? The Pope is against gay marriage yet we have gay priests, bishops, and cardinals and I would not doubt that there has been a gay pope or two. How can they rectify thier faith with the fact that their own religion has commanded their extinction?

I knew a gay priest back when I was twenty and a tad more naive than I am today. He was no longer working for the church but he was still officially a priest. He started a business managing gay pornstars which I found out one day at a party when I asked why every time I went over his house there was a naked guy lying on the couch with a guitar between his legs. Everyone laughed and informed me that the naked guy was one of the hottest gay pornstars around at that time and that Vince was his manager. Once the cat was out of the bag Vince opened up and started telling me all about what he does and why he left the church. He had left the Catholic church because he didn't feel right telling young gay kids that they were sinning against God when he was gay himself and he was against the church's entire policy against homosexuals. So, he left to do what he wanted to do. It seemed like Vince had everything he wanted. He even tried to talk me into doing a movie. I respectfully declined. Then, a year after I left Hollywood and moved to San Francisco, I found out that Vince had returned to the priesthood. What? He went back to the very church who's edict is that a man who "also lie down with mankind as he lieth with a woman" should be slain? This makes about as much sense to me as women returning to the men who beat them.

The church's hatred of gays isn't the only twisted morality in the bible, however. For those who cling to Leviticus as their excuse to hate all homosexuals please read the rest of that lovely little chapter. It also says that eating pork and rabbit and lobster and crab is a sin. Getting a tattoo is a sin. A woman on her period should be kept in isolation for seven days when she is menstruating and whoever touches anything she sits or lays upon will be unclean. And if a man has sex with a woman who is menstruating then both of them should be exiled from their people. And if a woman is the daughter of a priest and she becomes promiscuous than she should be burnt to death. If a man masturbates he should be put to death. It also condones making slaves of heathens and buying and selling their children. That's right. The King James Bible condones slavery. So, if you believe that homosexuals are sinners do you also believe all the rest of this crap and if not then why not? You want your pork and lobster and tattoos but lets stone all the gays? Is your faith so arbitrary that you can pick and choose what of it to believe and what of it to reject? Is the bible the infallible word of God or is it not? Is it merely a matter of fashion and convenience?

I apologize if I sound hostile but all the people who talk about "True Christianity" and call the extremists and hate mongers who burn crosses on lawns and blow up abortion clinics and perform exorcisms on thier gay children "false Christians" should perhaps read the bible again and not just the user-friendly New Testament. Read the whole damn thing. Apparently the KKK has got it more right than most.

I have never understood how Black people could be Christians when it was a religion that was force fed to us by our slave owners. When our enslavement is condoned in the bible, since we were then those heathens Leviticus talks about making "bondsmen and bondsmaids" out of and giving our children to their children as "possessions". Now the bible is used by racists to condemn "The children of Ham". Another excuse to hate. I have never understood how Mexicans could be some of the most devout Christians on the planet when Conquistadors murdered Mexicans by the tens of thousands and stole their gold while missionaries of the Christian church, baptizing Mexican babies before smashing their heads with stones. And I certainly cannot understand how homosexuals can be Christians when it is the Christian right that opposes gay marriage, gay rights, gay existence and even some of the most liberal Christians, like my loving mother, still believe that you are all mentally disturbed.

There are many good Christians who love all of humanity and are tolerant of everyone's differences. There are many that are not. That's really not the question here. The question is of the religion itself, the bible itself. Is it homophobic? I don't see how you can read it and think otherwise. Are the churches who say to homosexuals, "Come on in! We welcome you and we are here to help you to stop being an abomination against our God with your sinful lifestyle," really what you consider to be loving and accepting? Or are they destructive to impressionable youths who might be gay and scared and confused and probably depressed and suicidal or who might have gay classmates they are thinking about bashing the hell out of. And if God is a homophobe can we still call him the god of love? Should good, loving people still worship him? Can you call yourself a good person even while you are voting against another human being's right to marry the person they love just because your religion tells you to? Isn't that like the Nazi's who claimed they were just following orders? Isn't it your duty as a good person, Christian or not, to stand up for what you know to be right regardless of what it says in the bible, just like you did against slavery and locking women away during their menstrual cycles and murdering men who "giveth his seed unto Molech"? Does being a good Christian inhibit you from being a good human being? All I'm asking is that you think about it. Put your faith aside for one moment and use your heart and mind.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

"Perhaps a child who is fussed over gets a feeling of destiny, he thinks he is in the world for something important and it gives him drive and confidence." - Dr. Benjamin Spock Posted by Picasa

"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself."

