Monday, October 25, 2010

Another Subway Tale

red line, an hour or so before rush hour, so the train is nearly full, but comfortable. a beggar is walking around the car asking for money. he needs $25, he announces, and explains something about a permit he needs to get section 8 housing, but it costs $25, and he has to get it today, before the place closes in an hour. he's young, a boy, really,  and unkempt but not dirty. he sounds rambling, but seems neither drunk nor stoned.  still, i'm not so rich myself; i don't want to pay for someone else's booze or drugs. the same conversation i've had with myself for years,  now a bit sharper with the economic mess and a harder, crueler society. the political discourse these days, which once included at least reference to the poor, is now all about the problems of the middle class. even the liberals stick to the middle class as victims of big business and conservative greed.  the poor appear to have vanished, or to have failed to merit our concern.

so it's not quite as easy to dismiss a beggar as a drunk or drug addict.  maybe he is, maybe not.  you can't be sure what it is you're paying for.  i reach into my pocketbook for the inevitable compromise: one dollar.  not enough to get him where he says he needs to be, but also not enough to make me pissed for losing hard-earned money.

other passengers seem to be having the same interior discussions, because they too begin to search their wallets and pockets, and soon the kid has $10, $11, $12.....his desperate but subdued monologue continues, and a few more people contribute.  then the young man opposite me, who was the first to give a dollar, opens his wallet, looks at some bills for a moment, then hands them to the kid.  an elderly woman next to him sighs, says, 'i don't understand what you need, and i don't have much money, but i hope this helps,' and gives him two dollars.  later she says to me, 'i couldn't really afford it, but i have a grandson, and i hope someone would help him.'

the boy counts the bills, and is elated.  he has his $25.  he strews thank-yous  around our end of the train. then a woman who has been sitting a ways back, holds a dollar out to him.  he won't take it. 'thank you,' he says earnestly, 'but i don't need it.  i got the $25 now.' and leaves at the next stop,  murmuring 'i hope i get there before they close.'

i hope so too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I have been struck, as i'm sure many of  us have, by the overwhelming number of very religious christians among the republican candidates in the upcoming elections, and so i deduce that their supporters are likewise predominantly christian and fundamentalists.  They are consumed by horror at the sins of the world, and specifically of Americans.  Surely, God must want them to do something about this.  And so I offer them a piece of advice.

The country is indeed full of the people you fear.  Everywhere you turn there are fornicators, masturbaters, socialists, atheists, builders of mosques and other satanic centers,  same sex marriers, welfare recipients, lazy collectors of unemployment, taxers of the innocent rich, illegal aliens, legal aliens who look like illegal aliens, headless mexicans,  grinding homosexuals, islamic terrorists, medicare recipients, social security spenders, believers in federal government, anarchists,  evolutionists, communists, deniers of the social bonds between our ancestors and the dinosaurs,  tolerant christians, opponents of capital punishment, gun controllers, and reporters who ask questions.  We are in great danger.

And what is the greatest remedy of all evils?  Prayer, of course.  God wants you to pray. God wants you to pray a lot.

So I am humbly suggesting that you set aside November 2nd as a day of prayer.  Do not go out and mingle with the sinners!  Above all, do not go into voting booths.  Who knows what unspeakable acts have gone on behind those innocent-looking curtains?  What communists and lesbians have stood in those boxes, grasped those pens, leaned on those sin-stained walls?  Sin is infectious, and all the diseases of the soul are waiting for you in those booths of bestiality!  Stay in the purity of your homes on that day, or if you must go out, go to a church where you can meet with others among the saved.  Above all, pray!  From midnight to midnight, do nothing but pray!  Eat, if you must, and sip some water, but do not stop praying.  Do not engage in idle conversation with each other. Do  not answer your telephones.  Just pray.

Glen Beck asked God for a miracle, and God sent him a flock of geese.  who knows what God might do for thousands of  you, all at once, praying your hearts out all day? 

It will be an election to remember.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"bigotry for sport"

for the first 1/2 of the commentary, you might have thought this was keith olberman talking. but it was glen beck,  the king of the crackpot right, making a long and, yes, moving, commentary on the bronx beating and torturing of three gay men.  he sounded sincere, but then sounding sincere is part of his stock in trade, even when he's rhapsodizing about the sign god sent him during his washington rally, when a flock of canada geese flew overhead. [god sends an awful lot of canada geese over an awful lot of places with a fair degree of frequency.]

but when glen beck expresses deep horror and anger over gay bashing,  you have to take notice.  he seemed to actually understand that the victims--even the 30 year old who, as beck nonjudgmentally noted, was dressed very flashingly, and who had apparently had sex with 2 teenagers--were people who mattered.  i was waiting for some qualification here--surely beck would suggest that somehow, though he didn't deserve this, the man had asked for it, or deserved some lesser punishment or maybe an arrest for statutory rape.  yet this really seemed not to occur to beck.  it's an amazing clip to watch.  he acknowledged this was a hate crime, he acknowledged that it was homophobic, for all the world as if he believed homophobia was a bad thing.  he used the word 'evil' several times, describing the attack as 'bigotry for sport.'  he then took the incident as a crime not only against homosexuals, but against humanity itself. frankly, i'd never have suspected beck of knowing that homosexuals were part of humanity.

