When did we decide that events such as a peaceful sit-in on a university campus, or a Black Friday shopping frenzy require pepper spraying the participants? Have we reached such a level of anarchy that our citizens require routine dousing with a concoction of chiles, propellant, and ethanol (booze)?
With the reintroduction of peaceful and not-so-peaceful demonstrations around the world, we have an opportunity to see what has been absent for many years, the people taking action to affect change. Those in power are nervous, of course, because across the globe, governments are tumbling under the vibration of the protesters’ voices. The United States of America appears a bit nervous, so contrary to the promise of the First Amendment to our Constitution, she has chosen to try to quell these voices with what was described on Bill O’Reilly’s program, “a food product,” which by the way, if one were to eat a chile relleno and a glass of wine, would be about right.
I suppose I understand, if not agree, why places like UC Davis pull out cans of gaseous condiments to sour the protesters’ day. They are afraid that change is coming, and it is arriving without the consent of the powers-that-be. Scary, yes? Ask King George III of Britain during the American Revolution; King George VI of England during the uprising in India in the 1940s, which led to its independence from Britain; the segregationists of the 1950s, including state leaders when the Civil Rights Movement really took hold; President Richard Nixon during the demonstrations against the war; President Zine El Abidine ben Ali of Tunisia, and no fewer than 16 other countries’ leaders who saw uprisings in the Arab-North African Region during the Arab Spring; and all the other leaders who saw change come at the hands of a nation’s people.
The people, when they are focused, can be a powerful force. Those in leadership, instead of actually listening, attempt to quell these vibrant voices. The problem is that with each event like the one at UC Davis, they lose credibility, and appear desperate to maintain control.
On the other hand, we have events like the pepper spraying by a woman of those around her at Wal-Mart on Black Friday 2011. I have to say this out loud or my head will explode: Perhaps the shoppers deserved it. I know. I know. Those readers who have clothing tags strewn all over their beds, and brand new televisions for $125 dollars will rail at what I have just written.
“Why shouldn’t we be allowed to be ungracious and wild-eyed in our attempts to get great deals before everyone else?!? Why shouldn’t we exercise our American freedom to jeopardize others’ safety to satisfy our greed?”
Well, the First Amendment grants many freedoms, but none of them includes injuring others to get a great deal; or perhaps I just don’t understand our Constitution fully. The woman who pepper sprayed other patrons of the store was clearly in the wrong, as are the people who shot other purchasers with firearms; however, because I believe that everything is for a reason, perhaps this is a wake-up call to all of us who experience this type of compulsive purchasing mania. If one wants to compete with others, take up a sport, play backgammon, or try out for American Idol, for goodness sake!
Pepper spray has its place. A group of hoodlums beat an innocent citizen, then discovered by the police, and the officers whip out their chile dust to protect the gentle person. That makes complete sense. Looters begin attacking privately owned shops after a horrific loss by their football team, and again, the police reach into their holsters for their canisters of irritant. This, too, is utterly reasonable to me.
Ultimately, we must look at our intentions as a people. What will we say is the appropriate use of control agents such as pepper spray, rubber bullets, and water cannons against our populace? It seems proper to use these methods to bring people back to their senses when they have clearly lost their minds in shopping or lamenting a sports loss. It appears wholly inexcusable and counter to everything we know as a nation to silence the voices of our citizens when they are speaking peacefully, but in large numbers, to our governmental leaders.
Over the last couple of days, I have been contemplating the end of the federal government’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. With DADT gone, anyone who otherwise qualifies to be in the military may now join any branch without concern regarding the enlistee’s sexuality. The United States of America has taken a step forward with the change, but I must admit, as happy as I am about this fact, I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about the celebration.
Since the days when Lieutenant Gotthold Frederick Enslin was discharged for sodomy from the Continental Army in 1778, American military policy regarding gays has consistently banned homosexuality among its soldiers, but the structure of that disapproval has changed many times, most often in the 20th Century. During World War II, the psychiatric component of the military evaluation began, at which time homosexuality was considered a psychopathology. Thereafter, several categories of discharges were established, such as the blue discharge which was neither honorable nor dishonorable, although it held a stigma in society after the individual left the military. In 1942, if an individual was not found to have sexual contact prior to the court martial, they were given an undesirable discharge. A dishonorable discharge was given to those who had sexual contact with individuals of the same gender. General discharges were also offered to some servicemembers. Interestingly enough, the Crittendon Report in 1957 determined that gay people did not pose a security risk, but that the anit-gay policies should remain because homosexuality was “evil.”