-Kahlil Gibran, "On Children", The Prophet Posted by Picasa

"Blessed be childhood, which brings down something of heaven into the midst of our rough earthliness. "

- Henri Fredderic Amiel Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Why Do They Stay?

Let me start by saying that any man who physically abuses a woman is not a man at all. This is the lowest form of cowardice right up there with child abuse, rape, child molestaion, and animal cruelty. It is more than a character flaw. It is one of the most despicable acts a man can commit against another human being. It is a flaw in the very soul of the abuser. I can think of no sane rationalization for why a man would brutalize the woman he professes to love. The problem is that I can think of no sane rationalization for why these women stay.

I had told myself that I was going to take a break from the really controversial subjects for a while. That last topic was more than enough controversy for me. But circumstances have conspired to once again force me to delve into one of the most reprehensible aspects of human nature. Domestic Violence.

Let me say at the outset that I am not a woman so I cannot understand any of the complex emotions that govern women's behaviors. I cannot understand what it is like to be the physically weaker sex. I cannot understand what it is like to know that whether or not you are really physically weaker than most men the fact that the world perceives you as helpless victims makes it a dangerous place for you. If right now, with all of my size, strength, and abilities, I knew that half the world considered me an easy target, I would never leave the house unarmed. I'd probably never leave the house at all. It is a dangerous world for women. The fact that you are able to survive and thrive in such a world truly amazes me. There is much I do not understand about women and I really want to. I want to know it all. But this question most of all I want an answer to:

"Why do they stay? What possible redeeming qualities could a woman find in a man who beats her? What could possibly be so good about a lowlife like that that you wouldn't leave his ass immediately? There are men out there who would never abuse you, men who would love you and treat you like a goddess, yet again and again you choose the worst of us. Again and again you leave these assholes only to return to the same abusive relationship after some weak promises that last only as long as the next argument. I don't understand. Why do you stay?"

I accept battered women's syndrome. I accept Stockholm Syndrome. I accept. But I do not understand. I accept that a woman might feel she has no choice, might be afraid that he would track her down and hurt her even worse. I accept that some women have such low self-worth that they feel they can do no better, that the occasional fits of violence are a price they are willing to pay to have a man, that they might even believe that they deserve this abuse. I accept it but I cannot understand it. I can't understand the women who still love their abusers and make excuses for them. The ones who still believe that the man who would bruise and batter them is still somehow a good husband or boyfriend or worse of all, those who feel he is still a good father. If you have kids and you are allowing yourself to remain in a situation like this I can neither understand nor accept. If you are pregnant with the children of an abusive man and you do not run far far away from him, I can neither understand nor accept this. It is your duty as a mother to protect your children and that means leaving that abusive asshole. It doesn't matter if he has never laid a hand on your children, letting children bare witness to the brutalization of their mother is abuse in itself. Sleeping on the street is better than living in a relationship with a man who beats the mother of his children. There is always a better place to go. Your children would sleep better on concrete than in constant fear.

One of my earliest memories is of the man that I thought was my Dad beating my mother every night while my sister and I sat in the next room screaming at the top of our lungs for him to stop hurting our mother. I was five years old the last time that happened. My mother left him when he tried to force her to take poison and she never took shit from any man again. Yet, the memory still haunts me thirty years later. I still feel the guilt of not being able to help her. I still wish I could kill this man.

I was brought up to believe that there was no more heinous act a man could commit against a woman than to physically abuse her. I would expect any woman who is assaulted by the man who is supposed to love her to walk out and never look back except perhaps to stare across a courtroom at him when he is being convicted for domestic abuse. This is what I expect. Yet, again and again I see women in these abusive relationships who do not get out. Who do not even hate the men who abuse them. I am at a loss to understand. Perhaps it is because I value women so much that I cannot understand why they value themselves so little.

