Monday, March 31, 2008

Violently Ill

I'm so sick of violence I want to hit someone.

I'm having one of those moments when it feels like the amount of violence in the world is just plain overwhelming. But if I respond by tuning out the news, I'll have nothing to write about but my own life, and that could lead readers to violence.

The radio tells me the ceasefire in Iraq is in shards. It seems like the violence in that country won't end until every Iraqi is dead or Dick Cheney gets a conscience, whichever comes first.

The newspapers make me no happier. In Between The Lines, Michigan's gay paper, a transgender activist ticks off a list of recent gender-variant murder victims, from the well-known case of Lawrence King in California to the barely known cases of Ashley Sweeney in Detroit and Adolphus Simmons in South Carolina.

Murder coast to coast. While it would be nice for this country to unite on something, the desire to kill transgender people is not a suitable choice.

I take a break from the present and delve into the past. Mistake. I wind up reading how some German teenagers in the Hitler Youth were told to bring a favorite pet to a meeting. There the boy had to kill his pet. This taught the future soldiers to kill without remorse, and to believe their service to Hitler mattered more than anything else in their lives.

For a second, today looks civilized.

But violence has been with us since the beginning of everything. Probably the second human to swing out of the trees landed on the first and a fight broke out.

Violence, or the capacity for it, is in us all. Kind of like the appendix, it stubbornly refuses to evolve away. How do we overcome our biology and psychology? Will we survive long enough to find out?

Yanked back to the present, I see that Between The Lines also carries a lovely picture of a man with a shiner, sustained when he told a big guy in a bar to quit calling him and his friends "faggots." In a story on the trials of a high school gay-straight alliance, one teenager admits she fears being the next Lawrence King. "I live with that fear every day," she says.

Violence, violence, violence, with fear of violence thrown in for variety.

And then there's the long letter on the op-ed page, written to Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern by a high school senior from Oklahoma City named Tucker. Kern, in case you missed it, delivered an anti-gay diatribe, announcing America has more to fear from gays than terrorists.

Tucker, who's straight, spells out for the politician the error of her ways and means. "Let me tell you the result of your words in my school. Every openly gay and suspected gay in the school were having to walk together Monday for protection. They looked scared," he writes.

"I've spent 12 years in Oklahoma public schools and never once have I had anyone try to force a gay agenda on me. I have seen, however, many gay students beat up and there's never a day in school that has gone by when I haven't heard the word **** slung at someone."

Is Tucker some young, naïve, violence-abhorring, pseudo-pansy peacenik? No, he's a guy who knows the effects of violence and hate unspeakably well. His mother died in the Oklahoma City bombing when he was five years old.

He has reason to hate. But Tucker is instead taking a stand against someone inciting hate and violence. If he can manage that, then perhaps I can do something more constructive about violence than whining. Even if I am so good at it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Partners in Poppycock

The Atlantic Ocean separates them, but to me they'll always be the twaddle twins.

That's because these two prominent figures delivered relentlessly anti-gay speeches that hit the news the same week in March. They share a bond of blather.

No doubt Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern, a Republican from Oklahoma City, felt she was in friendly territory when she spoke to some 50 people at an Oklahoma county Republican club. She offered her listeners a tasty homophobic rant.

Kern said that "the homosexual agenda is destroying this nation" and homosexuality is "the biggest threat even, that our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam."

That's a mighty ambitious goal she's setting us. I don't think I have the stamina to destroy the nation or outdo terrorists. Not without a serious fitness program, anyway.

The legislator bemoaned the growing number of gay politicians. Kern, a former teacher who sits on the education committee, also fretted over gays influencing school policy.

"You know why they're trying to get early childhood education?" she asked. "They want to get our young children into the government schools so they can indoctrinate them . . . They're going after our young children, as young as two years of age, to try to teach them that the homosexual lifestyle is an acceptable lifestyle."

Sound the alarm! Man the barricades! Praise the lord and pass the rhetoric!

This gentlewoman and scholar declared as well, "Matter of fact, studies show, that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than a few decades."

You might have the idea at this point that Kern isn't fond of gay people. Perish the thought, for she also said in her speech, "I'm not gay-bashing." Of course, she did follow that statement with, "But according to God's word that is not the right kind of lifestyle."

And if she doesn't consider her statements gay-bashing, what can she possibly consider them? Sweet nothings?