When DADT began on December 21, 1993, there was a mix of hope and disappointment in President Bill Clinton’s choice to go this route. Although he promised to be the president for all American citizens, his initial attempt to eliminate the gay ban in the military was shot down by Congress. He was advised that full permission for gay and lesbian individuals to serve in the military was unthinkable. He chose to establish a policy of “ignorance is bliss” instead. I know many people were happy with this policy, but it seemed that any codified ignorance would not be a good thing. I mean, what did the policy really do?
Prior to DADT, a servicemember could not openly state that he or she was gay. The soldier could not openly date a partner, be seen in public holding hands with an individual of the same gender, and they could be asked whether he or she was gay. If the soldier answered, “Yes,” then court-martial proceedings ensued, after which the soldier was ceremoniously removed from the military.
After DADT, the same things could happen, except the military was not allowed to ask the question in the first place. If the soldier admitted to being homosexual, the same process began as before DADT. Ask many soldiers, such as Lt. Daniel Choi, if there was any difference. DADT was hailed as a step forward toward full equality for Americans, and I suppose at some level, it was.
Here’s my issue: I have known family and friends who served in the military who are gay; one of whom served during World War II. He was a decorated veteran and served honorably for several years overseas. The thought that had he served during DADT and it became known he was gay, the same thing that would have happened to him during WWII, would have happened to him during the 1990s as well if his superiors discovered he was homosexual. The only difference is that during DADT, no one would have asked in the first place. The bottom line is that gay folk were personae non grata in the military until yesterday.
Something has changed now, of course. Gay people can enlist in the military as they can in many western countries, such as England, Canada, Spain and Italy. They can serve beside their straight counterparts and all of them will be called soldiers… sort of. For a while, at least, we know that because we are neither gender blind nor sexuality blind, these soldiers will continue to be called gay soldiers and lesbian soldiers among the rank-and-file and in the country as a whole. The other salient thought is that married and registered domestic-partnered gay soldiers, will have no benefits for their spouses because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
We should call this event as it is: Another step forward. It is not the end of the journey for our service members who happen to be gay. A group of our soldiers will know they cannot support their spouses with health insurance, death benefits, or be ceremonially recognized if they should die as the spouses of straight soldiers are. They will give the same service, but not have the same benefits. This is not equality.
So, as we celebrate this movement forward, let us stay aware that until full equality is achieved, work still must be done to ensure our American soldiers… all our American soldiers… are treated equally.
As we continue having debates regarding rights, freedoms, and full citizenship for people in same-gender relationships, we may want to conserve our energy and make our discussions more efficient and accurately reflective of every type of relationship.
As I watched Current TV, the channel developed by former vice-president Al Gore, and Illinois senator, Al Franken (D), I heard a woman say that these debates, especially those going toward the U.S. Supreme Court, are made more challenging because the word sex is involved. The word to which she was referring was, “Homosexuality.”
If it’s really an issue, why not use a different word? The Latin word, “homo,” means, “same.” “Hetero,” mean “different.” The Latin root, “amor,” means, “love.”
Homoamorous means two people of the same gender love one another.
Heteroamorous means two people of different genders love one another.
So, why not change the word. It’s not as though we’re using ancient or sacred words to describe our relationships. “Homosexuality” was coined on May 6, 1869 by Karoly Maria Benkert, a 19th Century Hungarian physician, who first broke with traditional thinking when he suggested that people are born homosexual and that it is unchangeable. With that belief as his guide, he fought the Prussian legal code against homosexuality that he described as having “repressive laws and harsh punishments (Conrad and Angel, 2004).”
One would suspect that Dr. Benkert would appreciate this change in lexicon so that we change our focus in this debate from sex to love. John and Frank are not two people in sex. They are two people in love. Deborah and Sheila are not two women who spend their lives sexing each other, they are two women loving each other. This is especially true because homosexuality has been demedicalized in so many ways.
If we’re going to have to have this debate in the first place, let’s speak accurately about the people involved. We are homoamorous people. We are two people of one gender who are in love. Those in opposite gender relationships are heteroamorous.
How complicated can that be? If I were to approach someone and ask them if they’d like a slice of bread, their first question is likely, “What kind is it?” As a people, we love clarity. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are simply not clear enough terms for the breadth of our relationship. Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are clear winners when it comes to describing the relationships with which I am most familiar.
Sexuality is an important, if not a terribly time consuming part of most marriage relationships. It helps motivate our interest in a particular person whose gender is consistent with what we prefer; however, that, too, is not always the case.
Is it unthinkable that two people can have a relationship that is purely emotional in form, without sex, who continue to love one another nonetheless? Ask many people who are of a certain age.
Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are not only options for the terms homosexuality and heterosexuality, they might even be the preferred forms given their more emotionally inclusive qualities.
My mother used to say, when trying to get the direct truth out of me, “Jim, call a spade a spade.” Although I never played bridge, from which this term comes, I knew what she meant. Name something as it is. I now get that message all the more clearly.
2010, Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/homosexuality/
Conrad, P., & Angell, A. (2004). HOMOSEXUALITY AND REMEDICALIZATION. Society, 41(5), 32-39. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
As we talk as a nation about the troops who are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, as well as many other regions in the world, I can’t help but take a moment to contemplate my family’s participation as military personnel. “Deployment” to me has taken on a whole new meaning knowing my son and my cousin, as well as my students, are now, or may be soon, overseas defending our country.
Since the earliest days of my genealogical trail, one thing has become crystal clear. On all four sides of my family, my family has participated in every war since 1850.
My son, Michael, has served in the Navy since 1994.
My father, Floyd, and his brother, Matthew, were both in the Navy during World War II, as were many of their cousins. Matthew also served in the Korean conflict. My Wiech great-uncles were in World War I. My grandfather, Stanley, left Galicia, Poland/Austria during that first world war.
On my mother, Teresa’s side, my uncles and my cousin, Caroline, have risen in rank as high as Lieutenant Commander or Commander in the Navy. Caroline is currently serving in Afghanistan at the age of 48. My Uncle Rudy was shot down over the English Channel and died during World War II. My cousin, Robert, was injured while in the Army during the Viet Nam War. My cousin, Margaret’s daughter, Brooke still serves our country. My cousin, Marty is a retired general in the Air Force. My great-grandfather, Joaquin, was a Captain in the National Public Security Force in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution.
My birth father, Robert, served our country during the Viet Nam war, as did so many of his brothers.
My birth mother, Bette’s father, was a hero during World War II, liberating American POW’s in Germany. Honorable service was provided by his brothers, as well.
On all four sides, I am proud to say that our family has been represented honorably, without exception, as defenders of our country.
As someone who never qualified for, nor entered the military, I stand grateful to each one of the men and women in our family who added their names to the many rosters around the world as they fought for our liberty and strength.
I’ve always known we are a proud people. As I contemplate the risks they’ve taken in defense of our country, I understand a little bit better why that is.
Then, I think, “Wait a minute, there are a huge multitude of families all over our country who have histories just like ours.” At this point, I clearly remember why we are such a proud and noble nation.
Since 1959, the year I was born, as Dwight D. Eisenhower was serving his second term as President of the United States, the one thing I’ve noticed in politics is that each new president promises change in one way or another. As the four to eight years of their presidencies progress, there is one thing that remains consistent: the basic parts of running the government and our desire to remain the same continues unfettered.
There are those who support the president. There are those who disagree with the president. There are those who fight to support the president’s policies and there are those who fight to end the president’s tenure before its time.
The grassroots support that elected the candidate in question usually stay fairly strong. The crazies take shots at the president, sometimes literally in the cases of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan.
As we debate health care in America, President Obama’s desire to speak before the students in the United States, as well as his speeches on foreign soil, it’s become clear that the change Mr. Obama has promised will be hard won. The sweeping adjustments to our way of life that were the dreams of which his candidacy were made, will be smaller and more middle of the road than he expected, as they always are. That’s the nature of our society.
Certainly, there have been major accomplishments achieved by each of the presidents along the way, but the dynamic shifts in our culture and process as Americans have been few and far between.
As Mr. Obama listens to the representatives of the millions of Americans within our borders, he will discover that we are not a more homogenous community, such as the one he represented in Chicago. We are poor, white people in Appalachia. We are wealthy black people in Los Angeles. We are working class Latinos in New Mexico. We are isolated Inuits in Alaska.
Each of us have a different view point and a variety of needs in our lives. Mr. McCain lost the election based more on Mr. McCain himself and his running mate, Sarah Palin, than he did from the strength of Mr. Obama’s platform.
That’s the way it usually is. We select our president based on which individual is the lesser of two evils. No one wants a politician in office; yet, they are the only ones running.
So, as we continue to await equality for the gay community, health care that serves our entire population, an end to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, amongst the many other wishes we dreamed in November 2008, let us remember that we, as an American people, have once again mandated that we remain on the same highway we’ve found ourselves for at least the last fifty years of my memory, by our fear of change and distrust of those in office.
We will allow President Obama to rise only to the level of the mediocrity of our thought and the cloudiness of our vision.