My first girlfriend told me that she thought it was sexy in those old movies when a man would give a woman a little smack. But, "Only when she really deserves it," and pointed to that Humphrey Bogart movie when he smashes a grapefruit in a woman's face as an example of one of these "sexy" moments in cinematic history. I was utterly repulsed. All I could think about was the hell my mother went through and here was this silly little idiot glorifying violence against women. I told her that if I ever even looked like I was going to strike her that she should leave and never look back. I understand now that she probably grew up in a household where that took place and she was still trying to come to terms with that. She was trying to find a way to love her father even though he abused her mother. Her solution, however, glorifying the abuse, almost guarantees the continuance of that cycle of violence. In her mind she had made the act normal, acceptable, even sexy. That way she was able to still love her father and respect him as a man despite the fact that he was a cowardly wife-beater. Who would want their daughters to grow up thinking that this type of violence was normal or sexy? Her mother should have gotten out and so I would have a difficult time not blaming her as well as her father for how her daughter turned out and all the pain and heartache she is likely to have endured in her life as a result. I lost touch with her a decade and a half ago but I am willing to bet that her life has not been a bed of roses and her relationships were anything but idyllic. Abuse begets abuse.

When I was seventeen a good friend of mine was bouncing from one abusive relationship to the next. She had gotten hooked on cocaine and coke dealers. She would date these guys so that they could buy her nice clothes and jewelry and feed her habit and then when they started kicking her ass she'd call me to come rescue her, which I would. I kicked the asses of more coke dealers in that town than anyone outside of the Philadelphia PD. I didn't have a car and so I would catch buses and subways into some of the worst neighborhoods in Philly, walk into a crackhouse or often even the guy's apartment, beat him within an inch of his life, take her and walk back to the bus stop. On any one of these occasions I could have easily been shot and killed. Each time she would go back to these cowardly assholes and I would be back there in a week or two. Then she'd finally leave him for yet another drug dealer and the cycle would continue. One night I found myself in the projects in West Philadelphia after midnight beating up a drug dealer in his parent's home. I left him bleeding on his kitchen floor. We had not taken two steps out of his house before she was running back in there to be with him. I washed my hands of her that night and I have never spoken to her again. I can only assume that she is dead now. That's how stories like hers always end. Why? Why does it have to be this way?

Now, just a few days ago, my girlfriend gets a call from a girl she has known most of her life. They practically grew up together and they had been out of touch for over a year because the girl was in an extremely abusive relationship with a man who would beat her with a golf club and Christie couldn't stand to witness it. So she gets a call from the girl and learns that she now has two children, one that is a year old and one that is only seven weeks old, and that she is in a homeless shelter and still with the same abusive idiot. He kicked her out with both kids and she had nowhere else to go. She was crying because she still wanted them to be a family. The man who beats her with a golf club. So, I leave work to go pick this girl up because her boyfriend was coming down there to attack her again and I didn't want Christie anywhere near that situation. I get her without incident and we drive to the house with her telling me how she couldn't believe he would kick her out, how she thought that he loved her and loved her kids and wanted them to be a family. The guy who beats her with golf clubs. My stomach was roiling the entire time along with my blood. I was angry that the guy hadn't been there when I arrived so that I could have done to him what he'd been doing to the mother of his children. I was angry that this girl still seemed to be in love with this idiot despite all of that. I was angry that she had even had kids with him knowing what type of man he was. And I was angry that she had lived with him for over a year with him abusing her in front of her kids and hadn't left until he'd basically kicked her out. And I was angry because I know she'll probably go back to him, kids and all, and he'll keep beating the hell out of her until he eventually kills her. I was angry at her for not seeing any of this. I know that's wrong but I was. I wanted to take her kids away from her and report her to Child Protective Services. In my mind, if she wasn't woman enough to put her child's welfare above her own fucked up relationship issues than she didn't deserve them. But I did not. I opened my house to her and her children. Christie is helping her to find a job and get her own apartment and I am walking around amazed that this woman still seems so uncertain and almost remorseful about leaving the man who beat her with a golf club. The first chance she got she called this idiot and was going to go see him if Christie had not warned her that if she left our assistance would come to an end. I don't understand. Someone please enlighten me. Why do they stay?

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Race against Race

I was holding off on this discussion because I knew it would bruise a lot of feelings and generate ire in those who would rather just sweep it all under the rug. I know I'm going to piss some people off with this, but fuck it. I've got to get some shit off my chest. I always try to stay tactful and diplomatic on messageboards but others have not been so tactful or diplomatic and this is my fucking blog and I speak my mind here .