Someone in attendance at the event—not gay, but a friend of the community—recorded Kern's speech, and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund posted the diatribe on YouTube, which is how Kern has become nationally infamous. Her speech has been viewed more often than a Madonna video.

She's infuriated gobs of people, but hasn't apologized. She told the Tulsa World her comments were edited, taken out of context, and concerned wealthy gays supporting gay candidates. "I was talking about an agenda. I was not talking about individuals," Kern said. "I have never said hate speech against anybody. I would never do that."

Nope, never never never ever ever ever.

Over in Scotland, a Catholic bishop also recently expressed gigantic fears about gay political maneuverings.

"The homosexual lobby has been extremely effective in aligning itself with minority groups," said the Right Rev. Joseph Devine during a speech in Glasgow. "It is ever-present at the service each year for the Holocaust memorial, as if to create for themselves the image of a group of people under persecution."

AS IF? What kind of incense has been wafting around this man during mass? Gays were Holocaust victims; we continue to be blatantly persecuted the world over.

The bishop said to his audience at St. Aloysius' College, "I take it you're beginning to see that there is a huge and well-orchestrated conspiracy taking place, which the Catholic community missed."

That the queen honored Sir Ian McKellen sticks in his cassock. "In this New Year's honors list, I saw actor Ian McKellen being honored for his work on behalf of homosexuals, when a century ago Oscar Wilde was locked up and put in jail."

The good old days, eh Bishop Devine?

He ended his lecture by promising "to pick a fight." Mission accomplished.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Royal Treatment

The most prominent person due to attend a Dutch gay rights conference is a future queen, and I don't mean a teenager with a tendency toward the fabulous.

A spokesman for the Dutch royal family confirmed that Princess Maxima, the wife of Holland's Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, will participate in the conference in early March.

That ought to boost coverage. And attendance. And the sartorial efforts of participants, who could find themselves in many a background shot.

We Americans know a lot about the British royals. We know about Monaco's royal family, since American actress Grace Kelly gave birth to the present crop. But we don't know much about the rest of Europe's royalty. The continent is knee-deep with nobles, from Spain to Sweden to Serbia.

Europeans monitor the doings of their royals. I remember as a child visiting my German grandmother, who would have a stack of women's magazines with smiling royal mugs on the cover. My grandmother fretted over whichever royal was currently misbehaving.

I found the magazines interesting--but not as compelling as reading about America's royals, the denizens of the Kingdom of Hollywood. I knew who Robert Redford was; I didn't know who Prince Hubert of Lombardy-Alpenschnickl was, even though he stood 63rd in line to the throne of Albania.

But I royally digress.

Underscoring the importance of royalty in Holland, Frank Van Dalen of the Dutch Gay Federation expressed glee at snagging the princess for the conference. "This will be a historically significant royal presence," he said. "This is what we have been hoping for for a very long time."

My hope is that all goes well at the conference, and the princess doesn’t fall in love with a commoner. A lesbian commoner at that.

Van Dalen said, "It is the first time a member of the royal family has attended a meeting with such significance for gays."

Princess Maxima picked a good first time. Holland cemented its reputation as one of the most tolerant countries when in 2001 it became the first nation in the world to grant same-sex marriage. The city of Amsterdam is a gay mecca. But Amsterdam police report that in recent years violent crimes against gays have ballooned. noted that in a survey last August half of Dutch gays said they felt less safe than the year before. The Netherlands' reputation for open-mindedness is getting sliced like Gouda. It's time to put the Dutch royal seal of approval on tolerance.

Queen Beatrix has spoken out on behalf of gay rights in the past. Now Princess Maxima will ratchet support up a notch with this personal appearance.

The royals have taken heat for their pro-gay positions from some right-wing politicians and conservative Protestants, as well as Muslims, a growing population in Holland. A monarch's lot is not an easy one. Good thing the perks—like wealth—help cushion the blow.

A palace spokesman said, "The princess is in favor of equal rights of all groups in the Netherlands." Presumably that includes Muslims, so it will be interesting to watch how Holland and its future queen—who is actually from Argentina—navigate these tricky canals in the years ahead.

The gay rights conference at hand will be held in four major cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. The focus will be gays' continued exclusion from Dutch society and what to do about it. At the conclusion, Princess Maxima will sign an accord calling for the full acceptance of homosexuals in Holland.

I'm sure she won't be the only one signing it. But with her star power, who's going to notice the others?