the attackers were hispanic, and a few  of the many comments posted about the article suggested that it wasn't really about compassion, but about hatred of hispanics  trumping contempt for homosexuals.  but he didn't emphasize the ethnicity of the attackers at all; mostly he talked about their youth, such hatred acted out so horrendously by men barely out of their teens.

i would love to say that he was faking it, that he didn't really give squat about a bunch of gay men being tortured, and was just trying to show how nice a guy he really is.  but i don't believe it.  for one thing, he wasn't speaking to a liberal or even moderate audience; he was speaking to the folks who watch his tv show, who tend, as he does, toward rabid conservatism.

the sad thing is that beck doesn't seem to know that he bears some of the responsibility for the mindsets that create such brutality; that he who speaks so eloquently here against hate is a purveyor of hate.  he referred several times to the fact that he had read the story in the paper on a plane as he was returning from some medical tests, which he would explain later in the show but which showed he had no major illness.  could we hope that for just a few minutes, the fear that he might be facing death [and thus the judgement of the god he believes in] made him think about his life and his message with some honesty, and rethink his prejudice against pretty much everyone who isn't white, straight, conservative, and wealthy?  i suppose not: he isn't the saul -of -tarsus type.  but for once, however breifly, he has spoken well.  and for this once, however briefly, he has earned a moment of praise.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

VOTE NOV.2!!!!!

i know i tend to do long posts, but this one is short, inelegant, and likely just preaching to the choir.  that's okay--listen up, choir!

it's more fun to vote for a candidate you're excited about.  especially in a midterm election.  but look at who's running on the republican side---everywhere!  we're not looking at a bunch of bill welds or olympia snows here. hell, we're not even looking at mitt romney! we're looking at very scary people who will take away reproductive rights, gay marriage, anti-pollution laws, and financial assistance to the poor, the working class, and the less affluent members of the middle class.  VOTE AGAINST THEM! rain or shine, enthusiasm or boredom, whatever.  however unappetizing a particular democrat may be, s/he will at least fill up a space that will be of use to the worst conservatives in the country.  vote, and vote for a Democrat, not a 3rd party member, b/c a 3rd party member won't win. a Republican very well might.  remember this is the party that has been voting its more moderate members out of the primaries.

this message is by me, and is not approved [or disapproved] by the Democrats. [end of political message...]

Saturday, October 2, 2010

countering the protesters!

"the laramie project," a play based on the murder of matthew shepherd in the late 1990s, was giving the last performance of its revival at the cutler majestic theatre, which is owned by emerson college, one of the two colleges at which i teach.  shepherd, as i'm sure most of you know, was a gay college kid, murdered hideously by a pair of homophobes.  as if his family hadn't suffered enough, members of a local christian church came to the funeral, bearing signs proclaiming that shepherd's death was god's punishment for his homosexuality and that the young man was now in hell.

the  good christians of westboro church apparently can't let go of their anger at shepherd's homosexuality and at the stubborn insistence on his humanity by supporters of gay rights [or, for that matter, of opponents of murder], and were planning to picket the theatre today.

if they weren't so foul, i could almost have felt sorry for them today.  they had really picked the wrong place.  emerson college has a lot of gay students, and a lot of other students, staff, and faculty who are perfectly happy these kids are here.  emerson isn't fond of bigotry.  so some of the students organized a counter-protest and publicized it on facebook.

about 800 students showed up--i think even the organizers were surprised at the numbers.  college kids, after all, have a lot of things to do on a gorgeous spring saturday.

it was a high-energy, excited demo, 'gay' in both senses of the word, by kids who seemed truly angry at homophobia and  truly joyful at the chance to act on their pride and/or their identification with their gay friends.  but there was no ugliness in their gusto.

for me, it was both a glorious time warp and a boost to optimism in the midst of a social and political climate that doesn't lend itself much to hope.  i could almost believe myself a 20 year old among my peers, 40 years ago.  the chants were different, and to my ears pleasanter.  "love is louder!' these kids cried. it was an energy slightly different than either my generation's civil rights and anti war energy, or the later brasher ambiance of the gay pride demonstrations: something of each, but very much its own, colorful in a way that would be recognizable to both groups. passers by--including the driver of at least one tour bus--honked their horns and cheered us on. lots of them--more than i'd ever seen, and i've been to a lot of demos in my life.

several of the demonstrators were students i know, and seeing them was a double  joy. it reminded me of something a friend said at another rally, ten years ago.  'other people have class reunions: we have rallies and marches."

our poor homophobes never did show up.  their van drove by, and seeing us in our hundreds apparently intimidated them.  one opened a window long enough to announce the upcoming end of the world, which pleased one of my students because it's the day of her birthday.  [don't worry, gentle reader, it's not till next may, so you have time to prepare].

so the moral of my story is,  yes we can!  if these 800 kids could come out for a barely publicized demo and scare the loonies away,  that famed apathy that will supposedly put the teapartiers in power november 4 doesn't have to be.  however disappointing the Democrats in congress and the white house may be, they're there, and they're what we need to keep the scarier right wingers at bay. the climate will be a lot more conducive to movements for progressive change than a political power structure committed to getting rid of homosexuals, muslims, abortionists, and the poor.  [the poor, as they become even more powerless, will also become more numerous.]

i hope these kids today got a sense of the excitement of self-empowerment, of joining to fight for what we believe in.  and that others become inspired by them.

they may be right; love may be louder.  if we make it be.