There has been a growing movement among Middle Class Straight Caucasian Males to play the victim and whine and complain about being cast as the villain in race relations here in America. It's the complaint that Straight White Males are discriminated against because you can say negative things about them without repercussions and there's an immediate backlash whenever a racial or sexual minority is attacked. There is also the suggestion that programs designed to boost minority opportunity somehow deprive Straight White Males of opportunity by being exclusionary. This was bound to happen. Sooner or later there was bound to be a reactionary backlash to the Equal Rights Movement among even the most liberal of White folks and here it is. They are tired of baring the guilt for the sins of their fore fathers though they are more than willing to benefit from those sins. They are tired of being told that they owe the descendents of slaves any special consideration even though statistics show that opportunities for African Americans are no greater than they were fifty years ago. "How can that be when I see Black athletes and entertainers on TV making millions everyday?" Add that to the statistic of a growing number of minorities at or below the poverty level and a decreasing Black middle class and you'll get my point. Think of where you live and then think about where the Black middle class neighborhood is. In most cities there is none. There is the one black middle class family in the all white neighborhood. True, there has been a rise in Black homeownership but Black owned businesses are almost a thing of the past. I remember when Tupac was asked why he was still angry when he was rich and he replied that he's angry because his brothers and sisters are still poor and he has to live in an all white neighborhood now because if he tried to live in a Black neighborhood they would rob him because they ain't got shit.

When Public Enemy cried, "I have the right to be hostile! My people have been persecuted!" almost twenty years ago, everyone agreed because that was the popular stance of the time. Fashions have now changed. Now it is fashionable to tell Black people to just let go of the past and get over it even when inequality still exists in the workplace, in the political arena, in economics, and even in the entertainment field. Yes, there are hundreds of Black athletes making millions yet how many black coaches are there in pro-football despite the fact that they are pre-dominant in college and high school football? The same goes for Black quarterbacks. How many African American quarterbacks are there in college ball setting records yet how many of them are allowed to remain in that position if and when they are drafted? How many Black owners are there? There are more roles for Black actors these days but name the Black dramatic series on television? There are plenty of comedic roles but no one wants to hear about our problems. No one wants to see us as real people or heroes, only as clowns and buffoons. Remember what happened to "Homicide: Life on The Street" after the Nielson ratings revealed that it was being watched by a predominantly Black audience? The main character, who just happened to be Black, suddenly had a stroke and was replaced by his white partner. When fans reacted negatively to these changes the show was soon cancelled. The same happened to New York Undercover after the Nielson ratings revealed that it was in the top ten of shows watched by Black audiences and not in the top ten among white audiences. The Black and Puerto Rican main characters suddenly acquired White partners. Again, when fans didn't go for it the show was cancelled. Both of these shows were winning their time slots. They were just hitting the wrong demographics, meaning not White folks. So they were first gentrified and then expunged. Living Single wasn't even given a chance. As soon as the ratings came out that show was cancelled. Again, despite the fact that it was one of the top shows in its timeslot. Wrong demographics once again. As if Black people don't buy automobiles, toothpaste, and eat fast food. Yet again, we are just overreacting. We need to get over ourselves.

Ever since the Civil Rights Movement spotlighted inequality in America the Straight White Male has been handed a major guilt trip. He has been demonized in the consciousness of most minority Americans and for a long time even in his own consciousness. I don't know what it's like to walk around with the guilt of being the recipient of privileges acquired from the enslavement of 50 million Africans or the death of 50 million more. I don't know what it's like to walk around with the guilt of being the ancestors of those original slave masters. I don't know what it's like to have the blood of nations of Native Americans on my hands. I don't know what it's like to be thought of as an oppressor even though I personally had not oppressed anyone and neither did any of my family members. I don't know what it's like to have every word out of my mouth scrutinized for possible racist overtones simply because I am a member of the ruling class here in America. I also don't know what it's like to walk into a job interview and not think about the color of my own skin as a possible limitation or to never have those fears justified. I also don't know what it's like to see a police officer cruise by without thinking of the color of my skin as possible probable cause for harassment or to have never had those fears justified. I don't know what it's like to have never walked into a store and had security follow me around because of the color of my skin. I don't know what it's like to have never had taxi cab drivers refuse to pick me up because of the color of my skin and to have never had them blatantly admit it without feeling the least bit of guilt for it. I don't know what it's like to have never been the only representative of my race at a social event, at a job, at a school, in an entire corporation. I don't know what it is like to not have to think about the color of my skin every fucking day, when I'm applying for a loan, when I'm just walking into a bank, when I'm buying a house, when some stupid salesman turns on hip-hop music and blares the stereo as loud as he can in order to try to sell me a car, when I'm approaching anyone who's never met me before and who isn't a minority, when I listen to Caucasian Americans talk about the good old days. I don't know what it's like to listen to some of the largest corporations in America give apologies for slavery and then oppose reparations when their wealth was built off slave labor, to see politicians with blatantly racist views get elected and then reelected, to see programs designed to help minorities cut or abolished, to see bills designed to help minorities vetoed, to hear statistics that say that African Americans are six times more likely to receive the death penalty than White Americans who commit the same crime, and not feel like this country I pay my taxes to every year doesn't give a fuck about me.