Sometimes, change happens all at once. Usually, however, it happens in tiny increments, especially when it comes to social change.
United States Senator Barbara Boxer (California) recently distributed an e-mail indicating that she is joining a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The passage of ENDA would prohibit all employers, employment agencies, labor organizations and other groups who hire and fire staff from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against anyone on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.
This bill has already been supported by high profile national civil rights and labor organizations and more than fifty Fortune 500 companies.
One must wonder if the significance of this era is being missed by those who feel they are not directly involved in the movement toward the eradication of discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender citizens?
Is it even possible to realize how important a particular shift in public perception is until after the transition is complete? The movements to ensure a woman’s right to vote and the acknowledgement of and action against racial discrimination began in small ways, but it wasn’t until the lion’s share of the legislation was passed that we could begin to fathom just how pervasive the blight of hatred and disrespect had been and how far we were stepping ahead.
Senator Boxer’s note to all of us was particularly welcome given that President Obama has shown so little dynamic leadership in relation to repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue (DADT) policies currently on the books in our country.
The best news about ENDA is that it is a bipartisan effort by our Federal legislators. Nothing gives us greater hope for our future than when, on both sides of the aisle, our elected officials choose to correct a horrible injustice in our laws and societal patterns in such a dynamic way.
Slowly, the awakening is beginning that each person, no matter how they are identified in the little boxes on most forms, has the right to all the freedoms promised in our United States Constitution. This new effort is one more important step.
Congratulations to everyone involved in the passage of this bill!
When my cousin, Catherine, and I began doing our genealogical research, one thing became crystal clear: When it comes to death records in the regions of California we were searching, only white people died. There were volumes of information on European-based individuals and their vital statistics. As for Mexicans and Native Americans, for example, unless they were a part of the mission system or the Bureau of Indian Affairs in California, there was little to no information available to us. Jokingly, my cousin and I suggested that only White people died in California prior to the late-1800’s.
Now, I understand more clearly why this is the case.
In watching this verbal exchange between commentator and interviewer, Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan, right-wing conservative commentator, author, and advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, there bubbled up a clarity why so much of our history reflects the Western European experience. As Pat Buchanan states, he espouses a belief that, “this has been a country built basically by white folks.”
During their exchange on Rachel Maddow’s television program, apparently Pat Buchanan more seriously espouses that same view. “…nearly 100 percent” of the people who stormed the beaches of Normandy were caucasian.
There are statistics that Ms. Maddow recited in a follow-up to that interview about how many blacks and other races were present at many of the events that shaped our nation. While it is true that “white folks” were the signateurs of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, they were not the only ones who fought against the British and at other times, the French and Spanish, Germans and Japanese.
I would probably get enflamed about Buchanan’s statements if I couldn’t so readily consider the source. His arrogance and ignorance of others unlike himself has been so clear over the years that I simply cannot put any more energy into him.
So, thank you, Ms. Maddow, for your humor and intelligence in this discussion. They are appreciated by this short, Latino/Native American, dark-skinned, economically lower-middle class, fellow, whose family has served in World War I, World War II, the Korean conflict, Viet Nam, Desert Storm and now has a Commander of the U.S. Navy stationed in Afghanistan.
Pay attention, Mr. Buchanan. Your ugly is showing.
On July 16, 2009, President Barack Obama delivered a dynamic speech on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the National Assocation for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP has been the seminal and pivotal organization for the phenomenal growth toward civil rights in these United States of America. A celebration of this organization and its creative and powerful membership is well-deserved and should be celebrated by every group.
There was a cognitive dissonance in hearing the presidents’ words, however, as a gay person in the U.S, particularly considering the NAACP has been a vibrant supporter of gay rights. His message of hope and personal and social responsbility resonated as so much more shallow than it might have as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue (DADT) policies remain in full force.
This letter was written and sent today to President Obama in hope that my voice, added to the millions of others supporting full civil rights for all people in the United States, would make a difference.
Wherever you stand on these topics, I hope this continues to be an on-going discussion and that the gay community, like the African-American community, will find positive movement forward as time passes.
July 16, 2009
Dear President Obama,
Thank you for your dynamic and moving speech on the joyful anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People today. Your words of hope and movement forward, personal responsibility and support of the national government were both powerful and intimate.
Without taking anything away from your message to the African-American community, it’s just sad that your words do not apply to the gay children in our country. It truly is a shame. Your silence is injuring our gay youth every day it continues. Your daily inaction is another pound of weight of intolerance and neglect on their necks.