So, yeah, I kind of understand the Straight White Male's frustration at constantly being cast as the bad guy but I think that giving voice to those frustrations, not feeling like it's a comparatively miniscule price to pay for all the privileges you have the luxury of taking for granted ( and by privileges I mean rights you enjoy that minorities don't in case there was any confusion) as a result of racial discrimination in America, makes you an asshole.

A gay author and I were chatting on a message board the other night and he remarked that he didn't think there was any prejudice in the Horror community. Several others jumped in to disagree with him on this stating comments made about Maurice Broadus and I behind our backs and how there were still people pissed off about my defense of African American horror anthologies and other comments I'd made in response to the "Poor poor pitiful Straight Middle Class White Male" mentality. See, there was a thread on a message board a few years back in response to an anthology that was coming out of African American Horror Authors. Some well-respected authors got on the thread and started making fun of the anthology and no one stepped in to defend it. No one. Except yours truly of course. I get that many of the other authors were probably intimidated by the caliber of some of the names involved in this thread. I get that many people probably hadn't ever thought about the question of racially specific anthologies and so were undecided on the issue. But the over all tone of the thread was so offensive that someone should have spoken up. As they say, all it takes for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing. So I got on and went on the attack. A few authors even had the balls to try to defend their stance. What did they say? Oh, come one. You know. You've heard this old tired ass reasoning before. It's the same idiotic justification attempted when people get up in arms about Black History Month or Affirmative Action. "How would you feel if we had an all White anthology?" How stupid is that? So I asked these ballsy morons, "Out of all the horror anthologies, short story collections, novels, and novellas on your bookshelves, how many are written by African American Authors? How many feature African American Heroes or heroines? How many even feature African American villains or even side kicks? And of those who do how many feature these characters in non-stereo-typical roles?" You getting my point here? There is no need for an all-White anthology because just due to the fact that Whites are the ruling majority in America and even more so in Horror, almost every horror anthology is all-white. Those that include the odd minority are rare indeed.

Now, flash forward to just a few weeks ago. I stumble across a thread on a widely-read message board asking why there was a need for a gay rights movement. Again it was stated in a very condescending manner and once again numerous authors jumped on the bandwagon. There is a need for movements that specifically address specific rights that are being trampled on because there has been a general guide for all rights here in America for over two-hundred years in the Bill of Rights yet certain groups have still been victimized despite this. So, for all the morons who can't understand "All men are created equal" we have found the need to get more detailed. Thus we have Gay Rights, Womens Rights, and all the various other Equal Rights Movements. Once the conversation began to shift towards the entire Minority Rights Movement (which it did almost immediately) I jumped in, almost immediately. One of the biggest arguments here was "Why is it okay for minorities to trash Whites and not okay for Whites to make fun of minorities?" This was a serious question. More surprisingly was the fact that there were many people who shared this concern. As stated above, I get it. I know that the Straight White Male is sick and tired of being cast as the bad guy and I agree. It would be a better world if there was no discrimination at all whether it's the majority discriminating against the minority or the reverse. But are you really saying that you can't understand why the oppressed makes fun of the oppressors? Aren't you from this planet? You can't understand why it's not as offensive when Jews make fun of Nazis as it is when Nazis make fun of Jews? You can't understand why the privileged kid making fun of the underprivileged is more offensive than the underprivileged making fun of the privileged? One is a survival mechanism and one is just pure cruelty, hatefulness, and selfishness. There's a big difference in me saying White people can't dance and have small dicks and you saying Niggers are lazy, stupid, crack-smoking, murderous thieves. What I said might make you uncomfortable and piss you off but it ain't going to sit in the minds of jurors and send innocent men to jail, it isn't going to fester in the back of an employer's mind when he's looking across from me at a job interview, it isn't going to influence a police officer's decision on whether to pull me over and go billyclub crazy because I'm not wearing my seatbelt. And there is no word you can call a White person that has the painful history of the word "Nigger". There is no word for White people that means "My people enslaved, raped, tortured, oppressed, and abused your people for over two hundred years". Nothing compares in terms of pure hatefulness than the "N" word.

My girlfriend and I were on our way to church. It was a church I had picked because I'm not big on religion and I wanted something non-denominational and multi-faith. So I found a Unitarian church that just happened to be in a predominantly Latino and Black neighborhood. Half-jokingly but Half seriously she asked me if we could leave if we pulled up and she was the only White person there because she would feel uncomfortable. I was mildly offended and told her that being with me she'd have to get used to it just like I had to get used to being the only Black guy in some situations. She then pointed out that I had been dealing with it for far longer than she had, all my life in fact. I had grown a thicker skin to prejudice over the years. I was used to it. For her it was a new experience. She was right. I was used to it. And that's a damn shame. It's a damn shame that because of me she's going to have to get used to it too.

Race relations in America suck. They are getting better undoubtedly. Twenty years ago I walked down the street with my Italian girlfriend and got hateful stares from both Black people and White people alike. Now those glares are less frequent from White folks though my sistas still harbor the old animosity. Twenty years ago movies featuring African American main characters were few and far between. They are still relatively rare and the fact that you can name the five or six that came out this year or last out of the hundreds of movies Hollywood releases each year just proves my point. Still, those five or six are winning awards and opening doors. True there have been so few Best Actor or Actress awards given by the academy to Black actors that you could hardly even call it a handful, but the majority of those that have been given have happened in the last five years. True, Black people are still pulled over by police due to "Reasonable suspicion" almost twice as much as White people, but there is far more of a chance than there used to be that if we wind up in court the judge will be Black. True, it has been proven again and again in the last two decades that you can completely ignore the Black community and still get elected President. But the possibility of an African American as a serious candidate for the presidency has never been greater. So, yes we have come a long way, but not enough to relax and get over it, not enough to stop fighting. We cannot let the past be the past until it is no longer a reality in our present. And we certainly have not come far enough for the meager table scraps we are tossed from massa's table to be any threat to the Straight White Male hierarchy. Relax. You are still in control.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Life Examined

"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates said this more than two thousand years ago. Yet how many of us really examine our lives, our beliefs, values and opinions? How many of us question why we believe what we believe from our morals and ethics to our prejudices and biases to our politics and religion? How many of us just parrot our cultural, familial, or generational party line without truly understanding the reasoning behind these ideologies? How many of us go through life like a leaf in the wind just going with the flow without once questioning why or where it is all leading. How many of us except what we hear on TV or read in the newspaper or a magazine or hear on the street or what we have been told all our lives growing up without once examining the reasons arguments and evidence supporting these beliefs? How many of us have convictions that we cannot even logically defend? I have heard many people get flustered and red-faced when asked the reasoning behind truths they hold to be "a priori" or true independent of evidence or critical evaluation. True just because they are true. You often get the: "I don't know why I believe it. I just do!" or the: "Everybody knows that!" reply. Meaning that they haven't thought about whether their beliefs are true or false and don't want to now. They want to believe not think. Racists, bigots, sexists, and homophobics all fit into this mold. They have their beliefs and they don't want to hear any evidence to contradict them. They are willfully ignorant. They want comfort and conformity not truth. As a result, no matter how many experiences they have in their lifetimes, they gain no further wisdom and no greater knowledge. They remain happy fools or as Schopenhauer called them "Happy animals." Except they are only happy so long as they are surrounded by like-minded people who won't challenge their beliefs. So, in order to preserve their happiness they isolate themselves in intellectual ghettos. The greatest tragedy of this mentality is that they will never know who they truly might have been were they not saddled with these dogmas. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said "Man has but two choices, to be a happy animal or a suffering God." I have long accepted that some people do not wish to know truths that might upset their world view and cause them distress. Some people want to remain happy animals. The problem is that these happy animals are often dangerous to the freedom and liberty of others. Let me explain.