Because I believe in your innate goodness and wisdom, I must only conclude that you do not clearly understand that you alone, Mr. President, can change the direction of our national intolerance and neglect toward all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in our country, particularly with regard to the Defense of Marriage Act and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue policies. It is your voice that will ring the clarion call for change, change that you promised all Americans during your campaign.
I will continue to remind you of your promise, Mr. President. Each time you speak, I am listening, along with millions of others like me. We are waiting.
Thank you for taking the time to read this correspondence, if you have. I suspect it will simply end up in a stack of mail that your aides will review, at which time they will mail out a boilerplate response, and feel complete in their task. Your eyes will be ignorant of my words and your hands will be clean of responsibility for a genuine, personal response to me.
That is not accessibility to you. That is accessibility to the infrastructure of the White House and no more.
In prayers of gratitude and hope,
James C. Glica-Hernandez
Members of the G8:
Taro Aso, Prime Minister, 日本国 Nippon-koku (Japan);
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, Canada;
Barack Obama, President, United States of America;
Nicolas Sarkozy, President, République française (French Republic);
Silvio Berlusconi, President, Repubblica Italiana (Italian Republic) (Chairman);
Dmitry Medvedev, President, Россия (Russia);
Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Bundersrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany);
Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, Great Britain.
Members of the +5 Emerging National Economies:
Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, President, República Federativa do Brasil (Federative Republic of Brazil);
Dai Bingguo, State Counsilor, 中華人民共和國 Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó (People’s Republic of China);
Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, भारत गणराज्य (Republic of India);
Felipe Calderón, President, Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States);
Jacob Zuma, President, Republic of South Africa / IRiphabliki yaseNingizimu Afrika.
These illustrious lady and gentlemen are representing the greatest economies from all over the world. They are meeting in L’Aquila, Italy to discuss matters that could shape our lives for decades to come, everything from global warming to the world economic crisis, from nuclear disarmament to intellectual properties.
One must wonder how President Obama will fare in the company of other world leaders. One must ask oneself, with all the education and life experience this man has had, will he be seen as a man with an incredibly uphill battle toward recovery of the U.S. economy and worldwide reputation, or will he be seen as the bearer of hyperbole and charm alone?
This is a different era than in World War II when the craggy elder statemen lined up to take the offical photograph as leaders of the free world. As surprising as it may sound, President Obama is not the youngster in the crowd. President Medvedev, at forty-three years old, is younger by five years than the U.S. leader.
Four of the eight are merely in their fifties. (Incidentally, Chancellor Merkel will turn 54 on my birthday, July 17, which I found entertaining to know.) Prime Minister Aso of Japan, at sixty-eight, is second eldest and the Chairman of the summit, President Berlusconi of Italy, is the eldest at seventy-two years old.
The average age of the G8 leaders is 55.8 years old.
Are our leaders getting younger, and by extension, less experienced? Is this going to impact the future of our planet?
It could be that President Obama can join the party in a very real way with innovative ideas, surrounded by other starry-eyed dreamers, waiting to create a new vision and vitality for our countries and our world.
This is what concerns me. Are these young upstarts idealists with little ability for follow-through, or, rather, are they insightful people who have allowed pragmatism to play a part in their development? In this VH1, media-based, technology-ridden culture, everything points to transiency and immediate gratification. Can long-term development still be a part of the ruling culture?
We will see.
I am hopeful; however, the world is in its current condition at the hands of these young whipper-snappers.
Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.
Seaman August Provost
Camp Pendleton, San Diego, CA.
Shot to death.
Died June 30, 2009
Seaman Allen R. Schindler, Jr.
Beaten to death
December 13, 1969 to October 28, 1992
Ft. Campbell, Ky
Beaten to death
August 31, 1977 – July 6, 1999
The strange thing is that I’m not going to discuss how they died. I’m not going to talk about their families. I’m not going to vent my outrage at their murderers.
I will simply say that these young men, and others unnamed in the media, closeted and afraid during their honorable service, died in the line of duty. They took their duty seriously enough to deny who they were. They carried their duty with enough gravity to set aside their own truth to live the military truth of the United States of America in order to serve our nation with distinction.
Through their fearful and oppressive environment, through the weight of institutionalized homophobia, through their youth and inexperience with the burden of true hatred, these valiant young men died in horrific ways, either in uniform or with their uniforms hanging in their barracks closet.
These are our children, America. Look at their faces and remember their names. They lived protecting us. We didn’t do the same for them. We killed them with our ignorance.
God rest their souls and bring them into the light of his blessings. Guide us to our awakening that nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of all our citizens. Amen.