You see all of our actions and our emotional responses correspond to our values. We cringe at death because we value life. Were this value not in place death would hold no sway over us. You go to any prison where the value of life has been minimized and meet individuals who value neither your life or theirs and you will find no fear of death. We pity the homeless because they are fellow humans and we value humanity. Where there is no love of humanity there is no pity for the suffering of others. We are outraged when someone attacks our country because we value it. If we did not we would care less if someone attacked it so long as it didn't interfere with anything else we valued. When our values are askew we find ourselves reacting to things that would otherwise be meaningless. Like the Black woman who scowls and is angered when she sees that the mother of my child is Caucasian. Why does she react this way? Because she values Blackmen and sees White women as a threat. Why does she see them as a threat? Because she has been taught to. Even though a moments indulgence in logic would tell her that even were I not with this woman the chances of me meeting and falling in love with her out of all the other women in the world are still minimal. Logically she should see all women as threats and scowl every time she sees a man with any woman that is not her because they are all threats. The woman who scowls even when she has her own man makes even less sense. She is reacting to a cultural bias that she has in all likelihood never took a moment to truly examine. The same goes to the White men who react similarly. The list goes on and on. The fat girl who hates skinny girls. The short guy who hates tall guys. The straight guy who scowls when he sees two men kissing. What possible harm could that do to him? It's because he has been taught to value heterosexuality. That's fine. How is someone else's sexual orientation a threat to his sexuality unless he has tendencies within him that he is battling with? It's just a result of someone failing to reason and merely excepting that the more gays that are open with their sexuality the more that lifestyle will prosper as if it's some type of disease you can catch. Pure idiocy. As a result of this willful ignorance you have the impediment of the rights of others because of the groundless fears of ignorant majority. That's why we can't always let the "Happy animals" remain happy, because maintaining their illusions often entail curtailing the freedom of others to live where, how, and with whom they desire.

"Know Thyself." It was said to have been written above the entrance to the temple of The Oracle of Delphi where Socrates went for guidance. "Know Thyself". How many of us really do however? The advice they gave Socrates was that he was the wisest among men because he did not think he knew what he did not know. There is many an old fool who could benefit from such self-knowledge.

Much of what we consider knowledge, strangely some of our most deeply held beliefs and convictions, were acquired through osmosis. We absorbed them from our surroundings. Assimilated it into our mental landscape from our peers, society, family, and culture, and then accepted them with fanatical conviction without ever once stopping to question the veracity of these beliefs. We accepted our parent's prejudices, our society's mores, our culture's traditions, our generation's aesthetics, the politics of our economic class, and whichever religion got to us first. Not once in all of this did the average fool ever ask "Why?". "Why do I believe this?" "Is it true?" "What is the evidence that supports it?" "What is the evidence against it?" "Can it be refuted?" "What do others believe?" "Why doesn't everyone believe as I do?" The old fool never asks these questions, never examines his experiences with a critical eye and so despite all the experiences of a lifetime he has gained no greater wisdom. His experiences have gained him no knowledge. He has not sought answers because he had already accepted the answers he'd been given. He did not seek knowledge because he believed that he already knew. Socrates was the wisest among men because he could admit his own ignorance. The old fool is a fool because he believes himself to be wise, because he thinks he knows all the answers. "The unexamined life is not worth living." said Socrates. How many of us examine our lives? How many of us question what we have held so long to be true? How many of us can admit our own ignorance?

In the last two years since my divorce from my wife I have questioned every aspect of who I am. A lot of this self-examination has happened right on this blog in full view of the world (or at least the dozen or so of you who are actually paying attention) This was nothing new. I have always questioned myself. I have never been comfortable believing anything. But there were truths that I was beginning to grow certain of. Ideas that I was beginning to think of as Truths with a capital "T". I have now however gone back to my original stance, the one I first held when I was seventeen years old and realized for the first time that the world I had believed in for most of my life, the "Knowledge" that I had acquired from my family, culture, and society was no more true than the fairy tales they had taught me. I have re-adopted Socrates' stance. I can admit that I don't know the meaning of life. I don't know why we are here. I don't know what's right for every person in every situation or even what is wrong. But I also know that no one else has these answers either. It ain't in any book I've ever read and I've read many. I've read the major books from the major religions. I've read the self-help books. I've read the psychiatry books, the sociology books, the philosophy books. I've sat in churches, temples, and mosques and listened to many different preachers and prophets. I've watched the self-serving ramblings of politicians on C-span. None of them have stood the test of "Why?". "Why should I believe you above the other religions, the other political movements, the other idealists, social scientists, and self-help Gurus?" They have all failed. So I am back at the temple of The Oracle of Delphi looking at the inscription chiseled into the stone above the entrance, "Know Thyself." And I am forced to turn inward for my answers. I examine my experiences and the values and ideas that have influenced them and I ask "Why?" And I am a better person for it. I am less likely to condemn then those who claim to have a direct path to truth. I am more accepting of my fellow man and woman. I am more open to their ideas and opinions although more apt to disagree with them. I am more open to their individuality and their right to be individuals so long as their individuality doesn't interfere with mine. I only get up in arms when they try to force me or anyone else to conform to their beliefs and their values. That's when the Wrath comes out. Otherwise it's live and let live or die or burnout or close down or explode or whatever the hell you want to do so long as it doesn't harm me or mine. Know Thyself. For better or for worse the man in the mirror is all you've really got. And all those people trying to force their ideas and opinions on you don't have to look you in the face every morning. Only you do.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

How many of us have them?

I'm talking about true friends, the ones you can depend on to stand by you through all the ups and downs of your life. I'm talking about the friends who shake their heads and laugh at all the stupid shit you do, all the ridiculous predicaments you get yourself into, and all the terrible decisions you make. The ones you can count on for good advice and count on standing by you even when you don't take it. I have friends that I regularly disagree with. They make idiotic decisions. They fuck up their lives. They never seem to do shit right when it comes to almost everything but our friendship. I tell them they are fools. I tell them they are stupid, lazy, needy, that they never learn, that they need to straighten up and fly right, get a life, get a job, get a better woman, get a better man, be a better parent. I judge them and I criticize them but once they make a decision, for better or for worse, I stick by them.

I have a friend who has a wife that is absolutely annoying. Before he married her I told him over and over again just how annoying I found her. He told me about how incompatible they were in the bedroom. She was too wild for him apparently. And I told him that it would never work and he should move on. Once he told me he loved her and wanted to marry her I shut the fuck up. Why? Because once he made that decision the time had passed for my opinions. What he needed then was my support. If the relationship fails or succeeds I'll be there for him. And I'll sit right beside her annoying ass at parties and smile for the sake of my friend.

I have a friend who spent a ton of money on a new business. I told him again and again why the business wouldn't work, how he should think about getting into something more stable and reliable. Once he put his money down and committed to it I shut the hell up. He doesn't need my negativity now after he's invested his life's savings and is struggling to make a success. He needs my support. If it fails I'll be there to cheer him up. If it succeeds I'll be there to cheer him on. Why? Because that's what friends do. Those spiritual parasites who stand on the sidelines telling you over and over again that you've made the biggest mistake of your life and that you are going to fail when you are trying to commit yourself 100% to making your dreams a success are not your friends. Those negative bastards need to be cut loose.

A friend might think that your dream of starting a career as a prima Ballerina when you are forty years old and 50lbs overweight is stupid. They might tell you that you shouldn't waste your money on dance lessons and that you'll only wind up being disappointed. But once you've set yourself on that path and you're taking ballet lessons every night and doing your dance recitals, a true friend would be there in the audience cheering you on. And when you trip on stage, tumble into the audience and make a fool of yourself, a true friend will be there to laugh with you not at you.

A friend might think the woman you're with is a total bitch. He might think you are making the biggest mistake of your life by being with her and that she'll only cause you misery and pain. But once you tell him that you love her and want to marry her then all the bashing of the woman you love should come to an immediate halt. At that point it's time to accept that your friend is now a couple and you either have to accept them both or reject them both. If you're choice is to reject them both than you might want to ask yourself what kind of friend that makes you.

A friend might think it's stupid to want to be a horror author when so few writers ever make a name for themselves and you can't support a family on five cents a word and the average book advance is only five thousand dollars and few writers ever see any royalties beyond that, and horror novels haven't been on the bestseller's list since the eighties. But once you've spent half a year pouring your soul out page after page to write that novel a true friend congratulates you and is the first one in line to buy the book even if it ain't exactly his cup of tea. A true friend is proud of you just for trying even if you fail.

I'm not saying that if you have a friend who is doing something completely self-destructive or criminal that you are less of a friend for distancing yourself from something that could possibly be harmful to you. I have friends who I've had to distance myself from because of their drug or alcohol abuse. You help as much as you can, cut them loose when it becomes necessary and welcome them back when they get their shit together. What I'm saying is that if you have a friend who is making choices in their lives that you might not necessarily agree with but that really won't affect your life one way or the other, there comes a time when you have given all the advice you can and if they still want to go that route as a friend you need to support their decision and most importantly their right to make their own decisions whether they are good or bad. I'm not saying friends don't judge. Friends judge but they don't condemn. A friend should never be a weight that drags you down with negativity and criticism and ridicule and once one of them gives you an ultimatum where you have to choose your passion over their friendship punch them right dead in their mouth and keep walking. Fuck them for not being supportive.